Are you thinking of outsourcing tasks in your business so that you can have the freedom and time to do what you want to do?
You will also discover how Cody continues to build more businesses and keeps his income sources diversified.
OWEN: My guest today is Cody McLain and he is the founder of WireFuseMedia LLC. Cody, welcome to the show.CODY: Thank you for having me.
OWEN: So what exactly does your company do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?
CODY: I’ve done so many things with company. Originally, I started out with a web hosting company and I grew that with my employees and having to outsource and hire people from all around the world. But I was able to grow that company to an extent. And then once I went to that extent I decided to branch out, because I didn’t really want to have all my eggs in one basket. So what I did is I went on to create more companies. And I had an outsourcing company, or I still have one actually, supportmonk.com. And we have an office based in India. We provide outsource support to other web hosting companies. Then I have pacifichost.com, which is a web hosting company, and we provide VPS, web hosting, reseller hosting, dedicated servers, all managed. And beyond that, I also have a software program called Easy Login. And Easy Login is actually meant for system administrators, or ISP’s, or other web hosting companies to create a way to automatically login to your servers without having to give root access to all your employees.
OWEN: Awesome. So I get right now WireFuse is more like a holding company that has a bunch of different related companies all underneath the umbrella right now.
CODY: Yeah, it’s like an umbrella company of sorts. So I set that company up originally just for my one web hosting company, but I’ve been able to branch out. And a whole bunch of other different things. And obviously, when you do something like that it requires a whole lot of work in-between in terms of setting up the company and the infrastructure. So that each thing can work on its own, because I can only do so many things in a single day.
OWEN: Awesome. And so, my listeners always want to know the scale of your business, and that way they can be on the same perspective as to the problem that you had before and how you solve them. And understand what the business is now. So how many full-time employees do you currently have?
CODY: Oh we’re about 25. And that doesn’t actually include all the people that we outsource as well. So we do outsource a few projects to the Philippines and India, but we do have that office in India. And we have a few people working around remotely. And we also have a local office in Austin. But it’s just around 25 right now. And I was able to automate as many processes as possible so that we could reduce the amount of employees that we actually do need to function the companies.
OWEN: Yeah, and we’re learning a lot of the details behind that too. And so, what was last year’s revenue and what do you expect at the end of this year?
CODY: Last year’s revenue was just under a million. And this year we certainly expect to exceed a million in revenue certainly.
OWEN: Okay. So we’ve kind of described and painted the picture of where the business kind of is right now. But I want to take the listeners back in the journey as to talk about some of the lowest points in the business. And please describe how bad it got.
CODY: Yeah. When you’re an entrepreneur it requires obviously a lot of time, and effort, and focus. And you really have to put all that into the business if you wanted to be successful. And with this I found myself just absolutely micromanaging the entire company. I was working very hard long hour days, kind of the stereotypical entrepreneur, that I dedicated my life to making the company successful. And I’ve had failures in the past, but the level of dedication I was committing to my company was just insane, working 60 hours a week. And then I constantly find myself burning out. I would wake up in the morning and I would work, and then I would go to bed. I do the same thing the next morning, and the weekends are really no different. So, it was dedicating too much of my time to the business and not really giving myself personal time. Because we all have this dream, this passion to our company. We kind of consider it our baby. So it was just stressing myself out and not feeling like I was actually living. It was just more so, just like I was running something else, I was making something else live. And it just took way too much time to do that.
OWEN: Yeah. And one of the things you mentioned during interview is also trying to manage a team of people also was an issue as well too, all the way from micromanaging them. And you’re also burning out as a result of trying to train them on an ongoing basis and so on and so forth. Can you talk about that?
CODY: Yeah. During the time I wasn’t just working by myself obviously. I was able to establish an office in India and we’re able to start out by hiring a few smaller level technicians to handle customer service. But with that I only outsource so much. And so I was still working a lot of these individual things myself. But with these employees the biggest issue was hiring them and hoping that they can actually do their job properly. And I found I had to spend a lot of time and effort, and actually train each and every employee. And I would hire one guy and I have to train him. And then I’ll hire another guy and I have to train him as well. And all the while that was taking away time that I had to actually function the company and operate it so that it can grow to the standard and the level that I wanted to grow to. So yeah, in that perspective I was spending a lot of my time trying to manage the company while also training new employees to come on so that they can do their job properly.
OWEN: And you also mentioned during the pre-interview about how the issue of not having real structure behind the organization. That also crept up too as well. So talk about that.
CODY: I think every entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily they really the extent that you have to train each and every new employee. And when I was hiring them I didn’t really have any set process in place. I was just hiring willy-nilly here and there but nothing was actually really working. Like I have to constantly go back and forth about with that employee to actually tell him how to resolve an issue. I didn’t really have anything in place. I didn’t have any documentation. I didn’t really have any kind of organization within the company that structured everything so that they could come on and automatically know what their position was. And I suppose that’s just an issue that I wasn’t aware of when I first started hiring people. I had this impression that I could hire somebody and they’d know how to do their job. But each company is different and your operations are different. And then you also have to listen to the customers as well. So to some extent you can’t even set-up the organization or the structure until you have feedback from the customers so that you can actually create a process that’s going to resolve common issues that you’ve seen with your employees. And your employees by the way, and I’m going a little bit off. But your employees won’t tell you when they see a common issue with your customers. If you’re getting a lot of customer complaints they typically are just going to try and resolve every single complaint. So then it’s also going beyond that and trying to create structure that’s going to resolve those recurring customer complaints that your employees are dealing with.
OWEN: Thanks for sharing that. So what was the first thing that you did? You’ve basically mentioned some of the problems that you were dealing with, the lowest points. But was the very first thing you did to try and get the company systematized?
CODY: It certainly involved creating a kind of standard procedure of sorts. And it was really like the first thing I’ve ever done in terms of creating something like that. I just use a Word document and I would just put 1, 2, 3 in terms of what steps do I need to take to hire a person. I started out the very foundation and how can I hire a person. And then I try to look into– I had numerous problems because if you outsource, if you hire somebody, then you’re going to always risk the fact of them potentially damaging your company especially when you have an online company. It’s not a brick and mortar thing. You can hire one guy who has access to your system and then your business could be gone the next day. So it’s also trying to track passwords and trying to know which employee has access to what, and what are they supposed to have access to as well. Because another common issue I commonly ran it to is I would give access to passwords to vendor websites but I was always forgetting to change the password or remove them. But it was really creating that original document that allowed me to know what steps I needed to take, and what kind of things I need to document as well in terms of access. And as well as specific documents that I had to create that allowed them to know exactly what their job was.
OWEN: Thanks for sharing that. But one of the first thing you said you did was you had to find a place where you basically create a company wiki or intranet where you can store this that you had created. Talk about that.
CODY: Yeah. And so I had an administrator at the time and he was kind of actually begging me. It was actually wasn’t my original idea. I was trying to find an intranet, and intranet is kind of like an internal company wiki. And there’s lots of companies out there online that do have intranet but they combine a social aspects into it. And the majority of my guys were just logged in to our help desk. So we set-up a media wiki though and then my administrator was actually scanning to the tickets and trying to answer common issues that was present within a lot of the questions that our customers were actually asking us, or issues that they were running into. And especially since it was web-hosting company it’s very technical. So we have to go do a lot of technical documentation in terms of how to setup a server and how to manage a server. And what kind of common issues that you might run into. Because my main system administrator was not working at 3 a.m. in the morning. He would get a call if something happened. But in terms of trying to let the employees that are on know how to handle the situation, that was one of the most important aspects I needed. And that’s where we started out with having the wiki. And then on top of that, another thing is that there’s support desk out there. I’m sure you might be familiar with Zendesk or Freshdesk.
CODY: Very popular. And a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that you can create entire knowledge-based article categories that are privately labeled. So I think, commonly, if I call a company like Microsoft, or something and they outsource their support to the Philippines, the majority of their answers on the phone are going to be based on them trying to find an FAQ article that answers your question. And so to some extent I also train my employees to try and do the same. So before they had to come to me, they would search the FAQ. And since you don’t want to let the world know what your processes are, I put a lot of these common issues as well into our internal KB article. So they could just go to our website under the support help desk and they’d be able to have access to those internal documentation as well.
OWEN: Yeah. So I guess the first thing you said was started creating procedures on the go so that you can basically creating the documents, documenting how work is done. And then you found one place, a repository where you can put them online, which you call a wiki. And then what next, what happened after that? Because I’m trying to put the pieces together for our listeners.
CODY: Well, beyond creating a wiki and beyond creating an internal KB article, I think really the next thing was trying to outsource individual aspects that I was trying to manage on top of that. Because employees would always come to me for their questions. And as much as I try and create questions or answers for them I found myself commonly replying and answering the same question to one employee, and then going to another employee and answering the same question to him. So I was also trying to teach everybody to actually use the wiki which that was one of the biggest issues I ran into really is that nobody would use it. And they wouldn’t know that the content was there. And that’s still an issue I kind of run in to today for some issues. But it’s also knowing what content should go into wiki in terms of what aspects of the operation your company– does everybody need to know. And then hiring them and basically having a part of their job requirement actually read the entire wiki so that they know what kind of things are in there that would allow them to function their job properly.
OWEN: Yeah. And later on in the interview we’ll talk about some of the challenges that you had when trying to systematize the business per se when you’re trying to create your own wiki. But I’m also curious as to now that you have created a wiki what are some of the things that you did to kind of ginger the employees to actually use it. Because it’s one thing to create it but if they’re not using it then it defeats its purpose. What were the first things you did to get them to start using it on an ongoing basis?
CODY: Well, we primarily had it for technical issues in terms of servers. That was where the majority of the content for the wiki was. So, whenever we had a technical issue they had to refer to the wiki first before contacting me. And then as well as I comically always use letmegooglethatforyou.com in case they ask me like a stupid question I would give them a link. So it was also like subconsciously teaching to them that they first need to try and find the answer on their own before coming to me and wasting my time. And then even beyond that, another thing I started doing was actually I use Camtasia to actually create on-screen video tutorials for the employees so that we could hire them. And on top of the original requirement that we had them read the entire wiki, I had individual videos that showed them how to use each individual type of software that we use. And that made it so much easier so that they didn’t have questions and they weren’t actually talking with the customer and having to tell them that they don’t know what to do.
OWEN: Definitely. So it’s just kind of like before they actually end up coming to you they would have exhausted all of the possible avenues that you’ve already created for them that supposedly have the answers before coming to you.
CODY: Right. And then on top of that I had an operations manager at the time and still so actually. And part of his responsibility is to look at the tickets, look at the overall interaction with the employees and the customers. And try and find out correlations in terms of common questions that customers are asking us. And then trying to figure out is there a way that we can either create a KB article for the customer so that they don’t necessarily even need to submit a ticket. But as well as creating the backend process so that it’s a lot easier for employees to respond to tickets. And one scenario like that is that I would search for specific key terms inside tickets. Like if a customer submitted a ticket and it had cuss words in it I had a specific rule with inside the help desk that would automatically forward it to the manager department. And they would be automatically looking at that. Or if there’s a ticket that was submitted about down time with a tag. It would automatically go into like a high-level urgency ticket. It would flag and it would notify our chat room to let us know that a customer submitted a ticket about that. And then as well as I created forms for the customer. So I never really saw many hosting companies or other companies doing this. But inside our client portal where customers would go to billing or submit a support ticket, I created online forms. I use something called mach form and it was a very kind of cheap software, I only paid 60 bucks, but allowed me to create forms for processes. So if a customer requests a license to a billing system because we handed out free billing licenses for one of our products. They could actually filled that form out. It would be submitted to our help desk. And then I would create a rule. So if it went to that specific email and they had that specific title, it would also add a note of the entire process and how to resolve that ticket. So within the ticket themselves the person handling the ticket would automatically see a whole process of things that they needed to do to properly complete that ticket. And that just made it so much easier because then you don’t have them going into the wiki and trying to find that piece of information to tell them. I try and centralize the information for the technician inside the ticket to make it as easy as possible for them to resolve the issue.
OWEN: Great. And one of the things too, we want to dive in and learn how the specific systems that you have in place behind your business to make it run without you. So one of the things you said during the pre-interview was that one of your big break was hire your first manager and realizing that much of your time was actually spent trying to manage a team instead of focusing on the important task. So let’s talk about how, after realizing that, how getting the three managers, how they play a role as part of your system in your business.
CODY: Yeah. And that started out simply by hiring one person, a project manager. And their previous experience was just more or less managing people inside an existing project. But hiring that first person was incredible in terms of helping my overall productivity. And helping me realign my focus on actually focusing on more larger aspects of the company that are going to make a bigger difference. Because up until then, the only thing that I really had employees for was actually just doing the support for the customers. And so, by hiring a project manager, I was able to outsource even the hiring of the employees. So they didn’t necessarily know how to find these people but I did because I’ve been doing it for a while. So I just simply taught my techniques in terms of finding somebody and managing them in my existing processes. And then I let them take over exactly the processing. And they actually refined my existing processes that are created for hiring and teaching employees to do their job properly. And that was tremendous in terms of helping my product so I could focus on growing the business. However, I had the person kind of take over what I already did, which I didn’t spend all that much time creating these processes. It wasn’t an amazing list of processes. I kind of cheated on that to some degree. But hiring that person really changed my life so I can focus on more important goals. And I honestly felt better about myself too. And then beyond that I had other project managers. And so I had one operations manager. The operations manager was actually in-charge of running the business. Because I found out that I wasn’t necessarily the best person for actually managing the team. I’m more or less the idea guy that stands in the background and kind of figures out where we’re going to go with the company. But in turn I ended getting three project managers. One specifically focused on the hiring people, as well as making sure that they’re currently doing the path that they need to do. The other person I would consider my operations manager, that basically would make sure the company functions as it should. If there’s any issues you let me know, but he tries to be that first step. So if anybody has any question they’ll first go to him and he will try to answer the issue. As well as dealing with upset customers on phone or making sure that other people are there to handle the responsibility that they’re supposed to be doing. And then the third person just overall manages the creation of new projects. Because I’m very ambitious in my goals. I don’t just create one company, I create a multitude of companies. And I may be creating and running multiple companies at once. And in that sense I need somebody to manage my development and concept creation team that’s going to actually create the new content, as well as manage the existing content. So in retrospect I have one person that manages the team in terms of hiring and firing. And then I have an operations manager that makes sure the company functions. And I have a project manager that manages a small team that basically helps me create new companies as well as maintain the website to my existing companies.
OWEN: Okay. And so, here’s the question that a lot of my listeners they love me asking. Basically, imagine that as a potential lead now that’s probably interested in one of the services that you guys provide, one of the companies that’s under your umbrella. And then on the other part is that person has gone through this conveyor belt and then they’ve been transformed into this raving customer that loves you guys, telling everybody about you. But behind the scenes there are parts of the business, different sections working hand in hand to transform that person, right? So, can you talk a little bit about like– and you could choose any of the businesses that you have that you want to talk about. And talk about the conveyor belt behind the scene that is turning that person who doesn’t know about you guys somehow found out about you guys. And now convert that person into raving customer.
CODY: Well, that’s a part of being an entrepreneur that you really have to understand your business as a whole and know every aspect of the business. Which is why I don’t really recommend that you start a business and immediately try and outsource everything you can possibly outsource to focus on the larger goals. Because you need to understand the infrastructure of your company and how it’s specifically setup. And there’s not really anybody that you can hire that’s going to be able to say take over marketing, or take over support. You need to know those processes yourself before you can outsource that to an employee or hire somebody else even in India or the Philippines to do that for you. And with that, it’s really figuring out what roles you need to outsource, which is really difficult to really understand that. One of the roles I would outsource this forum posting. Somebody who would actually just go on forums, post an ad I’d created and actually get our ad and get our service out there on the forums. I have another person that just did blog commenting, who just posted on blogs and trying to get a name out there for each individual brand. So it’s also noting having a little bit of experience with all the aspects of the business. Whether you’re dealing with support or marketing, you need to first do it yourself. And then you can understand one of the important things that you need to be doing to make sure that your company functions as a whole. Because a lot of entrepreneurs create their business. And they don’t really go back and look at their business after it’s been growing, and look at what aspects you need to be refilled or refined. And that’s an important step that I would always do is look at every aspect of the business, whether it be marketing, sales, support, operations, and so many other things. I can’t think of it at the moment. But doing that so that you know if there’s area that’s really being underperforming. Because if you’re getting a bad review you may now know you’re getting bad reviews. So I had somebody specifically setup to manage our reputation and making sure that if there’s any bad reviews online that were mentioned that we would be able to immediately respond to that and try and mitigate any issues that could come of that. As well as a person that just basically– they would do billing and sales. But they also overlook on the performance of the support technicians. And we had to create specific rules. In fact I didn’t have to do this and that was the awesome point, is that I had somebody who be able to monitor the support texts, and look at their tickets and their chats. And look at whether there’s an issue, whether they’re not being able to do their job properly, whether they’re basically ticking off customers by not giving a complete and full response. And then sometimes without that person I had tickets go on for like 20 pages. And it’s like 5 replies in a page for 20 pages. And obviously at that point a customer’s going to be extremely frustrated. So looking at the business as a whole, we’re finding the various aspects that you need to actually make sure that no part of your company is being forgotten about.
OWEN: Okay, so I think I get how the need for having that mindset and then bringing the one who is actually having to experience working in the individual parts. So that you can now figure out how to break it out and then find someone to replace you in each of those parts. But I think what I’m trying to get at with that question is I know you have an umbrella of a bunch of different companies. Maybe just pick one of them. And knowing how one of them have the different parts involved, let’s talk about it from that conveyor standpoint where one potential customer comes to one of those companies. And then the different things behind the scenes that’s making that person transform from a lead, to a customer, all the way and getting their results that you guys are promising them. To the point where now they’re out there in the streets shouting about how great that very specific company is.
CODY: Okay, yeah. So I had an SEO guy, I actually had multiple SEO guys and still do. So I have one guy that’s focused on creating landing pages for specific keywords. So he would use something like ahrefs.com to actually research a long tailed keyword and also inbound links to other competitor websites. He would use that to try and find a niche market that we could go at. And then, he would hand that off to another guy which would actually develop the landing page himself. And in turn we ended up having a whole bunch of different landing pages for various topics after we’re able to research the competition. And that was getting the customer to the website. I also had another guy handling social media, and another guy that would handle AdWords, whatnot. So we have various processes in place to get customers to the website. And then we’d also have a conversion guy. So I was really able to outsource almost every aspect of the business in certain segments. So, when the customer goes to the landing page I had a content writer who would actually make the content for that specific page. Then I had a guy, he would mostly focus on AB conversion testing, like using optimize. We had to try and find out different variations for the page to increase to conversion rates. With that the customer signs up. And then I personally created specific emails that we’d send to the customer. And then we would have follow-up emails as well to try and increase their brand loyalty. But with that it was kind of having this whole line of processes with all these people doing very specific jobs. Because when you mitigate the amount of jobs that any specific person in your company has to do, t makes it a lot easier for you to know whether or not they’re doing their job properly. And so, I kind of had people spread out across the board each with individual or jobs to make sure that every aspect, whether it’s social media, or customer loyalty, or getting customers to the website, or even optimizing the website was all completely handled individually.
OWEN: I like how you broke that down. I wanted to give the listeners some kind of insight into that. And then we spoke earlier about the wiki that you have. But then, I said we’ll talk about the challenges that you have with it until this point. So let’s talk about, what were some of those challenges that you experience when you try to create the system. And then we’ll talk about the specific challenges for the wiki first of all?
CODY: Well, with the wiki itself I was always battling one kind of minor issues. I was always battling my system administrator because he’s very security-centric. So he would never add a what you is what you get editor. And also, I felt like that basically minimized the amount of use by employees because not everybody wants to learn like a media wiki code in terms of how to create and format an article. So just getting that was a huge issue, I actually had to argue with them on that. But then as well as even getting the employees to actually use the article, and actually use the wiki and make it easier for them to use. And also creating kind of on the dashboard. Because we originally we’re just relying on search. For them to search for the article and hope that it was there. And in the end we have like some 200 odd pages but trying to manage it within the front page on the dashboard to make it easier for them to use was quite difficult. So we ended up having to categorize each individual type of page, whether you’re dealing with server administration, or server down, or provisioning in these server, or handling customer downtime tickets. We had to categorize everything within the wiki, and that just took a tremendous amount of time. But having an operations manager alongside me that knew what kind of issues that the customers are commonly dealing with. We were able to setup this categorization and make it easier for employees to login. And know kind of like the top articles within that specific category so that they can easily go there and know whatever they need to know to resolve the issue.
OWEN: You also mentioned that sitting down and finding the patience to sit down and write down the procedures that you are going to put into the wiki, that was another issue. So talk about that and how you kind of beat that challenge.
CODY: Yeah, and that’s kind of like the procrastination issue I would say because it’s so easy. When you’re talking with somebody over chat and they ask you a question, it’s so easy to spend half an hour explaining to them how to resolve that issue. And then certain you end up doing that multiple times. And it’s kind of a waste of time overall. So it’s realizing that the time that you’re spending creating that article is going to really exemplify, it’s going to optimize your own productivity since you’re never going to have to explain that article again. And by putting out all your thoughts in that article it makes is so easy so that any employee will know exactly what to do. And I know that’s kind of common sense but we cannot necessarily focus on the article specifically. [Unintelligible 00:28:16] we kind of cheat on it. We may not completely focus on it, we may not put everything that is potentially required into the article. And I also tried to theorize the possible issues that other employees may encounter when they’re trying to resolve whatever issue that they’re resolving. So, as well as creating those individual steps I also put kind of like a star at the end of potential problems that may run it so that they don’t have to ask me if they can’t do something because maybe the password changed or something like that. I would explain various potential issues that would come up. And as new issues occur, I would always go back to that article and I would update it so that potential problem if it happens again they know what to do.
OWEN: Awesome. And then on that issue another challenge you mentioned that when it came to dealing with trying to systemize our business was letting go of control. Let’s talk about that and how that was an issue.
CODY: Yeah, and that’s an issue I feel like we as entrepreneurs really face a lot. Because as we said, growing your business is kind of like having your baby and you don’t want to give that up. And if you do it’s kind of like why more people are afraid of flying that they are of driving, because you’re giving up control to somebody else. And that’s extremely difficult as well when you’re running a business because you want to make your business grow and be the best that it possibly can. And if you’re hiring somebody in India or you’re just hiring somebody for the first time, they’re going to make mistakes. They’re probably going to cost a customer to be upset. But it’s realizing that you’re looking at the kind of the greater good in terms of the fact that you’re hiring them. It’s going to impact your business on a more positive aspect as long as you’re a good employee. But it’s getting over that initial fear that was definitely a hard part for me. And being able to simply kind of let go as you said, and just give them a chance. And realize that people are going to make mistakes and that you may not have the exact process to set-up to answer every single question but it’s being available to them. And also, giving the time to initially train them. Because it doesn’t matter how many videos or articles you have, there’s always going to some kind of initial training period. And it’s really also dedicating that time to train them in every aspect of their job so that you go over with them individually, the software. And then make sure that they read and understand what they need to be doing for their job. And I would always prioritize somebody who had an awesome and positive attitude over somebody who had more knowledge. Because on another side note, I would hire people who had extensive knowledge but then they may get bored with their job, it may become mundane to them. And then over time they kind of lose interest and then they become less of employees. But it’s finding that person with a positive attitude that is really going to be interested in his job. And then you also try and make it interesting as well.
OWEN: I guess that points more about hiring someone who matches the culture of what you’re trying to achieve with the business culture for the company. And you also mentioned something about how time management was an issue. And I think I wanted to speak specifically about how you did solve that problem by looking at what you did at the end of the day, that process that you use to evaluate if you spend your time on a specific task. If it was a [Unintelligible 00:31:37] then how you now correlated that process to deciding when to hire people. Do you understand what I’m talking about?
CODY: Yeah, and with that when your business grows, when it’s expanding, you always have to change what your area of focus is on. When you’re starting a company you have to focus on a lot of things. But with your company’s 3 years in the growth, you may have to look at where you’re spending your time. And I feel a lot of entrepreneurs go to this part where they feel like they worked all day but yet they look at the end of the and they’re like what did I do? And they don’t know the answer to that question. It’s just kind of a lot of busy work. And to some degree that could be called procrastination, it could be lack of will power. And there is various techniques that I have personally had to discover. Because when you’re an entrepreneur you’re at the top of the pyramid, nobody’s telling you what do. And that’s the difference between an entrepreneur and being an employee. An employee you’re told what do, and it’s a lot easier for you to do your job because you know exactly end of the specific period of time. But with an entrepreneur you’re always trying to change the kind of things that you’re focusing on. You may be working on a marketing campaign one month and then be dealing with expansion the next month. So, it’s also figuring out how to outsource the most mundane task, the task that can be outsourced to other people. And one of the very first things I did in terms of when I was first bootstrapping was having a personal assistant. And it quickly expanded to having two personal assistants and they would be able to handle those smaller task at the end of the day that just saved me so much time. Because we tend to overestimate the amount of time that we have in the day. And then it’s like 8 o’clock, it’s 12 a.m. and you’re still not done with all the things that you need to do. So, it’s creating specific guidelines in terms of you’re only going to work a specific period of time. And then I would take the most challenging task of the day and work on that very first. Because that essentially solves any procrastination that you may be dealing with. As well as at the end of the day I would look at what I did for that day overall, I would spend just 5 minutes. And I would go over the task that I completed, the task I still have to do. And then I would set myself up for tomorrow so I know what kind of things I need to work on. And by having this kind of end of day analysis, you’re able to more prioritize what task you can potentially outsource to somebody else, as well as knowing what are the most important three things that you need to do. And one of the things I’ve seen other people do and myself do, I would simply create a post-it note. And I would put it on my monitor at the very start of the day and I would just have three things that I want to get done that day. And if I get those three things done I’ll be perfectly happy with myself.
OWEN: I like that. And I think choosing the most important things to do before the end of the day– planning out your next day by knowing [Unintelligible 00:34:18] three most important things that you have to do tomorrow, so that when you come tomorrow you’re not spending time trying to make choices. That’s good. And also, I think that probably do with will power, that your will power is not everlasting. The longer you go in the day your will power is like draining, and draining, and draining. If you’re keeping that most important thing all the way to the end by the time you come to the end of the day there’s no will power left to do anything.
CODY: Yeah. And that’s an issue I commonly face is that I would go on my computer, I would go through emails at the very beginning of the day, and then I’d be hit with chat requests. We use HipChat for internal communication. It’s an awesome software but at the same time it’s been so distracting because employees would constantly IM me about questions or things that they’re working on. And then I would find myself working an entire day or weeks just chatting with the individual employees to try and help them do their job better. And that goes back why it’s so important to have a wiki and have those videos in that process setup in place so that they can refer to other sources first. And that’s also, it’s kind of easy to compare that if you use Zendesk as a customer you submit a support ticket, you type in your support question and it’s going to automatically come out with KB articles. And I’ve actually contacted Zendesk and [Unintelligible 00:35:29] about this in terms of like they need to actually add that for internal employees. So that say an internal employee is actually replying to a ticket, it should potentially pop-up with the KB article for them. And that would just hopefully simplify and minimize the amount of time that the employees actually have to contact you. And so with that it’s simply trying to set boundaries and set restrictions for people to contact you. And know that if you’re working on something, you know this setting, do not disturb. Or you can use software. There’s software for Windows and Mac, and I use something like Freedom Time, which Freedom Time will actually block my internet. So there’s no possible way I could possibly be distracted. And I think we all kind of know that we were distracted, and there was a study that came out that said if we’re working on something and we get distracted, it actually takes our focus away and takes us like 20-30 minutes to actually get back on the task to what we were doing before.
OWEN: Tell me about it.
CODY: Yeah, it’s so important to know what you’re doing and setting up those restrictions so that you’re not wasting your day, where you’re working 8-12 hour days and you actually feel like you accomplish something. And that’s really the most important thing of being an entrepreneur is not only time management but knowing how to structure your day and setting that from the start really.
OWEN: Another issue that you mentioned to with regards to the actual procedure documentation thing was where you said that– this is during the pre-interview. I guess, based on the type of business where you’re in where you don’t want to setup a procedure into the wiki without fully testing it because it could mean something really bad and being done in behalf of the customer. So talk about how you deal with that challenge?
CODY: And even with that as itself is that business processes change, software changes. And so, the biggest issue that we’re always running to is that we might change something but we’d forget to actually update the article. So with that, we actually had to create a specific process for anytime we change the software we had to remind ourselves that we may have to search the wiki for this change to make sure that we update that. But with that, it’s really difficult to answer that question because I don’t necessarily know that we’re able to fully resolve that issue.
OWEN: And I like the honesty in that because it’s an ongoing process of improvement or whatever. So you’re continuously looking for a way to make the business even more improved and fix the problem with the procedure or the system. So I like the fact that you’re honest with that. So knowing full well that trying to create a business that is systematized and runs without you successfully, we’ve just been talking about a bunch of challenges. But how do you stay committed to this new direction?
CODY: I first pick kind of where I’m going to with the company but many times you may have to pivot your direction with the company overall. And personally I’ve never really written a business plan. And that maybe kind of crazy or wild to some people, but business plans are mostly like if you’re going to a bank and get credit. And I’ve always kind of found them to be an immensely waste of time. First, I would do my research into knowing what market I’m going to go into and kind of find a niche that I’m going to own in that specific market. And setting this idea up from the start on terms of what where I think I’m going to go. But often that may change and I may have to do something different. And try and experiment to some degree. And that’s kind of something that I think a lot of other entrepreneurs aren’t really able to do is experiment and try different things with their business because they’re too afraid of what might happen. And even like a common issue I ran into is that you might be afraid to actually email your customer base because you’re afraid that they’re going to get upset or they might unsubscribe to your mailing list. But you never know what the results might be. Like recently we sent out a sign-up for our affiliate program email to all of our customers. And we had a handful of customers come back and say, “Never email again. That was totally uncalled for, I didn’t want to receive that email.” But then we got 25 affiliates to sign-up for our affiliate program. So the effect multiplied itself. And it just required kind of experimentation. You’re going to have to take risks as an entrepreneur, try different things. Because if you don’t take those risks and you’re not really going to get anywhere.
OWEN: Yeah, I like that. And so, how do you track and verify your results that your employees are delivering on your behalf to your client? And during the pre-interview you mentioned how you use a tool called Teamwork. Let’s talk about how that plays a role– we’ve been able to track and verify results your employees are delivering.
CODY: Yeah. So teamwork.com used to be called teamworkpm.net but they recently actually bought the domain name which is awesome. It’s a teamwork based project management system. And not every part of my company uses it, not everybody in the company uses that software because it’s more so meant for creating new projects and new companies. So I primarily use it as a tool to help us manage new projects as well as talk with our development team, our concept creation, our SEO, our marketing guys, where they can communicate within side each other. And we can build new companies, new projects, and new websites. As well as maintaining existing ones in terms of like if we’re going to set-up a marketing promotion for an existing company, we can do that inside teamwork.com. But then we also have a customer service side, people who just handle tickets, chats, calls, and they deal with the customers. So in that retrospect it’s much harder to know what they’re doing on a daily basis, but that’s where you use reports with inside your ticketing system. And we have the project manager that’s in-charge of monitoring their response as well as working with the operations manager. At the end of the week they’ll provide kind of a weekly report in terms of what kind of tickets they did. And then we would previously use a rating software which I’m forgetting the name right now. But it has a rating at the very bottom of the email so they serve every employees reply.
OWEN: Is that team [Unknown word 00:41:16]?
OWEN: Is that team [Unknown word 00:41:20]?
CODY: It might be. I’d have to go back and check, and comment at the end of the podcast. But it allows the customers to actually rate the response of that employee. And that helps you gauge the quality of that employee’s response. Because we would have a lot of employees who would actually just kind of say, “Your website works fine for me.” But the next thing you know the customer doesn’t want to hear that it works fine for you.
CODY: So it’s looking at various aspects of what the customers are saying because not everybody is going to reply and feedback on the tickets. And so it’s kind of combining various sources. With teamwork.com it’s really easy to track their progress because it has built-in Gantt chart, weekly reporting that we can have the project manager look at overall and see what kind of things that they’re getting done. As well as it allows you to look at an individual profile for any specific employee look at. Do they have any late task, how many task are currently assigned to them. And then as well as the Gantt chart, I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with it but that really allows you to view the workload of each individual employee. And that allows you to know– so if our developer’s really behind on tasks, but if you look at the Gantt chart it may tell you that he has 15 odd task that are late. And so maybe it’s time to hire a new employee. And then as well beyond that, I’ve never really been into monitoring employees’ computers, monitoring their keystrokes, knowing what websites they’re visiting because you kind of lose the sense of trust with that. But with Teamwork it has a built-in kind of task manager that it works for Windows or Mac. So with our development guys, not necessarily the guys handling the tickets. Because we can gauge their work performance based on the amount of tickets that they do. And then compare that to the amount of good responses and positive ratings that they get. Just because one technician may respond to 500 tickets in a month, he may be doing that in a very poor manner. So it’s kind of merging that information. And then with our development team we would use this software from teamwork where they would simply put in the task that they’re working on at the time, and then it’ll just simply update inside teamwork.com so we can view their profile and know exactly what they did throughout the day. But then you go on to another issue that it’s kind of hard to train employees to actually use that software sometimes because it’s kind of telling them to work differently than what they’ve been previously known to work at. But teamwork.com though, it’s really great, allowing us to have awesome team communication and working on individual task. Because one task maybe creating a new website, and that’s going to involve working with the developers, and the content creators, and the SEO guys. And so it’s going to involve working with the entire team. And that’s really what it does, and I suppose that’s why they call it Teamwork.
OWEN: So I think we’re going over several tools that are very important to your business from a standpoint of trying to systematize and create order around what you guys do. You talk about the wiki, you’ve talked so far about the project management tool which you guys use to manage new project, which is Teamwork. And you’ve also talked about the helpdesk tool that you guys to communicate back and forth externally with your customer. I think that was Zendesk. And then you also have main thing which inside of each of the communication with customers via Zendesk, there’s a tool in there that customers can rate the feedback and give feedback of how the employees are doing. That way you can get a pulse on whether they’re delivering. Are there other tools that are part of the ecosystem that we’ve not talked about yet? I’m curious.
CODY: Well, we also have a live chat software of course, but that’s individually rated where customers can actually rate on the feedback of each individual live chat. And we’d have to actually have different people to handle chats. We would dedicate the people who would handle the chats. And then it has its own internal feedback system. So it’s kind of difficult, and I think a lot of times we simply overlook all the potential feedback from our customers. But when you’re growing a business it’s really, extremely important to look at feedback and it’s really commonly overlooked. You may search for your company reviews on Google every now on then to try and see reputation. But if you’re trying to build brand loyalty then you really need to pay attention to what your customers are saying on all these various sources. Or whether using a live chat software or a ticket system, or email, you need to be able to have some way to kind of combine this data and look at it from a better perspective that’s going to analyze your customer loyalty, what your churn rate is, how many customers are leaving you, as well as your conversion rate. And being able to take all these analytics and put it together. And Zendesk and Freshdesk are both integrated some really awesome tools that actually import the data into kind of an analytical reporting program. And this allows you to really look at the big picture in terms of even uploading– like we would upload data–
OWEN: Is that like a business intelligence tool kind of thing?
CODY: Yeah, exactly.
OWEN: Which one are you using?
CODY: I’m not currently familiar with the software but I know it’s integrated inside Zendesk and we can add that at the end of the podcast.
OWEN: Okay, no problem. And so, for the most part your business runs without you having to be there because of the way you structured it, the tools you’re using, the way you’ve built in organization by having the operations manager. And underneath that you have several managers who are handling different things as well and the employees underneath them. I’m curious, what’s the longest time you’ve been away from the business?
CODY: Yeah, it’s been a while, definitely. I think the most I’ve taken was about a week and a half. And I was able to step away but then of course when I got back I just had a billion emails to get through. But in setting myself up eventually to get to that point was really difficult. Because for the first several years of running that company I didn’t take not one day of vacation. There wasn’t one Sunday or Saturday that I was working or trying to deal with some issue within the company. It really become a habit that I would wake up, and even before I had breakfast I would go sit down on my computer to see what issue, and storm, and tornado I’d have to deal with today.
OWEN: So it’s being able to set-up the infrastructure was really the most amazing and life-changing moment that I was able to do with that business. Because when you can create this infrastructure where employees are able to do their own job and don’t require your input, it kind of takes a lot of the stress off your shoulders so that you know that your company can run without you. And that’s an amazing feeling. And with web hosting, I think my original goal was always to be able to get money 24/7. I never wanted to have a brick and mortar shop where I had only be open during a certain amount of time and I could only make money during that certain amount of time while working. I always thought that the most amazing thing would be to have this company that could function and get money 24/7 without me being there. And that’s the principle behind having an online service based company that you can do that. But it’s a totally separate thing to want to be where you cannot actually work for your company and then make money without you. And that’s really an amazing feeling that when I was able to get to that point in terms of having everybody be self-sufficient, having a hierarchy so that nobody didn’t really have to go to me. That was really kind of a life-changing event. And then I was able to go on at least for a week and a half, two weeks, and I’m really planning on going on longer vacations in the future. But then, my ambitions simply get in the way of that. So I could work just a few hours a day really and know that everything is resolved. But I have so many ambitions in terms of building new companies and doing so many new things that I still work long hours. But I’m much more happy with myself because I feel a lot more productive. I’m moving along in my career and focusing on the bigger picture in terms of my company, and not necessarily having to the basic, mundane work that is involved when I can outsource that to somebody else.
OWEN: And how will you say your personal life has been transformed as a result of systematizing the business now?
CODY: It’s really being able to travel a lot more. And I don’t like to travel for long periods of time but I may take a week off. I recently went to Guatemala recently just because I decided to do it, no specific reason. Just wanted to really experience the world. Because ever since I was 15 that’s when I started running a business. And now I’m 24, I’ve almost been running companies for a decade now. And for the first half of that, let’s say 6-7 years I was really spending all my time working inside my computer. And being kind of in my corner of my apartment just working day and night. And I didn’t feel like I was living. And a lot of people will look at me and be jealous. “Cody, wow you have a company.” And everybody kind of dreams of having a company but you don’t look at the hard aspect of–
CODY: Kind of time and dedication I had to put into that. I lost my childhood, I didn’t really hang out with friends too much because I was so involved in my company and I have this obligation that if I was hanging out with friends, I would not be able to hang out with anybody if it was a weekday. I felt that this internal core thing that said, “Cody, you need to be working. You need to be working 12-hour days if you’re going to make this company successful.” And being able to change my mindset so I didn’t have to do that was simply an amazing feeling that I felt so much better about myself. And it’s one thing to make money, but if you’re stressed and you’re not living a happy life then what’s the point to that.
OWEN: Totally understand.
CODY: And so, changing that and understanding has was really transformed my life.
OWEN: And now with all these free time, personal transformation and all that, and also the business being systematized where it runs without you. With your free time which areas of the business do you focus on now and why?
CODY: Really, I kind of changed from being the doer to the thinker. And I guess everybody’s different, every entrepreneur may be different. And I’ve been to kind of [Unintelligible 00:51:10] as well as understanding my particular personality like who I am as a person. And knowing that my time is better spent being the strategic thinker, being that guy behind the scenes, behind the curtain that just thinks of where the company’s going to go, that resolves any potential issue that the company could happen to it. So thinking where the company’s going to go, how we’re going to get there, any potential issues that might come along the way, and what our back-up plan is. And having this very specific vision. And that’s what I do now. So instead of actually thinking, “Hey, we need a new website design”, and then going out and finding a guy to do the website design. And then modifying the design so it can fit on a website. And then making updates, the website, the new links are correct. Instead of spending all my time doing that, I can instead focus on, hey, we’re doing a new website. I’m going to go and focus all my time in making sure that we must have the most awesome design, and that we’re doing it exactly the right way. And I’m going to have my designer guy and have him actually create the website. And that he can work with the content developer to put the content on there. And then if I want to go back and look at that afterwards to modify it I can. But I’m saving so much of my time now by not investing in all these smaller aspects of the company. I’m still am to some degree, I’m kind of a perfectionist. And so that’s another thing I have to let go of is that you kind of giving up being a perfectionist to some degree by outsourcing all these things. But it just makes your life so much more optimized to many degrees. Because you can focus your time on the bigger picture instead of focusing on always minor details, which is always been an issue I’ve run into.
OWEN: Yeah, I’m glad you’re sharing all that. And I’m curious, for the person who is listening to the interview all the way to this point, what do you think is the very next thing that they should do in their business just to get the business moving towards that direction of being systematized? The very next thing that you think they should do.
CODY: Well, it really depends on where you are within your business. You may have employees or you may be starting out. Personally, starting out, I’m going to start from that perspective is that you can outsource. And a lot of people don’t realize that. There’s a guy I really highly recommend, I’m good friends with him. His name is ChrisDucker.com and basically built this infrastructure that teaches you on how to outsource your company to people in the Philippines. And you can have a personal system for $250-$300 a month. And by having that, you have no idea the amount of task and things that you can outsource on a daily basis that’s going to give your time back. Because as I said earlier, you kind of overestimate the amount of time in a day. And I’d wake up and I’d think, “Oh, I only have 60 emails to get through.” And then I’d find myself handling all these 60 emails, and then it’d be like 8 o’clock at night. And I’m like, “Oh, I have no will power to actually do anything that makes me feel productive.” So starting out with actually having a personal assistant. And also, getting over the fear that they think that you’re going to give them access to your passwords and give them to your wife. They’re not there to screw you over, they’re there to help you be more successful, because that’s going to make them more successful because they’re going to get a paycheck. You also have a service called virtualfastfinder.com which you might want to try. He charged like $350 a month. There’s $350 set-up fee and then he goes out and finds three candidates that he interviews and then you can pick from one of those candidates and pay them monthly. Whether it would be $350, $500, $600 a month is the average cost. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur you need to have a personal assistant. And if you don’t have the money to hire personal assistant locally you should start out in the Philippines because they will simply transform your life.
OWEN: Definitely. And I’m a big fan of Chris Ducker. So definitely, you’re sharing the right words with the listeners. And so, I’m curious, this way of thinking that you have what books might have influenced you this way and why?
CODY: Yeah, I’m very big into non-fiction self-help books. Like I first started out, I would say in terms of my original transformation with the businesses is with the whole Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Workweek which I’m sure we’re all familiar with.
OWEN: Yup, that’s a bible with my audience. Go ahead.
CODY: And that really allowed me to start figuring out that I don’t need to be spending 12-hour days working with my company. Because up to that I already had a business, it was already successful, but I was spending too much of my time focused on things that were not necessary to the success of my business. So first, learning how to outsource as well as having individual employees. So now I’m at a point where I have most of my people working in the U.S. and that is kind of a phenomenal feeling. Because I’d say the difference between the Philippines and the people in the U.S. is that with the Philippines you actually need to train them on every aspect of their job and what kind of expectations you have for them. But once you can go to hire people in the U.S. then you can actually hire people that are very familiar with their job and they can kind of take it from there. I know that’s off-topic. But the next book beyond The 4-Hour Workweek I would say is simply called The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters.
OWEN: What’s it called?
CODY: It’s called The Chimp Paradox.
CODY: By Steve Peters. Because when I was a 15-year old I had anger issues. And so, you can imagine me yelling like an India guy, but that’s kind of what I would do. Because I would get so upset if they were incompetent in their job. But The Chimp Paradox really allowed me to understand more of the psychology behind how our emotions and how our actual logical thinking plays out. And it kind of helps you to understand that to a greater degree so that you can have more control over your emotions. And you can actually know correctly how to speak with your employees and your customers.
OWEN: Emotional intelligence then?
CODY: Yeah, essentially. And then there’s another book I read called Emotional Intelligence 2.0, that is a very good book as well. And then beyond that, another very good, a very business-oriented book that’s called Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal. And that’s kind of a really interesting, fantastic book that helps you understand the dynamics of how to get your customers to be loyal to your brand. How to have them hook into your products so that they will actually support your product. And you can grow your company knowing that you have a fan base of customers that are willing to be there behind you. And it’s just kind of an eye-opening book to some degree really. And then even beyond that. So there’s so many books but I’d say the third book is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. And that just gives you kind of the things that you need to be focusing on a daily basis so you can be successful. And that helped me kind of transformed my life as well so that I stop focusing on all the things that weren’t necessary to the success of my company. And I instead started dedicating more of my time to what’s going to be most effective for the growth and success of my company.
OWEN: Awesome. And what’s the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?
CODY: Yeah, you can follow me on Twitter, just codymclain.com. Or also checkout my blog of mindhack.com and subscribe to my newsletter. I basically post blog posts and interesting things that talk about the productivity hacks that can make you a more productive entrepreneur. As well as kind of the psychology of getting things done. So how to optimize your time most effectively as an entrepreneur so that you can grow your business as fast as possible but also not burnout. So that you can balance your work and business life even if you’re a very beginning, first bootstrap entrepreneur.
OWEN: And what’s the website called again, Mindhack.com, right?
CODY: Yes. mindhack.com.
OWEN: Okay, and final question for you, I’m curious, is there a question that you’re wishing so far that you wished I asked you but somehow I didn’t ask you. If so, post the question and then the answer?
CODY: That’s very hard, not very creative at the moment.
OWEN: That means I did a good job then, so it’s okay?
CODY: Yeah, you did a great job, definitely.
OWEN: Good. And so I’m talking to you the listener who is listening to this interview all the way to this point. So, if you feel that this interview was valuable, please do us a favor, and actually you’ll be doing us a big deal by going to sweetprocess.com/iTunes. And I want you to leave us a positive review on iTunes, hopefully a 5-star review. And the reason for doing that is by leaving a review, other entrepreneurs will read your review and say, “Wow, why are you leaving a great review for this podcast?” Well, check it out, find the content equally useful, and then basically we’re attracting more eyeballs and listeners to our podcast. And by doing that you’re inspiring us to go out there and get more guests like Cody to come on here and share with you step-by-step the processes and systems behind why they’re successful and why their businesses work without them. And finally, if you’re at that point in your business where you’re tired of being the bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head, and document step-by-step what to do, then sign-up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Hey, Cody, thanks for doing the interview.
CODY: Yeah, thank you very much it was a lot of fun.
OWEN: And we’re done.