Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of real entrepreneurs. And today, we’re going to turn things around. I’ve got a guest who’s going to be interviewing me kind of.
Here’s the deal. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of creating landing pages. You guys have seen them on the internet forever. In fact, I think it was like 10 years ago when I started doing interviews with people who create software to enable landing pages. We did interviews about how they built successful companies. I did courses with them about how to create better landing pages. We’ve done so well with landing pages. I just found out recently that we’re like in the two comma club of ClickFunnels, like one of our series of landing pages and follow-up pages get over $1 million.
We’ve done it to death. The problem is everyone’s doing it now. There’s tons of software out there that will do landing pages for you and do landing pages for your hairdresser and for some guy who just had the random eBook and has never done anything in the world before. More power to them.
But in a world where everyone’s got landing page, it’s really hard to stand out. And so Brian Augsburger said to me, “I’ve got something that’s brand new.” He experienced this because he was creating sites for his clients and he said, “What if we just create long-form content as a replacement for landing pages?
What if instead of being another person with another landing page and ask for the same email address and the same process, we actually go insanely in depth with our clients and we create this really long-form article, the type of thing that people would share, the type of thing that they would save, the type of thing that they would spend time on and get to know the company and maybe it would reduce opt-ins. But maybe number of opt-ins is not nearly as important as a number of sales and getting to know the company behind the page.
And so I said, “You know what? I’m game. Let’s try it.” And then he sent me a list of questions. And I am not really good at sitting at my computer and answering questions by text largely because there are tons of people who come in and interrupt or call or have scheduled meetings with me. I like to keep really busy.
And so I said, “Brian, I think the topic that you’re creating this long-form article on is really important to me and to my audience. Ask the questions here in a Mixergy interview so that they could follow along.” And the topic for those of you who are following along is this. Years ago, I was going out of my freaking mind, exhausted working here at Mixergy. It’s just a freaking podcast. Just one episode a day, I couldn’t do it. And I couldn’t keep up with everything that went along with it like editing, like finding guests. I get obsessive about researching. So research and like posting it. All that stuff just took me forever. And I started doing interviews . . . Speaking of constantly being interrupted, Devon, feel free to just come in.
I started tweeting out, “Somebody please help me. Somebody out there, please show me how I could organize my company better.” And I did a series of interviews with entrepreneurs who’ve done this really well. And then I lived it, I used it and it changed my business dramatically.
Devon who’s here is going to be traveling with me around the world to record interviews with entrepreneurs on every continent. I couldn’t do that unless my company was organized over here so that I could take those types of trips. I’ve got two kids who randomly will have days off from school, and my wife has a job, a really demanding job at PagerDuty, a company that now people know as a unicorn. She can’t just take off. I can. I’ve got a team of people in a process that lets us do it.
If you’re listening to me and you’re not structured, you must be feeling the kind of pain that I was before. I think you could benefit from listening to this interview. And if you want to know how I use what I learned in my interviews, this will show you how it’s done. Brian’s going to ask me questions about my process for organizing the company, how we did it, why we did it. He’s going to turn it into a long-form article. Brian, I’d love for you to share that with people. We’ll give them a URL where they could get it so that they could see what you created for us.
And I want to say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first will do your email marketing right, it’s called ActiveCampaign. And the second will help you host great websites, it’s called HostGator. I’ll tell you about those later. Brian, good to see you here.
Brian: Thanks for having me.
Andrew: Brian, out of all the topics that we covered at Mixergy, why was this the one that you’re most interested in, the systemization process?
Brian: Well, there’s a two-part answer. One of them [inaudible 00:04:46] easy. You had that organized on mixergy.com. So I knew it. I’ve listened to many of your episodes, so it might be the number one thing that I would associate you with is systems and/or sales.
Brian: Yeah. So I’ve heard you too talk a lot about it and you’ve had a lot of guests that had specifically talked about systems. And again, to cheat a little bit, I knew it was important to you because you have like, five categories of episodes that you’ve bulked together and one of those was systems. So I really wanted to get you on board. So again, I kind of cheated to make sure that we did something that hit home with you.
But on a personal level, I’ve had a digital agency for about nine years and I would think that I’m somebody . . . I’ve thought about systems, I’ve heard you talk about systems. I’ve read “The E-Myth Revisited.” But it’s still something that to this day I struggle with in my creative agency of how systems play a role. So I’ve taken that approach to developing the story for you is, how do I want to read it? What’s going to help me in my business? So hopefully that gets communicated to other people that read it.
Andrew: All right. And for people who want to see that collection of systems, I just created a redirect for it. Just go to mixergy.com/systems and you’ll see the interviews that helped shape me in my way of doing systems. Brian, what’s the first question? What do you want to know?
Brian: All right. First one. So I told you my agency struggles with systems. Business systems to me it’s kind of like growth hacking in the term of there’s a lot of interpretations. So our business systems, checklists, processes, you need software. How would you kind of define systems, business systems?
Andrew: I started out by asking a few people who’d had it. One of the people I contacted was Ramit Sethi. He’s so organized and he’s really disciplined. So I contacted him, I said, “Hey, what do you use for systems?” And he said, “Just Google Docs with permission. So the right people will have the right permission to the docs that matter to them.” And I thought, “Oh, I was doing this in WordPress.”
The problem I had with doing it in WordPress was like I’d create a list of steps to edit this interview, for example, and then the editor was a guy in Guatemala, Joe Garcia, at the time. He would see a mistake and he wouldn’t hit the Edit button on the Google Doc and then go and change it, and so he’d say, “All right, I just in my mind know that Andrew said that I should change it to this setting, but I know it’s not the right setting. I’ll remember.” And he just remembered it and wouldn’t improve the Google Doc.
And then when he wouldn’t show up for some reason, like there was a national holiday in Guatemala that we forgot about or we had a rush job, I’d say to somebody else on the team, “Here’s our doc on how to edit, go and edit it,” and they could never get the same results. And so when I asked Ramit what he used, he said a Google Doc with permissions and then I realized, “Oh, yeah. In a Google Doc if there’s a typo, you just can’t help but change the typo.” So I just moved everything from a WordPress site to a set of Google Docs, and I actually tested it. I would start putting in typos. I knew anyone could spot a typo and know that it was a mistake. I put typos in our process docs and noticed that people would change them and I realized, “Oh, okay, they know that they should change it.”
And that worked for a while. Then there was a problem. The problem that we had was there was no accountability. You wouldn’t know if somebody was actually going through the doc on how to edit an interview or were they just reading it once and doing it from memory. For some things that’s fine. You do it once, you understand how it works, and you don’t need to keep going back to the doc.
I’ll give you an example. When someone comes into my office to print to work here for the day, there’s like a process for adding the company printer to their computer. It’s fine if they read the doc one time and then they never go back even if they put another computer or their iPad on the printer. It’s fine. But for other things you really need to know that they’re doing the process right.
And so what I decided was for anything that’s really important, we need some kind of software to manage it. So the booking process, for example, process that most guests go through for being suggested, for being approved, for being pre-interviewed and all that. Yes, we do have a set of Google Docs, but what really helps is to have the steps laid out in software. We use Pipedrive because Pipedrive allocates each step of our process its own column. And so now when there’s a new suggested guests, we put that guest in column number one. When someone approves them, that means that they get to be moved into column number two, and so on down the line, and now there’s accountability. Now there’s a process that you can go in. And you don’t have to screw around with too much. You just move and move and move and move and move.
So what I discovered was, for some things, a Google Doc is fine, but I’ve learned that software for many things really helps and there is no single piece of software. Like we’ve tried things like SweetProcess, it’s really good. Process Street. There are a bunch of software that will make sure that people check the boxes, but there isn’t a single piece of software that works great for everything.
And by the way, this is for stuff that I do on my own too and for things that I bring other people in for. So for example, I do a lot of free training. I’m obsessed with chatbots. I do every other week. I do a free training for anyone who wants to learn how to use a chatbot. And there’s a list of 10 things that I have to do. I could probably memorize them at this point, Brian. Maybe I already do, I feel them instinctively. I still put them in a checklist. And what I have is one button that’s bookmarked, and as soon as I hit that button, my checklist gets copied into a brand new checklist. And as I go through my steps, I will check off items on the checklist. And so listening to Kanye West, it’s part of my process. I have a checklist item with a link to his YouTube channel. Got to get in the zone.
Brian: I love that.
Brian: Awesome. So I wanted to step back just a little bit. I have a couple of questions little later on specifically around a couple of things you touched on. But I was [listening 00:10:53] to a recent episode on Dax Shepherd’s podcast. Have you tuned into that one by chance?
Brian: Dax Shepherd from, like the actor. So he talked about when he was in high school . . . He’s a comedian married to Kristen Bell. When he was in high school he was 6’3, 140 pounds with acne. So he felt like he needed to turn to comedy. He needed to be funny to stand out, to get approval. And that got me thinking. I was like, “Well, that’s really interesting and open of him.” So it got me thinking. I started my first business when I was 19. And if I dug deep like that, it was because I felt like I needed to make a lot of money to prove probably my worth at the time. Like, that was, the new car or a lot of money was going to do that. Not that it needs to come from a dark place like that, but you have this huge vision with Mixergy. Where do you think that comes from and how do systems help you get there?
Andrew: I’m trying to think of whether I should be personal about this. I will. We are applying to get my kid into . . . He’s four years old. Applying to get him into kindergarten. Think about that. We have to fill out applications. We have to spend time like two hours two nights ago just filling out one application for one school. And as I go to these different schools including this one . . . I shouldn’t mention the name. I’ll protect his privacy.
There’s one here in San Francisco. They are totally welcoming of everything they said. They said, “Look, we want to be completely diverse. For example, we want to have people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, not just people who are living in the wealthiest neighborhoods or even in San Francisco itself. We want it from everywhere.” I said, “Great.” They said, “We also want diversity of . . . ” What’s it called? ” . . . ethnic background. “We want to have lots of different types of people here. We want to have diversity of thought and so on.”
And so I raised my hand and I said, “How do you feel about . . . Because I’ve got friends who don’t know a single republican, for example. How do you . . . I wonder, how do you feel about a child who cares a lot about, let’s say, making money, let’s say building a business?” And what she said was, “We think that we teach our kids things like,” said, “I sat down with some students and I told him about homosexuality and how some people have two parents who are the same gender, same sex, and I said,” and the teacher said, “And I say when you go home, your parents might not agree with what I’m telling you about this.” She said, “This is how we teach but give room for other opinions.” I said, “Great, but would you foster my child’s creativity if he was really into this other approach?” And she said, “Well, truthfully, no.”
And I like that she was truthfully answering that because I went to school and they weren’t supportive of this at all. I went to school where in elementary school if I sold candy, they weren’t supportive of it. In high school, if I wanted to be in business, I was looked at as some kind of criminal. And in college, I literally sat down at the dean’s office at NYU. This is a school that all their buildings are named after entrepreneurs and business people. I went to the Stern School of Business. Stern is a businessman, was. Leonard Stern. And I said, “Can I have access to your mailing list that I can email people an idea that I have for selling?” And he said, “No, we obviously can’t do it.”
In retrospect, of course, they shouldn’t give me the mailing list. They shouldn’t even mail on my behalf. I get it. But there was no like considerate fostering of that experience. There was no fostering of that desire. If anything, I looked around his bookcase, and this seems so cliché that you’re not going to believe it, but it’s all a communist books because this was him being like a new way of thinker. “We’re not supposed to think about these things. We’re not supposed to read these things. I’m going to be the rebel who does.” And the reason I bring this up is because I still believe the world is like that today, not just San Francisco, not just in universities, but in general.
There was a period there where entrepreneurship was becoming cool. It’s not cool anymore, Brian. It’s not. The people who we all admire are YouTube stars and Instagram stars. They’re the ones who really are cool. There was a short period there where entrepreneurs were cool and you can name two or three who are still. Elon Musk still has a lot of attention. Very cool. It’s not really that cool anymore. People are not growing up saying, “I want to be like Brian. I want to start my own company and suffer.” No. They’re saying like, “I want to be like Jake Paul. I want to be like Casey Neistat. Ride my skateboard all day, post my videos on YouTube and get excited.” I get it.
And so I believe that there’s a handful of people who still care about entrepreneurship. They’re not fostered right now. They’re not encouraged right now. They’re the outside weirdos, and I want to make them into the heroes. And that’s why I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. That’s why we go through the hero’s journey as we do interviews with them. That’s why we work with that.
Now, here’s the problem. Jake Paul has all day long to sit and think about how he can make himself interesting. I think it was him or his brother who there was a Netflix show about someone who was blinded and had to go somewhere because if they took their blindfold off, then they would go into depression. I don’t know what it is. There’s a lot of time to think, “Oh, that’s a topic everyone’s talking about. Oh, I can make that interesting by being the person who blind myself and goes walking through traffic.” I think he did something like that. “And then if YouTube kicks it off then I get more publicity for that.” They’re really good at that.
Most entrepreneurs I talk to are not good at expressing themselves, they’re not good at telling stories, they’re not good at being interested. They’re just not because they sitting around thinking, “How do I code this better?” They’re sitting around thinking, “How do I look at Google Analytics in a way that makes more sense?” They’re sitting around and thinking about, “What kind of 401 play . . . What kind of 401K do we put in?” or “Who do I hire who’s going to do it?”
And so we need to find a way to make them interesting. Get them to open up. And the way to do that is by doing research on them to know what are their freaking hot buttons. I know when there’s some people who have hot buttons who are going to get excited. And I tapped them. And that takes research. And we need to do a pre-interview with them so we could see that some people are super excited about telling us what they did when they were in elementary school.
You could see me. My candy store is super exciting. It’s defining moment for me. For other people, it just gets boring. They get into themselves and they start to doubt themselves whether they even deserve to be on an entrepreneurial podcast. So if I ask them, “Tell me about any business you started in 18 or before you were 18.” They’ll start to say, “Well, I’m not really an entrepreneur. I do not know. I did this. Blah-blah-blah.” And you realize, “No. Cut that out. That’s going to be boring for the audience. Don’t ask that question.” And the only way I could know that is if we have a pre-interviewer who goes over questions with them and sees what their good stories are and which ones are not good.
So I used to do all that by myself. If I do all that by myself, number one, I’m not going to have time for anyone else. I’m not going to have time for my kids, not going to have time for my family, not going to have time to think about the business of Mixergy. And number two, it’s always going to be me asking the questions and never going to have a diversity of thought, diversity of research, and so I have to show other people how to do it. But I can’t say to other people what I used to say which is called, “Go pre-interview them. Go do research.” They don’t know. They need some direction.
And I used to think not giving people direction was me being a nice guy. And me giving people direction was me being a dick if I gave you a list of five questions you had to answer. What I discovered is most people want a list of five questions and room to go and adjust it and improvise and improve it. And so when you asked me how systems helped me with my mission, it’s now we can have a system of how do we find guests. Now we can have a system, how do we turn down a guest who’s a potential good guest in the future without insulting them, and so now they have this like chip on their shoulder forever. I have to show Mixergy that they suck. I want even someone that we turned down to feel like this is a place that supports me, and I’m fired up by them, and all that is a system.
And if you ask Arie, if you ask Andrea, if you ask Brian, if you ask anyone on the team who touches guests before they come on here, “How do you turn down a guest?” you’ll see that they have a way of doing it that’s positive that will get them excited to come back on here. And that just comes through creating systems and processes and organizing and testing and coming back and saying, “Hey, you know what? Our guests don’t like it when we do this one thing. Let’s not do it anymore.”
Brian: You reminded me. So for people like me, you hear Andrew Warner and what he was like as a kid. And I guess I started my business at 19, but I wasn’t nearly as driven as you as a kid which kind of like you said makes me think, “What are my chances at success?” But then I remember a recent episode, I forget which one, but you mentioned something along the lines of like not being a billionaire yet. And I think you’re kind of kidding but then I think you kind of weren’t. Do you remember that?
Andrew: No, I’m upset about that. I’d like to do much better.
Brian: Okay. It seemed like you thought you weren’t having big enough impact.
Andrew: Yeah, I don’t think I’m having big enough impact. It’s always not enough. I’ll be honest with you. In everything in my life it’s not enough. And I know some people think it’s misery to think it’s not enough. But let me just rephrase it for a second. Imagine if I told you, “I didn’t read enough books. I want to read more books.” You go, “Oh, wow. This guy is so smart. He really wants to read more books.” Imagine if I told you, “I didn’t get to talk to enough people.” You go, “This guy really caring.” If I say, “I don’t have enough impact.” You go, “Oh man, you’re so belittling what you’ve done. It’s never going to be enough for you.”
But screw that. I’m not miserable about it. I’d like to have more impact. It’s exciting to strive for more. “I haven’t run enough miles.” You go, “Oh man, Andrew hasn’t run enough miles.” “No, Andrew. I can’t believe you found a passion.” I think that’s the way to look at it.
And by the way, you were saying you didn’t grow up feeling like, “I . . . ” You didn’t grow up with the same kind of ambition that I did. I have to say, I think that I and many other people grew up with the same . . . There’s some people who grew up with the same level of entrepreneurial zeal and quest that I did. Here’s what was different about me and other people.
Well, let me take a step back for a second and tell you that after I sold MailBits I didn’t know what to do with myself and contribute and I said, “You know what? I used to work for Dale Carnegie as a volunteer. I’ll just go volunteer for them again.” And so they loved it. They had me come in and they . . . They’re so good. They teach people public speaking and by helping them teach it, I learned how to be a better speaker. Again, it reminded me and reinforced me.
And then one day our instructor, Dave Stachowiak, came in and he said, “For a while there I’ve been saying the word like every like other word. Like, I don’t know why and, like, where it’s even coming from.” And he said, “Then I went and investigated.” And he realized that his wife, he said, his wife was doing the same thing saying like, and he asked her about it. Now his wife is a teacher and she thought about it and she realized, “Oh yeah, there are kids in my school who are coming in saying the word like.” And she said, “Ah, these kids are saying like. I didn’t even notice that they were, like, saying like, like every other word, like, all the time. And so then I, like, started to, like, pick it up and repeat it.” She was doing it and then Dave was doing it and bringing it into class. And once he noticed that he was able to work on it on himself and talk to his wife about it and then also go back to the kids and just try to eliminate all that fluff language that we put in.
The reason I bring that up is because we are at the people that we’re surrounded with, surrounded by no matter how hard we try, no matter what training we have otherwise. Dave Stachowiak is an excellent presenter. He’s one of the best, maybe the best person, the best Dale Carnegie teacher that I’d ever worked with. For him to pick up on something like this really shows the power of the people you’re surrounded with.
And so I grew up in New York. There are people who you can watch them build their empires, you can watch them do the things that they aspire to. And that, by the way, is very much around business, and so you realize there’s always another level of business when you watch this stuff growing up, but it’s also around art. It’s also around comedy. It’s also around like little shows. Like think about the Blue Man Group that was this weird little thing. And if you ever went to Blue Man Group in Greenwich Village, it’s a tiny freaking little thing. You actually probably had more people in your auditorium in high school than they had in the whole place.
And it’s so weird that there are seats where there’s a big pillar. You can’t see in front of the pillar. But they put on this show that was great that just kept getting attention, and then they grew and they got bigger and bigger, then there were other people who became the Blue Man Group performance art. And before you know it, you suddenly see them on Vegas and you realize there’s a lot more that you could do with your life.
If these freaking guys who put blue paint on their faces who had blue paint on their drums and when they drummed that the blue paint went up in the air, if that show was big enough that suddenly it became this big attraction in Vegas, every little thing that you can come up with could be that big if you thought that big about it instead of being someone who put yourself down and said, “This is too tiny. I don’t think it’s ever going to go anywhere.” Aspire and see what happens.
Brian: Right. My grandpa used to get on me with like when I was in like middle school. He would drive me nuts. Anyway, I think you touched on it early, but I know there was this defining moment with Mixergy and systems. You didn’t have a guest scheduled. You didn’t have an interview scheduled for the day and you didn’t need a guest.
Andrew: You know what? Let’s pause there for a second. Sachit was just on here with us. He’s going to kill me if I don’t talk about my first sponsor. We’ll talk about that and then we’re going to go back in. First sponsor is a company called ActiveCampaign. When you and I talked before the interview started, you said, “The email marketing company,” I said, “Yeah.” They hate when I call it the email marketing company. They’re basically marketing automation that goes beyond email. They’ll do things like text messaging.
I introduced them as email marketing because that’s, I think, the entry point for most people. You can’t wrap your head around the idea that what they could do is plug into everything that you do and make it better, plug into the fact that if you have video on your website and someone watches the video all the way through, or someone scrolls all the way to the bottom that maybe you should fire off an email to them, or maybe send them a text message if you’ve got something coming up that’s more urgent. It’s just too much.
So what I say instead is, if you’re out there listening to me or Brian if you’re listening to me right here and you’re doing any kind of email marketing, you should upgrade to ActiveCampaign. They’ll do all the email marketing stuff that you’re used to, like help you collect email addresses, help you send out email.
Here’s what they’ll allow you to do that’s different. If you start to identify there are two different groups of people, like, maybe you find that there are some people who are . . . I’m kind of obsessed with running, so I always use running as an example. So maybe you’re running a shoe company and you’ve got some people who are sprinters, some people who are long-distance. Sprinters need one type of shoe, long-distance runners need another. Maybe what you do is you send out at first the same exact email to everyone, but if you notice that there’s some people who are clicking on the links that are meant for long-distance runners, maybe you start introducing every one of your emails with, “We are the long-distance running . . . We’re the home of long-distance runners.” And then have the rest of it be the same.
And for the sprinters you say, “Sprinters love us,” and then have the same message, right? You can just inject that little piece of text, keep it simple to the mail you’re already sending. And then if you want to get a little bit more clever, you can actually send whole other messages. So running shoes that are meant for long-distance runners to people who’ve been on your pages that are meant for long-distance runners. And people who spend more time on pages that are clearly aimed at sprinters, they get emails that are meant to sprinters. And people who just want the fashion shoes, then they get a whole other set of emails.
All this sounds really complicated and overwhelming and you feel like, “I’m never going to be able to do it.” With most software, you’re not going to be able to do it. With ActiveCampaign, you absolutely would, number one, because they make it so simple. You’re just not going to have an issue. Number two, because they let you do a free trial so you can actually sample it. Number three, because they’ll do two free consultations with experts who will make sure you understand it and know how to implement it in your business and help you implement it.
And then if you decide that you’re happy with them, they will give you a second month free and they will also migrate you from whatever crappy hosting company you’ve used for your email in the past. Go to activecampaign.com/mixergy and you’ll actually love the way that you can do email marketing. And don’t take my word for it, really. Ask anyone who’s in this system and I’ve interviewed them here, you’ll see ActiveCampaign is a company that just works. It is the boring company gets zero attention until you use them and then you love them. Activecampaign.com/mixergy.
All right, Brian. You were asking me about the defining moment. I had a couple of them. One of them was, I come into the freaking office one day, there’s no guest and I know if there’s no guest, then we don’t publish and I never not publish. And so I had to spend my freaking day begging people to say yes to an interview and then I had to lower my standards because whoever said yes I had to jump on. So that meant I took up a bunch of my day finding guests and then I have to spend time researching them on the fly, and then I had to publish an interview that was not nearly as good.
I think we all have those points in our lives where we say, “This is not as good as it can be.” I don’t think anyone’s going to care about systems until they have that kind of a moment. And once they do then they go, “Holy crap. Maybe I need this.”
Systems are not exciting. You know what’s exciting? Hacking, travel hacking, super exciting, right? Growth hacking, super exciting. Systems are not. Maybe we need like process hacking, but no, you have the word process in it, it’s not exciting. There’s no title yet that I can think of I’d love to come up with it that’s exciting to make this be the thing that’s exciting.
But you know what? It’s also not an exciting concept. It’s constant growth, slow, incremental growth. It’s passing responsibility to other people. It’s having other people collaborate with you so you can get things done. That’s not exciting. What people want is the 10X response, the 10,000X growth. And so it’s not exciting. You only get into it when you’re the way that I was, really bad off. So that’s one big issue that I had.
The other big one that I had was I was about to have a kid, and I realized I cannot stay randomly at work because there’s a problem publishing an interview and somebody is ready to work at this point. I can’t do that. I want to be there with my kid. And so I forced it and at times, I was really aggressive about it.
The story that I tell was, there were two people at the company who weren’t sure that they wanted to do it and they were just like . . . I felt it was conspiring. They were talking to each other about how, “Andrew was a little bit too anal. Andrew is a little bit too bureaucratic. He’s trying to take this thing that’s so fun and make it into this process that’s not.” And I talked to them and I think just because I talked to them, they finally went along with it.
And once they went along with it, I know one of them was speaking at a conference with me and he said, “Can we take a look at your presentation? I’ll show you mine, you show me yours. We’ll give each other feedback.” I said, “Sure.” I look at his presentation. Brian, you know what his presentation was on? Systems. How to systemize. I go, “This is great. This is great. This is great.” Right? Because now he knows how helpful it is.
So I’m encouraged by that and I’m encouraged by the fact that honestly, I do not check my phone on the weekends. If there’s a crisis it will find me. It’ll come to my watch. I check it like to see what’s going on Techmeme or I check at whatever to see YouTube videos of something that I’m trying to learn. But I do not check for work and I don’t have to. And the people I work with hardly ever have to.
There was one issue last weekend that I had to contact someone about on the weekend. I started with, “I’m sorry to call you on the weekend,” because I know that they’re with their kids too, and it’s totally fine. It’s totally fine. I get energized being here at my desk and working, but the best creative ideas I get are when I’m out there running and taking five hours to myself, which I did on a Monday. I took two hours to myself to go run on a Monday.
I get more ideas when I sit there watching these kids play at some outdoors . . . They call it museum, but it’s basically a playground. I go, “Hey, wait, this is not good. How would I improve . . . Oh, yeah. Why don’t I think about how I can improve my company? Wait.” And then I come up with something. So the systems helped me be with my kids which then gave me space to think more creatively which then allows me to come back in here and do things that matter.
Brian: Right. Okay. So early on, you outsourced editing the work, but then I remembered in an episode you talked about, and I think a lot of business owners fall into this, you said something along the lines of, “I can do this in 10 minutes myself. Why don’t I just do it?” So not a great example of systems. Fast forward a little bit to your recent interview with Arie, which I thought was a really good episode, where she mentioned picking up on [indicators 00:32:31]. And she used an example of one small thing that she changed in a pre-interview system that had a big impact on guests opening up. I forget the exact question she had.
But when I think of systems, someone who struggles with systems, I think of creating systems. Do you think it’s about creating “perfect system” or is it more about consistently improving upon systems?
Andrew: I think it’s starting out with a shitty system because it needs to be fast and it’s never going to be as good as actually doing the work because you’re just imagining what you need to do and then constantly improving it. And so when I talked to you about my webinar process, the last checklist item on that list is improve. And I honestly will spend two or three minutes thinking about how I could improve and then I go back to the checklist and improve it.
And it could be, I mean, I had this one boring slide that I could never find a way to explain. And in one of my post webinars, the three minutes thinking, “How can I improve it?” I came up with a way to improve it. And suddenly, I took screenshots for the team, you could see in the chat, in the live chat people said, “Wow, this is amazing. This is great.” So they went from this boring thing that I knew people should care about but nobody gave a rat’s ass about to suddenly something that they were wowing. That’s important to me. And so I do that.
You talked about the pre-interview process? One of the things that we’ve learned to do now is have a regular rhythm. So every 30 days or 90 days depending on the process we will sit down with whoever’s in charge of it and say, “What do we need to improve?” And we’re not riffing. What we do is, if you were pre-interviewed by us and you said, “It’s kind of frustrating that Arie didn’t know about my childhood or Arie didn’t know how to pronounce my last name.” If someone were to say that, I wouldn’t go to Arie and say, “Arie, you’ve got to fix this last name thing. It’s not a crisis. It’s the first person ever to do it.”
What I would do is say, “Huh.” I go to that thing that reminds us every 30 days to check on the pre-interview process and I write a little note, “Someone said that we should be understanding how to pronounce their last name.” I just put it down. And then Arie might have a problem in a pre-interview and she’ll write that down, and then somebody else would have another problem, they write that down. And then in the 30-day period in the 30-day meeting, when we go over our process, we say, “What’s been working? What’s not? Great. So if this new thing that we tested last time is not working, let’s get rid of it. If it is, let’s cheer it. Now let’s go through the list of things that people have suggested over the last 30 days and we pick out the ones that we think are most relevant to our goal.”
And with the pre-interview process, the most relevant is pulling out information from guests that will make them sound interesting and exciting enough that people who listen to them will want to be like them and learn how to get there. And so that’s our goal and that’s what we do in that pre-interview process.
Brian: Okay. Did you have a sort of checklist with the birth of your first child? You talked about potentially taking, I think it was a month off. What sort of system or checklist did you have, if any?
Andrew: By that point, everything that was repeatable was systemized and so I actually, at some point, I even put that on my phone lock screen. I come back to this on a regular basis. Everything that’s repeated should be systemized. Everything that’s repeated should be documented somewhere. So if we’re doing it over and over again, we should have something written down on how to do that.
And that means things like scotch night, for example, right? I go to conferences. One of my things is I do scotch night at the conference because I, unlike most speakers who just want to go hide and feel important, I want to hug and talk to every single fucking person who comes out to see me, every one of them, and even people who don’t come out to see me, I want to get to know them so that they will care about what I do, and so I understand them.
And I’ll give you an example of how that helps me. Last Saturday, I was at a conference. I want to know everyone the night before, so I held a scotch night. I had this great jacket that I bought. Every time I wear it people just their eyes light up, they love it. I get compliments on it. The shirt underneath that I get compliments on it. But I looked at this group, they’re definitely not a sports jacket group. It would have been out of place. I couldn’t know that except by seeing them. This is not a way to really connect with them from the stage, and so I knew that because I did scotch night. And I know a lot of other things about them that helps me shape my product, helped me shape my message.
Organizing scotch night is a checklist. We use Basecamp. There’s a checklist. And at the end of it, there’s a way to improve it. One time I got into a scotch night in San Diego and they had my favorite whiskey and Marisela who’s not a drinker is the one who must have ordered it. And what she got was the small bottles of whiskey, not the tiny ones that they used to give you on airplane. I guess they still give you on airplanes, but the ones that are like the size of a beer bottle. And if you look at the picture, it looks fine. And when you go to Postmates, Postmates doesn’t care. They want to show you the cheaper one. And so no wonder she did it.
Now, I’m not going to get angry at her. How is she going to know? What I did was I quickly ordered another one, but then I went back to the documentation, the checklist and I said, “Make sure it’s 7 . . . ” I forget what it is. I still don’t even know. “750 milliliters, 75.” I don’t even know what it is. I know there’s a seven and a five on there. So basically, once I had the right one, I went back to the checklist and said, “Here’s the item. Now it’s going to get done right.” And the same thing happens by other people on the team. They always will go back in and improve and improve it. You were asking about . . . I think I just went off on a tear and forgot what your question was.
Brian: You’re right. Yeah, I think you answered it and that was perfect. So I want to talk a little bit more about that month off. The thought of a month off scares me personally. So kind of rapid fire, what . . .
Andrew: Here’s what happened on that month off. We did have a checklist for the birth but all that went out the window. We wanted to have a home birth and so we had this big tub in my bedroom. I’m talking giant freaking tub. It’s like think of the size of a hot tub only a little bit bigger in our bedroom because Olivia was thinking, “I’ll do a home birth in a tub or at least have the option.” And then the day before our son was born she had this headache and then that turned out to have been a thing and so we had to get rushed to the hospital and so we were in the hospital.
Our midwife came along and she was pretty good about having her own process and she’s pretty documented person so she even said to them, “Look, we have this backup process in case we’re in the hospital, here’s how she wants to do things.” And Olivia got her way in the hospital instead of at home.
For me, though, that month was tough because I made a mistake of staying home waiting for the baby before the due date. And there’s nothing to freaking do. There’s nothing to do. And so I would go for runs and I just kind of hang out and it was a waste of fucking time. I didn’t do that with the second baby. I did have this issue where the people who were managing our website were just not doing a good job with it, and so I just keep getting angry at them on my runs and start to like vent to people about it. And one of the people I vented to was my brother, and he eventually came in and helped and now he’s working with us full-time. So everything was at least working well enough that I didn’t have to think about publishing interviews. We had the whole thing, selling ads. We had the whole thing.
Brian: Okay. Great.
Andrew: You know what? I should talk about my second sponsor real quick. Second sponsor is a company called HostGator. I’m on a mission to run on every continent on the planet. I know that if I tell you that it’s like, “Hey, cool thing,” and it’s going to go away. But if I create a website for it, which I did, called runwithandrew.com, you now have a place to go and see a little bit more about it, maybe go and follow along, maybe you forget completely about the fact that I’m doing this run. But six months from now, you’ll go over to Google and you’ll say, “Andrew said he’s going to do a run. What was the website? Oh, yeah, runwithandrew.com.” Click over and you’ll get my progress.
That’s the thing about taking an idea and giving it a website. When it’s just an idea, it’s something that goes in one ear and out the other and nobody takes it seriously. It doesn’t feel weighty. When you give it a website, the thing suddenly feels really important and it gives a way for other people to come back and check on it.
One of the people who taught me that is Seth Godin. Whenever he has an interesting concept he doesn’t just write a blog post for. If it’s especially interesting, if it’s an especially good idea, he doesn’t even create a subdomain on his website. He just gives it its own website. And you’ve seen people here in the tech community do this a lot, right? If they have a conference, instead of just saying, “We have a conference,” and listing it on an Eventbrite page, they give it its own domain, its own presence, its own feel.
If you want to be able to do that you need hostgator.com/mixergy. Well, frankly, you just need HostGator. The /mixergy will help me and it’ll help you by giving you a lower price. What you get if you pick that middle option on that page is unlimited domain hosting. So you come up with an idea, you get a domain for it and you get to host it easily for, not free, for no additional fee for the same price as hosting one. I picked that plan, I urge you to pick . . . Actually, I picked it and then I upgraded beyond it because I found that whatever I do gets a ton of traffic and I wanted the best and the most robust hosting package.
So yes, they start off cheaply and I urge you to start off with the inexpensive price. And yes, they scale up and they don’t mention it, but I urge you to call them up when you’re ready to scale up. Well, I think I was about to burp in the HostGator ad. That’s embarrassing. Hostgator.com/mixergy. Get a super low price, get tagged as a Mixergy customer and create websites for any great idea that you have. Give it a presence online. Brian, what’s the next question?
Brian: All right. So we’re working on that story around systems. So I went back and re-watched the Michael Gerber episode, which is a great episode. He’s a very convincing guy. So as a business owner, you came away from that as in like, “I need systems.” Like, this guy is preaching to the choir, “I need systems.” But then recently I read an article from Steve Blank where he lays out startups in three stages: search, build and grow. The build phase is once you have over 40 employees. So he says startups should focus on processes during that build phase. When do you think startups should start to work on systems?
Andrew: So one of his books is called “Four Steps to the Epiphany.” He has four steps for coming up with your idea, iterating on it until you know that it works with people. It’s a four-step process, four-step checklist. I think you could start before you even have your business idea, right? I’m not saying that at this early stage of a company you should have a process for how somebody should go to HR to find their 401K. You’re not at a place where that makes sense. I’m saying if there’s something that’s repeatable, you can create a system for it. Even if you’re not going to repeat it but you think you might, just sitting down saying, “What are the steps I’m going to take to do it,” and not writing it in some place where it disappears is helpful.
So if I were going to, I don’t know, have a random idea that we wanted to test with our audience, I’d just create a checklist, just a checklist and then use that. That way the next time I come back and say, “I want to do the same thing,” there’s a checklist that I can go back to and look at and say, “Oh, that’s how you did it.” And I’d add one other step to it, do a post-mortem at the end of it. Do a post-mortem to just understand what went well and what didn’t so that you can improve the next time, so that the next person knows how they can improve.
Brian: That was all the questions that I had. So I don’t know. Did you want to add anything else on systems? I was going to ask you that quick next step actionable step that somebody could take, but I think you just answered it.
Andrew: I’d suggest a few things for this.
Andrew: First of all, I think you should create systems even for personal things, things that are part of your life. We think about systems is something we do for home, but it doesn’t have to be. So before traveling, my wife and I both have to pack to go. My wife, Olivia, has stress over it. It’s like a stressful thing that she’ll worry about the whole day if not a few days before a trip. And she’s been traveling a lot more now that she’s at PagerDuty.
I have no stress. I’ll pour myself a drink and I’ll go through it and I could get it done in under 20 minutes, if not 10 minutes, and that includes like special things for conferences that I have to remember. I knew this conference that I was doing this past Saturday, they weren’t going to be organized to have the right laptop, the right second screen for me to see, the confidence monitor, the right clicker. I knew how to put it in my backpack fast and not miss a single step.
And the reason I know it is because years ago someone I worked with put together a checklist for travel. We’re talking a long time ago. And every time I travel, what I do is I fire up that checklist which has been iterated on and I just go through it. What do I need? I need socks. What do I need? I need underwear. What do I need? I need pants. There’s a section there for, “What happens if I speak at the conference?” Here are 10 or 5 things that I need to bring with me. A laptop, this or that. If I go internationally, I need a passport, but I also need to tell my credit card company that I’m going to be international so that they don’t cut off my credit card at the most important moment when I can’t call them back easily. And so I just put it on.
And so whenever I think of something that I need to take on a trip like maybe I want goggles so I could swim, I just add it to that one checklist. I use an app called Bear for it because Evernote just sucked and I tried switching to that and now I have it. And it’s a nice little rhythm. It makes my life a lot easier and keeps me from having to think about it and lets me enjoy life. I think we should do that.
I think most business people don’t think about a process or system until they have employees that they want to pass information on to. And then what you’re doing is, and frankly, that’s what I did, you’re practicing to create systems with other people as you’re practicing to work with other people as you’re learning how to delegate to them. It’s so much better if you just get into the habit of creating a process for yourself for things that are repeatable. Just go through the checklist.
And if it feels a little bit boring, it means that you haven’t added that last item which is improve. And if you spend five seconds thinking, “How can I improve?” you’re not going to be able to stop yourself from spending another five minutes to improve. It just . . . And then once you do that, you realize, “Oh wait, this is actually helping me get better.” And then your next thing you’ll start to see is, “Why am I doing in step number two? Someone else could be doing that.” And now I’ve got a clearly delegated, clearly written thing that I could pass to someone else. That’s really important to do. Oh, and I should . . .
One thing that helped me do that . . . Hang on. I’m kind of a dork, so my nose is running. I’m going to go off camera just to wipe it. One thing that helped me figure out what to do was I remember I was going through a really stressful period where I was doing too much and Noah Kagan, the founder of sumo.com said, “Well, what are you doing that you could pass to other people?” I said, “I don’t even know. I don’t know where my day is going.”
And he said, “Right now I want you to start making a list of everything you do as you do it. Just have a document open on your computer and every time you do something, go in and write it. And then pick off little things from that that you could pass to other people.” That helped me a lot. That allowed me to just start to identify the things that I was doing. That’s number one. Another thing . . . I’m just adding a couple more things because we’re supposed to get to an hour. That who just joined us is Jack Barker, the finance guy that I got from Toptal. We have our monthly finance call in like three minutes. So I’ll wrap it up. Where was I before Jack jumped in?
Brian: You were going to add one more thing after Noah Kagan gave you a tip.
Andrew: Oh yeah, right, right. I had a hard time passing things on that I hate to other people. I really had to talk to someone about it. So I’ve got all these beads on my mic because the beads and my arm . . . You see it. The beads help me stay focused on what matters to me so I could get it done. So I had this mantra of delegation and I was going to start to delegate, but I couldn’t, and so I would take the bead out, bead, delegate, delegate, delegate. I move a bead and think the word delegate, I move a bead and think the word delegate because I wanted to like stay focused on delegation. But that wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t first had a call with someone about what was in my head that was counterproductive around delegation.
And one of the things I realized was, I kept thinking, “I can’t pass it on to Andrea. She won’t want to do it. I can’t pass it on to Andrea because if I pass it on to Andrea she’s going to think that I’m too good to do this and that she’s not important enough and that’s why I’m passing it on to her.” And those were the counter mind thoughts as I call them, counter mind thoughts that I had around it. And once I talked them through, I realized, “No, Andrea is asking me for more work. She actually likes working with me. She wants more hours with me. She wants more things to do. I can’t pass it on to her.”
And so dealing with this bullshit in our heads is really helpful to recognize what’s keeping us from doing. And for some people, it’s what was going on with the people I mentioned who I was working with at Mixergy. They had these counter mind thoughts that, “If you systemize, you’re going to be bureaucratic. If you systemize, you’re going to be boring.” They had to deal with that. For me, it’s, if you systemize and delegate to other people, you’re going to come across as a jerk who doesn’t want to do his own work and everyone else should do things for him.
I know that sounds ridiculous as I say it out loud. If you said it out loud, I’d laugh and think that you’re weak for thinking it. I didn’t even recognize that I was thinking it let alone that this was not a thought that I wanted. So there it is. And I’ve written about this. There’s like this thing someone kept asking . . . people kept asking me about it. So one time when I was sitting in Napa, I wrote this guide on how I use my, what I call the true mind process. Anyone who wants to read it, I think it still redirects to Google Doc. It’s a truemind.com/guide and you’ll see this doc for how to do it.
All right. So Brian, this has been helpful for me. You could see I love talking about this. I think it’s changed my life dramatically. I think people don’t talk about it or think about it enough. I’m glad. It seems like it’s been helpful for you for turning this into a long-form article that’s a replacement for a landing page. If people want to read that, where do they go to read it?
Brian: Well, I’m hoping we put it on Mixergy, so maybe it’ll be mixergy.com/
Andrew: No, no. Wait. I think it will definitely be on there.
Andrew: I want them to connect with you. This is a new thing for you. How do you feel about just giving out an email address . . .
Andrew: . . . that they could use to contact you to say, “I want to see that.”? And I think that’ll give you a sense of why they want to see this, what they care about. Are you okay with that?
Brian: That would be awesome because I feel like this is something new. Storytelling isn’t anything new, but this format is unique. So I’m at this stage where after we publish the story for you, and if you’re open to it, I’d be happy to send it to people. I think we’re 95% done. This was one of the last things. So I would love to get feedback from people, especially your audience. That’s why I wanted to do a story for you. I want to see what your audience thinks of this story. It’s long format. You can see it like, “That’s too long. I’m not reading it.” Hopefully, you think it’s good enough that you’ll scroll. So email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew: Brian@scroll.studio. Instead of .com you got a .studio top-level domain. Brian@scroll.studio if you want to see how this plays out, if you want one of these for yourself, if you want to give them feedback on how it works, if you just want to say, “Hi, thanks. I like this.” Brian@scroll.studio. We are now recording this on January 16th. It’s obviously going to take them a few days, not weeks to integrate this into the finished product. But if you email him now, he will give it to you as soon as it’s up and running. All right, Brian, thanks so much for doing this.
Brian: Thank you. It was a blast.
Andrew: Cool. And I want to thank my two sponsors who made this happen and then I’ve got to jump off and talk to Jack. First is activecampaign.com/mixergy if you want email done right, activecampaign.com/mixergy. And the second if you need a website hosted well, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, hostgator.com/mixergy. All right, Brian, thanks so much.
Brian: All right, thanks. Take care.
Andrew: Bye. Bye, everyone.