Jaime Jay was thrilled that he was able to hit mid-six-figure revenue while pursuing his passion for podcasting at Slapshot Studio, a creative agency in Ozark, Mo., that he founded in 2013, after leaving the world of corporate radio advertising.
Jay, 50, an avid hockey player, hosts Culture Eats Strategy, a popular podcast focused on leading with kindness, and also runs Bottleneck Virtual Assistants, which provides remote administrative assistants, often called VAs, to other firms. He is also co-founder of the 3DayMBA, an event for small business owners.Show Full Article
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Jaime Jay tapped his passion for podcasting to create a business that's on track for $1 million in ... [+] annual revenue.Slapshot Studio
When we spoke recently, Jay shared an intriguing update since the last time readers read about his story in Forbes. “You know those million-dollar, one-person businesses you write about?” he said. “My business is now on track to be one of them.” Based on his recurring revenues, he expects to hit the mark in 2020.
That means he’ll be joining the growing number of entrepreneurs who are breaking the million-dollar mark in nonemployer firms—those with no paid employees except the owners. There were 36,984 of these firms in the $1 million to $2.49 million range in the U.S. In 2017, the most recent year for which Census data is available. That number was up 38% since 2011.
I was very curious about what allowed Jay to put his business on track to bring in $1 million. Many successful professional services business plateau at making $200,000 to $500,000 a year. Often, it’s because they are powered solely by the owner’s efforts—and the founder runs out of hours to sell and can’t raise prices more than the market will bear.
As it turned out, there wasn’t a magic button Jay pushed to get to $1 million. “I don’t know if I can put my finger on a single thing,” he says. Rather, it was a combination of steps, taken simultaneously, that proved to be the right formula.
Here were his strategies.
Know what you stand for. Jay found that getting clear on his mission and core values as a company was critical to making the right daily decisions and for scaling beyond what he could accomplish.
To do that, he developed a “brand profile,” focused on characteristics of the company such as its target demographic, unique selling proposition, primary focus, tone and personality, vision, voice, philosophy and methods.
“One of my slogans is leading with kindness,” says Jay. “Everybody on our team is a leader in one way or another. We call it the ripple effect. It empowers you to be bigger than just you.”
That became crucial as looked for the right contractors to help him. When he films videos about the company, he aims to convey the messages from his brand profile.
“Someone should be able to say, ‘I totally get your voice or brand—I love what you’re doing and want to be part of that,’” he says. “If you do not have that, you’re not ready to hire.”
Package your services in a way that’s convenient for clients. One of Jay’s most popular offerings is called the Integrated Services Program. Clients pay a flat fee per month for access to a dedicated VA, who serves as a single point of contact to give them access to brand development, website development, design and other services.
Once a client submits a request, that VA enters it into the company’s project management software. It is assigned to a team member who has relevant expertise, such as a graphic designer.
The VA who serves as the point of contact acts a quality control. “Once the VA is satisfied with that particular task, they will then present it to their clients,” says Jay.
Do everything as if it’s the last time you’re going to do it. Jay quickly realized he needed to put systems and processes in place so that everyone on his team could tackle tasks in the way he wanted. Otherwise, he would have to be more involved in their work than he needed to be.
“Document, document, document,” he advises. “I took a little time up front to document the processes and think about how they should be done.”
His rule of thumb for deciding whether a system he added is useful is to ask himself a series of questions: Is it good for the company? Is it good for the team? Is it good for the client?
“If everyone is not looking out for the company and the company is not healthy, how can we take care of the team?” he asks. “There’s no way we can expect the team to take care of the clients if they are not happy.”
Commit to continuous improvement. Over time, Jay spotted gaps in his documentation system, like not detailing how the VA serving as the point of contact for clients would interact with the VA doing the work. “There were a lot of opportunities for mistakes,” he found. “Communication was all over the place.”
One thing that helped to improve the workflow was asking his team to help him add and subtracts steps as needed.
“If they want to take something away from the work flow, I say, ‘Do it,’” he says. “If a mistake is made, it’s not going to bankrupt the company.”
Increase your visibility. As the company has grown, Jay has kept optimizing the company’s website and videos, focusing on the user experience. “That contributed to people reaching out to me that wanted to talk with me about my business,” he says.
Jay put up a profile on Clutch, a site that includes user reviews and verifies that they are indeed customers. Because of his company’s high ratings, Clutch’s publication The Manifest listed it on its ranking of top business process outsourcing companies. That helped improve his company’s Google ranking.
Bottleneck Virtual Assistants also won an award from BloggerLocal for being a top 10 virtual assistant company. That helped the company’s rank in Google search to rise even more.
“We’re getting a lot more consultations from search results and things like that,” says Jay. “When you start getting people coming to you that have done research on you online, that’s really neat. These are all organic search results. We’ve never done paid advertising.”
Interestingly, Jay has found that the clients who arrive in this way are more profitable than those who arrived through referrals. “When they became the larger percentage of our customers, our business automatically increased,” he says.
Think globally. Jay has found that it’s possible to find many well-trained assistants all over the planet, so he has stayed open to working with freelancers around the world. Many of his virtual assistants are based in the Philippines, for instance.
“The talent pool is global,” says Jay. “The world is a lot smaller.”
That has given the company as chance to make a difference in the lives of its team. “One of our VAs never had a car before,” says Jay. “He’s got a family of six. He now has a car because of what we’ve all been able to create together.”
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