ROARlocal founders Neil Asher and Nicola Cairncross catch up on their respective businesses and discuss how to cope with “entrepreneurial impatience” syndrome.
Plus how to outsource and stay sane, taking into account that it takes a lot longer for things to get done when you outsource them, no matter how good your team are. But in order to scale up, you have to let go..
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photo credit: striatic
Prefer to read than listen? Here’s the transcription
Business Diary | 17 February 2014
This is Nicola Cairncross here from ROARlocal, and I’m joined this fine Monday morning – well, it’s fine in that w’re not being battered by wind – by ROAR’s CEO and founder Neil Asher, who is over in sunny… Sunny Sydney today, or not?
Neil: Sunny Sydney, and glorious it is too.
Nicola: So no storms over there, then?
Neil: Only storms in teacups.
Nicola: Of course, they are the only in kind. The best kind in fact.
Nicola: Well, here in Shoreham we’ve been having howling gales, howling gales to the point that Neil’s poor house on the seafront, on the other side of Brighton, is being battered to pieces apparently.
Neil: Yes, it’s just taken a right battering, as they say in the Fish & Chip shop parlance.
Nicola: Right battering! So your poor tenants then? They’re having to get it all fixed up and then you’ll have to foot the bill?!
Neil: Those poor people… I tell you what… they’re both from Denmark, they’re both pilots, but they’ve also got a beautiful, beautiful apartment on Lake Como in Italy, where me and Natasha have stayed – absolutely gorgeous. So they’re staying there in our house and the lady, Judith, is just about to give birth, this week actually, so I can only imagine, after a second child, how she must be feeling with being royally flooded.
Nicola: Because it’s right up on the cliff, isn’t it? I mean, some of the pictures of Brighton beach show all the shingles up on the beach, to the point where they’ve actually covered the chairs… The beach as actually moved to cover the chairs on the prom.
Neil: I don’t mind telling you that at times like this, I’m exceedingly glad that I have a laptop that can do things. I don’t need to be in one specific place to do things. Makes me very happy.
Nicola: Yes, and your children are young enough as well, because Sarah and I, at the height of the weather, we were talking about, you know, “Why on earth do we live here?”
For the third week running, you open the door of the house and you get blown out to the road and your hair is ruined in seconds, and you think “why do we live here?”, and then we realise we live here because this is where the kids are at the moment.
Neil: Yes. We are just going through that. We are just about to move house, specifically because of the children’s school, which is nice. So yes, I can relate to that.
Nicola: So what, entrepreneurially, have you been observing/ thinking up to this week?
Neil: Well, it’s been a weird week, really. Entrepreneurially, we’ve been doing a lot of work on putting sales systems into place for the business, and so I’ve done two things which I never thought I would do, this week. I’ve done both of them in the space of 3 days.
The first one is, I went and got an office.
Nicola: Oh my God! Really?
Neil: Yes, I actually went and got an office. You know I can see your screen?
Nicola: Yes, it’s all right. I’ll strip it out of the video afterwards.
Neil: I’ve got an office. I didn’t think I’d ever need an office again, but lo and behold, here I am, going and getting an office, and there’s a whole raft of reasons why I’ve done that, which I’ll tell you about in a minute. The other thing is I went to get myself measured up for a suit, a tailor-made suit. I see that you’ve got your lovely bouncing balls too, how nice for you.
Nicola: Yes, it’s all right. I’ll get rid of them.
Neil: So I went to get myself measured up for a suit, which is an interesting marketing thing, in and of itself, going and doing that, and going through that process, and how that systematic process creates a pricing structure in your mind about what you should pay and almost to the point of, like, “I’m not quite paying enough. This suit won’t be quite good enough unless I pay this much for it.” It’s kind of weird but fascinating to go through.
Nicola: So as you were going through the whole measuring… and then they make a sort of toile, don’t they? And then you come back to get fitted on the toile. It’s all adding to the perception of value, isn’t it?
Neil: Yes, and in many respects, it mirrors a sales process that we are putting people through within a business here in Australia, which is one of the reasons why I got an office. To facilitate that perception of value trick that can be played based upon people’s preconceived notions about value within given situations, given circumstances. It’s like that call to higher authority – if you’ve got a clipboard and you are wearing a white coat – you can pretty much do anything you want. Within reason, of course.
Nicola: Which reminds me of a story about Frank Kern and Ed Dale, your fellow Australian there, when they were selling one of their niche empires. I don’t think it was called that. It was called the…I can’t remember what it was called now, something about being The Lazy Guide to Riches, or something, but basically they were selling off a raft of niche websites that were feeding into a raft of niche mailing lists.
They were selling off to a British publisher, and because the business didn’t have any overheads, they had to go and get themselves an office, and a secretary, and an accountant, and put all that infrastructure in place to make the purchase feel that they were buying an actual real business when they were just buying the profit before, but no actual office or anything like that. It was crazy having to do all that.
Neil: That’s incredibly similar to our situation. We found that because there is no office people can’t quite wrap their head around how you can make so much money without an office, or indeed any formal shop front or something like that. It’s like… it’s this weird leap for them to make.
Nicola: And do you find it making a difference in people taking you seriously, or they’re devaluing your business because you didn’t have that infrastructure in place?
Neil: I don’t know is the answer to that. All I know is that… what we found is that it’s been more difficult than it ought to be to sell these businesses, based on their track record, etc., and so we came to the conclusion that we should try something different. So the first thing we are going to test is creating the perception of a business that creates that kind of profit – If that makes sense.
Nicola: Yes, so you’re actually selling like a franchise licensing thing for a client at the moment, aren’t you? Just to put that in context.
Neil: Yes, so just to put that in context, what we do is we’ve got a client in the UK, we are basically starting their business for them in Australia, we sell all the franchises, source master franchises, look after all their franchisees, etc.. Which is turning into a very lucrative part of our business, so because of the money that we made, we’re saying, OK, well now we have to start investing in it and seeing where we can maximise that too.
Nicola: OK, and how do you feel about all that? Because we started ROAR knowing that… And in fact we did talk about that at the beginning didn’t we? Getting an office and all that business, and going down the route of hiring people in-house and everything, but then we decided not to do that because why would you if you didn’t have to? And now the opportunity is so lucrative that it’s making it worth it psychologically for you.
Neil: It is and it isn’t. It’s interesting you ask me how I feel about it. I had a long chat with Natasha over the weekend about it, saying that it really had pushed all of my freedom buttons, because I’ve associated having my laptop, and little else, as a path to true freedom.
I saw having an office, having the employees, and wearing a business suit, and all that kind of malarkey as the opposite of that… So it’s an interesting kind of thing to go through in the way that I have to reprogram my brain to facilitate it.
Nicola: Yes. It is interesting that you say that because I am going through something similar at ROAR with one of our biggest clients who’s just received some sort of 2.8 million investment from some government body, by the way, and wants me to go to London for a six monthly review, and I’m thinking, well, I don’t really know what we are going to be talking about unless they’re going to be telling me about what they are going to be doing that 2.8 million and get my ideas on how to use it for marketing.
And then, the new client that we might be working with, you know who I am talking about, said where are you based, and I said just near Brighton, and he said, “Oh, so you are very close to London then”, which sort of implies that he’s going to want some meetings. And I am thinking, “What’s wrong with video-Skype for heaven’s sake?! It knocks out a whole day for me going to London”. It’s a challenge, isn’t it?
Neil: It’s interesting, you know, because what I’ve noticed is that the businesses that we are selling – they are not cheap. They’re not like they are millions of dollars, it’s not like it’s a huge amount of money, but still people want to have that face to face. They want to be able to kind of touch you, feel you, know that you’re real.
I have a very sneaky suspicion that it will massively increase the conversion rate of what we are doing. In fact, it’s already beginning to pull that out because we’re selling these franchises in New Zealand as well, and what we’ve set up, in two days in New Zealand, is an office, and then myself and my business partner on that particular project, Dave, in an office just doing face to face sales, and already we had a great take-up of people who want to come along.
What amounts to meet us, and get sold to, like in person rather than… and bear in mind that we’ve already been doing this on the phone and haven’t been able to get them over a line, but they are very, very keen to come and meet us and get sold to.
Nicola: Yes, that’s fascinating, isn’t it. So I suppose it’s the clash between Internet marketing and real world sales marketing
Neil: Yes, it kind of is. It’s kind of that old school thing. I think that Internet marketers have become very myopic in the way that we think business and sales and marketing ought to work, we begin to think, I certainly have, that people will buy off the page, people will buy from a video and all that. And they certainly do do that up to a certain price point. However, after that price point, it becomes exponentially more difficult to make that sale, unless you’re there in person.
I remember when I had New Insights, which I started in Australia as it happens, the way that we sold that, and that was $10,000 training course to become a life coach, and at that time, and it still is, it was the most expensive life coach training course on the market, positioned us exactly to be that as well, and we used to sell that with an information evening which was a three hour pitch by me.
And at the end of it, we’d get them to sign up for a one-on-one coaching consultation, which is where the main close would happen, the main sell or the close would happen. You know the stats for that business – that’s the business that we grew from zip to 8 million dollars in turnover in 22 months. So I think that tells you. I mean we worked our asses off, but it really, really worked.
Once I started becoming more and more of an internet marketer, I kind of left that behind and started thinking that everything can be sold of the page, without a discount of that other stock, If that makes sense Nicola.
Nicola: I think you are right. The tipping point’s around the $10.000 mark because when you hear about people selling high ticket coaching programs online to their systems, it’s always around the $7.000 or $8.000 mark, isn’t it?
In fact I had a long conversation with someone from Kevin Nation’s outfit, and they were saying that the 3 best prices for them were $12.000, $8.000 and just under $5.000, so what they would do is pitch the value around the $12.000 and then discount just under $8.000, so $7.995, because that’s what was proven to sell best. Of course, we have videos and things, and that enables people to connect with the real person online much better.
Neil: That’s right.
Nicola: This is interesting you should say all this, because I read “ReWork” over the weekend, because you very kindly sent me “Remote”, which was what the 37 Signals Basecamp boys wrote about working remotely, and then Steve has been reading “ReWork” which…
Neil: What do you think of it?
Nicola: It’s really fascinating. It’s sort of the precursor book, in fact read “ReWork” first, then “Remote” second, I think. That is a lot about don’t do meetings. They are completely wasteful and all that stuff. But what we are seen to be saying here is that as an entrepreneur, you have to make a decision about whether your business is going to be a no meeting business, and know you are going to miss out on businesses because of that.
Or whether you’re willing as an entrepreneur to do the things you were talking about doing.
Neil: I think that’s a nice way of putting it. You make the decision yourself about how far you are prepared to go within your business to get to certain points. That’s fascinating actually, because I remember when I was doing my goal setting some time ago, I sat down and thought to myself “If I’m going to build a business, and it didn’t come from myself, that’s £100,000,000 at that time, then I’ll need to do X, Y and Z. And I listed all those things out, that I thought I would need to do, and I looked into it, and I thought “I am not prepared to do that”. It was a list where I thought I won’t get to spend any time with my children, I’ll be working weekends and do dah dah… And I thought it’s not worth it to me to have that money, but to lose that time. That’s not worth it to me.
So I came up with a different figure that I know is possible for me and still having the life that I want to have. That’s interesting that you reference that.
Nicola: Yes and what I’ve been doing last week was putting into place the hopefully automated systems where everyone who comes into our list now is moved either into place… Well I’ve got that fine tuning to do yet where then moved into the “I’m a business owner, I want marketing help” track or “I’m an aspiring business owner, I want marketing and mentoring help”, you know, our training and mentoring help, but everyone at the moment is going to go through 4, all of all training programmes which nobody knew about at all because they were quite well hidden, I’ve realised.
So everyone is going to go through that track. So that’s in place now. We’ve just got to figure out how to move the two types of business owner or aspiring business owner into the right track, which is going to be quite easy, I think. We will need to have a conversation about it, after this podcast, about which way we are going to take ROAR and conversations like that have to happen in businesses all the time, don’t they?
Neil: They do. I had one this morning with Dave… It’s one of those necessary things where you’ve got to keep thinking these things through so that everybody is on the same page, everybody is going after the same goals. It’s super important. I was just thinking how does that happen? Kevin Nations sells $12,000 coaching programs over the telephone?
Nicola: I know exactly how he does it. He does it the same way that Frank Kern does, the same that Lee McIntire does, the same that Alex Jeffreys does. They get you in. Some of them get you in a lower price product and work you up through a series of webinars, through a series of products and I know that if you go Frankkern.com he has a letter on his website that invites you for consultation…
Neil: What Frank has is uber credibility, which you can think of really as almost being a referral. I think it’s based on… if somebody gets referred to… Look at ROARlocal, Trade River, for instance, did you close that face -to-face?
Nicola: I did. I had a couple of Skype video and calls first, but yes, they wanted me to go to London to shake their hands.
Neil: You wouldn’t have closed that had you not go to London.
Nicol: We don’t know that, but I suspect not.
Neil: Guy got you in the door, and Guy managed to guide the referral for you. Look at Greg, we had to go and meet him face to face. Ben I had to go and meet face to face. There’s a lot of instances of that, but I think if you’re referred by somebody else then that assuages a lot of the need for that credibility, like you get given that by proxy.
Nicola: Yes, but I think with the other, with our potential new client, again a referral from one of our existing clients, and we are talking on Skype this afternoon, we had a couple of email conversations and one phone conversation, but I got the strong feeling I’m going to be expected to go to London.
Neil: If you look at E-cigs they were a referral. If you look at Rockstar we had to go and meet Mike.
Nicola: Even though we met Mike many times before. We did both go and had a drink with him.
Neil: Yes, so it’s interesting.
Nicola: I supposed that you have got to look at it as an excuse to go for a jolly up to town.
Neil: I supposed that’s right. That’s certainly how I have begun to think about these things, like an excuse to go away to New Zealand for the weekend.
Nicola: Yeah, that’s a very positive thing. Don’t forget internet marketers. I know that some of my mates, Pete and Manesh, are over New Zealand at the moment. Amazing place by the looks of it. They’ve actually been to a Mastermind, they’ve been to a big joint-venture event, they’ve been driving around having dinner with people, so…
And me going on the cruise as well. That’s opened a lot of doors in terms that I am now interviewing everyone for the podcast because I met them personally, so they are willing to come on the podcast.
Neil: It’s interesting, isn’t it?! Even within that kind of tech savvy Internet marketer’s world, you still get a lot more doors open by seeing them face to face.
Nicola: Yes, and my Mastermind group is meeting in Gatwick and obviously I am going to that, and that’s all a face-to-face thing as well. I am also thinking about joining a new InfusionSoft mastermind. That would make me nice and geeky, wouldn’t it?
Neil: You already are nice and geeky. That would simply solidify your geekiness.
Nicola: It would. It would be icing on a geeky cake. So let’s talk briefly about our ROARentrepreneurs and I actually made a very… well I did my first power walk this week as you may have noticed on my Facebook.
Neil: I saw that with the little techie that went along with that too.
Nicola: That does help, the fact that Nike is tracking your route by GPS and then it will show you how many miles you did and how many calories you’ve burned and a lot of other stuff. I’m very unfit. It that was not a run, it was more like a walk, but when I was out doing that walk, I was thinking, why do I resist doing exercise so much?
Because I listened to the entrepreneurial fire podcast all the way around and quite enjoyed it, and I thought the reason I’m not so keen on exercise like this is because it feels like I’m not doing anything… Obviously I am achieving a bit of fitness, that’s not a huge thing really, but it’s bearable if I can listen to something at the same time so I feel like I’m achieving something.
Then my thoughts turned to podcasting generally because I was listening to one and I was thinking about our new podcast, which you know is very cool, and I was thinking that once a week – is that enough? Perhaps we should be doing more? Then I thought “No this is crazy! We can’t do more because of lots of different reasons”. I was thinking I am so impatient, I want everything to be now, now, now, and I think that’s part of my strength as an entrepreneur. I leap straight into action and make things happen, as do you.
But really, it’s a series a successful business, it’s a series of steps built one on top of the other. I mean, we talk to our ROARentrepreneurs all the time and they’re so impatient, some of them, they want it to… One of them particularly is putting all of the steps in place that she needs for a successful business and at the end of listening to all the achievements that she’d made during the week to put those steps into place she says, “But the income is not coming yet” and I said “Well it won’t yet, because you haven’t completed all the steps”. But I recognise that same impatience in myself. And you’ve got it too. You really want things to really work quickly.
Neil: Yes, absolutely. I get disillusioned and disheartened when they don’t.
Nicola: Or when people don’t move quickly enough and that’s another thing about outsourcing, nobody ever moves as quickly as you would, and that’s a very frustrating thing.
Nicola: Do you think it’s a good thing though, because it slows the impatient entrepreneur down a bit when they have to wait for a job to come back .
Neil: Do I think is a good thing to have other people slowing you down? It depends, it all depends on the distinct situation, on whether that person needs slowing down or not? I think you go kind of crashing headlong into it instead of being systematic and methodical, absolutely, and miss things along the path, which you really ought to pick up. Absolutely.
Neil: You’ve got a little bit quiet Neil so if you could bellow a bit louder, that would be great. Just thinking about that and the whole outsourcing thing… If one is impatient as an entrepreneur and wants to get everything done yesterday, one can become a complete workaholic because it feels like you need to get it all done yesterday, whereas perhaps if you’re working with other people it injects certain pause points for you while you’re waiting for something to come back.
Neil: Yes, as long as you never take those pause points as a time to get frustrated, you actually take them as a time to relax, then it’s OK. The problem comes when you use them as an excuse to get frustrated and then your stress levels rise. That’s not a good thing. When you do actually use that time to pause and reflect, now that’s a great thing. Absolutely.
Nicola: Okay, so that’s our lesson for the week, then, I think, isn’t Neil? Using your natural impatience as an entrepreneur to empower, get your project started and use any opportune pause points to just reflect and see if you’re on the right path, and enjoy being with your family and chilling out a little bit before you take the next sprint, as it were. So we are talking about pauses and sprints, aren’t we?
Neil: Yes, which is a normal entrepreneurial cycle.
Nicola: Cool. So anything else you wanted to share this week particularly. I think we’ve covered most things, haven’t we?
Neil: I think that’s it for me. I’ll save some other stuff that I had thought of for next week. I think that’s an enormous amount of useful stuff, really.
Nicola: Insights about what real entrepreneurs are doing and then some insights into how you can become a better entrepreneur. Thanks very much Neil and talk to you next Monday.
Neil: Take care. Bye