Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick Her Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Mandi Hill Ellefson, for our next ‘Pick His/Her Brain’ session and I want to thank her for the participation.

Mandi is the host of the Hands-Off CEO Podcast.

She is currently helping other entrepreneurs grow by helping their companies go from under a million to millions of dollars in a year.

If you have any questions related to agency growth management and profit optimization, you can pick her brain.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until she asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the Facebook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.

3) Please do not PM her and bother her. If you have a private question, ask for her permission on this thread when appropriate.

#PickHisBrain

#PickHerBrain

Table of Contents

What’s the first thing you look at when you evaluate a company?

What kind of outcomes they can create for clients.

WEALTH EQUATION: More value = more money.

The bigger the problem you can solve for the right person, the more money you can make.

I go after multi six-figure and seven problems.

Anything less and I’m either working really hard for peanuts or overcharging because there isn’t enough value for the client.

Both are an undesirable situation.

How did you get into this business?

Was able to grow and create freedom for me as ab operations manager for another company.

In my own agency (I started an agency 10 years ago and sold it 5 years ago) it was a ball and chain.

I had stuffed it up and it was bad.

I learned how to solve that problem and it was so profound that I felt called to share it and that’s the Hands-Off CEO now.

See more: “Epic Burnout” on my podcast. https://itunes.apple.com/…/hands-off-ceo/id1432688023…

What’s the most challenging aspect of what you are doing?

Getting people to see the bigger vision and shift so that they can reach their full potential.

It has taken me years and tens of thousands of dollars to learn this very important skill.

It is one of the key reasons why my clients get such good results.

We get into the deeper root issue why they are not taking action on what they know they should. And that gets personal sometimes.

Today a client discovered that he was holding himself back from really doing his marketing because if it worked and actually got him what he wanted.

He couldn’t manage it all. And he’d be back to working crazy hours and a stressful life.

That realization is literally worth $1M to him.

That’s how much he’ll be able to grow the business in the next 12 months.

I am honored to support such high performing individuals.

What are the 3 biggest mindset differences in millionaires?

1) decisiveness – The very biggest thing needed to scale to your first million of beyond.

What this means recognizing an opportunity, and swiftly acting on it.

Not having to mull over it for days, or ask your team, or your wife.

Taking responsibility for being the CEO and making tough decisions.

Having the guts to go for it and risk it being the wrong move.

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Wrong move can in almost every case be course corrected quickly.

The worst move is standing still and taking no action.

And letting fear get the better of you.

Step up and just do it.

That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.

2) big vision – not about just the money.

People that are driven by money alone, have very shallow goals and will quit when the going gets tough.

They also tend to be terrible leaders.

Because it’s all about them.

Conversely, those with the big vision that are out to make a difference in the world build great teams who they get to buy into their vision.

And that leadership is what drives the growth in their business, and the growth and freedoms of both time and money.

3) integrity – do what you say you’re going to.

*Bonus*

Perseverance in the long run beats brains every day the week.

What top three traits/behaviors of the CEO do you assess?

See above. But I also add that I don’t ever work with people who don’t have good people skills.

They’re just too hard to develop as leaders.

What I look for opportunities where I can create the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort.

That’s what finding a sweet spot is all about.

The other critically important thing is that I like the person and then I can learn something new from them.

That ensures that when they join the tribe, they have something to contribute. And I can stay engaged and interests.

I put my heart and soul into the clients who I work with.

Once he mindset that you can take on is that there are hundreds of thousands of them, and only one of you.

Choose wisely who used to work with.

It’s very important to me that team has an inspiring environment to work in.

I have turned away prospects with money in hand because they were disrespectful to my team.

Do you lead/help your clients develop strict customer and employee personas? Do you advise them to fire bad customers even if they account for what appears to be good income? And do you do the same with employees?

Do you lead/help your clients develop strict customer and employee personas? YES- crystal clear.

Do you advise them to fire bad customers even if they account for what appears to be good income? YES, but not all at once.

That could be suicide for cashflow. Some you can shift to become good clients also.

And do you do the same with employees? YES, try to shift them first.

Use a timeline depending on where you are at.

What’s your best advice on how to pick a team going from solopreneur to a larger company?

At the solo stage, you’re looking at delegating out things piecemeal.

You’re doing this to free up time so that you can sell.

Do NOT even think about hiring a sales person at the stage.

If you’re thinking about that, it means that you need to learn how to sell.

And until you really know how to generate business.

It will be difficult to hire good quality people and be able to count on consistent cash flow to pay them.

Free up 10 extra hours to grow- Eliminate, automate, consolidate, delegate.

In that order. (For more reading you can download my scalable growth roadmap).

So I would start there and free up some time and then use that to generate more business.

And then you’ll have more money to hire the right people.

So you’re play monkey in the middle for a while, and then it’ll get too much and you’ll be ready to hire like a project manager or account manager.

But start with individual tasks first.

How do you generate quality, conditioned, pre-sold leads for a digital marketing agency who wants more local SEO clients?

Stop selling SEO. Start solving 1 painful 6-7 figure problem, for 1 type of client, in 1 customized way (that’s has you get more profit and scale too).

I would offer a conditional, but meaningful, guarantee.

Which may be the next question for how to do that.

You get those three things aligned, and you have a shut-up-and-take-my-money-offer.

Then it’s just about identifying where you can find those people, and building a process to consistently be reaching out to those folks.

The pre-selling comes from your process for engaging with them and adding value along the way.

My approach is to do a consult of selling where doesn’t feel like selling it all.

But it’s a drain if you do that with every lead shows up your way.

You need to have a process for how you screen them so you’re not getting on a ton of phone calls that drain your energy, and will never close.

So if can feel like you suck at sales, when really you just talking to the wrong people.

Or your offer was wrong for the right kind of people.

That’s the foundation of it.

So tell me Jason, what is the outcome you provide for what type of clients? If you’re not sure look back at some of your best case studies.

I’m happy to give you some feedback here if you can be brief.

What’s your advice for a control freak?

Let go or stay freelancer.

But seriously, it can be really hard let go.

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I get it I teach this and I still have problems with it.

You do have to have staff that “get it” Who you can trust will actually do the work.

If you don’t have that I can be a huge energy drain, it’s very difficult to hand it off to them.

What percentage of control freaks (that you work with) actually learn to delegate well?

I only work with recovering control freaks.

And I am one of them.

100% of my clients learn to do it effectively.

And that’s because I screen carefully before I work with them to know if they actually are willing to let go.

What this comes down to, is having a vision that’s too big for just yourself to accomplish.

And being way more committed to making that vision happen, then you are to having it done a specific way.

Whenever you have breakdowns, including having a challenge letting things go.

You look back at your vision and you realize what you were missing out on by not letting go.

What I always look at is, the cost. What is the cost of you doing this piece yourself.

Not just the time but the mental and emotional bandwidth that keeps you from really growing the company.

For most of my clients it’s costing them several hundred thousand dollars a year and in some cases millions per year.

What’s your formula for a safe profit target margin? In general for the whole business.

Read the book Profit First.

Are you talking about profit per project, how much to pay a person compared to the hourly rate you might calculate a project out.
Pick Her Brain! with Mandi Hill Ellefson 1Credit to Mike Michalowicz author of “Profit First”.

What’s your advice for scaling without losing the integrity/culture of the organisation from it’s humble starting out days?

Have a BIG vision.

Nurture and grow people based on that vision.

Always focus on the results for the clients, and money will follow.

What are your thoughts on company culture?

It starts from the mission that the CEO creates and takes to the team.

All decisions come from there.

Hiring, growth, firing, client management, everything.

It’s also how you keep going when times get tough and a very compelling vision will attract top notch talent.

My vision for my company is inspiring to my team. They want to work hard so that they can be part of changing people’s lives.

And also rescuing children from sex trafficking as that is a cause we donate time and money to.

All my book proceeds actually which is why I am self-publishing.

I have people beating a path to my door to work for me when I put up a job ad.

They *really* want the job and I attract people with similar values.

When would you sell your company? When’s the right time?

The right time is when you need to.

A fire sale is not a good thing.

If your goal is an exit at some point, you’ll definitely want to be preparing for that at least 3 to 5 years before hand.

Most people want to sell their business when it becomes too much of a burden on them, so why on earth would someone else want to buy your burden?

What has been my experience is that plenty of the people that I have worked with who have had considerations of selling.

Once they make their business hands off enough to actually sell it and get some good offers.

They essentially have a cash cow and would be crazy to let go of that asset.

But a lot of the kind offers that come up for smaller agencies to sell, and a lot of my clients have had offers in the past.

Are the ones with their basically trying to acquire you for your talents or some strategic advantage, or your list.

Those are all things that are small pieces of the business, so you won’t be able to get that much money from them.

When you can sell the full enchilada, a full working machine that attract new clients, converts them, and then delivers really high-end value.

Then you have a sellable company that people actually want.

If you read the book built to sell, you’ll know that only one out of 100 businesses that go on the market actually sell.

And those numbers are getting more bleak because of the number of baby boomers that are retiring.

That being said, there is a big market for larger agencies acquiring smaller agencies. And Iee it all the time.

But people‘s motives behind acquiring a new business sometimes are not very well thought out.

It’s often because they’re not very good at selling in there trying to solve their sales problems by acquiring someone else’s client base.

There are times where this is really a good idea, but I always say or do to fix the issue first of you being able to acquire new clients.

And having the structure in place to provide enough value so that you have way more clients than you can actually serve.

And then you can play the game of increasing more capacity, which is something I really find fun.

What’s your take on balancing between learning by reading vs. learning by doing?

I teach people by having them learn by doing.

I actually set up an in person retreat with my clients so that they can get an opportunity to coach each other to their breakdowns.

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That gives than that skill to learn how to better coach their team.

There are some things that you can learn about in books, leadership you can pick up a few tips and tricks.

But you can’t learn that from a book.

You need to do it and get feedback on what’s working what’s not.

That being said, I am an avid reader and I learned a lot that way.

But I think it’s really easy to get stuck in learning mode, to resist actually taking action.

So it’s way better to take a ton of action, and then learn what works and what doesn’t.

You’ll never know if it works until you actually do it.

The biggest failure in marketing and sales is actually not doing it, and saying it doesn’t work.

How on earth would you know if it works or not unless you actually take enough action, to have enough data to actually know?

Are their any books that you recommend on operations or scaling up?

The one I am writing right now.

Also Traction is good, but doesn’t address the issues of building in the marketing and high value offer into the equation.

You really need to get the value piece down before scaling.

My podcast talks about that.

Some good episodes to start with on this here: http://handsoffceo.com/introducing-the-hands-off-ceo…/

What project management system and/or process were a common theme shared amongst the successful companies you’ve helped? If none, then what are some project management things these companies did that makes you think more business should learn from?

Every company has different needs so I don’t know that I can say just one software or process.

But to work through the steps of your process first. Iron it out, simply it.

That makes more difference than any software system you use.

You match the system to your process. Not the other way around.

If you were to start from scratch zero knowledge on seo. What would be the first thing you would do?

I know SEO from the perspective of having a web design company without that focus, and giving feedback on lots of SEO processes from clients I have worked with.

The biggest thing is to look at the OUTCOME you provide.

The money at the other end.

Not SEO. It’s not about the process, it’s about the result.

Do whatever you can to get good enough to guarantee a meaningful result for a particular client.

“Top of google” is lame and doesn’t count.

What is the first avenue you would choose for marketing if paid ads is not an option?

Low hanging fruit.

Follow up with old leads, reach out to community for referrals, skim the cream off your list.

The easy ones that will give you the cash flow and comfort to build a strategy.

Outbound all the way. It plays no nice into an inbound value added strategy.

What do you mean when you say “outbound all the way”?

I build a list and reach out. I have a whole process on Linkedin.

See recent podcast episode Hands-Off CEO Podcast.

Also, I might reach out warm to someone who I know and might have a need.

Example below got me a phone call in under 24 hours.

Subject: Bob, still looking to scale your CRM business?

Bob,

Are you still looking to scale?

Looking at your website, I have some ideas for how you could grow a lot faster.

Another CRM consultant I work with Len, doubled the business in 12 months.

He was working crazy hours, but now has a business that just ran smoothly without him for nearly 2 weeks while he was on vacation.

Would you be open to a 15 minute no-pitch chat for me to share the ideas I had looking at your website?

How to increase sales of products?

That is a skill set for you to develop. You are right clients don’t care about digital marketing, all they want is sales.

The episode on the 1 thing holding you back from $1M talks about this. http://handsoffceo.com/introducing-the-hands-off-ceo…/

Also, THIS… The 7 Biggest Mistakes Agency Owners Make Scaling their Business: (no optin) http://handsoffceo.com/Resources/7-Agency-Mistakes.pdf

Can you point us to some resources for automating at the 5-6 figure level? I find it really difficult to delegate certain things like landing page creation, Copywriting etc.

At this stage, you’re looking at delegating out things piecemeal.

You’re doing this to free up time so that you can sell.

Do NOT even think about hiring a sales person at the stage. If you’re thinking about that, it means that you need to learn how to sell.

And until you really know how to generate business, it will be difficult to hire good quality people and be able to count on consistent cash flow to pay them.

Free up 10 extra hours to grow- Eliminate, automate, consolidate, delegate.

In that order. (For more reading you can download my scalable growth roadmap).

So I would start there and free up some time and then use that to generate more business.

And then you’ll have more money to hire the right people.

So you’re play monkey in the middle for a while, and then it’ll get too much and you’ll be ready to hire like a project manager or account manager.

But start with individual tasks first.