OWEN: My guest today is Leon Jay and he’s the CEO of FusionHQ Limited. Leon, welcome to the show.
LEON: Thanks Owen, it’s a pleasure to be here.
OWEN: It’s awesome to have you hear. The show is all about getting entrepreneurs like yourself to systematize their business and have it run successfully with you in your case, and we want to learn how you did that and share that with our listener who’s listening right now. Before we begin I’m wondering, what are some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through that process of systematizing and automating your business?
LEON: Sure. This may surprise a lot of people. It’s not the usual answer that they’re looking for I think but my biggest realization was after having a motorbike accident and smashing into the side of a truck. And at that moment my whole life had to stop. There was nothing I could do, I couldn’t walk, I had to be laid down. And I realized that prior to that incident even though I’ve been focusing on systematization I haven’t really ever properly tested it and I didn’t really fully value the importance of it even though I was going through the motions. I didn’t really fully appreciate how important it was to my life until I actually needed it. And if that happened to me a few years previously I would’ve been in real, real trouble like many other solo-preneurs or self-employed individuals. It would’ve been catastrophic. But I was able to sit back, relax, and just know that things were being taken care of, and that my world didn’t come to an end and I could focus on recovery.
OWEN: Awesome. How will you say your company itself has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?
LEON: Basically, I think the company itself obviously is made up of a lot of individuals, and those individuals don’t necessarily fully appreciate or even are aware of the process that’s taking place around them all of the time. However, what I do find is that as a result of the systems that we put in place they’re able to become more productive and become more efficient. And humans really do appreciate the feeling of being productive. Most people I know really like that sense of satisfaction that they’ve achieved something. And when they can see that they’re achieving more they’re happy with their work and that’s really important. As a company, collectively the ability to scale has been perhaps the most profound effect of all. Because we’re able to stop repeating the mundane tasks, these loops and repetitive actions that we do all the time. Because we’re able to systematize or automate those processes we’re then able to put the manpower into focusing on more important, more engaging, more satisfying tasks.
OWEN: How will you say your personal life has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?
LEON: Really, it’s the sense of freedom. I think that’s being the most overwhelming shift if you will because you know there’s always the sense that you’re having to work and go through the processes. Even if you’re making okay living that’s fine. But the sense that you do because you want to and not because you have to. And that just gives you a sense of freedom, of relaxation, and generally just being more at peace in my life.
OWEN: And so since we have systems in place in the business that allows it to run without you what will you say has been the longest time you’ve actually been away from the business?
LEON: That’s hard to gauge because there’s different levels to that. But the most extreme would be spending a month in the [Unintelligible 00:03:51]. Like a lot of business owners, you get very passionate about the business, you work a lot. And it’s really important to be able to take some proper downtime. So I decided to put things to the real test and just literally disconnect for an entire month with no internet, no communication whatsoever. And free my mind to just enjoy nature and enjoy the world. That was the most intense. But I’ve spent years away much longer than that, either focusing on other projects or travelling. But you’re just communicating on a minimal level, perhaps a few minutes or an hour or two a day at most.
OWEN: Okay, great. Now that we’ve kind of shared the results of what you’ve been able to get so far on systematizing the business. I’m wondering and I’m sure the listener is wondering too, what exactly does your business do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?
LEON: Basically, we actually enable information and affiliate markers to focus on systematizing their businesses. They’re able to create the sales funnels, the sales pages, the [Unintelligible 00:05:05] areas, the affiliate campaigns, the autoresponders, and the autoresponder messages, and take care of everything inside of one platform, and all without the need of any form of technical assistance.
OWEN: So is it that you guys have a software that you provide to the people that sell [Unintelligible 00:05:22] online?
LEON: Yeah. We have an online platform.
OWEN: Okay. I just want to be clear. How many employees do you currently have at this business?
LEON: That fluctuates a lot all of the time. It tends to sit around at about 12, but we’ve gone to as much as 20 or so. And the trouble is I find that it’s an interesting process when you start scaling a business. And when we hit about 6 people we found that that was quite an optimal point. Beyond that we had to restructure our systems, we had to restructure our management to make the new employees more effective, more efficient. And so once we hit around 20 we found that actually we weren’t getting more done. So we cleared out a bunch of the stuff and scaled back to 12 again where there was another sort of shifting point. And so what we tend to do is we tend to try and scale up and then we will find the A players and then we’ll scale back, restructure our systems and then grow again.
OWEN: And since this is a software company, so is it that most of your, correct me if I’m wrong, most of your people are developers, or customer support, I’m just wondering.
LEON: Yeah. Obviously we need to have both. The biggest weight will be in development. We spend far more in development teams than we do for anything else, because that for us is the primary focus. Obviously we have to look after the customers, but development is very labor intensive.
OWEN: Is the company profitable? What will you say was the last year’s annual revenue and what do you expect to do this year?
LEON: Yeah. We tend to keep those numbers very private. We’re a private company, but yes, the answer is we are profitable. We’ve been running now for just over 6 years I guess.
OWEN: And if you would give the listener a range, not necessarily specific but just a gauge so they know what kind of work you guys are doing [Unintelligible 00:07:21] numbers that will be okay too.
LEON: Like I said, we tend to try and keep those fairly closed. But essentially, the other thing is about the profit margin. It’s hard to really put a figure on it because basically we re-invest everything.
OWEN: Okay. So it’s focused on growth. So if you can make it a profit you’re investing it back.
OWEN: [Unintelligible 00:07:50] company too. I understand how it works from that standpoint.
LEON: We’ve made millions in revenue since we started, but to define what part of that is profit is not as clean as people would like to think it is. But the bottom line is we’ve never taken on investor money. We are totally self-sufficient within the business. The company was seeded with my personal cash, previous projects. And then since then it basically grows and reinvests its own revenues over time.
OWEN: I understand. We’re talking about where the company is right now to kind, what you enjoy as a result of systematizing your business, but I’m sure it’s not always like this. Take us back to when the business was not systematized and automated like it is now. What was wrong with it then?
LEON: I think you make a very valid point and that’s that people always seem to think that systemization is a very conscious process and for me that conscious process was due to way too many mistakes and way too many experiences where it just simply stressed me not having a system in place. Basically my original was like many entrepreneurs was to try and do everything myself. That I found didn’t really work. There’s simply not enough hours in a day and I’m simply not skilled enough on different tasks to manage it especially a software business. Then I started trying to use outsources to get the job done. Obviously say outsource, outsource, outsource. The problem was I found that again…
OWEN: Just so the listener know what that is. You’re trying to outsource the work so you kind of work with people who are not necessarily employees but you outsource like third party.
LEON: Sure. So people we [Unintelligible 00:09:48] websites at that time like Elance and what have you. And basically you’re looking for short-term contracted people that you never meet. They’re there just to make a buck and they’re not really invested in your project. It’s very difficult to systematize those. There are exceptions so don’t get me wrong. There’ll be people here listening and going, “But I use an outsourcer and they’re great… system in place.” And I say that’s absolutely brilliant. But when you really try to grow and scale the business then you need to start being more serious and start trying to have more in-house employees. And I just found that things became far more efficient when everybody sat in a room together and you could just look over somebody’s shoulder and say, “Sorry, you misunderstood me. Can we change that?” Or they know each other, they can see when somebody’s not at work and they’re not waiting for a response because they know that person hasn’t come in that day for whatever reason. Things just work far more efficiently when you have a smaller, closed loop system.
OWEN: So you went from trying to work with outsources and then trying to, basically, having in-house as employees. And I’m wondering when you made that move also what would you say kind of the things that we’re not even right with that from a systemization standpoint at that point when you’re moving to work with the employees?
LEON: There was a lot of learning curve. In the early days I lost many projects. Like many entrepreneurs I’m a serial entrepreneur and that means I’ve created many projects and a lot of them have failed. And the reason they failed is because of this lack of systematization and becoming overwhelmed and not being able to cope, but being efficient within the business to be able to scale and grow properly. When we started hiring people in-house, again, it was a new learning curve. Really, I think communication is key. There’s the ability to communicate ideas between people and have systems in place so that people know what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. I think is just absolutely critical otherwise confusion and mistakes are made.
OWEN: What specific point, the point you said you’re hiring your employees in-house? Do you remember a specific instance where we go to the point where I literally have to change everything so I can so I can take a little more. Was there a specific situation or something that happened that we can talk about?
LEON: Yeah. Basically everybody looks for that one moment. And then you think they had one moment that was just… That was the turning point if you will that was the whole sequence of aha moments over the years. And that’s just the honest truth. But there has been moments where just that sense of clarity where I realize that really there’s only two ways to systematize anything, and that’s teams or technology. That’s the bottom line. You could only systematize something by using other people or by using some type of machine. And typically with internet businesses that would be computers running the software. That software runs systems and that’s what computers are, they’re systems. So they’re just perfectly designed for this process of systematization and automation. People on the other hand, they’re a little tricky.
LEON: Because they have their own minds and sometimes it’s a very good thing and sometimes that could be problematic. And then driven by emotion as much as they are logic. Whereas computers they’re devoid of the emotion so they can run logic processes very, very easily. People on the other hand, they need a little bit more guidance. And obviously it depends on each of role. Every role has its unique challenges. But just from a stereotypical overview perspective, SOP’s are perhaps the most important thing that most businesses can learn to try and develop. And that’s a standard operating procedure for those who are not familiar.
OWEN: Yeah. And just to kind of give the summary of what you’ve been talking about so far. The first one was you initially started doing everything yourself, start working with outsources, people you are outsourcing the work, independent contractors. You realize that it wasn’t what you want them to be to kind of institution where you’re hiring in-house. Then you realize that from a management standpoint you had to really set more details about what you wanted them to do and really get it off the ground with the employees. So what will you say now is very important after hiring people? What will you say was the second step to systematize the business?
LEON: The real… I think is to become conscious and start looking at your business. So one of the things that I did was to map out everything. Write down the current flow for basically each department. What’s their expectations, what are their roles, what’s the input, what’s the output?
OWEN: And at that time, I just want to give the listeners insight into this. You say you mapped out the roles of the department but if you were just starting at that time wasn’t it you that will handle all that stuff?
LEON: Yes. And that’s real critical point, is that any business is multiple departments. It doesn’t matter how simple your business is, if you’re just selling eBooks it doesn’t matter, you still have content creation, you still have traffic generation. You still have copywriting, and you still have to clean your office. Even the smallest possible business has multiple departments from graphics, to video creation, to traffic generation, etc. Even if you’re a single individual it doesn’t matter, you have to be able to think about your business in terms of the multiple roles and the different inputs and outputs for each of those. Now, when you are on your own this is a really, really good wake up call. Because when you write it down on paper, when you get a big piece of paper and you draw all of these out and then you write down the name of the person whose role it is to fill that responsibility, you start realizing how crazy you are to try and do it all alone. It’s just madness. And especially if you start trying to figure out how many hours do I need to spend. Let’s say you want a scale your business, let’s say you want to triple your business. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to triple the number of hours in each of those roles but there’s a very good chance that you would definitely need to increase the amount of hours needed for each of those different positions. That’s just simply not possible. So that’s when you have to start realizing and ask yourself the question, question number one, can I get technology to do this for me? Quite often you’ll find the answer is yes. If I get technology to either make this faster or simply carry out the task for me, and if so then which is the best technology to use and how do I go around implementing that. Once you’ve got that taken care of then you can start asking the question, if I can’t get technology to do it who else can I get to fulfill this task? Because at the end of the day if you don’t do that then your business is always going to be reliant on you. You will always be your single point of failure in your business. Because if anything happens to you, if you end up having a motorbike accident for example then one day you’ll suddenly wake up and you realize that your business is over because you were the single point of failure and you failed even if it wasn’t your fault.
OWEN: I’m glad you explained it like this. During the pre-interview you mentioned how the second step you took was to get steps together for some of the early tasks. That was basically you mind mapping what you were doing for the different departments, right?
LEON: Yeah, exactly.
OWEN: Take it from there.
LEON: Basically at the early days I was doing everything, from hacking pieces of code to doing the graphics. And what I realized was that I couldn’t focus on the things that I enjoy to do which made business very stressful because you end up procrastinating over for those task that need to be done but you don’t like. We’re all human. And that’s a huge challenge. To realize that I needed to start finding people that were passionate about the areas of the business that I wasn’t passionate about. And basically starting to put together a system for replacing myself through technology and through better teams. It’s just about a case of refining over time. You have to constantly keep reevaluating. And I think this is one of those important concepts that you need to understand as a business owner is this isn’t something that just happens overnight. It’s a mindset that you need to adopt on a daily basis throughout your business, or at least to be reevaluated every two to four weeks. I will suggest to reevaluate the business especially in the early days as you’re growing faster, perhaps when you get a lot larger you got better systems in place, you can reevaluate it as frequently. But in the early days you want to be constantly reevaluating your business looking for opportunities and asking yourself, “What task am I doing today? Could I automate this? How can I systematize this?” Because there’s always a way. And whatever excuse you come up with, it’s just an excuse because somebody else has managed to do it. And I said maybe through technology or maybe through teams.
OWEN: And another thing you also mentioned during the pre-interview was, because we asked what other steps did you take to systematize the system about setting the autoresponder. Talk about that and how that played a role.
LEON: Sure. Basically, the autoresponder is something that I’m sure many people on this call will be familiar with. It’s just simply automated email. I think it’s perhaps the most undervalued aspect of automation in any business because ultimately it’s the point that you can create a maximum leverage.
OWEN: How so?
LEON: If you can start collecting leads, now whether that’s a prospect who never get bored or whether that’s customers who’ve bought a front-end product or entertaining product then ultimately those leads can go into a funnel that’s automated. That is the sequence of email going out to those people are targeted and relevant to the point that they joined. So if they haven’t bought a product yet obviously we’re looking to build a relationship and we are looking to then sell your own product or services, or perhaps promote affiliate products or services later on to add more revenue to the bottom line. You’re looking to upsell that customer perhaps to either higher priced services or products that you may have, or as I say, perhaps promote affiliate products. The other thing that you can use an auto responder for is to systematize and automate content delivery. So by drip feeding content or a course you can add a lot more value and information product by making it a course over a period of time. But once it’s set-up that’s the beautiful thing, is that it’s fully automated. It just keeps running day in and day out, month after month, year after year. And it was just so many opportunities for leveraging autoresponders both in terms of delivering content, building relationships. Even requesting traffic from your existing day to days by encouraging to share content or refer friends. And of course by automating promotions, you can do evergreen launches or simply follow up promotions. There’s just so many different ways you can use an autoresponder and once it’s set-up properly you could just keep tweaking it over time but it’s something that’ll keep delivering revenue to your business on a perpetually ongoing basis.
OWEN: What I get from that too is that because the customer you’re referring who’s your customer now has to go through different stages. One part of the stage is they’re not even a customer yet. They’re probably a prospect having that issue that your service solves and then because they signed up for something that’s offered for free then they become a customer. This autoresponder thing you’re talking about is just making sure that at each stage the person is in that flow of the funnel that you have predictable communication with them that is also helpful to them but it’s also the same regardless of who they are in each of the different customers through the funnel.
LEON: Exactly. And the great thing is that if you use a good autoresponder you’re able to filter those leads and send them into different directions in each step.
OWEN: Based on their action or inaction, right?
LEON: Exactly. So if they don’t open your email two or three times in a row perhaps you could send them down a different funnel than somebody who bought your product or service on the very first email. The emails that you are sending out at those points they become inactive after a certain point depending on how interactive that particular audience is and which path they choose to take. So if you are very conscious of this and you set-up proper systems and think about it in the same way with… If I were a sales person and I was talking to this individual face-to-face what would I want to say based on what they’ve told or what action they’ve just taken? If you set-up an autoresponder in that way that enables that filtration process and that communication to become more and more personalized over the course of your interaction with that prospect then you can increase your ROI. You can increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.
OWEN: You talked about all the different things you did just to kind of get the business to the point where it was systematized, and I’m wondering back then how did you even prioritize what order of steps to take? How did you decide what systems you create first, what’s your next. Was there a rhyme or reason? How were you doing it?
LEON: There was rhyme and reason. Which is the biggest fire today? Which fire if I don’t put it out right now is going to mean inevitable collapse. I guess that’s the honest truth isn’t it really. As much as I would like to say that it was much more calculated and everything else, more intelligently done, the truth is it was an emergency response system.
OWEN: Yeah. One of the things I loved that you said during the pre-interview is that you said the demand actually drove the creation of the systems.
LEON: Exactly. That’s precisely correct. It was literally the demand on a daily basis that dictated the choices that we made. And even the way that we developed our software, the way that we developed our company, the way that we developed systems inside of the business, absolutely everything was as a response to demand. Yes, I’ve got some experience in the past, I had some idea. But every business is unique, every business is different, and we’re always constantly learning. So trying to be aware of that and recognize that you’re not perfect, you’re not going to know it all. You may have an idea, you may have an intention, you may think you have the perfection of what you should be focusing on. But the most intelligent person is the person who realizes that it’s just a guess. And unless they listen and really watch what’s going on around them and respond to that… And some people stay on this fixed course. They say, “I know best. I knew what I was starting out. I’m going to stay on and I’m going to keep focusing on this.” And they just kind of stick their head in the sand and ignore the dramas and the reality that’s going around them. I think to be constantly conscious and actually talking to your team, looking at the numbers, and listening to your customers, and seeing the way that demand actually is and putting your focus there is extremely important. And over time if you are conscious about putting systems in place then those fires will be put out and they will take care of themselves in the future. And by doing that slowly, piece by piece you put in systems, and eventually you end up with a complete company that is systematized.
OWEN: How exactly then did you document procedures and processes for the business and what tools did you even use?
LEON: We were fairly fortunate and as much as the fact that we were a coding team at the very core…
OWEN: [Unintelligible 00:27:40] delivering a product which is a software.
LEON: Exactly. And so basically a large part of our team were programmers, which meant that we tended to have a “we will do it ourselves attitude.” Obviously, that’s not true for everything. There’s a lot of pieces of software that we’d outsource. You can’t build everything yourself even as a programming team. But what we did do was build a lot of the tools that we wanted to see ourselves for our own business and we would build that into our software. Because basically we used our own software to market ourselves. We used our own software to run our own business. And so every time we came up against a challenge and say if we’re facing this challenge that means our customers are probably facing the same challenge. Why don’t we find the solution to it and we’ll code that into our software? Or code a little script that will enable that part of our business and take care of it for us. And so that was a very core part of our business and obviously it’s not going to be suitable for everybody. But ultimately most people if you recognize an opportunity even for me in one of my very early businesses I was instilling content management scripts for customers and recognize that instilling them manually was taking my time. So then I hired an outsourcer to do it but then I realized that I was paying for his time and it was taking time to send out the request, wait for him to complete it and send it back. So then I hired a coder to actually create an auto install script tool. And it cost almost nothing but once it was done it meant that it literally took about 60 seconds to install a script that was basically taking about nearly an hour to do manually. And over a period of time the payback on that became phenomenal. So even if you don’t have a coding team recognize it there’s a lot of ways that you can. If you get the idea, just put a request out and somebody out there will help you find a solution.
OWEN: You also mentioned something about having a wiki. What role did that play as well?
LEON: Obviously there’s a lot of questions particularly with new staff. So we have questions from customers and we have questions from internal staff. And in both places basically you can take two approaches. One is to simply try and answer the question every time somebody asks it, somebody who knows the answer, and get them to give the answer to the person asking. Or you can recognize that there’s a lot of repeated questions and simply start creating a wiki or an FAQ system that will enable people to search for the answers they want. And of course that creates a system that is now run by technology and reduces the pressures on staff and the costs around that.
OWEN: What was the determinant to decide whether, “Should I create a wiki entry for the answer to this question?” Was it like after the same question has been asked how many times…?
LEON: Yeah. We tend to try and basically make it a process that if you got to asked once it went in the system.
OWEN: Just once?
LEON: Right. Because basically if it gets asked once you have to answer it once. So why not answer it inside the wiki and then they’re not guessing. You don’t need a system to calculate and say, “Did that one come up three times?” The process and the labor required to calculate did a question get asked three times, then you’ve got to calculate how was it asked? Was it asked exactly the same way, etc. So instead of doing that we just said, if a question is being asked then chances are it would be asked again, whether it’s now or whether it’s later. And of course you have staff change, etc., the person who may know the answer today they may not be there tomorrow. And so rather than take that risk it’s really important to have a document to catalog as many answers as you could possibly get. So when somebody asks the question that’s an opportunity for you to systematize and answer.
OWEN: Okay. And that time when you were working on systematizing and automating your business what books or mentors had the most influence on you and why?
LEON: That’s a tricky question because I studied so many books on marketing and business but very, very few on systematization. I think that in retrospect that’s a real shame. One of the things I would do obviously to encourage all of your listeners is to go and find some really good books on systematization. I didn’t have that benefit, which is why it probably took me way longer than it should’ve done because of course if I’d have got some decent guidance then perhaps I’d have figured this out much sooner. One of my favorite books has always been Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity not because it’s a technical manual on how to do things but because it’s an insight into how to think and act like a billionaire. He’s really, really passionate about finding the right people to put into place. Again, somebody asked me before, “How do you systematize?” And the answer is actually I don’t systematize that much. I found somebody else who knows how to do it and get them to do that. Because putting SOP’s into place for example [Unintelligible 00:33:25]. It just isn’t. And I might be able to do it. I’m intelligent enough to try and figure it out but I’m not the best person for the job. Rather than trying to save a bargain and try to do a half professional job why not just get somebody who knows what they’re doing to do it properly?
OWEN: And we’ll dive into that a little because the thing is on hand there’s employees who are doing the work and then there’s you. So in your case how were you getting employees to contribute to the creation if the standard operating procedures, or did you have someone separately different whose job was just to make sure that these things were created?
LEON: Exactly. It’s a little of both. These days I don’t really get involved with it at all. It’s now self-running in that regard. But one of the early processes before we could actually afford to hire somebody the team was too small to really look at somebody to really focus on that. It’s about educating your employees to think in that way. And this is something they will be trained in, this isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. So we had to sit down and have a few team meetings that looked out and said, “Look, these are the problems we’re having. This is the solution to those problems on an ongoing basis.” Each individual is then encouraged to look for opportunities to document and systematize their various tasks into thinking that way.
OWEN: Okay. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. So from the standpoint of being an employee now you’re showing how you get your work done, that make you replaceable. What’s the incentive?
LEON: Yes and no. Obviously for example with a coder. A coder is never replaceable. Customer support in my mind is not replaceable. You can minimize the pressure on those individuals but you can’t replace those individuals. And even for example with graphics there was a tendency for a lot of graphics or video guys to go out there and just simply try to create everything themselves. “Why don’t you just use something like VideoHive or iStock and utilize pre-made graphics, pre-made template, etc. that is essentially part of the system. There’s an initial resistance because they said, “I’m not doing it. What’s the point to me?” I said, “I still need somebody to edit those things. I still need somebody to be creative with those resources.” Once they get their head around the fact that their job is not under threat. Even the programmers when we first started out and said, “If we create the system for you go out and build all your websites why will you need us?” Because once we get to that level it means we can now play at a higher level.
OWEN: I like that though because what I’m hearing from that is if you’re going through that situation where you’re finding some push back make sure that they understand that by systematizing the business it allows them to play at a higher level without being down… Now they’re going to the next level of their career where they actually get to be more creative.
LEON: Precisely, and they get to focus on new things. Hopefully you’re hiring the right people. Of course this is the caveat to this. Because if you have a low level, if you have a C player that can’t really thinking beyond their current level, they don’t want to be challenged, they don’t want to grow, they don’t want anything. They just want to be able to sit down and install WordPress scripts all day for example, they don’t want to go beyond that. Well then perhaps you hired the wrong person. Being able to introduce this level of thinking is almost a test as to whether or not you have the right people in your team.
OWEN: Yeah. Because the A player is thinking of “How am I going to go to the next level in my career?” And if you can show that A player logically why this will help them do that then it’s just [Unintelligible 00:37:31]
LEON: You can see the excitement. When you get there suddenly their eyes light up and they’re like, “Wow, I don’t have to spend my whole life just doing what I already know, I can grow, I can learn more, I can develop more, I can be more productive, I can contribute more.” And they get excited by that. And that’s really, really cool to see.
OWEN: Here’s the thing now, this conversation, if we keep talking all the things you did and the successes you have and we don’t talk about the challenges I feel like we don’t round the conversation correctly. It gives the impression that it’s just all roses. What will you say were the biggest challenges that you experienced when you initially tried to systematize the business and how did you solve some of these biggest challenges?
LEON: This again is a very good point because if you read sales pages out there all day long then so many marketers are trying to make it sound like business is so easy and it’s all roses. Of course it’s not. If you’re not prepared for a fight, if you’re not prepared for a challenge then go and become an employee in a mediocre job at best. You have to adapt the mindset and the attitude that life and business in particular is going to throw out a lot of challenges at you. Some of the biggest ones, finding the right software knowing there are so many solutions out there for each different challenge, let’s say an autoresponder or a content management system whatever it might be. There are so many solutions out there today and none of them are perfect. That’s the bottom line truth. Even the solutions we make they’re not perfect, nobody’s solution is. And no solution is going to fit every single person’s need either. So trying to find and identify what are your specific needs and then find the best solution to that, that was a huge challenge. But, again, if you don’t overcome that challenge you won’t move forward. [Unintelligible 00:39:28], again that’s another huge challenge. A lot of people I speak to say, “I tried hiring people, I tried partnering with people, it didn’t work.” I was like, “Yeah. What’s your point?” “It didn’t work.” “So?” “I just find it easy to do it all myself.” “I’m sorry. That means you’re going to get stuck against the brick wall. If you don’t overcome this challenge and recognize that you will make mistakes, you will choose the wrong software, you will choose the wrong people. It’s not if, it’s just when. And understanding that that’s part of the process and learning to deal with that, that can be quite challenging at times.
OWEN: Was the way of solving those too more of a stick it through and figure out kind of thing?
LEON: Yeah, exactly. In our case we through a few hundred thousand dollars and build around a software, and hire a lot of the wrong people and had to fire a lot of the wrong people to find the right people. And that was just hard work. There’s no other way around it. It’s part of the process.
OWEN: I get that too because for instance using the example of the hiring side, you learn from how you hire the wrong person the last time, and you take those learnings and use it for the next hiring to now know, “this is how I identify for this very role who’s right. Is by doing that, being in the market, making the mistakes and learning it that’s how you take the learnings to improve. I get how sticking it through helped you solve those two challenges. The other challenge you mentioned during the pre-interview was you said specifically one of the biggest challenges from a CEO’s perspective is linking it all together. Can you talk about that?
LEON: It’s sometimes easy to focus on a single process, or a single department, or a single task. Okay, that’s great. But the problem is a company even a one-man operation business isn’t a single process. It’s not a single task.
OWEN: It’s multiple parts, yeah.
LEON: Exactly. It’s heaps of parts that are all working and moving together. To try and coordinate that particularly across different departments. For example one of the biggest challenges that we had was marketing and software development. They’ve both got different time agendas, they both got different mindsets, they’ve got different attitudes. The challenges of course they can be often a little bit of a battle internally where individuals start feeling like it’s us against them. And you’ve got to move past that, you’ve got to find a solution to that and recognize that that’s just of human nature to some degree and bring it back and say, “We are working together. We have to find a way. We’re not working against each other. The only way that any of us succeed by working cohesively as a single unit in the bigger picture. We may operate as individual unit but ultimately we’re working collectively as a single unit. And when people understand that and learn to adopt that mentality it comes a lot easier. But of course there’s still always challenges. And it’s just really about becoming conscious and, again, focusing on each challenge one at a time and trying to find the best of the best solution you possibly can. And it’s probably never going to be perfect but it keeps improving systematically over time.
OWEN: Given all those challenges that you mentioned and having to go through it several times before you figured it out. I just want to know why did you even stay committed to this goal of systematizing your business?
LEON: Because I had to face the realization that it was the only intelligent way to do things.
OWEN: How so?
LEON: If I didn’t do that then it may have been cheaper, it may have been simpler in a long term to ignore systematization. But in the long term it meant that my business would never grow. It meant that I would always be working in it, it meant that I would always be putting out fires, it meant that I would always be struggling and facing headaches, and having nobody else take care of them, not having proper systems to make them simpler and smoother. And the idea of building a business and being stuck in that business for your entire life because you’re unable to sell it, you’re unable to do anything with it, it’s unable to grow, and all you’re doing is struggling to make ends meet purely because you were afraid of facing the challenges of systematization. That’s just not who I am.
OWEN: So you went with the option that will let you achieve those goals. Let’s bring the story more to recent times. I’m wondering at what point in time in the story now did you get to the point where you feel like you had systematized the entire business and it could actually run without you successfully. Do you remember what point in time that was?
LEON: The big realization was the motor bike accident. That was definitely the “Aha.” Could I leave the business at that point? Probably not. There’s still a lot that I needed to input to see the vision grow where you like it to be. But I didn’t need to be involved in the business, and that was a critical turning point. That was a probably about 3 to 4 years into the business. It certainly wasn’t overnight but more recently I’ve been involved with a few other projects that have gotten me very excited and properly mold where I want to be for the future. And so knowing that that’s my current passion and my focus then I haven’t been spending anywhere near as much time and that’s been really great to know that the business is running even though I’m pursuing other goals.
OWEN: Awesome. Now let’s come to more recent times, what will you say are the different parts of your business and the specific systems that you have in each part? So just to make that question clear imagine your business as kind of like a conveyor belt. On one point is a prospect who has a problem that your business solves, and then on the part is that person now is no longer a prospect or lead. He’s actually a customer and he’s raving and telling everybody about you guys, how you guys solved that problem. But behind the scenes in your company there are different parts and systems making that transformation happen. And I want to give the listeners kind of a behind the scenes of what’s happening in your business to make that happen.
LEON: Sure. If you look at the big picture, really the first entry point to a business is when the customer enters it. And so from that perspective we looked at lead acquisition and how we could automate lead acquisition. I love affiliates for that for example because affiliates will go out and do a lot of the hard work for you and send you the leads, and you’re only paying on results. So that’s an example of how you can actually automate and systematize lead acquisition. The second point is capturing that lead and then building a relationship with them. So we talked about the autoresponders obviously, and so we really utilize autoresponders a lot in that process. Next, once we’ve tried to establish and build a relationship with that person, we want to build the trust so that we can ultimately encourage them or build up strength in those relationships efficiently so that they will end up wanting to buy with us at some point. And that maybe a lot longer period of time but trust is very, very critical. So, again, looking at ways we can automate and systematize the trust building process. Then of course it’s conversions. So we need to convert that prospect into a customer. Because we have the evergreen sales funnel processes and our autoresponders. We go out and we run promotions when we feel that we’ve built or established enough rapport and trust building with a new prospect. Again, that’s all automated. And once you’ve actually sold that customer obviously you’ve got to follow up with them in terms of delivering the product, delivering training, delivering support, and then eventually finally on selling other products or services when the time is right.
OWEN: Okay. Since we’re talking about currently how things work I’m wondering what systems do you have in place right now that enable your employees know all that they need to regarding the task for their job?
LEON: Yes. I mentioned earlier about SOP’s, the standard operating procedures, so really this is just a checklist and defining clearly the different roles within the business and the different positions. And then having procedures to follow that say, “in the case that this happens then what do you do.” You want to start with the main tasks. This is really, really important for hiring, when you hire somebody new. It’s the training process massively and reduces the load on other team members because they have systems that they can follow. So if you can try and write it out in that respect, say, if I had to hire a new person for this position how could I give them all of the information that they need to fulfill that position with as little input from any other person in the business as possible.
OWEN: And during the pre-interview you also have Trello for communicating the between support and programming department. Talk about that.
LEON: Trello for those who are not familiar with it is basically a piece of software that everybody can access. It’s web-based, Cloud-based platform and just has little tasks. They have cards so you can write out cards or communications. Anybody can log in and see that task and so you can catalog and organize. And so when somebody’s completed the task they can then move into a different column so that everybody else can see that that task is now been complete and done. We do use Trello a lot.
OWEN: …for task management and communication, okay. And then you said that programmers already know what they need to do. How so?
LEON: We use a system called Scrum, that’s a very popular programming management system. You can actually use it a lot for your own task, you can use in any department.
OWEN: Can you give the non-programmer a very brief understanding of what Scrum is just in case.
LEON: Yeah. Basically you outline the tasks that need to be done. You then organize it in terms of what are we focusing on now, coming soon. And then who is doing what, what is under testing, and then what is complete. So we have different columns. We have it on a giant, great, big white board and then everything on post-it notes so we can see what tasks are needing to be done, what’s a priority and they will have a meeting called a Scrum where they come down and they identify the tasks. They then choose which tasks they’re going to be focused on. That task then gets moved into their, “Okay, I’m doing it column.” So anybody can walk in at any moment, see exactly who’s working on which task right now. They can see which tasks have been completed and which are under review or under testing, and then which have been signed off, complete, and made live. It really does create a lot of efficiency and focus within the programming team.
OWEN: Yeah. During the pre-interview you also mentioned something else you guys have which is an onboarding program for new programmers as well as onboarding for new support people. Talk about that.
LEON: This really comes back to an SOP really. Essentially when any new staff member joins then through experience we’re doing the challenges that they’re likely to face. We’ve learned the questions that they’re likely to be asking. And so we have systems in place. Obviously, we need to, for example, set-up a Trello account. We need to be able to set-up access to the software. We need to be able to give them permissions. And so, there’s like a little checklist that we know, “Make sure that they’re given a company email address, they’re given a Trello account, etc.” And so there’s an initiation process that takes place and that’s handled by the designated individual within that department at that time. And then they will then handhold that person through the initial tasks, introduce them to their SOP’s so that they can then [Unintelligible 00:52:40]. For example with customer support, the easiest thing to take care of is maybe a refund request or some simple tasks. And as they learn the system then they can become more useful as they’re able to answer more and more advanced questions.
OWEN: I like that because on one hand you have the SOP’s, the standard operating procedures that are just referenced but then this is an actual training program that someone is dedicated to training that new person who’s joining a specific team and going through all those things that you documented. Giving them access to what they need to get access to in order for them to actually do the work. It’s kind of like onboarding of customers but onboarding, employee-focused.
LEON: Yeah. And before we did that the challenge was of course that we would hire somebody and we’d find that really they were just not very productive for about a month or two before they kind of like absorb enough information to figure it out. Because everybody was just running around, being busy, trying to get on with what they’re doing and there was no real responsibility about whose role it is to ensure that this individual becomes a productive member of the team.
OWEN: Since we’re talking about present stuff I want to know how do you track and verify the results that the employees you have are currently delivering?
LEON: Yeah, that’s a very, very important question I guess. And something that I guess we really didn’t do well for a very long time, and it’s something I see a lot of other businesses just avoiding completely. But it all comes down to metrics. And so we have to figure out what are the important metrics for each department. And of course this is going to be unique to each individual department. So with programming it may be how many lines of code they write would be an obvious one, but actually that’s not that useful. So we had to start looking at different ways to measure the metrics. So what’s the complexity of the task that they’re working on and how many points of complexity are they able to complete within on day. As an example, obviously, metrics such as how many hours do they spend in the office productively is another interesting metric to measure. And with customer support how many tickets can they answer, how quickly is the response, what’s the customer satisfaction rating to those responses. So you can break down metrics into more and more precise numbers, and that gives you a really good idea as to which areas of your business really need some attention and focus.
OWEN: What I get from this whole thing of creating key performance indicators or metrics is really like looking at that specific role and finding the main metrics that you want from that department so that you can track it on an ongoing basis. But then the tracking of that thing is also tied down to the main goal of what the company is trying to achieve. It’s not just random metrics.
LEON: Precisely. Ultimately everybody I’m sure has heard of the 80/20 Principle. The 80/20 Principle is all great in theory but how do you actually apply it? If you don’t have the metrics you can’t see where the areas of maximum potential of leverage for growth are. By having those metrics you can sit down and say… Let’s say for example customer satisfaction is really, really down on customer support tickets. If you can see eight days to answer a ticket you probably got an idea why people are not that happy. You could sit down and try and improve the quality of the response, but really the response time is the issue or is the biggest likely issue. And so you can go, “What can we do to reduce that response time down to not just an acceptable level but an above average level. And now of course we’re going to see a huge improvement in customer satisfaction immediately without even having to approve the quality of any answer.
OWEN: Now that you have more free time in the business because it’s systematized I’m wondering which areas of the business you focus on now and why?
LEON: As I mentioned earlier I like to be able to look from my business with fresh eyes, so I like to try and get out of it as much as possible so that I can see it from a different perspective. So I like go out with a motorbike ride. I love kayaking. I moved to New Zealand and live on the water and it’s just beautiful to spend time in nature, to really absorb that natural energy in the world to really appreciate what we have. And that just gives me so much more energy and passion for what I do. Working on other business opportunities that are a little bit… My kind of current pet focus for the day if you will. So I still love to chase and explore new ideas, but with the knowledge that everything is running in the background and I can go in now and be a lot more productive in much shorter bursts because I can get these ideas from outside. And now I can hand them over to my team and let them action.
OWEN: What will you say is the next stage of growth for your business, what do you place to achieve next, and why?
LEON: At the moment we have a program underway to make our platform available in multiple languages. We see a lot of companies focused very much in the US or within at least the English speaking markets. That’s a real shame because there’s so much growth particularly within Asia right now. And I believe Africa’s not going to be too far behind either. And these markets are hugely underutilized. And there’s just so much potential there. There’s just masses of potential. And so because we’re English speaking we tend to neglect these other opportunities. And usually it’s just because people put it in the too hard basket. “I don’t speak that language so therefore I can’t do it”, which is crazy. It just means you need to build better teams and you can achieve anything.
OWEN: So it’s a [Unintelligible 00:59:13] for you guys. That’s the next plan. I like that. As we come to the end of the interview the listeners listening all the way to this point, if you’re to summarize what they have to do and give them a quick next step that they have to take to systematize their business so it starts running without them, what would you say…?
LEON: I think the first thing to do is map out everything, as I mentioned earlier mind map. Get a huge a whiteboard or some big pieces of flip chart paper or something and just start designing your business as it is now, or writing or mapping out your business as it is now, the different departments, the different individuals, the different processes, what have you within your business. The moment you do that you can see things visually. It makes like so much easier to realize what you need to focus on and what you need to work on. The next thing is to adopt an attitude of starting to replace yourself for each of the different tasks as we mentioned earlier, either through technology or through teams. It will be something as simple as having your kid to clean your office for you and give them a little extra pocket money or whatever it may be. Adopting that mindset and then scaling it up and growing it so you look for opportunities instead of simply saying, “I can do that.” And just doing it automatically. Take the opportunity to say that needs to be done, who or what can I do get to do that for me. And when you start adopting that pattern and that behavior that’s when you’ll start seeing things change.
OWEN: I’m wondering. Is there a question that you were wishing I would’ve asked you during this interview that I didn’t ask you? Go ahead and ask the question and post the answer as well.
LEON: I think that to be asked what do people need to do, that would be to become conscious about the business, to make more of an effort. I think that’s really important. And of course being a marketer, how to find out more about is me is always a good question to be asked. Basically if you want to learn more about these principles that I’ve been talking about in my personal journey and realizations and ideas for the business my latest book which was Create, Automate, Accelerate, that covers a lot more about the concepts that I’ve been talking about and how people can learn more really.
OWEN: Let me ask you the question in a much more clearer and precise way. What will you say is the best way for the listeners to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?
LEON: Basically, go to Amazon and grab a copy of Create, Automate, Accelerate. That would be an awesome way to find out a lot more, or just go to leonjay.info to find out more about me and the businesses that I’m involved with.
OWEN: Awesome. I’m speaking to you the listener right now. You’ve been listening all the way to this point and I want to thank you for listening so far. The thing is if you enjoyed the interview I want you to do us a favor and go ahead and leave us an honest review on iTunes. To do that go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes. It will redirect you to our iTunes page. The reason we want your feedback is the more reviews we get the more other entrepreneurs can get to know about us, and we get more audience, and that’s good for everybody. If you’re at that stage in your business where you are tired of being the bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what to do with you and you want to be able to delegate properly to your employees, consider signing up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Leon, thanks for doing the interview.
LEON: My pleasure Owen.
OWEN: And we’re done.
LEON: Yeah, thanks for that. It’s awesome.