Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. Oh yeah, baby. So, a few months ago, I was talking to a Mixergy Premium member and as we talked, I just got excited about his business and I said, “You know, you should do an interview on Mixergy.” Months later, he is. That’s who I’ve got for you today.
His name is Chris Crawford. He’s a guy who had a job that was just horrible for him. So, he went out and started a company, the kind of thing that if you’re listening to me you’ve either done or you’re going to do. And things really didn’t work out well and you’ll hear about that. But then he turned things around. That’s why I invited him here to talk about his business. I want to find out how he turned things and where they are and how he built up his business.
His name is Chris Crawford. He is the founder of Kick Ass Media, which does printing for events. So, what does that mean? You know how you watch celebrities on the red carpet–frankly, it’s not just celebrities anymore. It’s everyone going to just about every event. Well, when you see those celebrities or anyone else going into an event standing in front of those wall of logos, this is the guy who creates those things. He creates those walls of logos. They’re called step and repeats. That’s a company we’re going to find out how he built up today.
The whole interview is sponsored by Toptal. If you need a developer, later on I’ll tell you why you want to type in these six characters, Toptal.com into your computer. And it’s sponsored by HostGator. If you need a website hosted with real people standing behind it and a site that will not go down if you shove a bunch of traffic at it, which you’re going to, I want you to go to HostGator.com. But I’ll tell you more about them later.
First, I’ve got to meet Chris. Chris, good to have you here.
Chris: Hey man, thank you so much for having me. It’s an absolute honor and a pleasure.
Andrew: That’s good to talk to you after emailing you for so long and then having that conversation in private. I didn’t know in all those times that you had a job you hated for what, eight years?
Chris: Yeah. It was about eight and a half years. It was a retail environment. Basically it was just something that I kind of stumbled into. I think it was the first job that I had where I ever actually got real praise for what I was doing. Up to that point, I think I was just doing a lot of manual labor and stupid jobs, right?
Chris: And this one, all of a sudden I was getting some fulfillment and there was this opportunity and I’m like, “Wow, this is cool.” I dove right into it.
Andrew: So, what’s the problem with having a job that’s cool where you’re getting praise and you’re getting feedback?
Chris: Great question. I kind of worked my way up. I went into the electronics department in retail.
Andrew: Can I say what it was? You’re saying retail a few times. I can say the company name, right?
Chris: I don’t see why not. It was Staples Business Depot. So, I was selling electronics and then quickly went into kind of like a department supervisor role and then went into management, had this fun position traveling around the country for a while and opening stores and doing all this. This was over the span of like six years.
And then I reached this point where I’m in Toronto and I’m in a store they’re managing and I’m like, “Okay…” and my motivation just starts to kind of like do this and it starts to become “Groundhog Day” and I’m not challenged. I’m not… It just reached a point like maybe I outgrew it or my vision outgrew it or something.
Andrew: What’s one thing you got to do over and over again and you thought this was not the way you want to live your life?
Chris: Oh my god, dude, everything I did was over and over again. Coming in, opening the store, doing a morning meeting with the team. That’s all fine. Dealing with customers because you’ve got a red shirt on–it’s every stupid scenario you can imagine, from people complaining about the eraser on a pencil to absolutely anything to tons of paperwork and just this kind of retail managerial role that just didn’t suit my real personality. I think I had really just outgrown it.
Andrew: Did you quit the job and then come up with your startup or did you start the business and then quit?
Chris: It was all at the same point. I didn’t know what to do. I had actually come from a small town. I come from nothing, really. My mom was 16 when she had me, deadbeat dad, this whole kind of situation. I was actually at a place where I was making more money than I think I ever expected I was going to make.
So, I was like, “How can I quit this considering where I’d come?” I drug it out for about two years of that kind of, “Ugh, I’ve got to do something else.” I remember reaching this point where I was like, “That’s it. I’ve got to make a change.” People are like, “Start a business.” I’m like, “I don’t know what to do. What would I start?” They’re like, “What do you like?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Music, I guess.”
And somehow I came up with this idea to do marketing and promotional materials for bands and musicians and I literally quit my job and I start this business and I move out of my apartment and get a new place. It was like everything upside down, all on one day, September 1st, 2007. I came out of the gate with this idea and I’m like, “Oh, yeah, it’s going to be amazing,” and then proceeded to just dig myself into a hole.
I didn’t really have a plan. I didn’t really have a vision. I just had this loose idea of, “I’m going to start this business and go for it.” My idea was I’m going to go to bars and I’m going to hand out business cards to bands and musicians, which seems like a good idea until all the bands and musicians that I can talk to are broke and they don’t have any money. So, I’m generating zero revenue and six, maybe eight months later, I’m like, “I think I might have to get a job.”
Andrew: Did you get one client from that?
Andrew: Not even a single client.
Chris: No, not really.
Andrew: Wow. So, we’re talking about months and months of no customers. Did you start to get depressed? Did you start to doubt yourself?
Chris: Yeah. I guess to be completely honest because I had spent so long in a career, I also was kind of like, “Oh, I’m free,” and I had a little bit of money in the bank. I was partying a little bit and I was kind of just having a good time and I really wasn’t thinking what was going on until I realized, “I’m running out of money and I need to do something.”
But I didn’t want to go back to where I was because I’m like, “Ah, that’s worse.” What happened was I got a job in a sign shop selling just business signs, printing, whatever. I told the guy right up front. I’m like, “I’ve got this other business I’m trying to do, but I’d love to come and do this for you.” So, he hires me on.
Basically, it was like I saw what was going there, which was like not far from what I was thinking. It was more about hitting the street now, handing out fliers and going to businesses. So, the boss, though, was a total d-bag. He was ripping up staff. He was in court with staff. He was in court with customers. So, three or four months after working there, I’m like, “I’m going to take this idea. I’m going to change my business to doing this. So, I’m going to shift a little bit.”
Andrew: Shift meaning doing basically what he was doing.
Andrew: But without being a d-bag, as you said.
Chris: Without being a d-bag.
Andrew: It’s interesting that you actually use the initial instead of the full word. One of the things that I know about you is that you like to use foul language. You like to curse. Are you holding back because you’re on camera?
Andrew: Are you holding back because you’re on camera?
Chris: No, no, I think d-bag is just a term that I use, actually.
Andrew: All right. I want to make sure that you’re still being yourself.
Chris: it will come. Don’t worry.
Andrew: So, you still need to get customers. Now you have your idea. You’re going to start going upmarket, not to bands who have no money, but go to customers who actually have something that they can pay. Where do you get your first customer?
Chris: I literally just made up fliers of my own and just started hitting the street and going door to door and I’d hit maybe about 100 businesses in a day and surprisingly the close rate, for anybody out there trying to figure out how to get customers, if your customer is businesses, hit the fucking street.
There’s probably a three to four present close rate just going door to door and maybe seven to eight percent if you really nurture those out a little bit more. I’d say my first days out doing that I was getting customers. The challenge was that I had this flier that had all these things that I didn’t really know how to make. I was like, “Okay, I’ll sell it and then I’ll figure out how to make it.”
Andrew: What are some of the things that were on the flier?
Chris: It was everything–vehicle graphics, storefront signs, cut vinyl, banners, business cards. It was 100 different products, anything for a business, basically.
Andrew: I see. I guess you kind of figured you could just go to a print shop and tell them, “Here’s what my client wants, can you make it for me?”
Andrew: How did you know what to charge them? Did you copy your old boss’ price list, essentially?
Chris: No. I guess maybe I did a little bit. People would say what they wanted, I’d be like, “Okay, let me figure it out.” I’d go find suppliers, go find somebody, get the pricing, go back, quote it, get the deposit to go buy the material or go get the thing done.
Andrew: I see. So, it’s not like you had to give a list of things that you could do and the price for each one. You just say, “Here are all the things I could do. If they want one, then you go and research what it would cost you,” and you offer them that price.
Chris: Exactly. Yeah.
Andrew: When you say walk door to door, what kinds of stores would you walk door to door into?
Chris: Oh, I just hit the street. It was anything. It could have been a barbershop. It could have been a restaurant. It could have been an automotive place, you name it. It was literally going ding, ding, ding, ding all the way down one side and up the other. I’d say something like, “Hey, I’m doing a project for a guy up the street, thought I’d come by.”
My thing was I wasn’t pushy and aggressive, so they would actually accept it. I kind of had more of, “Hey, I’m in the area. Can I just leave something with you? If you ever have a need or something, give me a call.” So, people were like, “Oh, you’re not really trying to sell me anything?” And conversations would just come up.
Andrew: I imagine saying also, “I’m in the neighborhood,” would help.
Andrew: You said, “I’m doing it for this guy,” but weren’t you doing it for yourself?
Chris: I mean for this guy like a business up the street, “Hey, I’m doing a project for somebody up the street…”
Andrew: I see.
Chris: Kind of like the roofers, when people do a roof, they put the sign out.
Andrew: And then they go to the neighbors and say, “Hey, I did your neighbor’s roof. Do you need anything from us also?” I see.
Andrew: And do you remember your very first one?
Chris: Yeah. I went into a gym and they wanted some banners for–I don’t even know what they wanted it for. They were like, “Oh, we want a couple of these banners.” That actually sparked a funny story I hadn’t thought of in a long time. I was like, “Okay, I can do this.” So, I found a supplier to supply me just with the bare banner, not with the lettering on it. So, I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got to get a vinyl cutter.” You know those vinyl cutters that you run vinyl through and you pick it all out and make signs?
Chris: So, I found a cheap supplier of a vinyl cutter for like, I don’t know, maybe $700 or $800. I took my rent money and I went and bought this vinyl cutter, came back, made these banners, delivered it to the guy and got paid and then had my money to pay my rent. So, that was how I got my first piece of equipment.
Andrew: So, things were actually starting to be good. Where’s the period where you ended up having to go live at your girlfriend’s house?
Chris: So, here’s the thing. I didn’t have business experience coming in. So, I didn’t have the sense to understand the financials. So, I thought that cash flow or revenue meant profit. I learned that tough lesson. So, even though I was starting to get some work, I wasn’t charging enough, for sure. And I was kind of at zero.
And I thought I was making–I moved into a little bit bigger place that I could run this business out of, it was odd because I was busy but I just wasn’t making any money and I didn’t know it because I wasn’t looking at the numbers or understanding the story of the numbers. I dug myself even deeper into a hole, even though I had a little bit of business coming in.
Andrew: Why? Why is it if you’re finding your price first then marking it up and selling to a customer, why do you end up losing money?
Chris: I think it was just that I wasn’t marking it up enough and I was paying too much for what I was buying and my costs hat I did have, I just wasn’t pulling the profit and it was just–I just didn’t understand anything about the story of it. So, with tax and with my income tax and kind of all of that in, that stuff took me years.
My mentality always was–even as we started to generate a few hundred thousand in revenue, my focus was just more leads and more sales is going to solve anything. I’m sure you know the story. That doesn’t solve it. You’ve got to focus on that bottom line, which I wasn’t doing at all.
Andrew: I’m going to write a note here about why more sales doesn’t solve everything so we can come back to that when you end up with the hundreds of thousands and still it doesn’t solve all the problems in business. But I get what you mean at this stage.
The markup needs to be enough to cover your expenses, to cover random things that come up when you’re starting out a business to cover your mistakes about pricing to also include your taxes that you have to pay the government at the end of the year and all that stuff that you don’t anticipate when you’re just saying, “I’m buying it for X and I’m going to sell it for Y.”
Chris: My mentality, I was thinking, “Oh, if I can make $150 in a day or something, I’m making money.” That was my thinking, that it was all just about that little bit of profit. “With that, I can do this, I can do that.”
Andrew: What’s it like when you go to your girlfriend’s house and you’re essentially saying to her parents, “I’m going to be sleeping with your daughter, having sex with your daughter under your house because I can’t afford my own place.” That seems really painful.
Chris: Okay. So, actually, they were away traveling and that’s why she was like, “Oh, you can…” So, I was at this place where I had to move out of my apartment. I realized I didn’t have my next months rent. So, I’m going out with this girl. She doesn’t even live in the city. I’m in Toronto at that point. She’s in the next city over, like St. Catharines. It’s like an hour away.
So, she’s like, “My parents are gone to Florida for the winter. So, you can come and stay at my place while you sort your stuff out.” So, I did that. But the thing is I was at this point where I was so strapped that I didn’t have a vehicle on the road. I’m not like an hour out of the city.
I’m an eternal optimist. I am always like–my eye is on the prize. I know where I’m going. My situation doesn’t affect me because I know what’s coming. Even when I’m at her place, I get to this point where I’m like, “Okay…” I would get a ride to the bus station out there. I would ride a Greyhound into the city. And then I would get a day pass for the transit of Toronto. So, I would bum around the transit. I’d still be handing out fliers. And then I’d get a little bit of work.
So, I’d go to one of my suppliers across town, grab whatever was done, maybe business cards and a banner or something, get back on the city bus and I’m not like riding the city bus with all this shit in my hands. I would go deliver it, pay to god that they were going to pay me on the spot because I desperately need it, not like 30 days or something.
That’s when oftentimes I would sleep at the bus station, or sometimes I’d sleep at the airport and do the same routine the next day because I had to make that bus trip worthwhile into town. I’d do that for like two or three days in a row, then I’d go back to her place and go hang out there again.
Andrew: At one point, you got a car for yourself and moved into the car.
Chris: I did. Yeah. So, as you can imagine, that kind of strained our relationship. It doesn’t go well. So, I move out of there. Things with her and I, it didn’t really work out. She was an absolute sweetheart and I was just not in the right place. So, I go to the other way. I get my car on the road. But I move into this shed out in the country. I’m literally like–this is going to sound crazy, but I’ve got to be honest. This was one of the best times of my life. I felt so free, like free of everything.
So, I end up living in a shed out in the country. I’m running my computer off one of those internet sticks. They’re brand new at the time. I’m cooking on a barbeque. I’m living out of a cooler. I would drive to the city, which at this point was two hours, same routine, but now I have my truck. I would sleep in the truck overnight or for a couple days, come back into the country and I was just kind of repeating this cycle every week.
So, slowly chipping along, but I knew that I couldn’t continue the way that I was going. Something had to change and I had to go quicker. So, this was a point where I started looking at what’s happening online and understanding that I don’t know anything about online websites, SEO, anything like that, but I know that there’s opportunity there and I need to figure that out.
I just became obsessed about learning website design, SEO, all that shit and using HubSpot, who had like website graders and stuff and just I remember my first site, which I hope one day I can find what that looks like again because I’m sure it was absolutely ridiculous. I start building my first website and continually tooling for SEO and trying to figure it out–similar products, similar thing, just thinking online and refining and then going through this routine of going to the city, coming back, trying to learn, reading, studying everything I can, just sort of over and over.
Andrew: I think I see an early version of your website. There’s a snapshot of it online. It says, “Kick Ass Media is a source to tap into your imagination and turn your business vision into a reality. Serving in the Toronto, Belleville and Prince Edward County areas, we aren’t just creating signs, we’re producing original products that identify you and your business into the world.” Does that sound right?
Chris: That sounds about like it. Yeah.
Andrew: “We also ship custom vinyl wall art decals and custom signs across North America.”
Chris: Yeah. I thought the wall art thing would be cool. I gave that a shot. I sold like two wall art things.
Andrew: I like how the first sentence is–it’s not, “What we do is create signs.” It’s “Kick Ass Media is a source to tap into your imagination and turn your business vision into a reality.”
Chris: Yeah. I think big. What can I say?
Andrew: Yeah. Speaking of the first site, now’s a good time for me to grab this–one second, I’ll walk over here… That’s for later. For now, the first sponsor is going to be Toptal. I’ve been doing the other sponsor first. It’s got to be Toptal first. Do you know what Toptal is, by the way?
Chris: I don’t.
Andrew: No. They’re a relatively new sponsor for me. What Toptal is, is you know if you need to develop something and your team is too busy but you don’t want to be held back by them? You start going online to look to see if there’s a recruiter that could help you hire someone or maybe you start putting ads on Craigslist and other job sites and you don’t end up with the right person, you end up with too many people who are often the wrong people and you can’t find the right person and you need them fast, right?
Entrepreneurs, if we don’t move fast enough, the opportunity might slip away. There’s an alternative. It’s called going to Toptal.com. In fact, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy and it’s even better.
What Toptal does is they do the screening ahead of time. They have a network of developers who are among the top three percent among their peers–top three percent developers, really good. When I say really good developers, I don’t just mean good technical skills, I mean good communication skills, good character, the kind of people you actually want to work with. The reason is Toptal isn’t handing them to you and just walking away saying, “Here, we did our job. Give us our money and now move.”
Toptal is there as a company, your rep with this developer. You could work with a developer directly, but having that company to make sure everything is okay means that you’re going to get reliable, dependable work from your developer. You can’t have that if you’re dealing with a freelancer that you happen to find online.
With Toptal, you tell the developer what you’re looking for, they build them out for you and you just get to hire them full-time, part time, just a few hours, whatever you need. So many companies that you know of have worked with Toptal, like Airbnb, like Zendesk, even the bigger companies like JP Morgan and Gucci are moving over to Toptal. They’re huge.
So, let me ask you this, Crawford. If you had a Toptal developer to work with you for let’s say a month, what’s one project that–we’re talking about a great developer, someone that could probably kick as for you within two weeks–what’s one project that you’d want this developer to build for you in a month?
Chris: Oh my god. I don’t think I would actually stop with one. Listening to exactly what they do and how I could work them, to be completely honest, I’m actually excited to check them out after the interview.
Now we’re at a place–so, I know we’re going to get there. We’re at this place where we’re going to break $1 million in sales this year and the continually challenges we find are with building online and systems and I’ve got a lot of that in-house right now, but it’s challenging for a person to handle, so I’ve been in this lately thinking lately like, “Maybe I should move to outsourcing some angles of it.”
So, I can’t say specifically, but definitely what we’re creating is an online–I like to call it a lead machine. So, an online system of pulling people in, putting them into our CRM and putting them into a system that’s a project management software for my people on the back end. I would love to work with somebody to help me build that more seamlessly. Right now, to be completely honest, it’s a little bit Frankenstein.
Andrew: What about now if I go into your site and I decide that I want a step and repeat, that’s those big wall logos–this is still the sponsorship message. I’m going to finish this in a moment. If I want to get one, get step and repeat material, get pricing and more information, is there a way for me to just upload all my logos, see what they look like one your site and then order if I’m happy or talk to a person if I need some adjustments?
Chris: No. So, right now what it is, it’s inquire and then we have somebody that gets back and finds out exactly what the event is and–our thing is actually not just about selling a product. It’s really building a relationship and giving a good solution. So, sometimes maybe there’s something bigger and better. Maybe there’s something smaller and more simple.
Andrew: I see. So, you may not have it developed and have it be all self-served.
Chris: Well, there’s a segment that I think that can actually serve. One thing that I’ve realized now–I don’t want to get too far off now–but I understand now about segmenting markets and understanding the demands and how to serve those different segments in different ways. So, now primarily we work with marketing companies but we have a lot of like one-off users that I’m continually going, “Well, I don’t want to say no, but…”
Andrew: What’s a one-off user type product?
Chris: We do a ton of wedding backdrops. Somebody could be having a birthday and they’re like, “Hey, we want to get this thing.” I’m like, “Great.” I don’t want to say no to a $300 or $400 transaction, but at the same time my sales rep could be working on that instead of an account that could be $40,000 or $50,000 a year.
Andrew: So, there’s an option for a Toptal developer. Say, “I need a self-serve solution for people who are going to be spending less than $1,000, maybe less than $600. What it needs to be is…” and then you start laying it out for them. Somebody uploads an image, gets to see the finished product.
If they decide to buy, they hit submit and we could always send it to a real human being who sends them a proof of before the final thing happens. You test it out and see if it works and if it does you keep it as part of your business and you expand and if it doesn’t, you haven’t wasted your developer’s time. That’s one of so many ideas. If we’re entrepreneurs and we have ideas and what’s keeping us from executing on those ideas is that we don’t have the right developers, well that is over now. Toptal is here.
And if you go to Mixergy–excuse me. I keep saying my own site. If you go to Toptal.com/Mixergy–and I’m going to go to it right now–the very first thing you’re going to see there is my big smiling face because I’m really connected with these guys. The next thing you’re going to see is that Mixergy listeners are going to get 80 free Toptal developer hours when they pay for 80 in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. This is phenomenal what they’re offering Mixergy people. I don’t know how much longer they’re going to do it.
If you’re interested, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy sign up. You’re going to be really happy with them. If you want me to introduce you to my guy over there, I could do it. My guy is Scott Ritter. Just email me, Andrew@Mixergy.com and I’ll make an introduction to Scott. But check them out. You’re going to be really happy you did and you’re going to be really happy if you introduce your friends to them. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.
Chris: That sounds amazing. Honestly, Andrew, I would say to anybody–I know the challenges of an entrepreneur. The biggest thing I’ve learned now is maximizing the resources around you. That seriously, I’m definitely checking that out after. It sounds really awesome.
Andrew: Yeah. Frankly, there’s no harm in calling up the company and saying, “Andrew told me to check you guys out. I think it might be a good fit. I’m not 100 percent sure. Here’s what I’m working on. What do you guys think?” If you want, they introduce you to a person right away and you can get started within days. If you’re not happy, what have you wasted? Just an hour having a conversation–actually, it’s going to be less than that–having a conversation about developers and what you could do with your site? That’s like a free mastermind session.
Chris: Cool. Amazing.
Andrew: Onto the next thing. So, you say to yourself, “This is a good life, but this isn’t what I’m here to do. I want to go bigger,” right?
Andrew: How do you go bigger than just living in a shed, enjoying a barbeque, selling some prints–how do you go to the next step?
Chris: So, right about that point, I read two books that I feel like really changed a lot for me. One was Tim Ferriss, “4-Hour Workweek.” And the other is actually Eckhart Tolle and “The Power of Now.” What I realized was up to that point, I think I’d really been focused a lot on my limitations, my challenges because of where I was from, a lot of the lack of resources or the lack of skills or the lack of capital and that was really controlling the results that I was getting.
So, after reading him, I started creating this idea of, “I want to create this company to a place where I can have freedom to travel and to do these things and it was like I just became tunnel vision on that. I think that really helped me hustle through at that stage. So, focused online–so, the online, it started to work a little bit.
Andrew: What worked first?
Chris: So, I would just start to get random phone calls. So, as I said, I’m in the shed, I’m out in the country and I’d be like outside in my yard, whatever. The phone would ring and I’d literally pretend like I was sitting in an office, “Thank you for calling Kick Ass Media. How can I help you?” So, I started getting these opportunities. At that point, usually they’re like, “Hey, can you come and check out this thing?” And I would setup appointments. It started to trickle in and the work started to pick up.
I knew that I had to become more profitable and I needed to get a workspace because I couldn’t work where I was and so I decided I was starting to make enough money now that I rented a little workspace in the small town that I was hanging out in on main street. I could get a space on Main Street for like–it was under $700 and it was like a few thousand square feet in the middle of nowhere. At that point, the most fascinating thing happened. So, I move in there. I’m like, “Well, I may as well throw a sign on the front anyway because I’m here.” It was like a switch flicked.
I think the web work, I had been at it long enough that it started to really have traction. The sign on this place, people started walking in, the phone was going crazy. I literally went–I look back on my income tax report and I literally filed the one year it was $20,000 in the entire year and the following year it was $150,000, it was mayhem. It went from doing nothing it I couldn’t even keep up with all the leads and all the opportunities.
Andrew: I can see some of what you did at the time on your website, like on the bottom of your website, underneath the part that people really are going to look at, I can see terms. It’s a whole section called terms. One says internet marketing. “Internet marketing is also known as online marketing, viral marketing, online advertising and marketing through social media.”
And then there’s page rank and then there’s starting a new business. All these phrases have their own section underneath. On top of those are links to graphic design hyperlinked, business cards hyperlinked. It seemed like what you were doing was keyword stuffing and other SEO. Did search engine optimization work for you?
Chris: It did. At that point, I was playing with everything because I was starting to get results from online. I was like, “Oh, this could become a service. I can offer this too.” I was thinking like, “I’ll do everything.”
Andrew: You’ll print business cards and at the same time you’ll also design websites and do SEO for people.
Andrew: That’s what you were starting to think.
Chris: That’s what I was thinking. Shotgun spray and do everything, right? I didn’t really do any websites for anybody. That kind of work didn’t come in. But the sign stuff did. It took off and I needed to hire. I was still in this routine of going to the city to deliver, coming back and god, it was like within a year, a year and a half doing that, I got to this place where I actually was able to have enough cash flow to start traveling and kind of doing the lifestyle that was that vision of the like, “I want to get this to where I can leave it and I can go hang out on a beach,” and that whole thing. My girlfriend and I actually packed up and drove to El Salvador and back.
Andrew: From Canada?
Chris: From Canada on a four-month journey down through the states, through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and home again. It was absolutely wonderful.
Andrew: Who’s printing out the material while you’re away? Who’s handling the phone number that I see through almost every–maybe even through every single iteration of your site. Who’s handling that while you’re away?
Chris: Well, at this point I’d hired somebody.
Andrew: One person?
Chris: Yeah. I had one person working for me. I’d gone through a couple different people and then I had a guy that was unbelievable. I kid you not, at the point when he comes to work for me, he was actually living in a tent himself. You couldn’t write it. He’d bought this property with his partner and they were going to do some stuff with it, but he was literally camping out there and showering at the local gym and I’m like, “Yeah, right one, whatever.”
Andrew: And he was willing to do and able to do both phone calls and printing and all that?
Chris: He did everything. So, I taught this guy. He became me. My mentality at that time was automate. The Tim Ferriss idea–automate, get myself four hours. So, all I was doing was, “How can I hand off everything?” And this guy was excited and hungry for it all, had more experience with web and online, graphic design. He had everything that–he’d actually studied that before. So, he had a lot of experience. He already knew sales. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this guy to come to me.
Andrew: Okay. So, that’s how you were able to keep running your business while you were traveling.
Andrew: I find when I travel, I often don’t work as hard and I don’t focus on my work. Sometimes I get so inspired that I’m in overdrive and I create new things, but often, I just don’t get enough done. What did you do to get enough done?
Chris: I didn’t do fuck all when I was away. My mind was, “I’m going to go and I’m going to surf and hang out on the beach.” I would check in once in a while. It was an interesting thing. My vision was so small that it was like all I wanted–at the point when I was struggling the most, my vision became be able to eat, have a place to live and I want to have some freedom to travel and that was it. So, what happened was as I started to meet that, it was like I started to lose motivation. I actually became less hungry and I was kind of checked out for a while.
Andrew: I see.
Chris: Which seems crazy that to me, I was like–I reached this point where it almost started to make me depressed. I was like, “How is this possible?” I come from nowhere. I work super hard at this company. I get to a place where I’m making great money and miserable. I quit to start this business. I dig myself into a hole. I finally start to climb myself out and I reach this point where things are going okay and now I’m like not excited anymore, what?
Andrew: What is it? Did you give it some thought? Did you come up with an answer?
Chris: I spent like a year and maybe a year and a half kind of soul searching. Yeah, it’s about vision. I had met my vision. My vision was get this company to a place where it can sustain my lifestyle and I could do what I want. Well, once that’s met, it’s like what am I really driving for? It took me a while to realize that was the thing.
Now, I realize that’s what drives us all. It’s the vision and it’s the purpose behind it that gives that like juice and keeps you motivated about where you’re going. I just created a new vision at that point that was to grow it huge, to be a place where people would love to work and we could give back. I created this ridiculous huge vision.
Andrew: How do you create a vision for a business when you’re so burned out that you’re checked out of the business. You’re literally out of the country. How do you then start to create a vision? I think that’s something we haven’t talked about at Mixergy.
Chris: Cool. Well, this was about the point where I discovered Tony Robbins. That definitely helped. I went to a Tony event. I found some motivation there. I found some tools as to how to control focus, emotional state, that kind of thing. And then I just sort of sat down and started thinking like, “What do I want? What do I care about?”
For me, now with my team, I have them create their own visions and have their own purpose because I know that’s how they’re motivated and fulfilled in what they’re doing. What we do, like most people go–so many people out there want to make more money, for example, but why? You don’t want the money. It’s what the money will enable people to do.
Andrew: So, if you sit down and you say to yourself–I imagine this is what you did. You said to yourself, “I’m doing about $150,000 in income. Life is blah again. What do I want? Well, if aiming for $150,000 was fun, why don’t I aim for another number?” I picture you just writing down another number and think, “Well, that’s also kind of blah now because I don’t have the urgency for it.” Why do I want that next number? That’s what brought out what you said is the juice.
Chris: It’s the why. It’s the purpose behind it. So, the why started to become to create something that I love that people can love. So many people out there, the stats are something like 85 percent of people go to jobs that they hate. I thought I want to create a company that’s fucking amazing, that people love their jobs, like they don’t’ just like their job. They fucking love it.
Andrew: What makes somebody fucking love their job when they’re printing out signs?
Chris: You do wild and crazy things. You have a lot of fun. And you push people to grow.
Andrew: What’s a wild and crazy thing that makes somebody love working at Kick Ass Media?
Chris: Okay. So, not that long ago we had set this $5 million sales goal for next year. To do the $5 million launch, I had this meeting and we put on some rocker gear–we tend to do that, put wigs and stuff on, get a little crazy–and we took watermelons. We went on the back loading dock. Everybody wrote what that would meant to them to do that. We wrote on watermelons. We were smashing watermelons off the back.
Andrew: Why would you write it on a watermelon and then smash it?
Chris: I’m a guy that’s all about–I guess maybe kind of psychology behind things or creating experiences for people. I felt like a really symbolic thing to think about chasing a target, chasing a dream, smashing a fear, something like that. So, I just came up with this idea and I was like, let’s do that.
We actually did watermelons and then we did water balloons filled up with paint. I laid out this backdrop and then we smashed it on and it created this cool paint effect and we did photos in front of it. It’s really just a symbolic thing, for people to feel like they’re part of something, to get excited, to feel that connection of what they’re doing.
Andrew: Okay. I can see how working in an environment like that is kind of like going to a Tony Robbins seminar but now it’s part of the daily life. Actually, that’s a one-time event. Is there something in daily life that makes working for you guys that kind of fun or that kind of meaningful?
Chris: Every morning, we always do a little get together. We always share. I try to encourage everybody to share something they’ve got going on either in their life or a realization in the workplace or maybe it’s feedback from a customer.
A big thing also for me now is gratitude. Gratitude, it makes people feel alive, feel the gratitude of the things we have. My thing now is all about fulfillment. Fulfillment, I think, one place that it can come from is gratitude of what we’re doing. It’s so easy to accomplish something but not look back and get the juice from what we did, right?
Andrew: Okay. So, you said, “I want to not just earn a certain amount of money. I also want to create an environment that’s fun and exciting to work in.”
Andrew: What else did you say as part of your vision for yourself?
Chris: Okay. So, I thought about at this point creating a company where we have all the print equipment in one place at a central location and then opening satellite offices remotely that we could ship product to. Every print shop wherever has to have the overhead of a place and equipment and people and everything that goes along, so I thought if we could create it all there, have the satellite offices with like one, two, three people, we could be entering other markets and keeping our costs really low and then I’d be able to travel for work. I’d be able to travel somewhere where we’ve got a location. I started to think about what are the things I love and how do I tie that into the business?
So, that’s been the longer one coming, but literally tomorrow I’m actually getting on a flight to Vancouver and going out there for the film festival coming up starting Thursday and hanging out for ten days just to get my feet on the ground, feel what it’s like and do some interviews, check out some spaces, see about maybe actually starting to open our first place out there.
Andrew: All right. Now all of this is driving you further, but it’s not helping me understand the next step, which is how did you get bigger customers? How do you figure out what the one thing is that you start to focus on? I’m looking here at my notes. You guys do work for Disney. Disney doesn’t hire just anybody. You can’t pick up the phone, ask for Walt and then end up selling to Disney. You also found that step and repeat is big for you. How did you find that product? How did you find those bigger customers?
Chris: So, imagine that I spent a couple years kind of checked out, whatever. I come back and I’m like, “I want to grow this thing. I’m like I’m tired of doing all these different signs and whatever,” none of it I liked. It was all just kind of a pain in the ass to me. I shouldn’t say pain in the ass. But I didn’t enjoy it.
So, I said, “Okay, what’s the one product…?” I don’t know where I even got the idea from. I was just struck with this idea, “I want to pick one product that we like to do, that we can easily do, that’s profitable and something that’s kind of cool.” We had a few inquiries for those step and repeat backdrops, not that many, but I looked online I’m like, “There’s not a big market.” I don’t know. Something in my gut just said go for it.
So, what happened was we just focused on that one product and the phone just started to ring for that. We started shipping it all over. So, sales continued to climb. It was like $150,000, $200,000, growing pretty quickly considering that–I was so broke coming out of that that I was not only in the whole but my credit was aft. I couldn’t even get a credit card.
So, in order to work, I had to go to Money Mart and put money on those stupid prepaid cards that I could call the supplier with, give them the prepaid card number and then order material. The Money Mart is not even in my town that I was in. So, I had to go to the next town that is like 40 minutes away just to do that stupid transaction.
So anyway, we’re focused on this, so the work starts to come in. What I found at that point is we were now doing backdrops for tradeshows, for red carpets, for birthdays. There were about four or five different segments.
I’m like, “Okay, who’s the one customer now that we really want to focus on.” We decided that it was marketing firms that we could build the best relationship with. They would repeat buy. It would be our most profitable avenue. We said, “Who’s the one contact at the company?” We created this avatar that was ridiculous. We’re like, “Okay, our contact is this girl Rachel. She’s 32. She’s single. She can’t find a good man. She cares about her career.” And we just painted that whole thing out.
And then took all of that–this was Dave and I literally on the whiteboard writing this stuff out, plugged that into the website, started using it in our language when we talk on the phone, started using it in our marketing collateral. Imagine that we’ve pegged this avatar so good that when they come on our site, everything that we’re saying is exactly what they’re thinking. They’re like, “Oh my fucking god. This guy knows me. I’m calling now.” It just became a no-brainer.
Andrew: I see the transition. It didn’t happen in one change at the site. It did happen where–I’m looking at version of the site from 2010. 2010 you’re basically saying–this one might–no, here we go–2010, “We will do step and repeat. We’ll also do business cards and printing, banner printing, vinyl graphics, new business packages.” You’re going to do window lettering. You’re going to graphic design. You’re going to do online consultations. This list of stuff that you do is really big.
And then suddenly, the following year and the year after that, I see a clear–it happens over time–but a clear transition where 2011, it says, “Banner printing, paper printing, vinyl graphics, A frames, design services.” So, all of these things are essentially for events, right? You do say vinyl. You do say step and repeat, again, for events. And then boom, the next year, 2012, now not only are you focusing on step and repeats and banners, but now you’re showing pictures not of random people, but of events. You’re showing pictures of the product and it’s the only product people can see.
I can watch as you get more and more clear on what your business is about and which customers you start to emphasize on your home pages as happy customers. It does actually have big impact. It wasn’t until years after you set out on this path that the site really started to look good.
Chris: You know, definitely lag time, right? It really took time. I’m not sure what site you’re on. But if you go on the current KAMedia.ca, you notice that now we’re just directly talking to marketing firms. It’s just geared around that.
Chris: We still get those other segments that come in, which as I was saying before about Toptal, that would be interesting to build that out, but that’s our focus. Now we’ve got accounts that–yeah, we deal with Disney, Free the Children, we ship across Canada, we ship into the states. To be honest, it’s beyond what I ever imagined.
Andrew: Now I should actually hold up this. This is the HostGator gator, the mascot. I think I said in the past I bought something off Amazon that looked like a gator hat. I wore it here and it turns out it wasn’t anywhere near the HostGator mascot. So, they actually sent me the real one.
And HostGator as you guys probably know, is a web hosting company. So many people who I’ve interviewed have said that they started their businesses on HostGator and continue to run it on HostGator. It’s a reliable hosting company that doesn’t cost much. It allows to get up and running but makes sure that you can grow and it will grow with you.
One of the things that I’m seeing here by looking at Kick Ass Media’s website over the years is the fear that we all have about getting a website that’s good, getting a website that’s clear, getting a website where we understand our full customers and then launching it, it’s just in our heads.
Kick Ass Media, the first version that I see here has a link for services, a link for wall art and as I continue, it has link number seven, link number eight, link number nine, link number ten and link number eleven and nothing written on top of it. But you just got it up and you kept improving it over the years. I can see in the months after that it got better and better. And that’s the way to build a site.
Do the same thing for Mixergy. You’ll see that it was just this website on a cheap WordPress–in fact, not cheap–free WordPress theme and a bunch of interviews that didn’t even have video. In fact, not even interviews. At first the blog was me writing about events that I was going to and me writing about what I had learned and me writing about how I got a lot of business cards from an event and that’s not the way the world should be. We should all be digitized and so on.
And then I found my groove. You should find your groove too. If you haven’t built a site yet, you’ve got to go to HostGator right now. Not tomorrow, just do it right now. Sign up and within an hour, you’ll have a website up and running. If you have any issues, they have tech support that will help you.
If you hate your hosting company, you should know you’re an entrepreneur. You’re in charge of your own life. You don’t have to be a hostage to a web hosting company that sucks just because you signed up for them a few years ago and its’ a pain to move. In fact, it’s not going to be a pain to move. You go to HostGator, they will migrate you. They have people there who will help you out. They’ll get you going with their process. And they’re good. And once they do, your site will be up and running and solid.
I know a few people have actually emailed me in private and said, “Andrew, how does HostGator compare to this other hosting company?” that they heard about, that some blogger is recommending. Let me tell you something–HostGator freaking owns those companies. This is a big company. It’s been around for along time. HostGator is the hosting solution. Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and they’re going to give you 30 percent off.
If you’re not happy with them, you have 45 days to build your site and to decide, “You know what? I’ve got to move on. This isn’t working out.” You have 45 days to start your site and say, “You know what? This is not right for me. I’m just going to close it up.” HostGator.com/Mixergy–they’ll set up. They’ll give you one-click install of WordPress. They’ll allow you to add other CMSs. They’ll allow you to host whatever you need.
Now, let me ask you this. Chris, if you had just a hosting package and ambition, what would you create today? Like you’re still back living in a shed, but you have this one hosting package and you can do anything you want with it?
Chris: Now I’d create something to help other entrepreneurs, for sure, some sort of resource. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Maybe I don’t know. Something in that direction.
Andrew: I know what you’re talking about. I picture you working at Staples not realizing that there’s a better world out there because you’re just not exposed to what’s available. And that’s a site that–a resource site for entrepreneurs, one that shows you what’s possible would have helped.
Here’s another thing I see. I go to Product Hunt all the freaking time because I’m addicted to Ryan and Eric and that whole team’s website. All they do is they reveal interesting products every day. Actually, they allow people to post interesting products and then vote on them. I can’t tell you how many times I see at the top of the charts a website that does nothing but list resources for entrepreneurs. That freaking thing does well at the time of their freaking charts. It costs nothing to setup a site like that.
That’s just simple WordPress and a list or you can use other CMSs for it. But you can do it so easily. People apparently value it because entrepreneurs are constantly looking for new tools. Frankly, a lot of entrepreneurs don’t want to work and they’d much rather look at new tools that they think will actually get them to work.
So, even a list of resources for entrepreneurs like that that will allow people to avoid work will be useful, especially if you run a bunch of affiliates in there, a bunch of affiliate programs.
Chris: I’d probably do some courses about marketing stuff, maybe, how to create your avatar, how to dig into what you’re going to do, what that is, finding your niche and something in that direction, I think.
Andrew: I like that too. If you don’t have any courses that you can start off with right now, you go to Udemy and you get a bunch of courses from them, put it on your site and start making money by promoting other courses. Once you find the one that you like, then you start basically copying it, doing your own version of it with your twist based on what you’ve learned.
Chris: Totally. The key is just starting. You said it before. The key is just fucking start right now. Put something up. You take the first step. Then tomorrow you go, “What did I get? What step am I making today?” It’s crazy, right? I know you can relate to the journey, reading about Bradford and Reed. But it’s like six months from now, a year from now, a couple years from now, if you started today, who knows where you can be? I don’t know. That’s what I believe.
Andrew: I agree. Mark it down, guys. September–actually, that’s probably going to be published in October, 2015 and then see where you are two years from now. Say, “This is the year I’m going to start something.” And I know a lot of people in my audience have already started something.
In fact, that’s what HostGator has found, that a large people in the Mixergy audience have already started something. They don’t really need a new hosting package but they hate their host right now and they’re happy that HostGator will allow them to migrate. So, HostGator keeps reminding me, “Let people know that they could migrate to HostGator.”
All right. You’re finding your process. You’re starting to grow. Tell me where are revenues right now as of third quarter, 2015.
Chris: So, we’re somewhere around $700,000 year to date. And we’re right in the midst of our busy season. This month is the first month that we broke $100,000 in a month. So, we had a little celebration just last week, super excited. My focus is growth–internally, externally, you name it.
Andrew: What did you to grow so much this year? I understand that in previous years, finding what your vision is helped you grow. And then figuring out how to articulate that vision and find the perfect customer and the perfect product for that customer helped you grow further, but it feels like 2015, especially even since you and I talked, I think it was in April, and now we’re recording this, September for an October release. There’s been growth even in those months. What have you done?
Chris: I pushed myself, man.
Andrew: So, when you push yourself, what are you actually physically doing?
Chris: So, I can tell you I’ve probably got about seven books on the go right now alone. It’s always knowledge, you learn anything and it works somewhere, somehow. I’m continually going to events that I can learn from. I’ve been to a handful of Tony Robbins events. I’ve even taken all my staff to Tony Robbins events. I know that when they go find motivation or how to help themselves, I’m going to see the result of that and they’re going to see the result. I’m huge on the morning routines. My morning routine is probably my life, actually.
Andrew: What is your morning routine? Tristan in the audience asked me to ask guests about it.
Chris: So, I wake up. As soon as I wake up, the first thing I always try to think about is what I’m grateful for. I always stop and take a minute to reflect and just start to get myself into like just feeling good. I do meditation, pretty much right out of bed, I run or work out or do yoga or something, following that, at least five days a week. I’m juicing. My diet is ridiculous. I steam veggies for breakfast.
Andrew: You steam veggies for breakfast?
Chris: Yeah. Every morning I eat like steamed kale, broccoli, sweet potato. I eat that at least five, six days a week. I’m just looking for fuel. I’m not eating breakfast on a work day or anything for enjoyment. It’s literally to fuel me for the day.
Andrew: So, when you steam that up, I guess you put it–do you have a steamer or do you have one of those pans with the second layer that allows you to steam in it?
Chris: I throw it all in a pot. I throw a little water in the bottom. I throw a lid on.
Andrew: Oh, you’re boiling it.
Chris: Yeah, I guess boiling it.
Andrew: So, you’re boiling vegetables and you’re boiling beans for how long?
Chris: I don’t know, 15 minutes.
Andrew: 15 minutes, then you just put it on a plate and you eat.
Chris: Throw it on a plate, salt, pepper, hot sauce almost every day.
Andrew: That sounds not delicious and I still want to try it because like you, I’d rather have fuel in my body that makes me healthy than have a pleasant breakfast, most mornings.
Chris: Totally. I don’t want to think about breakfast. I want to be focused on where I’m going. I want to be fueled up. I want to feel good. My whole thing–this is a lot of what I took from Tony. The emotional state that I show up in, in a moment is going to dictate whether I see an opportunity, how I see a problem, how I approach that situation, the way I build rapport with somebody.
When I go into my office, I want to walk in the door and be like, “Show me a fucking problem. I’ve got this handled.” I want to approach like a champion to everything. So, my morning routine is like two hours of going through all these things I do–a bunch of writing every day. I question and answer myself.
Part of my meditation is I focus on where I’m going. So, I think about, “Okay, this company, although we have a goal next year about $5 million, I’m think right now about the $50 million company because if I know I can create a scalable $5 million, then $50 million. All I have to do is tack a zero on the end.” I focus on the vision of that. I focus on my relationship and my health.
Have you ever heard of the idea in psychology of priming? So, it’s this idea that when you–have you ever bought a car or something and then after you bought it, all of a sudden you started seeing it everywhere. So, where you didn’t think it’s important, it’s literally because we’re stimulated with so much in the moment, our brain has to filter out like 99.9 percent of everything. So, the one thing we focus on is what the subconscious thinks is really important in the moment. So, priming is the act of putting in there what you think is important. So, you’re tuned in throughout the day.
For me I look at it like if I’m focusing on this big company or financial or growing sales or creating a process, the more that I’m putting that in there and focusing on the result, the more that I feel tuned in to attract the right opportunity or to create the right decision or create the right relationship. I started doing that–I guess I started doing that a couple years ago.
Andrew: What’s your exercise for priming?
Chris: it’s literally visualizing the result and spending that time focusing on that, writing about it, “What do I want to create?” Just hammering that home and spending five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes focusing on that every day. I get excited by it. I leave the house and I’m just ready to rock like every single day. So many people wakeup and they hope they’re going to have a good day. I feel like I take charge and make a good day every single day. And it’s been good to me. It takes work, but the results are great. So, I don’t know how we tripped onto that.
Andrew: I was asking you about your morning routine.
Andrew: You mentioned priming. I took some time off this summer and just went to write in Napa and Petaluma and I sat in these inspiring places and I wrote this Google Doc on what I do to prime myself. I’d just love to share it with the audience. I’m just going to give you a URL. It’s going to redirect you to a Google Doc where you can add notes because I’d love to get people’s feedback on this. It’s TrueMind.com/TheDoc.
It’s going to redirect you to a Doc on Google Drive where you can highlight and add comments. I’d love to get feedback from people on it. I’m a big believer on that too. Its’ really had an impact on me. At the same time when you said, “This is how I spend my morning,” I just said, “That sounds like a lot of work in the morning.” It’s funny that my mind rejects it, but my experiences has shown that it does work.
Chris: It does work. It totally–I’ve really amped it up this year. I think that’s the biggest thing of why there’s been such a difference of why we spoke in April to where I am now. It’s literally like that succession of things–I feel like I start out by clearing everything out and getting centered and then working out and running. And I listen to something that really pumps me up and I just–I say shit out loud. I’m running and I’m like, “I can do it.” I just feel like fueling up, so by the time I’m doing something, I’m charged. That’s the best word I can use, charged.
Andrew: What’s the one tangible thing that you did because of this practice that helped grow your business? What’s one action you took that you wouldn’t have taken if you hadn’t done this?
Chris: One thing I’ve really cultivated over I’d say the last year is more courage to be completely honest in the way I deal with my staff. I think there is a lot of like I used to hire the people that just showed up. I hear all the time, “Oh, you can’t find good people.” I’m like, “That’s such bullshit. You didn’t work to get the right people.”
So, now I think because I come with much more certainty, I’m in a better place to coach my team, to host meetings at the company, to hold my people accountable. It’s like I have to be in that place and not from like judgment or emotion, but from facts and from, “This is the way it is. I’m here to help you grow, but you’ve got to grow. This is where you’ve got to be.” Having that real core confidence to be able to approach those situations like that–
Andrew: I see. Otherwise you might punk out. You might say, “Who am I to tell them how to do their work? I made a mistake yesterday, so why should I tell them what to do today. Who am I to push them so hard because they might be just working for me and in the end it’s all BS to ask people to work hard for themselves when they’re really working for a company that I own.” All that stuff will mess with you, but you can’t let that–you have to be there in the moment and guide them because that’s what they need you to do and that’s what the company needs you to do.
Chris: Totally. Even if it’s like guiding them or giving them a little kick in the ass or letting the wrong person go, keeping the wrong people around–just cultivating in yourself, “That’s what needs to be done and I’m getting it done. I’m not going to let it waver. Screw that.” It’s about doing what it takes to be in a state to handle it.
Andrew: When we talked four months ago, five months, you said that you were getting more into content writing. You said, “Andrew, the problem with Mixergy Premium is you guys aren’t creating a way for us all get to know each other.” I really took that seriously. You said, “You’re not allowing the community to form groups.”
I took that seriously and since then, I’ve launched a mastermind section where entrepreneurs who are in the Mixergy Premium program can get to know each other and form these groups. You said that what you would want is a group of people who are writing. Do you still want that? What have you been doing with your writing?
Chris: So, I’ve been all over the board. I’m somebody who if I have an idea, it’s that idea of, “I want to fail fast at it.” So, since we’ve spoke, I started doing a bunch of writing in kind of like workshop-style. I’ve gone out and done some speaking. I ran a little online course. I kind of played with something there. I’m doing a bunch of coaching.
So, I know for me it’s needing to write a lot that serves people or getting a lot. The act of writing often times is what sparks the thoughts deep down. It’s like you kind of–I don’t know if you find this, but I find when I write, I get out of my head and it just starts to flow out.
Andrew: Yeah. Sometimes it doesn’t and it’s frustrating and other times, it does, especially if I use the process that you talked about where I question myself. I say, “What do I want?” And then I write it. “That never excited me before. Why is this going to be exciting now? What is it about this that’s useful?”
Andrew: I’m on ChrisCrawford.ca. You’re all about Canada with your domains now. ChristCrawford.ca–what are you going to be doing on that site?
Chris: So, that one, I’m going to start cultivating a resource there. What I was thinking about, actually it struck me as I was getting ready for this interview and thinking about where I want to go in the future, I really want to use my journey as an example. I feel like an underdog. I feel like the underdog that’s fought his ass off to get to where I am and I definitely want to use that. Now I coach a few people and consult a little bit and I love it. I love to help people out. To me it’s the mixing the why to, the motivation, with the how to, the actual strategy and what has to be done.
So what my plan is, is kind of capturing my journey from here to what got me here to $5 million to be honest, the $50 million company. My plan is to start writing that out, capturing it online. I’ll likely create a podcast. I’ve been playing a little bit with Periscope. That’s kind of neat. Just capturing the journey, putting it out there and create some resource. Who knows where it will be tomorrow, but today that’s kind of what I’m thinking about.
Andrew: If people want to connect with you, is that he best way to do it?
Chris: Yeah. They can go there. I’ve also got a Facebook page, which you can get to from my website.
Andrew: Frankly, in a way I ‘m happy about it, that your Facebook page doesn’t seem to be updated. You haven’t updated it since May, have you?
Andrew: You’re not on Facebook. You’re not doing a lot of blogging. It seems like you’re all in on the company, but you have this need to do something outside. This has worked for me. I came from nothing. I want to share this with other people. I want other people to see what’s possible. I want to help them the way I’ve helped myself and helped people on my team. It feels like there’s an inner need to do that, but you haven’t fully expressed it. When I’m looking at your site, I don’t yet see it.
Chris: That’s exactly it. My entrepreneurial approach is I’m just going to throw things at the wall and what sticks. The nice thing is I don’t feel that I’m in a hurry to do that. I’m just sort of chipping away and kind of doing what feels right and doing what feels good. My focus is completely on the company, more now than ever, thinking about this $5 million goal and what that’s going to take. It takes a lot of bandwidth.
Chris: A lot of focus.
Andrew: A whole lot of focus. And you’ve been doing that. All right. There’s so much I want to ask you about. I want to ask you about how you’re turning leads into sales. I know you’re so systematic about it. I know we’ve gone over time. Screw it. People can just end the podcast at any time they want. Why don’t you just give me a little bit about what’s worked for you so far about creating a process of turning leads into sales.
Chris: This is the kind of thing that I love. What I realize is that I feel like I’ve mixed kind of this hybrid idea of online with brick and mortar. So, now the focus is totally, it’s still online SEO. We use a ton of tools like VWO. Is it alright to be throwing out tools?
Andrew: Yeah. People love it. VWO is Visual Website Optimizer. It lets you quickly create A/B tests without coding.
Andrew: We’re using Google AdWords now as well to push even more leads in. So, we’re all about that online funnel, getting people to a conversion page which goes right into our CRM and then the focus from there is I’ve been cultivating in my sales team to really try to coach good closers in my environment to build the relationship and nurture that out. So, it’s like we’ve just got this from initial inquiry to not only–like right now I’ve been thinking about the whole process, right?
Actually, this is where my process is, actually. It’s less about the little needs here and there. I realize the one thing I did growing so quickly is I built a Frankenstein system. So, every time there was a problem, like there’s this thing here. I’ve got to do this little fix or, “Oh, there’s a thing here. I’ve got to put this thing in.”
So, what’s happened is it’s awkward, even for my team to navigate this whole process. A few weeks ago, I sat down and I said, “Okay.” I’m going to forget about the system. I’m going to focus on the process only,” like, “What is the process?” I literally said, “If my neighbor wanted to buy a product from me and there’s no internet and no email and none of this…” So, I wrote out that like, “He would walk over here. We would have a…”
Andrew: And what would the conversation say. You write that down too, right?
Chris: Totally, what would the conversation be? And if left, what would I do? And I had this like, okay, well, I would mark it in a calendar, open up a calendar, write it in there and then set a next action date, “When am I going to get a hold of that guy?” Reference that day and when that day comes, I would go see him again, so thinking about this very basic process and then going, “Okay, this is what we need to build,” but not just in one sale. My thought is I’m all about lifelong relationships. Our focus is: How do we get more accounts that are $20,000, $30,000, $50,000 accounts? That’s about three transactions.
Right now I’m mapping out from the point when somebody first thinks, “Hey, I want this thing,” all the way through the first transaction, closing that, building the relationship, educating them out, closing a couple more transactions and looking at that entire process and then going, “Okay, now what’s the system that we need to build to create that?” That’s how I know we’ll get to not only $5 million, but at that point, you just turn it up and it’s a machine.
So, the sales portion has really been finding that. I know that we’re closing our–we’re paying for leads and our system is okay. We’re probably paying about $50-$60 per closed sale from Google AdWords. But fortunately, our average transaction is like $1,400, $1,500. So, obviously that makes sense, right?
Andrew: Let me ask you one other thing.
Andrew: Where is that? I was looking at SimilarWeb to see where your traffic was coming from and where it was going. You’re not getting a lot of traffic outside of search and direct. There’s this one thing that came up. Let me see if I can bring it up.
Chris: So, the other thing is we have four or five websites too.
Andrew: Yeah. Why do you have so many different domains?
Chris: Okay. So, we had this idea a little while back when we started really doing step and repeats. We looked at the key terms about what were around step and repeats. So, we built keyword-specific websites. It was a couple years ago thinking that was the way that it had to be done. Now I realize that you’re kind of spreading yourself thin with content. That idea has change. We still have leads that come from RedCarpetBackdrops.ca and StepAndRepeat.ca and all these different. So, the leads trickling in across four or five.
Andrew: I see. It’s still up there.
Andrew: I saw ExitMonetization.com. Do you know them?
Chris: No. I don’t know what that is.
Andrew: All right. It’s this software that allows you to have people go to ads if they click the back button on your website. So, they come to your website. They decide, “You know what? I don’t like this.” They hit the back button. Instead of going to a previous page, they go to a list of ads. I thought maybe you were doing some work with them, but I guess not.
Chris: That sounds like something I definitely need to look at.
Andrew: All right. I can go on forever with this kind of interview, especially with all the tools that it has. I didn’t even get into what I discovered when I went to BuiltWith.com, nothing that major, but it’s still interesting. By the way, that’s a website people should check out–BuiltWith.com. I see a lot of people use it for just understanding what their competitors are using or people they admire using on their website. It shows you the software that they have.
I can see if I can go to BuiltWith.com and type in one of your URLs, I can see you use Google Apps for your business for email. I can see that you use WordPress, that you guys are on apparently WordPress 4.3. I’m reading that right. You guys have used Doubleclick and AdRoll for your ads. It’s helpful to do that.
The other thing you do is if you want to figure out who’s using–if you want to see who’s using something like–we said Visual Website Optimizer. Let’s put in Optimizely. Let’s suppose we’re Visual Website Optimizer. We want to know who is using Optimizely. We click on that and I think we can see a bunch of different sites. We should be able to see a bunch of different sites that are suing Optimizely and then we can call them up and say, “Have you tried using Visual Website Optimizer.”
Chris: What is that site?
Andrew: It’s called BuiltWith.com.
Andrew: BuiltWith.com. Why am I not seeing all the sites that are using it? All right. I have to do this afterwards. Anyway, it’s a great tool and people can check that out. They should also check out your website. Where should we send them? I guess ChrisCrawford.com is the best URL, right?
Andrew: Excuse me. ChrisCrawford.ca. Everything should be .ca when I think about you.
Chris: Yeah. Well, I couldn’t get ChrisCrawford.com, so I got the .ca. And then Kick Ass Media as well, you can just Google that one and we come up.
Andrew: Kick Ass Media. Cool. My sponsors are HostGator.com/Mixergy and Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring. Cool. I think that’s everything. Chris, aces.
Chris: Thanks, man. Thank you so much. Super fun.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. If you’ve been listening to my interviews and you’ve built an incredible company and you haven’t yet come to do an interview, you should know that right now on Mixergy.com, there’s a place for you to tell out team what you’re doing and see if you’re a right fit to do an interview. If you’re not, no problem. We can always wait.
I’ve talked to several people for months or years waiting for the moment to get to do an interview. There’s no bigger honor for me than to do an interview with someone who’s been listening to Mixergy while building their business and now is ready to celebrate a big success. I would rather interview you than Steve Jobs who rises up from the dead. I bet I would get to learn more from you than I would from him. I’m proud to have you on here, Chris. Thanks for being a fan and a listener for so long and congrats on all your success.
Chris: Thank you.
Andrew: Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.