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How Systems Can Save Your Sanity – Return on Podcast Ep. 8 with Trent Dyrsmid

How Systems Can Save Your Sanity - Return on Podcast Ep. 8 with Trent Dyrsmid

The following is a transcript of Episode 8 of Return on Podcast, the show where we help e-commerce sellers improve their ROI in business and in life. For more episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or listen on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

Tyler Jefcoat (00:12):
Hi, welcome to Return on Podcast, where we talk about the experiences, obsessions, and habits of the most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs. I’m your host, Tyler Jefcoat. I wanna welcome you to this episode of ROP. You’ve heard about a return on investment. Well, this podcast is gonna give you a Return on Podcast. In today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about how to scale businesses. First comes mindset. Then you have to build efficient, scalable processes so that you can choose whether you want to grow, automate, or sell your company. This topic is so near and dear to my heart, and there are few people in the world better suited to talk about it than my friend, Trent Dyrsmid. I’m gonna go ahead and bring in here and then I’ll introduce you a little bit, buddy. Trent, you hold the rare distinction of landing, not one, but two companies on the Inc. 5000 list, which by the way, is where you wanna be if you’re growing big companies quickly. Nowaday Trent, you are the CEO and chief evangelist for a software app called Flowster.app where you guys are providing tools to help build better processes so that you can outsource key functions of a business, whether it’s a VA, an employee, heck, maybe even outsourced bookkeeping firm. Trent, welcome to the show, buddy.

Trent Dyrsmid (01:30):
Tyler, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for the intro.

TJ (01:33):
Thanks, man. I would consider you, Trent, to be a mentor in a couple of areas of my life, ’cause you’ve had a successful podcast in the past and then you’ve built multiple businesses, and I don’t know the statistics, but the percentages of, you know, Americans or other first world country people that actually start businesses is pretty small. It’s like single digits. And then the percentages of those people that start a business that reach seven figures in revenue, which is minimum to get on the Inc. 5000, by the way, is super small. And then the percentages to do that twice are even smaller. Right? And so just admire you, man. Love what you’ve done, and I wanna start with your journey a little bit, Trent. So going back to the beginning, you’re a recovering banker, like I am. It’s kinda like once a banker, always a recovering banker. Take us back to the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. What was happening at the turn of the century that made you take the leap and start your own company?

TD (02:26):
So I wasn’t a banker in the traditional sense. I was a financial advisor, so well, I worked for a bank, and we advised families on how to manage their wealth. And in my case I had always just had this burning desire to have my own business largely because I wanted to do two things that every entrepreneur I’ve ever met wants to do: make more money, have more freedom. And when you have a job, like I did, yeah, you can make a lot of money, and I did, because in that in particular industry, if you perform well, you get compensated very well. But you don’t have a lot of freedom per se, or at least I didn’t understand how to create that freedom back then because I hadn’t yet developed my systems mindset.

TJ (03:16):
No, makes – so I’m sorry. So pivot to when you got to the opening of the business, forgive me.

TD (03:20):
Yeah. So, you know, I was 30 years old, I think. Yeah, 30 years old, I was making a couple hundred grand a year, and I quit to – because, you know, I wasn’t someone who I think could moonlight. If I’m gonna do something, it’s all in, there’s no half-assed in my world. And I knew that if I kept my day job, there just would be no energy left at the end of the day to try and start a company. So I burnt my bridges, I jumped off and I had an idea for a business and I, you know, I didn’t go to college, so I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any business training, and back then , I was laughably ignorant, but I did know how to sell. And so I thought, well, I can start this business, and the original business that I was starting back then, which is still in – I’ve sold it since, but it’s still in business today, is in the IT services space.

TD (04:14):
And so I called a guy who became a minority shareholder and my co-founder and I said, look, I’ll sell it and you deliver it, and we’ll see how successful we can be. And that’s really when, for me, my, I’ll call it, my master’s degree, began because, you know, as I mentioned, I went into that with no business training at all, not having a clue what I was doing, thinking, well, I’ll just figure it all out, and of course over the eight years that I ran that company, I made an incredible number of mistakes as most entrepreneurs do. But I figured it out, and we ended up ultimately getting a seven figure exit, which was great because I grew up as a poor kid on welfare basically. And you know, I never had any money, and suddenly I had some

TJ (05:00):
That’s amazing. So by the way, I was 29 when I left my corporate banking job, so you and I have that in common also. I also can’t do multiple things. My wife – I’m the worst multitasker in history. So it was same kind of thing where I burnt the bridges and blew it. I completely blew – you’re talking about getting kind of an MBA in real life. Like, I had an MBA and an accounting degree and almost crashed our company like monthly for the first two years as we scaled . And it’s embarrassing. So for those of you out here that don’t have degrees, just know that real entrepreneurship is way better than degrees. Trent, at what point in your journey did you decide this is something that might be able to scale. This is a business that might have legs and might be more than just me selling things and this other guy delivering them?

TD (05:49):
Well, I always, I think every entrepreneur, well, maybe not every entrepreneur – for me, it was from day one. I had this vision that I was gonna build this IT company, and then we’d have clients all around North America because we did all the work remotely over the internet. So it was technically, it was my first online business ’cause we delivered the services online, but it wasn’t until until I read this book here, that my brain was forever rewired in the methods, and the thinking, the tactics, the strategies of how to really start thinking about scaling a business. Because you know, I think the mistake that most young or early stage entrepreneurs make is they’re busy trying to do it all themselves. And that is a recipe for success initially, but not eventually, because you’ll run out of time to do it yourself.

TD (06:44):
And so as I started to read The E-Myth, I became fanatical about having my staff start to document all their processes. And for a business that, you know, that was a really hard business to get customers, ’cause nobody wants to buy IT services. It’s like insurance. They’re like really? I really have to spend money on this? So it was pretty challenging to get customers. So when we got ’em we had to keep them, we had to be really good at keeping them. And we got pretty good at that. And we had a book of sustainable revenue, recurring revenue, and all of that was kind of the outcome of what happened to my brain when I read The E-Myth.

TJ (07:24):
So you’re holding the book The E-Myth. I’ve read it, too. Gerber’s work is legendary now when it comes to business scaling amongst a bunch of the other books that are sitting in your background, there, Trent. So for most like CEOs, they start a company you’re juggling 17 plates. You’re poor because if you start a company, you tend to be poor or, you know, you’re working off your savings like you and I were. And at some point you actually start making money because you’re hustling. And it’s a real, it requires a real mindset shift to realize I’m gonna have to invest in people and in the processes to kind of get myself out of the way so that I’m not the bottleneck. Like, would you help walk us through kinda your thoughts on mindset and how that CEO – each industry has a different level, but there’s a level where you’ve gotta make the choice. Is this gonna be a business that’s scalable or one that’s just me hustling my ass off until I make as much money as I can? Like, what was that like for you and how did mindset play into your growth?

TD (08:21):
Yeah, it’s a good question because I think it’s a huge stumbling block or even brick wall for a lot of entrepreneurs. The first thing that – it comes down to your identity. So your identity is the sentence that starts with “I am”. If you wanna be a million dollar – if you want to be the CEO of a million dollar a year company, so your sentence would be “I’m the CEO, I am the CEO of a million dollar a year company.” But if you are only at a hundred grand, ’cause like a solo or you’re a freelancer, whatever, the way your brain works at that level will not get you to a million dollars. You won’t get there. And I know new entrepreneurs, they have a difficult time understanding this until they hit that brick wall themselves. So the first thing about this mindset shift is that you have to start thinking, walking, talking, and acting like the million dollar CEO that you want to become. You have to start making decisions today like the million dollar CEO that you want to become.

TD (09:36):
So I came up about a week or so ago with this acronym called the SDA mindset. I don’t think I’m ripping it off from anybody. I’m pretty sure it’s my invention. So if otherwise, someone can correct me on it, but the S stands for systems, the D that stands for delegation, and the A stands for automation. So if you think about the journey, and I’m just gonna use a solo marketing consultant or a solo business consultant. So they’re out there doing the work. And at that level, you know, when you’re doing maybe a hundred grand a year in revenue, you probably don’t have great systems for much of anything. You’re getting referrals, you’re getting word of mouth, a new client pops in the door, and you do the work and you get paid.

TD (10:23):
Well, the hardest part about running a business as you scale it isn’t actually doing the work anymore. The hardest part is when there’s so much work to do that you can’t do it all anymore, and now you need to train other people to do that. And that transition from having total control to now trusting other people to do the work for you is a huge stumbling block for a lot of people because they go about it the wrong way. So the SDA mindset says that, okay, if I am to succeed at delegation and automation, I have to first create a foundation of the systems that I’m going to need. And this is, you know, The E-Myth, this is what this book’s all about. Like I’m not inventing this aspect of it. I’m just giving it a little three letter acronym to make it easy to remember.

TD (11:21):
So, you know, you have to make time to figure out well, like, let’s talk about this idea of chaos in business. So you, you mentioned spinning plates earlier. So you’re the solo in your business, and you got all these spinning plates. The spinning plates are, you know, getting the client work done, hopefully finding some new clients, maybe making some improvements on the website. And, oh my gosh, I gotta do some prospecting. Oh, and I gotta make a new lead magnet. Oh, and there’s a webinar I gotta do. And maybe I’ll try some ad campaigns. I got bookkeeping. Oh, and like, you get it, right? There’s just an endless amount of stuff. So if you want to eliminate chaos and I’ll just call all those spinning plates, chaos, you need to, first of all, think about Verne Harnish, big hairy, audacious goal. What is it that I’m trying to build? And then start to systematically identify what’s causing the chaos so you can stop being a firefighter. ‘Cause if you’re a firefighter all the time, you’ll only ever be reactive in your business. You’ll never be proactive. And if you’re never proactive, you’re never gonna get to a million, 5 million, 10 million.

TD (12:36):
So the simplest way to think about this is where are the fires coming from? Reverse engineer – and you have a system of some kind, but it’s probably not documented and that’s why fires are happening. It’s just your memory. And so then you’ve got to create documentation to get that out of your head and then figure out, where’s the ball getting dropped and what’s causing this particular fire that seems to happen in my business over and over and over again, which is causing this chaos, and create documentation sufficient enough that that fire will be prevented going forward.

TD (13:14):
And then you just keep doing that until you have no more fire. Now this is a wild oversimplification, by the way. The concept that we’re talking about cannot be covered in its entirety in an hour-long podcast. But so this is like the shortcut. So once you have eradicated, once you’ve now become a fire preventer or what I like to call a systems engineer, you now will have created some stillness, some calm in your business. And the more that you create these systems, these standard operating procedures, checklists, documentation, whatever word you want to use, the more of those that you create – that’s the S, the systems – the much, much, much easier it will be for you to start to delegate that work to somebody else.

TD (14:05):
So, as an example of this, you can see the two Inc 5000 plaques on the wall behind me. You mentioned that earlier. It wasn’t actually two businesses. It was the same business, two years in a row that got on the Inc 5000. But I had another business that was on the Canadian version of the Inc 5000, so technically I’ve had two different companies, but whatever. So in that business, I realized that the first spinning plate was I was prospecting. And the business – so we had an agency where we partnered up with brands and we handled their Amazon sales channel. So I needed to pitch these brands. And so I knew that I didn’t want to do all the prospecting because to me, prospecting is a repetitive activity that doesn’t require judgment, that comes from years of experience. So therefore it is ideal to be systematized and passed off to somebody else. So that’s exactly what I did.

TD (15:02):
I wrote all these documents that said, that broke down the process. Maybe it took me two days to make those documents. I don’t even remember ’cause it was like six years ago now, but it didn’t take very long. And now Flowster has tools where you could make that way faster, by the way. And then I hired people in the Philippines to go and do all that work for me. And the outcome of that was the only job that I had for the first year was to reply to the replies from the emails that my assistants were sending, get ’em to do a Zoom call with me, pitch them, and close the deal. And so I was closing a new client almost every single week because I had enough meetings in my calendar that I was able to do that. Now, once they said yes, they went on to somebody else in my team, and they were creating documentation on how to do all the fulfillment and client relations and client communication, like I had no role in any of that stuff either.

TD (15:58):
So by having the systems, the S in the SDA, I was able to delegate everything except what I call my zone of genius, which is the thing I’m the best on the team at it, and it makes the most money, so I should do a lot of that in that case. At that point in time, it was closing the deals. So S,D and then A, A can be a game changer, the automation, when you’re not so frantically spinning all your plates and juggling your plates all the time that you can like step back and look at your business and go, all right, so we have these processes, do this, do this, then do this, and then do this, and then do this, and then do this. What part of that could I automate to even just remove human labor from the equation? Because in doing so, you’ll drive up your margins and you’ll reduce errors and you’ll have more predictability.

TD (16:49):
But if you don’t have the time to think about that stuff, you’ll never get to the A. So that’s why the foundation, it’s like an upside down triangle with an S at the bottom, then a D than the A. When you get it all working beautifully, now, what you’ve actually built is an engine. It is a cash- and profit-producing engine known as your business. And after a period of years or in my case, it only took a year, that engine actually ran without me. I delegated myself completely out of that company within 12 months. And there’s a whole reason why that happened, and I was on a stage with Flowster, and we can go down that rabbit hole if you want to, but like I had a reason. Now that didn’t mean there was no human beings in the business anymore. It just meant they weren’t me. I was still the owner. I was still the CEO. I was still the guy cashing all the checks from the profit, and that was going into my wife’s bank account, but I wasn’t the guy turning the wrenches anymore. I wasn’t the guy, you know, making the sausages in the sausage factory, whatever metaphor you want to use. I wasn’t doing that stuff anymore. And that’s how SDA got me there.

TJ (18:03):
I mean, SDA is such a brilliant simplification. We’re actually taking our team through Four Disciplines of Execution right now, for some of the same reasons that you’re talking about there, where in any business and in the businesses that I’ve run, and Care to Continue had 115 employees. Seller Accountant’s not nearly that big, we’re in the twenties in terms of teammates, but like the whirlwind of the things that have to happen every day and every week to make the business go is always gonna be big. And if you allow it, that whirlwind will completely occupy your capacity, right? I mean, so protecting some precious, small, and increasing amount of your time to actually, like you mentioned, I think tha analogy’s perfect to stop the chaos of fighting the fires and actually hit a time out and force yourself to fix the problem, right? To build whatever it is that goes around the pipe so it doesn’t catch on fire, you know, like to build the system.

TJ (19:00):
And I think the order of that acronym is so critical because I think documenting whatever it is you’re doing, it may be really, really bad , but document what you’re doing, and then you can identify holes. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve looked at our process, whether it’s sales or onboarding or operations at Seller Accountant and been like, oh, well, the reason that client was pissed off is we actually don’t have a step for following up in this area. Like, that’s a – but we wouldn’t have known that we were even missing that part of the business until we kind of flow charted, kind of put it on paper and forced ourselves to look at it instead of frankly, like, Tyler half-assing it, or doing whatever comes to mind in a moment.

TJ (19:35):
And so I really like the SDA. I like that mantra of building systems, then you can delegate those systems, and then you have the hope of maybe automating them as the fires get less. So obviously, as you’ve kind of pivoted, your core role now is this Flowster.app, this app that’s really – I feel like you kind of engineered this for yourself, right? I mean, you built these companies that you’re – your journey was working yourself out of the job. Like give us a little bit of a glimpse into Flowster, how it works, how it serves entrepreneurs that are trying to replicate what you did so successfully.

TD (20:07):
Yeah. So I originally I did build it for myself. So the reason I delegated myself out of that business after 12 months was I got invited to this conference, and so there I’m on stage, and there’s 500 other agency founders in the audience. And, you know, they knew who I was from my podcast and my YouTube channel and so forth. And so I’m on, and I said, hey guys – I had no software company. Flowster did not exist. It was not an idea in my head, nothing. I had just created this extensive library of SOPs to run my agency. And so I said, I was on stage, and I said, “Hey everybody, I got nothing for sale. I’m just gonna tell you how I did what I did using all these documentation, the people in the Philippines,” off we go. Much to my surprise at the end of that talk, I got mobbed by people who are all basically saying the same thing, “Would you consider selling me a copy of all those SOPs that you built?”

TD (20:59):
And that was a life-changing day because after enough people asked me, we agreed to do it. We did a product launch, and we sold $412,000 worth of this stuff, this air, these SOPs that I’d built for myself, in the first five days, and I was blown away by that. And so I called my now co-founder, who had sold his software company, so he’s the technical half, and I said, look, this is what happened. I wanna build this software company because I think we can keep doing this and we can scale this up, and so he said, yes. So Flowster at its very simplest definition allows entrepreneurs to achieve one thing: make more money, work less time. That’s it. That’s what Flowster does, make more money, work less time.

TD (21:52):
The vehicle for that is SDA: systems, documentation, sorry, delegation, and automation. Flowster currently is super focused on helping people accomplish the S and the D. We are working on some new products that are going to address the A., So if you use Flowster and we have a Chrome extension, so – there’s two problems, or not two problems. There’s one problem that we built Flowster to solve initially. And that was, people want SOPs, but they don’t wanna make ’em, takes too much time. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how much detail to put ’em. That’s why people bought – like, we ended up selling millions of dollars in the first two years worth of that one playbook for people who were running a business, that was an agency selling stuff on Amazon. And so that taught me my first lesson. People don’t want to make SOPs.

TD (22:46):
Okay. So we started filling Flowster with hundreds and hundreds of templates and playbooks so that they could get ’em and customize them to their heart’s content, if that’s what they want do, but they don’t have to start from scratch. They can see what a really great SOP looks like. And as you might imagine, like our last playbook, which for agencies is called the Fast Playbook. If you want to get, learn about it, you go to flowster.app/fast. It took us five months. We worked with 34 marketing agencies and seven other industry partners to create the Fast Playbook. So you can imagine, to do that on your own would take you well north of a year, if you would ever get it done at all. So that was the first way we were solving this problem of how do I jumpstart getting SOPs in my business?

TD (23:41):
But then we also realized that as much as we were creating all these templates, and we’re always creating more, it’s an ever expanding library, there was still this other unmet need, and that is, I can’t find what I want in the Flowster marketplace, so I have to create it from scratch. And the basic Flowster software totally allows people to do that, but it still is not as fast as we wanted it to be. So we came out with the Flowster Capture extension, which is in beta at the time of this recording, but I don’t know when you’re publishing this. Or actually, we’re streaming live. So anyway, it’s in beta. And you can get that at Flowster.app/capture. So kind of like the Chrome extension for Loom, where, you know, it records a video of you doing all the stuff on your desktop. Well, videos suck for SOPs.

TD (24:28):
You should have written SOPs with images and checklists, and there’s a whole bunch of reasons why, but what the Capture extension, the problem it solves is now you can hit “capture” and go click all the things on your desktop. And it’s literally taking screenshots of your screen every time you click and highlighting where you’re clicking. So it allows you to literally build a highly detailed SOP template while you’re doing the thing. You don’t even have to like set time aside. ‘Cause it used to be okay, there’s this 15-minute process I’m gonna spend 90 minutes or two hours manually building the SOP so that I don’t have to do the 15-minute process, which is in itself is great return on time. However, most people who are spinning plates like crazy can’t devote the two hours to save the 15 minutes. They’re like, oh, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow, but they never do. And so they stay spinning plates. So the Capture extension solves that problem.

TD (25:25):
And as it moves through beta and becomes fully developed, it’ll get even slicker and slicker at it. And then the two will work beautifully together ’cause you can take these flows that you make and capture and you can import them into Flowster, and there you go. So if you’re, if you want the S and the D, that is what Flowster solves, it helps you to create systems quickly. And then you use the Flowster software. It operates kind of like project management software, but we call it process management, to be able to delegate those tasks, and you assign them to people. You can give them due dates, and you can at mention each other and communicate. You can create recurring workflows. Like there’s all this stuff that you can do in the software with whatever content that you’ve created, that are your SOPs.

TJ (26:12):
So two things came to mind there, Trent. One, so I’ll ask them one at a time here, but like one of the issues is what you just described, which is can I find the time to capture whatever it is I’m doing right now? And I think that’s a good baseline for any process. But one of the things that I think creates anxiety for me and maybe other entrepreneurs out there is like having somebody engineer like the right process. Like in other words, there’s like a little bit of, are we doing things the right way? Like, is there whether it’s Flowster or not, like, what have you learned about – is it more of a quick iterative process, or is it more of a slow down and work through it? Or let’s just put what we have – like how do you improve your process so that it’s not shitty?

TD (26:55):
Yeah. So I love that you use the word shitty because our methodology, and the methodology that I teach people is “shitty first draft is okay.” So what that means is you are not, you know, in a perfect world, you would sit down, put life on pause, and create this magnificent process in your very first attempt, but that’s not reality. And I don’t encourage people to do that. Instead, what I suggest is, and Capture, the Capture extension makes this even faster and easier. So you’re gonna do this thing today that ideally you’d like to create good documentation for so that you can delegate it. Well today I’m pressed for time, but I’ve got an extra five or 10 minutes, or I’m gonna choose to say that I have an extra five or 10 minutes, ’cause that’s really what it comes down to, ’cause nobody has an extra five or 10 minutes, and I’m gonna like in the first pass through, I might only document a little bit of it. And then the second time through, I might add some more documentation, and maybe by the third or the fourth time through, I’ve got my whole, you know, shitty first draft kind of built.

TD (28:07):
And then each time I do that thing or someone on my team does that thing, they’re gonna look at that workflow and try and make it better and more detailed and tighter, like every single time it gets used. This is why, this is one of the reasons why creating your SOPs in Google docs is a horrible thing to do. Because Google docs is a static document. So you can’t run a workflow on a Google doc. And the whole reason you want to run a workflow, and Flowster obviously was built this way, is so that when I want you to produce a podcast episode, Tyler, if you worked for me, I would assign you the workflow. You’re gonna start working your way through it. And then when you get to step 17 and you see that step 17 is not detailed enough or out of date, if you have permissions in Flowster, you can do this, you’ll just hit the edit button, which will edit the base template with whatever improvements that you want to make, and now that will update not only that workflow, but all the workflows for all the episodes that you’re working on of that particular process. So this comes down to this idea of process compliance, which is to say that there’s no point in creating static documents that sit on a digital or physical shelf because your process compliance will be super duper low. People won’t use ’em, they’ll go out a date quickly, and then you’ll be like, why do that? That was a huge waste of time.

TD (29:38):
That’s why you need software built for this. So that, excuse me, that you’re regularly interacting with your workflows. Your entire team is interacting with your workflows. And then by the very nature of using the tool, the tool is kept up to date. And this is exactly what has happened in all of my companies. The staff got to the point where they realized that this was making their job easier. They were making fewer mistakes. They were forgetting fewer things. So everyone kind of just starts drinking the Kool-Aid of, oh, I’ve gotta do a product listing optimization on Amazon. I’m gonna run a workflow for the product listing optimization, and I’m doing the thing, and doing the thing, and doing the thing, oh, I discovered a new way to make my process even better. Click the edit pencil, make that little change. And now that every time after that, that new better idea is retained and everyone on the team is now using that idea.

TD (30:38):
And this is again, all part of this whole mindset shift of, you know, when you’re a solo, it’s just all up here. I just, I’m the expert. I just know how to do everything. I don’t need any documentation. Well, that’s fine. But if you ever wanna stop being the solo, you have to have the documentation, or the only thing that’s gonna happen when you expand your team to other people is errors are gonna go up and quality’s gonna go down. You’re gonna lose clients, your profit margin’s gonna decrease, and you’re gonna be like, what the hell did I do that for? And then you go right back to being a solo again, to regain all that control, and you’ll just be stuck there forever.

TJ (31:18):
Well, and the other mindset shift that you’ve alluded to this so strongly, and I completely agree with you, is, especially for those of us who are more like analytical or some of these data guys doing, you know, Amazon businesses or even running agencies, they have to get over the need to get something perfect. Right? That kind of like lean startup mindset, which is like, it’s okay that it’s not great. Take five minutes, record my current process, ’cause guess what if you’ve been successful, especially like, if you’ve been successful in building you know, a couple of seven-figure companies like Trent and I, like, you actually may not naturally be the most detail-oriented person. Like there’s a chance that as a CEO, that may not be your strength. That it really isn’t mine in some areas, but I can surround myself with people who can make everything I do work a lot better if I can get it outta my head. And so I think having a tool like Flowster can do that.

TJ (32:06):
So the second question Trent, that I thought of was, okay, we’re building our processes, we’re getting the S taken care of, we’re trying to now be able to delegate, so our team is growing. What have you learned about this kind of process of scaling a company that helps you use a tool, whether it’s like Flowster or just communication to improve the culture of your company? ‘Cause I feel like that’s one of the anxieties that a CEOs would have also is like, hey, I’m growing and now it feels antiseptic somehow. It feels like I’m detached from my team. Like how do you overcome that challenge as a leader in a company that’s growing quickly with remote Workers?

TD (32:42):
Another very good question. And I’m sure there are many people in the world who are smarter than me at this, but I’ll give you my answer.

TJ (32:48):

TD (32:49):
So it comes down to your big why. Like why are you in business? If the only reason that you’ve picked the business that you’re in is for profit, like you could have picked anything, it’s just profit, it’s all I care about, that’s not a very good why. So when you wanna have a culture, you need to have a vision. And that – and this should also be a written document. Now, rather than use the word vision, I’m gonna steal a phrase out of the book Work the System, and it’s called a strategic objective. And the strategic objective describes for you and your team, why are you in business? What is the difference that you’re trying to make in the world? How are you trying to impact people’s lives? And what is it that you’re trying to build?

TD (33:47):
‘Cause people, cults in a bad way have shown this, that people wanna be a part of something, right? And so you’re going to create a much better culture in your organization if people understand what they’re a part of and they understand the objectives of that organization. So as an example of that, you could, you know, we donate 1% of our money to a charity. And that is one of the things that helps us to have a why. Now you could say, well, you know, I’m in business because I want to build 10 houses a year for people in third world countries. Now they can like, 3D print houses outta, like these are not the price of houses you would think in North America, but you wanna provide housing for people in a third world country. That’s a pretty compelling why. And certain people will be attracted to that and want to be a part of your organization.

TD (34:52):
And when you tell them that, hey, if we follow the SDA mindset across the entire organization, our profits are going to be double what they otherwise would be, and it will make your job easier and less stressful, and when you’re on vacation, you won’t have to think about things, you’ll find that people start drinking the Kool-Aid because now they understand the bigger picture. And if this stuff’s not in writing, the problem will then be, well, how do I communicate this as the size of my team grows? Well, you’ll have a difficult time doing that. So in your huddles, in your quarterly meetings, and you have to keep reinforcing this stuff, but, again, if it’s not in writing to begin with, then you won’t be able to do that.

TD (35:39):
And Ray Dalio is very famous for his book Principles. He’s the founder of probably the most successful hedge fund in the history of the world called Blackwater, if my memory serves me correctly. And he wrote this book called Principles. So there’s these three types of documentation. There’s what I just described, and then there’s the principles. The principles are – and you might have 10 of them, you might have 15 of them – but they are the rules that you stick to when it comes to making decisions to move you towards your strategic objective. And then there’s your SOPs, your actual business processes so that you can make sausages in the sausage factory, according to the principles that are moving you towards your strategic objective. This is not stuff that solopreneurs generally think of. Solopreneurs think of “how can I get my next client” and “how can I do the work” and “how can I get some time off?” Like, it’s a very, very, very different mindset. And it’s very natural for people to start, especially if it’s their first business, like it was mine, I had no idea about any of this stuff. It’s very normal to just think about, “I just need to get another client so I can pay my bills.” But going back to what I said about identity earlier, you’ll always be stuck at this level until you start thinking like people who are at this level.

TJ (37:04):
That’s incredibly well said, Trent. And I think even, I’m – some, one limiting belief that I’ve had in the past that I think CEOs struggle with a lot is you start growing and you bring in people to your team and you feel guilty because you’re not – this is like a really messed up thing to say, but I’ve had this happen twice in my career where we’ve kind of gotten beyond the fire crushing us, and I feel like guilty or depressed about it. And it actually, that’s another like frame of mindset that I’ve gotta change to realize, okay, no, no, no, wait a minute, my team needs me to be available to drive the culture of our company more. Like there are other problems I need to be engaged in, and so it’s even as you said that really great, about the different levels of the principles and the kind of the mission drives the principles drives the SOPs.

TJ (37:53):
Don’t be lazy and just keep doing it yourself. I think this is maybe the message I would add to that is don’t be – it’s actually lazier to not take the time to have a clear mission as a company and to have clear processes because having those clear processes, not just free up your time, they will make you more profitable, but they’ll also make your team more satisfied because it’s gonna get them out of the like chaos also, right? You felt chaotic when your business started growing. Well, guess what your employees feel chaotic, too. I remember a couple years ago I had an employee describe Seller Accountant as we were kind of coming through this as being like, “I believe our culture is burnout,” is what he said. And I was like, oh, no. Like, you know, so you, you wake up and have this moment where, whether it’s you as the solopreneur or your team is constantly reacting.

TJ (38:35):
And so our response to that had to be okay, let’s go etch-a-sketch a few of our, you know, whether it’s Traction, VTO, or other elements, and then actually become systematic in deploying the software and the processes so that our team can be successful. And then when we are able to do that, then my ability and my leaders, my other leaders in the company’s ability to focus on just providing care for our team, actually like giving a crap, having time to do that becomes possible because now you’re not simply reacting to the whirlwind of whatever emergency is on James’s plate today, right? And so it takes more discipline as a CEO to say, no, no, no, no, I’m not gonna chase just the money for today. I’m actually gonna build the engine, as you said earlier, Trent, that will run long term, and I’m gonna force myself to document the systems.

TJ (39:23):
Well, guess what? There’s tools out there, and a really good one that we’re talking about here called Flowster that with very minimal investment of your time, you can start grabbing those processes, the things that you’re doing, that you need to get out of your head. Yes, draft one’s gonna be shitty, but like, do it. Get it off of your mind and into a system where you can then iterate and improve it. And I, Trent, appreciate you talking us through that. Cause I think that that model of SDA, kind of the hierarchy of needs kind of picture that I’m visualizing in my brain, you know, I think that’s extremely helpful. Well, I wanna talk hobby, personal stuff here for a second. How in the world did you get into motocross? This is a hard pivot, dude. I wanna hear about motocross for a second.

TD (40:08):
You might be losing your audience with this one. I just, as a kid, I was never into sticking ball sports. I always liked racing bicycles, and then I got into motocross and I got pretty good at it.

TJ (40:19):
Well, that’s great. And you did – by the way, Trent shared a video with me of, I’m gonna assume it was you, Trent. You know, I can’t validate this. It was a guy on a bike who like didn’t bust his ass going over a big hill going really quickly, and that looked awesome. I would probably not, I would not be caught doing that right now because I’m, I have a tendency to break things, but that is awesome. That’s a really, really fun – yeah, and then we were talking also about like racing cars, like, are you into, are you into racing?

TD (40:50):
There was a time when I was into racing cars. But every car racer will tell you that it quickly becomes a second full time job, and it will eat all of your money. And so I transferred from real world racing to virtual world racing. And now I have about a $20,000 virtual, full-motion, virtual racing slash flying simulator in my basement, which is pretty cool. Something –

TJ (41:18):
Really cool.

TD (41:19):
Yeah. So something I wanted to add to the business thing that you, that we talked about before we went down the sports rabbit hole, you know, talked about culture and so forth. I just wanted people to think about something that’s obvious, but it’s not obvious until you maybe hear it. If you decide to systematize the heck out of your business, you’re gonna have higher profit margins than the industry averages. And if you have higher profit margins than the industry averages, you can pay higher than the industry averages. And if you pay higher than the industry averages, what do you think that will do to your turnover? Your turnover will be lower than the industry averages.

TD (42:00):
So now you’ve got this culture where you’ve got all these wonderful, talented, well-paid people who are on your team, and that’s how you get to the point where you don’t even have to go to work anymore. Now you can be the chairman of your organization. You can have a CEO, you can have a COO, you can do all of that stuff. Now, none of this happens overnight, but if you don’t make this mindset shift to the SDA mindset, when you’re just you, none of it will ever – now, not all business models are created equal, of course. Some business models scale better than others. So let’s make, let’s not forget that fact, but if you’ve got a decent business model, none of this will ever happen, none of this freedom will ever happen, unless you change your mindset. And then of course you won’t have the time or the money to have motocross bikes and virtual racing simulators and whatever other toys You might like to have.

TJ (42:52):
No, that’s a really, it’s a really good point. It’s almost this, by the way, that’s actually like, as an investor mindset, if I can invest in an asset that gives me an, I have enough of an unfair competitive advantage, ’cause I’m – I think about real estate, if I’m really, really good at fixing up houses and renting ’em out, I can afford to pay more than the market value for that house because I can generate return on my investment, even though I’m paying more than the other guys. So I always get the premium real estate. And it’s, I think what you just said, Trent, is so true for teammates. If I actually build an engine, as you described earlier, that is more efficient, that actually just generates more value in the marketplace, I can afford to pay over, slightly overpay, the best people. And by the way, people are also mostly motivated by winning, right? So creating clarity, winning, and then being able to pay them, not just a living wage, but an incredible wage, that’s a really, really, really good point there, is clearly gonna help you keep the best talent. Not to mention, they’re not gonna be as stressed out because you’re not constantly in chaos. You actually have a repeatable process. That is –

TD (43:55):
That’s gonna go a long way to keeping people on your team longer, too. Like who wants to go to a really high-stress job? I mean, maybe some people do, but the vast majority of human beings are not wired to enjoy stress.

TJ (44:05):
That’s right.

TD (44:06):
Stress is a killer. So what you need to do is make sure that you have as little of it as possible in your organization so that you have a very welcoming almost serene workplace where people really love coming there because it’s this second family for them ’cause they’ve been working with these other senior leaders for the longest time where they really respect their senior leaders or whatever, but you’ve got an amazing culture, and now what you’ve done is you’ve built an asset that is great to own, and if you wanna sell it, it’s great to sell. Although I heard an expression from Grant Cardone the other day, which I want to repeat ’cause I thought it was cool. “Rich people sell assets, wealthy people never do.” Ask yourself how many companies does Warren Buffett sell? Not very many. But that’s another, that’s talk for another day.

TJ (44:58):
Such a good point.

TD (44:59):
Yeah. But so your job as a founder is to be, like, you kind of have two hats. One is like systems engineer, and the other one, which I think is the more prevalent hat, is asset builder, asset creator. A funnel that converts is an asset. A webinar that converts is an asset. A prospecting system that can be run by people in the Philippines for $4 to $5 an hour is an asset. I try to invest the vast majority of my time working on the business to build assets so that I can have my SDA working beautifully so that I don’t have to work in the business.

TJ (45:46):
Well said. And so to finish our discussion here, this has been great, Trent, we end every episode with the Return on Podcast section. This is about habits, hacks, practices that have given you an unusual ROI in your life. And so let me kind of turn it over to you with a kind of broad question, whether you wanna give an example personal or business or one of each is great, but what is the habit, hack, practice that’s giving you maximum ROI in your life that you think people should consider trying on?

TD (46:15):
Well, I’m gonna tell you a quick little story. So I got written up in this book. I’m in chapter 16.

TJ (46:23):

TD (46:24):
And –

TJ (46:24):
Atomic Habits, by the way. For anyone who’s listening to the pod here, that’s Atomic Habits by James Clear. On my top five, I love that book. Go ahead.

TD (46:30):
So I’m known on the internet now as the paperclip strategy guy. So this was the very first system that I ever built. So when I started my career as a financial advisor, this is I’m old enough now that when I started, there was no email . And so I cold called a lot. And I knew that – and I knew because somebody who was one of the top producers in the firm, when I was in the rookie program, he said, Trent, this is how you’re gonna be successful. You’re not gonna worry about trying to figure out what stock’s gonna go up and what stock’s gonna go down. We have analysts for that, and we have fund managers for that. You’re a sales guy. Never forget that. And your job is to find clients. That’s it. To build your book of business, and then that book of business will look after you.

TD (47:17):
So I thought, okay, I’m gonna pay attention to what he told me. And so I had two paperclip jars, and I know that if I made more cold, I knew that if I made more cold calls than anybody else did, I would probably be more successful than anybody else. And I ended up being the number one rookie in the training class of like 30 guys. I was the youngest. I was the one that everybody pegged to fail, ’cause I didn’t have any connections, I didn’t have a network, I knew nothing, I was like 21. And so every time I dialed the phone, I would just, I had 120 paper clips in this baby food jar, and every time I dialed the phone, I would move a paperclip. So what’s the lesson there? It’s not to put paperclips in a paperclip jar, in a baby food jar, although it was good enough to get me written up in James’s book.

TD (47:58):
The lesson is to have a daily routine that you stick to that focuses in the more – so I want to give this sort of parting bit of advice. Here is the fastest way to get a significant ROI on the S portion, on the S and the D. Number one, delegate the management of your inbox to your assistant. That will save you at least an hour, maybe two hours a day, which you can then use to work on your business. Flowster has a free template called inbox management or something, you can search for it, and you need, you don’t even need a paid account. You can just get a free Flowster account, and you can do this. And so now you’ve instantly created a substantial amount of free time.

TD (48:44):
The second thing to do is organize your calendar. Don’t take appointments Monday to Friday anytime. You need to control when your clients can and prospects can have access to you. My calendar is only open, like when I use Calendly, it’s only open to take appointments Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. That’s it. So that means that every morning is mine. Every Friday is mine. Every Monday is mine. So now with all the free time that I’ve created from not having to manage my email and the way that I’ve structured my calendar, I create a lot of asset-building time. So that’s tip number one. I hope I’m answering your question.

TD (49:26):
And then tip number two is this daily routine of Flowster. So I have a daily routine in Flowster, Flowster runs this workflow for me every single day. And in that routine, or where I like – let’s say that I learn something really awesome on your podcast that I didn’t want to forget and I wanted to habitualize that piece of knowledge. How do you do that? I store it in my daily routine. So every single day, I’m now seeing, for example, the 1-3-1 problem-solving solution. So every time now when a team member comes to me, I follow the 1-3-1 because I’ve got it stuck in my head, ’cause I put it in my daily routine. The other thing I do in my daily routine is I have one step called high priorities, top priorities, sorry. And I just have links to those projects. These are not processes, now, these are projects, business improvement or asset-building projects that I manage in project management software, and I just have links to those projects. So every morning, like if I’ve got a campaign running to promote a webinar, which I just did a webinar yesterday, which was crazy successful. So one of those links was I was every day I was checking registrants, every day I was checking the conversion rate of the landing page, every day I was checking the open rate of the emails, ’cause I just placed little links in that daily routine and click, click, click, click, click.

TD (50:41):
So I can super quickly get to the information that I need to see. I’ve got links there to my financial reporting software and my dashboards and all the stuff that a CEO would need to see. It’s a part of my daily routine I can get through the morning, half of my daily routine, in maybe 20 or 30 minutes, something like that. Depends on how much time I spend writing ’cause that’s also a part of my daily routine. So set yourself free by the things I’ve described and then use the freedom and focus of a daily routine to make sure that you’re not getting sucked into your inbox in the morning, and then suddenly you’re like, “Wow, it’s 11 o’clock. Where’d the morning go? I didn’t create anything. I didn’t build any assets today.” You gotta build assets. And the only way to build assets is to create the time in your schedule and the space in your mind to be able to get to the A in the SDA, which is again, systems first, then delegation, and then automation.

TJ (51:45):
It’s beautiful. Beautiful, by the way. I I do have a Flowster account, and I just highly recommend, for those of you listening to this pod Flowster.app, a-p-p, Flowster.app is where you can find out more about Trent’s new tool. Trent, anything else we need to keep an eye out for, in terms of learning more about your services or something that might be on the horizon here that we should know about?

TD (52:10):
There is a masterclass that you and I talked a little bit off air about this. So if you go to Flowster.app/masterclass, what I learned was everything that we’ve talked about, when people hear all that they’re like, oh yeah, I get it. And then they’re just like, how do I make that actually happen? And Flowster is the operating system for everything we’ve talked about. What I’ve realized is that, you know, not everybody understands all this stuff, and if you don’t understand all this stuff and you haven’t read The E-Myth, and you know, like it’s not obvious to you why you need SOPs. So we’re creating this masterclass to teach people about this and there’s gonna be a community and an ongoing coaching program and a bunch of stuff to really give more support to the spinner-plate folks in the world, the spinner-plate entrepreneurs who are like tired of doing it, but they don’t exactly know how to get from where they are to this wonderful world of the systematized business or a cash engine, so to speak. So we’re, again, the first live masterclass – so there’s gonna be a bunch of content in the portal. It’s not there yet. I’m literally creating this on the fly, but by June 1st, most of it’ll be there, and then we’re gonna have like a live day on June 1st with myself and a couple of the other coaches, and we’re gonna spend four hours and do all this stuff live. And then we’re just gonna probably keep doing that like once every month or once every two months, something like that.

TJ (53:38):
Beautiful. Well, again, guys, just to summarize the episode here: starts with mindset. It’s time to stop just spinning plates, fighting fires. It’s time to really employ Trent’s SDA, capture your systems, figure out how to delegate those systems and then automate them. You can’t do that if you’re fighting fires. A tool like Flowster is one that you should consider if you’re struggling in that area. And Trent, just wanna say, thank you, brother. I really appreciate you joining the show today. Thank you for your time. Grateful to know you, man, and just appreciate you,

TD (54:11):
Tyler, thank you very much for having me on. It was a privilege to be here.

TJ (54:15):
Awesome. And for those of you guys who are listening, thank you so much also for joining us today, Trent and I have enjoyed having this conversation with you. And if this content serves you, if we’ve enjoyed it, if this area of systems and processes would be meaningful to some of your peers, please share this podcast, share this episode you know, subscribe, like it, and we’ll be back next week. For now though, kill it and make sure you set your morning routine.

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