Pulling Growth Levers: 3 Ways to Grow Your Business

We talked to serial entrepreneur, Andy Angelos, about what he did to grow his business (Social Katy) and, eventually, sell it to a larger competitor. This post is an excerpt from our new course, 12-Month Business Growth Strategy.

eazl growth levers

Your business growth plan depends on pulling one of three levers and, just like any other lever that you’ve ever pulled, that means something has to change: the way that you do something; the way that your customers interact with you; the way that you interact with the stakeholder around your business. These things are going to change based on the decisions you make.

Let’s dive into business levers and their implications.

  1. Increasing the Number of Transactions and Sales Operations
    You’re going to be selling more of whatever you’ve sold in the past. The thing you need to think about is how you are going to get those new customers. So, this is an acquisition discussion.

You want to build something that is scalable and sustainable and doesn’t consume all of your time, but will bring in new business for you.

This might mean building a sales team and hiring sales reps or even ramping up email marketing to prospective buyers and focusing on growing your email lists. You want to think about the funnel you are putting your leads into and pay attention to those conversion rates at each step of the funnel as you lead your list members to a purchase.

This allows you to understand how many outbound contacts you need on the front end (like the activities of your sales reps) are required for x amount of sales or new clients.

There are still some uncertainties you have to deal with even with a funnel, but it should be reliable enough for spurring growth.

You’ll also need to determine whether the tasks required to increase volume of transactions is something that is your responsibility or the responsibility of a more experienced employee or contractor. Thinking about your core competencies can help make this decision.

  1. Market Testing when Raising Prices
    Raising prices can be a learning curve but can be one of the easiest levers to pull. Oftentimes, companies don’t want to be rejected so they keep their prices low.

The problem with this is that having some customers that pay a low price doesn’t mean you have a business if the money your revenue isn’t covering your costs. Customers that pay low prices can also be big headaches, requiring lots of hands-on customer service that wouldn’t be necessary with a higher quality audience.

Raising prices is something that many are hesitant to do especially if you are already able to sell your product at a low price, but one of the most drastic changes you can make with your business is doing the same thing for more money.

Successfully changing prices is all about testing. Make different level changes in your pricing and measure your target market’s response to those changes. Do they even notice? Do they object and stop buying?

Sometimes, a change in price will work with one customer set but not another. You should adjust accordingly.

  1. Find Cost Efficiencies
    After you experiment with higher volume sales and price changes, it’s a good exercise to see how you can reduce the expenditures required to sell your product or service without diminishing the quality.

This should be your last lever to pull and experiment with.

eazl business growth

Can You Really Make a Living Doing What You Love?

make a living doing what you love

Finding a way to make a living doing what you love is not all that complicated or difficult…and it’s certainly easier than spending multiple decades at a job, a company, or in an industry you don’t really like.

There are probably multiple moments you may remember from your childhood when a family member was clearly unhappy with their career and it completely affected the way they were at home. These people were grumpy, annoyed, jaded, and dissatisfied with life.

So many of us have seen the damage that a career mismatch can do, yet we follow the same patterns.

You can absolutely make a living doing what you love and create a career that makes you feel fulfilled and engaged in life. I don’t want to sound cheesy or anything, but it’s all about mindset. And using that mindset to make the right strategic decisions. You have to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.

eazl bull

If you are scared about where you’ve landed and want to make a change or you want to make sure you avoid these mistakes as you start a new career, read on for four actionables that will help steer you in the right direction.

  1. Take action to avoid mediocrity
    Many believe we live in a polar world where some of us are making no money because we want to pursue our passions (and passion simply isn’t profitable) and others are making the big bucks for doing things no one else wants to do (and maybe selling out on values).

In reality, most of the workforce is performing mediocre tasks for mediocre pay. They’re the in-betweens and the majority who, for various reasons (maybe children or a series of bad decisions), don’t like what they do and aren’t making enough money to make it worth it either.

I meet so many people who appear to be void of passion or interests but I don’t think that’s really what is going on underneath. I think these people are tired from working 9 to 5 doing something that does not stimulate them and have submitted to the idea that life is hard and work isn’t supposed to be enjoyable. This makes them tired, unhealthy, and unable to work on changing their situation.

They have passions and interests and talents but they’ve forgotten them or maybe never even embraced them to see the potential.

Instead, they work for other people who did pursue their passions and interests. People who did take the bull by the horns: the creators, the brave, and the active.

Working for other people is fine. If you find the right company, a job that stimulates you, and have a manager that is a good match for you, you can absolutely enjoy working. And you can even find roles where you are creative. This isn’t a situation that just happens to you by chance, though.

Most people who enjoy their jobs made strategic decisions to get where they are, which includes negotiating pay raises, doing what they need to do to move up the ladder, and –sometimes– quitting bad companies and bad bosses.

It takes bravery and effort to create a life that you love, whether you work for someone else or for yourself. It has nothing to do with chance or luck. You can’t just sit around waiting for it to happen to you. You have to go out and get it.

 

  1. Think back to your childhood
    A lot of people feel stuck and more like they have a lot of general interests vs. one clear passion or talent. Sometimes this is a symptom of not wanting to make a choice because you are afraid to make the wrong one.

But indecision is far worse than discovering, down the line, that your real interest is something else. The process isn’t linear…each choice influences another and it’s your job to find the narrative and the big picture that makes sense.

eazl make a living doing what you love

There are hints of our true talents and interests if we look to childhood. If you think about what you spent your time doing and thinking about as a child, you’ll probably quickly see similarities between who you were then and who you are today –the you that’s underneath and suppressed by a long day of work doing something that isn’t right for you.

For example:

As a young person, I was very passionate about learning and would often read an entire book in a day only to start on a new novel the next. I knew I was going to get a master’s degree before I even began Freshman year of college.

I was also immensely creative –always crafting, painting, building, and going above and beyond on any project that allowed me to exercise those talents.

Today, education and creativity are still my two core focuses as I am the Marketing Director (one of the most creative roles in any company) for an education startup. I engineered the situation I have now because I knew I needed to make my interests profitable.

Davis, our founder, wore 3-piece suits and traded his first stock at age 12. Today, he is a talented decision maker for Eazl and is skilled at making the right responsible financial moves…and the right risky ones.

Take a moment to make these kinds of connections for yourself and your own experiences.

  1. Get in the service mindset
    Get in the mindset that you must be in service to others in order to provide value. What you enjoy doing isn’t enough on it’s own. You have to offer service to others in order to make a living doing what you love. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby.

For example, if you have an artistic skill, it will be quite difficult to make a living simply by creating. But, if you can connect your skill with a need in the market –in the case of an artist, anything from product and packaging design to painting murals for local governments– you can absolutely make your art work for you.

You see, it’s not just about you. It’s about your community, your neighbors, and playing your own special role in the economy and the world around you. If you want to take your interest from something that you do during leisure time to what you do for a living, you have fulfill a need. Otherwise, it’s indulgent and nothing that anyone would pay for.

  1. Do the hard stuff
    This is something we find ourselves repeating in all of our courses from topics on marketing and entrepreneurship to traditional career management. The people who win in our society are the people who do the hard stuff.

Sure, you might find a way to monetize your passion or find your dream job, but there will continue to be hard things and tasks that aren’t enjoyable.You just have to be willing to face the hard stuff because it won’t be all about performing that one action or talent that you find pleasurable.

eazl-be-your-own-boss

From Collective Evolution: A Secret for Learning

secret for learning

“New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer suggests that students who write their notes on paper learn more than those who type their notes. To form this conclusion, Mueller and Oppenheimer executed three experiments in which they had students take notes in a classroom setting, and then had the students perform memory tests on factual detail, their conceptual understanding of the material, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information. Half of the students took notes with a laptop, and the other half by hand.”

secret for learning

How to Use Drones to Make Money

In this week’s Brain Boost: how you can use drones to make money.

It’s looking more and more like Amazon’s vision of delivery by drone is less and less probable in the near future but the US Federal Aviation Administration has released new rules on drone operation that’s going to permit a lot of new ways that drones are going to be used in business. We’re probably going to see more drones as a part of our everyday lives.

If you’re interested in checking out the rules for yourself, go here. Already, we’re seeing drones being used for a lot more than photography.

For example, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is using them to inspect bridges, energy companies are using them to inspect wind turbines and cell towers, and insurance companies are starting to send drones that take geotagged aerial photos, which are then combined to create 3d models of things like damaged houses or new homes that might be seeking insurance.

In the next two to three years, we’re likely to see drones that perform tasks around us. Now that engineers have successfully created drones that are capable of flying and lifting as much as 53 pounds (or twenty three kilos), we’re already starting to see manufacturers that are creating drones capable of carrying canisters that can de-ice roads or runways or spray fields of crops.

Other manufacturers have created drones that might soon be cleaning buildings and the windows of skyscrapers. In the next five to ten years, we should expect to see new air traffic control systems being developed and they’re likely going to enable things like Amazon’s drone delivery.

That’s probably when we’re going to see the second wave of drones being integrated into society.

Are you wary of the world of drones? Excited about it? Let us know what you think in the comments and we’ll see you next week at 10 a.m. Pacific Time for another Brain Boost.

3 Predictions about the Future of LinkedIn®

In this week’s Brain Boost: 3 predictions about the future of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn acquired lynda.com, the relatively boring training site for $1.5 billion recently and the reports that I’ve seen have shown that revenue from Lynda within LinkedIn has been pretty strong.

Interestingly, on a recent conference call, LinkedIn founder, Jeff Weiner said that he sees using Lynda’s technology stack to host internal training videos for companies on LinkedIn. That way, human resources can track –through LinkedIn– what their employees have learned.  

I think that LinkedIn will open up Lynda to third-party contractor content providers like Eazl. They’re going to try to get LinkedIn users to take more courses directly on LinkedIn.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn acquired Connectifier, a machine learning company that helps bring AI to recruitment on LinkedIn. LinkedIn will be integrating this technology into their offerings for recruiters who use LinkedIn and now they’re starting to do things like enable recruiters to click a button that has LinkedIn match the qualities of the employees at the recruiter’s company with talent profiles on the Linkedin network more broadly.

Similarly, LinkedIn has launched a service called Pro Finder, where people looking to hire someone can get matched with freelancers based on the hiring person’s profile data and the requirements of the job.

Linkedin is also becoming very expensive for non-enterprise users. They started more aggressively limiting the amount of profiles that non-paid users can search in a given month.

What this means is that for freelancers, job seekers, and small businesspeople, is that LinkedIn is much more difficult to use to build a professional network unless you pay. While LinkedIn Premium used to cost $20 a month, now Premium packages are in the range of $50-60 per month.

If you think about that, that’s over $500 a year, which is a lot of money for small business people. I wouldn’t be surprised if people start to use other social technologies to build their professional networks.

Business Growth: Are you the biggest risk to your business?

We talked to serial entrepreneur, Andy Angelos, about what he did to grow his business (Social Katy) and, eventually, sell it to a larger competitor. This post is an excerpt from our new course, 12-Month Business Growth Strategy.

business growth

If you are an entrepreneur and want to grow your business (or someone who is just starting out but interested in learning what it takes to create a high-growth company), you need the vocabulary, the concepts, and the high level direction necessary for a 12-month growth plan.

Change and evolution of a company can be difficult if you don’t focus on alignment of systems,  de-risking, and market forces.

Alignment of Internal Systems
The key to being able to scale beyond yourself is being in touch with what you are doing. This requires self reflection and planning. Think about what needs to be done to help your business operate.

Production, how you interact with your clients, how you get new business, etc. All of these elements require a system that needs to be externalized as a process so they can be handed off to other people on your team.

You need to think about the tasks that you usually perform in a more formal way in order to facilitate growth. CLICK TO TWEET

Especially when you are a small team or an individual, you currently fulfill all duties, all the time for your business. So attributing, for example, where your business and leads come from can be tricky because there are a lot of activities being performed. This can make it difficult when it’s time to hire a sales team.

You should be investing in sales and marketing mechanisms that can predictably produce leads that you can nurture into customers.

HINT: Andy used Predictable Revenue as a reference point to grow his business.

Some actions that might help you formalize activities that you want to delegate to others in the future include:

  • Tracking your time- How long does it take you to perform a given task?
  • Tracking quantity- How many sales calls, business cards, follow up calls, etc.?

If you follow this model, when it’s time to hand over sales duties to a new team member, you have an idea of both how long it should take them and what standard numbers should be achieved with outreach.

De-risking: Systematically Removing Hazards From Your Business Operations
When you are overly dependent on one person within your business –such as yourself or a partner– your business is at high risk because, if that person became suddenly unavailable, no one else would be able to perform those functions.

A lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of keeping their business high risk by not focusing on de-risking. They also stifle growth by not doing so. You want to avoid having all aspects of your business dependent on you.

Trust and train other people so they can give the same level of service or perform at the same quality that you can. CLICK TO TWEET

Market Forces
It’s also important to understand your industry and focus on customer development so that you are in touch with where things are headed.

For example, when Andy founded Social Katy, they were one of the first firms to offer social media marketing services. Their business model later lost it’s competitiveness when there were lots of competitors in the market so they changed their value proposition to focus on the creativity of their services –something that other companies might not be able to offer.

Your business is kind of like a puzzle and it’s going to change in a year. You have to focus on making sure the pieces fit together a year from now.

For longer term visions, you want to plan ahead of time and create systems that have extra capacity. For example, if you know you want to add 5 salespeople to your team in a year, you should be making strategic moves towards that goal beforehand.

eazl business growth

In summary:

    • Audit Your Activities: The first step in scaling is to take an audit of the activities that are currently make your business run. Common activity areas include production, client/customer acquisition, and customer service. While you might be doing many of these things yourself, start thinking of each activity area as an individual system.
    • Shift to Systems Thinking: Often, you’ll need to actively work to formalize how the activities that you’re already doing are done. You’re doing this so that these activities can be externalized and results can be replicated (or improved upon) by someone else.
    • Start Being Next Year Now: The systems you’re building for your business shouldn’t just fit with your personal goals. They should also front-run any structural changes in your business environment that you’re likely to see in the next 12 months and beyond. Andy points out that it might be wise to invest in building systems that you can use to support long-term growth–not just next year’s growth.

 

 

What It’s Like to Work Virtually in Washington DC

work virtually in washington dc

Check out more photos from our experience in DC on Instagram.

The first week of September, we headed from Eazl headquarters in Chicago to Washington DC to film the second episode of our new series about entrepreneurship and innovation, What’s Next. While here, we based our operations in Falls Church, Virginia –about a 15 minute drive from the White House.

Thanks to cousin Pete for hooking us up with the sweet digs in such a lovely town!

The area is beautiful and, clearly, city planning is a priority in DC (and in this area of the United States in general). Where city governments in the south would bulldoze and put in a strip mall, DC works to build around the living beauty. It’s green and lush, with trees lining the roads, and there are restrictions on building that both maintain the city’s charm and create dense living spaces.

The fact that so many are drawn to live and work here –including a whole slew of staff from Obama’s 2008 campaign who felt so inspired they changed zip codes– can sometimes make you want to escape to a less popular area for a little bit of breathing room…or at least to find a parking space that won’t cost $20. Uber will be your savior in DC, friends!

A city where paintings of the most respected US Presidents line the walls of pubs and citizens speak in acronyms during happy hour, it is clear as day that some –if not most– of the country’s important activities happen right here in DC. And it’s intoxicating.

So intoxicating that, if you work virtually, you might find DC to be a great place to spend time or even lay down some roots.

Here are the main takeaways from our experience working virtually in DC:

  1.  There are a ton of smart people
    If you are a person who cares about working on your brain, lifelong learning, and thoughtful discussion + debate, DC is the place for you. There are more people here working on cool things that matter than anywhere I’ve ever been.Move over all you techies in Silicon Valley who claim to be changing the world with a food delivery app!Residents are well educated and have very balanced views on policy, considering the fact that they are so close to where it’s all happening, they either work in government (or closely with it) or know many who do, and have a much less filtered interaction with the political process.

It really is elite and that’s a great thing for the right kind of person.

  1. Crowded, dense, and high traffic
    Just as with any other desirable place for living, the city is dense and you might often feel like you are living on top of other people. There is much attention to city planning as far as aesthetics go, but some of the traffic flow and road situations get surprisingly complicated.

If you plan on being in the thick of it and making use of co-working spaces or coffee shops right in the heart of DC, opt for Uber or Lyft instead of making the drive.

  1. People are open for collaboration
    Compared to some of the other cities where we’ve attempted to collaborate with locals, we found DC to be easy going and we were able to infiltrate much more easily than we would have thought. Highly experienced and talented people aren’t afraid to say “yes” to collaboration opportunities, they are forthcoming with information, and we didn’t find a single standoffish person in our entire pool of interviewees.

This is a place where people create and get stuff done. They realize the value of working with other smart people.

This is quite different compared to the talent in places like San Francisco and New York.

 

We’ll leave DC this weekend with the thought in mind that it would be a great place to move Eazl Headquarters sometime in the near future.

 

Keep an eye out for the episode where we speak with leaders in policy and innovation in DC about entrepreneurship’s role in society. It will launch this November.

Check out the pilot episode here.

Is a Shortage of Ideas Dimming Equity Crowdfunding in the US?

In this week’s Brain Boost: Is a Shortage of Ideas Dimming Equity Crowdfunding in the US?

Equity crowdfunding, as you might know, enables entrepreneurs to sell micro investments into their companies online. This new legal financial technology went live in May of this year and, in the United States, a lot of people are very excited about it.

For example, here at Eazl, we’ve seen huge interest in our free equity Crowdfunding 101 course, but entrepreneurs seem a little bit nervous to use online fundraising to sell micro shares in their ventures. This summer, data shows that only 82 startups in the United States filed the paperwork necessary to use equity crowdfunding to fund their ideas.

Interestingly, one platform —Wefunder— seems to be absolutely dominating the market. An internal email that they sent me showed that they facilitated over 90% of the successful equity crowdfunding investments in the United States this summer.

I used Wefunder to invest $100 into Voodoo Spirits, a distiller that my friend Jake –an American– runs in Benin, Africa. Speaking of booze, investors are funding booze related companies more than companies from any other industry.

Data collected by my friends at Crowdfund Capital Advisors showed that whiletechnology companies launched the most projects this summer, alcohol related projects received the most capital commitments. You can see this data for yourself here.

If you’re interested, check out our free crowdfund investing course. It’s short and fun and you can find a link to enroll here.

I’ll see you next Friday at 10 a.m. Pacific Time for another Brain Boost.

Three Business Levers: Build Your 12-Month Growth Plan from Eazl

Something that people often struggle with when growing their business is the problem of internalized knowledge. Ultimately, you’ll want to convert your internal knowledge into digestible information that others can use to replicate certain activities and, hopefully, learn how to improve on the way they’re being done now.

Sounds easy enough but most entrepreneurs are so busy with the day-to-day of their businesses that they have an extremely difficult time formalizing processes and getting in the right mindset so they aren’t holding every responsibility on their shoulders in order for the business to run properly.

That’s what our new course on building a 12-month growth plan is all about.

In Three Business Levers, we get the inside scoop from accomplished serial entrepreneur, Andy Angelos, on what he did to scaled up from solopreneurship or a two-person operation to a 30+ employee business.

In the course, we cover:

  • Strategic alignment for your next 12 months
  • How to model a one year growth plan
  • How to use business levers to grow your business
  • Hiring people to help you grow your business

eazl business growth

Shortage of Ideas Dims Launch of Equity Crowdfunding in the US

equity crowdfunding

Shortage of Ideas Dims Launch of Equity Crowdfunding in the US
While the United States is known, worldwide, as the home of disruptive ideas, few entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the new equity crowdfunding laws. In May of this year, the SEC finalized the rules associated with Title III of the JOBS Act, which now allows online fundraising platforms to facilitate micro investments into startups via the web. What makes Title III special is that it enables anyone–not just accredited investors–to make investments into startups (generally considered an especially risky asset class). While our online education company, Eazl, has seen massive interest in the free Equity Crowdfunding 101 video course that we offer, entrepreneurs seem to be hesitating to take the leap into raising funds via equity crowdfunding. However, the equity crowdfunding world is seeing some green shoots.

People Love Boozy Projects
My friend Woodie Neiss at Crowdfund Capital Advisors collected some data on the first quarter that equity crowdfunding has been live in the United States, and they’ve found that only 82 startups filed paperwork with the SEC to enable them to raise funds using the new tools legalized by Title III. For those 82 projects, a total of $7.2mm has been committed with the average capital commitment by an individual backer at $810. Interestingly, while there were only 9 alcohol-related startups that raised money with Title III this summer, these projects raised over $2mm–more than any other industry. Personally, I invested in Voodoo Spirits, a company led by Jake Muhleman that makes and imports a popular, exotic spirit from Benin.

California, Texas, and Massachusetts Way Ahead
People from three states–California, Texas, and Massachusetts— have
invested far more than those from any other states. Californians committed nearly $2.7mm to Title III projects this summer while Texans and Bay Staters committed $1.8 and $1.2mm, respectively. After these three states, Ohioans were next at  $360k. Californians, by far, posted the most projects for funding, followed by New Yorkers.

Single Fundraising Community is Dominating the Marketplace
For business nerds, perhaps the most interesting news about equity crowdfunding is that a single platform, WeFunder, is dominating the market. WeFunder reported that 91% of the Title III the investors who have backed successful projects this summer did so on WeFunder. In a far distant 2nd place, NextSeed received 5% of the successful investments.