How to build a consulting company from the ground up

Today we’re going to talk about something that I often don’t talk about.

I talk about software companies, hardware companies, and food companies even. But when it comes to talking about consulting companies, I often talk about them as a stepping stone towards something else.

But, frankly, a lot of people actually build solid consulting companies, not as a stepping stone towards something else. I want to make sure that we do an interview here about how it’s done, where I get a story of an entrepreneur who’s doing it, and today I’ve got one for you.

Keith Perhac is the CEO and founder Delfi-Net, a full-service development and marketing consultancy. I invited him here to talk about how he built it, some of the problems along the way and how he overcame them.

Keith Perhac

Keith Perhac

Delfi Net

Keith Perhac is the CEO of Delfi-Net which is a full-service development and marketing consultancy.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart.

Today we’re going to talk about something that I often don’t talk about. Frankly, I talk about software companies. I talk about hardware companies. I talk about food companies even, not very much but sometimes. But when it comes to talking about consulting companies, I have to admit I often talk about them as a stepping stone towards something else, as a way to learn how to build what it is that you’re selling. But, frankly, a lot of people actually build solid consulting companies for whom that’s the business. They’re not doing it as a stepping stone towards something, and I want to make sure that we do an interview here where we talk about how it’s done, where I get a story of an entrepreneur who’s doing it, and today I’ve got one for you.

We’re going to be talking about how to build a consulting company without all of those problems of building a consulting company. Keith Perhac is the CEO and founder DelfiNet, which is a full-service development and marketing consultancy. I invited him here to talk about how he built it up and some of the problems along the way and how he overcame them.

And this interview is sponsored by HostGator. Next time you get an idea, don’t say, “Hey, that’s a great idea,” go and build a website. It doesn’t cost much. We’re talking about, I’m on HostGator’s website right now, if you use the URL that I’ll give you, it’ll cost you only $3.47 a month, and if the idea doesn’t work out, you just shut it down. What are you out? Three bucks? Yup, out a couple of bucks. And it’s guaranteed, 45 day guarantee. What I want you to do is start to become an action person. An action person needs a hosting company go-to whenever he has an idea, whenever she wants to launch something. You need it, and for you that hosting company should be HostGator. And if you go to HostGator.com/mixergy, I’m going to give you 30% off. That’s what will allow you to get it for $3.47 a month starting price. Go to HostGator.com. I keep talking up how great their support is after you buy it. But I want you to know that when you want to start, they will get you started quickly. It looks like $3.46 a month, I want to be fully honest with you, is if you commit to 36 months. If you just want one month, it’s $6.26. That’s nothing to get your idea off the ground. Go to HostGator.com/mixergy.

Keith, you were nodding as I said that.

Keith: Yeah, well I do. I have a bunch of clients on them, and it’s exactly what you say. The biggest problem that I see with people is that they have this idea and it never gets off the ground. It’s like just throw up a landing page, get a HostGator account. Like you say, $6 a month. Get a landing page up there. Start putting it out there. Are people interested? As soon as you have a hundred people saying, “Yeah, I want to buy that,” hey, you’ve got a product.

Andrew: Yeah. Way to go. That’s exactly it. And frankly, even if you’re not sure what it is, you just want to experiment with WordPress, just go and set up a WordPress page right there and experiment with different themes and see what it’s about and see what your idea is about and then either it’ll take off or it won’t, but you’re out only a couple of bucks and a couple of minutes.

Keith, you run a consulting company. I asked you before we started, what are some of the headaches that are involved in running a consulting company, and you told me about the time that you had, I think it was three big clients, and how many emails were coming in as a result?

Keith: It was about 600 emails a day, and most of them, they weren’t like spam emails. They weren’t like Twitter followers or whatever. They were pretty much all Basecamp or GR tickets coming in. Hey, this needs to get done. Hey, this needs to get parsed out. Hey, this needs to be sent to the designer, to the dev team. Hey Keith, what’s the strategy for this product kind of thing. I don’t think I quite had the mental breakdown yet. I think that was about a month later when I realized what I had been doing.

Andrew: What is your breakdown like when you actually get broken down? What happened?

Keith: Netflix. I will watch an entire season of a TV show on Netflix generally for two to three days.

Andrew: And you just avoided it all and said, “You know what? They’re all going to have to deal with this on their own. I can’t handle it anymore. I’m going to sit down and watch Netflix.” Do you eat any junk food too?

Keith: No. I literally wrap myself in a blanket and watch Netflix.

Andrew: Wow.

Keith: Yeah and I won’t respond to emails. I won’t do anything. I just shut down. I consider it like a sick day. But I can always tell when I’m having that breakdown because I’m starting to look for things on Netflix. Normally I never watch any TV. But as soon as I’m like looking around Netflix, I’m like, “Okay. Maybe I need to take a me day.”

Andrew: So considering that problem and so many of the others that are involved in creating a consulting company, why is it not for you a stepping stone towards figuring out the software that you’re going to create that’s going to get you out of consulting?

Keith: Now, you say that, but I have built a couple of products from consulting engagements and from things that I keep seeing come up over and over again. But why do I keep consulting is because I love working on multiple different projects and I love working on different problems that maybe wouldn’t come up in my life if I was just focusing on one client or one product or working at a 9 to 5.

Andrew: But when you’re in consulting, are you doing it so you understand people’s pains, build a product and just get out?

Keith: That’s the thing. No, not to get out.

Andrew: You are. No, I mean, is it for you to find the one product that’s going to be your basecamp, right? 37signals started out as a consulting company, kind of like yours. They figured out the problems that they had internally. They built software for it, they created Basecamp as one of those products, and it became such a big hit, they changed their company to Basecamp. It seems like that’s a path that a lot of entrepreneurs want. When I look at you, I don’t see that hunger in your eyes to get out of the world that you’re in.

Keith: I don’t. I don’t. I like doing the work that I do. I’m always trying to optimize it. So I don’t want to go 100% product because, yeah, working on products is fun, but it’s the same thing over and over and over again. Like I said, I do come away from consulting gigs with an idea for a product, and usually I’ll stand up something like an MVP or a tool for people to use. But I have a problem with focus I think. I have a problem focusing on one problem set forever, and I’d rather work with a lot of people solving a lot of problems in a lot of different industries. That’s really what I get out of consulting.

Andrew: Now we went through the pain of running a consulting company. Give me an exciting moment. What’s one thing that you are especially proud that you were able to do and you could only do because you had clients and you were taking care of them?

Keith: So the biggest thing I get to do with clients, so I’ll put this up front. I’m horrible at building a list from nothing, right? SEO, building your audience, not for me. I tell my consulting clients if you want to build an opt-in list, if you want to build this list from absolutely nothing, I can’t help you. I’ll introduce you to great people who do.

What I’m all about is improving your existing conversion funnel. So you have paid traffic coming in. We can get more traffic going there by paying for it and then getting a better conversion.

So what do I love doing? One of the biggest successes and why I love doing what I do is because I’m working with these clients who have large lists. Maybe they have 20,000 people. Maybe they have a hundred. I have a couple of clients that have half a million people on their list, and I get to play with marketing strategies and ideas at scale. When you have a list of half a million people and you have a sales page where maybe 20,000 people are going to see it, you can come to statistical significance on a test in about half an hour. Sometimes like a day.

Andrew: I see. When you make a tweak to a page, it’s already working and make it work even better, that’s an exciting moment for you.

Keith: Exactly.

Andrew: That’s when the client knows how valuable you are. That’s when your life feels more fun, and you can’t keep doing it if you’re building a product and handling customer support issues on it. You can only do it when you’re doing the kind of work that you’re doing. Who are some of the clients who you have done this for?

Keith: So I’ve done this for a bunch of people. The most famous one is Ramit Sethi. I will teach. I’ve done this for a couple of startups which I don’t believe I’m allowed to say their names. I work with Jim Kwik at Kwik Learning. SCD Lifestyle who they absolutely blow my mind. They’re in a very niche market. They’re for people with celiac disease and gut disease. They’re the number one result if you search for leaky gut syndrome, which is actually a thing. They’ve been able to build an amazingly effective funnel and amazingly effective marketing and tools in such a niche market.

Andrew: I see. All right. Let’s go back and see how you did this. You were working at where?

Keith: So I started way back in the day. You mean at the very beginning?

Andrew: Yeah. You know what, I just realized I was just about to say the name of the company you were working for, and I realized I had to scroll up to the top of my sheet and I couldn’t do it fast enough to get the name out before the question was over. But here it is. You were creative leader at NanoOpt Media.

Keith: Yeah. So I lived in Japan. So for people who don’t know, I’m actually in Japan right now. I’ve been here for 12 years. I started out being an English teacher, easy to get here, and after my three years of English teaching purgatory, I started working for a Japanese startup called NanoOpt Media. We had a bunch of funding backup and everything. I started out as a technical translator, and then I moved up to developer because I was a developer. They had just brought me in as a translator, and then at the end of the six years I was essentially running all of the development, marketing, and design for the company. So what we did is we did digital signage, which is if you go to any mall, here it’s all the rest stops on the expressway and the train stations, they have the giant TVs with all the videos going. We built systems for that.

Andrew: Okay. Is it as fun as it seems?

Keith: It was very fun. I really enjoyed it.

Andrew: You know what? I was actually saying it sarcastically. That does not seem like as fun as your job now. But it was fun.

Keith: Oh, my God no. It was crazy fun. I mean, it was still advertising, right? I really enjoyed it, and we built the first system that took in live data from the Internet. So it would bring in Twitter, and Facebook hadn’t really started back then. But it would bring in all this data and allow people to update in real time, because before it was like building a TV commercial, right? And update cycles came in weeks, not minutes, and so we built a lot of systems for that. It’s fun. It was interesting problem sets, and it was interesting from a marketing and sales perspective because you had to convince people that had no idea how technology works or even like the benefits of having this advertising on these giant monitors, what the benefits were. So it was interesting from a technical standpoint, from a design standpoint, because we had to make all the templates, and then from a marketing perspective as well as how do we get people interested in this really brand new technology platform.

Andrew: All right. I’m more excited about what you did next, and I actually probably should have included it in the intro. You know what, I don’t mean to dismiss that, but I have to call myself out. You shouldn’t hear me say, “Oh yeah, that was great,” and know in my voice that I don’t feel that. I think that’s fine. But here’s the part that I’m more excited about. You then started working for Ramit Sethi, as you mentioned earlier, the guy who runs I Will Teach You To Be Rich, who is obsessed with creating a great website, great product for his users, right?

Keith: Yup.

Andrew: How did you hook up with him?

Keith: So this was interesting. The company at the time got sold to a subsidiary of Toyota, and so I was kind of at that cusp, right? It’s like okay, I can continue the Japanese salary man lifestyle, or I can branch out on my own. At this point, I was doing all the design, all the marketing, all the development, and everything for this company. I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to do it on my own. I’m going to try this out.”

My best friend, Patrick McKinsey, he actually lives down the street from me or did, and he had quit his Japanese salary man day job a couple of years earlier to do consulting, and he had been trying to get me out of my job for about five years. And I said, “Okay, Patrick. I’m taking the plunge. I’m getting out there. I’m so frickin scared. I got to do this, otherwise I’m going to go crazy, but I’m scared.” He’s like, “This guy I know, Ramit,” and I had never heard of Ramit at this point, “is looking for a front-end designer, front-end developer guy. Let me put you in contact.” So we got in contact. I talked to Ramit a couple of times. We did a resume/interview thing and I started working with him.

Andrew: Give me the most intense thing that he said to you or asked of you during the interview.

Keith: I actually don’t remember. The whole thing was so intense to me because it was my first time that I had done freelancing where it was going to be my entire lifestyle, right? This was also five years ago. But I remember one of the questions from the interview was, “How would you set up a system to measure people going through a funnel?” So people come in, people either convert or they don’t convert. How do you then measure the effectiveness of all of this through a split test campaign? Very detailed thing.

Andrew: Yeah. And this is like, as you said, five years ago and he was already getting into that level of depth.

Keith: Oh yeah.

Andrew: He’s way beyond that at this point. So how do you answer that back then?

Keith: Badly. It was very detailed. It was very system oriented because that’s what I was focused on.

Andrew: What do you mean? What was the system?

Keith: Well, I’d say something like, “Oh, I’d use a tool like this and I’d put the data in here, and I’d check and make sure that the data was . . . I have redundancy in the data and make sure that all the systems were set up and everything.” I mean, apparently that’s kind of what he wanted to hear, but it wasn’t really. I learned later that that’s not what people want to hear. They want to hear that you’re thinking through the problems, but they don’t want to know the specifics of what database you’re going to be using to store this data. They want to know that you have looked over the contingency plans, especially things that they’ve maybe come up with in the past. It’s like, “Oh, we weren’t measuring people’s success rate. We measured them up to the opt-in, but we never know how much they’re worth.”

Andrew: You mean how profitable they are or how effective the product is for them?

Keith: How effective the product is for them.

Andrew: I see.

Keith: It’s the difference of looking at the technical side of things versus the business side of things. It’s like, “Okay. I’m using a NoSQL database to hold all this data and do a fast query.” That’s not what they want to know. They want to know, “Is this going to give me the answer to the question I have, and the question I have is not what database are you using? The question I have is, ‘Are we going to be able to accurately see if this person comes in from Facebook and sees this ad, that they convert at this rate?'”

Andrew: Okay. So you get the job. You start working. Does it make up your salary?

Keith: Well, a Japanese salary is not very good. I’ll put it that way.

Andrew: Why are you and Patrick in Japan? The salaries are bad. You’re isolated from the rest of the world. I’m looking at your schedule here. One of the reasons why I couldn’t get excited about what you were doing is because I knew the hours you were logging. You were working until 11:30 p.m. or even 2:00 a.m. every single night, right?

Keith: Yup.

Andrew: And we’re not talking about like, you can say here in San Francisco people are working until odd crazy hours. In New York, people are working for odd crazy hours. In New York, they’re getting rich or they own shares of the business they’re working for because they work in a startup. You’re working for a company that’s not giving you shares. Why? Why work in Japan?

Keith: Well, the reason I was working there, I guess, is because I was young and stupid. I liked the work though. It was a very good company until the end. I liked the work I was doing. It was interesting, and honestly when I single, it wasn’t a bad salary. The cost of living here is very cheap. It’s like living in Ohio, right? But being able to be a consultant and have not even Silicon Valley rates has improved my quality of life exponentially. It was interesting that you say like you work until 11:30 at night and it was horrible and you didn’t get paid anything, well I kept that Japanese work ethic. So I was working the same amount of time, but I was enjoying the work. Yeah. I was profitable. I was very profitable.

Andrew: Oh, wait. Were you making more with Ramit than you were making at your full-time job?

Keith: Oh, God. Yeah.

Andrew: You were? I see, because you were making American salary equivalent in Japan.

Keith: Exactly. I made $3,600 a month at my old job as a head of IT, and that’s well paid. That was well paid for my age bracket.

Andrew: And you kept your hours. In fact, didn’t I call you once from my backyard once?

Keith: Yup. Yup.

Andrew: Right? On Skype or something and I was surprised. I’m living in San Francisco. I think it was early afternoon, you were still up.

Keith: Yeah. In San Francisco, the West Coast is actually really great. I come online at around what, 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. your time?

Andrew: I see.

Keith: So like 6:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m.

Andrew: So it was morning and you were having your cup of coffee or something?

Keith: Exactly.

Andrew: Yeah. We were introduced through a friend and I said, “All right. Can we talk to him?” And you were there.

Keith: Yup. Yup.

Andrew: All right. So you get that job, but now you have a job, right, because Ramit’s not allowing you to work fluff hours while you go and spend 10% of your time on him and 90% going to get other clients. So you’re fully working with him. How are you finding time to get another job, to get another client?

Keith: I didn’t for a long time, and this was one of the things that I realized . . . I’m trying to remember. About a year in that I had realized that I had traded one employer for another. It was not a problem per se. Essentially, I was just a full-time freelance contractor, but it was still an employee. I didn’t have any other clients, and I realized that I loved working at Ramit’s. I loved learning from Ramit The work I’m doing is highly, highly satisfying. I mean I’ve been there working there for five years now. But on the other hand, I knew that okay, if Ramit ever goes away, because I am a contractor employee, I’m back to square one.

Andrew: What did you learn from Ramit before we go into the next step? What did you learn from him?

Keith: So much. Like, I can’t even distill that down. I think the biggest thing I learned is that, first of all, you can have a scammy site name and that doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Andrew: You know what, no one should take lesson. It worked for him. I Will Teach to be Rich worked for him. Everyone else should not go with a website that sounds like it’s going to get you rich overnight and give you a Lamborghini.

Keith: It causes problems. Not even just in a perception way, but it does cause problems which I’m not going to get into.

Andrew: No. Get into it. What’s a problem?

Keith: No, because I don’t wan to . . . that’s Ramit’s stuff.

Andrew: Okay. That’s his business, not yours.

Keith: That’s his business.

Andrew: Teach me one thing you learned.

Keith: The biggest thing I learned is that personality and being dogmatic into your beliefs is very, very important when running this type of business. For the longest time, and this is a very Japanese thing as well, and I think it’s also in the U.S. dev community, this idea if you build something and it’s built well, that you’re going to become a millionaire. That sometimes happens, but so, so rarely. It’s not about building something that’s technically good. It’s about building something that solves business needs, real problems and then being able to express that to the right people. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s most amazing whatever, like fluzo. If you can’t convince people that they need that fluzo and you can’t talk about it eloquently, then you’re not going to be able to sell it no matter how good it is.

Andrew: Oh, I see. Okay. And now you create ad copy for other people?

Keith: I do do some ad copy. Mainly what we do is the UX and the UI designs. So building out funnels and building out the designs and flows for that so people opt in here, they come into here, and this is how the eye tracks through the whole kit and caboodle of how do you take an existing funnel and make it better.

Andrew: I see. Why have we not hired you at Mixergy. I’m looking at the people you’ve worked with.

Keith: I don’t know.

Andrew: You worked with Nomadic Matt. How does Nomadic Matt know everything and I don’t know any of this stuff? What do you charge for that?

Keith: It ranges. It ranges. I’m actually working on that right now because it all depends on the length of the engagement. So what we generally do is we generally have a retainer engagement with someone for a number of hours per month, or that we will accomplish various strategic and technical tasks, because one of the big differences between our company and others is that I’m a marketer and a developer and a designer and so are the people who I hire. No one is just a developer. No one is just a marketer. Everyone understands the technical and the business side of it. So people hire us not just for the strategy, but also to actually implement it. It doesn’t help if you hire someone who’s like, “Oh yeah, we should do all this.” It’s like “Okay, let’s get it done.” “Oh, no, you’ve got to talk to some other guy,” that doesn’t know what’s going on.

Andrew: Right. Then you end up with people who promise a lot and they don’t ever have to deliver on it, so they could keep promising even more.

Keith: Yup. Exactly. I’ll just say the rates, they vary depending on the amount of work we do. Generally, they run from about 5 to 10k a month depending on what we’re doing. So I don’t know if you know productized consulting, which is a big thing right now. It’s this idea of taking your consultancy and turning it into specific products, specific packages that you sell for a specific price on a website. As I had mentioned before we started the call, I hate writing proposals. I hate it more than pretty much anything else. Not that they take a long time, but I just can’t get up the energy to do them. So I’m really looking getting into this productized consulting aspect of it where I can say, “Oh, you want us to come in and fix your funnel. Here’s our funnel proposal.” That’s kind of where I’m trying to push right now.

Andrew: That’s actually interesting. So to figure out what your focus is going to be is not easy. You start out with one client. You’re doing a bunch of different things for him. You become like his external CEO, right? But it’s a job and comes with all the pressure of a job, all the benefits of a job, but also some of the risks of a job. You could lose it and then all of your revenue is gone. How did you get your next customer?

Keith: So the whole thing is through referrals and people I know.

Andrew: But you’re in Japan, in the middle of nowhere. How are you finding referrals?

Keith: People I work with. So working with Ramit I met a bunch of people because we’re all contractors back then. This was before Ramit really started building the company company, right? So we were all contractors. So we all talked and we all hung out, not for really beers, but we hung out on Skype. I mean, we’re working 12 hours, 14 hours a day anyways. Some of that as we’re programming up stuff or as we’re talking about strategy, we talk about what else is going on. Maybe someone contacted us or maybe we met someone through a shared friend.

I’m very different, I think, than most salespeople and most consultancies where I, I’ve mentioned that I’ve worked with SCD Lifestyle, and they’ve referred me to a couple of people. Our mutual friend Rachel has introduced me to a couple of people. I don’t like going out and doing all the hard-hitting sales. I like being part of a community, and I feel that being part of a community and building a community and sharing what you know, people who want to work with you and feel like they’re going to get something from working with you are going to come and talk to you.

Andrew: So let’s get a little clear about how you built that community, because you’ve told us before, you told me and my team here before that you are in the middle of nowhere. There aren’t a lot of meet-ups there, so you had to make connections remotely. You mentioned Skype as one way of doing it. But do I understand this right? You Skype a little bit differently. You always have the chat box up, which is kind of common, but it’s not unusual for you also to have the voice part of Skype up as you’re working, not necessarily even talking.

Keith: Oh, yeah. We did a ton of . . . it’s like being in a co-working space, and it’d just be a bunch of us, this was before Google Hangouts. We’d be on Skype, just kind of sitting there working, doing our stuff and we’d chat and that’s how we built a community. We’d have six or eight people in there at the same time.

Andrew: So voice would be up. It’s a big group, five or six you said?

Keith: Yup.

Andrew: And you’re doing conference calling essentially.

Keith: Yup. Pretty much. And it’s just like . . .

Andrew: And if you’re all sitting and working, I can hear your keyboards clacking away.

Keith: Yup. Pretty much.

Andrew: Does that sound crazy to you?

Keith: I guess you work with what you’ve got.

Andrew: I have to tell you. It sounds crazy to me, but also there were times when I wanted that, where I thought, “Is it weird for me to tell my brother I just want to get on a Skype chat with him and not talk, but if something comes up, we can just chat as we’re working?”

Keith: It’s so effective. You know with Slack, I mean Slack has turned into this huge phenomenon right now, and it’s pretty much the same thing, just without the vocal side of it right. Now I like having the vocal side because I like having that . . . you can’t screw around. If someone is listening to whatever you’re doing, you’re not going to start watching Netflix or playing a video game and sneaking away on it, right?

Andrew: You might look at Facebook though, no?

Keith: You might, but it’s the idea you hear the other person typing. You hear the other person breathing. Maybe they’re like saying, “Oh crap, what’s going on here,” or something, and it reminds you that other people are doing work too. People, if you’re sitting in this chat and it’s like, “Yeah. I’m in work mode right now,” you want to keep doing the work. If you’re sitting there by yourself, like you say, your brother’s not on the line. There’s no one keeping you honest to be doing what you need to be doing, then the chance of you screwing around is much higher.

Andrew: I see. I actually went to Voice Bunny’s offices after I interviewed the founder. We just went over for . . . I think his parents cooked some food for us, for me and my brother and a couple of friends who I brought over, and we were just hanging out there. And I looked at everyone’s computer and they all had the second monitor with nothing but video of everyone else on the team so then they could look at each other as they’re working and feel like they’re all in the same room. I get that. So what’s happening is by doing that and things like that you’re building a community of people even though you’re all remote, and they’re starting to get to know you better than they would if you were just a guy who was sending them email every once in awhile or interacting with them through Basecamp. As a result, they’re staring to recommend you.

I looked at your website, using Archive.org, to get a sense of what you were doing.

Keith: I’m so sorry you saw that. I’m so sorry you saw that website.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s not you exactly. It’s not you of today. But, you know, the thing is that it’s not just that, it’s that there isn’t much of a focus at this point. We’re looking at 2013. It said Bloom Japanese technology, and again I’m translating from Japanese. Why was the site in Japanese by the way?

Keith: So I didn’t have an English site until about a year and a half ago. The first three and a half years I didn’t have an English website. That first three years was really when I was growing so much. The reason I built an English website is not because I thought, oh I need to be able to get more clients with my English website. It was because I wanted to try some content marketing, and so I needed an English website to do it and that’s what you see there.

Andrew: I see. So now you got your blog post, and underneath the blog post you have your email collection, strategy, one-page action plan. If I give you my email address, you’ll give me a one-page action plan to post-sales SaaS domination.

Keith: Yeah. This was my first foray into content marketing. It did not go very well. Not that it wasn’t effective, I wasn’t happy with the type of content. I mean, you look at the content . . .

Andrew: I’m sorry. I’m the one who shifted us to today, but let me just stick with back then. We’re looking at 2013. You still don’t have a strategy, right? It’s business improvement strategy is what you’re selling. Step one, definition of the establishment and the proposed improvement strategy. Step number two is the current traffic source to understand and improve. At that point, what were you doing? Was it anything to do with coding and then you’d later on narrow it down to marketing? Or were you already starting to find that marketing was your niche?

Keith: It was always the marketing plus the tech. So when I first started back with Ramit, it was tech as far as what you need to do to accomplish it, but it was still marketing. It was all about, okay, how do we improve this conversion rate?

Andrew: So how did you figure out that it was going to be that? Was it just because that’s what he needed and you realized there’s value in it?

Keith: No. I’ve always been interested in it. So the biggest thing for me with businesses is watching numbers go up. It’s part of the geek part of me that I love improving numbers. I love improving processes. Anything where I’m getting like a 75% increase, a 30% increase. Anytime I can try something that’s not been done before and get a huge success rate.

This is one thing that I can share from Ramit’s. So on a sales page, you know we have the expiring sales pages, right? We were like, “Why don’t we put up an SMS thing? It’s like as someone’s leaving the page, say, “Hey, we don’t want you to miss this offer. Give us your phone number and we’ll text you before the page closed.” You think this is never going to work. No one’s ever, ever going to put their phone number in there to be reminded to buy a thousand dollar course. And it worked. It worked, and it’s just like being able to try these things that you think will never work in your wildest dreams.

Andrew: And that’s your idea, the SMS?

Keith: I don’t actually remember if that was my idea specifically. One of the things at Ramit’s is that everything is a community idea. I don’t think anyone ever comes up with a hundred percent of an idea and an implementation.

Andrew: The idea organically came about because you’re all a community working together doing things like that Skype chat that we were talking about. But what’s exciting to you that made you feel like this is what I should be building my consulting company around is that it’s fun to watch these ideas work and increase sales. The SMS on the site is a little difficult, but not excessively difficult, and as a result of that you end up with something that dramatically improves sales.

Keith: Exactly. Exactly.

Andrew: I see. Okay. So you’re continuing with that. You’re getting more clients. It seems like things are going well at that point.

Keith: Yeah, they were. They were. The positioning of a company is something that, I think, you always need to be looking at because it’s always changing. So the site as it was, was so generic and I think it is still so generic.

Andrew: Your site you mean?

Keith: My site. Yeah. Definitely.

Andrew: It is very generic. I’ve seen some of the work that you do. Why is your homepage ugly in comparison?

Keith: Honestly, it’s the cobbler’s children have no shoes thing. I work so much on client stuff that getting an hour or two hours to work on my own site is like pulling teeth. I could hire it out to someone, and I’ve tried that in the past and it doesn’t turn out like I want.

Andrew: And you can’t dedicate the time to do it yourself?

Keith: And it’s hard to dedicate the time to do it myself. I try, but I also I try to do a lot of things. I have two companies, two SaaS products that I’m running. I have a number of clients that I work for?

Andrew: What are those two SaaS products?

Keith: So we have two. One is Summit Evergreen, which is online courseware for product people, people who are creating information courses on the Internet.

Andrew: Most courses go on products like either you use Fedora, which is someone else’s platform, or you could be on someone else’s platform or you can do it on WordPress, which is kind of a funky platform to turn into courseware. So you say we create software that just does your courses. Tell me about the other one and then I’ve got to make a point here.

Keith: The other one is analytics software, so this is for Infusionsoft, which is the big name in online marketing automation right now. It’s amazing. I love it. But they have the worst reporting ever. And so we built a software thing in a week actually. We built the whole thing in a week, and all it does is reports on your lead sources, how much revenue you make, and how your list is building depending on where they’re coming from.

Andrew: So Summit Evergreen looks stunning. Who created the design?

Keith: I did.

Andrew: You did. It’s frickin stunning.

Keith: Thank you.

Andrew: The text is beautiful. In fact, it’s not just that. Your photo on there isn’t just a crappy piece of crap photo, right?

Keith: Thank you.

Andrew: It’s . . .

Keith: It’s a photo of me, so I don’t know what to say about that.

Andrew: You look like a hipster from the right part of San Francisco. It looks like you would be the guy to ask about a coffee shop. I don’t think cobblers have sons and daughters with holes in their shoes. Tell me honestly, like go through it. Is it that it feels like your business is a little bit overwhelming? Is it that you’re not spending time growing your business because you’re too much in your business? Be honest with me.

Keith: It’s a little of that I’m sure. I think a lot of it is focus. Summit Evergreen it’s easy to understand where it’s targeting. It’s a product. It’s a product for a market, and it’s very easy to say, “This is the pain point of this market, and this is what we can accomplish with it.” The problem with my company is that it’s a lot more squishy, right? We work with a lot of different types of clients. We do a lot of different things. So how do you distill that down into a single offering? And that’s what I’m trying to do with the productized consulting. I’m trying to say, “Okay. Of the miasma of things we can do, because we can do anything. I can do anything. But you have to sell to a specific need.”

Andrew: I thought you had that. We’re going to increase your sales using technology, using copy and technology.

Keith: Right. It’s a start. That doesn’t talk to my audience. My audience sees that, and they’re like, “Well, that’s what everyone says.”

Andrew: You know what you should do? You should just put a big note, “You like what I did for Ramit Sethi? I could do it for you. Click here.”

Keith: Exactly. I need to get a video testimonial from Ramit. I wonder, Ramit if you’re watching this, let’s get a testimonial out.

Andrew: I don’t think it should go up on this page. I think it needs to look better. I think it needs to look like Summit Evergreen. I love your work. I am one of the biggest fans of your work.

Keith: Thank you.

Andrew: I forgot that when I was preparing for this interview, because I was looking at your site and I was zipping through my day, then I realized, wait a minute. I’ve seen his frickin work. The little dashboards that you create look better than anything I’ve created.

Keith: Well, thank you very much. It’s something that I have. I’m not Japanese, but my entire business life has been in Japan, so I have a very Japanese ethic. I also have that artist ethic of it has to be perfect. It has to be perfect. But I also have, as a business owner I know that, okay I can’t spend three weeks getting this dashboard looking perfect for a client because they’re not going to be happy about that. They want it to work. They want it to look good, but they want it to work. That’s the number one thing they want. And so it’s a very difficult balance to always keep.

Andrew: All right. And maybe you don’t even need a website. It seems like a lot of your clients are coming through referrals and referrals sending you enough business that you’re doing well. And here’s where you did suffer. Not from the website, it’s hiring people is a bigger pain than it seems.

Keith: Oh, yeah.

Andrew: Right. Everyone thinks once you make enough money you could just hire the right people and life is going to be easy, but it’s a pain. Give me an example of one of the problems that a consulting company has when hiring people.

Keith: So the biggest problem is keeping that lead funnel going. Sometimes you have a lot of work coming in. Sometimes you have a little work coming in, and you need to be able to keep a balance. You also have to, when you’re doing a consultancy like mine, make sure that the people you’re hiring are multi-faceted. They’re not just devs, and that means that your hiring process has to be a lot better because, first of all, you have to find the right people. Then you have to be able to interview them right and make sure that they are going to work in the type of work you do. And then you have to be able to pay a salary for those type of people because people who can market and develop or design and develop, they’re not that common. It’s getting more common, but it’s still not . . . you can’t just like . . .

Andrew: So how do you find them? What’s the process that you eventually figured out for finding them?

Keith: Actually referrals. I think my entire company and my entire business is just based on referrals at this point. It’s like people, I’ll say, “Hey. I’m looking for someone, for a new developer. I’m looking for someone to help me stand up these sites faster.” And I’ll get a referral from people I know. It’s like, “Hey. I worked with John. He’s great.”

Andrew: Where do you go to get these referrals?

Keith: Twitter, Facebook, and just emailing to my groups. So I’m in six Slack chats right now. Other boot-strappers, other consultancy owners. I’m in a master class and I just throw it out to the wind. So I would never go anywhere like Odesk or something like that to find . . .

Andrew: I’m imagining Facebook groups and Slack groups are big for you and email, right?

Keith: Yeah, definitely.

Andrew: If you needed to hire tomorrow a developer who understood marketing, which group would you go to?

Keith: I would probably go to Brennan Dunn’s master class.

Andrew: Got you. And because you’re in there, you’d message all the other people who took that class. What does he use? Facebook?

Keith: He actually uses . . . oh crap. I’m trying to remember the name of it. It’s a smaller one. It’s Groupio or something like that. I’m trying to remember the name.

Andrew: Okay. And so you’d go in there and you’d say, “I’m looking to hire somebody. Here’s the position.” Why there? Why Brennan Dunn’s?

Keith: Because everyone there, first of all they’re all developers in the master class, or I’ll say 90% of them are developers. They’re also interested in the marketing and for building out a consultancy. They’re not just random guy, off the street developer. They’re interested in building business systems. They’re interested in growing their business. They understand not only the development side, but what I’m looking for is a business owner. They’re marketers.

Andrew: I see because they’re all freelancers also I imagine, right?

Keith: No. They’re all consultancy owners.

Andrew: Oh, I see. They don’t do it themselves. They’re owners like you.

Keith: Exactly. Exactly. So they’re not going to say, “Oh, hire me.” They’re going to say, “Oh, hey I work with this amazing guy. I recommend him.”

Andrew: This is DoubleYourFreelancing.com.

Keith: I believe that’s the main site. Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. And that’s one of his courses. That’s amazing.

Keith: Yeah, he has four or five. Oh, my God. And he came out of nowhere.

Andrew: I interviewed him. I don’t know that I did a good enough job interviewing him. The guy, he’s doing phenomenal work, and it’s hard to sometimes capture it. Frankly, I don’t think I did a good job capturing it with you.

Keith: Really?

Andrew: Yeah. In the beginning, there was a bit of a disconnect in my mind between you, the person who I heard from other people, and you, the person who I see here in my notes.

Keith: Yeah. I’m not very good at promoting myself, and this is one of the hardest things that I’ve had with my company. I was talking with one of my friends who runs a business. I do a lot of work for him, and he’s like, “Keith, any of these things that you build for me in a weekend could be a product. It could be a million dollar product.” I just don’t see it. I need you to tell me because I built it in a weekend, literally a weekend. Yeah, it’s doing great for your company, but it’s like, it’s for me, do I really want to turn that into a product? I don’t see the value in it other than how it’s improved your company.

Andrew: I see. I get that about you actually. It’s interesting actually that you would still have that considering how many entrepreneurs you’re around who see value in everything and want to sell every single thing. I’m thinking about, this is an extreme case, but Neil Patel, who had logos in his house of people who paid him to put the logos in his house because it would somehow be good for them. He even got sponsorship in his apartment in Seattle.

Keith: Yup.

Andrew: I see. So because you partnered with Rachel on Summit Evergreen, you had someone who saw that and could push it to you.

Keith: Yup. Exactly. Exactly.

Andrew: All right. Once you find people in these groups, and this is a really good thing for me to know, the kind of groups you go to, how do you test them? How do you make sure they’re the right people for you?

Keith: We do interviews. I talk with them. I have a project manager as well. He talks with them, and then what we do is I do a one-month, three-month, six-month contract. So I find, especially being a marketer, people who are good at marketing and good at sales are obviously good at selling themselves as well. So you don’t know until the proof’s in the pudding. So I always do a one-month contract, then I do a three-month contract, and then I’ll do a six-month to a year contract. That’s honestly the only way I’ve been able to do that. Otherwise, you really can’t see what . . . yeah, they say they’re great at design. Are they really good at design, or are they just like . . .

Andrew: Let me come back to that in a moment . . .

Keith: Okay.

Andrew: . . . because in order to get them to come in and do that test, you said you asked them questions and someone else asked them questions, right?

Keith: Yeah.

Andrew: What questions do you ask? What’s your process for assessing out whether they understand your way of doing business?

Keith: Mainly I talk about what they’ve done and what projects they’re interested in. So there’s two things I really look for when I’m interviewing someone. It’s one, are they forthcoming and are they interested in talking? Because especially the type of business we do, someone who’s sitting back and waiting for things to come to them is not going to do well in our company. So someone who is bringing the conversation forward, who is leading the conversation is very important for us. The second thing is people who are really interested in what they’re doing. So I always ask people to let me know what they’re working on, anything. Like, what was their latest project for a client that they did? Or what’s their latest project in GitHub? What did they do just recently that they’re really excited about? That lets me see, (a) what type of things they’re interested in doing.

If they’re interested only in the tech side, they’re probably not going to be a good fit. If they’re only interested in like doing design, they’re probably not going to be a good fit. It also shows me that they have passion about what they do in how they talk about it. If they’re just like, “Oh yeah. I just built some software. It does some stuff,” it’s probably not going to be a good fit. If they’re like, “Oh, my God. I built this awesome thing that a person comes in here and you give them your Facebook information and then it finds all the other friends who have the same hobbies,” it’s like it doesn’t matter what it is. It matters how they think about it and how excited they are about it.

Andrew: Okay. So then you said you asked them to talk to someone else. Who’s the other person?

Keith: That is Marcus Blankenship. He’s actually a consultant, but he’s been my project manager for about a year and a half now. He’s the one who I really credit with taking my team and turning it into a team. So back in the day, it was essentially like Keith set the lead, and when Keith gets overwhelmed and there’s too much for him to do, he’ll throw the dev something to do, which isn’t a great way to run a company at all, because it means I’m the bottleneck at any given point. So I hired him to come in and turn us into a process so we now have intake boards, we have daily meetings so everyone knows what’s going on at any given point, and the communication with the client can happen and I don’t have to be that bottleneck in the middle every time.

Andrew: That’s how you dealt with all those emails that were coming in.

Keith: Yeah. Pretty much.

Andrew: All right. Then you give them the trial. One of the things that I learned is that I used to suck at onboarding people, and onboarding people is critical, right? You get a smart person who doesn’t know what to do and gets lost at first and that feeling of being lost and maybe trying to figure things out on their own could cause damage, and then it’s hard to catch up. What do you do to get them started right?

Keith: To be honest, I’m still bad at it. One of the things that we try to do when we bring on new people is to have a project ready for them that is just starting. So that means that they’re not thrown into a project that’s halfway done or that was done a year ago and they’re doing maintenance on. This is very important. I think owning the project, so they’re part of the ground floor that’s starting to design and understand how the project goes. And so they’re starting the conversation with everyone else on the team at that same level, so no one is up here and no one is down here.

Andrew: I see. So you won’t start someone on a project that’s been going on for a year.

Keith: I try not to.

Andrew: You try not to. You want them to start on a brand new project that you’ve taken on.

Keith: A brand new project, and doing a lot of consulting clients and working with a lot of people, we always have something new coming on, whether that’s a new project for an existing client or it’s a brand new client.

Andrew: Tell me a little bit more about what you do to get clients, because I’m thinking of the people in my audience who are consultants or run these kinds of businesses who keep needing to figure out where their next set of customers are coming from. Some of them are like you, not eager to do self-promotion, not eager to do their own blog posts and create their big funnel. What would you advise them to do based on your experience?

Keith: So there’s a trick I learned from Steli Efti, who is again absolutely brilliant.

Andrew: Founder of Close.io.

Keith: Yeah. Close.io and he did Elastic Sales before then. I wish he was still doing it. It was like a SaaS . . .

Andrew: He was doing outsource sales for people. His salespeople would sell your product on commission. It was amazing.

Keith: Exactly. I really wanted to sign up with him, and then he closed the doors right before I emailed him. But he said something that I still do. It’s whenever you sign a contract with someone, whenever you get a client, ask them for the referral right then. It’s like, “Hey, this is awesome. This is great. Who would you recommend to me to kind of keep this going?” You position it in two ways. One of them is, “I’m really excited about this, so who else can we get into this excitement?” And, the second one is, “Look, I want to spend time supporting you. I want to spend time supporting clients. I don’t want to spend time marketing and spending all this extra money because that cost gets passed onto you in the end. I don’t want to do that. I want to work with amazing people who are a good fit, who we don’t have to go out and do all this proposal nonsense and all this advertising nonsense. So who can I talk to that you think would be a good fit for me?” And that has been very successful.

Andrew: So you do that right when you sign up a client?

Keith: Yeah. So right when they sign up. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Nine times out of ten, I at least get a name.

Andrew: So if I were to sign up with you, you’d say, “Look, Andrew, I’m going to help you get more business, and while I do that, I want to focus on you, not on getting more customers. Do you happen to know someone else who needs more business and is working in a similar way to you?”

Keith: Exactly.

Andrew: And you get referrals that way.

Keith: I’ve gotten a couple of referrals that way. I’ve only recently started doing that over the last couple of months, so before then it would generally be when the contract was about a month old or I got my big first success. It’s like, “Okay, we just doubled your sales on the sales page. Hey, can you recommend me to someone?” While we’re having the champagne glasses and everything.

Andrew: I see. All right. That makes sense. You get them to win and then you see who else wants that kind of win.

Keith: Exactly.

Andrew: Is it weird that my eyes just keep flipping all over the page here as we’re talking?

Keith: No. Not at all. I’m always bad at these Skype conversations because I’m looking at you, and then I realize I’m looking down. Then I’ll look over here, and I’m just completely off the screen at that point.

Andrew: You know, you’re doing such a good job that I didn’t even give you the tip that I give so many other people who I interview, which is if you’re ever on a Skype call with someone, it works better on Skype than it does with most platforms, but it works on any other platform too. What you do is you want the video that you’re looking at, the video of the person you’re talking to be as small as makes sense for you, and then put them right underneath the webcam. That way when you’re looking at their video, it seems to the audience like you’re looking them right in the eye because they can’t tell that inch difference that separates the webcam from the guest video.

Keith: That’s interesting. I have you full screen, so I should try that.

Andrew: Yeah. You know what? I didn’t know you did that because your eyes, they must just be trained up at the camera. I mostly tell people not to keep me on full screen.

Keith: I do a lot of Skype and that’s why probably.

Andrew: Do it really small and then put it up by the cam. Try it now. See if it will be more comfortable.

Keith: Yeah. Pull that up. One of the other things, you know, you were talking about how do I get this community? How do I find people? The referral thing is huge. The referral thing is huge. I also fly a lot. I fly to a lot of conferences. I go out and meet people. I just went to the U.S. for three weeks. So I was just in Phoenix for a InfusionCon. Then I was in Austin just to meet people, and then I was in Vegas for MicroConf.

It’s interesting because I was talking to my account manager and he was like, “Okay. What’s the strategy for getting sales in this?” I’m like, “There’s no strategy.” This is the one time of year when I get to meet people in my community. I don’t want to go in and do the sales thing. It’s the same thing like why I’m on the podcast with you. It’s the same reason I do the podcast with Patrick. It’s the same reason I do my emails or anything. It’s like I want to talk to cool people about cool things. I’ve learned so much working with all these great clients, so many marketing ideas, so many strategy ideas, so many product development ideas, I just want to tell people about it. I want to learn from them, and I want to tell other people so they don’t make the same mistakes that I’ve made.

Andrew: Yeah. I see that you were at a conference. I got actually . . . I don’t know how I missed this email, but when I searched my inbox for your name in preparation for this interview to see who said what about you to me over the years, I saw one person, October 2013, his name is Alexander Bach Borrias, he went to MicroConf in 2013 and he said, “Andrew, here is someone you should meet and maybe even interview for MicroConf.” I totally missed it.

Keith: Oh, wow.

Andrew: But he gave me a list of people actually.

Keith: I’m in the list.

Andrew: You’re on the list.

Keith: Excellent.

Andrew: I mean, he told me about Patrick who was on. He told me about Laura Roder, who was on. Patrick McKinsey, I should say, Bingo Card Creator was his site. Adii Pienaar, who was on. I interviewed him. I somehow missed this list and so I didn’t check you out. But interestingly, when he gave everyone else’s name, he gave their company name. When he gave your name, he listed you as Patrick’s co-host inthe podcast you guys do together.

Keith: Yeah. That was the first MicroConf I had gone to, so that MicroConf Europe. It was actually the first conference I had gone to, and that was a year and a half ago now. It was interesting because . . . you always want to look at how far your company has come or how far you’ve grown, right? You never can see. Like, if you were to say to me, “Keith, today how far have you come in the last six months?” I don’t know. Like, that’s a weird question. I could look at my revenue sheets, but is that really how far I’ve grown, etc. or whatever?

I went to the first MicroConf Europe, and that was my first conference that I had gone to. Back then, I had talked to Brennen Dunn because he was on the podcast. I knew Patrick of course, and I had talked to Nathan Barry and that was pretty much it. I didn’t know anyone else.

Andrew: That’s all you need to. Frankly, you don’t need anyone else.

Keith: Yeah.

Andrew: Right? Seriously. Those are really good people to know.

Keith: Exactly. Well, yeah. I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but it’s true because it’s a door in.

Andrew: If you just told me I met Nathan Barry, I’d say that’s enough, because Nathan Barry is really plugged in. He’s well-known. He could connect you to tons of other people. He created ConvertKit, right?

Keith: Right. ConvertKit, Authority. Yup.

Andrew: And Authority, so his products are very similar to you. He’s the kind of person you can contact afterwards and say, “You know what? I’ve got some space for more client work. Do you happen to know anyone who needs this?” If he doesn’t, someone who is his client will.

Keith: Yup. Exactly. So I went there and I knew three people. You remember back when you were in high school and it’s like you go to the party and you don’t know anyone and you’re like sitting in the corner? That’s really how it felt for that week. I go back this last year to MicroConf Europe, and I know everyone and everyone knows me and we’re talking. It’s like coming back into a party of all the people you know. To me, that hit home. That was only 12 months. In 12 months I went from not knowing anyone in this community to knowing a huge number of people.

Andrew: What did you do? How did you get to know more people?

Keith: The Slack chats, keeping up with people after the conference. I was bad at writing content, so it was very much a one-on-one thing. It was just emailing people, talking to people. Honestly, anyone who emails me and is like, “Hey, I want to talk about something,” oh sure, I’ll give them a 30 minute Skype chat. That’s fine. Just talking to people like that, they knew who I was. Then I went to MicroConf Vegas this last month. I’d never gone to the Vegas one before, I still probably knew about a third of the people in the room. Of a 200 or 300 person conference, that’s quite a number of people and to see that that’s how far I’ve grown in 12 months is mind-blowing to me.

Andrew: What’s a Slack group I should be a part of? I’ll tell you, my number one use for Slack right now is to show my brother my haircuts.

Keith: That’s a good reason.

Andrew: My number two is to show him what I’m eating.

Keith: The biggest ones I’m in the Amy Hoy, you know she does BaconBiz, JFS, and 30 by 500.

Andrew: And she created Freckle, right?

Keith: Yup. Freckle.

Andrew: She created the app Freckle. I really like the way she thinks. I don’t think Amy likes me anymore for some reason.

Keith: Really?

Andrew: Yeah.

Keith: She has a strong personality.

Andrew: She has a very strong personality. She came on here. She did an interview. We met, I think if not at MicroConf . . . no, we met at a conference in Miami. I can’t think of what it was called, but Austin ran it. I can’t tell why. She has very strong opinions. I want her to like me, but I’m not that needy anymore in my life. So I don’t think I could be in her Slack group. She probably does not want me in there.

Keith: I think I’m in two Slack groups that she’s also in, maybe just one. But there are a couple of Slack chats that have grown up around that. Then there’s one for bootstrappers. I think it’s called bootstrappersbiz, but all of these are private Slack chats. These aren’t like common ones that everyone can go in and join.

Andrew: Is it weird for me to say invite me to one of your Slack groups even if it’s Amy Hoy? I think I can win her over.

Keith: I don’t feel comfortable enough saying, “Hey, Amy invite Andrew Warner.” Whatever.

Andrew: I’ll do it right now. I’m going to tell her right now. “Amy, let’s bury the hatchet. Please like me.” I’m going to do it right on Twitter.

Keith: Bury the hatchet, preferably not in me, and let’s get on Slack chat.

Andrew: Let’s see. Amy Hoy. So, wait. Which one should I be asking her to get access to?

Keith: I think she only has the one main one for BaconBiz. Yeah.

Andrew: All right.

Keith: Yeah. Just email her and say, “Hey. Keith was telling me that you have some Slack chats. Let’s get this going.”

Andrew: There’s BaconBiz the conference. I should have gone to the conference, right?

Keith: It was good. It was very good. This year it got moved back to fall, which I was very, kind of, upset about.

Andrew: I see. Then frankly, I probably shouldn’t invite myself to a Slack group around a conference that I didn’t go to. You know what I’ve learned as a networker?

Keith: What’s that?

Andrew: It’s okay to invite yourself to conversations with people as long as you don’t make it a little too aggressive. You just kind of walk into a conversation if it’s two or three people talking and they don’t look too engaged. Start the conversation at an event and if they’re not into it, no hurt feelings. Just walk right away and you’re good. I got to meet a lot of people that way.

Keith: Yeah. That’s how I met a ton of people at MicroConf and other ones like BaconBiz and stuff. Not just me going into conversations, but people coming into my conversations, which I love. Like I said, I want to talk to more people.

Andrew: Right. That’s why I came to the frickin conferences instead of sitting at my desk.

Keith: Exactly.

Andrew: If I had all this confidence and all this human people skills and also the ability to deal with my lack of people skills at times and just accept that that doesn’t mean that I’m a crappy person, I’d have killed it in high school. I should go back. Remember those old movies where people would trade places with their dads or something and they’d go back, I’d kill now. Well, no I don’t want to be around high school kids.

Keith: If I could go back to high school with the confidence I have, it’d be absolutely wonderful, and I still don’t have much confidence. I talk to people like Steli, and it’s like, the man just exudes confidence. He’s like just a pure ball of confidence.
Andrew: You know what? I got to tell you. I’d said this to him. Steli from Close.io did not have this confidence. I could tell his business is doing well because every time I talk to him, he’s got more and more swagger, the kind of swagger that comes from knowing I got it. I’m doing great. Right?

Keith: Yup.

Andrew: I had the sense that there was a period there that he was trying to figure it out, and he wasn’t going to pretend that he knew it all, but he also had to put on a little bit of swagger. This is genuine swagger.

Keith: Yeah. It’s funny because you can tell he just doesn’t give a crap and in a good way. It’s not a, “I don’t care what’s going on.” It’s like, “I’ve got it. I’ve got it a hundred percent. It doesn’t matter what goes on, I know I can weather it out,” kind of thing. It’s amazing. I wish I had that confidence even now, and I especially wish I had it back in high school. It’s like youth is wasted on the young I think is the phrase, right?

Andrew: I guess. You know what though, on the other hand, I’ll take it now over then. I’d much rather now. I can actually do something with it. Back then all I could have done was maybe dated a couple of high school girls and hung out with waste of time high school kids. Now, if I’ve got this swagger, now if I’ve got my confidence, I get to meet people who I really care about. I get to actually build a business with it.

I think I got everything here except for the one pushiest question that I should have probably asked earlier on as we were building rapport, but it always works. What kind of revenue are you guys doing now?

Keith: I haven’t looked at the revenue numbers in a little bit. Last year I think we pulled down a little over a half a million, and last time I looked we were on track for 800k this year.

Andrew: For this year. Really?

Keith: Yeah.

Andrew: All right.

Keith: I think we’re going to hit the 800k. But, again, that’s revenue. That’s not profit.

Andrew: Yeah. You got to have a lot of expenses. You hired 10 people in December.

Keith: Yeah.

Andrew: I mean you had a total of 10 people by December.

Keith: Yeah. Yeah, we did. We’ve toned down a little because we’ve kind of changed focus from a lot of hardcore dev into more of the marketing dev, which means working leaner and smarter. But yeah, it’s a lot of overhead. We were talking about stressors, and there’s the management side, and then there’s also the fact it’s like, “Okay. You have a 30 to 50k payroll check every month that needs to be met.” That’s a big number. That’s a very big number.

Andrew: Yeah. That’s a huge one, and it means people’s lives are at stake. But frankly, if it’s 30 to 50k. Oh, I see. Let me do the math here. If you’re on track to do $800,000 this year, right? So we’re going to divide that by 12, that mean $66,000 in one month. That means you’ve got like $16,000 in profits every month.

Keith: Yup. That goes into things like software and travel and conferences and stuff like that.

Andrew: Software is nothing. Travel is a little bit, but not too much because you’re coming from Japan. So let’s say you’re clearing personally maybe 110 a year.

Keith: I’d actually have to look. I think it’s about that, maybe a little bit less. It’s one of those things, it’s like I’m also doing two products at the same time, and so a lot of our profits get moved back into projects.

Andrew: I see. So did you have to invest anything into SummitEvergreen.com?

Keith: Oh, yeah. We invested a lot. We invested development time. We do outbound marketing. I mean, even with just Summit, we have a bunch of people working on that constantly.

Andrew: What do you mean? Oh, you hired people to work on that?

Keith: Mainly contractors, but yeah. So we have some developers when I can’t spare people from DelfiNet. We have a couple of outbound marketer people that we work with. Content creator, which is really great. It’s stuff that the company needs, but it’s all stuff that costs money.

Andrew: Are you able to create your own Slack group right now and invite me to it, so it will be just the two of us and anyone else who wants to join here instead of asking you for a 30 minute call?

Keith: Yeah. We can do that.

Andrew: You want to do it right now with me on the call with you now?

Keith: Yeah. Let me set one up now.

Andrew: Good. I will actually finally be in a Slack group, other than the one with my brother. I might actually have to show my haircut as I get it. But this will be your personal Slack group. It might just be me and you. It might be, who knows, maybe five other contractors or developers or I don’t know who else would join.

While you do that, I’m going to look at my notes and see if anything else that I missed. No. What do you want me to say?

Keith: What do you want to call it?

Andrew: We’re going to need a good name.

Keith: I know naming is the worst. It’s absolutely the worst.

Andrew: BaconBiz.

Keith: Yeah, because that’s not going to get anyone ideas. Do you have a Mixergy Slack chat?

Andrew: I do. Just basically the one for hair. Here’s what you go with. Andrew’s . . . no, I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about you. What’s your favorite food?

Keith: God, steak.

Andrew: Steak?

Keith: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s not great.

Keith: Because you can’t get it very much here. We could have sushi.

Andrew: Let me see. Oh, how about Japanese businessman? Japanese salary . . .

Keith: Salary man.

Andrew: Yeah. That’s what you used to be. Japanese salary man. While you’re doing that I’m going to tell anyone who wants to, they can join the Japanese salary man group where we’re going to be talking about my friend Keith here. Actually, what will we be talking about in this group?

Keith: In the Slack chat?

Andrew: Yeah.

Keith: Who knows? Let’s talk about technology in marketing. One of the problems I see so much is that marketing people have horrible technology, and technology people have horrible marketing. There needs to be this marriage of the two because you can just do so much. I’d love to talk about that.

Andrew: I know someone can post a picture. If they post a screenshot of their site and they ask you for feedback on it, will you do feedback?

Keith: Yeah. I’ll do feedback and I’ll also do . . . let’s say someone has an Infusionsoft funnel and posts a screenshot of, “Hey, here’s my Infusionsoft funnel. What’s going on? What can I do here?”

Andrew: Oh, I love it. I want to show you my Infusionsoft funnel.

Keith: Yeah. Definitely.

Andrew: Mine sucks.

Keith: Does it? I can’t imagine that.

Andrew: I do think it sucks. I have to admit.

Keith: Now, is that because you created it and you’re like, “Oh, everything I create is . . .”

Andrew: No, no, no. There’s a lot of stuff I create that’s great. I strut around sometimes. The reason it sucks is because frankly the numbers aren’t where they should be. What we’ve gotten good at is we can convert hits into email addresses fairly well. Actually, I’m happy with that. We can get people engaged with the emails to the point where their emailing me when they get those drip emails. I’m not getting enough sales. Now, what’s possible is that I am not measuring my sales properly, because you know how Infusionsoft numbers, like you said earlier, pretty much stink. Right?

Keith: Yeah.

Andrew: The whole business is about growing your sales, and they can’t measure them properly.

Keith: They can’t measure it at all, especially for Internet . . .

Andrew: I asked them, “When do you think it’s going to be fixed, hours, days,” and I just kind of threw months in there as a joke, and the guy goes, “To be honest, it’ll be months.” So how am I going to look at my data if you don’t care enough about it. All right, so that’s one of the things that stinks. How do I show it to you? We’ll figure out a way. We’ll talk in Slack.

Keith: Yeah. Let’s do that.

Andrew: Japanesesalaryman will just be you and me until somebody else joins us.

Keith: So I’m adding you right now. So you’ll get that invite soon.

Andrew: Do the Mixergy email please.

Keith: Okay. Andrew@Mixergy.com?

Andrew: Yes.

Keith: All righty.

Andrew: All right. We’re going to do Japanesesalaryman,and I’m going to post one of my favorite things about what you guys did on Summit Evergreen.

Keith: Okay. Excellent. I’m curious now. I’m curious now.

Andrew: Yeah.

Keith: And I guess we’ll make it so that anyone can go Japanesesalaryman.slack.com,and we’ll just it so that people can just request invites?

Andrew: Yeah. Only focus on that. If somebody’s has any jerky thing to do, which one of us deletes them?

Keith: I’ll delete them. I’m always in Slack.

Andrew: All right. Japanesesalaryman it is. I’m going to go to Japanesesalaryman.slack.com.

Keith: All right. Sending you an invite right now. I’m typing as I talk, so I’m hoping that I’m not misspelling anything, especially the name.

Andrew: Do you just want to put a copy and paste it into chat right now?

Keith: I just sent it. Is that going to go? Andrew@mixergy.com. There you go.

Andrew: Great. All right everyone. We will both see you in Japanesesalaryman at Slack where we will only be talking about marketing and funnels and what Keith does in Japan. That seems like three good things for us to focus on. Anything else, maybe we keep out.

Keith: Yeah. Sounds good.

Andrew: All right Keith, and thank you all for being a part of . . . oh wait. One more thing. My team will beat me up unless I tell you guys please if you’re interested in Mixergy and you want to get every episode directly delivered to your phone instead of waiting for it to go into the Mixergy vault, where you have to pay for it by being a Premium member, if you don’t get it right away, it goes into the vault. You have to pay for it. If you want to get it right away, here’s the trick. It’s very easy. Go to whatever podcasting program you like and subscribe to Mixergy in there. Even if it’s that piece of garbage that Apple gives you when they pretend that they care about every piece of software and they care about every pixel and then they deliver this piece of garbage podcast app and that’s your favorite one, no judgment from me. Frankly, all I care about is in whatever program you want to subscribe to Mixergy. I promise I will work my heart out for you and make sure that you get the best interviews possible.

All right. If people want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do it, Keith?

Keith: So there is apparently only one of me on the Internet, so just search for Keith Perhac, and you can find me at DelfiNet.com or KeithPerhac.com.

Andrew: All right, and in Japanesesalaryman on Slack.

Keith: Japanesesalaryman.

Andrew: See you all there.


  • I’m taking part in more and more Slack groups, including a budding mastermind of my own (based on my blog/podcast The Busy Creator). Just started a new job that runs on Slack and uses virtually no email. I’d love to join you on JapaneseSalaryMan, but I can’t find the request-an-invite link. Can anyone join yet?

  • delfinet

    Hey Prescott (and everyone) You can request an invite to the slackchat here:
    http://keithperhac.com/slack/

  • Great interview, Keith – always enjoy listening to you talk. See you on Slack.

  • Vishal Khialani

    Andrew sorry if this is a bit off topic, I was wondering what speakers to you use for the interview ?

  • Boris

    I’d also love to join the Slack group. I just signed up for an account, but evidently they’re group-specific?

  • John Ganotis

    Thanks! That was an awesome interview and this seems like a cool experiment with Slack.

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  • Jeffrey Agostinelli

    Great interview guys. Quick question for Keith… What’s your tracking software for Infusionsoft, and where can I find it?

  • yagudaev

    Thanks for a great Interview Keith! I love the tip about asking for a reference after your first big win with the client. I did just that the other day, and it works great (also feels equally as awesome).

    Andrew would love to see more interviews with people who build agencies, large 100+ people organizations with tens of millions in revenue. Most consulting businesses are designed to remain small, I am interested in building a consulting startup. In other words a business that grows in revenue and size. I think it is a great first business to build up.

  • delfinet

    Hey Jeffery, sorry — I didn’t get the alerts from this chat. =)
    I built SegMetrics – https://segmetrics.io/

    Just about to release a new version this week with integrated referral tracking

  • Lydia Long

    Great interview. Thanks for a great interview Keith. I really love to join the Slack group. I also think just started a new job that runs on Slack and uses virtually no email. Yes I join recently in invite link.

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