As 2017 draws to a close, many business owners spend some time taking stock of what they’ve accomplished in the past year, and thinking about what they’d like to accomplish in 2018. If your goals for the coming year include growing your business, improving the systems and processes you use to run your business, or simply finding ways to remove yourself from the daily operation of your business, then Episode 218 of my Small Business Marketing Minute podcast is for you.
In the episode, I interview Robert Indries, the founder of the digital marketing agency Wesrom. Robert has a very interesting life story–after growing up on a small farm in Transylvania, he went on to get degrees in civil engineering and IT project management, and has since started two successful businesses that have each done over $1 million a year in sales.
Robert has also traveled to 17 countries, written a book, and appeared on numerous podcasts and Romanian national television. Oh, and somehow he also found time to earn his glider pilot’s license.
In my interview with Robert, we cover the following topics:
I can just about guarantee that if you listen to the episode, you’ll walk away with some important insights into how to better organize and run your business, regardless of whether or not you are planning on growing it in 2018. Also, if you stick around to the end of the episode, you’ll hear Robert’s very generous special exclusive offer for our podcast audience.
Use the player below to listen to the episode, or scroll down to read a transcript.
Robert, welcome to the podcast.
Robert Indries: Thank you so much for having me, Kevin.
Kevin Jordan: We’re talking about how to scale up a business, how to go from a small company to a midsize company, and I want to start by just defining what we even mean by that because to one person a small company might be them and one employee. To someone else, a small company might be doing a million dollars a year with 10 employees, and they both might think of themselves as small companies. So let’s define what we mean by those terms here.
Robert Indries: Yeah. Sure. Of course. Let’s start by taking all of the chapters. Number one is, you start with a startup, that’s why it’s defined that way. A startup basically means you have almost nothing figured out. You’re at the beginning. You’re at your first clients. You’re just getting away with literally making a living from the business. After that, you go into becoming a small business. When you’re a small business, you already have clients, either recurring or incoming. It can be just yourself because in the world of digital, we can literally have small businesses, so like solopreneurs, but in most cases, a small business has multiple people live on site or working remotely.
Let’s see. A small business does already earn enough to sustain the entire team, or whomever is, let’s say, adding value to the client or building the product, and the CEO end has profits and it has been around for several years. If a startup, let’s say it can be for one to two years. After that, if you’ve done well, you sort of transition into small business. A midsize business, on the other hand, is someone that is already doing multiple million dollars a year. They have an extensive team of at least a dozen people, if not more. After that, we have of course large enterprises that do eight figures, have tens or hundreds of people. After that, of course, there’s enterprise that go into hundreds of millions and billions, and then those people have hundreds or thousands of people.
Kevin Jordan: Okay. So I think that sets the stage when we’re talking about what we mean by all those terms. I thought it was important to do that because here in the US … We should mention to our listeners here over in the UK, your headquarters is in Romania, but here in the US, our government actually defines small business as up to 500 people. That’s still considered a small business according to their definition, which is stupid of course.
Robert Indries: Yeah. In their terms, we can say it’s stupid but in their terms, the government and a country always looks at the economy from the macro.
Kevin Jordan: Right.
Robert Indries: So from a macro perspective, when they see that the small business is generating, in their terms small business, is generating, I don’t know, $20 million. They say, “Well, that’s incomparable to Coca Cola, who is generating tens of billions.” So that’s why they say, “Yeah, this is enterprise,” and that’s obviously a small business in their terms. For us, we know there is a clear difference, especially when you’re just starting. You’re obviously not a startup when you’re in business. For several years, you have clients. They’re incoming. You have some people, so it’s obvious when you’re a small business.
Kevin Jordan: Okay. So for a typical, local service-based business, this might mean you’re serving your main community, you have one main location, and your schedule is full. You have profit, you have a routine, and now maybe there’s a second community, maybe 30, 60 minutes away, or is not … there is some potential, maybe there is nobody servicing that community and you want to expand and maybe also increase your service offerings at the same time, this type of situation. How do we do it, Robert?
Robert Indries: Yeah, exactly. Basically, we’re talking about transitioning from small to mid-sized, how to grow, how to scale your business. The very first thing I would consider, and this is hugely important. People underestimate this. I would, as a business owner, and I have done this in the past and it has helped me tremendously, I would obsess over clients and their experience with me, or with you if we are talking about you. So let me define that. If you obsess about your clients, you literally get on the phone with them, go have tea or coffee, invite them to lunch or to dinner or to drinks. Get to know who they are on a deep level, on a personal level. Get to know them, talk with them, ask and then also ask, “What do you think of me?”
Then they’ll tell you honestly, if you’ve built enough rapport, they’ll tell you what about the service or the product, what did you like most or what did you dislike? What’s something you think we can do better, etc, etc, etc. You should be very, very much obsessed with your client, who they are, and their experience with you. This helps you in two things. Number one, it helps you perfectly define your target audience, especially as your ideal … You should have these type of conversations with your ideal clients. So that helps you define, and that helps you expand a lot because then you know who to target, where they are, what they like, what they dislike, etc.
When you ask them about their experience with you, then you already know not to do those things anymore, or what you should do more of, what you should focus on. This is crucial when you go from small to midsize because you will not be able to have your fingers in all the pies anymore. You will literally need staff doing what you do right now or other forms of outsourcing, and then basically quality might go down tremendously. You need to make sure that does not happen. How you do that is you set processes in place, systems. If you’re a business owner for several years, you’ve heard of the E-Myth or you’ve heard of the importance of processing, of [inaudible 00:06:23] your company, putting in the correct systems, and everything in between.
Kevin Jordan: Right. I just want to step in there, Robert, because unfortunately I find a lot of local business owners actually don’t know about the E-Myth, so I just want to let people know, you need to go read that book.
Robert Indries: Yes, yes. Michael E Gerber.
Kevin Jordan: It’s by Michael E. Gerber. Yeah, yeah. Best book on entrepreneurship ever written. The premise, the E-Myth, that the title of the book refers to is the myth that someone who is good at a technical skill will also be good at running a business that does that thing. That’s a lie, it’s not true. In order to have a successful business, you have to be … It comes down to the systems within that business. It doesn’t come down to the people, and that’s why you look at franchises like McDonald’s that have scaled worldwide. It’s about the systems that they have, not the people.
Robert Indries: Yes, exactly, exactly. This is also a very important mark because McDonald’s, everyone thinks McDonald’s is in the burger business, in the fast food industry, but the truth is they’re not. The only business McDonald’s has is of selling their processes. That’s the only thing they do. You pay 100-something-thousand dollars, 160, I think, thousand dollars to buy their franchise and their processes, and that’s it. They do not make … They teach you how to make the burgers, where to buy them from, how to keep them, how to serve them, etc. They don’t do them themselves. They’re just a franchise. That’s it.
So that’s a really important distinction. Your business should be so good that anyone can do whatever it is you do right now. One of the best ways, and there isn’t a single highly successful entrepreneur that does not have this regret, and it is the regret of not getting a coach soon enough. You should always have a business coach or a mentor. Those are two different people. A mentor is just someone you talk to. They’re a friend, they’re someone that helps you. A coach literally keeps you on track. It is their duty. In most cases, you pay them. If you can convince someone to do it for free, kudos to you, but a coach in most cases you pay them per hour and then they make sure you know what you need to know and guide you so that you don’t make the same mistakes other entrepreneurs have. Definitely do go out, get a coach asap.
Kevin Jordan: Here in the US, I imagine, other countries as well, but here in the US you have many great organizations, Score is one, where you can work with retired executives who are doing this on a volunteer basis. If you can’t afford to pay a business coach, there’s also the small business development centers, run by the Small Business Administration around the country where you can go and get a lot of these services free. I second Robert, I do recommend that you find a coach that you can pay if you can afford it, but if you can’t, at least go out and use one of the volunteers that are doing this.
Robert Indries: Yeah. Definitely, definitely. I agree fully, Kevin. That’s highly important. That’s something you need to do because if you’re thinking of transitioning and expanding, you’re obviously making money so that’s very important. You can invest that into a coach. The second thing you need to invest in, if you are able to, or you can also do it yourself but I highly suggest you start, one of your first hires or your first managerial hires I should say, should be a chief of operations. You should definitely have a chief of operations that looks into processes, how you do marketing, how you do sales, or what are the tasks, what are the different draws within my organization, and then what does everyone need to do so that we don’t step on each other’s toes but at the same time quality is maintained.
All of these things you need answers to. A coach will help you, and a director of operations, someone that has done that before, can definitely help you. That’s very important to note. One of the most important parts of the systems you should put in place are definitely the ones for account management, or community management, customer support, whatever it is because if you’re selling donuts, of course account management for you wouldn’t be the same as someone that sells, I don’t know, marketing services. They’re very, very different. The two are very different, but specific to your business you should always have a form of making sure your customers get exactly what they want and a bit more on top of that. That’s very important.
Kevin Jordan: So a customer success system, you might call it.
Robert Indries: Exactly, exactly. Customer success. Yeah, exactly. You should definitely do that, but again, someone who sells cookies won’t see it as customer success. Maybe they would see if customer satisfaction or customer happiness, or the customer experience, so it depends on the … We have many different clients that we help grow and expand their business, so basically all of them use different terms, and different roles they find or they hire for are different.
Kevin Jordan: Then, I think quality control, maybe a part of that system maybe separate to somebody. You definitely have to have some kind of system for making sure that the quality of your products doesn’t start to deteriorate as you start trying to scale.
Robert Indries: Exactly, and how you can find out where you need improvement is exactly from those conversations I’ve talked about earlier. When I told you you should go to coffee or lunch or dinner, or whatever, with your clients or have Skype chats or phone calls, or whatever, and then have those conversations. Ask them bluntly, honestly, take crazy notes and actually record the call if you can because maybe you missed something the first time. That’s very important.
Kevin Jordan: I’m so glad you mentioned that, Robert, and I swear listeners, I swear I didn’t pay Robert to say that but that’s something I’ve talked about on the show before. It’s something I do with all of my new clients. I’ll actually interview their customers for them, record the calls just like Robert said. We ask them the questions that he was talking about, and that’s for the exact reasons that he mentioned. It’s actually one of the things that [inaudible 00:12:46] Marketing is very big on. Thank you for making me look smart on my own podcast.
Robert Indries: Of course. Of course, Kevin. Yeah, that is the basics. If you want … Actually, I held a seminar just yesterday. This literally happened last night, I’ve held a seminar on how to double your business in 2018, and every single person went out of there and they truly believe they can double their business next year. So that’s amazing. I showed them the exact system and everything they needed, and one of the questions the audience asked is, “Where can I find my ideal client?”
Then I gave him this exact reply. I told him, “Talk to them. Ask them. Who do you talk to? Where do you spend your time? Where do you go? All of these very important questions, because I know your ideal client much less better than they know themselves, so you should ask them.” This works across the globe. You should do it no matter where you’re from.
Kevin Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at what they tell you.
Robert Indries: Yeah, exactly, exactly. That’s very, very important. Many times, our clients or the people I work with that I help grow their business, they say things like, “Oh, this is what our clients love about us.” Then I talk to them and I say, “Oh yeah. That’s fine, but I definitely like this more,” something else. Then when I tell this to our clients, they go, “No, that can’t be possible.” Yes, it is. Talk to them. Ask [crosstalk 00:14:20]-
Kevin Jordan: That’s why you record the calls so that you can play it back to them like, “Nope, that’s really what they said.”
Robert Indries: That’s what they said. Yeah, exactly. That’s their perception of your value. That’s exactly how it is. Yeah, so the next step I would definitely suggest, the moment you go from small to midsize, even when you’re small, exactly at the pinnacle of being small, between small and mid, you should already have financial management in there. You should have balance sheets, profit and loss statements, cash flow diagrams. Everything should be there. You should have a very clear view of every single dollar that comes in and goes out. If you do not have … The bank account is not enough, so looking, going to Bank of America/Small Business, and just checking how much money you have, that doesn’t count.
You need very specific forms. You can get them either from Zero, or you can have … We use, for example, Google Sheets, and we put everything in there. By the way, we use Google Apps, like Google Sheets, Google Docs, Presentations, etc, and we put everything in there. Many people can say, “Why don’t you use a specific tool that optimizes that?” I don’t want to. I want it to be manual. I want my people to check every number every single week. I do not want it to be automatic because then you get in the habit of just looking at it. No. I want someone to copy and paste the $137 that went as a cost there, put it in the sheet and then tell me about it, that that just happened and I want to know about it.
This is very, very important. Again, in Wesrom, that is manual intentionally because that helps us focus on our finances, and in all of my companies, because I own several and also with all of my clients I tell them to do that. Do it manually, check your numbers, check your books manually every single week, and have these systems in place. That’s something we help our clients with, having all of these systems and processes in place.
Kevin Jordan: Yeah. I think one thing I could point out here is, as a small business owner, you really should be using some sort of professional person, whether that’s an internal employee or something you’re outsourcing it to for accounting, bookkeeping, someone who knows general accounting principles. As you’re scaling from small to midsize, that may mean you have to work with a different person than the one you started out. Maybe when you started your business, you just used the guy who did your personal tax return.
You also have some small business clients, and that might be great when you just have a nice schedule seed form to fill out, but when you start needing more robust people, maybe that accountant that you’ve been using is not the right person for you anymore. The same with every other type of professional. You may have to change the vendors that you use based on where your business is at.
Robert Indries: Definitely, definitely. Thanks so much, Kevin, for making that statement. Then the final thing I would definitely tell people they need is insurance. Many people, especially when they’re a startup or a small business, they do not have very specific types of insurance. Insurance saves you a lot of money. Just this year, we’ve passed a million dollars, which for me is amazing. Finally passed a million dollars, so that’s amazing on my end.
Kevin Jordan: Congratulations. That’s quite a milestone.
Robert Indries: Yes, it is. It is, especially in my life, so it’s very, very good. I have very poor upbringing, so this is amazing for me. It made me cry when I found out. Yeah, so something you need is insurance because the moment you have people paying you a lot of money over a huge course of time, and you have so many people … We have dozens and dozens of employees already. We have over 30 employees, and then when that happens, you either make lots of mistakes because it happens.
You’re small, you didn’t do it yet, or you have issues with staff or you have issues with clients, etc. Have insurance. There is a specific insurance in the US, and I’m sure it’s all around the world, which protects you from mistakes. Literally, that is the title of insurance. I can’t remember exactly, but it helps you, it ensures you from mistakes you might have made unintentionally.
Kevin Jordan: Yeah. In the US, it’s errors and omissions are often called E&O insurance.
Robert Indries: Yeah, exactly. Omissions, errors and omissions. Exactly. That’s the insurance, you should definitely get that and anything else that is relevant for you. Talk to some brokers, some insurance brokers, and ask them. Then make your own decision, because the insurance broker of course wants you to buy all of the insurances, but just ask them for everything that’s available. Ask several people, and then take whatever you think is necessary and whatever thing you might have an issue with. That’s very important, I believe. Protect yourself, just for the peace of mind.
Kevin Jordan: As long as you’re talking to that-
Robert Indries: Because now when we ever talk with a client and they tell us, if someone ever says that they’re going to sue us, we can say, “Let’s fix this manually. Let’s fix this amicably because there is no reason for you to sue us. We will not lose money. You are not harming us in any way because we have insurance. The moment you start a lawsuit against us, the only thing that happens is our insurance will kick in and the lawyers of the insurance,” which is probably a big insurance company in the US that they’ve partnered with, “will either make you regret the decision completely, or you’ll lose it, or you’ll win but you’ll win three years from now, and very little. We won’t pay anything because we just have a deductible, so let’s fix this amicably. Let’s make sure that you get what you paid for. Let’s set expectations clearly,” etc, etc, etc.
That’s very, very important. We have not been sued not even once, and the interesting part is we did not have this insur- … We did not even know it existed in the early stages of our company, so we did not have this insurance and we were threatened a few times because we are in marketing. People say, “Oh my God. I gave you so much money. You didn’t give me results.” That’s not true. I did. We just had a wrong idea of expectations, and then after that, and literally this happened every single time, after discussions like this, the pipeline finally materialized into six, seven, eight figure projects for the clients we’ve helped.
So we have a good footprint across the industry. Whenever we talk to past clients or current clients, everyone knows that we deliver on our promise. That’s very, very important for us to keep that. We had these conversations earlier this year, and then last year, whenever we had to talk to clients, say, “Look, this is how it works. You’re going to see the result,” and they have every single time. We do not have one client that we’ve worked with for over six months that did not get … In terms of marketing, I mean, because there are other services like software development or consultancy, scaling your business. Those are more predictable. Marking is much less predictable than those, so with regards to the industry, that’s different also, but insurance, again, gives you a peace of mind like nothing else.
Kevin Jordan: Yep. I would add, maybe talk to a lawyer after you talk to that insurance agent just to make sure. Legally you want to tighten up your contracts, maybe, because keep in mind, as you get bigger, you’re going to have a bigger target on your back, too.
Robert Indries: Yes.
Kevin Jordan: No one is going to come after a solopreneur operating out of their basement who doesn’t have much money, but once you start having more money, people are going to pay closer attention to you.
Robert Indries: Yeah, exactly, exactly, exactly. That is so true, you have no idea Kevin. That’s so true. Materializes so fast after you pass a certain point.
Kevin Jordan: All right. I want to respect your time. I know we’re just about out of time here, so let’s just do a quick recap of what we’ve covered, and then I’ll give you the chance to tell people where they can find out more about you and your services.
Robert Indries: Of course.
Kevin Jordan: Okay, so we know that we’ve got to obsess over our clients, interview them or have someone else do it, and find out what makes them an ideal client, and what they like about you, all that kind of stuff. Find that business coach or a mentor, either paid or a volunteer that can help you make sure you’re staying on track and coach you based on their experience. Build your systems, and as you build those systems, hire that COO among the first people to help you with that process of building the systems. Then make sure you’ve got good quality assurance systems in place, account management, customer satisfaction, whatever you want to call it. Then, last but not least, make sure you’ve got proper protection, legal insurance, accounting, all those things are in place and that you know your numbers.
Robert Indries: Yeah, of finances. Yeah, books. Know your numbers, yeah. That’s very important. Keep a very close look. You have no idea how much money you’re losing, and that’s the truth in most cases, so take a look at the numbers and see where you can optimize your cost and where you can make more money.
Kevin Jordan: All right. Excellent advice, and I think applicable even if you aren’t trying to grow to a midsize business. Great advice for any business.
Robert Indries: Yeah.
Kevin Jordan: All right, so Robert, why don’t you let everybody know where they can find out more about you? If there’s any special offers you want to make, definitely let us know about that as well.
Robert Indries: Sure, sure. Definitely. Thank you so much, again, for the opportunity. People, listeners, can find me on LinkedIn. They can find me with my name, Robert Indries, or Wesrom. It’s W-E-S-R-O-M. Six letters, W-E-S-R-O-M, wesrom.com. Again, on LinkedIn, you can find us there. You can follow us, and anyone that comes to us, you can literally email me at Robert@Wesrom.com or through LinkedIn, message me. Anyone that comes to us through your podcast has a free month of coaching from us.
Kevin Jordan: Wow. Okay. That’s very generous.
Robert Indries: [crosstalk 00:24:37] one month for free.
Kevin Jordan: Very, very generous. Thank you very much.
Robert Indries: Of course. Of course.
Kevin Jordan: I’m sure people will take advantage of that. Thanks, Robert, for coming on. I think we got a lot of good information out of this, and we’ll hope that people take that to heart and keep that in mind as they try and scale up in 2018.
Robert Indries: Perfect, perfect. Thank you so much.