In August 2018, I launched BW Missions with a fresh set of ideas in mind after my previous startup ended on a less favorable note than I’d hoped.
There was just one issue, but it was a big one: I had no idea what I was going to sell.
Allen Gannett initially launched my website for me. Thanks to his industry renown and the invested audience base he’s established, a single post on my new platform received 100,000+ views.
This same one post led to some major first wins:
- 33 leads and phone calls
- Inquiries that converted into my first 4 clients
- The credibility and connections I needed to confidently launch my brand
At the time of launch, I was recovering from shoulder surgery, $8K in debt, and honestly pretty scared, but had High Hopes, by Panic! At The Disco playing on repeat.
I had no idea what the company was going to specialize in, what products we were going to offer, or how to productize them in a repeatable way with consistent results.
Even in my darkest moments of doubt, I never relinquished my firm belief in myself or in my team once we had one. I knew that I could build a business with the help of the experts I’d come to know by leveraging the content, community, and digital marketing skills I’ve been building over the past 5 years.
Here’s where BW Missions stands today, in Q3 2019:
- 2 Full-Time Employees, 10+ subcontractors
- Ignited 31 Missions for different clients, 55 proposals sent, with an 80% renewal rate
- 478,254+ LinkedIn views
- 10 Newsletters sent to thousands of people
- A podcast called “One Away” that is set to launch in October
- Moved into an office of our own at Industrious HQ
- Grew to a 6-figures in revenue within the first 9 months
- We went from being in debt financially to being cash-flow positive in 6 months.
On paper, the highlight reel feels fantastic. I have so many things that I’m proud of, but what I really want to share comes down to the factors that equipped us to build a better business that yields consistent results.
I constantly ask myself this question: “How do I turn my skill sets into a scalable business to transcend my own impact to other meaningful missions?”
Below, I’m going to share everything I have learned to help you – the entrepreneur – and share the vulnerable road I’ve been traveling.
INTENTIONAL SERVICES AND FOCUSED CLIENTS
Why did I start this business? After building a platform 4 years ago with the intent to amplify everyday voices and build a community that cares. I’ve learned how to leverage the social platforms in front of us to create movements, build communities, and spread voices that matter.
Executing on this demands a very specific set of skills.
Marketing is a broad field. People market big brands, are community leaders, video editing specialists, are ad specialists, branding, event promoters, and at the end of the day, we all fall into the domain of Marketers.
Here’s the thing about marketing that no one ever tells you: the field has so many different components to it that it’s impossible to quantify the number of specialized sub-categories and applicable skill sets that match each one.
When we first started, we focused on doing one thing really well: Building digital communities.
Here’s the combination of resources we utilized to do so:
- A variety of social platforms
- Various email tools
- Effective content creation
The deeper we’ve delved into this area, the more insights we’ve uncovered, like unexpected areas where clients need help, ways to expand our service offerings and product lines, and how to find highly talented people with sharp and focused skill sets. As we scaled, we’ve moved from a couple generalists to a full team of specialists.
The other side of the coin is how we use these skills with the clients we serve. Our clients are primarily mission-driven.
I ask every client we take on the same question: “If this voice is furthered, how will it impact the people who hear it?”
Before we say “yes” to a new contract, we ensure the client’s goals align with our internal purpose as a business.
Establishing this alignment also helps paint a clear picture of who not to take on. We’ve never wanted to target big brands in the standard sectors like restaurants or stores. That wouldn’t make sense for us and our model.
Instead, BW Missions has always, and always will, target the real people behind their companies who have meaningful messages that can positively impact others.
In short, our “services” are simply the tools we use to spread missions further.
Know who you are serving, what you’re providing them, and the mission you’re building your business around before you start. Most entrepreneurs design a business model and jump right in before clearly defining these two critical components.
BUILDING PRODUCTS IN A SERVICE-BASED BUSINESS
When we first launched a year ago, I had no idea what we were going to “sell” as I had never built a services business. I took a bunch of phone calls and really tried to determine the needs of the people on the other end of the phone.
From there, I started to double down on doing 1 thing really well, building digital communities with very specific and numerical metrics.
A couple months later, in November 2018 I met David Schnurman (CEO of Lawline, and Author of The Fast Forward Mindset) where he asked me about building products
He has an online education product, and challenged me to think about building “product lines” for a service business.
This type of thinking was really effective for me and led me to later go home and think about our offering and how to do it. How do we create products using the various platforms, such as:
We productized them based on execution, content, strategy, and best practices.
This type of thinking forced us to start looking into other channels and building talent with specialized skill sets within.
Today, we have an audio/video expert who specializes in YouTube and podcasts, a team member who specializes in Twitter, LinkedIn. We have developed a team of website developers, designers, and brand architecture talents as well. We’re slowly branching out to other platforms like Quora based on our clients’ needs.
Here is an image of service model I really like and foresee emulating in the future. Yes, taking market share from VaynerMedia is fine by us.
CREATING SYSTEMS OF SCALE AND OPERATIONS MANUALS
Everything in our business has a system – and a written manual for how to do it. Here’s a run down.
- I create invoices 3 weeks into the month and have set up an operations manual for our teammate Rishi to send them out
- Each weekend, we deliver renewable content to clients for the upcoming week
- I confirm and send emails for all my appointments a week in advance
- Documentation for clients includes metrics with specific insights
- Beyond the numbers, we enhance this reporting with qualitative analysis
- After every phone call, we send a detailed bulleted list to the person on the other end of the call so they know we actually listened to them and heard what they had to say
- We use a custom-built software to-do list, similar to Asana and Trello.
- Each month, we conduct a quarterly review and plan how to reach our business goals outside of specific client need — balancing the two effectively is crucial
Once you have established a process that provides consistent results, it gets much easier to measure, track, refine, and most importantly delegate, to make it even better. In my first business, there was never a process to anything, whereas with BW Missions, we are very process-oriented and structured in everything we do.
Google OKR’s: How we measure and track quarterly goals and make plans on a regular cadence, checking in monthly, weekly, and in between as needed.
BUILDING A MEDIA BRAND WITH QUALITY CONTENT
In the process of building BW Missions, I’ve learned the power in creating our own media brand.
To do this I’ve started on one platform, LinkedIn, and started posting content 2-3x a week. I’ve done this for the last year and a half, building my own community and network and sharing value-driven insights to the people who read/engage with the work.
In April, I launched our email newsletter which we share 2x per week. With business content and newsletters being very saturated, I really studied the field, and tried to make my own unique spin.
Adding personal insights and stories to every section has yielded excellent results when combined with life experiences that extend beyond business content.
In October, BW Missions is going to launch a podcast called One Away, a show that is going to dive deep into the transformative moments where leaders were One Away from having the trajectory of their life changed. This will dig into the who and why within a specific moment of someone’s life and bring out the rawness and connectivity of the moment.
This will start to help effectively build YouTube and Medium channels as well through the content.
The 2 Biggest Lessons We Learned About Creating a Media Brand:
A. Quality > Quantity
Everyone says put out as much content as you can, but I’d rather build a quality brand with less content that’s just right. Oversaturating just doesn’t add value. While it’s nice to call a good friend 1x a week, you probably run out of things to talk to them about if it was every day. We have taken a similar approach.
B. Quality Content Drives Inbound
The type of content we produce and how we produce it dictates the quality of our inbound leads. What you put out is what you attract, so building a following of highly intelligent, savvy, and mission driven CEO’s and Authors is what we have done.
MANAGEMENT PROCESSES, TEAM ROLES, & HIRING A #2
Being 1 Year into the business, how have we continued to scale ourselves? First and foremost, it starts with a tight ship from an operational perspective. Our Director of Communications and Operations (a Pat Mahomes-style Quarterback in his own right), Jaymit Rao is dynamic and can do just about everything from finances and internal/external strategic communication to providing leadership in my stead where needed.
Jaymit has been a staple in our successes, working with me to take work off my plate, allowing me to focus on higher level initiatives such as branding for our business, Marketing infrastructure, and long-term planning.
We’ve also hired Kelly Moya as the Head of Community Development and Marketing Strategist. She works with our two account executives who are responsible for executing on all the accounts. Kelly supports client strategy and provides some design work, but keeps her focus on working with the account executives.
Kelly has also taken on a huge lift with leadership, taking communication on from myself and Jaymit so we can focus on higher priorities of the business while knowing that the ground floor is done properly.
Everything starts on the ground floor – and we’ve prioritized quality over speed from day one. If things are not going well on the bottom, we can’t operate effectively at the top.
Every Monday, I start the week off with a call to Jaymit to go over weekly blockers. Communication gets passed down from there. Via Slack, our account executives Asmir and Carson send daily updates to confirm their progress for the day.
Our success has hinged on placing teammates in roles that maximize their best strengths. From there, we continue skill building and development to foster growth specific to those positions.
Once they master their core role, we can add on new responsibilities by delegating more and more from the top down. For example, Carson now writes the first draft of every client proposal and Jaymit edits them while I work on strategy to maximize how we ultimately deliver them.
My Best Management Tip:
The most valuable thing I’ve learned about management is understanding the motives and long term goals of the people on your team, therefore, you can make them motivated beyond the work itself, as they buy into the company and what will be possible for them.
GENERATING SUSTAINABLE REVENUE THROUGH SALES
How many times do you follow up with a lead before you stop communication? For us, we have won contracts on the 8th and 9th follow up… I like to call this pleasant persistence.
Everytime a lead comes through, we put into our PODIO sales system. Their cards are moved across in this order. Each card has a set of notes to keep track of client communications. We have learned following up with prospects between Tuesdays and Thursday’s is the best. On Mondays, everyone is just getting the week started, while by Friday people are checking out. That has been a helpful communication strategy for us.
Beyond just having a process for how we work with leads, it also comes down to being confident in what we are actually selling. One year ago, we didn’t know what we were selling, but now when we send a proposal I’m fully confident in delivering what we say we can and are going to do.
The final step is actually writing the proposal – this process has changed for us over the past 12 months. We now put a lot of design into them to make them pop. When a client looks at them, we not only want them to be impressed with the thought and writing, but the design and create a “Wow” factor. The extra mile is never crowded.
My Best Tip From Learning About Brand Building In A Service Based Business:
What we are doing is repeatable. In theory, anyone could sell what we are doing. That’s why I’ve invested so much time and money into building a brand the right way, because how we create our perception is important, and who we work with and how they talk about us is even more important.
ALLOTTING TIMES OF THE DAY TO SPECIFIC TASKS
The unique way we prioritize tasks has enabled our team to move in the right direction — fast! One of the best books I have read is WHEN by Dan Pink and it’s been really helpful with how I structure my day.
I use the mornings the do my top 3 most important action items of the day. Therefore, if the afternoon is really busy with phone calls/meetings/or general misc tasks, I had the morning to get my top priorities done and don’t feel like I’m getting behind.
In the afternoons, I’ve found working out to be really helpful between 3 PM – 5 PM. After I eat dinner, I get a kick of creative energy seep into me where I can use the evenings for a lot of creative writing and focus time.
This has been really helpful and effective.
When thinking about this for the team, it’s about setting really clear deadlines on what is most important and ensuring communication practices are very clear from the top down to the bottom up. This ensures we don’t get off track based on client needs and internal needs of the business.
ALIGNING YOURSELF WITH CLIENTS BEYOND COST
When you think of Scooter Braun, who comes to mind? Justin Bieber … It’s important to have wins with a few big names under your belt even if the money isn’t as much as you “could make”. Reputation and credibility go a ver long way.
As we were getting started, we wanted to align early on with people we could learn from, who could teach us how to build a business, not just hand a paycheck over.
We needed the ingredients and the building blocks to do it right.
For example, on a book launch in the winter/spring of 2019, we learned so much about repurposing content effectively that it’s served us well with all of our clients. Getting the repetitions in with every client has made us so much better.
While generating revenue and a sustainable cashflow fuels our core purpose, namely building strong communities elevating the voices of their members,, sometimes factors besides money make taking on certain clients a smart move.
Clients can teach you a lot about the processes they’ve instilled into their own company. They can also add value for you by sharing skills you need to build a business.
One of our clients has worked with us literally every step of the way to build BW Missions from the ground up. We’re paid monthly for helping build his brand, but the value goes far beyond the paycheck. Sometimes value comes in non-monetary forms, but allows you to scale the business beyond what is possible
SHIFT FROM PUSHING YOUR BRAND AND HARD SELLING ⇒ TELLING THE STORIES OF OTHERS
A unique thing we do at BW Missions is that we never make it all about us, even from a branding and messaging standpoint. Instead, we strive to amplify voices we believe in.
One of the areas where I think we have thrived is we have never pushed a sale. We don’t really promote who we are hard, and we make our content, marketing, and other efforts about other people. We build who we are through the stories of others.
I apply this mentality everywhere from the newsletter to my personal LinkedIn profile. Taking the focus off of yourself and shifting it onto other people not only is a way to show humility, but also feels really good. Creating content should be about creating value for the person receiving it, and doing this repeatedly gives people a positive impression of you.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: WHERE WE’RE HEADED FROM HERE
While we have learned a lot in the past year, we are nowhere close to being done. We want to be able to build out all the services in house that can support any mission from A-Z with clear processes for how to get there!
In 2020, we have our eyes set on:
- Building a newsletter referral program
- Launching a successful podcast
- Most importantly, continuing to evolve our product line.
I also foresee a team growing quickly into more full time roles + a few other surprises in Q3 and Q4.