My biggest business takeaway from ’09 :)

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A few months ago, I decided to start BurnYourToDoList.com with Otto.

When I first started it, it seemed easy enough. A team of 33 trained assistants basically fell into our laps, so I thought things would go incredibly. We were going to charge entrepreneurs a marked up fee to work with our already trained assistants, and we’d basically get money for being the matchmakers.

I thought we would just sign up clients, assign them to already trained traffic assistants and virtual assistants, and everyone would go on with their merry lives.

I figured entrepreneurs would be happy because they got trained team members to work with them, team members would be happy because they’d get secure, stable income, and Otto and I would be happy because it looked like a lucrative, easy business model where we could help out our team members.

My initial intent was to work hard through January 1st, make BYTDL my 100% focus until we got 100 clients, and then start traveling again.

Easy enough, right?

WRONG.

I basically sold my soul for a few months. It was absolutely AWFUL.

Top 7 Reasons Why I Was Beyond Miserable:

In no particular order…

7. The way I had it positioned, I was basically responsible for everyone’s traffic and sales. People would ask me what they should do to get more traffic, and I’d give them advice. If it didn’t work, I was the one to blame. Awesome.

6. I was on the phone ALL DAMN DAY with clients. I freaking hate the phone (I’m getting frustrated again just as I’m typing this).

5. Because the service was high end, even if I didn’t position it as me being responsible for people’s traffic and sales, I still would have taken responsibility. I felt like everyone’s business was my personal business because they were paying us so much money.

4. While Otto and I are completely OK now, it definitely took a toll on us then. I was always super-stressed, sending a million emails a minute, and getting upset when I wasn’t getting responses back quickly enough. I’d get mad at Otto when the stuff he was responsible for wasn’t done right/according to what I wanted, and he was probably just as mad at me for being overbearing.

We eventually decided to stop being partners and I took on the company myself – which I think worked out very well for both of us. He had owed me some money, so we called it even and then went our separate ways business-wise.

3. Each of our team members was trained on different things. In my effort to make the clients happy, I told them I’d train the team members on anything. This worked out in some cases. In others, it didn’t, and then I felt like I was giving sub-par work to clients. I’d then go and spend money on correcting the problems through other service providers, and… blech.

2. Every time a client complained – even the smallest complaint – it would absolutely devastate me and ruin my day. I take client satisfaction REALLY seriously, and any complaint would just ring in my head for the entire day.

1. I had a big argument with one of the team members in the beginning. We ended up splitting up, and she tried to get all the team members to stop working with me, leaving me having to cover all the clients with NEW assistants.

She also ended up hijacking one of the clients.

In the end I was able to resolve mostly everything, but it was just a really miserable period. I haven’t been that stressed since my management positions in retail. I’m normally super-laid back, and in love with the PASSIVE income I usually make from my internet marketing efforts… but this was just awful.

It was time-intensive, miserable, and NOT hands-off.

So anyway, I REALLY wanted to get rid of this godforsaken site. I just felt like I couldn’t, though.

The Reason I Couldn’t Let It Go:

I felt really badly for the new team I was working with. Excited by all of the new clients I was bringing in, two of the project managers started to feel like it was their life’s mission to provide jobs for Filipinos.

I felt awful taking that from them.

One week the girls went and posted ads all over the place for Filipinos who were looking for reliable income. They rented out a venue – ON THEIR OWN, with their OWN MONEY – and held a training for all prospective employees. They figured we’d be set as we grew the business and brought on new clients.

They felt so strongly about being able to do this, and I had so much emotionally invested in being able to help them, that I couldn’t just let it go.

After considering all options…

I Decided To Turn My Business Upside Down.

When we first started BYTDL, we were all about having a high-end service. We thought we’d have a bigger profit margin this way, not deal with complainers (usually the cheaper people are, the more they complain), and be ready to leave the business after 100 clients.

It was also the model that other people used, so I figured it had to work.

After a few months of wanting to shoot myself more often than not, I decided to try a different strategy.

I started reading people’s emails, combined different pieces of advice I got, listened to my intuition…

And instead of sticking with high end, I started offering LOWER prices where people would pay for TASKS, not for HOURS.

I ended up changing the company around so people would purchase memberships for “X” amount of credits, and then they could use the credits towards jobs they wanted to have done.

Why I Thought This’d Work Better:

1. It seems as if things get done slower than I want when my team does things versus when I do them. The clients felt the same way. I felt if my team was working on a TASK basis, it wouldn’t matter how long projects took them because the clients would be paying for the end result.

2. I figured if new clients asked for tasks, then they would go to a central “pool”. This way whoever was best for the job would take the task, and I would no longer need my team members to be jacks-of-all-trades.

3. NO MORE CONSULTING. Clients would ask for the tasks they wanted. If the tasks didn’t get them more traffic, they could request new tasks. This new model allowed me to stop consulting or be in charge of traffic results. All I accepted responsibility for was the fact that the tasks got done correctly.

4. I didn’t have to promise too much this way. People can only ask for jobs that I KNOW we can do well. If we can’t do them well, they’re not on the task list.

5. I thought this would help my girls provide jobs for Filipinos. This was actually the real and main reason I decided to go this route.

To be completely honest, when I started this new direction, it was more so I could leave BYTDL without feeling guilty about it. I was going to pay my girls on a task-based model where I would have broke-even at best every month.

I really didn’t care though – I just wanted to be done with the godforsaken site and not let my girls down.

What Happened Next Was AMAZING.

First of all, I launched the offer on a Saturday. In less than 5 days, we had about 125 clients.

For months, I’d been staring at this wallpaper I put on my desktop:

…and then in less than 5 full days, it came true!

Then, I touched base with the team to see if they would rather get paid on a salary basis versus a task basis.

At first, they seemed hesitant.

When I pushed to find out why, they told me they were legitimately worried that if I paid them on a salary basis, I wouldn’t make enough profit.

(Do you see why I love my girls so much?)

When I explained the difference, they were more than happy to go a salary route. Not only can they get secure income now,I don’t have to worry about losing money (in fact, I’m getting a pretty nice TRULY PASSIVE profit margin now).

They’re going to make more money this way too. My original founders are getting a salary increase after every 50 clients sign up, and then I’m making sure they all get at least 2-3 weeks vacation a year (if not more).

We have also been able to give 9 more Filipinos a full time salary (not counting the ones who were already working with clients).

Talk about a win-win-win. We’ve helped Filipinos get more jobs, increased their salaries, gave 125 (and counting) entrepreneurs who couldn’t afford an assistant a leg up, and I’ve made great passive income.

My Biggest Takeaways From This:

I learned a LOT from this, and that’s why I wanted to blog about it.

Here are some of the things I discovered:

1. I wanted to go to a lower-end route from the beginning, but everybody had a “better idea”. People said it didn’t make sense to work with lower end clients… that my profit margin would be better if I kept it up the way I was going.

The same thing happened when I started internet marketing. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first started, I was literally making between $500-$800/day my very first day (and then weeks thereafter). It wasn’t until I started getting on internet marketing lists and doing what everyone else told me to do, that I started losing a lot of my profit.

My learning lesson from this was – Screw everyone else’s opinions. Go with what YOU want to do. Test, tweak, and modify accordingly.

Even when I wrote my sales letter for this new offer, I got flak for it.

Thing is, I was completely honest in the offer. I had limited pricing to 100 people.

As a copywriter, I’d been trained to make “reasons why” all the time. “Make up a great reason why pricing needs to be limited! Use that sense of urgency! Make people move fast!”

On this sales letter, I explained to people that yes, I was limiting pricing to 100 people, but I had no reason to do so other than I thought it’d make them move faster. I was COMPLETELY honest.

People told me I was losing my touch, what happened to my “kick-ass” sales-letters, etc…

But I chose to go with MY WAY, and it worked out perfectly.

2. ALWAYS BE IN IT TO OFFER VALUE. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make any profit from this whatsoever. It was really about emotionally letting myself feel OK about not putting too much attention into BYTDL any more. I wanted to support my girls while not having to sell my soul.

AFTER I made that decision and took action, amazing things happened.

Like I said, I’ve been able to help my girls provide jobs to phenomenal people in a third world country, give 125+ entrepreneurs a leg up, AND make profit from it. Who gets to say that?

3. This is less important, but still a discovery. I say SCREW HIGH END. I know I used to say the opposite before, but I’ve changed my mind. The market’s changed, too.

Yes, it’s true – you’ll get more complaints from the cheapskates – but if you tell people exactly what you’re going to do and then deliver on it, it won’t matter. Just make sure expectations are completely clear. If a client gets moody or demanding, just quickly fire them and move on.

4. Even in your darkest, most miserable moments (hehe – I am NOT overexaggerating!), there’s a win-win solution that can come from it, if you’re open to it.

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0 thoughts on “My biggest business takeaway from ’09 :)”

  1. Rachel – Thank you for sharing such authentic and powerful teaching tools. Learning to trust oneself in business, holding the vision and also sculpting graceful exit strategies are all so important on the path of conscious commerce. I look forward to getting to know you better and reading more of your work. Peace & prosperity! ~ K

    Reply
  2. I want to know more about how you do internet marketing. I want my business to be automated as well. Where besides here can I find out more.
    About high end vs middle/lower end…it is not how much money you make, it’s how much you keep. High end often leaves you with less than half due to affiliates even though this can still end very well it’s something to keep in mind.

    Reply
  3. Wow — what an enlightening post! I’ve had my own venture (nothing to do with outsourcing) and the ups and downs, trial and error, wins and losses, euphoria and down-in-the-dumps swings have exhausted me. At the end of the day, though, the lessons learned, and the sense of accomplishment has been worth it. I couldn’t relate more to your journey and I thank you for putting this all into words that made sense of all I had been feeling!

    Reply
  4. Rachel,
    My headmust have been under the sand that this is the first time that I am reading about you. I have tried over and over to outsource and had the same experiences. It burnet me out. I am now looking to dive back in however I am trying to put a plan together. I am like many internet marketeers pretty well read however I am totally technically challenged and cannot get a site or blog off the ground. What does your operation offer when it comes to that type of work. I would or could only vision it being done by having a realtionsipp with a few people from an organization so that communications go the smoothest. If you do not mind perhaps you have email me telling me about your success in this area. Anyone elses comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks and musch success to everyone.
    Larry K

    Reply
  5. Hey Rachel,

    Very nice post. One of the things that really clicked – To go by our own intuition and screw what other people say. I have not been long into internet marketing and there seems to be loads and loads of things and ways to do stuff, but every individual should learn from people but follow what they think is right.

    Am just about to hop over to BYTDL … thanks

    Cheers!
    Abizer

    Reply
  6. Hi Rachel,
    thank you so much for your post. I came across it at the right time.
    I am going through a that miserable period you described and I would really appreciate if you could email me some encouraging words.
    Thank you again!

    Reply
  7. Thanks for such an honest post Rachel. It is very easy to get caught up what in others say you should do. Bottom line, there are many ways to have success in business. You are proving that the “best” business model is the one “you” are most comfortable with.

    Reply
  8. Rachel… You forgot one very valuable lesson I hope you learned.

    Don’t hire people until you get your ducks in a row; because it can really screw that person even if it’s done unintentionally.

    I’m glad you’re doing well now.

    Brian

    Reply
  9. Rachel,

    What an amazing story..your business and life
    experiences..and lessons learned over the last few
    months. If you put that into a book, I’d buy it!

    You are certainly on the right track with your
    workers in the Philippines.

    I lived there (Cebu) for 6 months and can testify
    … if you choose carefully you can find very
    loyal employees.

    Thanks again for sharing your story..so inspiring.

    Phil Lynch

    Reply
  10. Great post – you clearly have become a very capable entrepreneur. Experiences like these are the way to greatness!

    I too have started to question the standard wisdom shouted out about high prices. That may be the case to profit fast in the make money niche before the prospect runs out of cash but in other niches where most of the audience can keep on buying for years because they are in the niche for good low prices allow you to get known to more people.

    I heard recently about an online business doing $50M a year. They price at $20, $40 with membership sites at $40 a month. None of the several hundred a month game while you can grab it mentality. And, they can build a list that will keep on buying for years.

    In 2010, what pricing do you recommend for info. products? Times have changed, I`d be interested to hear your take on this if you have a moment.

    Thanks

    Reply
  11. Your middle name is awesomneness…this is why i love you and Jaime so much and i don;t even know you all..

    but i love reading your blog posts..its incredibly inspiring..not all business is a walk in the park on a sunny day..but you made it work. And this is such a testimony to what is possible.

    Reply
  12. I got to be there for the “growing pains” and had no idea you were so stressed (you hid it well).

    Definitely glad things are on the right track and thanks for the wallpaper idea! (I’m implementing this right away.)

    Reply
  13. Awesomeness!

    Your brilliant solution reminds me to Charlie Munger’s golden rule of management: “Get The Incentives Right!”

    People work for what they are rewarded for. Time? long hours. Tasks? Solved tasks.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your lessons.

    Inspiring!

    Reply

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