How Dan Norris Went from Running an Agency without Business Systems and Processes to Building a Rapidly Growing Company That is Systematized!

Have you had a business fail on you? Have you ever thought about quitting or starting over from scratch?

In this interview, Dan Norris co-founder of WPCurve shares how he went from running an agency in constant chaos without Business Systems and Processes to Building a Rapidly Growing Company that is Systematized and highly Scalable!

You will discover why he had to offer the services of his new company as a product, how he systematized the day to day operations of the business from the get-go and how he was able to build up his customer base solely off content marketing!

Dan Norris co-founder of WPCurve

 

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • Why Dan decided to scrap his agency-style business and start from scratch.
  • Why Dan needed to have established systems from the moment he launched his business.
  • Why Dan decided that his business needed to focus on one service.
  • How Dan gets his employees to manage procedures.
  • How Dan solved problems as they came up in his business.
  • How Dan was influenced by James Schramko’s mindset and approach to business.
  • Why Dan knew that he couldn’t make his business work on his own.
  • How Dan promotes his business through content and word-of-mouth marketing.

 

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: My guest today is Dan Norris. He’s the co-founder of WP Curve. Dan, welcome to the show.

DAN: Thanks for having me.

OWEN: This show is all about getting entrepreneurs on here who have been able to systematize their business so it runs successfully without them. The premise of the show is to learn how you did it. Let’s dive right in. What are some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through the process of systematizing and automating your business?

DAN: No pressure. My story is really about having previously having an agency that wasn’t really systemized at all and then starting WP Curve, which is a business that’s running like a proper business, which is to say that it runs more or less without me having to hand hold people all day every day and deal with customers and that kind of thing. That enables me to do other things like start other businesses, or focus on my content which I’ve been doing a lot of. And since starting up WP Curve I’ve written two books, started a craft, be a business, started a software company, presented a bunch of conferences around the world, all that kind of stuff is not things I would’ve been able to do before.

OWEN: We will actually talk about what the experience you had in your prior business that made you when you decided to start the BP curve, to start this business from the ground up making sure that it was systematized. But I just want to give the listeners the results you actually experienced with WP Curve. I think during the pre-interview you mentioned the size of the team and revenue you’re making, stuff like that?

DAN: Yeah. I’ve got a bit of a cold today, so if I break out into a coughing fit then…

OWEN: No problem.

DAN: I did that on Pat Flynn’s podcast. Hopefully I won’t do it on this one. We employed contractors and most of them full-time. Not employees and such but around the world. Most of them are in the Philippines. We’ve got a team of 40-45 or something. I we’re at about 66 grand a month in revenue, mostly recurring. But that’s not without advertising or anything. We’ve had a couple of months where we’re sort of trying to test the pricing and figure out a few system internal things before we start really trying to push the growth. I think we’re going to grow quite a bit in the second half of 2015.

OWEN: Awesome. How would you say WP Curve has transformed as a result of systematizing the business?

DAN: WP Curve didn’t exist 2 years ago. It’s really been a story of me having a business that was an agency type model business and then be completely scrapping that as oppose to improving, and starting WP Curve which was something that was systemized from the start.

OWEN: How would you say your personal life has been transformed as a result of systematizing the business?

DAN: Just the stuff I mentioned before, I think we’re being able to have more freedom and more time to do the travel, surfing, and additional projects that I like working on is probably the biggest change.

OWEN: Let’s give the listener some kind of context as to what WP Curve is all about. What exactly does the company do and what big pain do you solve for the customers?

DAN: We do unlimited, small, monthly WordPress fixes. It’s small jobs. We’ve got a team of developers who can fix anything from adding an analytics plug-in through to fixing a crash site or a hack site, all the little bugs and little tweaks that website owners need to get fixed. And tend to use agencies for or tend to get on oDesk and try to troll through lots and lots of people to try finding someone decent. What we offer, a product or service way so every month you’d pay the same amount of money which is about $79 and you get unlimited small jobs.

OWEN: Awesome. You’ve told us about what the company is making and the size of the company. So I’m just going to dive right in to the point where we talked about the previous business that was not systematized and automated like WP Curve is right now. What was wrong with that business? Let’s talk about that.

DAN: Everything.

OWEN: How so?

DAN: The biggest thing with my last business was I tried to do everything. It was just a typical agency. I did new sites, I did supporting existing sites, and hosting SEO conversion stuff, content, you name it. If it had to do with online marketing then I did it as part of that business. You’re doing a thousand different things it’s pretty much impossible to systemize anything. WP Curve from the outset was only going to do one thing. The only staff who were unemployed were developers. So everyone was going to have the same job. So we could delegate well, we could have procedures for everything. The team could build itself up because everyone else on the team knew how to do everyone else’s job. It just became a lot simpler to just do one thing as oppose to a thousand things. There are a lot of other things about my old business that didn’t work but from like a systems point of view you can’t grow something unless you can systemize it and you can have enough profit there to be built in to kind of scale it. And I didn’t have that before. And I do have that with this business. I think that’s probably why is being able to grow. It’s probably not the only reason it did grow but it’s why it’s been able to grow from zero to a thousand customers in a couple of years.

OWEN: The typical interview we do is usually someone talking about their business that they have, how it was not systemized and how it was transformed. But in your case we’re talking about the other business, how it was not systemized. And that made you, from the very beginning of WP Curve, decide that you want to systematize. Let’s talk about how you did that from the very beginning to make sure that WP Curve was systematized. What was the very first step you took to make that happen?

DAN: I think the very first step I took was not doing the work myself, that’s probably the biggest thing you can do. I wasn’t a developer so I have pretty limited skills when it comes to WordPress. I can’t fix all of the client’s problems. And that was a blessing in disguise because from the outset I had to have procedures to enable my one developer that ended up turning into 40 developers to do all the work, to manage their clients, and to use the systems and all that kind of thing. That was a blessing in disguised because I had to have these procedures from the start. Someone else was always going to be doing the work so I had to make sure that it was done consistently. I needed the processes in place. As we grew we needed the systems to support the team. And so from the very outset there was no choice. I couldn’t do it all myself anyway, which I think is the mistake a lot of people make. They’ll do it all themselves and they won’t be able to let go. But thankfully I wasn’t able to do that anyway so I had to proceduralize everything from the start.

OWEN: You mentioned during the pre-interview that one of the things that you decided too was choosing only one program to solve. Let’s talk about that.

DAN: We do small WordPress fixes and that’s it. From the outset we’ve turned down directly tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of work. But indirectly probably hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of work for people who want services for people we want services for the outside, some more 30-minute jobs. But we’ve done that because I wanted to build a business and I didn’t want to just make revenue from projects which is what freelancers or agencies tend to do. And I’ve had that business before and I didn’t want that again. So I really simplified what we did. The small 30-minute jobs is all we do and since that’s all we do we can have systems that make sense. We can all use the same software. We’re not distracted with other things. We can spread the word about business and really grow. People can describe what we do really easily and the share is really referable because we’re so focused on just one thing. So the power of saying no to a million different things and just focusing on one thing has probably the number one reason for our success because it becomes so referable and our business is just growing from our content and word of mouth. We haven’t done any advertising. So I put a lot of [Unintelligible 00:08:09] to having a really simple, referable business.

OWEN: I get how focusing on one thing easy to scale the business because if you don’t have those multiple variables that make you distracted into different actions, so you’re very focused. But you mentioned something that struck a chord with me where you said you were running this business not really being a developer but yet you were trying to document procedures for it. I’m thing as the listeners like the typical idea is when you document the procedures and simple tasks that you already know how to do yourself, and you document procedures so you can bring them up and take over from you. But in your case you’ve seen that the developers were doing things that you didn’t know how to do then. How do you then document procedures for stuff you did not do?

DAN: We don’t tend to document procedures for technical tasks, we normally just document them for procedural tasks. Like if a client signs up with WP Curve there’s a bunch of stuff that needs to happen. We need to get their details, we need to set-up a back-up, plug in. We need to add them to our CRM and get finance system, all that kind of stuff which is all really procedural. And from the outset I would have my developer and my VA do that for me. And even when working on a job I wanted to make sure that every time a developer works on a job they’re following the same process. They get the details, they open the site, they back it up. They send the back-up to Amazon. They’ve got canned responses to email back to the customer depending on what job is they’re working on, that kind of procedural stuff. The actual coding like how to code something is not something you can systemize, but that’s why you have people. That’s the developer’s job to do that. To some extent you can have sort of coding standards which we have. But it’s all the stuff that goes around that that that ends up being experienced people care about that you can have a procedure for. Most of our customers are not going to look at the code but they’re all going to experience the process. So we have a procedure for the entire process which originally I did myself in terms of doing the back-ups and the email, and the customers know that. But then I put in the procedure for the rest of the team, so either a procedure or a system. And we had our own system for managing our jobs and so something that we need to happen will either go into a system or will go into a process and the team will either read or follow a procedure to follow a procedure to do it or the system will do it for them.

OWEN: Okay. I’m glad you clarified that. How exactly where you documenting what you could actually document procedures for. What tools where you using to do that?

DAN: Just Google Docs. I use Google Docs for absolutely everything, even writing my two books I use Google Docs for that and use Jing for the videos, and we use Slack to communicate internally and between those, and Trello for automated monthly jobs and task lists. So between those four tools that’s pretty much got us sorted.

OWEN: You mentioned that you were training the staff on how to manage the procedures. What did you mean by that during the pre-interview? I want to get that pointed on to the listener.

DAN: Sure. Like in terms of what we do for training?

OWEN: No. You said something about that one of the steps when you were documenting the procedures for the businesses, was training the staff on how to manage the procedures. Something wasn’t right that would fix it. I want to give the listeners how you actually implemented that?

DAN: What I’ll normally do is I’ll have a Google Doc. I’ll write down everything you need to do for a certain process. And I’ll give it to someone who’s never done it before. And I’ll ask them to go through the process while I’m live on Slack so they can chat to me every time they get stuck and have a problem. And I’ve actually just done this right now with my personal social media. So I’ve got a personal VA that’s doing all of my social media. I’ve written up all the procedures. I’ve given it to him and I’m live with him on Slack. And when gets stuck he messages me. And when gets stuck I don’t tell him the answer. I’d update the procedure myself or I get him to update the procedure so that it ends up being a procedure that will cover someone who’s never done that job before and he won’t have to communicate back and forth a thousand times. Depending on the VA, we’ve got a full admin team with WP Curve with five guys in it. And they own the procedures now so if there’s something that needs to be changed I can tell them what needs to change and then they can just make that change themselves.

OWEN: I like that because to me that sounds like you’re allowing demand to actually drive the changes and updating you’re making to the procedures and processes.

DAN: Yeah. I don’t want to fall back on me because I’ve got too much going on. And as soon as it falls back on me it just sort of ends up stagnated. So the more that the team can do, the more that they can own it, the more likely they’ll follow it, and the more likely it is to get done.

OWEN: Okay. Earlier we were talking about how you have Slack help for communication. Let’s talk about how that works and how the works and also how you guys use Help Scout as well for the business.

DAN: The Help Scout is like the back end system that all their jobs go into. Our guys don’t log in to Help Scout to manage their jobs anymore because we’ve built our own system that interfaces with it so we could do a bunch of other stuff system-wise that Help Scout can’t do but it’s specific to us. But Help Scout is kind of back end system. We still use that for all the reporting because all the jobs go through there. It’s got lots of really nice reports in there. And then Slack is just team chat. That’s mainly what we use it for. We have channels and we have 40 plus guys in there messaging each other. And an admin group, a management group, that’s how we run the business virtually using Slack.

OWEN: I’m curious, why did you have to build a separate integration into Help Scout? What was missing that you needed to build that integration for?

DAN: Long term there’s going to be quite a few things, namely like the ability for customers to log-in and have a really good experience using our service.

OWEN: Okay, like their own dashboard tracking their work, what stage is that, and stuff like that. Is that kind of what it is?

DAN: Yeah, long-term that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not doing that yet. The main thing we’re doing at the moment was around prioritization of jobs. Help Desk tend to work based on a first in, first out type system. But my idea about all of that is that priority is more complex than who submitted the job first. We actually price based on priority. Our VIP customers get quicker turnaround than other customers, and if a job’s been sitting there a while, or if the customer hasn’t has a good experience. Little things like that make the job a higher priority, but it’s really hard for the developers to understand that. It could be a process thing but it’s hard for developers to understand it. So I wanted it to be a system thing where that’s automated. So our system has a prioritization feature where all their jobs are prioritized based on a whole bunch of factors, and that’s what we decided to work on rather than just who submitted the job first.

OWEN: Okay. I’m trying to understand, and feel free to drink a sip of water if you want to.

DAN: I’ve got water. I’m going to cough, it’s just part of it. I’m also doing five podcast interviews today so that probably doesn’t help.

OWEN: No problem. I’m trying to understand how did you even prioritize… Because we’re talking about your business starting out from the ground running to be systematized. When you were building the systems how did you prioritize what other steps to take, as in what systems to build first, so on and so forth?

DAN: The way I approach things is I solve problems as they arise. For the first maybe even six months we didn’t even have the Help Desk. We just used Gmail. I knew that eventually that was going to become a problem because you can’t have 45 people in Gmail. But it wasn’t a problem at the start so I didn’t solve it at the start. I waited for six months for it to become a problem and then we solved it with Help Scout when it became a problem. That was fine with 10 people or a couple of hundred clients but once we get our brand a thousand clients and 40 people doing things in there that we wanted to do that Help Scout couldn’t do. That’s when we start investing in our own system. It’s really based on need and what we need at the time.

OWEN: Just to clarify to the listener, they wonder what Help Scout is. The idea is your company has a general email buff like support, I’m assuming support@wpcurve.com. Before what you guys were using was Gmail, the emails were coming from your customers asking for the work to be done. But if you’re using Gmail, now you have all these multiple staff all logging in to that same Gmail account and enhance where you can say, let’s move to a different situation which was Help Scout where the mailbox itself tracks all the different threads and attached it on mailbox so you can have multiple people logging to Help Scout, working on that mailbox. And when they respond the person who’ll receive the answer will think they’re dealing with one person, is that…

DAN: No, they don’t think you’re dealing with one person. That’s not an experience that I think people really like. People still deal with whatever developer he’s working on that ticket. But everything else you said is correct. It’s effectively a shared inbox where you can assign emails to people. An email comes in. We’ll assign it to a developer. He’ll work on that. If he gets stuck he can write a note and assign it to another developer. And then that developer can reply to the customer or we can check it or whatever. It’s effectively like email for groups. And then at the back of that there’s a whole bunch of reporting around productivity and how much time people are spending on tasks, and how happy customers are, all that kind of stuff.

OWEN: I like that. You mentioned during the pre-interview that you guys make use of Trello and Zapier, and I’m trying to understand how that plays a role in systematizing the business.

DAN: The Help Scout, all the procedures around actually dealing with customer tickets happens in there. So the developer tend to use something like Trello. But the team that works on managing the business or any of the processes in the business like content marketing, admin, payroll, just management meetings, reporting, all that kind of stuff. And even booking like the admin team that books like conferences I’m going to, or that kind of stuff mainly happens by Slack and Trello. There’s like an admin board with the task listing, there’s a content marketing board with content ID and content marketer’s task [Unintelligible 00:18:53]. And there’s my own board with Alex and each of us has a task list. Trello’s effectively like all of our to-do list and we’re looking at task for each other. And Zapier is used to automate recurring task is really the main thing we used that before. So just like if something needs to be done every month. So content marketing for example, we do a monthly report on our blog each month that talks about our revenues and the content we’ve done that’s working, and how the business is going out. And that’s every month a task just goes into Kyle’s Trello board and he has a little procedure with the checklist of a bunch of things he has to do for that monthly report. And he writes it up, he shows it to me, and it kind of goes live. All of that back end stuff is automated with Zapier kind of reminders that go into Trello.

OWEN: Correct me if I’m wrong. Let me see if I understand this. Basically the way that Trello works for a specific task we have a checklist of what that task should… “Step 1, do this, Step 2, do that…” But the way Trello works is when the task is done then it’s done. But what you use Zapier to do is to create new copies of that outline of what they should consider. And when it’s recurring they get exactly that same, Trello calls it cards of what they need to do. Is that the case?

DAN: That’s one way you can use it. We don’t tend to use the checklist speech that much in Trello. Normally what I’ll do is just simply say, “The monthly report needs to be done this month.” Zapier sends the card to Trello and says, “Kyle, this is assigned to you. It’s in your list. Do the monthly report. Here’s a Google Doc that has the steps for doing the monthly report. But it can be things like checklist which I do for some projects, like my book launch I use checklists, but you don’t have to. It’s just like each card is its own task. It’s generally the way we use Trello.

OWEN: Okay. At a time when you initially were working on systematizing and automating the business what books or even mentors have the most influence on you and why?

DAN: That’s a good question. I can’t remember how I answered that in the pre-interview.

OWEN: I can remember. You mentioned something about James Schramko who’s been one of our guest, how he played a big role in that.

DAN: That’s definitely true. It’s hard to remember because I didn’t really do a lot of his stuff with my old business but this business just really came naturally because I think I’d learned how to do it the wrong way. But definitely James, the way he approached things has been a huge…

OWEN: I think you said something about how he does stuff visually. Talk about that, the sort of visual aspect…

DAN: Yeah. At the time, this was years ago, he put out a product called Traffic Grab which is like this massive mind map of all these different traffic you can get. And that definitely inspired me to think about how things linked together and using tools like… I think at various stages I’ve used other white boards or used Lucidchart or something like that to map things together. That kind of the way he thinks have definitely influenced the way I think. But I don’t… It wasn’t so much books. I don’t read too many books, and probably I like The 4-Hour Workweek I think as well, if I’m to be honest has probably inspired a lot of it as well. Even though I don’t really do the 4-hour workweek thing or do the excessive travel thing but I think that way of thinking has definitely inspired.

OWEN: At the time when you were working on systemizing the business, because if we just talk about only what you did and just lay out the road map of what you did and not talk about the actual challenges that you experience that we’re not giving the full story of how exactly it was. What will you say was one of the biggest challenge that you experienced when you’re trying to systematize the business and how did you solve it? You mentioned something about traction, given one of the challenges that you had initially was getting traction…

DAN: Okay. My answer for this is not like what I did with what were the challenges with this business that I overcame, it was more like why couldn’t I do this with my last business. That’s what I think about. It’s like when WP Curve started taking off there was like an immediate necessity to systemize this stuff otherwise it just would not have worked. I couldn’t do all these work myself. It was an necessity that once we got that traction we were growing at 10% every month for 18 months straight. We went from zero customers to a thousand customers or something like that. It was just a necessity to systemize things. And that was the difference between this and my last company.

OWEN: And you also mentioned another challenge was the training staff, hiring, onboarding, talk about how that was an issue.

DAN: Yeah, definitely with a people heavy business like ours, training is challenging, hiring is challenging, just like maintaining the consistency and quality of work is challenging. And I sort of approach it from a system angle where I’m like, we need to build a system that ensures that we have quality built into it. And Alex, my co-founder sort of approached it from people perspective where he’s like we need to coach these people and get them up to speed, and make sure  they understand the expectations and train them. And so we’ve sort of attacked that from both angles. That’s definitely been a challenge.

OWEN: Let’s see if we can dive into that a little bit because you said this training staff, the hiring them, the on boarding of the staff is motivating them and you’re approaching it from a systems standpoint. Give us some more insight as to each of those different things and how you have it going in the business right now?

DAN: Yeah. Systems-wise we have like a weekly spreadsheet of developer performance that the admin team look after. So they’ll go through all the stats and help scout, look at the… We have a little thing where every job that’s done we have a little “was this good, was it bad, or was it great” type thing on the email signatures. So customers will give us feedback all the time on that stuff. And we know how long developers are spending on jobs, how many jobs they’re getting through, all that kind of data. The admin team has an automatic job to pull that together and to show that to the management team. And we have a process where if someone’s not performing they have to… Alex team chats them and we document that. If someone’s performing really well they potentially get rewarded or they get an employee of the month thing. So we have a whole procedure around how we manage people and how we manager performance. Some of that stuff is system like the customer feedback and some of it is just people like a weekly call talking to people, chatting their issues, and solving them. So it’s a combination of those two things.

OWEN: I think also during the pre-interview you mentioned something about a hiring system as well as an on boarding system for once you hire the person out. I want to talk about the specifics about those two things.

DAN: The hiring thing is when I’ll post up on our blog that was really popular for hiring developers. And we just went through every single step we use for that. But that was one of the most important things to me to delegate later on because that was the bottle neck. We’re hiring two or three people a week at one point when we hit this really big surge in growth. So I usually get the team managing or the hiring, so I write the a big process for that. I can give you a link to that. It’s all public. But the crux of it was basically like a system that tells us when we need to hire in terms of our response times and dropping off to a point where we need to get more people. A process that enables an admin team to go and test out a bunch of people, pay them for the trials, evaluate them based on the test jobs we give them and the criteria, and then come back to us with a recommendation to hire someone, negotiate the rate, all of that stuff. And then when we say hire them then they go and hire them. So it’s effectively like a completely delegated process where someone else to manage the hiring.

OWEN: Okay. And then the on boarding, what does that entail?

DAN: On boarding, there could be two different things, it could be the client on boarding or the staff on boarding. But in this case we’re talking about staff. It’s not a particularly challenging process but it’s like what happens on that first day. We’ve got a list of tasks they’re do on the first day. And that’s automatics and appointment, booked with the team leader who’s on at the time. They’ve taken through the system, they read through the procedures that we use for managing clients. They work on a couple of jobs that aren’t customer facing jobs and then they graduate to a couple of jobs that are customer facing jobs but aren’t particularly challenging, monthly jobs like upgrades, back-ups, or things like that. And then they’ll get to work on actual customer projects. So it’s like a process of going from WordPress it all for it to you like a fully-fledged developer. And there’s this Google Docs and procedures that we’ve got in place for all of that.

OWEN: Awesome. I want you to put it like this, think of the business like a conveyor belt. On one end you have somebody who’s probably having issues at their WordPress site and they’re trying to hire a developer to do a one time job or whatever to fix the problem. On the other end that same person has gone through your service. They love you guys and raving about you all through the internet. But I want to give the listeners a behind the scenes of how that transformation happens. What’s happening behind the scenes of the different parts of your business that’s making that happen. Maybe you want to start with the conveyor belt from how you attract the person in the first place, starting at that point

DAN: How do we what?

OWEN: How do you actually attract the potential customer? Do you understand the question? I’m trying to paint a picture like it’s a conveyor belt, you have somebody who has a problem with their WordPress website and on the other end is that same person is going through your service, they love you guys, and they’re raving about you guys. But I want to link all the different parts of your business that is touching that customer and making that transformation happen.

DAN: Yeah. I think it’ll probably take us more than an hour to go through that. But I guess at a high level our marketing is all content and branding, so it’s all word of mouth. Someone will hear about WP Curve from another entrepreneur or they’ll read a poster on our blog about how to improve their site, or other entrepreneurs’ stories, only marketing, how to start a podcast, or something like that. Then at some point down the track they’ll have a problem with WordPress and we’re the person that they’ll think of to solve that problem. They’ll sign up. Ideally we’ll fix that. We’ll get them set-up and fix their job on the first day. There’s a couple of sequences on Infusionsoft that we use to manage all of this as well in terms of after we do a job, we’ll ask for a referral and give them a survey to make sure we did a good job like for the first job, stuff like that. And then get them to refer other people, maybe get them to sign-up as an affiliate if that’s their thing. That tends to be the high level of how it works. But most people hear about other businesses by word of mouth so we really focus on that. And we don’t have any sort of paid marketing that we do. It helped also that we were the first to do what we do so it was immediately like a conversation point for people to talk about.

OWEN: I guess you do a lot of content marketing and that attracts them and then they sign-up. Early on you gave us the specifics about the staff on boarding. Could you give some listeners some additional specifics on the process that you have for the client on boarding after they’ve signed up?

DAN: We do a full side review for them, and that’s like a process that’s automatically like a job’s generated to come in to the system and do a side review. And that’s again a big Google Doc with a whole bunch of different things. We check off and we send them. That sort of kicks it off because that gives them a list of jobs they can request, some recommendations of things to improve. We’ll set back up and stuff like that. And then depending on what plan they’re on, like a professional plan where we did monthly work as well and that will be automated each month, and every month we’ll go in and do upgrades, and tidy things up, and do a backup, and contact them if there’s issues, that kind of stuff.

OWEN: Okay. I guess when the work is actually delivered the developers are actually following the procedures based on the different scenarios of what problem they have. Is it safe to say that the issues that they typically have tend to be the same? And so it’s the same process that developers have to go through to fix the problems? I’m wondering…

DAN: No, not really. The service is partly solving people’s problems, partly recommending and installing plug-ins, configuring things, and then partly doing pro-active work like upgrading WordPress and back-ups. Things like the upgrading and the back-ups, that kind of stuff is really proceduralize. We’ve got procedures that everyone knows they can do that. If someone says, “I want to set-up Google Webmaster tools” like an SEO plug-in then we’ve got a procedure for setting up and configuring [Unintelligible 00:32:04] for example. But if they come to us and say, “My site is crashed. I don’t know what’s going on” then we don’t generally have a procedure for that. Things like if their site is hacked we’ll have a procedure for that because there’s a bunch of steps we would go to get to the core of the problem. But we can’t have a procedure for everything because essentially people sign up because they have a problem and it could be one of the million different things. So we definitely don’t have a procedure for everything.

OWEN: Okay. And so you mentioned earlier how you actually tracked results being delivered by your employees. You said something about doing a weekly performance with the team. And then you go into this so far, but it’s something about a net promoter score. How does that play a role into…

DAN: Yeah, we did net promoter score as well. I did that in Infusionsoft and customers just get an email. I’ve set it all up sort of like a custom thing in Infusionsoft. The customers get an email basically asking them if they would refer the service. And we track that score and make sure that we’re providing something that people want and that the people will refer. And then there’s customer feedback within each ticket as well. So they’ll get a job done and then they’ll leave a peace of feedback, and that feedback will be attributed to the developer directly who did that job.

OWEN: Okay. So the feedback is for every job that they do, they get a feedback. I think you mentioned something about quarterly survey. The net promoter score is only set-up every quarter to the customer?

DAN: Yeah.

OWEN: Okay, I just want to clarify that. I’m wondering, since you started this business from the ground up to be systematized, I’m wondering, right now at this stage in the business, where do you focus on the most now and why?

DAN: We’re just figuring out… Alex spends a lot of his time on team stuff, managing the team. I spend most of my time doing things like this, content, interviews on the podcast because I enjoy doing that. But the stuff for WP Curve I focus on is typically like the more strategic things like the design of the brand, pricing, retention, systems, that kind of stuff. I also still manage the content. [Unintelligible 00:34:21] content marketing manager but he reports to me. So I have a weekly call with him. I’m still kind of hands on-ish, like it doesn’t run completely without us, but it definitely runs a lot more without us than my last company, and also makes a lot more money. It’s humming on pretty well.

OWEN: One of the reasons why I really wanted to get the interview out is so that listeners can see how when someone is starting a business from the ground up to make sure it’s systematized and actually doing it to kind of give them your own experience of how you’re doing it, so that they can use that as a motivation to try and transform their business while you’re doing yours live. Now that we’ve talked about where you’re spending your the most now, I’m also wondering what will you say is the next stage of growth for the business. What do you plan to achieve next and why?

DAN: This year we haven’t grown as much as we wanted to. We had some pretty ambitious goals and we sort of got stopped for a few months trying to work out the pricing and the system took us longer than we wanted, and just a few things sort of got in our way. But our next goal is to get to 83k a month, which is a million US dollars recurring revenue. My ultimate goal is to get to 10,000 customers. That’s what I’ve always wanted as a goal, start a business that’s having that kind of impact. Run the business and get to that kind of size is what I want to do.

OWEN: As we come to the end of the interview, if you were to summarize what you think would be the steps for the listener now who maybe right now running a business where the business is now systematized. Summarize what are the steps you think they should take to get them to hit the ground running with transforming and having the business run without them successfully. What will you say would be those really quick summary of what they should do?

DAN: I think you need a good business to start with because there’s not much point in systemizing something that’s not going to grow and not going to scale anyway. I think you do need to have a good idea. Your timing probably has to be right, but I think you also need a good way of marketing. For us it was content. For the listeners it might be something else. It could be content, who knows. But you need something that’s fundamentally going to grow, something that’s designed to grow. Something that’s simple where you’re just doing one thing and not a thousand different things.

OWEN: So basically the model of the business must be set-up from the get-go to allow to scale basically.

DAN: Yeah, otherwise you’re kind of just systemizing something that’s not really going to grow. There’s not really a whole lot of point of doing that, unless you just want to keep things going and not work. Most entrepreneurs don’t actually want to do that. Most of them want to grow something and then potentially work on other things. I think that’s what you need to do. And then just think about every job that gets done, how do you automate it or how do you delegate it. You can automate it through tools like Zapier, Trello, Infusionsoft, or any number of a million different tools. You can delegate it by using communication tools like Slack, and documentation tools, tip to do lists, and god knows what else. I think we use 35 different tools in WP Curve. We’ve talked about maybe 6 or 7 of them, but that’s kind of how we’ve done it. If that’s useful for people then that’s what I would suggest.

OWEN: I’m wondering, as we come to the end of the interview, is there a question that you’re wishing I would’ve asked during the interview that would add even more value to what we’ve been talking about so far if it’s related to systematizing or automating the business, feel free to suggest it. If not feel free to suggest a question as well as the answer.

DAN: I’m never good at answering this question, but I think in this case if I was listening to a podcast on automation I’ll probably expect to hear more about Infusionsoft and automated CRM-type tools, like that. Having said that I don’t know if I have a particularly good answer for you since I don’t really have the question. But I think people who like hearing about tools, work tools people are using, and this CRM automation thing is probably a hot topic right now because a lot of people are moving across to something like Infusionsoft, Agile, ActiveCampaign, Ontraport, or something like that. Maybe talking about some of those sequences would be useful. But yet other than that I think we’ve covered quite a bit.

OWEN: And what will you say is the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?

DAN: I’m really active on social media, so maybe just tweet me @thedannorris, or my Instagram or Periscope with those two that handle as well. I’m on Facebook all the time. I’m very easy to access on social media. My email is Dan@wpcurve.com. I’m a bit slower on email, but if you want to check out WP Curve, you can go to wpcurve.com/blog, which is where all of that content is. We talk about this sort of stuff all the time. There’s probably something useful out there for people in your audience.

OWEN: Awesome. I’m speaking to you the listener now, if you’ve enjoyed this interview all the way to this point feel free to leave us a review, hopefully a positive review on iTunes. To do that go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes. If you know another entrepreneur who will find this interview useful who’s currently trying to systematize their business, feel free to share the interview with them. Finally, if you’re at that stage in your business when you’re tired of being the bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know and get tasks done with you then consider signing up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Dan, thanks for doing the interview.

DAN: All right man, thanks for having me.

OWEN: And we’re done.

 

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. Jing for recording and sharing videos
  2. Slack for internal communication
  3. Trello for task lists
  4. Help Scout for managing client work
  5. Zapier for automating recurring tasks

 

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

  1. Start with a good business idea that’s scalable.
  2. Figure out how you’re going to market your business, and keep it simple.
  3. Think about how you can automate and delegate every job.

 

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