Derek Weber is the president of goBRANDgo!, a full-service marketing agency for Entrepreneurs that brings the high level creative and strategy of ad agencies and the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of contractors together in order to bring previously inaccessible services to the every day Entrepreneur. goBRANDgo! believes business relationships should be mutually-beneficial, transparent and a whole lot of fun.
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- Derek has failed in every part of his industry, including the real estate part. His story will give us all confidence that perseverance and determination will always win.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
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- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Medici Effect by Frans Johansson
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John Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply excited to introduce my guest today, Derek Weber. Derek, are you prepared to ignite?
Derek Weber: Absolutely! Let’s make it happen.
John Lee Dumas: Love it! Derek is the President of goBRANDgo!, a full service marketing agency for entrepreneurs that brings the high level creative and strategy of ad agencies and the cost effectiveness and efficiency of contractors together in order to bring previously inaccessible services to the everyday entrepreneur. goBRANDgo! believes business relationships should be mutually beneficial, transparent and a whole lot of fun.
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, Derek, but take a minute. Tell us a little bit about you personally. How old you are, where you’re from, etcetera, and then take another minute to give us an overview of your business.
Derek Weber: Alright! Well I appreciate you having me on the show, John. Like you said, I’m Derek Weber with goBRANDgo! I am now at the ripe old age of 30. So I’ve been now doing my business for almost 9 years. I originally started it actually the summer before my senior year in college just selling T-shirts and sweatshirts to fraternities and sororities on campus at Saint Louis University. Iteration after iteration, modification after modification, and a business partner later, here we are. So it’s been quite the journey and it’s been the typical roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship. The high highs, the low lows, the exciting moments, the bloody noses and everything in between.
John Lee Dumas: Well, Derek, it’s all about the journey here at EntrepreneurOnFire. So we’ll begin that journey with our first topic, which is the success quote because we really like to get the motivational ball rolling and we want to get Fire Nation pumped up for this incredible content that you’re going to share with us. So what do you have for Fire Nation?
Derek Weber: One of the things that I always tell my team is that success isn’t necessarily a byproduct of talent or luck or anything like that. It’s really a byproduct of perseverance and hard work. I know that’s not a snappy quote that come off of any quote books, but that’s a big statement that I believe in, is that success is truly a measure of just hard work and perseverance, especially in entrepreneurship. With the challenges that we face on a daily basis and being able to take those on head on and being able to deal with those and overcome those. I really am a firm believer that success is really just a byproduct of really hard, smart work and just a whole lot of perseverance.
John Lee Dumas: I couldn’t agree more. Derek, you’re our spotlighted entrepreneur, so this is about you. This is your story. So if these are words that resonate with you, then they’re perfect. So thank you for sharing them with us, Fire Nation. Take us down to the ground level. How have you actually applied this mentality, these words to your business in a specific example?
Derek Weber: Our company is in a building in a neighborhood in the city of Saint Louis. So originally, I bought the building back in the fall of 2007. You may remember, there’s this tiny, little financial crisis that hit late fall, early winter in 2007.
John Lee Dumas: Yes, pretty much a cliff.
Derek Weber: Yes. So here I was, buying an abandoned building that pretty much completely got rehabbed. So I was living, working and rehabbing here at the building all at the same time, and it would have been pretty easy to just kind of throw in the towel at that point because here I was trying to rehab a building, trying to continue to grow my business in this slight downturn in the economy and really stay focused on building out what the business might be. There were multiple times where I just wanted to throw the towel in, but you just keep persevering and you keep putting one foot in front of the other. I came out on the other end. I was able to then start hiring employees to build the team out. And over time, and like I said, with one foot in front of the other, you just keep persevering and success comes your way.
John Lee Dumas: I love it. We’re going to use that to transition to our next topic, which is failure, which is obstacles and challenges that you’ve faced as an entrepreneur. You’ve already given us a bonus and I really appreciate that because that was so real life and you can just picture goBRANDgo! just trying to make it happen in this gutted building, rehabbing, doing what needs to happen while keeping the business running. It’s very visual and it resonates really well with the listeners. So thank you for that. But take us back, Derek. We, as entrepreneurs, are failing every single day. Like you said, it’s so important to fail forward. What’s another major failure or challenge or obstacle that you encountered that you can share with Fire Nation?
Derek Weber: Yes. If we had a couple of days, we could probably go through the full list, but that’s just kind of the nature of the beast, is that you try 10 things and hope that two or three stick, and out of those two or three, one or two actually become a valued part of what you’re doing. So specific examples of the kind of things that we do all the time, I mean really, it’s about consistently evolving our workflow and trying to work with our clients because like we said, we are trying to bring efficiency and effectiveness to the creative space. When you’re trying to do things in a different manner, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Some of the stuff that we’ve tried doing in the past is we tried to incorporate a full sales team instead of just sales being handled by the partners or senior management, if you will. We tried incorporating untrained, unseasoned salespeople into our business and kind of teach them the fundamentals of how the marketing world works and how the creative world works. At first, it looked like it was working really well because we had a really structured sales system. We had a 13-step process that we train them in every step. We train them in how we do what we do, in our messaging, in our mission, our vision, our values and everything. We thought we had them perfectly prepared for success. This was just last year, actually.
So August went really well. They were still hitting the numbers just like we were hitting before. September, their closing percentage of the sales team was about 50% where my business partner and I were typically closing about 75% or so because we’re pretty selective about who we even take through our sales process. When we were crunching the numbers there at that point, we said, “You know what? That’s probably about right. No one can sell like the business owner. No one can sell like the entrepreneur.” So we were thinking 50% was good. So how this transition period kind of played out is the first month – so like July – they came with us on sales calls. Then in August, we let them run the call. We were there in the meeting with them but let them run with it. Come September, we started letting them go out on their own meetings and do their own meetings, and then in October they were full-fledged on their own. So we had a full four month transition period.
So like I said, come September when they were starting to kind of manage their own meetings and go on their own meetings, they were closing about 50%, which like I said, we didn’t think it was too bad. And then come October, we do open book management, so every week we report how many dollars in invoices we sold, how much cash we collected, what’s in our bank account and everything. So for three weeks straight, the sales team reported huge numbers of proposals and invoices closed zero, week one. Week two, zero. Week three, zero. Week four, $2,690. It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that that’s probably not good for cash flow. So then we really started analyzing and kind of figure out – in the second week of October, we started diving in and trying to figure out what was causing it. We looked back at September and found that their 50% closing percentage wasn’t that they were closing half of all clients. It was actually a very deceptive number because the 50% that they were closing were the 50% that either me or my business partner had been on the meetings with, and then the 50% that weren’t closing were the ones that they handled on their own. So it was kind of like a plane going up. The engine stalls, so they kind of flatten out. And then the engines cut out and down goes October.
John Lee Dumas: Good visual.
Derek Weber: So at this point, we essentially went on a maniacal sales spree. We were just out there selling and closing anything we could and just throwing the carnage back to the creative team to execute on, which really rocked our culture from that point because now we had cash flow problems, we had too much work for the team that we had, and we had some salespeople that we were having to let go. So it really affected our culture and really affected the way that we did things, but what came out of it is we kind of rebuilt the model of how we were going to approach new business and also the type of clients that we were going to work with. So during that process, we really honed in on what clients we felt were the best prospects, the best candidates because at that point, we were kind of taste testing a bunch of different ones, and we found that that $1 million to $15 million entrepreneur is really where we wanted to be. The other piece that came out of it was we found lots of inefficiencies that we were able to squeeze out of not only our sales process, but also in our creative process of how best to deliver the goods that we did for our clients.
So lots of good things came out of it. Entrepreneurs always have to deal with turnover, and so we had a little bit of turnover during that time and we were able to upgrade some of our talent from people that not necessarily were the best fit and best alignment with the company. So lots of good things came out of it, but definitely a time that was not one that I’d want to go through again.
John Lee Dumas: I hear you, Derek. Thank you for just pulling back the curtain and really giving us, Fire Nation, a peek into what was going on during that time period because you have a certain industry that you’re in right now, but your industry is so similar as far as the whole business makeup of really many other industries. So what you’re going through is very similar to what somebody in a completely different industry would be going through. So it’s very helpful. The insight was great. If you could just in 10 seconds tell us one lesson that you really pulled from that that has stuck with you.
Derek Weber: I think the biggest lesson that comes from challenges like that is to stay focused in on what’s the most important thing. What’s the important client that you’re trying to get after, what is the most important type of client that you’re after, and stay focused on those things. What we found through that sales process was that we weren’t necessarily going after the right type of clients.
John Lee Dumas: Right. People have definitely heard this before. Fire Nation listeners have heard me use the term “focus,” the acronym for that being “Follow One Course Until Success.” We can’t be distracted by all the bright, shiny objects. We need to know what core part of our business works and master that before we build on it. We don’t want to segment out too early. So these lessons are invaluable. Thank you for these insights. We’re going to use that to transition to the next topic, which is the other end of the spectrum. You’ve really gone into depth about the whole cycle – your failure, your challenges, your obstacles and the lessons that you put into place to make that not so much of a failure. In fact, to improve the process. You were very open with that whole cycle and you’ve shared with us some aha moments you’ve had, which as entrepreneurs, we are always having these aha moments. They propel us forward, they inspire us, they make us pivot our business or just propel forward through any obstacle we might be facing. My question to you is can you take us back to a point in your journey when you really had this huge light bulb go off and you said, “Wow! This is something that’s going to resonate with my clients.” Can you share that with Fire Nation?
Derek Weber: You know, John, I think the typical entrepreneur has aha moments typically on a daily basis – at least I know I do – and a lot of the different size ahas. One of the things that I always love to share with my team on our Monday morning huddles, I’ll do what we call a “whiteboard wisdom.” We actually record these and post them up on our site. So I like to share different lessons and different philosophies. It’s kind of like Entrepreneurship 401. One of the ones that I did recently was on the difference between complexity and simplicity. What I explained to them is that there’s not really complex systems out there, but it’s really more a lot of simple systems layered on top of each other. So when you’re able to really take the perspective – and I’m a big believer on most of life’s problems are not as such but just a problem of perspective – but when you take the right perspective, you’re then able to kind of diagnose and analyze the small pieces of some situation and really get down to the nuts and bolts and make a big change and a big development.
So a lot of this plays out. We always hear in all the books, that we hear “system and processes, systems and processes.” You have to figure out ways to document how to do things. And a lot of the challenges that entrepreneurs have is they don’t know – and that sounds simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. So trying to figure out the structure behind how to create systems in your businesses that your employees can then execute has really been a big aha for me, is how to communicate that and how to really get to the root problems of what you’re trying to solve with the system that you are. So by being able to start with just a couple step process, and then break that down into a few more steps, and then break that down to a few more steps and continue to evolve and iterate your processes, that’s where we found a lot of success and that’s what’s allowed us to continue to grow and continue to scale, is by really executing those types of systems and processes in our business, which comes back from just trying to figure out what are the building blocks of what you’re trying to do, and then stack those blocks on top of each other to create a more dynamic system.
John Lee Dumas: I’ll put you on the spot here real quick because EntrepreneurOnFire, it’s all about being specific and really knowing and hearing your story, and you’ve been so specific with us thus far. Can you pull out an actual system that you have in place that’s had a lot of success?
Derek Weber: John, I think a great example of a system that we put into place is in our website production. Really, that came from we always look for inspiration from other places as entrepreneurs. I was able to take some inspiration from Toyota’s lean manufacturing. There’s a lot of the lean startup stuff going on now. How we incorporate lean manufacturing into the production of our websites is we started doing small batch production because a lot of the challenges that we were running into in the design and development of our sites is we design the homepage design, we design the secondary page. Then we present it, then we develop the homepage and secondary pages and then have that QC-ed. So what we were finding though is if we spend two weeks designing the homepage and secondary design, present it and they don’t like it, then we have to start over from scratch, and then there’s a lot of wasted time and wasted work. In lean manufacturing, that’s called “work in progress.” So that’s kind of the time between checkpoints of areas where you’re able to really put in little safety and little mile markers.
So what we changed in our process to do is now we start with a wireframe and get the structure of the site approved. Then we do a homepage design. We get that approved. Then we develop that homepage and we have that QC-ed to make sure there’s no major bugs with it. While the homepage design is being programmed, we start working on the secondary page designs, and then we program that. And so we’re really bouncing back and forth so at any given point, if there’s a problem with what we’re working on, then we don’t have to trash a whole lot of work. And so we’re trying to hit it on the head the first time and get things right without bugs so we don’t have to go back and support and fix and renew things. What that’s allowed us to do is really cut back on the back and forth, the time that we spend working with our clients on things that aren’t working, and it’s made our clients more excited to work with us. Before, we’d have one touch point. Then we go behind the curtain and do these magical things. Two weeks later, we come out with things to present, but if they don’t like it, we’re back and starting over from two weeks earlier. By adding in the small batch process, it allowed us to have much more smaller, but much more frequent touch points with our clients, and it improved the relationship, it improved our quality and of the product and it improved the quality of our service.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely! Because when you’re minimizing the assumptions that you’re making for your clients, the better off your product is going to be in the efficient manner. Very similar to what Eric Ries speaks about with his minimally viable product in The Lean Startup because you can never really get inside the head of your client no matter how many questions you ask. When you’re working with them and getting live feedback, that’s when you can really efficiently produce exactly what they’re looking for. So I applaud you for creating that system. It’s obviously the right answer. Your clients are going to resonate great with it. They already are. That’s exciting. We’ll use that to transition now into your current business because you have a lot of things rocking and rolling. That’s a very exciting thing that you’ve recently integrated. What’s one other thing that’s really exciting you about goBRANDgo! right now?
Derek Weber: Some really cool things that’s going on in goBRANDgo! right now that’s really going to allow us to continue to move forward and continue to grow is we actually bought a video company about two months ago and we’re ready to start marketing and promoting our ability to do video shoots and video production. So what’s great about this, and it’s another sign – you mentioned focus earlier – is about knowing why you’re different than your competitors, know what makes you you, and know what you’re positioning and your messaging and all that stuff. When you know who you are and what you’re about, then you can apply that to everything in your business.
When we had some of our clients asking for video, we looked around and we were trying to find a great strategic partner to work with us on these projects, but what we were finding is we either found really great, really expensive video production or we found really crappy, really cheap video production. But we weren’t able to find anything that like we do everything else we do, was kind of the best of both. So when we couldn’t find it, what do entrepreneurs do when they can’t find something? They create it. So when we had an opportunity to buy a video company and then just build it out the way that we wanted, we’re now going to be launching that video company within goBRANDgo! to be able to have that high level of production and high level of creative skill, but with the efficiency and effectiveness that’s going to bring the price point down to where entrepreneurs can really afford using video on their sites and using video in their promotional materials. Our goal is to get a 60 second spot down to be plus or minus $2,000 to $2,500, which is at a price point where entrepreneurs can really afford to integrate that into their marketing objectives.
John Lee Dumas: That is exciting, and it always comes back to the “USP.” What is your “Unique Selling Proposition”? I just love the fact that you are creating this unique selling proposition that’s just going to be above and beyond the rest of your competitors and put you head and shoulders above them. You could not have spoken truer words when you said, if you don’t see it, you need to create it. That’s exactly how EntrepreneurOnFire was born. I was that person that was out there, driving around, running, on planes, looking for inspiring successful content to consume, and it just wasn’t out there on a daily basis. Hence, EntrepreneurOnFire was born. Now every single day, you can go on to iTunes or Stitcher Radio and get an amazing interview with someone like yourself, Derek, who has a very inspirational and successful story to tell.
We’re going to use that and transition to the last part of the show because unfortunately, we’re running short of time, but we can definitely fit this in. It’s my favorite part of the show because this is the Lightning Round. This is where I ask you a series of questions, and you just come back with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Derek Weber: That sounds like a great plan.
John Lee Dumas: Oh, Derek, I’m excited. What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Derek Weber: Entrepreneurship is definitely an all-in game. So at the end of my senior year in college, I had to make the decision if I was going to accept a job that I had been offered, or if I was going to go out and try to be an entrepreneur and try to do my own thing, and it really came down to making the decision of kind of pushing the chips in and going all in.
John Lee Dumas: Love it! What is the best business advice you ever received?
Derek Weber: I think the best business advice that I’ve ever received is something that we touched on earlier, is systems and processes. It’s about really documenting your business, and that’s really what allows you to really – as Michael Gerber says – work on your business instead of just in it. If you don’t have the framework and the structure for employees to be able to run with things, then you’re never going to escape the daily tasks of being inside of your business and working on it.
John Lee Dumas: What is something that’s working for ` decisions with our mission and vision and values. That’s something that we incorporate into our interview process, into our onboarding process, into our monthly check-ins, our semiannual reviews, our quarterly retreats, our annual retreats. Everything that we do stays in line with our mission, vision and values.
John Lee Dumas: I love that. This next question, I’m excited about, because you’re cutting edge when it comes to technology. So do you have an Internet resource like an Evernote that you’re just in love with right now that you can share with Fire Nation?
Derek Weber: Yes, absolutely. So an Internet resource that we’ve fallen in love with here at goBRANDgo! is actually our project management software called “Mavenlink.” We have tried – you talk about failing forward. We have tried and failed to effectively use probably four or five different project management softwares in the last couple of years, and we’ve absolutely fallen in love with Mavenlink. What we love about it is the only thing that we probably use more than Apple products on a daily basis are Google Docs. With Mavenlink you can incorporate Google Docs and you can invite clients and you can have them involved in the conversations, and it syncs with your calendar and it syncs with your contacts. It’s just a really great customizable and user-friendly project management software.
John Lee Dumas: How do you spell that, Derek?
Derek Weber: “Mavenlink.”
John Lee Dumas: “Mavenlink.” We will have that linked up on the show notes for sure.
Derek Weber: Maybe we can add one more in there?
John Lee Dumas: Yes. Please do.
Derek Weber: I would say another great Internet resource that we’re using right now is actually a startup company here in Saint Louis called “Gremln.” It’s a social media management tool. What this is really awesome for us is that we can use it to manage all of our clients’ social media accounts. So it’s kind of like HootSuite. Only it’s much more user-friendly and much more built for business use as opposed to just personal use. So we’re able to schedule posts and have our clients approve them and really do all the things to run a really great social media management campaign. It’s just been a really great tool and a great resource.
John Lee Dumas: Huge! So Derek, what’s your favorite business book?
Derek Weber: John, if I had to pick one book, of the recent batch of ones that came out, I think we’ve mentioned earlier Eric Ries’s “The Lean Startup.” I think it’s a great book for entrepreneurs to read to really understand the minimal viable product, to understand the iteration that’s involved in becoming an entrepreneur and not trying to do it all at once, but to kind of work your way through being able to accomplish whatever it is that you’re after. Then the oldie but the goodie is definitely “The E-Myth.” It’s definitely a great book. Then probably the one that I found the most interesting that I’ve read this year is called “The Medici Effect.” It talks about the intersection of innovation. That one was a really great book to just look at things in a different perspective.
John Lee Dumas: Love it! Three great ones. We’ll link them up in the show notes for sure. So Derek, this is the last question. It’s definitely my favorite. I’m pretty excited to ask you specifically this question because you have a lot of great things going on at goBRANDgo! If you woke up tomorrow morning in a completely new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge that you currently have, but only $500 in your pocket and a computer with Internet access. All of your food and shelter is taken care of, but what would you do in the next seven days? Derek Weber: Well, if I had $500 in my pocket and had the current experience that I had, first and foremost, I would just go out and observe. I’d spend the first day just observing what’s going on around me, what’s happening, what’s the situation, and then I would engage in trying to talk with people and try to figure out what problems are they seeing because I’m a firm believer that the entrepreneurs create what doesn’t exist, but more importantly, they solve problems that others either aren’t seeing or don’t understand how to accomplish.
So I think with that $500, that can be definitely spent towards engaging and talking and meeting the people and trying to find a problem that could be worked with and solved. There’s definitely lots of opportunities out there to solve those challenges.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful, Derek. That was incredibly actionable advice, and you’ve given us actionable advice this entire interview and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Derek Weber: As an entrepreneur, and if you’re just getting started – in fact, what we started talking about at the beginning is you’ve got to have this undeniable confidence in yourself that if you keep working and you keep putting one foot in front of the other, that you’re going to be successful. The definition of your success that you see now may end up being different than where you get to, but at the end of the day, with hard work, with determination and a whole lot of perseverance, success will come. The only way that you’re not going to be successful is by giving up. That’s where you have to be really determined, but you also have to be flexible in being able to adjust your path as you go. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll end up somewhere great.
As a last plug, once again, this is Derek Weber with goBRANDgo! What we like to always say is that we are the champion for the everyday entrepreneur and that we are focused on helping entrepreneurs become better, market themselves better, and really, at the end of the day, just be better because we’re a firm believer that entrepreneurs are the people that change the world. So for us, the more entrepreneurs we can help be better, the bigger impact that we can have on the world.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome, Derek. Well, you came to the right spot. EntrepreneurOnFire, 100,000 individual downloads a month, and growing. All entrepreneurs, all passionate people. We thank you from Fire Nation. We salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.