john: So what’s your biggest problem? Is it time, is it focus, is it delegation? Those are the things I hear all of the time so that’s why I’m speaking with Mandi Ellefson. She is the CEO of the Hands Off CEO. We talk all about how to find time in your business, how to free up, how to get greater focus. We’re talking about the success map that she creates with her clients so that they’re focused on the right things so that they can be more profitable. Any of that sound interesting? Check it out.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Mandi Ellefson. She’s the founder of the Hands Off CEO. I think her business card says something like she is a scalable freedom strategist. I don’t know if you’re still using that or not but I love it. Mandi, thanks for joining me.
Mandi: It’s my pleasure, John.
john: So when we were talking off air and really leading up to this show, you kind of intrigued me with kind of a different approach that you’ve been working on for sales and running your business. I think you probably apply it to a lot of … A framework you probably apply to a lot of things. But you’re calling it a success map. So you want to go kind of unpack that for us?
Mandi: Yeah, absolutely. So I work with primarily customs service businesses. So marketing, consultancies, just any general type of consultancies, agencies. One of their biggest challenges is that they have a very difficult time scaling up custom services without either having to dumb it down so much that it becomes a commodity and they have to drop the price or it becomes so intensive for them as the owner that they end up working like 60, 70, 80 hours as they’re growing the company and it just kind of becomes the nightmare for them. So what I found is this alternative way to grow, to scale a custom services so that the quality actually increases as they grow and so that it can actually run without them. This is a framework I call a success map.
john: It’s funny, I was talking to a consultant today and she said that her biggest challenge was that it was really easy for her to get customers. That’s a little counterintuitive but our point was that she just gets slammed and doesn’t know, can’t really, so just kind of that typical rollercoaster, I got business then I lose them because I can’t handle it. So how does this kind of help people smooth that out?
Mandi: Yeah, you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head with what this common challenge is that even if you’d have a good marketing and sales process down, you can actually spend time on it because you have no capacity. That’s definitely what it’s like for most of the clients that I work with where what it looks like is that they’re doing like completely customized services for each of their clients. So they’re putting together a marketing campaign and it might take them three months to put this together and it might take 20 to 40 hours of their own time to put this whole campaign together. It’s a double-edged sword. Every time you bring on a new client, if it’s going to take you 20 to 40 extra hours of your time, like where are you going to find that?
So that’s the problem that it solves because … I’ll give you an example where Wally, his company, his web design and a digital marketing company. So he was taking 45 to 60 days of his own time putting together this whole campaign for them. It will take him up to 40 hours of his own time. It was really stressful for him getting all this up because he had to be managing his team at the same time and also staying on top of the sales and marketing. But anyway, when he was looking at what we looked at together is, “Okay, where is the real value here? What is the actual value in what you’re doing?” So we’re looking at what that 20% is that provides 80% of the value.
When you identify that and you identify the outcome they’re actually trying to create for your clients then it allows you to understand what are the things you need to eliminate, what are the things that we need to do more of. Then you can look at what pieces need to be custom and what pieces need to be streamlined. Go ahead. Sorry, John.
john: No. I absolutely agree with that. I mean, I’ve actually been working on that. That’s the essence of Duct Tape Marketing. If you want to know the truth, it’s that 80% of the people need the same stuff and it’s just figuring out how to tweak and customize and add value to that other 20% so it’s certainly music to my ears.
Mandi: Yeah, absolutely. I think your business is a great example of this because you have, for this to work, you have to narrow in on a common problem for a specific target market because if you don’t do this then that’s where it gets really custom and that’s where it’s really hairy and it kind of starts this way when you’re business is less mature because you’re just taking whatever business you possibly can get.
john: That’s right.
Mandi: That’s how you grow a company. But then as you start to realize, “Okay, this is where our sweet spot it, this is where we’re providing the most value,” then that’s where you know you can focus and that you can provide more value and you can jack up your prices and you can streamline and really increase profitability in a big way.
john: Yeah, the first couple of years are a process of elimination like who don’t I want to work with. But you can’t figure that out till run into a few walls.
Mandi: Absolutely. It’s so funny you said that too. I don’t quite understand how this is just like such a mind blowing concept but all the time I’m showing my clients that worked with for a while too, like my qualification checklist for a client, whether I’m going to work with them and I have very specific criteria where I’m just … I’m going through and I’m qualifying them to see whether I can get an outcome for them or not. I’m training my clients to do the same thing because when you can qualify your client on that level, then you know that if they do X, Y and Z, they’re going to get this outcome. When you have it narrowed down to that extent then you can actually guarantee the outcome and that’s what allows you to really jack up your prices.
john: I hope listeners don’t miss that point I think a lot of the teaching around this idea of qualification and ideal client is really more about is this somebody that has the money, do they have the budget, do they have the resources or are they the right industry so it’s kind of like your qualification but I love that you are inserting in there, “Is this someone I can help, that I know I can help,” because it has the right problem, the right behavior, whatever it is. I think that that’s often a point that’s missed on people.
Mandi: Yeah, absolutely. Where I tend to find that it’s most useful to start if you don’t have this yet in your business is what I call a hazardous client checklist. I have like the horror, I think of the horror stories that I’ve had in the past and the commonalities they have. Some of them is they talk bad about previous coaches they’ve worked with or previous service providers. If they’re talking bad about somebody, they’re going to talk bad about it and they just kind of have a negative attitude, I just don’t want to work with them. It doesn’t mean you can’t be dissatisfied but there’s a different way that like a higher level person talks about being dissatisfied with the service provider versus someone who’s just like … Who just doesn’t want to do the work and they just want to blame other people for their lack of results.
john: People who take accountability are much better to work for.
Mandi: Yeah, absolutely.
john: So I’ve kind of always for the years kind of had this three levels, it’s like must have, nice to have, ideal to have and that you kind of if you create those because sometimes a must have, somebody who meets a must have or maybe a couple of nice haves and it’s a project you want to do, you might do that but obviously if you’ve got these other must have, nice have, ideal have and you really run across that ideal client, it’s kind of like proceed, go for it. So tell me, if somebody comes to you and they typically find you because they’re stressed out and they’re doing either working too many hours or dropping balls, what’s your process look like to start packing them off of or I mean, in your case, a lot of times you have to reengineer some things before you could fix anything, right?
Mandi: Right. Yeah, definitely. You know what, I learned the hard way that you can’t just jump into a business and just try re-engineering things because while it might make sense to, they have to change, they need to change and the business owner might know that they need to change, there’s some things that need to happen first so that they actually have time to change that. I learned that one the hard way from people saying no to me who really wanted to work with me. So out of this came this process that I call find time now and everyone of my clients, I go through this initial process with them and I help them find … It’s gone through several iterations and at this point now, I guarantee 10 extra hours per week for all of my clients. A lot of them find 20 to 30 extra hours but we guarantee 10.
john: Yeah, because it’s really nice. A lot of these people teach this come in and you just need to set up systems for everything. Well, if you’ve got no times to set up systems, you’re not going to set up systems, right?
Mandi: Well, it’s right. The other thing is like systems for what? I was just talking to an entrepreneur about an hour ago and he knew that he just needed to set up systems. He also knew that his mindset wasn’t quite in the right place to do that and that he was going to hire someone to do that and I’m like, “Great, that’s perfect because you really should be having someone else doing these services.” This is not like a $1,000 an hour activity that a business owner should do. The directing it is but not actually doing it. But the thing is that without something like a success map for services then you don’t really know exactly what you need to be documenting. If you don’t know what 20% that really provides the magic then how are you going to put that into a process that your team can follow such that they can actually run the service without you.
john: Yeah. So because it’s really easy to identify a bunch of if you want to make work, to create [inaudible 00:11:22] you can do that. But obviously having the most impact. But often said, because I think it’s really true and I think the fact that you can probably find 10 hours a week for somebody to free up, it’s not … Of course time is a constraint but I think the biggest constraint is focus.
john: So it’s just that we’re spending our time on the wrong things I guess is what I’m saying and so it gets used up.
Mandi: Absolutely. In that process that I do, this isn’t an overhaul method and you’re absolutely right about this lack of focus. What it really is that this takes about an hour to go through or maybe half hour because half of the intensive is spent on that. I go through and I say, “Okay, stop doing this. Stop doing this.” It’s really about eliminating what is not contributing to the outcome they want and also delegating and saying, “Look, what are these things that are due on my plate right now and how can I get them off the plate?” So often, it’s just they know they need to delegate but they don’t actually know to delegate it because it’s stuck in their head.
So I have this really great process that allows them to get it out of their head very quickly actually. What that does is it finds more time and it creates that space so then we can go create a plan, scalability plan so that they can be able to grow the company over the next year and then we can create this success map that I was talking about and really looking for where you can add more value so that they can continually be adding the profit that’s badly needed for them to be able to add on more team members and without losing their shirt in the process.
john: So let’s stay on this focus [inaudible 00:13:15]. I’ll tell you something I run across a lot. There are there definitely a lot of people very distracted by, “Oh, should I be on Snapchat?” Or they’re just dabbling in all these things that are really probably not a good use of their time. But I also see a lot of businesses particularly people that had been around for a while that they’re doing a little business over here. They’ve got this revenue stream over here. They’ve got this thing that they use to do and they’ve got a few clients that are still buying that and so the revenue is kind of okay and the business is kind of okay but they’re really having trouble getting any momentum because it’s a lack of focus on kind of what the business even does. Do you find that this process sometimes involves helping people strip that away?
Mandi: Absolutely. That’s one of the common things that I see that is actually adding a lot of bloat and eating away profit because what’s happening is that it may fall on the 80-20 rule again. 20% of the services are going to be providing 80% of your profit. You actually have some services that you’re doing that might actually be costing you money. When you identify what those are, then you do more of them and then you can eliminate the ones that aren’t adding value that you just kind of kept on because maybe you were friends with the owners and you just keep on doing the work. I’ve heard that one explained. Or maybe you needed the work at some point but didn’t quite realize the real impact that this very demanding client is on your week. I mean, when you actually sit down and quantify it, that’s when you might feel more inclined to cut them lose and free up some time for you to bring on more of the right types of clients.
john: I’m sure you see this all the time, as we’re sitting on the outside of a business talking about their problems, they’re so obvious, right?
john: But when you are inside that storm, and I think that’s probably as much of anything, the value that somebody like yourself brings is sort of that outside person saying, “You don’t see that thing growing on your neck, do you?” Right?
Mandi: I’m sorry, you broke up there for a second. You don’t see that thing growing on your what?
john: On your neck. I mean, it’s like it’s so obvious but you don’t see it because you’re just like in the thing.
Mandi: Right. Absolutely. This is definitely the case with my own business. There’s things that are just like blind to me even though I’m an expert in it because I can’t see it the same perspective that I can see or you can see as an outsider in the business.
john: So let’s talk about delegation. I think that for many business owners for whatever reason, it’s actually one of the hardest things that is certainly one of the most necessary but I find it to be either very hard for them or certainly very hard for them to do effectively. Why do you suppose that is?
Mandi: I think there’s a couple of reasons. There’s first of all a mindset around delegating and understand the cost of you, the real cost of you actually doing it and it’s not just an hourly costs but it’s the opportunity cost of how much money you could have made with that time if you just would have invested it in a higher value activity like sales and marketing. There’s that one mindset issue there. I see and that’s actually something I look for when I’m decided whether I want to work with a client or not is if they have a mindset whether like they’re actually ready to do that, they’re ready to do more of it. They’ve actually proven that they’re able to do that and they’re just kind of stuck in it. That’s different than, “I just can’t let go of it because I’m just the only one who can do it.” That’s a different mindset.
The other thing is that they’re not actually clear enough on what it is that they need to be doing on it. There’s been some things in my business that are really tricky to delegate because like the process is kind of developing and because I’m trying to figure out the best workflow with the different software that I’m using so that’s something that’s difficult for me to delegate until I’ve actually defined this is what I want. So until the person actually, the business owner actually defines this is the outcome of it, it’s going to be very difficult delegate.
The other side of it I think too is that there’s just … It takes some time to delegate and it can feel frustrating to go and invest time in something when they actually have to go and invest more time when the person does it wrong and they have to fix it and everything. So they’re like, “Oh, I’ll just do this. It’s going to take less time.” I’m sure we’ve all felt that way before and it’s been the case. But there are things that you can do to get beyond that. One of the things that I utilize for my clients and I can share it with you with your audience here if you’d like.
Mandi: It’s what I call the rapid delegation process.
john: Go for it.
Mandi: Okay. This is a process you can use to train staff on something that is just like that are smaller type of things. Maybe you’ve hired a new person and you need to get them up and running as quickly as possible. It’s not necessarily for something that’s like a really big process that you have to do more intensive training for. I just wanted to kind of put that out there that this is two different things.
Mandi: So let’s say that I’ll give you an example, I’ll use a marketing campaign for an example. So the first step I need to think about what is the outcome I want, what do I want them to actually do. So what I might want them to actually do is put up a lead page. So the outcome is I want them to have a working lead pages that people can sign up for a webinar and there’s a sequence that sends them out emails for just to remind them for the webinar for the next week. Does that make sense?
john: Yeah, absolutely.
Mandi: All right. So that’s the outcomes. There might be like four main steps, jot them down, that should take a minute or two. Then you turn on the screen recorder and you can use Jing or use Loom, it’s my favorite one because it copies a link right to your clipboard.
john: Yeah, I’m also a big fan of it.
Mandi: Yeah, are you a fan of it? I love it.
Mandi: Then you just turn it on and just start doing the task. As you’re doing this task, then you’re just talking through it and it should take about the same time as you normally do. You shut off the screen recording. You send the video to your team and then you say, “Okay, I want you to watch this video and then write down the steps that I took to take it. Send it back to me.” Okay, then they do that. They send back the steps and you look them over and you’re going to notice that there are some key steps missing but you’re also checking their understanding. So you know right away whether they understand the task or not so you can fix that. The other thing it does is they’ve just documented out a process for you and didn’t even realize it.
john: Another possible outcome is that they actually add a step that makes it better. I’ve had that happen too.
Mandi: Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah, absolutely. They add a step that makes it better. Then you can tell them, “All right. You can start on it now,” now that they have … You’ve confirmed their understanding. Then if they do it wrong, then you know whether it’s just like whether they’re following directions or whether it was a problem with understanding. Then this is how you build out a whole training manual too by the way and you don’t have to do any of the work yourself.
john: Is there anything that, I’m curious, this is an impossible to question to answer, I’ll preface it with that, but is there anything you shouldn’t delegate?
Mandi: I think one of the last things to delegate is sales for most people unless you’re just terrible with people and then you might want to delegate that sooner and you just have other skills other way. I think marketing strategy is one that you delegate later too but you would be apt to be hiring brains like yourself. You want to hire like the brains and then hire out the hands to do it, the cheap hands, the expensive brains. So just looking at the different tasks that you have and knowing whether you’re going to be delegating it to a brains person or a hands person because the cost and the level of skill they provide are quite different. Yeah, so I think it’s just really a matter of the things that you delegate are what’s causing the most bottlenecks for you right away.
Mandi: Then the biggest breakdowns, just kind of fixing them as you go along and then it’s just really more of like this is the easiest thing to delegate then this and then at the end of the day you’ll be at a point where you can delegate your entire service delivery and then your entire marketing process and then maybe the last thing is your sales process, the actual sales conversations as an example.
john: I actually [inaudible 00:22:45]. Because you’re right, a lot of times you have to build the foundational framework, get yourself freed up so you can do the strategic work. But ultimately I think if you have a business you want to sell or that you want to really scale, I do think that the two things you just mentioned last, what your product, the thing that makes you money, somebody else has to be able to do that and landing big clients. Somebody else has to be able to do that at some point. I agree with you, those are probably the last things but I think until you can get those two pieces, the business will always be owner dependent and I think that to me, at least in my point of view, that’s like the ultimate goal, to extract yourself.
Mandi: Yeah, definitely. One of the first things that I want to see, that the business owner completely get out of or at least get 80% out of it is the service delivery. Because until the owner gets out of the service delivery, then it’s always going to be a time for money model. It will only be able to grow as much as the owner is willing to give time. So totally stuck, it’s like a job.
john: So you have some resources that you share freely with folks. One that I’m looking at right now is your six months to transform your business to run and generate more profits without you. So tell listeners where they can find stuff like that.
Mandi: Yeah, if you go to my website, handsoffceo.com, right on the homepage there you can sign up for the roadmap, the scalable growth roadmap. I go through the five steps for how to actually make this happen in your business. The first step, I share how to find 20 extra hours per month with just one tweak. So this is a really valuable resource. My clients use it like a checklist actually, it’s like a whole checklist so you can see what is it I need to do to make my company run without me so I can keep growing it without working more hours.
john: That’s at handsoffceo.com. That process you talked about where you do kind of like this initial, I don’t know, you had a name for it probably, you said it took like an hour or something. Is that something that you do with people as kind of a getting started or an evaluation or is that part of working with them?
Mandi: Well, my scalable growth intensive. That’s the first two steps. I do that with everyone of my clients when I get started. Every now and then I do work with a client where I work, I just do that intensive with them and then they have their plan and a way they go. But most of them find that it’s more value to work longer term just because they get access to all of the systems so they can just kind of plug it and play it into their business without having to do all the extra work figuring it out. But yeah, so that’s something both to answer your question.
john: Awesome. Well, Mandi, thanks for joining us. Obviously I suggest people go check out some of the resources at handsoffceo.com and I’m sure that if they would like to inquire more about working with you, they can do so through their, can’t they?
Mandi: Yeah, definitely. Just reply to one of my emails and if you have any questions about it, just please reach out to me. I’d love to give you some support.
john: All right. Thanks, Mandi.
Mandi: Thanks, John.
john: Okay, thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. I wonder if you could do me a favor. Could you leave an honest review on iTunes, your ratings and reviews really help and I promise, I read each and everyone. Thanks.