Zack and Nicolle Long are the founders of Focus Funnels, the go-to growth firm for female founders.
Zack and Nicolle started an eCommerce business in 2013 and once they figured out online ads, the business boomed and they scaled to 7 figures in a year!
Another business owner noticed their sudden success and asked for growth help, which Zack and Nicolle provided, leading to this business’ even bigger success. That was their first client and the birth of Focus Funnels.
They built this growth firm from their home with an all-remote team, all while raising two young children and keeping their marriage alive and well.
Focus Funnels is not your standard marketing business, but a growth firm dedicated to helping businesses thrive and succeed.
Focus funnels have a specific goal of uplifting and bringing to the spotlight female-owned and founded businesses, with 95% of their clients being female founders.
With clients that are changing the world and a team of the best employees, Zack and Nicolle are shaking up the industry and making a difference in the world of female entrepreneurs.
Zack and Nicolle have insights to share for any entrepreneurs and business owners, female founders, marketing and growth firms, and anyone who is balancing their family life and business life.
What you will learn
- The hard lessons Zack and Nicolle learned from their first business
- Understanding the sales principles in e-commerce
- Common traps early-stage business owners fall into
- Discover why investing in inventory is important for growth
- Find out why focusing on your hero product is the fastest way to scale
- Why it’s so important to reinvest in your brand until you have enough equity to pay yourself
- How the Longs transitioned from a product business to a service-based business
- Learn how Zack and Nicolle help e-commerce companies go from zero to hero
- Discover the best practices for content marketing
- Uncover the unique challenges of scaling a service-based company
- Learn why investing in your team is incredibly important
- Discover what a typical day looks like for Nicolle and Zack
- Zack and Nicolle share their best tips for entrepreneurs in the early stages of their journey
00:00:00 - 00:01:22
Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. It's a show where we interview and talk to founders of digital based companies that want to grow or want to manage their businesses better and get some freedom in their life by having control of what they do. Today with me, Zack Long and Nicolle Long are the founders of Focus Funnels, the go-to-growth firm for female founders focusing on e-commerce businesses. Zack Long and Nicolle Long started an e-commerce business in 2013, which was around 8 to 9 years ago and once they figured out online ads, the business boomed and they scaled to 7 figures in a year. The Focus Funnels was an accidental business because they were running an e-commerce business before that.
Another business owner noticed sudden success and asked for growth help, which Zack Long and Nicolle provided, leading to the business’ even bigger success. That was their first client and the rest is history and the birth of Focus Funnels. They built this growth from their home with an all remote staff all while having and raising two young children and you might hear a noise in the background but that's okay. And keeping their marriage alive and well because they're sitting very close to each other so they actually like each other, it's great to see.
So welcome to the show guys, it's fantastic to have you here.
00:01:23 - 00:01:25
Thanks for having us. We're excited.
00:01:26 - 00:02:02
So Nicolle, you originally had an e-commerce business yourself? But before we talk about that, why did you start that business? What was the inspiration for starting that business and becoming an entrepreneur because I love to hear about the stories. What inspired you to start? Was it because you had a beer one night or over a bottle of wine, you said let's really create a lot of pain for ourselves and complicate life and start a business because business is not simple, is it? So how did it start? What was the inspiration?
00:02:03 - 00:02:35
Well, I think we both individually as young children had that entrepreneurial spirit and we were already doing little businesses even when we were young. So before we were even married, we had the intention set that we were gonna start and grow businesses together, so we had no idea what that was gonna look like at the time. We had very normal jobs. He was in corporate America and so yeah, that intention was that early before we were married, I think I wrote it as like a stipulation of marriage.
00:02:36 - 00:02:52
She said I will not marry you unless you're an entrepreneur, so you better get together. I only marry entrepreneurs who have visions of being multi million and billionaires.
00:02:53 - 00:03:01
I could have married wealthy and taking the easy road, but I just love to have control.
00:03:02 - 00:03:35
Well, I must admit that I did write independence as part of my profile that I was looking for, so there you go, which could be interpreted in a variety of ways, but it's so successful as well, but maybe you want to be successful, it doesn't really matter. So okay, so entrepreneurs, you may be sold lollies, you know outside your parents home or something, but okay, so you ended up starting this e-commerce business and where was the inspiration for that?
00:03:36 - 00:04:23
Well you know, a couple of years before we actually started our official first e-commerce business, we had a bunch of ideas that we just tried to do that never panned out. We had a tea company, we had a bunch of random things and we were just kind of I think dreaming of doing that. This first business actually came about because when we left corporate America, we had a social media consulting firm that we were running and we were just pitching clients for that firm and one of the guys that we were trying to pitch as a client for social media work was starting another e-commerce business and it was in it's like planning stages and we actually came into that business with him as a partner in that company.
00:04:24 - 00:04:25
No idea why he did that.
00:04:26 - 00:04:33
I had no idea. I was like you guys are really cool and awesome. Let’s refined it and do it together.
00:04:34 - 00:04:38
Well maybe you matched his business dating profile, that's maybe what it was.
00:04:39 - 00:04:40
00:04:41 - 00:05:18
Yeah, and we're very grateful for that and we always wanted to have, I mean that was our grand vision was having an e-commerce business. So for us it was just like a great opportunity to kind of dive into it and do it. And that's where we really cut our teeth with building an e-commerce brand, running the ads, understanding how inventory works, understanding how to create a great website that converts and all the stuff basically every step of the funnel, we had to figure out because we had skin in the game, right? And that's where we learned everything with that business. But leading up to it, it was just a dream. And then we had this opportunity and it was a great product to stand behind and the idea behind the brand was awesome and we just went at it.
00:05:19 - 00:05:20
We kind of told him we knew how to do marketing.
00:05:21 - 00:05:22
00:05:23 - 00:05:36
So we had to learn really quickly. Yeah, it wasn't like a lie. It was kind of like, yeah, just promise it and figure it out as we go.
00:05:37 - 00:06:03
Well, as a popular person development phrase called ‘fake it till you make it’. So you pull that off. Yeah, yeah, it's good. Confidence trumps, you know, not doing anything. So it's great. So, how long did you do that for? And what lessons do you learn from that? Big lessons.
00:06:04 - 00:10:32
So yeah, there were a lot of big lessons, we did that for about three years. The first year was really challenging because we learned a lot of lessons in that year. Here are a couple of them, when you're trying to sell physical products online, you really have to sell your product. You can't just have a really cool branding and hope that someone is magically magically gonna want it. You have to give people all the information they need to know about the product. It just so happens that that product was like acne supplement. So one of the hardest kinds of products to sell online because you are trying to convince people to eat something and then it's gonna actually work, right. So there's a lot of concern and fear behind that. So we really had to learn how to build detailed landing pages, learn how to tell the story about what this product will do for these people and then also really understand the sales principles and there's a couple of big sales principles we learned in that process. One is you need to sell the future that the product is gonna give people, you can't sell the product, you sell the future. So it doesn't matter if it's an acne supplement, right. Like no one cares about that. All they care about is what's gonna do for them. So you lead with that to capture their attention, help them understand how this product is taken from a current state to a desired state. The only time people give you their money or buy a product is because this product is doing something for them, it's solving a pain, it's fulfilling a desire, whatever that is, you have to articulate that from the very beginning. The second thing is social proof and testimonials are essential for getting your products to convert online. And when you're first starting out, that's a really hard thing because you don't have any customers, so you really need to get your product in front of people, whether it's for free or even at a low cost to get people to experience it so that they can give you reviews and give you testimonials because that's such a huge conversion factor for your product. And one of the biggest mistakes early stage businesses make is they don't do that, they don't get their products to a lot of people because they just want people to buy it. But the reality is people have to actually use it and see a result from it and give an authentic testimonials so that more people can buy. So the first people that buy a product are early adopters, those people who don't need social proof, they don't need testimonials, they're gonna try anything, right. The people that need all these other things and that's only like a very small percentage of the population. You can't really just market to early adopters. The way you market online is you market to the masses. So the masses, they're not early adopters, they need social proof, they need reviews, they need this like connection with the brand, to trust you enough to give you their money. So that's a really strong foundational thing that you really need from the start. I have one more, you want to add anything to that? Alright, one more so on the growth journey, one of the biggest lessons that we learned was you need to have, you need to go deep on your best selling products to be able to scale and build your brand. So it's very tempting as we're building our brands to spread our inventory budget across a lot of different skus and what happens is you scale with just a couple of your excuse, so 80% of your revenue usually comes from 20% of your products, but if you don't have those products in stock, you can't sell. And that was really hard lesson that we learned because we kept hitting these peaks and we couldn't get past them. and we're like why can't we get past these peaks and we just one day decided like let's just buy more of this of our hero product because we kept selling out of it and we'd be out of stock for two or three weeks and we lose all its momentum and once we double down on our inventory of that product, we got to the next level and that same formula kept working every single time to get to the next level. The problem though is it's really scary to invest that much in inventory. It's very scary to double down because you're wondering, am I gonna sell it and am I gonna be left with it? You know it's just sitting there, you're not making the money yet, but the only way to skill with that. So that lesson was probably one of the most important lessons we learned in the journey of growth. And that's the thing that we really try to help coach our clients on is you can't just sell your brand, you got to sell the products people want and have it in stock consistently so your marketing works.
00:10:33 - 00:10:47
it goes against what you would normally think because people think go wider, all the products that's how I'm gonna scale but the minute that they focus in on something and that hero product, that USB whatever it is, that is the minute they start scaling.
00:10:48 - 00:10:49
Yeah. Focus is key.
00:10:50 - 00:11:01
Yeah and the other challenge along with that is once you start scaling and you start to get faster and faster growth that you need more working capital.
00:11:02 - 00:11:03
00:11:04 - 00:11:29
Right so and that can be a really big challenge and I've had this happen to me before I grew as a company from zero to million turnover and we blew up. It was, you know, and I just didn't have the working capital. How did you go with that challenge? In other words, as you grew the requirement for more money to buy more stock so that you could keep selling more, how did you go with that?
00:11:30 - 00:11:55
Well, we reinvested everything and that's kind of what we do is it's like a fine dance in scaling, so you don't want to blow up super fast, you kind of wanna, you know, have everything working with your marketing and your products and your inventory and it just, it all kind of has to scale up and like step up consistently. I feel like that's the only way unless you got investment from outside.
00:11:56 - 00:12:00
Yeah, I like the term that you used, it’s like a dance.
00:12:01 - 00:13:36
It is. It really is, yeah, and where focus really comes in because, you know, this is a really challenging thing for clothing brands and jewelry brands and like fashion apparel, because you feel like you have to, you know, keep things fresh and ride the trends and you know, have variety and stuff, otherwise people are gonna get bored. But the reality is, you know, every product on your website is new to people that are new to you, you can have the same product on your website for 10 years and if someone has never heard of you before, they get your website and you see it as new and you can scale with that, like massive brands, Lululemon is still scaling with their leggings, they launched in 2011, you know, like every brand scales with that. So when you're thinking about balancing your money, it's better to have depth over variety no matter what industry you're in, and that's you know how we've been able to help people kind of play that dance and how anyone with an e-commerce brand can kind of play that dance, you know, and then the other piece of it is you can't really pay yourself, no matter how much money you're making, it takes a while to pay yourself with an e-commerce brand because you have to keep reinvesting everything back into it and some of the things that we do and as people, as we start making a million dollars a month, you know, with our products and then we're like, oh I can pay myself money and then you like run out of stock and you're like crap, I just peed myself way too much money, so you really have to kind of, you know, take a couple of years probably to just keep reinvesting in building the brand until you have enough equity in it to start salary, you know.
00:13:37 - 00:14:15
Yeah, and that's true and that's the other part of the dance, the person versus the business, isn't it? So you're running this product business and you now are experts in social media, marketing, advertising, content marketing, and we're going to talk more about important of optimizing the funnel for sales, maybe get that into that in a minute, so you start to get it, you're working, so you're running this e-commerce business from a fulfillment center and there's a bunch of other e commerce companies here, is that correct?
00:14:16 - 00:14:17
00:14:18 - 00:14:39
So they obviously started to notice that you were getting some success with your marketing, advertising, you got approach. So tell us how that happened and what the next step of the journey where you moved from being a product business to being a services business. And so I'm intrigued by this transition. So tell us what happened.
00:14:40 - 00:16:02
So in the fulfillment center, they see this inventory stacking up and so they said who's doing your marketing? And we're like, well we are. They're like, well can you help us? And we're, you know, sure, I mean we're not gonna turn down money when we're barely making money, so we're like, this sounds like a great idea, we can buy a house maybe. So we took on one I think, was it a baby brand? It was a baby brand and did all the principles that we learned with our product business and applied it to their brand and they started growing pretty quickly within a few months. Yeah, we're like, wow, I guess if you already know what you're doing and then you apply it to someone else, it can go even faster. And so then other people were like, well what's happening with them, we need that. And so we just really kept stacking in clients at the same time as doing our e-commerce company and it got to a point where we had to make a choice because we couldn't keep doing both so it's like do we take the, you know, more profitable service company or keep going on the e-commerce side? And we do love helping people so much and doing that again and again and again more so than all the details of any commerce brand. So that's why we went all in on the agency.
00:16:03 - 00:16:08
So it really was a side hustle in a way in that you were doing it while you're running the other business?
00:16:09 - 00:16:27
Yeah and the more we played with other people's money and learned more you know principles and different action steps for our own. So it actually benefited us too.
00:16:28 - 00:16:57
So you started the accidental services company agency and obviously you're focusing on e-commerce companies and you also were focusing, well you've happened to also be focusing on female founders. So you exited, did you sell your portion of the business or you just sort of left because, what happened there?
00:16:58 - 00:17:41
So we sold our portion to our partner and he had a bunch of ideas that were kind of opposite of ours for that business so it worked out great, he could go and run with those and we ran with our side and actually the female founder thing was an accident as well. So that was not our intention. We didn't have this big grand idea to do that. Somehow we just found that female founders or you know, female partnerships just have this intuition and ability to like drop their ego and go with the roll with the punches and not get caught up in little analytical details and that is the reason that they've been able to scale quickly.
00:17:42 - 00:18:05
That’s very interesting. I was having a chat this week with another guest and he came up with a phrase never heard before and it's on the topic of ego. He says, ego is not your amigo. And I went, wow, that's very, very cool.
00:18:06 - 00:18:10
I love people that can spew out lyrics, you know.
00:18:11 - 00:18:38
Well maybe he's a songwriter and just doesn't know it yet. But I've already stolen it, but I will attribute it to someone else all the time of course. But yeah, it is very cool and I totally agree like ego can get in the way of making wise decisions because if you think you're always right, well, the rest of the team is not going to be wanting to work with you because what are they there for then?
00:18:39 - 00:19:05
One of the biggest things with actually scaling successfully and profitably is being able to trust the people that are helping you and so we need people to completely trust our process, trust when we say take all your money, double down on this product, you know and we, they need to follow us on that journey and be open to that and so that's part of dropping that ego as well.
00:19:06 - 00:20:26
So yeah, it's very interesting that area because I was speaking to someone else recently, I said that they wondered why all their staff were leaving in less than 12 months and an HR expert came in, looked over their shoulder, he was a friend in a group and looked over their shoulder and see what they're doing and said you're telling me what to do all the time, so they're just leaving, I said like so his ego is getting in the way and control freak was getting in the way of him scaling by delegating and that's one of the big challenges of any entrepreneurs knowing when to step away and delegate.
So the next step, you now have a services business which has its own challenges and also you are focusing on e-commerce companies. So in terms of what you do, we had a chat before we hit the record button, was that you sit down with your clients and help them optimize almost everything, including the content around their product, their advertising. So what's that process look like for you when you go and talk to a client and what are the steps for you to take an e-commerce company from zero to hero?
00:20:27 - 00:22:54
Yeah. So you know, our process actually starts before they become a client. So we're at a stage in our business now where we don't, we're more picky with who we take on as a brand and you know, we were very confident before they even start with us that we know what their hero product is and we understand that it's actually, you know, what they're selling is actually making an impact in lives and helping people. So going into the relationship, we have a pretty clear understanding of focus and what we need to be doing for the brand. We found that to crack the code on marketing or growth for anyone, you have to kind of get dialed in on four things, product, positioning, placement and audience. So those four things, when you're focused on all of that, when you find your focus on all of those, you're able to have profitable marketing. So going into a relationship, we usually know what the product is. So the next is how do we position that product in a way that helps people desire it? So then we start locking in on different hooks and different catch phrases. So our process from the very beginning is discovering why people are buying the products. We have an entire onboarding process with all of our brands, where they get, they basically log into a portal and we've created a series of worksheets that they go through, we extract information from them on their why behind the brand, the why behind their product and also the value props that they understand about their products, write the reasons people are buying. So we extract all this information from these people and then we turn that into content that we typically see converting online specifically on like Facebook and Instagram and that's where we start with all of our campaigns, so that's the positioning portion of it. The audience is something that we just kind of get dialed in on over time and then the placement is as well, so understanding are they converting better on Instagram or they're gonna convert better on Facebook? But here's an interesting thing that most people find pretty wild whenever we start digging in is that Facebook placement is usually the best converting place for people with ads. Instagram, not as great of a platform for running ads for most brands. It really just comes down to people's intent for platforms. So our entire process starts off with having a legitimate product, understanding how to sell it and then leading into that.
00:22:55 - 00:23:15
So how important, in terms of, do you go and do low cost tests for ads first as part of the process of optimization? Is that what you do or you just leap straight in with it because I think this is going to work. What do you do?
00:23:16 - 00:24:03
Yeah, we definitely do. You do a lot of testing and there are low cost tests. So typically our first month of you know, getting things rolling, we just have a lower budget overall to learn our lessons and we'll spread that across different campaigns that have a variety of hooks and you know, audiences and products and we just listen to the feedback loop. And as we discover an audience that started to convert, we get focused on that as we start to discover a product that is converting the best we get focused on that and the same thing with hooks and everything else. So those four areas that I mentioned and I mean that those micro tests are all about discovering our focus in those four areas. We only start scaling once we have profitable marketing running to you know, one of those areas.
00:24:04 - 00:24:24
So you mentioned social media, so Facebook is best for product. But we have the rise of TikTok. How's that looking for you guys day in terms of helping your client? Is TikTok something to be watched? Are you leaning into TikTok advertising? What's happening with TikTok?
00:24:25 - 00:25:33
It's definitely something to be watched. We do have profitable TikTok ads running but it seems to be pretty epically hit or miss. So generally our brands, I mean their ad budgets like, you know, 20-40,000 a day in spend, they'll want to be on TikTok just for awareness sake. So we usually recommend that if your marketing budgets are larger, get on Tiktok for awareness, try to crack the code on some conversion campaigns. In some cases you can, but it seems like, and this happened with Instagram too. With Instagram ads and the same thing on Facebook. It seems like they're still in that phase where people don't want to shop on the platform yet. So they're not receptive to the ads. However, the reason it's hit or miss is because there are some niches of people that are receptive to it. They discover where those people are and also what products are resonating with. So it's always worth the test. It's definitely not, you know, the ATM machine that Facebook can be yet.
00:25:34 - 00:25:55
So one of the biggest trends too in advertising well in social media and TikTok push this and Instagram reels has leaned in and now you've got YouTube Shorts. The role of short video, short form video, do you use that in your advertising? Short form video, is that important?
00:25:56 - 00:26:53
It is, yeah, so we create a lot of user generated videos for our brands that are in that like short form Instagram reels, TikTok format and those are anywhere between, you know, 30 seconds to 60 seconds long and they're very critical for getting things to convert. We actually have developed an in-house media team because they're so important. So, so yeah, they're definitely, but at the end of the day, they're not like the ultimate solution, you know, it's just a part of the puzzle. So we still find that static images convert really well for a lot of brands, you know, So it's just, it's a piece to layer in. But it's not like the golden nugget game changing that everyone. It's something to do because the way you get your marketing to really scale is you have a lot of varieties of creative and the more variety you can have, the easier it is to scale. So that's just one of the varieties that you need. But it's just a piece of the puzzle.
00:26:54 - 00:27:11
It doesn't need to be overcomplicated either, like dancing around and putting all these complicated shorts together. Like we found that literally just getting in front of the camera, talking about the product, its value, why you need to buy it, why you love it. I mean that seems to work pretty well.
00:27:12 - 00:27:18
So the reason for not doing the dancing is because Zack can't dance, is that what it really is?
00:27:19 - 00:27:30
I cannot dance. That's exactly why, although I bet you can sell some stuff if I was dancing.
00:27:31 - 00:27:43
Oh my gosh, she's actually been in a few videos for clients. I'm like, oh my gosh, like you're getting known for this, like in our neighborhood, they’re like I saw Zack on this toothpaste ad.
00:27:44 - 00:27:46
Yeah, I can sell anything.
00:27:47 - 00:28:01
He does it, because our team will be like, I don't know, you know, questioning how to do the content. He's like, I can sell anything, let me show you. And he'll do the video and it's like, it's their top converting ad.
00:28:02 - 00:28:14
I think the other thing that's really well, I think I can certainly see by looking at you both that I can see why the toothpaste ads work because you've got wonderful white teeth.
00:28:15 - 00:28:23
You know, we don't whiten either. I think it's the wine.
00:28:24 - 00:28:38
The wine does rinse the coffee off. I've discovered that. So you have a coffee and you just have a little wine after it. That's my excuse. It doesn't go down well with my partner because I drink more wine and coffee.
00:28:39 - 00:28:45
Listen as long as you throw in some water every now and then, you're fine.
00:28:46 - 00:30:15
Well, it must be getting close to 1:00 for you guys. I think we should go, I think the next strategy maybe for the podcast is do drunken interviews. That would be really a lot of fun. Okay, version two coming up, calling ‘Jeff get drunk on other sides of the world to each other’.
Okay, alright. So content marketing is a big word now and we've mentioned that it is content on social media. I remember when I started with Twitter. When it was Twitter to the wild west back in 2008-2009, and I, you know what, I sort of like the wild west of social media before the corporate, you know, essentially industrialized it through algorithms at it. So now you don't see the people that actually follow you, you've got to pay to reach them. The wild west of social media is I loved it. In fact you could connect with tribes, but let's go back to content because I do digress. So content, in terms of, how important is it for e-commerce and what sort of content do you use different parts of the fund?
00:30:16 - 00:32:49
Yeah, so we blend a lot of different varieties of content together. So we just kind of give you some categories of brands and what types of content needs to convert really well for them. So for what we would call, think about our products which are like supplements and skincare and health and wellness brands, videos like user generated style videos that talk about how the products solve the problem are really important. Top of the funnel, also in like middle of funnel and bottom of the funnel, so for the retargeting to help people get them to buy. So those are really great. Images that compare your product to competitors and like checkbox format almost like infographic style convert really well. And then we call review images where you've got a picture of the product and then like a little review bubble, talking like showing a review. Those tend to convert really well at every stage of the funnel for, you know, think about it brands. We don't get to like formulated for which ones convert better because it seems to be different for every single brand. So we just kind of discover that along the way and we'll just recognize, okay, cool, these are great for acquiring new customers. These are great for nurturing customers. Let's just do these with you because it's working for you, you will find that you could have the like really cool looking brands with the same product and same consumer and for whatever reason, contents gonna resonate differently for each of them. So we really do start off with what we feel like our best practices and then we just use those lessons, we learn pretty much every day with the brands to be able to kind of craft their unique strategy for their content like impulse purchases, apparel, jewelry, gifts, things like that. Usually, like example videos. So for apparel, try on videos are typically the best for ads. So just holding a phone up, looking in the mirror and talking about why I like how it fits, giving them that in person experience, you know, as if they were in a fitting room trying on themselves. Those convert really well for clothing and then jewelry, really unique pieces can convert really well, show how to use the unique pieces. And then forgettable products, static images that just, you know, appeal to the selfish desire of the person giving the gift because we don't give gifts because we want them to have an awesome gift. We give them because we want to feel like we give them a great gift. So, you know, the copy kind of resonates with that to the gift or side of it tends to convert really well and that's usually where we start for all those different verticals.
00:32:50 - 00:33:38
Content used to be called inbound marketing is invented by Hubspot and the more generic term yesterday's content marketing. So you moved from a product based business to a services based business, which has its own challenge. What are the challenges for a service based business like you're running as an agency? So you're basically trading and scaling time for money now, aren't you? You can buy a product and that's the scale for an e-commerce product store. In other words, the product is more product you have, the bigger, better the market, the better scale you can do, what are the challenges of scaling a services company? Because this quite often is a challenge for every services company.
00:33:39 - 00:34:15
I think the biggest one is people, and so our people are basically our products and the challenge is typically in a service company, you have the person who founded it, who has all this knowledge in their brain and is really good one on one with clients. Now, you hire someone, we have to extract that knowledge from him into the brain of another individual and have them handle clients in a similar manner. And so that is a massive challenge, that training.
00:34:16 - 00:34:22
Yeah, training team has been a learning experience for us.
00:34:23 - 00:34:24
And trusting them.
00:34:25 - 00:34:26
Trust, it's huge.
00:34:27 - 00:34:37
So what you are doing by getting it out of your brain and writing it down is about creating processes and systems, isn't it?
00:34:38 - 00:34:44
It is. Yep, I'm not like a processing system person.
00:34:45 - 00:34:48
Welcome to the club.
00:34:49 - 00:36:20
So yeah, we had to work together a lot on that because Nicolle is a process and systems person, so we make, we are really, really good when it comes to that. So that's worked out really well for us, but yeah, that's been the piece, but it's also been actually really rewarding as well, you know, it's been a challenge because it's just been, it's hard to let go and it's challenging sometimes to have patience and, you know, there's a lot to learn, so it's not downloaded overnight, you know. So but there's a rewarding side of it too like, you know, every single person on our team, we love, like they're great humans, they care, they learn extremely fast, they're on it and they're excited and passionate about what they do and seeing that in them and having moments where they do something where you're like, they listened and they're like, caring is so rewarding to see, because you feel good about that, you feel good, they've been able to build to that point and what we found is in business, you kind of go through seasons and you go through seasons of like intense training and it's a lot of time and, you know, very stressful and challenging, but then you come out of that season when people start to become trained, you know, and you enter into a new season, but that's, you know, there's this constant cycle which we've gotten used to at this point, but it's been great.
00:36:21 - 00:36:50
Well, and it has its own scaling, you know, quirks. Yeah, and that's a whole other dance is you don't want to overwhelm your team too much and it's great that you're getting new clients, but then at what point do you hire new people, so we've kind of gotten into a groove with that and we like to be one or two people ahead and have them in training and learning from the team before kind of anticipating more clients coming on. So yeah, it takes time.
00:36:51 - 00:37:33
But just like with the e-commerce, like you can't scale that inventory, we can't scale without a team. So like Nicolle just said like we invest in our team, like we invest like an e commerce brand, invest in inventory, so we have to get ahead of it and it's, you know, it's a weight you carry because you have to over higher for a little bit so that you're prepared for when you continue to grow and you know, you want to keep your current team from getting overwhelmed because when that happens, you start having turn, you start having, you know, not great things happen as a service business, so keeping the balance there also training the others. It's another dancing game. It's kind of the same dancing game you take.
00:37:34 - 00:37:57
I think with the service company too, you have to have a thick skin because when you grow and scale and put all your heart into a client and then they leave for another marketing agency or whatever. Grass is greener. It can really personally affect you. And so it takes time to develop that thick skin and be like whatever.
00:37:58 - 00:38:08
Remember when they left, I got sick. I had the flu. It was like a hard thing, you become friends, you know, you work really closely.
00:38:09 - 00:39:11
So this raises another question in terms of how you run the business as a service as well versus product and also you're working in the knowledge industry. So, and a certain event happened a couple of years ago, that's forced us to actually move into space faster, so you guys work remotely, I believe. So most of your team is distributed, you don't see them day to day, so that brings down to then how do you maintain a team culture on top of that? What are some of the platforms and tools that you use to train other words, get the stuff out of your head because it's not like you stand around the water cooler or pull them into the boardroom and run a training session as in face to face. So what are some of the, how did you get stuff out of your brain and get it onto platforms? Like videos? How did that, what do you do on that level?
00:39:12 - 00:40:30
Yeah, it's pretty intense. So really what we found is, and we've tried a bunch of different, like we've tried a bunch of different things to train the team on a group level, but what we found is everyone kind of needs an individual training because everyone thinks a little differently. So when we're in training mode, what we do is I usually sit down with our team every day and go through all of their accounts with them and I'll train them in real time on the clients they're working with and we'll do that over Zoom and we record that call and then they can go back and reference it to take that action. So we give action and we explain why we're taking that action. And then the Zoom call that we just had is their exercise for the rest of the day to go back and take action based on what we talked about and let that soak in and learn and what happens is over time they start to naturally think like, I think, and it's almost like absorbed but it takes a lot of one-on-one interactions and it, you know, there are probably a lot of people who would hear that and would say you're stupid for doing that because you can train people in a group setting or give them an automation to learn that way.
00:40:31 - 00:40:55
Which we've tried, we've tried that, it just doesn't replace that one on one. And if you can do that and put that time investment in on the front end, it is going to pay dividends because that person is not only just following processes or you know, trying to learn that way, they actually develop like the thinking brain of a marketer of, you know, someone that's going to help scale a company.
00:40:56 - 00:42:27
Yeah and we're in a space where every brand is different. So they have to have that marketer brain to be effective, you have to understand the principles, not just the strategy. So the strategies are actually simple. The principles are what's hard and when you learn those principles, you become an expert marketer. So that's what we teach and we do it on a one on one basis. We also have group trainings that we do. So we use Zoom for our calls and record those. We use Slack for team communication. And what's interesting is it feels like we see everyone every day because we communicate, we're really involved founders. Like we, you know, we understand that egos are not your amigo. So, we put our like founder ego down and trying to be the untouchable founder and we are in the trenches with the team and we found that that's where we're effective and that's where the team is effective and they responded very well to that. So, as we continue to grow, we understand that that's not skilled and we are not, we may not be able to continue to do that, and that's fine, but at least we'll have a core team of people that can help carry the torch on that. So right now we've got 21 people on our team and we're continuing to grow and we don't plan on stopping, but well, as we get to that next stage, we will continue to develop those systems where now the team is teaching those things.
00:42:28 - 00:42:48
Well they've already started to step into those roles. So we have support people, we have people that are like the senior growth experts that are starting to help support the new people and take on that load. And so as we continue to scale, I see them kind of scaling up to more of his level and being able to take on that responsibility.
00:42:49 - 00:43:18
So in terms of looking at the team, you obviously put systems and processes in place to help control and manage the business. So what is your typical day and week look like in terms of Zoom calls, team meetings because you know that routine, those habits that beat off the street of the business, what does your typical week or a day look like either or both?
00:43:19 - 00:44:12
Yeah, I can go first. So I have recurring calls with our team members and on those calls, you know, we discuss strategy. So pretty much my mornings are blocked off individually with the team to have that training time in the execution time. So that's pretty much the first half of my day. The last half is typically engaging in Slack and helping to, you know, support where it's needed. But also thinking big picture on how we're connecting and how we're actually growing and systemizing on the marketing side of things. But it's pretty heavy on calls and you know, it's not always gonna be that way but, you know, it's just been effective for us. So we're, you know, the day for me is pretty stacked with calls with the team.
00:44:13 - 00:44:48
Yeah, I jump on some of the team calls, but I leave a bit more space in my day because I have a lot more epiphanies. We've got to change this, restructure this, go into this platform, you know, and in order to do that, I need more space than he has. So I think that's one thing that's awesome about having, you know, a couple co-founders or just more than one person with a different style of thinking and responsibility, so he would never be able to have those epiphanies as much because he's so busy and stacked up. My day is a lot better.
00:44:49 - 00:45:00
Well, I do love that. So we use the term dancer, but you have a dance between quietness and dizziness and quite often inspiration happens in those quiet moments, doesn't it?
00:45:01 - 00:45:06
It does, yeah, it's always when you least kind of, when you're not pushing as hard.
00:45:07 - 00:45:25
Nicolle has a special talent of, it's weird, but she can see the future. I really believe that. It's wild. Like, I feel like some people just have this intuition that others don't have and there's they're born with the wisdom and intuition and Nicolle has that.
00:45:26 - 00:45:58
I usually bring stuff up like a year before and I'm like, we have to do this, this is gonna happen and Zack and our other business partners like, oh yeah, you know, and I have to work on them for a whole year and then they'll call me and they'll be like, oh my gosh, this guy we were talking to, he had this brilliant idea and I'm like, I told you that a year ago, like they needed outside confirmation.
00:45:59 - 00:46:10
So really, maybe the next business is a futurist for you and Nicolle. But maybe not, maybe not palm reading or anything like that.
00:46:11 - 00:46:14
Yeah, no. We'll leave that to the experts.
00:46:15 - 00:46:52
I'm mindful of your time. You've got two kids that need to be fed or whatever, or played with, read too. So just for our viewers and listeners, what are some of the biggest lessons that you'd like to share that you've learned along the way as entrepreneurs and especially for a services business and e-commerce as well, it doesn't really matter. So what are some of the big lessons that you've learned or tips that you'd like to share? Just two or three that you think are really, really important for entrepreneurs and those are starting out.
00:46:53 - 00:47:58
You want me to go first? I think my biggest advice would be to know what the feedback loop is and listen to it and if you don't know what that is. It's basically taking action, seeing what the results of that action are and then improving or re iterating on that and doing that over and over and over time you improve. Hopefully it can work the other way too. And so what we find with a lot of entrepreneurs is that they take action and then instead of improving on what they've learned, they go in a new direction and they do different actions and they spread themselves like horizontal and all the actions they're taking and we're like, but you know, when you really question them and you're like, what's working in your business? What's your hero product? Like they know that, you know, these answers and it's just go all in on that, like keep reiterating on that and keep improving. So I think the feedback loop is like the most important thing and you do that over and over over time and you scale and grow and become successful. So yeah, that's mine.
00:47:59 - 00:48:01
I love that, love that.
00:48:02 - 00:50:15
Mine would be don't go into business expecting to not work. I think that what we see and sometimes feel is, you know, it's a lot of hard work to grow any business whether in an e-commerce brand or service based brand and you really have to be willing to put in that work to make the sacrifices to be able to do that. We've sacrificed a lot of friendships and a lot of time with family and a lot of things to help us focus and put as much energy and time in our business as we can, and we don't regret any of it and it's been amazing and fun. It's been really hard too, but a lot of, I think that a lot of entrepreneurs and founders are trying to make a passive income and they're trying to, you know, not work with their business, and the reality is, you know, it's never ending work. So being willing to put in, put in the hours and the time to do that is one of the biggest things that you can do in the early stages of business, especially because Nicolle always does this analogy that I find is true for everybody. Remember those like mirror go rounds at school that were the metal ones that all the kids would pile on and like you push them, you know, when you get a bunch of kids on there and you start pushing it, it's really hard to get going, you have to put a lot of effort into it. Sometimes you need like three kids pushing it once it's going, you kind of stick your foot out and you can keep it going. So momentum is very hard to build, it's easier to maintain.
So when you're in that momentum building stage, it's a season of life that's gonna be kind of hard, you have to give up some vacations, you're gonna have to golf less, you're gonna have to do less things for yourself to be able to build it, but be willing to do that. And you will see success. The founders that we see, don't complain about working and, and put in the time and do it. Those are the ones that actually build the seven and eight and nine figure businesses.
00:50:16 - 00:50:31
Yeah, another analogy about creating momentum. Another story I've heard regarding that is if you've got a fully laden passenger airplane, you've got to take off with full throttle to get into the air to fly and only when you reach cruising altitude, can you back off that full throttle. And that's momentum again.
So, look, it's great guys. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom. It's been an absolute joy to see both of your smiling faces on the other side of the world and I can see that you enjoy and love what you do and hats off to both of you for what you've achieved and what you've shared with our audience. Thank you very much for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure.
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