How Jason Swenk Saved His Business That Was 2 Weeks Away from Closing Down, Systematized and eventually Sold it!

Is your business on the verge of closing down? Are you having trouble keeping up with everything that is happening in your business and does it need a transformation?

In this interview you will discover how Jason Swenk saved his digital agency that was 2 weeks away from closing down; he reveals the specific steps he took to turnaround his business, how he systematized the entire business so it ran successfully without him, how he grew the business by focusing on a specific niche and how he eventually sold it!

You will also discover the 12 systems he believes every business owner should master!

Jason Swenk, business coach to agency owners

 

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • How Jason found clarity in direction.
  • How Jason determined who his ideal client was.
  • How Jason prioritized the steps he took to systematize his business.
  • How Jason modeled business practices he observed others implementing.
  • Why Jason needed to replace certain team members.
  • Why Jason believes in implementing 90 day goals instead of yearly goals.
  • How Jason rewarded team members that met their 90 day goals.
  • How Jason sold his digital agency.

 

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. MindNode for mind mapping

 

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: My guest today is Jason Swenk. He is a coach to agency owners and he ran his own digital agency for 12 years until he sold the business in 2011. Our focus today will be to learn how he systematized the business and how that played a role in the eventual sale of the business. Jason, welcome to the show.JASON: Hey, how’s it going?

OWEN: Before we even get started let’s share with the listeners some mind blowing results that you were able to experience as a result of going through that process of systematizing and automating your business.

JASON: Yeah, definitely. So I grew a multi-million dollar business. It took us 12 years but when we started systemizing really took off real quick. So we’re able to grow over 13 million. We had over 100 employees. We got best place to work in Atlanta, and we beat out companies like Microsoft to name a few. We’re constantly on the Inc. 5,000 list for fastest growing company.

OWEN: Awesome. And how would you say your company itself was transformed as a result of systematizing the business?

JASON: It allowed me to get out of its way as well as the employees that were not the right fit or that they weren’t in the right role.

OWEN: And your personal life, how was that transformed?

JASON: It gave me a life back rather than working 24/7 or 24 by 8. So it allowed me to the things like spending time with the family, going to the racetrack, not having to work if I didn’t want to, and just really be focused on the growth of the company versus just survival.

OWEN: I’m curious. So that time when the business was systematized I’m wondering, do you remember the longest time you actually went away from it?

JASON: Yes. For many, many years, literally, I jumped into this business by mistake where someone asked me design a website for them because I made a website making fun of someone. And so, when I first got into business I didn’t even know what an invoice was, so I had to figure it out. So it took us a little while to figure out what business was and then I literally remember we just kept getting client after client. We were growing really fast but we didn’t have the processes in place that were necessary to get to the next level. I remember we had maybe 10 employees at the time, and looking at the payroll, and we were literally a couple of weeks away from going out of business.

OWEN: Wow.

JASON: I really knew that I had to put some… At the time, I didn’t call it systems because I’m not just talking about technology.

OWEN: I actually want to dive into that. We’re just trying to give the listeners some insight as to at the time when you actually systematized the business, how long you’re actually away from it and not having to deal with it.

JASON: So how long I could take away, like on vacation?

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: I always loved what I did. I probably could’ve taken a full quarter off but I really loved what we did. I love the employees that we had. So probably the most time I was away was maybe 2 weeks, but I could always taken longer.

OWEN: Just to the listener can get some context as to what you did and the size, so and so forth, what exactly at the time did the company do and what big pain were you solving for your customers?

JASON: Yeah, so we were a digital agency. We design websites. We develop web applications. Everybody in the States, I assume everybody is in the States listening to this, we developed the site called Legal Zoom. So we built sites like that or built sites for Hitachi or AT&T. So we built really big sites with systems in the backend that we actually programmed. The biggest challenges that they had were people had a vision of what they wanted to create or they wanted to connect systems together and make it a very good user experience, that’s what we did.

OWEN: Awesome. At the time you sold in 2011, I think you already you mentioned, you said you were about 112 employees, right?

JASON: That’s right.

OWEN: Can you shed some insight as to what annual revenues were at the time when you sold it? I’m just curious.

JASON: Yeah, just over 13 million.

OWEN: Awesome. Let’s go back to the point where, we’ve just kind of shared the results of being able to systematize the business so that the listener know what you’re able to achieve at that point. I want to take you back to before that point where the business was systematized. So take us back to when it was not systematize or automated. What was wrong with it at that point?

JASON: I was a prisoner of it. That’s the easiest thing. I could not leave. Where if I could leave I would just stress so much, where I would kind of regret the business and I didn’t want to show up. I literally got to a point where I was so unhappy and probably my marriage was unhappy as well, how my wife told me this. But I remember she’s like, “Why don’t you just get a job somewhere else?”

OWEN: Wow.

JASON: And this was at a time where I was probably 6 or 7 years into this. This is the only thing I knew. And I remember because I race cars and that kind of stuff, I remember a job coming open at NASCAR, and it was for the CMO of NASCAR, and I was like, “I could do that.” And it literally had filling out essays and that kind of stuff. And it basically said, “Describe your perfect, ideal job.” I started doing that. It said, “Describe what you don’t want to do.” And as I was doing that I had the aha moment saying, “I can do this with my own company.” It was almost kind of like the strategic plan of what I was trying to fill out on this resume and I didn’t submit it because I literally stopped right before I hit cement and said, “I can create this in my own company but I just need to set-up the right processes, the right systems, and get the right people.”

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: And then everything started changing.

OWEN: Before we even talk about that, I don’t want to gloss over something where you mentioned, you said your wife actually told you why don’t you go get your own job. And I want you to share with us how did that feel because you think of your wife as your partner. Telling you that, that must have hurt, right?

JASON: Oh yeah, definitely. She would just go, “Hey, you’re very miserable so why don’t you go make yourself happy? Because if you’re not happy I’m not happy.” And so it really kind of took it home. It hit home for me and I was like I really need to make a change.

OWEN: During the pre-interview you mentioned how when you started the business in 1999 you didn’t have clear vision. I think earlier you were talking about that. So let’s talk about that point you were mentioning earlier.

JASON: Yeah. So many of us jump into business without knowing where they’re going. They just jump into it by accident because someone asked you to do something and they were going to pay you to do it. And you’re like, “This is kind of cool.” And you keep doing it. It only gets you so far. So I always look at things as there’s different levels that you have to jump up, right? So there’s a level of hiring the first employee, there’s a level of five employees, stuff like that. And I remember interviewing people, people like where do you want to go? I don’t know. And so, I always treat things as if you don’t know where to go, it’s like using Google Maps. It’s the best tool in the world if you know where you’re going. It could tell you how to get to anywhere. But if you don’t know where you’re going it’s the most useless tool. And so that’s how I looked at what we were doing. I didn’t know where I wanted to take it. I didn’t have a clear vision or that clarity of what we wanted to do, what we want to offer. We basically told the world we were full service agency. You tell me what does that mean? I don’t know. I do everything, anything you ever need will do.

OWEN: Yeah. You also mentioned during the pre-interview that you guys were at a point where you were 2 weeks away from shutting down the agency.

JASON: Yeah. Because we didn’t have clear vision of where we’re going. We didn’t know that ideal customer, what their biggest challenges were. We didn’t have the right things in place. We had the wrong people in the wrong seats. We weren’t charging enough. So there are so many different things that we were doing wrong.

OWEN: So now that you’ve kind of shared what was going wrong at that time, what will you say was the lowest point of the business and describe how bad it got. And this alluding to what you said, 60% of your projects were losing money.

JASON: Yeah. Well, we didn’t have enough cash flow to make payroll. If we don’t make payroll we’re not going to have employees. We don’t have employees we can’t deliver. If we can’t deliver we can’t sell. So we don’t have a business. So that was the lowest point. And losing money on 60% of the projects was just one of the things that when we started diving deep into where all the money was leaking out that we realized we weren’t charging enough, or we didn’t have the right systems in place in order to make sure we could deliver.

OWEN: Do you remember when your breaking point was when you realize that things have to change, I just have to systematize and automate this business. Do you remember when specifically that was?

JASON: Yeah, looking at that bank account and going, there’s no way this number matches up with what I need to clear in a couple of weeks.

OWEN: Wow. Now, let’s talk about the very first step you took at that point when you realized this to solve the problem that you just mentioned during the lowest point.

JASON: Yeah, I needed to kind of paint that picture of where I wanted to go. I needed to start with the end of mind and have clarity in my head, right? And then be able to share that with the rest of the company so they could help me get there. Because as entrepreneurs, and I didn’t even call myself an entrepreneur back then. We think we can do it all so we have that Superman syndrome, right? The I realized if I was going to get out of this hole I had very limited time to do it. And I needed to focus on something. So I needed to focus on what I needed to create and start with the end in mind and work myself back. And then say no to everything else that won’t get me closer to that goal.

OWEN: You mentioned during the pre-interview that one of the first thing you did was knowing who your ideal client was. Talk about that.

JASON: Yeah, that was the second thing we did. After I had that clarity of knowing where I was going, I needed to figure out who is the perfect, ideal client. It’s not small business. My good friend Gene challenged me on this for many years. And I would say, small business. Because small business is not a target market. So many people go after a small business. And we were going after probably medium-sized business but that’s still not a target market. I wanted to pick a market where I knew their biggest challenge and where they hung out. What strategic partners could I align myself with? What did they need? So, once they did that it was able to clear my plate by half. So rather than going after the world, which is very overwhelming and time consuming, I could go after Georgia, right?

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: It’s a little smaller and I could be more focused.

OWEN: Yeah, you basically say you knew who the target market was. You basically created a way in which you can get in front of them and basically start working on trying to convert them since you knew exactly who they were. What would you say was the second thing at this point you did after you’ve known the vision of what you wanted to do and then determine the target market? What was the second thing you did?

JASON: Attack. I had to attack that market with massive action, right? So many people just talk about strategy but they just don’t take action. I was 2 weeks away, I needed to go after the low hanging fruit. I needed to go through my database of people that matched up to my ideal client. I needed to go to events that I knew these people were. I needed to go back to my pipeline that I had and see how I could convert them and move them past, and get that cash flowing.

OWEN: You also mentioned about, in regards to solving the issue of the fact that 60% of the projects was losing money. You decided to increase the charge. How did you arrive at that result or justification for increasing what you were charging to the customers.

JASON: I knew two ways to build up cash flow or make more profit. You either bring in more or you charge more. It’s really pretty easy. I knew I wanted to bring in more but I also wanted to do it a lot quicker. So I started looking at the results my clients were getting from what I was doing. I realized I was charging way too low. I remember at a point my project manager… This is after we got through that hump. This was probably a couple of years later. I remember my project manager, and this is after we got through that hump. This is probably a couple of years later. I remember my project manager going to me. He’s like, “Jason, how do you sleep at night?” I was like, “What do you mean?” She goes, “You’re charging over a hundred thousand dollars for a website that you could make money on charging $10,000.”

OWEN: Wow. How did you deal with that mindset shift because that’s something.

JASON: Yeah. I went to her, I said, “It’s very simple. This company that we’re doing this website for is going to make millions and millions of dollars from this.”

OWEN: That’s it.

JASON: Yeah.

OWEN: Value-based pricing I guess.

JASON: Exactly. So if you know the results that you’re going to deliver, you need to charge what you’re worth. If I charge 10,000 I would’ve lost the deal. I would never got in the door because they would’ve been like, “Oh no.” It’s the same reason why people pay $300,000 for a Bentley rather than paying 80,000 for a BMW. Same company that owns all of them, probably the same platform, everything, it’s just the prestige, right?

OWEN: Yeah. What are those steps did you take at this point now in the story to solve some of the problems you mentioned at the lowest point. I think one of them was mentioning how you did something with reinventing the sales process?

JASON: Yeah. I realized too, I needed to make sure I was converting more. So the opportunities that presented itself to me, I had to make sure I converted them, right? At the time we were converting at 50%. That’s not a good number. I want a higher number. So we wanted to get it up to 75%. We were able to get it up at our highest point 80% on average.

OWEN: Awesome.

JASON: But I realize I needed to kind of reinvent that process from the qualification stage, right? I needed to make sure I’m talking to the right person so I’m not wasting time, right? So I always used the thing called NBAT. It’s called what’s their need, what’s their budget, are they authority, and what’s the timing? And so I made sure I got those four things right in the very beginning within the first 10 minutes. Most people will waste their time for hours and hours, sometimes weeks, and then find out some of these things don’t line up. So we wanted to make sure we were talking to right people, budget, all that. And then I needed to make sure that I could ask the right questions and direct them to where I wanted them to go by asking questions versus telling. Most people tell about themselves. What’s the problem there? They’re focused on themselves versus focused on the person that they’re trying to help, or sell.

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: That’s what we changed and we went through a reinvention process there and it made a huge difference.

OWEN: Also, how did you prioritize the other steps that you needed to take, just specifically in terms of the systems, just deciding what systems or processes to create for the business.

JASON: It was really kind of by accident. It was just do what you think could provide the most impact the quickest way. That’s how we decided which ones to do, right? Automation was the last one, because you can’t automate anything unless you have a process for it that works.

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: We just looked at what needs to come first. Literally I would just brainstorm on a whiteboard or a chalkboard, and we just write down everything. And then we just write down everything. And then I would basically create a mind map for it. Then I would circle the ones that felt the most important. Then I would look at the most important ones and go, which ones do I need to do first? So a phrase that I always tell my clients that I work with how to remember focus? Focus is always the biggest thing. Focus to me means finish one commitment until success, and you don’t move on until the next. So many people try to do too many things. What I did was just focus on the biggest thing that would provide the biggest impact and then I wouldn’t move on until that. So that’s really how I went through it. Looking back there’s probably some things I probably would’ve done in a different order knowing. But at the time it was just like… I did what I needed to do to survive and get past that level.

OWEN: One of the things you mentioned during the pre-interview regarding this very question was that you started thinking of your business in the sense of how do I replace myself.

JASON: Yeah. I was a slave to the company. And I know a lot of people feel that way. I think probably every owner is that way because we basically create a business for us that employs us. Then we become a slave to the business. I didn’t want to have that anymore. I wanted to be able to take off when I wanted. I wanted people to be able to make decisions without me. So I really needed to have again. Get back to that time when… I went to Florida State, go [Unintelligible 00:19:07], and I outsourced a lot of my homework there. So they didn’t even need me at this school. So I wanted to get back to that time where I could do whatever I want and I was free. So that’s what I did.

OWEN: Now at this point you’re actually identifying maybe one bottleneck in the business and trying to create systems for it. So you basically focus on one commitment. What was the acronym for focus again? I just want to repeat that.

JASON:  Yeah. Finish one commitment until success.

OWEN: Awesome. How exactly at that point where you where you actually documenting the procedures and processes they were using for your business. And if so, what tools were you using at that too, I’m curious.

JASON: Yeah. I always use the Mac. So I just use my mapping software like MindNode and literally I would just kind of document like, “Start here. If this then this.” Just literally use that. And I would send it to people. And then I use… I forget. Before then I used the Microsoft project. I think it’s called Visio. I don’t know if it’s still around.

OWEN: Yeah. It’s still there.

JASON: I don’t use Microsoft anymore. But I use Visio. We would document like, “All right, we have a new client comes in, this is the on-boarding process is everything that happens. They pay us a check, this happens. Project manager reaches to them, they approve it, stuff like that. We literally start documenting all our process that way.

OWEN: At this point where you were implementing this whole changing your business, I’m curious, when you were systematizing and automating the business, what books and possibly what mentors had the most influence on you at that time and why?

JASON: Steve Jobs was one of them. When I heard this everything started changing for me. I like to treat myself as a unique person. I never wanted to be like anybody else. I always ran my business that way. I said, “We always have to do something. If someone’s always using a wheel, we’re going to do something totally different than a wheel.” When I heard Steve Jobs mention a quote from Picasso and said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” And then he kind of explained it. Everything kind of changed for me. Then I started looking at what Apple did. They didn’t invent the smart phone, they made it better. They didn’t invent the tablet, they made it better. They didn’t invent the music player, they made it better, right? I was like, “I don’t have to create something totally new. I could look at something that’s okay and make it a thousand times better.” I started modeling other things that I would see that I would like and I would start modeling them into my business. When I start doing that everything just started getting a lot easier because I wasn’t reinventing the wheel, I just made the wheel faster, smaller, and better.

OWEN: Yeah. And so far we’ve talked about what steps you actually took to kind of change around the business and get it systematized, but it will be a miss if we don’t talk about some of the challenges you had at that point and how you solve some of them while you were trying to transform the business. So what will you say was the biggest challenge at that time when you initially tried to create systems for the business and  how did you solve it?

JASON: Yeah. As your business evolves and as ours was changing, we outgrew some of the employees that we had early on. We hired the wrong people. We had the wrong people doing the wrong positions, that were doing the wrong thing. That was probably the most challenging because we created a very family atmosphere. When you have to let someone go because they’re not right for the organization anymore. It’s hard and challenging. But when you look at is as I’m going to lose my house, or is this person just not going to like me anymore, right? You got to kind of make those hard decisions.

OWEN: I totally understand. What will you say was even the second biggest challenge that you also experienced at this time when you were trying to systematize the business?

JASON: Just making a decision, right? There’s no wrong decision. That took me awhile to realize. I was so afraid of failure, going if I pick the wrong thing what’s going to happen? I picked the wrong thing, that’s about it.

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: I started looking at it like, “If I make a bad decision I’m going to be smarter. If I make a good decision I’ll be happy.” You look at is happy or smarter. You want both. So make a ton of bad decisions that turn into good decision, that’s really it.

OWEN: Yeah. And given all the challenges that you mentioned so far, I’m just curious, how did you even stay committed to the goal of systematizing your business?

JASON: I felt like I didn’t know anything else. I felt like this is it. A one-trick pony and a pony went down I was doomed. So it was just out of sheer will and hunger. I never quit anything and I always figure something out. When I did the ironman it helped me out with business because the ironman was a long, darn day. It was like 16 hours and 20 minutes. And I knew if I could finish that I could do anything. So I just treated that on the business.

OWEN: Yeah, that’s one of the things I have to add on my bucket list to do.

JASON: Do it soon.

OWEN: Yeah. We’ve talked about the challenges and the even talking about the steps you actually took to systematize the business. I’m curious, at what point in time were you able to systematize the entire business? At what point in time in this story did you feel like the entire business was systematized and could actually run without you successfully, do you remember?

JASON: Yeah. It was probably about 2 or 3 years prior before we were able to sell the business, or when the business was sold. It was pretty cool. I remember one night I came home and my wife was like, “What’s wrong, what happened?” And I was really depressed, I said…

OWEN: They don’t need me.

JASON: Exactly. But here’s the key, and she goes, “Don’t you remember a couple of years prior you wanted to create a business that didn’t need you?” We all have a sense to be needed and wanted. And so, I felt that the time that the business didn’t need me anymore. The business didn’t need me for the things I used to do. The business needed me to pick the vision, hire the right people, coached the people directly under me, right? The business needed me for certain things, they just didn’t need me for the things that I used to have to do. That was probably the turning point, or that’s when I knew that the business would run without me. We did that, that’s when we started getting inquiries to buy the company. Because someone doesn’t buy a company that is totally tied to the entrepreneur.

OWEN: The owner, yeah.

JASON: Because entrepreneurs are unemployable. People are going to come in, they’re going to tell you what to do, and you’re going to look at it in a different way and be like, “You’re an idiot. It could be done in a better way.” You’re going to have disagreements. A lot of people think they want to hire entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs want to hire people that want to think like entrepreneurs, but are not risk takers.

OWEN: Yeah. At this point where the business now was systematized and was actually running without you I’m just trying to give the listeners kind of an insight as to the different parts of the business and the specific system in the business that you had in place. Kind of think of it like a conveyor belt where on one end is a potential customer of yours who probably has a problem that you’re solving. And on the other end of the conveyor belt this person has been transformed and actually became your customer and is out there raving and telling the whole word about you guys. I’m trying to give the listener a kind of behind-the-scenes as to what was happening behind-the-scenes making that transformation happen for that customer.

JASON: Yeah. We were able to create a system where all the business was coming to us. When they would call us they would go to an assigned person that would qualify them. Whenever they would qualify them and get them through a certain stage, and they needed help to close I would come in. I would just assist with the sale. Once we sold it, it would be passed to the accounting team, project manager were own that in the profit. They would meet with the VP of operations, that would make sure everything was going , all the delivery would go through, the designers, and the developers. I would not touch a single thing. I would only hear of the really good stuff or the really bad stuff, and that was fine. Then we would deliver the work, and then our account managers would go and make sure, and see how we could get more work from them. And so, at the end of the day what I needed to do was make sure the financials were right, were making the right profit, charging enough. I’d have to coach people directly under me, set the direction of the company, and that was really it. It would just kind of run… If I wanted to take off, as long as I set the 90-day goals for everybody we were golden.

OWEN: Awesome. You mentioned that the only time they will have to bring you in is when you need to hear some of the really good stuff and some of the really bad stuff. I’m just curious, just so the listener could get some context as to that. Can you share some examples at that time, or some of the really good stuff?

JASON: Yeah. When one of our clients would make a couple million from a website that we designed, or their process saved them millions of dollars because we’re able to connect these systems or these processes together. Obviously, they would tell us about it. On the bad stuff is like it always came down to miscommunication or they assume something. As those things would happen, sometimes it would be our fault, sometimes it would be the client’s fault. But we’d always get smarter and learn from it so we would not make that same mistake later on.

OWEN: Awesome. At this point I’m just curious as to what systems you had in place to enable all your employees know exactly what they needed to do. One of the things you mentioned during the pre-interview was the quarterly coaching calls. Talk about that.

JASON: Yeah. When we started getting successful, we started setting 90-day goals versus yearly goals, right? Yearly goals really suck because you have one chance to make them or not, and really, you kind of set them and forget them. Versus 90 days, they come so quick, especially as we get older right? We have kids, time flies.

OWEN: But you already flew so fast.

JASON: It’s already done, right?

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: I wanted to create a place where we could set goals that were a stretch but they could achieve them. They had four chances throughout the year. What we started doing is we would say, the company’s 90-day goals, and this would have to match-up to the longer goals that we’d have, our X. And then we would have our employees set their 90-day goals based on their contribution to the company in 90-day goals. By doing this then we could meet once a quarter. I never like the word quarterly review. That’s just the negative like I’m going to tell you all the shitty things that you’re doing. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cuss.

OWEN: No, it’s okay. We’re being real here.

JASON: Beep, beep, beep… So we wanted to change the terminology and use coaching because that’s what my job was. My job was to coach the people directly under me. Their job was to coach people directly under them, right? So when we started implementing that and creating a scorecard for people, it just made it into a place where people got to a higher level quicker, and they could make decisions on their own based on the company’s direction. I didn’t have to make all the decisions for us for they had the total freedom in order to make the right decisions that aligned with the goals that we set.

OWEN: I think you also mentioned during the pre-interview that you had a bonus structure in regards to this 90-day goal thing. Can you talk about that?

JASON: Yeah. If the hit their goals and a lot of times when I tell people [Unintelligible 00:32:41] they’re just going to say keep people happy, right? That’s BS, right? You have to have goals that you hit, yes or no? It’s easy as that. I’d have my employees and my people set their 90-day goals. Come to me, present what they want, and I would say, “Yes, it aligns up.” And then we would set based on their salaries a certain percentage would be based on a possible bonus. So if they hit their quarterly goals, and the company hit their quarterly goals they’d get a bonus. If the company did not hit their goals but they did they got zero bonus. Because why should they benefit if they didn’t better the company.

OWEN: Yeah, because there’s a team, and as a team we all should be moving together.

JASON: Right. So what you’ll have is everybody start trying to help everybody out. We were able to create a cool culture, that’s why we’re one of the best places to work.

OWEN: I love that. That’s really nice. Their goals plus the company goals must align. And if not then they start helping each other to meet those goals because everybody wants the bonus at the end of the day, right?

JASON: That’s right. It’s all about the money, right?

OWEN: You also mentioned how you guys did some coaching for those who missed the goals I think so they could hit it the next time. Is there some insight you can share with us?

JASON: Yeah. Not everybody’s going to hit their goals, right? This is a great coaching moment to say was the goal realistic? Did you really do everything that you could of attaining the goal? So many people, they’ll come to you after they failed, and they’d be like, “I’ve tried everything.” And then I’ll look at them and be like, “Really? You tried everything, millions of things?” There’s no possible way you can try everything, right? That’s kind of a coachable moment where we’re saying, “Think about why you didn’t get it.” One of the things people would always say is, “I don’t know.’ So we’re programmed to always answer questions that way. It’s like I don’t know. And this works on your kids. So anybody listening, you have kids, this is perfect. I do this all the time. So if my kid says, “I don’t know who broke that cookie jar.” Just guess. If you had to guess who broke that cookie jar. If you had to guess, why didn’t you get your bonus, what do you think it was? It’s amazing everybody will give you a crystal, specific answer after that exact phrase everytime.

OWEN: That’s awesome. At this point in time the business was already systematized. I’m curious, and I also know based on this you mentioned that you had more free time. I’m curious, at that point, what areas of the business that you focused on and why?

JASON: Yeah. You always have to focus on growth. As an owner, as a CEO, your main job is growth both in sales as well as growth as getting your employees to the next level. It was coaching the people directly under me to coach the people directly under them. Focus on the financials support of the sales. And then I just set the direction and the clarity of where the company was going. That’s really it.

OWEN: And putting the story all the way to the end now is why did you sell the business and can you even share the story behind how the sale actually happened if possible.

JASON: Yeah. We started getting really specific in creating something that not many people had at the time. We were asked to speak at a Microsoft conference. It was a really big conference. I didn’t know how big of a conference it was. But I spoke right after Steve Ballmer, which will tell you how many people was there, so I was a little intimidated. But it went really well, it had a lot of people and a lot of business reach out to us after. But it’s sort of positioning us an authority, and they started looking at the clients that we had, the work we had, and all these different components working as one.

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: Then they also saw me doing other stuff that I love and knew the business could operate without me even though I went with the business. And just started having some people reaching out to us, being like, “You have what we don’t have.” That’s again about the specialization as being one of the key systems. If you’re a generalist, you’re selling yourself short. No one’s going to want you because you do everything okay. But if you’re a specialist, you do something unique that someone needs, they’re going to pay a premium for it. We started getting inquiries and we kept saying no to a lot of different people. It was a lifestyle business. We were making a lot of money and having a lot of time. I didn’t know what I was going to do afterwards anyway. It was the right time and the right price. And I thought at the time that combining the two companies together, we could’ve built a billion dollar company because of the strengths of what they had and what we had. But at the end of the day they just wanted us to be the highest paid meeting coordinator, which happens all the time. That’s okay. So that’s why we sold.

OWEN: That’s awesome. I think eventually didn’t the company you sold you got bought out too? That happened right?

JASON: Yeah. I got bought out again I think 9 months later.

OWEN: That’s awesome. So just so that we can summarize what we kind of went through, I think you shared a 12-point system.

JASON: Yeah.

OWEN: Can we just go through each of them quick. Do you want me to name each of them?

JASON: I got them. I live it every day.

OWEN: Okay.

JASON: It’s all about getting that clarity, that crystal clear path of where you need to go. That’s step number 1. Step number 2 is knowing which you’re going to specialize in, who you’re going to go after, who’s your perfect client. Once you know those two things, those are the foundations. Those will allow you to attack the market. Who do I need to go after, where do I need to be? The other part is you’re not always having to attack the market, you can actually attract the perfect, ideal client, the perfect person is. So attract is the next system. Then as you’re attracting these people, we didn’t really talk about this. It’s about nurturing them along. And we’ve created a really good system and a process where they could start from step 1 and go all the way to the step of giving us money, right? That’s what everybody wants.

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: The next system is profit. You need to make sure you’re charging based on the results that you’re delivering, charging what you’re worth, charging what you can make money on. If you can’t stop doing that service then find another service that you can be profitable. Then as you’re getting all these opportunities you have to make sure that you’re converting as much opportunities as possible. Most people convert at 50%. They think that’s good. I like 80%. I think that’s better, or 90%. If you’re converting 100%, you’re not charging enough.

OWEN: Yeah.

JASON: Then it’s all about delivery. How do you have that delivery system where your process, system, product is delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible so you can make more profit. Number 9 is about partnerships, right? So many people think they have to do it themselves. Look at the right partnerships that can expedite your growth. We aligned ourselves with, like if we were doing it right now I’d align myself with HubSpot, if was an agency world, or Infusionsoft, or any of those, right? And then it’s all about automation. Now that you have these systems going, what can you use technology for in helping you automate. So many people are always doing booking appointments, and they’re trying to do it over email. There’s great technology out there to do that. How do you do marketing automation using the software that you guys do. How do you automate. And then it’s all about the operations part. How do you get a foothold of the operations of like my hiring process, payroll, cash flow, all those. Then the last system that I always think every business needs as long as the other 11 is that lead system. And I’m not talking about leads, I’m talking about leading the company.

OWEN: Leadership, right?

JASON: Yeah, how do you make sure you lead your team to where you need to go. How do you coach them along, how do you incentivize them, how do you inspire them, not motivate. If you have to motivate someone you hired the wrong person. You have to inspire them. So those are 12 systems that I feel every business needs. And I always looked at it as I used to be a big gamer. I don’t play games anymore. I like…

OWEN: Why? I still love games. Video games I mean.

JASON: But the video games I used to play were all racing games. Now I have a racecar and a car, like go to the track. So there’s nothing like the real thing. So I do that. That gets my blood pumping. I always looked at these systems. You need to get all of them at a certain level in order to get to the next level. So what I was trying to say is I used to play Age of Empires. So you have to get all these gold, you have to get all these wood, and all this stuff so you can get from the Stone Age to the next stage. If you have all these 12 systems and you have these in alignment, like you get a 10/10, then you can get to the next level. And then you start all over again.

OWEN: That’s awesome.

JASON: And you have to get those to the 10. So those are kind of the 12 systems I think every business needs to master.

OWEN: That’s awesome. What will you say is the very next step that the listener who’s been listening to the interview all the way to this point should take in order to get started with transforming their business so it runs successfully without their constant involvement.

JASON: I think they need to know what they want and why they want it. Because I could say I want a billion dollars, but if I don’t have a why behind it I’m never going to do it. When I decided I was going to train for an ironman and do an ironman, the why was I wanted to prove to myself I could do anything I set my mind to. So it was a very powerful… And you just have to take massive action. So many people just talk. Talk is cheap, do it. Just do it.

OWEN: Yeah. And is there a question that you wished I asked you during this interview that I didn’t ask? If so, post the question and the answer.

JASON: Now, I think you drilled me good enough.

OWEN: That’s good. So what’s the best way for the listener to connect with your and thank you for doing the interview?

JASON: Yeah. Go to jasonswenk.com. Swenk is spelled with an E, not like an A, not like Hilary Swank, I’m not related. So Swenk, go to jasonswenk.com. And all my social media stuff is out there so hit me up on Twitter, it’s jswenk. I give away a ton free stuff for agency hunters and service-based entrepreneurs. So check it out.

OWEN: Awesome. Now, I’m speaking to you the listener. If you’ve enjoyed this interview I want you to do one thing. I want you to go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes if you have an Apple phone. That way you can subscribe to the podcast and every time we have a new episode you’ll be made aware of it. If you have an Android go to sweetprocess.com/stitcher. If you know another entrepreneur who will find this interview useful I want you to share with them because we want more listeners listening to our podcast, growing the audience. And then we’ll be more inspired to go out there and bring on entrepreneurs like Jason to come on here and share the reasons why their business would be able to transform so that it runs successfully without them. Finally, if you’re at that stage in your business where you’re tired of being the bottleneck and you want to literally get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know and get tasks done correctly just like you would, well, sign up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Jason, thanks for doing the interview.

JASON: Definitely. Thanks for having me.

OWEN: And we’re done.

 

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

  1. Clarify what you want to achieve with your business.
  2. Determine who your ideal client is, and begin to get in front of them.
  3. Look for ways to improve your conversion rate.

 

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