How Patrick Campbell Created a Multi-Million Dollar Customer-Funded Business with a Small, Efficient Team!

Do you want to discover how to get results from your employees?

In this interview, Patrick Campbell Co-Founder and CEO of Price Intelligently reveals how he was able to create a multi-million dollar, customer-funded business with a small team.

You will also discover how he documents Standard Operating Procedures which he calls “If I Die” documents for each role in the company so that his employees have all the information they require to get tasks done successfully without him.

You will also discover why he comes up with three new things every month that he should no longer be working on, and more!

Patrick Campbell Co-Founder and CEO of Price Intelligently

 

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • How Patrick came to recognize the lack of documentation was causing problems in his business.
  • Why Patrick’s team was taking on too much and not being productive enough.
  • Why Patrick had an argument over snacks in the office, and how that led to a meaningful discussion about creating systems.
  • How Patrick evangelized process within his business.
  • How Patrick created “If I Die” documents that catalog what team members do on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.
  • Why Patrick is coming up with three new things every month that he shouldn’t be working on.
  • How Patrick is working to bolster critical thinking on his team to come up with system-based solutions.
  • How Patrick established key performance indicators (KPI) within his business to track employee performance.

 

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: My guest today is Patrick Campbell and he is the co-founder and CEO of Price Intelligently. Patrick, welcome to the show.

PATRICK: Hey Owen, good to be here.

OWEN: The show is all about getting guests like yourself who have systematized their business and now it actually runs without you having to be there. And my listeners want to learn how you were able to do that. So let’s keep them all the way to the end of the call by revealing right now some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through that process of systematizing and automating your business.

PATRICK: Yeah. It’s a good way to start I think is by showing the result and then unpacking how we got there. I think the biggest thing if I had to quantify it is we’ve basically created a multi-million dollar a year business with as few employees as possible. We could definitely have I’d argue through more process and more systems less employees. But I think because we’re looking to not just kind of create a nice little business for a couple of people, we’re trying to create a nice big company. We’ve been extremely efficient and we’ve been able to do it with absolutely no venture funding. We’re completely customer funded. And what’s interesting besides kind of a top level number which is obviously nice and sexy to talk about is I think what’s cool from our perspective is the mind blowing results is that, that’s not necessarily as quantifiable. We’ve actually had some really big, compounding impacts on the team particularly because everyone who’s kind of marching now towards the same beat and the same drum, mainly because we’ve not only systematized many parts of our business but we’ve also left some of the heavy lifting to everyone who’s kind of aligned towards the same vision, and ultimately towards a vision of being systematized and providing different frameworks to basically get things done.

OWEN: Awesome. How will you say the company has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?

PATRICK: Yeah, we’ve transformed in a lot of ways. I think for one I think that a lot of turnover happens because of a lack of process and lack of frameworks. You’d be surprised how many companies you’d walk into and people are just frustrated not because they’re not getting paid enough, not because they’re not having fun necessarily with their co-workers, but more just because they don’t necessarily have a direction and they’re stuck doing some work that could very, very easily be systematized. The reason is because people don’t want to work on the same task every single day especially one that’s easily repeatable. They want to work on nice, intellectually challenging things and make sure that they can work on the cool stuff as they say. And so I think for us we’ve transformed the business. I can attribute some lack of turnover to process, but I also think we’ve ramped up new employees very, very quickly where they don’t necessarily need to focus on three weeks of training or three weeks of filling out paperwork, they can kind of get going and get to why they were hired, which is solving some big scary problems. And I think one other thing, and this comes from my experience here working at some really large companies and kind of seeing how they do process and don’t do process, but also kind of the fact that we are customer funded so we didn’t have a safety net of some venture capital, is that we’ve really added significant amounts of redundancy to the business.

To me as a leader and a CEO in the company I believe that we should basically be able to, or I should be able to get hit by a bus as we kind of say internally. And hopefully no one intentionally hits me with a bus but basically I should be able to be hit by a bus and everything’s fine. And everyone else should be able to somehow by great means maybe they win the lottery, or by horrible means, some reason they can no longer work for the company. It shouldn’t be reliant on that person because the process should kind of take over and essentially do its job.

OWEN: And how has your personal life as a result of systematizing your business?

PATRICK: I don’t know. I think it’s actually gotten worst. No, I could make an argument for my personal life getting worst because now I can do more and I can work more if that makes sense because…

OWEN: Yeah. You’re freed of time and now you’re trying to figure out what to do next.

PATRICK: Yeah, what to fill that time with, and unfortunately I think for better or for worst I can’t just work 4 hours a week and kind of chill out. If I save myself 4 hours a week I’m going to find some other problem to fit in those 4 hours. But from a positive angle I think what’s really helped in all seriousness is I think I have a lot more peace of mind about the company. So there’s enough things really attacking you when you’re trying to build a company, you’re trying to build something that’s never existed before. I think with process, now I can worry less because if I’m not at work, if I’m taking an occasional few hours off or by some luck I convinced myself that I can go on vacation or something like that I don’t sit there worrying about is something getting done, or is something not getting done. I trust my team, and I trust the process, and I can trust the team better because the process is there, and we’ve hired the right people of course and so there’s kind of working in tandem with one another. I think that’s really hard to do if you’re a type A personality like me, is if you don’t have process you turn into kind of a paranoid person. And that paranoia is actually really painful for your team because it builds this… “I’m the only one who can solve this problem,” when in reality the whole reason you hired that person is because they’re intelligent and they can solve that problem hopefully better than you can.

OWEN: Since you have systems in place that allows the business to run without you I’m wondering what’s the longest time you’ve actually been away from it.

PATRICK: That’s actually a great question. If I really wanted to I could spend much longer away from the business. I don’t really want to. And I think that, like I said, we could very well build a nice, little annuity type business but I think we’re trying to go after something bigger here. But I will say that I started the company and it’s only me full-time for about 6 months, just kind of grinding away before we had enough revenue to hire our first employee, and then enough revenue to hire the second. After 18 months of doing that grind I was burnt out because I had not taken a vacation in between when I had left my other job. And interestingly enough I didn’t take any vacation between leaving in-between the previews [Unintelligible 00:06:48] for that. And so I was pretty burnt out for not just 18 months of building the business initially but a couple of years. And so I actually was like, “All right, I’m going to take 4 weeks off. I think it was actually closer to 5 weeks. I’m actually going to be not be involved in the business for 3 weeks of those 5 weeks. And another 2 weeks I’m going to work on some not day to day stuff. It’s funny, being a little paranoid and being a little controlling or type A as I mentioned, that’s something that’s more difficult not because the business isn’t going to survive but it’s more difficult to realize that the systems and the frameworks that you put in place are actually going to survive. Everything went well. I probably ran better than when I was around to be honest.

OWEN: And so let’s give the listener some context as to what your business is all about. What exactly does your company do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?

PATRICK: We had two products that solved two main pains. The overarching company and the original software that we launched about 4 years ago. It helps subscription companies’ price better and monetize better, some algorithms that helps them get a bunch of customer development research and basically helps them figure out what their pricing strategy should be. The second product we released about 2 years ago which is called profitwell.com, shameless plug.

OWEN: Plug away.

PATRICK: It provides one click SAS metrics or subscription financial metrics for your billing system, and it’s completely free. So you plug it in and basically you get access to your cohort’s return, all of those fun metrics. And you don’t really need to worry about those anymore since we’re the ones worrying about then, give them to you, and completely accurate fashion.

OWEN: One of them is a tool and the other one is more like a product type service where you help people figure out how to price the products for the SAS.

PATRICK: Yeah, exactly. The product service side there’s some software and some algorithms there, but what’s funny and it’s kind of against the process is we discover that people wanted us to basically do the work for them. And even when we tried to give them different features and things that would help them they’re still like, “We just want you to do this.” And so we have to create some really efficient client processes around our software and around our delivery of that service to be successful.

OWEN: Let me see if I get this right. The service is helping them figure out what the prices should be for their software product but also what features were going to the pricing plans. That’s kind of what it is right, the research and all that.

PATRICK: Yeah, definitely. So it’s the positioning, the packaging, and the pricing. So essentially who you should sell to, what you should sell to them, and how much you should sell it for.

OWEN: Great. How many full-time employees do you have?

PATRICK: I believe we’re just under 20. We just had someone start today and I didn’t remember what the count was. But I think we’re going to definitely get past 20 pretty soon here.

OWEN: And during the pre-interview you said you also use a Mechanical Turk. What is that?

PATRICK: Yeah. I’ve been using VA’s in some capacity, like virtual assistants. I don’t have any active right now but we’re going to fire that back up. But I’ve been using them personally since I started my career just because I kind of saw the value in outsourcing a lot of different repetitive tasks. But one thing that we use particularly for some really, really quick, as we’d like to call it, [Unintelligible 00:10:13] is something called Mechanical Turk. It’s an Amazon service, and what’s funny is I think it’s one of their only profitable business units. But basically what it is is you can set-up, whether it’s surveys, repeatable tasks, or a number of different research type tasks where people are online right now all over the world and you can make it specific for the US, or you can make it global depending on what you’re trying to do. And you pay them essentially a penny per task or some small dollar amount per task. For instance we’ll do, “Hey, we want you to go to this website and then find their team page and put in the URL into this form. We will pay someone a penny per URL essentially and they do it pretty quickly. People use it not just to make money, they actually use it more while they’re bored, or watching TV or something. It’s kind of like something to do when you’re bored in class. But it’s a hugely popular tool for us in particular because we can get some stuff that might take us an hour but there’s no reason that we need to do it and we can get it done pretty quickly.

OWEN: Yeah. Is the company profitable? What was last year’s revenue and what do you probably think you’re going to do this year?

PATRICK: We’re are profitable. Last year we did 3 million. We’ve been doubling every year, so I’m going to knock on wood that we’re going to hit it. But we’re going to keep trucking and I believe we’re going to hit it this year. We’re going to double again.

OWEN: Now we’ve kind of given the listener what you’re now been able to achieve because of the business being systematized and being able to run without you. But obviously it wasn’t always like this. So take us back to when the business was not systematized and automated like it is now and what was wrong with it?

PATRICK: Just chaos… I think the biggest problem was, and this is a problem that a lot of businesses have. Especially in the early days is like everything existed in someone’s head meaning it wasn’t necessarily initially systems, it was more documentation which is a part of building systems where all of a sudden… documentation in the tech world is pretty defined. But even in the business side you need documentation on, here’s how we handle X, here’s how we handle Y. Here’s what a good lead is, here’s what a bad lead is, all these different things because someone should be able to access a wiki or should be able to access a Google Doc rather than trying to find the person who is in charge of that or who has some context. And so things were chaotic. I think it was just a nature of the time in the business being very early. But stuff was being duplicated that shouldn’t have been duplicated. There were some things that fell through the cracks, just some really interesting stuff. And I think those things you think, maybe that’s just an efficiency thing, but it’s also a quality of your work problem because those kind of compound where if something falls through the cracks, or something’s not getting done, or you’re duplicating something, you might be causing confusion, your employee NPS may go down, your customer NPS may go down, your…

OWEN: What is NPS?

PATRICK: Net promoter score which is just a measure of satisfaction. It just causes confusion and mild amount of frustration. That’s not a good thing to have obviously to make sure that your customers and your employee, or your team is happy.

OWEN: Back when the system was not systematized what was the lowest point and describe how bad it got.

PATRICK: i think it was a lot of work and it’s always going to be a lot of work at this stage, and it’s still a lot of work, but it was a lot of work that felt very frustrating because you’re trying to take on so much stuff and basically trying to fill your 16 hours in a day with non-scalable things. If we were doing 16 hours’ worth of work but we were getting 32 hours’ worth of output that would still be very frustrating, or not frustrating, it would still be a lot of work but it wouldn’t necessarily be frustrating. If you’re putting hours in and you’re only getting 14 hours out because you’re not only inefficient but you’re also not being very process driven. It gets very, very chaotic and unhappy in terms of your business. I think I gained a ton of weight, I’m super stressed all the time just because the business was tough at that time, especially when fully bootstrapped and customer-funded. For the first 18 months it wasn’t great and mainly because it was just me for the first 6 months, but it was hard until we’re finally getting those hires, and all of a sudden we could more readily and more easily, basically build those processes and those frameworks because we had time to build them.

OWEN: During the pre-interview we asked you about whether there was some specific story that made you realize… the breaking point, “Hey, I have to go ahead and systematize my business.” And there was a story about an argument. Talk about that.

PATRICK: It was one of those things that’s like in and of itself is just stupid. Everything was kind of coming to ahead and it was kind of funny because it was like a four-person company essentially at the time and we’re all feeling pretty worn down. And basically the guys is our GM of the Price Intelligently side of the business Peter Zotto. He’s been there since day 1. He’s the second guy after me. I think it was really funny because we were just adding time instead of creating processes. So it was like, “All right, we’ll get that done. I work on Sunday.” It wasn’t that we didn’t want to create process. We’ve always been preaching it. It’s just sometimes you don’t think that, “I should stop what I’m doing, create the process so I don’t have to do this task 10 more times.” The straw that broke the camel’s back was we just started getting enough money to buy basic snacks for the office and none of us were getting paid that much, so it was a nice little perk. I made it clear, “This isn’t nice to have. It’s not something to get too used to. We’re still financially not sure,” because we’re running pretty close to the rails at that point. And I remember I just, for some reason forgot, one day I was too busy to run the whole [Unintelligible 00:16:49]. It was like Clementine’s. That’s what the big argument was over. And it wasn’t about the Clementine’s. We were pretty thankfully mature enough to be like this is the thing that caused the bigger conversation about we just can’t scale this way. We have to figure out… maybe we need to take 3 days and just stop everything else, pause, and focus on putting systems in place so we don’t have to worry about breaking ourselves and fighting over snacks essentially.

OWEN: The snacks was an opportunity to get the frustration out.

PATRICK: Yeah. If you think about it, you’re doing so much stuff in your business and you know this in your business too. Sometimes you don’t stop to think what’s good for you. You’re like, “I have to get this done,” and you’re constantly reacting. And oftentimes you just need to focus on doing things that are going to compound in terms of their efficiency.

OWEN: I’m glad you shared that. Now we’ll talk about the steps you actually took to systematize the business. What will you say was the very first step you took to make the changes.

PATRICK: I think the first step is pretty unique to our business. What we did is we have services… Our product has service side… Now we have a very, very clear…

OWEN: Let me do this real quick because the listener might not know what a product service and I realized that you didn’t explain it. Can you just quickly explain what that is real quick before you continue what you’re about to say?

PATRICK: Yeah. A way to look at that is basically we have a product or we have a service essentially, pricing as a service. And we’re selling that not as a consulting project like, “Hey, we’re going to talk to you.” We’re selling that as, “Hey, we’re going to do this for you. We have software, we have algorithms, we have these different things. It’s not just our word, we’re going to use the product and you’re going to pay us along with the product. So that’s kind of how we look at it. There’s a couple of different definitions depending on what someone’s doing for you. That’s kind of a way to look at it. And for us to answer your question is we have this customer process. We have to onboard a customer. We have a customer success process. We have a number of calls that we have with these customers. And basically it was the first time putting into place, “What was call number 1, what was call number 2, what was call number 3,” and making that just very simple and it’s evolved very drastically since. But just putting that in the spreadsheet and then the next customer that came, Peter knew this was the first call to schedule and then Patrick was going to take care of the second call, and so on and so forth.

OWEN: Okay. What was the second step you took after figuring out the on boarding process for the customer?

PATRICK: I think the big thing was, and there were a bunch of little things that I could definitely get into but I think the next big thing was for us to survive this can’t just be Patrick or Peter trying to do process, but everyone needs to kind of live and breathe this. Essentially what that allowed us to do was really evangelize and make sure that we’re hiring, because we’re hiring now at this point again people who are process-driven. And also making sure that everyone who’s at the company was also process-driven. So that kind of allowed us to process the process if that makes sense.

OWEN: Yeah. You’re getting the right people who think that way coming in, but the people who are in already you say you’re evangelizing the concept so that they would get on board. But I’m wondering can you share just a little bit what specific things you were doing to evangelize the concept to get those people on board now into creating the system?

PATRICK: I think it was just repeatability. I think it was just like auditing people’s work. Not micromanaging them but in a one-on-one being like, “Okay, what did you do this week?” “I did this.” “All right. How did you do that? Talk me through these steps.” And then just like with them because they have more context on that work than you do being kind of a coach in the sense of, “I noticed that you did this task six other times and it’s something that we could easily pay someone $2 an hour Mechanical Turk to do. Let’s do that. Let’s make sure that they’re using that.” Or, “Hey, you don’t have a document. We need to document that because you’re not going to be the only person doing this. Take half hour to just do that.” It’s just more of that coaching was really, really helpful. And eventually if you coach enough people just start to think about it and naturally and kind of go from there .

OWEN: You also mentioned during the pre-interview something about, I think you kind of alluded to it just now, if I die document and the structure of how you had to create it. Talk about those.

PATRICK: Yeah. That’s something that I think really helped for institutional memory. So to give you a context, basically it’s a document where people catalog everything that they do on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis, and then every once in a while, so they have those columns. And then they add every spreadsheet and every Google document that they use in their day-to-day job. And the goal here is, and it’s a little bit morbid to call it an if I died doc. But basically if they leave the company, or if someone is added at the similar role that person should be able to walking into the company and look at that document, get ramped up to speed, and ultimately just understand what’s going on in the business for that particular role. So that’s essentially what that is and I think it’s been really, really helpful and we need to continue to iterate on them but it’s something that we found helpful to make sure that none of us are living too much in a silo.

OWEN: And so back then with all the steps that you had to go and implement. I was wondering how did you prioritize the order of steps to take? How did you decide what systems to create and systematize first and next? What was the thinking behind it?

PATRICK: I think it really came down to a time or money calculus. If we’re spending 40 hours doing this a month and we envision doing that every single month let’s take care of that problem. If that’s the biggest problem, like if there were other problems that were 30 hours, other problems that were 20 hours. Or if we calculated out the amount of time we spent on an hour in terms of cash potentially, whether it’s a person’s time or actually spending money on something, that kind of fit in to that calculus and just a basic whatever is the biggest problem. And also the other factors, the time it would take to fix it, basically multiplying that out and seeing what’s the most efficient then we take care of that, versus some of the other problems.

OWEN: And I can now see why you’re also mixing the whole Mechanical Turk thing because you guys are delivering a product, even though you’re not charging per hour but you’re dealing with a product. But you want to make sure that the people that are working with you to deliver that product, spending most of their time on those activities that would actually drive the most revenue. And so everything else, you are now looking at how can I have someone from Mechanical Turk do those things that did not come close I guess.

PATRICK: Yeah, exactly. It’s basically baking that in and making sure that the value of someone’s time versus someone on Mechanical Turk is very, very different. Because that Mechanical Turk person is netting out to $6 to $15 an hour depending on what tasks they’re doing. Whereas we’re paying someone even like an entry level employee probably closer to $18 to $20 an hour. And you’re supposed to even multiply that by a couple of multipliers just because that’s just the nature of someone in the startup. They’re not necessarily paid what they should be, at least in the earlier stage. And so that’s kind of how when you think about it.

OWEN: How exactly did you even document procedures and processes for your business? What tools did you even use then? I think you mentioned something about Trello and some other tools?

PATRICK: Yeah. It’s more for us the collaboration tools. We’ve looked at some of the process tools and I think we’re at the point where we’re going to start using some. But the collaboration tools are really what we rallied around first, and those things are like Google Docs, and spreadsheets, and then things like Trello. I think the bigger one that’s not necessarily… you don’t naturally think about it as like a process tool, something like HubSpot. We use HubSpot for our marketing automation. I can pretty much unequivocally say that it’s saved us one and half employees let’s say. Just because we’re able to basically use that tool to automate a lot of the different things that we’d have to either build or put together in other instances.

OWEN: So you say you use Trello and you use Quip as a collaboration tool. What is that?

PATRICK: We use that with some of our content writers. It’s kind of like a Google Docs on steroids essentially. It’s got a lot of different collaboration type features. the commenting’s a little bit more intuitive and things like that.

OWEN: And HubSpot for what?

PATRICK: It’s for our marketing.

OWEN: Okay. I always like to know at the time when someone’s trying to systematize the business what kind of mentors or people had influence on them. In your case, at the time when you were systematizing your business what books or even mentors had the most influence on you?

PATRICK: Yeah. Two big mentors of mine, David [Unintelligible 00:26:44] who’s a pretty big guy in product in the world here, and then [Unintelligible 00:26:48] is also a good guy in product. Both of those folks keep you honest. They’re kind of like no bullshit kind of guys. I don’t know if I can say that.

OWEN: Go ahead.

PATRICK: They’re really focused on quality and really just focused in general to just gave me something to basically make sure I wasn’t always in reactionary mode. I think I read 4-Hour Workweek but I think I commented in the beginning. I think it’s really useful if you’re trying to build just a value business or a business specifically for you…

OWEN: And lifestyle…

PATRICK: Yeah, and those business can be huge don’t get me wrong but I think it would be more like trying to go after something bigger. So while some of those pieces of advice were practical some of the other ones just kind was impractical. Checklist Manifesto was really good, and then there’s like hundreds of blog posts that we’ve probably picked up o here or there.

OWEN: The thing is if we only talk about what you did and what you achieved when it comes to stamping or trying to systematize and automate the business so it runs without you and not talk about the challenges you face we don’t give a full picture of really was going on. So what was the biggest challenge that you experienced when you initially tried to systematize the business and how did you solve it?

PATRICK: There’s a couple here. One is you get really close to the work and the problems. And so you start to assume because you’re doing it, even though you in a very objective sense would know that you can systematize something but you start to feel like this can’t be systematized or outsourced because I need to do this. And you just make up a lot of excuses but I think what we’ve started doing or what we’re trying to do is we’re all trying to be better coaches of ourselves and the people around us. Once per month we’re trying to come up with three things that, for instance I shouldn’t really be doing any more whether that’s something I can outsource to another team member who’s better suited to do it. Or just from a process standpoint I can help the team kind of figure stuff out. So that’s kind of the stuff that we’re trying to do and I think that it also comes down to a lot of coaching. I know I mentioned that already but it’s being able to, and not just me coaching others but others coaching me so that I can…

OWEN: Okay.

PATRICK: Yeah, exactly. Because I think coaching isn’t necessarily like, “Hey, I know better than you.” Coaching is sometimes is I can look at what you’re doing with a different perspective than you because I’m not as close to it. So we try to just encourage more in our culture this whole concept of process, and do more with less, and all that kind of fun stuff.

OWEN: And I’m curious, were there any other challenges that you experience that you want to highlight?

PATRICK: I think the imagination around building process on some certain things. I think some people they just get really so close to the job as kind of was mentioning. There are just like this can’t be outsourced or this can’t be systematized because I’m the only one who can do it, or I don’t see how this can be done. We’ve all had those moments, whether it’s a process or something where we’re like, “This is the only way to do this.” And someone comes in and does it completely different. And you’re like, that’s interesting. It’s so much better than what I was doing but we were so adamant about it. So I think this concept of critical thinking around processes and what we’re trying to do in general is also really bolster critical thinking on the team. Really understanding different parts of the business, understanding how you can solve them and how you can critically think of a problem from a framework perspective, or a piece of a process from a framework perspective to come up with the best solution.

OWEN: That’s great. And given all the challenges that you’ve mentioned so far I’m wondering, why did you even stay committed to this goal of systematizing your business?

PATRICK: One, I think purely objectively i just knew that in order to grow you have to scale, and the only way you scale is through frameworks and processes, or more so just processing it’s systematizing things. I think that’s really is, and I’m frankly just seeing the early success in terms of saving time or cash. We are a very different business than we were four years ago, and I hope we are a very different business four years from now. I think that’s something that’s pretty important process to keep focused on as you scale.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Let’s come to a more recent time in the story. At what point in time were you able to systematize your entire business and have it actually run with you successfully? Do you remember when that happened? I think during the pre-interview you mentioned something about moving out of managing revenue in Q4 of last year. What did you mean by that?

PATRICK: I’m no longer involved in, except for, “Hey, there’s this person. They want to meet you or talk to you because you wrote the blog post thing.” I’m no longer involved in the sales process for actually a long time. Occasionally I’ll step in and do something or help, but I was also involved in the services team so basically that pricing team. And as of Q4 of last year I’m no longer involved, which externally it might not look like a big accomplishment, so understanding I was kind of the initial person who started the sales team and I’m also the initial person who started the pricing the team and I was doing all of that work myself. And the sales team I was able to hand it off, but the pricing team it wasn’t like this was a very cut and dry process to build. It was something that was very complicated that needed to be figured out and simplified. I think it’s pretty cool that from three and a half years basically now that business I have complete confidence in it does not need me, which is something where that’s kind of… it’s not sad but it gets to your ego a little bit. But it’s one of those things where you can be proud of it basically because I literally could walk away and the business would be fine.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Since we’re talking about more recent times in the business I always want to give the listeners a behind the scenes of how your business currently functions. And so let’s imagine a SAS company like myself, a software as a service company is thinking of increasing their price and they wanted to get some valid research behind it to determine what price point and what features should go with the thing. And then on the other end of the conveyor belt with that problem they’ve actually used your service, they got the results they were looking for, and now they’re raving about you guys all over the internet, telling people about how you guys really do a great job. But behind the scenes in your business there’s different parts that make this happen. So feel free to start from the marketing side. I just want to give the listener a behind the scenes of what’s happening to make this transformation.

PATRICK: Let me start from the beginning. For us kind of evangelism, whether it’s us educating prospects and leads, or someone saying, “Hey, you should work with these guys and gals.” That’s kind of the start of the conveyor belt. So through HubSpot and our marketing automation and things like that we start kind of the education. No one really becomes a sales lead unless they’ve seen and read through some content. We don’t force it but it’s something that naturally happens because we share stuff. And we also know that if someone doesn’t read that they’re likely not going to be a great lead and they’re kind of going to waste our sales team’s time. That’s kind of where things start is really the content and the marketing, something we really believe in. And I know it’s something that you guys do really well which is on the content side. And so that kind of leads into, we have a marketing funnel, it’s pretty classic content funnel that leads into an offer which is a pricing assessment that is an initial call with a sales person who’s trained to do kind of a pricing assessment. And then from there we have kind of a five-call close process because on the pricing side we have some pretty large deal sizes, but we basically work through this process that involves not only things like HubSpot but also our CRM which is clothes.io. And then we’re also using some proposal type tools that we’ve built internally. And then when they finally close then all of a sudden the product conveyor belt kind of takes over and that’s our pricing team sets up initial kick-off call. There’s a clear hand-off from sales. And then from there essentially what happens is we ultimately get them through essentially another five calls over a course of a number of weeks where we’re essentially collecting data for them. And then from that data we’re kind of figuring out where that pricing should be, proposing pricing, and then ultimately closing out a project. We have a little bit of an evangelist funnel where we’re trying to evoke evangelism. It’s really funny actually. I’m thinking about this now. I didn’t think about this during the pre-interview. It was fascinating because I remember a little bit before I referenced the nectarine conversation, the argument that was had. One of the things that came out of it is we literally across… It’s really kind of funny that this was a coincidence, across three different whiteboards. The first whiteboard was this marketing in sales. The second whiteboard was the pricing services. And then the final whiteboard was the evangelism. We basically mapped this all out. And then picked which pieces we could very easily do. And then we’ve just been refining those different pieces of that conveyor belt as you said. It’s kind of funny that we kind of did what I just talked about, or at least mapped it out early on in then just kind of fulfilled it.

OWEN: Awesome. You’ve already kind of alluded to the systems you have in place to make your know what they need to do. But I think during the pre-interview you mentioned that the different teams have different tools they’re using. It’s something about the product team using Trello, the customer team using… What does the customer team use?

PATRICK: Our pricing team uses things like Asana, a little bit of Trello. The sales team uses HubSpot and Close.io. We don’t really have one thing that everyone is using. I think it’s a combination of things, and then things are documented in a wiki and some of those if I die docs essentially.

OWEN: Awesome. And so how do you track and verify the results being delivered by the employees?

PATRICK: We have some pretty clear KPI’s in each part of the business.

OWEN: And what is KPI, because my listeners my not know.

PATRICK: Key performance indicators, so some metrics that we try to track too like some milestones. You get in the acronym world and you can’t get out. But basically we track things like time to close the deal, time to fulfill a project or the service side. And then on the product side of the business, which is really tough because you don’t really want to micromanage product timeline because you don’t want to say it has to be done by Friday, when in reality if it’s done right it might take until Monday. So it’s more against productivity and development, and a lot more looking at folks and really measuring product retention and things like that to make sure that we’re doing our job.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Since you have more free time in the business I’m wondering which areas of the business do you focus on now and why?

PATRICK: Free time, that’s a funny concept.

OWEN: Knowing that you said when you had free time you want to do something else, so I’m wondering what do you do.

PATRICK: It’s like culture and hiring, I think those are the two biggest things now that I’m a little bit out of some the weeds. There’s still a bunch of weeds that I’m dealing with, but hiring is something… If you find the right people things are just easier. And finding the right people is just so damn hard, so it’s something that I’m really working on.

OWEN: Tell me about. We’re going through hiring developers right now so I know what you’re talking about. What is the next stage of growth for your business? What do you plan to achieve next, and why?

PATRICK: We got to continue to grow the pricing side that we’ve kind of talked a lot about. It’s really about scaling the product side. So we’re growing the customer base there pretty substantially and just continuing to crank there. So that’s the biggest thing. And you know how it is, it’s just keep getting bigger, fiercer, and more lean.

OWEN: And so as we come to the end of the interview I’m wondering if you were to give the listener the very next step that they should take in order to get started with this process of transforming their business so that it’s actually systematize and can run without them what will you say they need to get started with immediately?

PATRICK: I think they got to understand process is important. And I think that if you’re listening to this it’s hard to listen to even part of this or one of these, let along multiple interviews on this podcast and not realize that. The biggest thing is really identifying where your time and money is going. I think that’s the first step. Because when you start to realize, “Oh my god, I spent 20 hours doing what?” It sneaks up on you because it might be half hour a day, but half an hour a day is a lot of time especially if it’s something that you don’t need to be doing. And I think realization is what’s holding a lot of folks back, and then just having the inertia to start small and fix certain things to kind of get going.

OWEN: Is there a question that you were wishing I would’ve asked you during this interview that I didn’t think of? Go ahead and ask the question and give the answer. Whatever comes to mind, it doesn’t even have to be systems focused, whatever you think is good.

PATRICK: It isn’t too much of a question. I think the one thing I probably didn’t talk about as much that might be worthwhile is I think is really, and I alluded to this before, the impact of not having process can come at you at a number of levels. But I think what’s fascinating is building a business is hard enough, but what’s interesting about it is most of us in our businesses, it’s not like we’re doing rocket science, we’re not curing a disease or making some new fancy polymer. A lot of us are building businesses that are giving value to our customers, but it’s not like we’re doing astrophysics. What’s interesting about that is when you realize that a lot of times then your entire business comes down to creating a great product, but it’s getting things like process right. Because if you look at anything except for your product. and the other two pillars are people and process, all of a sudden those things really come down to frameworks and making sure that you have the right people to not only build a great product but also the right people who are process-oriented so you can continue to [Unintelligible 00:42:13] business. And so I guess the parting thing I would say is that if you don’t really focus on process and framework in your business you end shooting yourself in the foot as they say because you’re basically making it harder even though you’re not creating something that is intrinsically difficult. You’re creating something that’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not like you have to, like I said, cure cancer or something… software for instance, which is hard but you don’t have to make it harder essentially.

OWEN: So the listener listening to this should remember people, process, product.

PATRICK: Exactly, there you go.

OWEN: What is the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?

PATRICK: Any questions you guys have on pricing, process, anything like that, I’m at patrick@priceintelligently.com, or I’m @patticus on Twitter. This was fun chatting about this. Hopefully I was helpful. And let me know if you have any questions out there.

OWEN: Now, I’m speaking to you the listener who’s been listening all the way to this point. If you’ve enjoyed this interview I want you to do us a favor and go on iTunes and leave us a 5-star review and also your honest feedback. To do that go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes. And if you’ve enjoyed this interview feel free to share with other entrepreneurs who you think would find value from this. And finally, if you are at that stage in your business where you are tired of being a bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know and can get work done predictably with you, sign up for our 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Patrick, thanks for doing the interview.

PATRICK: Thanks for having me.

OWEN: And we’re done.

 

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. Mechanical Turk for outsourcing tasks
  2. Trello for team collaboration
  3. HubSpot for marketing automation
  4. Quip for content collaboration
  5. Close.io for sales

 

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Here are 3 Steps to Take After Listening to the Interview:

  1. Identify where your time and money is going.
  2. Determine what you can delegate, eliminate, or automate.
  3. Focus on creating process and framework for your business.

 

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