Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner and the founder Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And I’m a bit of a jerk before the interview starts usually with guests. Chris, before I even introduce you, what was it like when I said, “I don’t know how this is doing as much revenue as you say it is.” Share your screen and prove it to me. How did that feel when I said that?
Chris: It was jarring, but I loved it. I like, you know, no making up numbers here.
Andrew: You did seem to roll with it. It was like I was looking to see do you feel like, “Andrew is just doubting you and right off the bat? Why are you inviting me here and then making me prove that I’m worthy of being invited?”
Chris: “Interview is cancelled right now.”
Andrew: You know what? Honestly, it would have been, but I want to get a sense. All right, let me introduce the guest who you’ve got on here. This is a guy who went through like a serious problem where he couldn’t even pay his American Express card, or it was taken away from him because they didn’t believe that he could pay it. He was in some pretty bad trouble there financially, but he pulled it out. His name is Chris Ronzio. He is the founder of Trainual.
You know when somebody starts new at your company, you start explaining to them what to do, and in the old days you might have given them one of those thick binders, telling them everything about how the company works. Like here’s our policy for taking vacation. Here’s how we use our project management software and all that.
What’s the new version of that? For many companies, if they’re small, medium sized businesses, it’s like a set of Google Docs or a checklist. Well, Chris, it actually, if it’s a checklist and we change things up, how does everyone know about it? And if it’s a Google Doc, that doesn’t seem like we can keep track of who’s actually reading this? And what if we don’t just want text? What if we want a video or something else that explains things better? It should be a better way. And so he created it. And then he continued to be a consultant. And then he finally had the kind of conversation that other founders have had with themselves, which is like, “What direction do I want to go in?” And he said, “This is it.”
And so he focused on it and, as a result, his business is doing really well. He showed me his numbers, but it’s his and I’m not going to reveal it. But I’m going to push him to reveal that if he’s comfortable. We’ll see how well he’s doing with this company, how he built it up, how he created a software company after having been in a consulting business. We’re going to do it thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first will help you hire right. It’s called Toptal. And the second if you’re doing online content marketing, you got to get to know them. It’s called Ahrefs. I’ll tell you about both those later. But first, Chris, good to have you here.
Chris: Thank you for having me. Excited to be here.
Andrew: I’ve wrote it down here on a piece of paper, but I’ll leave it to you. What’s your monthly revenue?
Chris: So this month was just over $140,000. And we’re approaching two million ARR.
Andrew: Wow. That’s amazing. And the price point on your product, I’m on your site right now, you guys started with pretty low pricing. And now if I pay annually, I can start with $79 a month, and it goes all the way up to under $300, $279, right?
Chris: Yeah, exactly. Our average is around 100 bucks a month.
Andrew: And that’s not per user. That’s up to a certain number of users. But . . .
Chris: Yeah, and that was a conscious choice because our product is all about the accountability of who’s gone through their training and who’s up to speed in the business. And if you charge per user, people tend to share logins. So we didn’t want people kind of hacking the system because then they lose the value of the product.
Andrew: I feel like with your product, people wouldn’t share logins, because if I have two employees, and I want them both to go through the training, I want to know who’s actually done it and who hasn’t. And if I merged their accounts, it looks like they both get credit when only one of them does the work.
Chris: Yeah. No, exactly.
Andrew: Was that an issue for you?
Chris: Yeah, early on, people wanted a place to log in and assign content. But then they would archive a user, they’d reset everything, and they’d wipe and clean and invite a new person. And we want everybody to be able to login because it’s not just training, it’s things change in the business all the time, and you want everyone to be updated.
Andrew: Why would I use this instead of . . . we’ve got project management software. What we do now is we have a checklist of 10 things that people need to know. One of them is here’s our company philosophy. The other one is here’s how to sign your NDA, etc. Every time there’s a new person, I just copy that list and assign it all to that new person. Why wouldn’t I just do that instead of Trainual?
Chris: Well, checklists are great for tracking the work that’s being done when the person knows how to do it. But if they don’t know how to do it, you’ve got to teach them how to do it. And so Trainual is a place to teach someone the process.
Andrew: Like couldn’t I just put a video within the like the task list? It’s like, here three sentences and here’s a video showing me how I do that. Here are four more sentences. You’re smiling. You’ve seen this question before. What’s the answer to that?
Chris: Well, because people try to do that and they try to make their project management systems, their training systems, or their SOPs. But it quickly gets really disorganized. You know, you have so many different templates, and you can’t really search those and it gets cluttered with all your client work. And before long your employees have hundreds or thousands of tasks. My last business we built so many project management templates, and people would get assigned literally thousands of tasks to the point that they couldn’t even manage what was on their plate. And so tasks are really good for tracking big milestones or the work that’s getting done, but it’s not the best way to train. And so we’ve had people that are looking . . . they’re trying to do this in their project management system, but they don’t want to clutter it up. And that’s why they use us.
Andrew: What’s this consulting business that you’re running that this sprang out of?
Chris: So it was an operations consulting company. It was called Organized Chaos. We’d go into businesses and interview all their people and ask them a series of questions, and just unearth all of the bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the company. And then the follow-up work was always setting up tech tools. So we’d set up project management systems or CRMs. And then every time the companies would, you know, before we left say, “Can you write the instructions?” Or, “Can you write up a manual or host a training session?” And so every time we were writing Google Docs or, you know, instructions or shooting videos and trying to share a Dropbox folder. And so we created Trainual as a way to scratch that itch to be our own little product to have some IP.
Andrew: But before this, you were just using a straight up set of Google Docs or task lists based on what your customer wanted?
Chris: Yeah, we would just build templates in their project management system, like you mentioned, or we would build a manual with Google Docs or Word docs and just kind of hand over the file.
Andrew: Man, I feel like I would have done this about two years ago. I was really hungry for some kind of system and organization. I definitely would have hired you guys if I knew you existed. I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile and it shows that you’re still there. But if I scroll to the bottom of organizedchaos.com, the copyright is out of date. It’s 2007, which tells me you guys aren’t fully there.
Chris: No, we’re not fully there. Right now it’s really just lead gen for Trainual. So it pops up if you were to go to that site and tells you about the new software. But I guess I should update my LinkedIn. Thanks for the reminder.
Andrew: And so when you were doing this for clients, what size clients were you working for?
Chris: Mostly 5 to 50 employees.
Andrew: Okay, so roughly where we are and . . . actually exactly where we are. And you would go in and you’d create these SOPs, standard operating procedures. I freaking hate SOP. It’s like that I don’t want to grow up to be an adult who cares about freaking SOPs. It feels like I’m in a Dilbert world when I get obsessed with SOPs. But okay, I get the utility of them is incredible, right, somebody can see now how our process works. And if they’re fired or they quit, there’s no crisis, the next person go pick it up. If I don’t like the way something works, I can see the process and I can go understand why they’re not doing it right and fix the process or fix the way they do it. I get it. I’m not putting it down. It just feels like wow.
And so can you tell me a little bit . . . do you have a specific example of the problem that you had with the client as you were doing this in Google Docs and project management software?
Chris: Yeah, so one example was a retail client. So they did on-demand t-shirts. You would walk in with a shirt idea and they’d print off one shirt. And so they’re located here in Arizona, next Arizona State University, and their employees were all students. So they would come in, they’d work for the semester, and then they’d go home. And so their employee pool was turning over every semester. And they had a 60-page Google Doc trying to teach people how to screen print t-shirts.
And that was just an instance where we said we need to do videos. There’s got to be a way to train someone how to use the screen, printing machine and train them how to process an order and train them how to use the register. And so there was a training need, there was a standard operating process kind of thing. And I saw that there was just this hybrid. You know, it’s not totally operations. It’s not totally HR. But there needs to be a way to teach your people how to do what you expect them to do. And we wanted to create kind of a centralized place to put it all.
Andrew: And when you did it, what did you use and what was the result?
Chris: So they were one of the first clients on Trainual. Before Trainual it was just parsing out into instead of 160-page Google Doc it was, you know, 10 different Google Docs that were for each particular role on the business.
Andrew: Got it. Okay, and the first version of Trainual, did you create it or is this the students that you were helping that created it?
Chris: Yeah, it was the students.
Andrew: It was. So talk about how you got involved with the students.
Chris: Yeah, so interesting, you know, happenstance kind of thing. But I was coming out of my first company, it was a video production company. And I was looking to do some mentoring. And so I came over to the ASU Edson program, where they were featuring some businesses. And this one company had this HR tool, it was for, you know, new hire onboarding, and they were trying to sell it to enterprise kind of companies. And so I wasn’t that interested in it. Didn’t really relate to the small business world that I was in. But months later, when my T-shirt client was having that problem, I reached out to these guys, and I said, “Hey, I remember your HR kind of onboarding thing. I’ve got a client that has that problem and I’d love to license this or, or be a partner and affiliate or something. Like how can we make this work?”
And they wrote back and said, “You know, we’re shutting it down. Like we don’t have a single customer. This didn’t work. We’re moving to the Bay Area and getting jobs as developers.” And I said, “Well, can I have it?” And that was like, like, “If you’re shutting it down, it must not be worth anything. Can I have it?” And so we negotiated a little bit, and they sold it to me for a few thousand dollars. And so I got this code base that I inherited. And I hired a few freelance developers to plug the holes and just turn it into something I can use for my clients.
Andrew: And so the first version, how much time and money did it take you to make it so that you can use it for SMB clients?
Chris: All in, it was under $10,000.
Andrew: Not bad.
Chris: Yeah, so acquiring the code and the little freelance work we put into it, rebranded it to Trainual. Put up a little website.
Andrew: What was it called before?
Andrew: On V-A-R-D?
Chris: Yeah. I’m sure you could look it up after.
Andrew: Oh, like onward. Oh, in fact, my auto correct automatically changed it onward. Okay. So we’re going back to like, let’s say 2013, I’m guessing is when they were building?
Chris: Yeah, 2013, 2014, yeah.
Andrew: Let’s take a look at what that looked like. I’m going into . . . I love the Internet Archive. I feel like we should all do is go into the Internet Archive and see our own stuff just to get a sense . . .
Chris: Oh, I totally do that.
Andrew: You do that?
Chris: Like my first video companies, it’s cool to see.
Andrew: I guess I’m kind of getting a sense of it. But it looks like what they did was they were doing like online learning through this. This was a place where somebody can learn how to do e-commerce and sell. This was a place where they could learn how to set up a basic WordPress site. I’m looking at the same thing.
Chris: It might have been one iteration.
Andrew: Oh, I got it. Yeah, and maybe they were trying a bunch of different things with this tool that they created. I’m fascinated by people who I understand problems because they’re consultants and they see the problem. And then they go and create a solution for it, as opposed to just like theorizing and coming up with a cool idea.
Why did you feel like you had to come up with a solution for this, though? Why didn’t you just say, “I’m not using the software right.” Because the problem is we are immune to problems. We start to think it’s our fault, or we’re not finding the right tool, or our clients are stupid. How did you know that this was a real issue?
Chris: Well, because I was doing it for myself. You know, when I had my video company, one of the first things I did, I joined this entrepreneur group. And I remember somebody had this new hire packet. It was like a PDF that you would welcome your employee on the first day. And we circulated that thing across like dozens of us because no one had that. There was like a this desire to have some sort of template that you could onboard someone with. And I didn’t even think about those things in my business because as a first time entrepreneur, you don’t know what you don’t know.
So there’s, you know, hundreds and hundreds of topics in your business that you don’t come up with a process or a policy for them until you get hit with something and it’s a problem and you feel like now you need to create a process or a policy. And so I saw that over and over again, consulting, as people would have these gaps of process or policy. And I was plugging those gaps with things I learned from other companies. And I thought there’s got to be a way to do this on a larger scale. Like if we had a software platform that had content built in and suggested ideas, and you could just centralize all your stuff, I think it would do well. But it took me years to actually invest in making it a business.
Andrew: I really love what you’re doing. Like this whole business now that you’re not doing it, I feel like somebody should copy it or at least a copy your approach. The idea of coming in and organizing a company, huge. There’s so many businesses like mine that need that, that just say, “I don’t want to figure out if it’s Asana, Basecamp, Monday, or any one of these other products. Just you figure it out by understanding how we work and then introduce us to new things that we never would have known we needed and just organize us. Just do the whole thing.
And as a result of doing that you get to see our company, you get to understand how multiple businesses work.” I feel like there’s room to do that in this project management world and then also in marketing automation. Like imagine if somebody figures out for you which email marketing software to use, installs Sumo for you or something else for you, makes them all connects, adds a chatbot. Does like the whole marketing automation suite for you and then walks away.
Chris: Yeah, it was amazing. And I wrote this book called “100 Hacks To Improve Your Business.” And all it was, was just featuring a different software tool from all the tools that we had set up clients on and researched over the years. And I always told people, you know, they would come and say, “I want you to set up HubSpot for me. And I’d say, “Well, I don’t know if HubSpot’s the right system. Like we have to start with what is your process instead of trying to fit you into a software? Let’s figure out what your process is and then pick the right tool that fits your process.”
Andrew: And then would you also have an ongoing fee that you were charging them?
Chris: We did three and six-month retainers to just help them implement and get things started, but we weren’t long-term consultants.
Andrew: What was your pricing on this?
Chris: It started with a workshop that was $5,000 to $15,000. And then it was anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 a month as the retainer.
Andrew: Workshop for their company?
Chris: Yeah, to go in and do the . . .
Andrew: The workshop means they do it.
Chris: It was kind of like we were leading the workshop, the interview, the facilitation of what’s everyone do here? What are all your roles? Let’s build everything out.
Andrew: And then you actually went and installed or signed up for the software that they needed. Get them all set up with that?
Chris: Yeah. So they could at the end of the couple day thing that we would do, they could take the report from us and implemented themselves or they can hire us on to do the work.
Andrew: How would you get clients for that business?
Chris: There’s a lot of word of mouth. And then the book that I created, a newsletter I had that was sending out but, yeah, I used to send people books in the mail, and then hit him up on LinkedIn afterwards.
Andrew: You mean like if you heard me complain that I need a good COO or I need organization, you might send me a book in the mail and then follow up?
Chris: Yeah, so I’d send you a book. And this was crazy actually. I had like a 20% close rate from the books I’d say 1 in 5 that I was sending out. And so I would participate in online conversations on LinkedIn and figure out who would be a good fit based on their company size. And then I would send them my book and then follow up a few days later once I knew it was delivered and try to get a coffee meeting.
Andrew: Oh, that’s . . . I’m writing the timestamp down on that. I freaking love that. You’re so entrepreneurial and we’re going to get into some of your entrepreneurial background here in a bit. But you have an example of somebody who actually did that, who complained there’s something online and then you followed up with a book and as a result they became a client of yours?
Chris: Yeah. And I didn’t do it with just books too. I did it like . . . one client was a moving company and I saw him post something online, he was looking for Cardinals tickets and I saw that he was a fan. So I had another client that did memorabilia. And so I got this signed Cardinals poster for the guy’s son and I shipped that to his office and followed then we signed a week later. So . . .
Andrew: Oh, fantastic.
Chris: . . . you got to see what people are talking about or complaining about. But it was a really good way to open doors.
Andrew: A book is a great one because a book is like $10, $15 so the investment is low. Most people don’t read the book anyway so they feel a little guilty but appreciative.
Chris: But it sits on their desk, right?
Chris: Yeah. And so I even had people send me books and it doesn’t have to be something you wrote. You can just buy any book that you thought was relevant and send it to someone.
Andrew: I almost think it’s better if it’s not one that you wrote. It’s like, “I heard that you’re disorganized in your company. I think this book helps you,” and then maybe follow up and, “Look what we do is help people with their organization. If you want to jump on a call, I can help you for free.” And then maybe it lead to sales. Is that what you do?
Chris: Yeah. I love it.
Andrew: Oh, you did? Let’s talk a little bit about your background. You are a guy who even as a kid kept running these businesses. What are some of the businesses you had as a kid?
Chris: I loved having business cards. And so as a little kid I had this stack of business cards like in my fanny pack. But it was everything . . .
Andrew: That you printed up for your own business?
Chris: Yeah, I would make them in Microsoft Word with a little Clippy guy and print them out. And so I had, you know, all your traditional stuff like the car washes and I had landscaping business and I sold wrapping paper door to door. But one of the things I did with my friends is we would, you know, like there was this awesome house in my neighborhood that they kept putting on these additions. And the school bus would pick us up right outside this house. And we always talked, “It’d be so cool to go inside.” So I created a house cleaning business and went up to their door and sold them on house cleaning services so we can go around and dust their house. And they just kind of entertained it because we were little kids. But the whole time me and my friends are like, “Look at this place. It’s so cool.”
And then there was like another guy with a really sweet car and that’s what prompted the car washing business to wash his car. And then one summer, my brother and I started a lemonade stand. But we put it on a golf course where we weren’t supposed to be probably, but we positioned it right in between the start and where the first concession stand was when people would start to get thirsty. I mean, these big Solo cups, the red Solo cups, and like a dozen flavors of Crystal Light, which is a non-sugar thing. And a sign that said, “I have diabetes. So it’s sugar free. I hope you enjoy it,” which I really do. It wasn’t a lie. But we sold so much lemonade that summer. It was pretty cool.
Andrew: I love that. And you did this why? Why were you doing all this?
Chris: Because I always wanted to make money for myself. I don’t know, my dad was in the corporate world and he did well, but he was always gone. And he taught me a lot about business. So I always looked up to him but I thought, “If I can figure out a way to make my own money, I don’t have to worry about someone else paying me and I can buy whatever I want.” And that’s really what motivated me was when I wanted, you know, Ninja Turtle action figures or I wanted Air Jordans or something like that I saw starting my own business or coming up with a way to make money is just the means to an end.
Andrew: I mentioned your LinkedIn profile. I’ve got it here on my screen. It says you are a partner in Design Pickle. Is that accurate?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
Andrew: I love Design Pickle. I think I love it mostly because of Russ. And the fact that when he did an interview here on Mixergy, he wore a pickle costume. And also that’s another model that I like this thing that people need over and over again, which is quick designs for their Facebook ads or their sites or for their social media. They don’t want to hire a designer. They don’t want to do it themselves in Canva. Just go hire Design Pickle, you pay once at once a month and you get unlimited designs, right? That’s the model.
Chris: Totally. Yeah.
Andrew: I thought that was just for Russ. What’s your connection to it?
Chris: Yeah, so when Russ was starting it, he was, you know, in my house brainstorming and trying to figure out where to go for his consulting business. So we’re, you know, really close. And a few months into it, he needed help with his process. Things were getting disorganized. He had one employee, they were tracking everything through Gmail and forwarding and it was a mess. And you could at one point, just email request@DesignPickle, and you could not be a customer and your request would just get through. And so he needed the operation side of, you know, mapping out their process, and he couldn’t afford to pay me. So I came in as just an early equity partner, invested into that equity by helping him as a consultant.
Andrew: So for sweat equity, you get an ownership in a business?
Chris: Yeah. So . . .
Andrew: How much?
Chris: Five percent.
Andrew: Five percent? That’s fantastic.
Chris: Yeah. So it was an awesome process and we ended up building out the whole system that their tech runs on today and been very involved with the business just strategically. And they were one of Trainual’s first customers too so they were a big part of why I pursued Trainual.
Andrew: All right, we’ll get into Trainual. I kind of think I should get Russ back on here because I think the way that he organized that business is fascinating. I think that there’s equity in that. There’s value in the way that they organize their business. And there’s their businesses like them in other areas too. Like there’s some dude . . . I think it’s a dude who’s got a HubSpot type of business where you pay them a monthly fee, and you get unlimited HubSpot fixes. And there’s a bunch of that. Right?
Chris: Totally, yeah.
Andrew: Same thing for Shopify. And I want to know if though do you think those business still make sense?
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s a productize service. And as long as you can . . . you know, it’s like a gym membership. You just have to work out what the model is and what your consumption looks like across your whole base. And if it works, then it’s really scalable.
Andrew: All right. Speaking of hustle, first sponsor is a company called Ahrefs. These are guys that what they do is they give you insight into the kind of content you should make and tweak. Now I’ve said for me one of the things that they helped me do when I logged into the software was, “Wait, I’m actually getting . . . I rank high for freaking Groupon, to Groupon. Why Groupon?” And maybe it’s just like a random thing that I shouldn’t care about because Groupon is about discount deals. Maybe someone is looking for a discount on nail polish and they ended up on my site and who cares? I shouldn’t do anything with it. But I looked at it, no, it wasn’t actual like people were coming to my site from that are coming in to see how Andrew Mason bought the name Groupon. It’s a clever idea that he had. I’ll tell him so I don’t want to leave a mystery.
Basically, he didn’t own groupon.com domain name. So what he did was he trademarked it and then you went to the guy who owned it and said, “I got the trademark. You got to give me the domain.” And he ended up getting the domain.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Andrew: That’s great. And so I pulled out a clip of that, I put it on the site. It popped it did really well. And it was sending me good traffic but the page is stupid. It’s like got dead links on it and old Wistia Flash video file on it. Like, “What the hell? Is that me traffic? Its ranking?” I wouldn’t I adjusted a while I was on the phone with the guy from Ahrefs. So stuff like that will help you figure it out. Also if you and I were competitors in similar business and you were good at content, I’d be able to see what you were doing. Like if you said, “Hey, you know what? They’re the guys at . . . ” Are you going to feel awkward if I mentioned competitors?
Chris: No, go ahead.
Andrew: I would. I would be angry. You sure? Now I’m looking at you, you know.
Chris: All right. Go and say it.
Andrew: Like Process Street or [Processed 00:24:03] or anyone of those. If they’re good at content, what I would do is I would just put them into Ahrefs and go, “What the hell are they doing? And where they suck and I can improve it.” Stuff like that. I had a founder . . .
Chris: Yeah. I’m sold.
Andrew: You like that, right?
Andrew: I had a founder and, by the way, I’m not going to get jack credit for this because these guys are not giving me a special URL or anything. So who cares? I’m just going to talk about because it’s interesting. This founder Chargebee, this guy is . . . I’m going to say the word not poor. But you know, they’re living in India. They made enough money that they saved but they didn’t make enough money that they can like have an apartment for themselves.
What they did was they put a sheet in the middle of one of the co-founders apartment and they said, “You live on this part of the sheet. We work on this month sheet. We don’t have enough money. Let’s just hustle and figure out what we could do.” They spent over a year without money coming in because they were they were too afraid to charge and they were overthinking things. But his job was to get customers and to build up a reputation. So he signed up for this Ahrefs stuff. He started figuring out what to write. He started writing content. Now they’re doing great. The only thing he would tell me is he does over $10 million in sales.
Chris: I think that’s way north of that. That’s Krish, right?
Andrew: How do you know him?
Chris: I saw him at SaaStr and we hooked up and really cool guy.
Andrew: It is Krish and yes, they’re doing well north of that. But he feels he still has the . . . I’m not going to brag. I’m not American like you guys. I’m not sure that I should even be saying this stuff. Anyway, he’s doing great. He’s signed up for this. Anyone who’s listening to me should go to ahrefs.com . . . How the hell are they doing with the name like Ahrefs? How am I going to talk about it?
Could it be like Trafficly or something? Anyway. Ahrefs.com. I got no URL. There’s no way that they’re going to know that it came from me except you’re going to sign up. And maybe at some point, you’re going to talk to the founder or someone else with the company go, “I can’t believe this is so amazing. Andrew introduced me.” They go, “Oh, I know the Andrew. Great. We’ll give credit.” So five years from now they will know this paid off this ad. Until then you will know paid off guys, Ahrefs. And I saw Chris write it down. So I know this was great.
Chris: Good tip.
Chris: Good tip.
Andrew: Good. So you had this idea, you bought it from the Arizona State students. You had it built up, you’re in business. Talk about the first customers because they got an unbelievable deal. Where’d you get them and what’s the deal you offered them?
Chris: Yeah, so I had this list of my consulting clients and anyone that was on my newsletter, and as I was finishing up the app, I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be a SaaS mogul. Like this is it. I’m going to blast this out. I’m going to have tons of customers.” And I was just envisioning the windfall. And so when I put together the list and sent the first offer, it was like crickets, total crickets. And the only way I was able to drum up some business was I went to my consulting clients and said, “Hey, I’ve got this awesome product. I’m going to use it for all of you guys. I can charge a monthly for it, or I can charge you a lifetime deal.” And so I sold six customers on a lifetime deal for $1,000 apiece. And I was just trying to recoup some of my development costs from launching the thing. And so that’s how I did it.
Andrew: And you did. From what I understand you basically recovered all the cost of improving the code.
Chris: Yeah, yes. So we got the cost back. And then a handful of people trickled in. And so after, you know, a few months, we might have had dozen customers. And it was making a whopping, you know, $200 to $300 a month and then I gave up on my dreams to be a SaaS CEO.
Andrew: Did you really? Because the truth is I would look at that and I go, “This doesn’t work. Nobody cares,” right? And then I’d move on.
Chris: Yeah. Totally.
Andrew: Did you really give up on it?
Chris: Yeah, because I had this consulting business that was working who is profitable, was generating a lot of money. And so I thought, “Well, if I’m not going to be a unicorn kind of SaaS company, then I’m just going to keep consulting. I love consulting. I’m building a process. I’m building a team. And this thing can just be some IP that we have as part of the consulting business. And that’s how I looked at it for the next couple years from 2015 to 2017.”
Andrew: Wow, that’s a lot of time. How much was your consulting company bringing in that you didn’t want to take your eye off the ball?
Chris: By 2017, we were over a million. So seven figures, but 1.2 or something like that. We had six employees. So a small team but it was profitable. And I loved the work we were doing. We got to work with cool companies and took equity stakes and a handful of them like Design Pickle. So I was looking at it like I was building this portfolio of businesses and that was energizing to me. But then at the same time, I saw Design Pickle and other SaaS companies just kind of taking off. And the scalability of that was something I couldn’t do with consulting.
Andrew: You know what? I was actually going to ask you about that because it is exciting. I feel like that type of a business where you are getting equity is people’s dreams. A lot of dev shops that dreamt that they could do something like that, right?
Chris: Yeah. And it was working.
Andrew: And you’re not coding up. You’re just installing . . . what was some of the top software that you would put in for companies? Asana, I’m assuming, Slack.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, Asana. We really like Teamwork as a project manager system [inaudible 00:28:59].
Andrew: Yeah. Teamwork is freaking phenomenal. I don’t know why. I was trying to mention them earlier. And for some reason, their name just escaped me. It’s great.
Chris: Yeah. And then, you know, CRM the HubSpots, free CRMs and ActiveCampaign and things like that are just really good.
Andrew: Okay. And so you’re watching other people who had this SaaS company. They weren’t doing as well as you and you started out. But suddenly their revenue is growing, right?
Chris: Now they’re crushing it. Yeah.
Chris: And so it was funny because I thought, ” All right. How do I scale this business?” I had this big dream of we wanted to reach 25,000 businesses. I’ve set like a date on the calendar and I knew I wanted to have a big impact on small business. And so I was thinking, “I’m going to do it with consulting and I’m going to take our model that works for these workshops plus retainers and I’m going to train other consultants around the country to work with businesses using my model.” And so I put together all the worksheets and the templates and everything we use, and I shot videos to train on the process. And I put it all into Trainual. And I started training other consultants to do our process in Trainual. And so one day I’m sitting there and thinking like, “Maybe it’s not the consulting, maybe it’s the software that’s really the scalable thing and I need to give this another go.”
Andrew: You know, I . . . I’m trying to figure out how to say this. It sounds like from your description of how Trainual worked in the first version, the one that you gave our producer Brian Benson. It didn’t sound like that great piece of software. It was like WYSIWYG and a couple of other things, right?
Chris: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s simple, but I think the simplicity and it works.
Andrew: Yeah. And all it had was WYSIWYG and did it let you . . . and it did let you know how far people had come through the software, right?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, we track completions. So 0% to 100% completion. But that’s really all it was. And then we added a testing feature, which one of the clients was asking for? And so I was kind of building little things on the side, and, you know, little multiple choices.
Andrew: Do you know how fucking exciting this is? I shouldn’t curse because I now know that people listen to this in their car with kids. Do you know how exciting this is that this is what it was that it started out that basic?
Andrew: I’m looking at first version of the site. It’s super basic. It has all the characters from the office as users in the platform, right? You’re looking for names, so you went for that. They even had their photos in there to give us a sense of what it would look like if it was populated with real photos and real people. And . . . wow.
Chris: Yeah, very simple. And so but it worked. And people kept signing up for it. And so through that process, you know, I had consultant clients sign up for it. But then, you know, midway through that, I would get clients that would refer someone that didn’t want the consulting help, but really thought the platform sounded cool. And so we had a couple dozen companies sign up for Trainual and it was producing, you know, $1,500, or $2,000 a month, before we really decided to focus on it.
Andrew: And then when you decided to focus on it, it seems like you just ran the gamut of everything you could test for marketing to get new customers in.
Andrew: Let’s see. Some of the things that you did was about the Facebook and video ads, the one with you and your brother. What were you guys doing in those?
Chris: So that continues to be the best performing stuff we’ve got, which is just shooting really organic videos of me walking down the street, or me with my brother, who is in charge of our marketing. Just walking around and talking about different entrepreneurial messages. So one that really worked was, I used to always tell my brother, “I wish I could just clone you. Like we’ve grown up together. I know you so well. We can read each other’s minds. I wish I could just clone you.” But you can’t really clone a person but you can clone the results of the person if you know how they do what they do. And that was a message that really stuck and it resonated with small business owners. So we would just talk about that, walking down the street, and we’d get the traffic to our website. And then we just fine tuned it with lookalike audiences to get people that were better and better fits.
Andrew: I’m trying to trigger that ad on Facebook by going to your site then going to Facebook and it’s not bringing it up. So I can see it.
Chris: It’s out there. I had someone send it to me yesterday.
Andrew: It sounds like it was pretty long, though.
Chris: No, it’s like 15 seconds or 30 seconds.
Andrew: Oh, that was it?
Andrew: It was just you walking and the two of you would just riff and then you’d clip the parts you liked.
Chris: Yeah. And it was just a vertical video. And we’d run it as a Facebook story ad, and an Instagram story ad.
Andrew: I really like the way you work. I wish I could clone you. I can’t clone you. And so . . .
Chris: But I can clone what you do and here’s how to do it, try Trainual.
Andrew: Was it riffing? Or was it you being really like thoughtful about it and scripting it out almost?
Chris: No, anytime we try to script things, it doesn’t come out good. And then eventually, we’d just get so frustrated that we just start talking and that’s the clip we use.
Andrew: Got it. All right. And so that did work. What about this other thing that you did about books? The videos of books. That’s pretty interesting to me.
Chris: Yeah. So my idea was that the person that would invest a ton of time building out their playbook and writing all their stuff down is someone that knows they want to get out of the day-to-day in the business. You know, they’ve already reached that conclusion. And in a 15-second video, it’s hard for us to convert someone into that belief. But what we could do is capture their attention by showing a book maybe they recognize and through the authority of that book, or whatever message they learned out of that . . . I was just like holding up “The E Myth,” if you’ve heard of “The E Myth,” and be like, “You know, if you’ve read this book, you understand that you want a franchise prototype for your business. Well, I invented the system to do it. Here it is, check it out.” And so we tried that with a bunch of different books with “Cashflow Quadrant” and with “Scaling Up” and with “Traction”
Andrew: “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg.
Chris: And, you know, all those books and “E-Myth” performed the best so we ran with that one.
Andrew: Wow. And you’re actually . . . I think that’s freaking brilliant, by the way. Why 15 seconds?
Chris: Because it’s quick. People don’t have attention for these long ads. You know, people shoot a three-minute video and they’re trying to tell a story and whatever. And if it’s not really compelling, people just scroll past it. And if it’s too polished, people scroll past it because they know it’s an ad. But if it’s just organic, you know, flip around your phone and you shoot yourself walking, people think, “Is that one of my friends? Do I know that person? Like turn on the audio? Who is that? Am I friends with this person?” And they listen, and then you’ve got your message across.
Andrew: That’s fantastic, man. All right. By the way, Gabriel Weinberg did a course for us here at Mixergy about how to use the ideas in his book to get traction. He came back and he re- like, updated it. And I got to see his numbers. The guy is killing it. He’s competing against Google. The first time he did an interview with me, I basically said there are more people on Google’s bathroom right now than there at your company. Because he was basically him at home. Like he was like . . . the mom, I guess I don’t like they call him mom. He was like the house dad, working in his basement, creating a search engine that became DuckDuckGo. This killer thing that’s now baked into my browser.
Chris: That’s so cool.
Andrew: It’s so exciting to see him do well. If anyone wants to go check that out. It’s just at mixergy.com/courses. You’ll be able to see him. He’s now at the top of the list today. So those things started to do well. Let’s talk about some of the other things you did. The Evergreen webinar, did that workout?
Chris: Yeah, it works. So it was really just a feature tour. And I was doing myself every week and a couple times a week and getting awesome feedback. But then once I was doing it the same way over and over, I just wanted it to be automated. And so we use the tool to just replay it, and people can sign up anytime.
But, you know, that’s a perfect example of what our business does. And I think people in their companies, if you’re doing things and you’re experimenting, and you’re trying to figure out the best way to do it, you’re not at a point where you want to document and write stuff down yet because you’d be wasting your time. You know, but when you do things repeatedly, that’s when you say, “I’m just doing it the same way I did it yesterday. Let me write this down so I can give it to someone else to do and I can go work on the next problem.” And so that’s exactly how I saw the webinar thing because I’m doing it the same way every time. So now, how do we put this on autopilot?
Andrew: You know, one of the problems that I have with that is I tend to work that way too. I do it and do it to perfection. And then I see if I could get another 5% and another 5%. At some point, I either leave it, or I obsess and keep going for another 5% all the time, which adds up. But what I wonder is, when we do things like that? When we systemize things in our business, how do we keep from growing stale? From not recognizing, “Hey, you know what, Andrew, you’ve been improving this interview process forever, and it does get better.”
But Instagram is doing like five second clips, and you’re not thinking about that. And maybe you should actually be changing the whole thing and going to YouTube, just to give you an example. And that’s a big issue that you might think about on a regular basis. The smaller issues like things just working out, we don’t think about can get stale. That’s been my issue, even when Michael Gerber, the founder of E-Myth, the author of “E-Myth” came on here. I wanted to know that from him. What do you say about that?
Chris: Yeah. So have you ever seen “Undercover Boss” that show, the TV show?
Andrew: I don’t watch TV.
Chris: Okay. So there’s this show where big, you know, Fortune 500 companies, the CEO will dress up in disguise and then go visit like the frontline workers and do the jobs and get into the day-to-day when they haven’t been in it for a while. I used to do the same thing with my video company, I would fly in and go to events that people didn’t know I was going to be at where we had had freelancers. And I’d show up on a camera and I’d get so many amazing ideas about how to change our processes. So it was passed when I delegated them and had someone else doing it.
But I would jump in and revisit it every once in a while. And I think people need to do that in their businesses is even if you hand something off, every once in a while, jump in and revisit it because you’ll have a fresh perspective and, you know, that’s where you’ll get the real bright ideas. And you’ll say, “Oh, Instagram is doing it this way. I wouldn’t have even thought about that, but today I’m thinking about it, because I just came off Instagram and now I’m sitting here with you.”
Andrew: You know, I like that answer but I don’t love it. Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about. Hire someone else who does another thing or does your thing differently. And then have them go through the checklist and the doc. So when our interviews were getting stale for the editing, I wanted to change something about it. Even if it’s just like revamp it and start from scratch, maybe our 20-minute editing process or 30-minute editing process is great, but there’s a 5-minute editing process, one that, you know, improves the sound of whatever.
I met this guy, Tom, at a conference. I said you love editing so much. We can’t stop talking about it. Can I just hire you to go over our Google Docs and tell me where we could be improving? And he went through and his job was to comment in and say, “Here’s where we fix, here’s what we could fix.” And then answer a couple of questions. And that’s it. And I feel we did the same thing with for copywriting. I brought in Neville Medhora. I said, “Here’s the way we do it. Can you come up with a better way?” And he comes in and fixes? And I feel like once it’s documented, there’s something to give people? What do you think of that?
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, the perspective that someone else has is going to be . . . you know, just writing it down creates an opportunity for you to make it better because you’ll edit it yourself. But then delegating it to someone else is another opportunity to make it better because they’re going to ask clarifying questions or make suggestions on how to improve it. And so it’s this cycle. It’s like as you write it down it gets better, as you delegate it gets better, as they have better ideas it gets better, as you bring in external consultant it gets better, and then as you jump back into it to see how it’s going it gets better. So it’s just this cycle.
Andrew: All right. I want to come back here and talk about the one thing that did not work. First, I’ll do a quicker plug than usual for a company called Toptal. Do you know them have used them? I think you said it before we started.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard of them.
Andrew: Where did you find your developers? It’s okay if it’s not Toptal. I’ll come back to Toptal in a second.
Andrew: You just went to LinkedIn and started looking for developers and then you ping the ones that you wanted hire?
Andrew: As consultants to work part time for you?
Chris: Well, more with Trainual now than before, yeah. But in consulting days I found people on Upwork.
Andrew: Got it. All right. And how are the people on Upwork?
Chris: Hit or miss. But if you find someone good then . . . you know, they recommend other people that are good and that’s kind of the best. Word of mouth has been the best.
Andrew: So I’d urge you to consider Toptal. Here’s what Toptal is different from some of the other platforms. Obviously, if you’re going on LinkedIn, you have a lot of people cut, a lot of inbound, you’ve got to look at the resumes, or the applications and figure out who to go for. And it’s a long drawn out process. And sometimes you just need to get started fast. With the other freelance sites, or with the freelance sites which you end up with this many people who are just not that good. If their ratings are high, and a lot of them are high ratings, maybe it’s because they did a lot of basic work like WordPress editing work.
And what you need is something way more advanced and they still get stars for the simple stuff to make you feel like they’d be great at the tough stuff. What Toptal does is they get the best of the best developers. So, Chris, in a situation like yours you might say, “Hey, you know what? We need to move to mobile. I don’t have a guy on my team, I don’t have a woman here who can handle all this mobile.” I just saw you do something with your face. Have you been thinking about that?
Chris: Right. And so with mobile you need a whole set of skills from the ground up to build, or what you do is you say, “Hey, look, I’m going to go to Toptal and just see what Andrew is talking about.” You hit the button on the page that I’m going to give you. And when you talk to Toptal here is what you say, “Just someone who’s taken this type of software. This is the setup, who’s done this before. I want to talk to two of those people.” And you’ll get on and the first person she might, you know, be okay, but not exactly what you’re looking for. The second person might knock you on your ass and you say, “Okay, I think I want to get started with them.” If you do get started with them, you can often do it within a day or two, you could . . . like the founder of Grasshopper has used . . . just did a project and they said, “Okay. Goodbye. We got it from here. We’ll take it over.”
And you could do that even with a team of people. And if you don’t like the work, if they don’t live up to what Toptal says they should live up to, they will even, well, not ask you to pay. Trying to find a way to say that that doesn’t make people feel like, “Oh, go take advantage of them, use them up and then don’t pay.” And don’t worry, even if you don’t pay they will still pay the developers. They are mensches. They’re going out of the way.
So you, Chris, if you need them, or if anyone else does, what you want to do is not go to toptal.com, it’s a great site, but go to toptal.com/mixergy. It is the only way where you can get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. If at the end of the period you’re not 100% satisfied, you will not be billed. But do not worry they will still pay the developer. Andreessen Horowitz invested in them. Andreessen Horowitz has been killing it lately, killing it lately.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Andrew: You have no outside funding, right?
Chris: Convertible note.
Andrew: Okay. From?
Chris: Just a couple of friends.
Andrew: How much?
Andrew: And so is it going to convert now?
Chris: It will at the maturity date, but it’s couple years away.
Andrew: Wow. It’s a great investment that they made. How does it feel to have done that?
Chris: Great. Because I pushed it off, absolutely, as long as I could. I funded the business with basically credit cards and debt and push it as long as I could until American Express shut me off.
Andrew: Yeah. Talk about that, your wife had to go to the store and she would use the American Express then what happened?
Chris: Yeah. No, I mean, she would use but I don’t know what card it was. But it got to the point where, you know, I was just maxing out every card I had, business cards, personal cards. And so my wife would text me from the grocery store before she would check out to ask which card she could put the groceries on because we were like that close to the limits on all the cards. And so with the Amex, you know, it’s one of those cars we have to pay it off every month.
And so I got that and I thought, “Oh, this is great. And I’ve got like whatever, up to a 60-day cycle. If I just spend a ton right now and then I’ve got 30 days before statement closes and then another 30 before I have to pay.” I was banking on that so I put a ton of money on it. And then a week later they shut me off and they said, “No, you can’t use this anymore because we don’t have the payment history from you to know that you can actually pay this bill.” And so it just totally, you know, froze my ability to do ads and I had to start hunting for other sources.
Andrew: Why did you use American Express instead of a another credit card? Points or something?
Chris: No, because I’d used all the other credit cards and so I applied for American Express.
Andrew: Oh, how much credit had you used?
Chris: It was about 300,000 that we had . . .
Andrew: How did you sleep at night literally like seriously?
Chris: Well, because the business was growing every month.
Andrew: But you weren’t paranoid? You weren’t calling, “This is like crazy. I could be ruining my credit?”
Chris: No. I tried not to think it pessimistically. You know, I thought worst case scenario if this doesn’t work I run out of money. No one will give me money. I can always start consulting again and chip away at this. And so that was my fallback. And then, you know, if I couldn’t get a single client I can always find a job somewhere. So there was always that fallback. I had, you know, consulting clients that had tried to hire me full time. And I thought, “Well, I could sleep at night knowing I could take a job and chip away at the debt.”
Andrew: Wow. All right. What about your ego? I mean, as a guy who done well to suddenly go back to not . . . I’ve a seen the smile. Tell me . . . to suddenly not be able to pay the groceries.
Chris: I mean, it’s humbling, for sure. It was tough, you know. We had a . . . like I sold my Vespa. I had this Vespa like a little Italian scooter that my wife and I like rode away after our wedding. And it just sat in my garage. And it was hard to sell that for like $2500 because we needed to make payroll. But that’s where we were at. And I had so much confidence in the business though that I knew just the way that SaaS kind of companies are valued is usually based on some sort of multiple if you’re ARR or MRR. And as I saw our MRR ticking up I knew that the value of the company was going up. And every month I could wait to try to take on funding I’d give away less of the company.
Andrew: That make sense. You know, I’ve got to tell you, I just sent a note over to Toptal to introduce you. I have found that my guests . . . tell me what you think it is. I always want to be as upfront as I can. I found that my interviewees are the ones who are signing up for freaking Toptal. And so I was . . . Sachit comes into town. He now lives in Austin. He’s the guy who sells our ads. And he’s like jumping off the freaking walls with how like our LTV for Toptal is the best in the business. Like it’s amazing. We’re doing really well with them. It’s not just number of customers, it’s the lifetime value.
And we’re saying like, “How do we . . . like what else can we do then?” And we recognizing it’s the interviewees who are freaking signing up. So I said, “What if I email out?” So then I did it. And I can’t freaking shut up. So if I do it here with you, I figure I got to talk about it publicly and say it. And then the other thing that I can’t do is I can’t stop asking for feedback. What do you think of that? Is that like a creepy thing for me to have done that while we’re talking?
Chris: To introduce us? No. It’s top of mind. It’s cool. I’m fine with it. I’m excited to look into it.
Andrew: It’s kind of fascinating. So that’s one thing that happened to me over the last couple of days. The other new marketing thing was . . . I can’t say who it was. This guy came over to my house spent two hours talking about this new software company that he is creating for podcasters. And one of the things that we talked about is, well, podcasters in the bigger networks what they’re starting to do is trade mentions at the end of a podcast episode and so . . . no, wait a minute, Jordan Harbinger’s always like hitting me up and talking about . . . I like Jordan Harbinger. So I mentioned him and, like there’s no quid pro quo, but then he mentioned me back and I thought, “We should just like systemize that. Megan on our team would be great at that.” Do you think like that all the time? Or you just can’t stop coming up with, “This is working. Why are we doing this?”
Chris: Yeah. Absolutely.
Andrew: What’s one of your harebrained like great ideas?
Chris: Man, okay. So you talked about content a little bit earlier. I get, you know, emails from signing up for trials and testing people’s funnels. And I thought, “There’s got to be a tool that’s like a backwards funnel analyzer where it would get an email from someone and realize, “Here’s the content in that email, this had a video in it. And then three days later they sent this, here was the call to action, here’s the link they were driving you toward.” I want like a reverse campaign builder so that I could, you know, use a fake email and sign up for everything and just see best practices.
Andrew: There was a guy who was doing that. Just like would screenshot it all. And Brian Harris a little bit would do it on his blog. But I do love that I want to see it. I wish I could think of what was, it was an onboarding. And not only that, he even had little number dots on everything that you wanted to pay attention to. So if you mouse over or something you could see what he’s noticing.
Chris: Yeah. That’s cool. I think that’d be helpful.
Andrew: All right. One marketing idea that did not work for you was the sponsoring an event. What event? And why didn’t it work?
Chris: Well, the event was just kind of a bad fit, sort of a breakeven scenario, but we went into this event. Wanted to be cool and catch people’s attention. It was real estate event. And so we had seen Russ dancing around at the pickle for Design Pickle and I thought, “We need something, we need a mascot, we need something like that.”
And so we had you’re coming off the success of the Facebook adds of me wanting to clone on my brother and so we thought, “Cloning, sheep. We’ll pick a sheep. Like we’ll be the . . . you know, clone everything in your business.” And so we had these sheep t-shirts printed up and we had sheep postcards laid out all over the event like sheep backdrop . . . and no one got it. It was just like a real weird farming. Like we looked like we were the farming insurance people.
Andrew: All right. You know what? I don’t know how Russ can actually be in that pickle costume. It’s great because, look, we’re talking about it, but it could have also been lame where takes away some credibility. I feel like the smart thing that he did lately was, he takes these baller photos of himself in a tuxedo. And so anyone who’s like still got the memory of him in a pickle or if they didn’t think highly of him because of it, which like who cares. Now he got this baller, it’s like now he’s aspirational.
Chris: From pickles to private jets.
Andrew: Is that what it is? Is he now in a private jet?
Andrew: He is, huh? I got to talk to this guy again. The other thing that he’s doing is like he’s taking people out on some kind of boot camp where they don’t even know where they’re going. And he’s just . . .
Chris: Yeah. You middle of nowhere in Idaho. It’s . . .
Andrew: Okay. Let me see what else we’ve got here. So that took you to that. Here’s the part that I didn’t understand. You created some kind of certified partner program, a white label program, an affiliate program. What are these things? And then we’ll talk about podcasts?
Chris: Yeah. Sure. So affiliate was first. We thought, you know, there’s a lot of business consultants and coaches that are serving their business clients and recommending tools like I was. And we want to get on their radar. So we started pinging people on LinkedIn. And we promoted this affiliate program. And it’s simple, you just sign up, get a link, and share it out and you get a percentage commission. And so we now have over 500 affiliates. And that’s driven a lot of the revenue over the last year.
So that’s been good. But it’s really low touch and it’s . . . you know, most people maybe get one sign up or two signups depends on their audience. So the next thing we did was we had customers wanting the service, like you mentioned at the beginning, “I wish someone would just do this for me.” And we had certain people that they were like, “This is what I do. I’m a technical writer, I go in, I write SOPs, I blog, I specialize in your platform.
And so we have these inbound requests coming in of people that saw our ads. And we made a certified partner program to train them in the ins and outs of the system with some on our website so companies can hire them. And then the white label thing was for . . . you know, it’s now evolved into more of like a gray label powered by Trainual but it’s for channel partners that have a big audience. And want to, you know, have a way to sell multiple Trainual accounts and then load information into those accounts. So we see franchises doing it in business organizations and things like that.
Andrew: Got it. Which of those is the biggest one?
Chris: The biggest?
Andrew: The biggest source. It seems like it’s the white label one, right? Not the one for franchisees, for franchisors but the one, right?
Chris: Yeah. The reseller kind of white label thing is the biggest channel to bring in accounts of those three.
Andrew: And so how would that work? If I got, and obviously I’m excited about your business, but if I got like super excited about your software to the point where I want to do that, I would have to first like establish myself as a guru in the space, is that right?
Chris: No. I mean, as a reseller, it’s kind of just, you know, if you’re aligned with our message about systematizing your business and you want to promote it, then we set up a custom domain for you with a custom signup page and it’s got your branding and your logo on there. And it’s just powered by Trainual. And then you can preload templates or your own content into all the accounts you sell if you’d like if that makes sense for you or you can just sell them with our content.
Andrew: Like what’s his name? Like Greg from System.ly. He’s been talking about systems for so long, right?
Chris: Yeah. He’s a customer.
Andrew: And so do he also have System.ly dot something?
Chris: He has a customer account not a reseller account because his is more about marketing funnels.
Andrew: Got it. But someone like him if he was into systemizing your business, he would be a good partner. Is there someone out there that . . . I can see he’s sending you a bunch of traffic though? According to SimilarWeb he’s one of the top five preferred customers, right?
Chris: So he’s an affiliate as well so that could be.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. And trainual.growsumo, I’ll understand that. Who’s GrowSumo?
Chris: They’re the affiliate program. They are rebranded as PartnerStack now.
Andrew: Oh, got it. But they also have . . . got it. Okay. So that’s the affiliate program. And then Work The System. How about that? That’s one of those people, right? Or Side Hustle School?
Chris: Yeah. Work The System, that’s a book. That’s . . .
Andrew: Sam Carpenter’s book?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. And so they’re . . .
Andrew: He is referring you guys?
Chris: Yeah. So they’re a certified partner.
Andrew: And so if he’s a certified partner, he said, “Look, you guys need to have a system for your business. Go use this software and do it.”
Andrew: Wow. That’s impressive. How’d you get him?
Chris: His business partner, Josh, is actually based here in Arizona. He saw one of our ads, reached out to us and he’s a great guy.
Andrew: I like Sam a lot. I feel like he doesn’t want any of this gurudom. He wrote this book. It’s like, “Dude, leave me alone.” And people all like the book and want to do stuff with it, and he’s like, “All right, then you do it. Leave me alone.”
Chris: Yeah. He’s hands off but Josh has really taken the brand to the next level, which is cool.
Andrew: Yeah, look at this. One of my best interviews was with him. I really took his book and did it justice and then we published it. It’s on the site workthesystem/samcarpenter. And so let’s close out with this. One of the problems that you guys are having is it’s really hard to create these SOPs. It’s really hard, right?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard because it’s never the most urgent thing in the business. You know, there’s always a fire to put out or there’s client work to do. And you’re always going to do the stuff that makes you money first. And so actually sitting down and working on the company and writing things down and formalizing your systems is kind of a backburner item. It’s an aspirational thing.
And so the companies that have a really compelling reason to do it like they’re opening more locations, or they’re hiring a ton of people, and they’re just in efficient in how they’re doing it, they get it. They put the time in. But companies that don’t have that motivation or that that event that’s driving them they, you know, just sit on it and think about it. And they keep paying for it but they don’t have the success that we want them to.
So that’s what we’re working on. It’s we want the software to help you write the manual and to do the work for you, if it can, by understanding what other tools you’re using, and pulling content in, and hearing you answering questions with your other employees around the workplace, and pulling in the answers that you’re giving on a one off basis to make them available . . .
Andrew: How do you pull that?
Chris: That’s what we’re working on. Yeah it’s . . .
Andrew: That’s the challenge. What do you have in mind for doing that? Because I might, when I’m talking to somebody, give them an answer and then it’s lost unless it’s in some kind of chat that’s public. And, unfortunately, everyone is private messaging each other so it’s not public. How would you do that?
Chris: Yeah. So through . . . I mean, if we could tap into Slack, or Gmail, or places you’re answering questions, then there’s syntax that you can recognize this, “Somebody asked a question and here’s the answer that followed it. Now, let me use machine learning to file that away as a . . . ”
Andrew: And that’s what you have in mind?
Andrew: That’s brilliant. I feel like that’s one answer. Another thing that I would love to have somebody do. Maybe you know someone, Chris, who could do this for us. I can’t get people to document everything. And I understand because I’m not documenting enough. But what I could get them to do is while they’re working just hit screen record and talk it through. I’d love to be able to give that to somebody and say, “I’m paying you, turn it into a thing.” I could have somebody turn it into a blog almost. But I want them to turn it into like a thing. A document thing that explains how we do things.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. We’re working on that too.
Andrew: Is there a company that does that?
Chris: We are working on that too, actually.
Andrew: You want to be company that does that?
Chris: Yeah. Because capturing the knowledge, you know, it’s all there. The processes are there. When people get . . . you know, think it’s daunting because they sit down and think they have to create everything. But it’s really just capturing this stuff because the knowledge is there. And so if you can flip on a screen recorder and talk and then have the system parse through it and file it, then I think that’s a win. So in the future, the manual will write itself. And that’s what we’re moving toward.
Andrew: Okay. I get that. Let’s close out with this podcast. You told our producer podcasting has been really good for getting people to sign up. You did how many podcasts? And how do you even know that that worked?
Chris: Close to 50 now. And it’s just, you know, it’s getting the message out but more so then the exposure. It’s helping us to understand the messaging that resonates with the audience. You know, we get feedback about the podcasters if people send in, you know, “I saw this and this resonated with me.” And that improves our marketing messaging. And so it’s kind of a double whammy where we get the exposure, the PR, but then we also get the messaging improvement.
Andrew: All right. How people going to contact you if they want to send some feedback to you?
Chris: Yeah. So trainual.com, you can reach out to us there. Chrisronzio.com is where I am, or on Instagram and Facebook at @chrisronzio. And then if you’re looking for content to document in your business, you can look that up on Trainual too. We’ve got hundreds of ideas on there, just trainual.com/checklist.
Andrew: Oh, I didn’t know that. How did not know this? Trainual.com/checklist. Let me see what’s on there. I constantly want to see how people do this stuff. I actually was thinking of inviting people. Back when I was like completely lost at this, I was thinking of inviting five entrepreneurs into my house for dinner or here to the conference room, “Just show me how you organize your company. Everything like your Slack, your chat, your task manager, your SOP,” whatever it is and people when they get it right our proud of it.
Chris: Yeah. I love that. Let me know. I hope I’m invited. I’ll be a part of that.
Andrew: If you are ever in San Francisco, I would do that just for you. Where just like everyone has to come with a laptop, though. You have to show it and then we put it aside and we talk and just show me the thing that works best. I had no idea you did this.
Chris: Done. We’ll do it.
Andrew: Okay. All right. For anyone who wants to go check out the site, it’s Trainual. We already said it. I want to thank the two sponsors made this interview happen. The first is Toptal. Really, if you’re going to do like AI or stuff like that, dude, you got to talk to Toptal. Even if you’ve never hire them, let them just talk you through it. And the best way to do that is to go to toptal.com/mixergy and hit that big button there to get started by talking to someone. If you’re ever, anyone is into content creation and you want some help to figure out what content will actually resonate with people and bring in some traffic, here’s the URL that you’re probably going to forget but you’ll remember it and they’ll never know that I sent you over there and I hope you remember it, it’s ahrefs.com.
And, guys, if you’re using them please let me know. I really would like to know that this is working. I’m never going to get them as a sponsor again because they’re not tracking this enough to work. But I want to know for my heart. Is this working? Is it helpful for you or not?
And finally, here’s another thing I told you I’m experimenting with this. I want to trade links with podcasters that I love. I’m not going to wait for Dave to say, “Yes. Let’s do it.” I’m just going to do it. He’s got . . . his podcast is not as big as mine. So it’s nothing like a fair trade. But screw it. One of the podcasts I’ve really been loving is this podcast called “Scale or Die” by the guy who created Proof. You’ve got his widget on your site.
Here the two, the episodes, that I recommend people listen to. Number one, if you’re into interviews, I think the one that I like the best on his is the one with Sujan Patel, the founder of Mailshake. He’s sponsored me. Never sponsored me again. I tell you some sponsors. I know they’re never going to come back. The reason he’s not going to he didn’t come back is he charged too little. The whole ad for me was explaining what the software was and saying, “Sujan is charging too little. There’s no way he’s coming back.” He emailed me the other day because I finally increased the price. You’re right.
But Sujan Patel is killer. He’s just constantly creating interesting software products. And he’s talking about it. It’s the Mailshake interview on the “Scale or Die” podcast. And then I like all the Founder Friday ones, that’s just him, the founder, Dave, talking into a mic about what’s working for him in his business and not. Usually a founder just talking into mic bores me to tears. He’s really talking to his problems, and I think, it’s interesting, and talking through the things that have worked for him and I think it’s really interesting. I’m going to recommend the earlier ones.
I think at some point he’s not going to do good with it. I can’t believe that he’s going to be able to talk into a mic and keep that up. So I’m not going to recommend the latest ones. I haven’t heard the latest ones like the one from Friday the 13th. Go to the earlier ones really his stuff is insightful. It’s called “Scale or Die.” Chris, this was great. I’m doing a lot of talk at the end, not even banter. I’m just like, “Go do this. Go do this. Go do that.”
Chris: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. I saw Dave in San Diego a month ago and that’s when we put Proof on our site and it’s been cool.
Andrew: He’s great that way, right? Like this freaking guy. It’s like he’s running a company, I thought because he’s like talking to people one-on-one. He’s got me putting it on a website too because he talked to someone on my team like, “What founder has that time?” So I assumed maybe wasn’t doing well. He’s up to a few $100,000 a month . . .
Chris: That’s awesome.
Andrew: . . . in monthly recurring revenue. And he’s still doing this stuff.
Chris: Yeah. That’s cool. And it’s working, I mean, it pays for itself if that’s kind of what they’re selling, right?
Andrew: Yeah. It does work but like does he need to be the one who introduces it? Does he need to be the one . . . I actually the first time he came . . .
Chris: Always selling. The founders is always selling.
Andrew: Always selling. So here’s the thing, he was introduced to me, I said, “I don’t need this on my site.” He went to one of the guys who worked with us, Caleb, Caleb Hodges. And then Caleb put it on my site. So I said, “Caleb, what do we do with this because it’s good. It’s going to work out fine.” The other thing he said, “Well, I had this other landing page software’s.” Caleb brought in ClickFunnels. I don’t need freaking ClickFunnels. I got this stuff.” He goes. “I got it. I got it covered.” Not only do I have ClickFunnels but check this out. I don’t have Caleb anymore. I still have ClickFunnels. And look at that. I got . . .
Chris: You go the Comma Club or what is it?
Andrew: The 2 Comma Club. Yeah.
Chris: Yeah. That’s awesome.
Andrew: This is just one of our funnels on ClickFunnels and over a million bucks.
Chris: Well, now I know. I’m going to email Caleb about Trainual and I’ll sell him on that too.
Andrew: You know what? It is the answer, these consultants. If they if they know what they’re doing, and if a client is like the way I was with him, you got to just stand back and say, “I hired you for a reason. I’m telling you what I don’t like but I have to let you overrule me unless something is a crisis.” And it really helps a lot. And I say this to a lot of people who are consultants, “If you go in and you talk to a client and they are not crazy about the idea. They’re doing things the way they’re doing it. They didn’t hire you to keep doing more of that. Your job is to shake things up and to show them something better and make them love it or hate it.” But not to keep it the same, right?
Andrew: All right. I’m done with my rant, dude. I freaking love your company and more than just company, I love your story. So I’m like if people can see I’m a little energized. I use the Apple Watch. I’ll see how my heartbeat did in this interview.
Chris: Thank you. I appreciate it. This was fun.
Andrew: Thanks, Chris. Thanks. Bye, everyone.