The CEO Process Podcast: Sustainable Systems

You never know when an opportunity will present itself to help a small business owner solve some of their most pressing business challenges. This is what I do every day during new client consultations, but recently, a fun podcast conversation led to some real-time Beyond the Chaos advice. Check out my interview with Michael Olivieri and Jonathan Pazienza, hosts of The CEO Process Podcast. You’ll definitely want to hear us collaborate on small business owner pain points, including:

  • Biggest problems a small business owner faces
  • The first step a business owner should take to systematize their business
  • Easy ways to delegate to, and, optimize your use of a Virtual Assistant
  • Plus, I provide some on-the-spot advice for the guys and their business operational dilemmas

Please find the full transcript below

Introduction: Welcome to The CEO Process podcast, where we will be discussing business, money, sales, and everything in between, featuring unique individuals, each with a mindset of champions share. Join us in the process of becoming the next MFCEO.

Michael: Hey, what is going on everybody? I hope everybody’s having an incredible Monday morning. To everybody that knows, I’m going to save you some time. It’s not Monday, but we’re going to release this episode on a Monday. And you know me, I can’t lie to you guys. But I hope you guys are having an incredible Monday morning. I hope everybody’s ready to get their week started off right. And good job for you guys for listening to a podcast on a Monday morning. Monday is already hard enough, but hey, we’re going to make it a little bit better for you guys. And today we have an incredible guest. Today’s guest is somebody that their entire business is based around helping out small business owners, specifically people with 10 or fewer employees.

And I know that that is a very large amount of our customer base because, well, I and John are basically at a very similar point. One of our companies, I think, has four employees and the other one ranges from 15 to 20. So we are basically exactly in that area. And we’re going through the process of learning how to grow our company. And I’m sure you guys are also doing the exact same thing and you guys are in the same situation that we’re in. So it’s going to be a very helpful episode to everybody listening today. So I’m really, really excited about it. Johnny, what’s going on with you, buddy?

Jonathan: Not too much, not too much. Always happy to be here as always on The CEO Process now.

Michael: Yeah.

Jonathan: For those of you that don’t know, take a look at a couple of our episodes previously and you’ll see the embarrassment and the fun times we’ve had with that. So that’s been a blast. Again, it’s not about us. It’s about the fantastic guest that we have with us today. She is from Dallas, Texas. Her name is Susan Fennema. Her company story is beyond the chaos. It is been about inception five years now, and they are consultants who help overwhelmed small business owners, manage their projects and simplify their operations so they can grow their business and get their lives back together.

And the reason why I think that’s such a cool thing is that I and Michael are busy as hell. We’re always trying to find ways to simplify things, to make things easier in our lives so that maybe Friday night we can go out for dinner or something like that. And this is what Susan’s company does. It allows the business owners not to worry and stress so much about their business and actually take back their own life and have fun. So Susan, welcome. A pleasure to have you on the show. How are you?

Susan: I’m great guys. Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to dig into how to get that chaos out of people’s lives.

Jonathan: Love it.

Michael: Yeah, no, I’m really excited and we’ll definitely get into it. Before we get there though, do you wanna tell us a little bit about what made you want to start this company and a little bit about your background and maybe if you have any entrepreneur experience before this and stuff like that.

Susan: So sure. I am happy to do that. I started this business because I wanted to help more than one business owner at a time. Throughout my career, I’ve always worked directly for a small business owner and really been that right-hand person. The one that everybody goes to, that has the answers for the whole company of, “Oh, you should go see this person.” That keeper of knowledge. And also that person that the owner could always bounce ideas off of as I helped them manage their projects and structure the process of their operations, all of the rest of that just comes with being there for a long time.

Susan: And as I developed those relationships, you come into a company like that. I worked, for example, for an ad agency in Chicago for 10 years. And while I was there, that first year, man, so much to do. You come in and you write processes and you get things all structured, and then you spend the rest of the time there, in my case, nine more years-

Michael: Oh wow.

Susan: … essentially maintaining it. You might grow it a little, tweak it a little, hire some people, do some things like that, but you’re essentially maintaining a process that you’ve already built. So in the case of a very small business owner, they can’t afford that. They can’t afford to have a full-time chief operating officer or even operations director on your staff for a long time, but you could afford a fractional one.

Michael: That’s smart.

Susan: And that’s essentially where we come in. We come in, we do it part-time for you. It might be some company is two hours a week, some 10 hours a week. And you get that expertise without all of the overhead that comes with them.

Michael: I love that. I think that’s such an incredible idea. And I said this to you before we started recording, every business has an accountant. Well, most businesses do and all businesses should. But all businesses should have an accountant. And it’s something that’s like $75 to $100 an hour. And it just makes your life as a business owner a lot easier. One thing that a lot of businesses don’t have is what you said, a chief operating officer. I’m lucky enough where I got my partner, John.

He basically handles a lot of this stuff to take a lot of stress off my plate. So I’m very happy. But I’m sure he would definitely like to have some of that kind of stress taken off of his plate as I’m sure a lot of other small business owners would. But like you said, it’s hard to be able to afford to employ a guy for $4000 or $5,000 a month because typically it’s quite expensive to have somebody like that work and on your team.

So to be able to just outsource and hire it at a fraction of that and to be able to have somebody just come in and just help out a little bit and not be there necessarily full-time, the 12 hours, five days a week. I think that’s just an incredible idea. And it’s nice to have somebody to be able to rely on. So kudos to you. And I think you’ve up with an awesome idea.

Susan: Thanks. And my whole team loves it. We love the small business world. That’s another reason why I started this when I decided to leave my last job. Now I’ve worked for small business owners my whole life. So I’ve had that experience. I also have my dad who has been a small business owner my entire life and his adult life. My sister and her husband, now everyone takes a little moment of silence and say a prayer for them, they own restaurants, three restaurants, an event center, and a catering company.

Michael: Oh, Jesus.

Susan: So they’re going through some rough times right now, but they’re amazing in their resilience to how they’re handling things. And my best friend and her husband, own an allergy clinic. So I’m just so rounded by small business all the time. My passion for them is so great that when I went to leave my last company, I went on, I’m looking for jobs and I’m on the job market going, “This just is horrible.” Every single job I find I’m like, “I don’t want to do that.” And it apparently was the last straw in my calling to go and become a small business owner.

And unlike some people who do that besides to leave a secure, I’m doing air quotes for people who can’t see that, leave a secure job and go out and start their own thing. All their friends and family, they all, “Oh, bad idea. You shouldn’t do that.” Not mine. All of mine were like, “Well, it’s about time. [inaudible 00:07:40].” So it’s been a different undertaking to also do it later in life. And also to realize later in life that security, the only way you have security is from yourself, from your ability to control your own destiny. Working for somebody else, just is like this fake level of security.

Michael: Yeah. I totally agree with that. That’s such a good way of putting it. You really can only rely on yourself no matter how secure you think a job is. So easy, you can have that tap just turned off in a matter of seconds. And we’ve seen in the last year how many people were unemployed because they had a secure job. So I totally agree with that.

One thing I want to ask. So you’ve seen probably like hundreds… I don’t know about hundreds, but quite a few small businesses. And you’ve seen a lot of the in-depth looks behind the scenes. What are some of the things that you would say is stopping somebody from really growing their small business? Because you even said, a lot of people will just build processes and then just maintain them and the business doesn’t go too much from there.

How would you say is one of the things that’s really holding back a lot of these small businesses that you’ve had the chance to work with? Like, what’s a major problem that you find right away?

Susan: Well, I would start with before that.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: I would start with, they don’t have a process. The person holding the business growth back is the owner. You have everything in your head and you know how you want it to run, but you can’t even figure out how to delegate it to somebody because that’s going to take too long to explain. I can just do it faster. How many times have you said that?

Michael: Oh, I don’t say that. No, no, no. I will never. My dad used to say it all the time, “If you want it done right, you do it yourself.” And I have watched that man, absolutely work himself just nonstop. And I said to myself my whole life, “I will not do that.” One thing I can honestly say that I’ve figured out is the importance of delegation in a small business. And to everybody listening, you guys, like she just said, that’s one of the biggest problems that a lot of business owners are facing right now is just, they want to do it all themselves. Well, you’re only one person. You can only accomplish so much by yourself. Things become a lot easier.

I’ve seen one guy say it, “If somebody can just do it even 80% as good as I can, or 80% as fast as I can, that’s good enough for me. I’m happy at that point, because that frees up my entire day for me to go do other things at my 100% capabilities.”

Susan: Absolutely. And there are many tasks. Think of it as your pay grade. For lack of a better phrase, there are things beneath your pay grade. That as the owner of the company, you shouldn’t be data entering your stuff. Have somebody else do that. Your price point needs to be higher. If you command $200 an hour on the market, then is the task that you’re performing worth $200 an hour. If it’s not, and somebody that’s, shoot, at that rate, even $100 an hour, you’re still then freeing yourself up to do things that other people can’t do, like sell your business usually is what most of us end up doing, sell and marketing and all of that.

The main part of that is being able to convey and get out of what’s in your head to clearly document what needs to be done, and that’s process development. And that is where so many people lack. What goes in hand with that is, it’s not simple enough. So if you’ve developed a business where nothing is simple enough to hand off, then you have automatically limited your growth.

Michael: Interesting. Okay. I see where you’re coming from with that. So you said that there’s a way to actually start implementing different processes. How would you say is one of the first steps? Because there are a lot of business owners that don’t have things systemized. we’re fortunate enough where I’m a bit of like a computer nerd when it comes to that stuff. Like I said, I like to delegate everything possible. So we have different programs that will email different people to notify them of different tasks when they’re ready and everything is just extremely automated.

Where do you start? Because I started like four years ago and I would just implement one tiny little thing, mess around with it, start practicing with it, find that it helped somewhat. Then I would add on another one six months later, and then another one six months later. And five years now down the road, we have everything automated. And so when I was able to start my new business, I just took the automated processes that I liked for my first business and just dragged those over to our second one. But that took five years for me to figure out. How do you speed that process up in a sense?

Susan: So we will actually sit down with the business owner. We usually start with a pain point.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: What hurts the most right now? Where are you the biggest bottleneck in your business? And then let’s talk through how to hand it off. So we will take notes on that and then we will write it up formally, have somebody else follow it to figure out all the things that they didn’t tell us so that we can then go back and fill in the gaps. But if you are a small business owner who just wants to hand off a straightforward task to someone, record it. Get on a Zoom. You don’t even have to meet with them. You can use the tool Loom, that’s Zoom but with an L.

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: Great little recording tool. Make a video of what you’re doing on your computer, sharing your screen, showing them what programs you’re going to and then walk them through it and shoot it off to a virtual assistant and ask that virtual assistant to not only do the task, but write all the instructions out for you. So video is a nice way to have it, but things change in video and you can’t fine tune things in video. You can in writing. I mean, you can, but you have to go record it and edit it. Nobody wants to do that. So if you have it in writing, it can evolve with you as you grow, and it should evolve as you grow. If your process stays exactly the same, you likely are not examining what’s going right, what’s going wrong, what’s simpler on a regular basis.

Michael: Yeah, no, that totally makes sense. What are some typical pain points? What are some that… most people would say is like, “Hey, this is one of my main pain points that I’m coming across.” Like, are there some that are top five that most companies have, or majority of them?

Susan: Number one that we hear is, “I’m managing my projects and email.” And that’s just not an effective way to know where you are on a project, to make sure that the right people are assigned, to make sure that there’s a date assigned to a task.

Michael: Oh. So they don’t have a project manager system at all. This is like just emailing back and forth. And then they have to go back through the emails to see what was agreed upon and who’s doing what job?

Susan: Yes.

Michael: Oh my… Wow. That would be a pain point.

Jonathan: Yeah, that sounds painful.

Susan: You guys are probably surprised, but there are a bunch of people out there that are doing it. And some even have a tool, but they’re not using the tool effectively, so there’s still an email all day. In most of these tools these days… My favorite, by the way, is Teamwork. Go get it if you don’t have it. if you’re starting from scratch, don’t start with that. Start with something like Asana. It’s easier. But all of these tools have a way to do the email interaction on the tasks within the tool assigned to the project. And many people are like, “Oh, well, I don’t want my clients in there.” Okay. Well, your clients don’t need to be in there. They can just respond to that email and it just sucks it in.

So you really want to make sure that you’re staying out of email. If you’re doing that, you don’t even have to log into your email. Your tool will just tell you what’s going on on those projects. I guess yesterday was the first time I did not look at my email until 8:00 PM last night.

Jonathan: Oh, wow.

Michael: Nice.

Susan: I know. That’s pretty impressive.

Michael: Just to try to see if you could hold back?

Susan: It was a really busy day with back-to-back meetings. And usually, I find a gap in my day and I’ll go check and just see where we are. I do have a VA that checks it for me and we have a very detailed process of what she’s supposed to do with everything. And I was surprised when… I was kind of nervous. I’m like, “It’s been a long day.” And I opened it and I’m like, “Well, would you look at that? There just are not that many things for me to take care of.”

Michael: That’s awesome.

Susan: So pulling yourself out of your email is a real big one that we face.

Michael: Okay. And now with the VA, you said that you have a VA that helps you go through your email, what exactly would they do? Because we hired a VA and we just couldn’t find a lot for them to do. We gave them three hours of data entry a week, and that was really all we could provide them with. And I was thinking, “Well, why don’t we get them to respond to all of our emails and handle all of our emails and just notify us of important ones.”

But then I thought, “How do I teach somebody how to do that? How do I teach them to be able to make a judgment call on whether or not this is important when they don’t know the ins and outs of my business.” That was my logic there. So I decided not to hand that out. It’s only taking up about half hour of my day, each day. So it’s not like a big deal. But I was just trying to stack on more hours so we could actually keep her employed. How do you teach them that or organize that?

Susan: Well, if you only have a half hour of email a day, that’s pretty impressive in the first place. I have a lot more than that.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: But it’s taught on an ongoing basis. So you can start with some very basics, “I would like you to please check it at 10:00 noon and 2:00.” Whatever times you choose. And the first thing is, do you have other things for them to do. So they are able to then go through and say, “Oh yeah, that’s a task she would assign to me because that’s on my job description or that’s the other process that we wrote together.” For example, if an invoice comes in from a vendor, I don’t ever have to really even look at that. They know to forward it on to the bookkeeper and they know where to file it so that I can go back and put it into my financial tool.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: So they can just handle that. So those emails go away. There are project management notifications I get, and they know delete all but the last one, because I can go look at the history of it if I just have that last one. So I don’t have 20, I just have one. If a proposal gets signed, they know their next step is a whole series of them, as far as sending an invoice. If it’s a referral fee, setting those referral fees for notifications and then also opening a project for them, helping me assign a consultant. So some of those emails, not only are they going through and managing for me and clearing out for me, they’re actually taking care of those next steps that come from them.

Michael: Interesting.

Susan: And we have not developed yet the ability for them to have the judgment to reply, but we’re getting there. And a lot of that is just developing. And we do it over Slack. So if something comes in, they don’t know what to do about. They will either screenshot it or they will give me a top line in Slack, “Hey, this is what this says.” And then I actually have gotten to the point that I can actually reply with an emoji of whether it’s financial, whether it should be archived or whether to keep it. They keep it as a little gift. The archive is the ghost. So we have fun with that too. And that doesn’t even require me typing in a whole long list.

Michael: Yeah. What’s Slack, if you don’t mind me asking?

Susan: Slack is one of my favorite tools ever.

Michael: Yeah. I’ve not heard of it.

Susan: You haven’t?

Michael: No.

Susan: It’s a chat tool. So if you’re using Microsoft Teams, it would be a competitor. Skype also is a competitor.

Michael: Like WhatsApp I guess, then.

Susan: WhatsApp. Yeah. But Slack does it way better. Way, way better than all of them. It ties into our project management tool. We can actually set up tasks from the tool. You can set reminders. And in our case, not only do we communicate within our own team, but we’re able to communicate with other companies. So we have several workgroups in our tool, not just ourselves.

Jonathan: Well, that’s really cool.

Michael: Yeah, that is. I’m going to have to take a look into that. Because a lot of times, me and him will be texting back and forth and I’m like, “Hey man, here’s a project you got to work on. This is what needs to be done.” And then he’s like, “Okay. Can you go throw that on our project management board?”

Susan: All right.

Michael: And so then one of us will go and do that. So from Slack, you can just directly add it to your project management board, then?

Susan: You could if you use Zapier. If you’re zapping a bunch of stuff around, then you can do it regardless. But it does have natural connections to some.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: But the other thing, and everybody should hear this, do not text. Texting is the worst. Because first, it’s immediate, it interrupts you no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing. It’s on a personal device usually. Because it’s not like you have your work phone and then you have your personal phone. It’s on your personal phone, interrupting your personal life. Especially don’t give it to your clients. And it has to be immediate.

Once you’ve read it, it’s read. It’s not like you can mark it unread or mark it to remind you to come back to it in an hour.

Michael: That’s true.

Susan: And it’s harder to compartmentalize. You can’t say, “I’m going to look at all of these messages and make sure I have all my plans together at a certain time.”

Michael: Yeah. You can’t just set it all for two. Yeah, you’re right.

Susan: And it’s all mixed in. So you have your message from your kid asking where you are to pick them up, combined with all of your work stuff too.

Michael: That’s a great point, actually. I never really considered that.

Susan: That is a big thing that we work to get our clients out of and have them work through the tools with their clients, and then try to go to Slack for internal team. And sometimes, even with clients. Some of my clients set up separate workgroups for each of their clients so that they have a way to connect with them if they want that. Now that part, they usually charge for.

Jonathan: Good to know.

Michael: I’m trying to figure out a process to make our lives a little bit easier right now.

Susan: Okay.

Michael: So currently, my cell phone is the business line in a sense. So all of our company numbers are all forwarded to my personal cell phone because I like to just greet all the clients, but it’s become a very time-consuming task. We’re getting multiple phone calls at a time. I feel like the quality is starting to go a little bit downhill because of it. There are times where I’m just dealing with personal stuff and I can’t answer the phone. I think it’s just about the time where I stop answering the phone 24/7. How do you suggest to start automating that then?

Susan: Well, the first thing I would do is look at a tool that sets you up with a phone number.

Michael: Yeah. We just did that. So we’re on Dialpad. In Dialpad, we have our different Dialpad accounts, but all those phone numbers are then forwarded to my personal cell phone.

Susan: So do you have other people that should be interacting with these people?

Michael: We have our site supervisor, but our site supervisors are typically onsite actually completing the work or managing the work and just over-sighting things. So no. We did hire a VA in hopes for her to be able to do that but the phone just wasn’t ringing that much because it was our off-season. It was during the winter. And so we had all of our contracts already preset. So even if we did hire a VA for it, it would only be for about six months out of the year when the phone’s really going crazy during our summer seasons.

Susan: Okay. So you can absolutely do that for one. Hire a seasonal VA.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: The other thing is unless you lose business because you don’t answer your phone, and in your case, maybe you do.

Michael: Very little. Like it’s happened, but it’s very slim. There’s the odd time where I’ll call somebody back within like an hour or something like that, and they’re like, “Hey, sorry. I ended up calling the next number on Google and you lost the sale.” But yeah. But it’s not super common.

Jonathan: not often for us, but it does happen out there in the world too, right? So it’s not that bad.

Susan: Yeah. It does. But I would think also if that’s happening, maybe they’re not your best client. But the voicemail ability is a very powerful tool. And most of these voicemails these days can go to your email. So the way that I have mine set up, I get a notification on Slack that I have a voicemail and who it’s from, but I don’t get the actual voicemail. My virtual assistant gets a voicemail, listens to it, sees if she can handle it. And if not, she’ll tell me what it is and ask me what to do.

Michael: Interesting.

Susan: So I’m still not getting sucked into my email to go in and look at it. But if I need to come back… and in your case, you would probably get a lot more voicemails than I get. That’s probably why you have low email. Most of my communication is written, probably most of yours is more people calling.

Michael: Yeah.

Jonathan: Exactly. Yeah.

Susan: And so what you can do then is compartmentalize when are you going to go through those messages. You could even record an outgoing message that says we’ll respond to all of our clients within X number of hours. It is usually at 10:00, 2:00 or 4:00. And then block time on your calendar to go through those messages and return the calls.

Michael: Yeah. No, it’s definitely smart. I actually really like that. And I like the idea of setting a specific time. The only concern that I’m having or that I can think of off the top of my head is, because there’s multiple phone numbers forwarded to my phone, we have different voicemail set up for all of them, but when they get forwarded to my phone, it’s my voicemail that shows up. It doesn’t prioritize the other voicemails. It just shows, “Hey, this is Michael with APS. How can I help you? I’m sorry, I missed your call.” Yada, yada.

So with my separate company, the cleaning company, the maid services, when people call my phone, if I don’t answer right away, then they hear a company voicemail that is a different company, and I feel like that’s not the greatest.

Susan: So you need another line. Build another call tree.

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: You might also even just be able to build a different call tree in the voice that you chose.

Michael: Yeah, I might be able to. I was with customer support, but I wasn’t able to figure something out, but so far, the only solution I was thinking, just getting another cell phone [crosstalk 00:27:24].

Susan: Or just get another number. You don’t need another phone, get another number that is a main incoming number.

I started my company with a personal cell phone number.

Michael: Yeah. Me too.

Susan: And I just recently changed it over to have a new number that’s a direct line. My personal voicemail now says, “If you’re calling for Beyond The Chaos, please hang up and dial” and I put the number.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: But like I said, I don’t get that many phone calls. So it’s not that big of a deal. Going through all of your social media and your website and your ads and changing the number though is also important.

Michael: Okay. Fair enough then. No, that definitely helps. What are some other typical pain points? Because figuring out what process you would need to implement is super important. And so one of them you said was for helping out with emails and things like that. What are a couple of other pain points that a lot of businesses face?

Susan: Onboarding customers.

Michael: What do you mean by that?

Susan: When I say onboarding, I mean what are the steps to bring a customer onboard and educate them on your business? And when does that start in your process? Is it after they pay their first invoice? Is that part of the onboarding process? Maybe it starts even once you’ve sent a proposal. Most professional services businesses are going to go through a sales process, send a proposal, get an invoice signed and then start a project. And so what do those steps look like so that you can manage them consistently and without having to think through each step each time, and then also be able to hand off some of those things. So you don’t have to do all of those things, as well as making all of the customers have the same experience through that process. So it almost becomes part of your branding.

Michael: Yeah. Okay.

Susan: And if you handle a customer as you’re onboarding them in a great way that already gives them a good feeling of, now yeah, this is how the project will go too.

Michael: I totally agree with that. And that’s actually why I’m so adamant on me answering all the phone calls is because it builds that first impression. First impressions do mean a lot. And so when the owner answers the phone and just gives them this really nice experience and just has a nice conversation with them, I feel like it just builds a bit of an early rapport with the client, and then their expectations are that the job is also going to be extremely high quality.

Jonathan: That’s why things have worked so well is because you’re good at talking to them over the phone. And then either me or another partner with the other service, we are more likely to be in person with them. And then we can still keep that relationship.

Michael: Yeah. So the way we have the process built right now is we use monday.com for all of our task management.

Susan: Okay.

Michael: I’ve been pretty happy with it. We used Asana for a little bit. I preferred monday.com over that though. So what we’ll do is I answer the phone. Client calls, I pick up, I say, “Hello, how’s everything going?” Blah, blah, blah, blah. I end up marking down all their information. I build a customer profile on monday.com and then I ask them, “Would you like an in-person quote or would you like me to give you just a rough estimate over the phone?” If they say they would like an in-person quote, I change a little bar on my Monday tab, that’ll then notify one of my supervisors saying, “Hey, you now have a new quote assigned to you. Please do it on this day and at this time.” They now know where they have to be and where they’re assigned to. They’ll go and complete that quote.

Sometimes, they’ll give the price to the client on the home. Sometimes they’ll just send it back to me and then I’ll give the client in their phone call. But I can tell once the supervisor gets to the house, they fill in all the details. So it tells me the square footage of the home, what the home looks like, how dirty it is, basically all the details that I need to know to be able to make a proper judgment call on how to sell the home or sell the job, I guess. And then from there, if it gets booked in, we would say that it got booked in. And then that lead would then get deleted and moved into another section saying that this lead has been completed and fully taken care of. So that’s our system for that.

Susan: So that’s a great process and it’s great that you could mine item that out. And I’m betting from what you told me that that’s probably a lot of it is automated with notifications and that kind of thing.

Michael: Yeah, the whole thing.

Susan: So if I was working with you, I would say, “Where are you touching that process? Where are you as the owner involved with steps?”

Michael: The very beginning. Just the phone call.

Susan: Okay.

Michael: I answer the phone call, and then I fill in the data of what’s their address. What’s their email address? What’s their phone number and what service are they looking to get done. Once I do those things, everything else is automated.

Susan: Okay. So if you wanted to go on vacation for a week-

Michael: Three months.

Susan: Let’s start with a week. Baby steps.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: You wanted to go on vacation for a week and you really needed to turn things off. What would you do?

Michael: I’d forward my phone to this guy.

Susan: Okay. And he knows how to talk to them and he knows how to get the information because that process is defined. So if you’re a small business owner, that’s the type of thing you want to be looking at is what can I stop doing all the time, constantly, because you are the bottleneck in the growth of your business. And so the more things you can get out of the way, the better you’re going to be able to grow.

Michael: I totally agree. And the way I always looked at it, and this is going to sound totally crazy. When we originally started business, he didn’t have a lot of business experience. And so I was the one with the experience. And so I always thought to myself, “Man, if I get hit by a bus, how is he going to be able to continue running the business? I need to have it so that there are certain people in certain places and everything’s just truly automated.” And so every time I find that I’m doing something too much and we’ve had this conversation a hundred times.

Jonathan: Yeah. Multiple.

Michael: I’m like, “Hey man, I just spent 15 hours doing this, this month. That’s way too much. We need to figure out how to start delegating this.” And then that’s how we’ve just always done. It’s just, if I were to die, who would handle this? Or if I want to go on vacation for three months, how would this get handled if I’m not here? And I think that just living by that quote is what’s allowed us to automate majority of our business so far.

Susan: Well, interestingly enough, you’ve pulled in a phrase that as project managers, we use all the time when we’re talking to whoever we’re working with is, “Okay, if you got hit by the bus tomorrow, how is the next person supposed to know what you’re doing?”

Michael: So we’re not crazy. Yeah.

Susan: You’re not crazy. We say that all the time. So if there is a process in place of, say, you’re working with a software development company, the software developer, working out of his basement, how does anyone at the company know where he got, if there’s not a process at the end of the day, for him to upload files and to upload notes and make sure that his code is commented or whatever your process is. You have to be constantly thinking of what if that person just wasn’t here. And as an employee, it could be, they win the lottery and they just leave. It doesn’t have to be getting hit by the bus, right?

So any of that stuff, people quit, people get fired and that continuation of your business is important, not only from an employee standpoint, but to your point, from an owner standpoint as well. What happens to your clients if you’re not there? And what happens to the business if you’re not there? What about all your employees? As a small business owner, you are responsible for a lot of people. And just not being there one day is irresponsible. So coming up with a way to make sure that that’s covered. Even if it’s just that your spouse knows who to call, that can be a first step in a disaster plan, which should be part of most businesses.

Michael: Interesting. Now, how do you break that mindset? Because like I said, the only reason I… the total opposite of the mindset of do it all yourself is because I watched my dad. But now for close to 10 years, I’ve been trying to convince this guy like, “Buddy, stop breaking your back, stop doing it all yourself.” And he’s like, “Nope, if you want it done right, you do it yourself. My dad taught me to work hard and always work hard.” And that’s just what he always reverts back to. And I have not been able to get him to budge even in the slightest bit over 10 years.

So when you work with a new business owner and you tell them all these things, when they’ve been doing this for 20, 30 years, and you’re like, “Hey, just stop doing it all yourself.” And they’re like, “Nope, can’t do that.” How do you wedge that?

Susan: Usually, there has to be a pain associated with it. A lot of the people that come to work with us might have a spouse that has basically said, “I cannot stay married to you if this is what it’s going to be, because you’re never here.” It could be a child that you just finally missed too many of their events and they hate you now. You’re the worst dad ever. It could be even something like I have so much going on. I’m suffering under the weight of success essentially that I forgot to follow up on a $50,000 project and I lost it.

Susan: So usually when they are ready to come to us, they tend to have already hit rock bottom, so to speak, and they’re motivated to change. And so we use that motivation. That’s why part of our plan is to help them get their lives back.

Michael: Interesting.

Susan: We want to remove that overwhelm so that their relationships are better. And so if any small business owner thinks that business and personal is separate, you’re out of your mind. It is absolutely not. Taking care of your spirit and your body and your family is all more important than anything you do at work. And that’s why you work. It’s for that family, for the fun too that hopefully you’re planning to do. And if you are not understanding why you’re working and that that’s the reason, then it’s going to be virtually impossible for us to get you to delegate something.

Michael: Interesting.

Susan: So at some point, you get to the point where you’re like, okay, you just like working and living in a chaos world. So can’t help you with that. Keep living there.

Michael: That’s what I found with my dad. I’m just like, “Man, you must just love being surrounded by chaos.”

Susan: Right. But if you can get to the why of why are you doing this, and we have some very interesting why’s from some people essentially wanting to change the world through better education, to people who want to make a lot of money so that they can give it away, essentially. Their spirit tells them that that’s what they’re after. So people who, I just want my kids to have everything that they need. So if you can get to that why, why are you doing this? What is the vision? What on earth makes you decide to get money? If you can get to that, then you can work that into all of the things that you’re working on.

Susan: So for example, if you had to take fewer calls and answer for your calls, could you spend more time with your kids?

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: So if you tie that back around, okay then, how do we get that off your plate? Now you have somebody that’s a little bit more open to what might work.

Michael: Okay. I see where you’re coming from here. Interesting. Another thing I want to ask you about, and we talked about this before we started recording, but you guys said that you had an ebook that’s out.

Susan: Yeah. We have an ebook that’s out. It’s Three Ways To Reduce Chaos In Your Small Business. So notice also that title says reduce. We all are going to have chaos, but basically what we’re trying to give you the tools to do is, work in an environment where it’s usually not there so that when it raises its head, you have the ability to deal with it.

Michael: And honestly, not to pause you there. So with our first business, it was chaos 24/7.

Michael: Like yeah, everything was on fire all the time. We call them putting out fires. We’re not business owners, we’re firefighters. ’Cause we were just putting out fires 24/7. And so it took about four or five years. We finally got things a lot more organized. But then when we took over this new company, we said we’re going to implement all the things that have made our lives less chaotic. And this business, it’s been rolling for almost four months now-

Jonathan: Smooth.

Michael: Zero issues. Literally zero. We’ve had one issue. One employee quit, but they stayed for an extra three weeks till we found a new employee. Not even a real issue at that point. And so I can honestly say it’s just been so much better running a business that doesn’t stress me out. I am so much happier. It’s not even about the money, it’s just the fact that my other business, there was years where I wanted to literally rip my hair out and I wasn’t sleeping for three days straight, just working nonstop. And I was like, “This is not healthy. This is not how a business is supposed to be ran.” And then being able to learn all those lessons and just implement a much smoother operating business [inaudible 00:41:03] innocence has just been incredible.

Susan: Well, my guess is that your relationships with your family and your employees and your clients are dramatically improved now as well.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Michael: 100%.

Susan: That’s one of the things we look at. We really want to affect Americans. Well, I know y’all are Canadians. North American society-

Michael: Thank you.

Susan: …. exponentially. So every small business owner that we remove overwhelm from, they are taking that chaos and that stress out of their communications with everyone else. And it’s just exponential. It all rolls uphill or downhill, whichever ways is better.

Michael: I didn’t even think of that. I was being greedy in a sense. And I was only thinking about my own personal stress when I just made that comment. But now that you mentioned the employees and the clients, our employees with our first company, it was a very high turnover rate. They weren’t staying long. It wasn’t a very strong culture. There was always arguing.

Susan: There was a sign.

Michael: Exactly. But now company number two, our employees are the happiest people in the world just to show up to work because we’ve just built such a strong, together culture and community.

Jonathan: That’s why that one employee decided to stay with us for an extra two weeks [crosstalk 00:42:17].

Michael: 100%. Which avoided a problem.

Jonathan: Exactly.

Susan: Yeah.

Michael: Interesting. It’s all connected here. This is very interesting.

Susan: It’s all connected, right? It’s not separate. it turns out we are one whole person, not like these separated split personalities.

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: And so all of that, that’s our why. That’s what we’re after. We just do it with some structure and process that works you through developing your processes. That’s way number one, by the way, to reduce your process or reduce your chaos.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: The second way is to start managing your projects better. So getting your arms around what that looks like. And even if you don’t run projects with your clients where you are a project based company, you are still running projects. Internal projects, managing a client through fulfillment essentially is what we’re talking about. And then the third part of that is how you reduce your interruptions. And so we were talking earlier about the phone is such an interrupter and so is email. So if you can start to use your calendar to block times to do those tasks, now you’re planning your interruption instead of letting them lead you around and totally ruin your day.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Michael: That is so smart. Okay. So I’ve heard somebody mentioned that before about the emails, about saying that don’t spend your entire day on emails and also don’t reply to emails when you get them. Because a lot of people, the second they get an email, they pull up their phone or they go sit down and they stop whatever project they were working on. Like if you’re writing an essay, I know it’s totally irrelevant to this, but if you’re working on something like an essay, and then all of a sudden you get an email, you get distracted or a text, you stop your train of thought, you go respond to that.

Now you’re thinking about something completely different. Your brain’s off topic. Now you gotta take like three or four minutes to get yourself back together and back into the zone to continue writing and working on the project that was in front of you.

Michael: So I actually set a time like at 2:00 o’clock every day I check my emails. It makes it so that you don’t have your notifications turned on, so they don’t interrupt you. And then you can get your work done throughout the day. And then at 2:00 o’clock you have a set designated time for an hour or half an hour or whatever it would take. You don’t have to be worried being interrupted 15 times throughout the day for five minutes at a time, each time. So I love that.

Susan: Absolutely. It makes a huge difference. And when people send emails, they don’t expect you to respond immediately. When they send a text, now they do, right? So that’s another reason to avoid texting. And if they call you, that also seems like an immediate interruption. That’s why cold calling salespeople are having a harder time right now is because people just aren’t answering their phone. It has become, in our society, a less important means of communication. But that escalates, right? So if you’re sensing an emergency, you might get an email and then a bit later a text and then you start getting the phone calls and now you’re having a fire that you have to put out.

Susan: If you are better at planning all of that, you might never get to that. So for example, you get an email from a client asking you the status of the project they’re working on. Okay. Well, if you had just set weekly status meetings and been having those meetings with those clients weekly, the interruption would have never happened. They would have known, they would have felt better. By the time the client’s asking, you’ve already dropped the ball. So making sure that you are proactively taking care of those things, makes everything just go so much smoother.

Michael: Yeah, no, definitely. And that’s one thing I like about processes. It allows you to be proactive instead of reacting to these issues, after they already happen. What are some other things that should be automated? Like things that most people just wouldn’t assume should be automated. Because I’m sure there’s more things that I could still automate that I just haven’t really thought of. I’m like, “Oh, it takes me five minutes or it’s not that hard.” Like, what are some typical things, the first three things that you would tell people, “Hey, this isn’t automated, but it should be. And this isn’t but it should be.”

Susan: So automation is different from process. I do want to make sure that we know that difference. Automation involves a tool in the background working automagically, essentially. What I’m talking about is more, develop a process for how you do it so you can do it consistently. But to answer your question in regard to that one, I would say sales. What is your sales process is a big one. And that every company should have a sales process that they are following consistently.

Susan: As I mentioned, onboarding clients, hiring and firing staff and then also how you interview them. So that whole process of how you interview them. How you hire them. What is their onboarding. What tools do they need access to. Do theyhave the keys to a building? Are you giving them a computer? What software tools do you use? What processes do they have to know about to do their job.

Michael: So as an example… okay. Yeah. Sorry.

Susan: And then to continue that but offboarding them. Because sometimes you have to off-board somebody in an emergency because they don’t need to be there anymore, right? So if that’s the case, you want to know exactly what tools you need to turn off, and that you’ve got to get the key back and the computer back. So having those as they could be checklists or as a written process, whichever is easier for the way you’re working.

Michael: Yeah. That’s actually what I was just about to ask. So do I just have like a Google Docs or something up online that would say, “Hey, this is the process of how we hire a new employee. Step one is going to be to post an indeed ad. The next, step two, is to do interviews over Zoom. Step three is to meet them in person. Four, is to order their uniform. Step five is to have them in our training for three houses. Step six is this.”

Michael: And then you’d have the exact opposite, which would be, this is the process of how to fire somebody. Automatically delete their host call account. Their Monday account. Automatically… not automatically, but make sure to get their uniform back. And you just almost build an instruction booklet for all the different processes of your company.

Susan: Right. That’s essentially what you’re doing. Now, you said you’re using monday.com. So if you have a tool, most of these tools, and I’m going to admit monday.com is not one that we’ve used that often. It is one we’re very well aware of, but most of our clients are not in that. So we don’t have as much of experience. But I know they have templates. So you can actually build, in most of these tools, a checklist template with all of those steps in there, even who they’re supposed to be assigned to. And in some cases, how many days apart are they. So that you open up that template, now you’re automating. You’re automagically assigning people and dates, and it’s all run as a project now through your tool mixed in with any other projects that you’re running.

Michael: Interesting. Yes. I never considered using it like that. And I love that idea. [crosstalk 00:50:02].

Susan: There is a huge tip. If you’re using your tool, create a project that’s for your company so that you can pull those things in and you’re running your company there too. So the source of truth should be your project management tool. In my company, I even have my personal to do list reminding me of when you got to clean the washing machine or whatever those steps are once every six months. That’s in there. If you’re an employee, you probably can’t do that as easily as an owner can. But having all of that in one place, I go one place and I see everything I have to do.

Michael: Yeah. I have mine set up the exact same way. I have it so that I can see the high level overview of all the different tasks that have been assigned. And then if any of them go past their due date, automatically it pops up on my screen like the overview and it says, “Hey, these tasks-”

Susan: Dashboard. Yeah.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. It’ll say, “These tasks have not been completed, but they’re due in 12 hours. Make sure everything’s going smoothly.” And then now I know, okay, you know what? Something might go wrong here. I’m going to go interject and just see how everything’s going. So I [crosstalk 00:51:09].

Susan: Except you’re not doing it to hire people, so you don’t know all of it.

Michael: I do the hiring myself. So I’m doing the hiring myself. I’m answering the phones myself. What else? Is that it? Okay. Everyone, that’s it? Yeah.

Susan: It is until you learn how to delegate those things. And then you’ll find you’re actually doing something else that you didn’t realize.

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: So that’s one of the processes that we talk about is it’s ongoing. It never really ends of what else can I not do.

Jonathan: That’s so true. Over the years, he slowly realized, you know what? We can make this a lot better. Let’s figure out how we don’t need to do this. And then maybe a week later, he’s like, “You know what? We’re doing this too much too. Let’s get rid of this.” Michael has been really good to keep up with the delegating. That’s definitely his expertise. Whereas I’m like his dad where it’s like, “No. I need to do it myself because I know it can be that good.” So it’s…

Susan: And to a degree, that can be true. But give yourself a little exercise. For a week, write down everything you do.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: Just keep a notepad. And I’m not big for paper. In this instance, keep a notepad. Write down everything you’re doing. At the end of the week, go through and literally decide, one, should I be doing this at all? I mean, maybe why are we doing it? Delete it. Don’t ever do it again. That’s one. And that one keeps coming back to me. I keep being like, “No, we need to do that.” And then the next week it’ll be like, “I don’t know.” So keep those, even though you’ve made the decision.

Susan: The next thing is, is this something that could be delegated? And then get rid of that. Is this something that can be systemized? That’s your third thing? Okay. Well, let’s write the system and then figure out who owns the system and move it on. Could it be automated? There you go. You guys are the big automators. So that usually is the last step in moving through a process.

Jonathan: Yeah. I was going to ask you real quick about processes. Do you shy away from automations then? Or do you still-

Susan: Absolutely not.

Jonathan: No. Okay. You still like them? It’s like a mix.

Michael: No. They’re hand in hand. You build the process and then you automate it.

Jonathan: Okay. okay.

Susan: Yeah. but if you can’t make the process clear, you can’t figure out how to automate it. You just end up with a disaster spaghetti technology thing going on.

Jonathan: So find the process, then you can automate that.

Michael: Find the issue, build a process around it, then you automate it.

Susan: You got it.

Michael: Yeah. Well, the notepad thing. The reason I was smiling so hard the whole time, my parents make me do that. They literally make me do that. So my mom, because it’s my dad that’s the crazy work horse. My mom’s where I got a lot of my delegation from. And she’s always telling me like, “Pull out a big piece of paper, write yourself a little calendar on it and mark down every single task you did that day. Doesn’t matter how small or how stupid or how meaningless it seemed, write down every single thing that you did that day that’s in regards to work.

Do that for a couple of weeks straight and then say, ‘Okay, which ones popped up the most amount of times. Okay. I did this 15 times this month. How much time did that take? How do I get somebody else to be able to do that?’”

Michael: And so I do that probably twice a year. I don’t know if that’s often enough, but twice a year for about a month, I’ll write down everything I’m doing. And I’m like, “Okay, I can automate this.” Not automate but “I can systemize this. I can build a process around this. And can make this easier. I can delegate this to somebody else.” And that’s why, like you said, every month or so, I come up with a little random thing to make it easier, but that’s exactly why. So to everybody listening, that was such a golden nugget. You guys try that out. It will absolutely blow your mind. You might think you’re not doing a lot.

Once you actually write down everything that you do in a day, all of a sudden that list is so big. And there’s so many tedious things where it’s like, it only takes five minutes. So in your head, you never really think of it as doing something because it was only a five minute task.

Michael: But when you’re doing a five minute task, three times a day, five days a week, it adds up and it becomes a lot of time out of your month or out of your year. So to write down all the tasks is so important.

Susan: It also could be interruptive, those five minute tasks. It doesn’t allow you to string together a long enough period of time to think about anything.

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: And use those tasks to help you plan your calendar too. If you’re not blocking calendars, you are missing out on a huge productivity tool.

Michael: What’s blocking calendars?

Susan: So for example, my calendar, I have first gone in and I will give… if you’re starting from scratch, this is how you do it. Start with your spiritual health, whatever that means to you, whether it’s going to church or meditating or taking that quiet walk by yourself. Put that on your calendar. You have to take care of your spirit, where you will die. Second thing, your health, same thing. If you’re not taking care of your health, you will die. We’re all gonna die anyway, but let’s extend it as long as we can, right?

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: So whenever you’re working out, make time to eat, small business owners, make time to eat. For me, I love to cook dinner. I love cooking. And so I have on my calendar, blocked out at 5:30 every day, make dinner because that is my transition from work to home. Even though I’m just walking next door, that is my transition. And it’s something I enjoy. So it makes me stop.

Michael: Okay.

Susan: Now you have a little bit of structure. Next thing, put your family events in. When are the kids’ soccer games or the recitals? What is that fun party you want to go to? Block that stuff out. The next thing you need to put in there are opportunities for you to focus on your business, whether that is a class you need to take, or it is just blocking two hours once a week to start, maybe it grows to more overtime to actually think about your marketing. Think about improvements. Maybe write some systems like we’re talking about. Then let the work fill in the rest. Guess what? You’re going to get it all filled in. But you’ve now put it in the priority order it should be to make a successful business.

Michael: Yeah. I liked that. I liked the prioritization of spirit and health because a lot of small business owners, we’re very guilty of putting the business first over everything. And we’re very guilty of that as well. There’s been plenty of times where we’ve gone several days without sleep. And so forcing that into your schedule, just to keep things consistent is what makes things just so much better. And once again, referring to our other company, things are just organized. We have processes in place and looking at them side-by-side, it is such a difference in the amount of just personal stress that we take home even.

Jonathan: Well, even just catching up with just day-to-day tasks with like, how did the company do today? Great. Any issues? No. All right. Whereas looking back at our first company, it’s like, “Okay, here’s my long list of everything that went wrong today, and probably about two of them were fixed. So what are we going to do about this?” It’s definitely been a lot less stressful with that second company, just because of how, I guess, over the five years, we now know our automation and our processes, right?

Susan: And with that, you’re so much more able to control your a little bit of separation of home and work. We all do it. I do it. After dinner, you’re sitting in front of the TV, you’re reading your emails, aren’t you? We all do it. Do not respond then. There are two things that happen if you respond at 10:00 o’clock at night. One, you get an email conversation with a client who’s also working at 10:00 o’clock at night and nobody needs that. Because they start replying and then you’re back and forth.

Michael: Yeah.

Susan: Second, you make people question if they’re getting the best you, because you’re not doing your work when you’re the sharpest, and that’s the perception you’re giving off.

Michael: That’s interesting. I see-

Susan: All tools now have the ability to send later. If you want to do it in front of the TV, do it, and then schedule it to go out the next morning at 9:00 o’clock or 9:08, be tricky there.

Michael: I like that.

Susan: But make sure that it goes out during what you would consider a normal business day. So you’re now also setting boundaries and respect from your clients as well that we will respect the workday.

Michael: Okay.

Jonathan: Well, I was going to ask you to just to backtrack on the fact of like, when you’re responding late at night, you may not be at your sharpest self. And I guess my rebuttal to that is, I mean, Michael, back in the day, you used to do most of your work from 8:00 or 9:00 at night, till 2:00 in the morning, just because that was the schedule you were on. So are you just mentioning that in the perspective of your regular 9:00 to 5:00 business day, it’s late at night, you shouldn’t be responding because you’re just out of the office, I guess, you could say? Or how do you mean by you’re not at your sharpest, you shouldn’t be responding late at night.

Susan: Well, obviously if late at night is your schedule because that’s when our office hours are, then that’s a different thing.

Jonathan: Okay.

Susan: But if you are somebody who’s worked from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM and then had dinner and now you’ve played with the kids and now you’re going to do work emails, are you going to try to tell me you’re not tired?

Jonathan: No, fair. Okay.

Michael: Totally agree.

Jonathan: Cool. Just wanted to reemphasize on that then.

Michael: That’s another thing is having those consistent work hours. Is that something that you find is an issue with a lot of small businesses? They don’t have a set working hours. Our first business, we were open from 9:00 AM till 9:00 AM.

Jonathan: 9:00 PM.

Michael: No 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Jonathan: Oh, you’re saying like… okay.

Michael: It was 24 hours.

Susan: 24 hours. Yeah.

Michael: Yeah. Like I would answer my phone at midnight to clients. I had some clients call me just even later than that. And we would do jobs. If we had a job that was out of town, we would go out three hours out of town. We’d get there by 9:00 AM and we’d be there until 9:00 PM. And then we’d have to drive home another three hours. And it’s like, we didn’t have a consistent work schedule that we were working on. With the new company, we only work from 9:00 till 4:00, no matter what. Doesn’t matter who’s dying. What the client needs. It’s, we are here from 9:00 till 4:00. Our phones are on from 9:00 till 4:00.

Our employees are working from 9:00 till 4:00. It’s a lot more easily managed. Do you find that that’s something that a lot of other business owners are doing as well is just having a 24 hour working clock?

Susan: To a degree. Yes. I mean, obviously it depends on who you’re serving and what you’re selling. If your job is to make sure that somebody’s server works 24/7 and their server goes out, then you have to somehow be alerted. Now, I would recommend that that not be by a client using your personal phone to call you at home. Perhaps you need to set up a robot that notifies you a different way. But the way to separate that is on the business owner. It’s not the client. I mean, shoot, I’ve called businesses. I had no expectation that they would answer the phone. And I just wanted to share the information and get them to call me back and I’m happy to leave a message. If somebody answers in that case, you’re like,, oh, you’re almost getting shocked.

Michael: That happens all the time. People are like, “Oh my God, hello. Is this a business?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And they’re like, “Oh my god. Why did you answer? It’s 1:00 in the morning.” And I’m like, “I don’t know, you called.” And they’re like, “Well, now that I’m here, can I get my windows cleaned this week?” And I’m like, “Yeah. Sure.”

Susan: So you have people that are working on different schedules that think of things at different times. That doesn’t make it your emergency. And so the business owner has to set those parameters. And it’s your responsibility to set those for your clients. Not the other way around.

Jonathan: Fair.

Michael: Yeah. See, that’s where we had it mixed up is it was the client setting whatever time they want to work on. We were just so desperate is the best way to put it. We were just desperate for business and I didn’t want to take the risk of turning down anything. Anytime my phone rang, I answered it immediately. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4:00 in the morning, because if I don’t answer it, they might call someone else. I don’t know. I just didn’t want to risk it. But it caused so much stress, such a messed up unorganized schedule. Our guys would work from like 9:00 AM till noon. And then they would work again from like 4:00 PM to like 7:00 PM or something like that.

Michael: There were breaks in the middle because I wasn’t trying to fill the schedule properly. I was just accepting any work and whenever they were available to get the work done. If they said they wanted it Wednesday at 7:00, Wednesday at 7:00 you’re booked in. It didn’t matter how we got it done. I always said yes to basically everything. And it caused hundreds of problems for us.

Susan: And when you’re desperate like that, the response that you get from clients is very different. They can sense it, even if you are not doing something openly to convey it. And what ends up happening is you start to attract worse and worse and worse clients because you’re not saying not to anyone. You’re saying yes. And every single time you say yes, you are saying no to something else. And so leaving your space to accept the good clients that you want is going to also help with that overwhelm.

Jonathan: We definitely made that transition, I would say, towards the later parts of last year, is we did start selecting our clients and saying no and realizing this is the quality that we provide. If you’re not happy with that, there’s plenty of other companies around there. I agree, we’ve definitely attracted that luxury homeowners that we’ve been going towards. And it’s become a lot less stressful because, again, they don’t want to worry about it. They just say, get the job done and we’ll do it. We do it. They’re happy. We get paid. Everything’s hunky-dory happy.

Michael: Yeah. In our original company, our motto was just volume. Get as many clients as we can. Just keep doing that. And then eventually we’ll wean them out in a sense. And the number of problems that we had from having just… we have, let’s say, a hundred clients and of those hundred, there was like maybe 25 good clients if that. We had a lot of clients that would just argue about price, argue about quality, very discount clients. Yeah. And it was just causing so many issues versus our new company now, I think we have 25 or 30 clients. It’s very minimal. But I would take having those 30 clients that are stress-free over the 500 clients that we have on the other side.

Because those 500 clients, of those 500, a lot of them aren’t profitable first of all, which is a huge issue because of the fact that we’ve just negotiated down so far to our bottom line that it’s almost costing us money just to do the job. And it’s just adding so much stress that almost it’s just like, how do you make it worth it?

Michael: oh yeah, don’t accept all clients. Don’t bend to their will. Don’t be answering your phone 24 hours a day. Set a proper schedule that works around you and you will attract the people that work around that schedule as well. You will find the right clients for your business. And that’s one thing that took us-

Jonathan: Two months to figure out.

Michael: Three years to figure it out.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Susan: I love how you guys have it taken what you learned and applied it and found it to be a success. So it’s not like your learning curve was straight there.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Susan: You actually went up that curve.

Michael: Yeah. It’s been a roller coaster.

Jonathan: It has been.

Michael: It’s a process. And that’s why our show is called the CEO Process because we’re still in the process of learning. It’s a never ending thing. We’re still in the process of making our businesses better and still in the process of just becoming the CEOs of our lives. And by being able to talk to amazing people like you every single week, it’s allowed us to really just notice the issues and how to also fix the issues. So it’s been an amazing process for us.

Susan: That’s so fun that you get to learn from doing this too.

Michael: That’s why we started it, to be completely honest. It was just, I figured-

Jonathan: Let’s be honest. You started it because you like hearing your voice.

Michael: Okay. It’s beautiful.

Jonathan: But no. We truly did start this because we just wanted to share our information and then we realized how much more information we could get back from it. And I think by far that’s the awesome, most… Oh, I can’t even speak. That’s the best thing about this podcast is that the amount of knowledge we have learnt in the past year with all of our special guests has been unreal.

Michael: Yeah. I totally agree.

Susan: That’s awesome. And I’m so glad to have been one of them.

Jonathan: Of course.

Michael: You’re an amazing guest.

Jonathan: Great, great content in here.

Michael: Are there any topics or anything else that maybe you want to talk on that maybe I passed over by accident?

Susan: No, I don’t think so. I think we covered as much as we could, and at some point people are going to stop listening because it’s too long.

Michael: No, I have a beautiful noise. They’ll listen to the whole thing.

Jonathan: We force them to listen to it. So it’s fine.

Michael: Susan, I want to ask you two questions here. One is, you guys focus on small businesses.

Susan: Right.

Michael: Why? Is that because they’re, again, like us, we’re brand new, we’re fresh. We don’t really know all the different processes, or is because the larger companies already have that COO, that full time consultant that can help them with their business as is? Why do you guys focus on that five to 15 employee, small business type?

Susan: And really we’re zero to 15.

Michael: Okay. Sorry.

Susan: Well, I guess one. You have to have someone.

Michael: The owner. Yeah.

Susan: So we have several solopreneur clients. I chose small businesses as our target because I love my… I’m surrounded by them. My family, my friends. I’ve worked for them. And I love the passion and the creativity that small business owners have. You lose a little of that in larger corporations. And unlike the bureaucracy that you experience in some larger corporations, the structure that we add to small businesses actually sets people free to do better work. In larger corporations, it just becomes this trudge through what do I have to do next. And you’re starting to eliminate the creativity. And it makes things move very slow. I want to be able to effect change fast.

Jonathan: I like that.

Susan: I want a big impact quickly.

Michael: I was just going to say, I feel like you have a lot more impact with small businesses as well-

Susan: For sure.

Michael: Because you have the ability to just completely change a small business. Like if I had somebody come in with all this knowledge in our first year of our business and to be able to systemize a lot of things and build these processes, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because I wouldn’t have had all these stresses that we’ve had to deal with. So just that alone, you can have such a tremendous impact and completely 360 somebody’s business. It’s a lot harder to be able to do that with a very large corporation.

Susan: Yeah. It’s sort of like turning that huge ship out. It just goes so slowly.

Jonathan: Yeah. That was an awesome answer. Thank you.

Susan: You’re welcome.

Jonathan: Last one actually I have is, obviously throughout the whole podcast, you’re talking about different tools to help processes and systematizations and everything like that. What would you say are your top three or five favorite tools that you like to use that you think are like top of the line and they really make things easier for small business owners?

Susan: Definitely Teamwork. teamwork.com. It’s a project management tool. It also tracks time. You can do invoicing through there as Gantt charts and boards and task lists is very cool. It would be similar to Monday. I think it is an upgraded version of that. So Teamwork for sure. And Slack. I do not know. Slack went down for a couple of hours the other day and I was just lost. So that would definitely be one. And I’m a big proponent of using all the G-suite of tools. So Google Sheets, Docs and not to run projects or anything like that, but to make communications easier, because it doesn’t matter if somebody is on a Mac or a PC or has the actual document. It’s shared in a common cloud location. So you have better collaboration when you’re creating things.

Jonathan: Fair. Cool. Well, thank you. You’ve answered my questions. Michael, any for you?

Michael: No, man. I’m golden. That was a ton of information today. I have like a hundred gears in my brain turning right now of all the different things that I want to start working on Monday. On monday.com, not Monday the day. Yeah. There are just so many things where I thought we had a lot of it figured out and today I’m like, wow, we have 10% of it figured out. So I’m excited.

Susan: Always growth process. Right? Always. You never stop.

Michael: 100%. Yeah. No. I think that’s really it. Could you do me a favor? Would you be able to give me the spelling of a website that people will be able to reach out to at where they can find your company, your social media handles as well as the book again?

Susan: Sure. So the best way to find us, go to beyondthechaos.biz, not .com, .biz/ebook, and you will find the book and you will find all the links to our social media as well as a contact me form, anything you need for us. Again, that’s beyond the chaos, B-O-Y… see, I don’t know the spelling.

Michael: B-E-Y-O-N-D T-H-E.

Susan: Yes. Go for it.

Michael: C-H-A-O-S.

Susan: And that’s .biz. B as in boy, I-Z.

Michael: There we go. That’s nice.

Jonathan: God, love it.

Michael: Cool. Yeah. I think that’s all the questions that I had. Once again, I just want to say thank you. You’re an incredible guest and it was an absolute pleasure to talk with you today. To everybody, this is an incredible episode for you guys. This episode hits exactly what you guys needed to hear. Start building processes. I know I’ve always been an advocate for them and I’ve always pushed them on you guys, but you guys heard it today from somebody that’s a professional and their entire business is built around helping people do this to make their lives a lot more easy going and a lot less over complicated.

Michael: If I could just give one piece of advice to you guys, definitely, definitely, definitely check this episode out a second time, because I know for a fact, if you guys start writing down everything you do in a day, you will realize that you are wasting a ton of time on very small tedious tasks. And a lot of that can be built into processes and even automated if you know what you’re doing. So definitely take the time to watch some YouTube videos and figure out how to get some of this stuff done and re-listen to this episode. And also pull up that sticky note and start writing down everything you do in the day. That was one of my favorite parts of the episode.

Yeah. That’s all I got for you.

Jonathan: One thing I did want to actually touch on when we were talking, I believe, before the episode aired you guys, something that’s really cool about Susan’s company and what they do, most consultants or people of that sorts of expertise will just tell you how to do it and leave you to do it. Susan’s company, and she specifically says is they will consult you on how to ease up your processes, but they will help implement those ideas and actions into your business. They don’t just sit there in their chair and they let you figure it out. They will actually help you and teach you and coach you through it, obviously, because her job is to make your life less stressful. So I just wanted to touch up on that.

Susan: Thanks for that. Yeah, it’s definitely… we don’t want to just give you another list of things to do that you’re never going to be able to get to. We’ll do them for you.

Michael: You qualify yourself as a business coach than as well.

Susan: As we’ve talked through today, you’ve heard a little bit of the style we follow. So it’s not coaching. It’s definitely consulting. Coaching tends to pull out of you and make you come to your own answers. Consulting, we’re actually giving you the answers. But there is a little bit of psychology involved.

Michael: Cool. Awesome. Well, Susan, thank you so much for everything today. Once again, I know I said already a hundred times, but you are an awesome guest and I had a lovely time talking with you today. So thank you for being on the show and…

Jonathan: You’re amazing.

Michael: Yeah. To all the guests, you guys, thank you so much for listening to today’s episode and make sure to do the one thing that I asked for, and that is to refer a friend. You all know a small business owner that probably uses that line, “If you want it done right, you do it yourself.” That’s who you need to send to this episode. Okay guys? This is a very nice way of telling them that no, you don’t need to do it yourself to do it right.

Michael: So make sure to send this episode around, help us continue to grow our following and all of our listeners. And I promise you guys, I will do my part and I will continue to bring us amazing guests each and every single week. Thank you so much. Make sure to keep following along because me and John are in the process of becoming the CEOs of our lives. So thank you guys so much. Love you all. And I will see you next week.

Jonathan: Thanks very much guys. Take care.

Susan: Thanks to you all.

Originally published at Beyond the Chaos: Small Business Project Management and Operations Consulting.

Susan’s business, Beyond the Chaos, partners with other small businesses to control their chaos through project management and process development.

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