2012, was a tough year for me. For many years I have been trying to build a company out of the house, but have failed. I hired many people, but never managed them.
In the beginning of the year I was doing very well from web properties, mailing, and doing pay-per-click for affiliate offers. Then things changed. Affiliate networks dropped like flies, and ppc networks became very strict. My affiliate revenue crashed.
I was not sure what to do. I knew the affiliate game that I had been playing and profiting from for many years was coming to an end.
From the way I looked at it I had 2 choices:
A)Build a real company.
B)Buy out my lease, other contracts, and go back to working out of my house writing my blog. Essentially retiring.
The big turning point for me was when I was talking to one of my best friends in the industry (who also owns a affiliate network). He was telling me about how he had bought a new SEO Company and it was really rough at the start investing in that and not the affiliate industry, but it was one of the best things he ever did.
A couple months before I had this conversation we signed a deal with blu electronic cigarettes to take over their “customer acquisition and growth” through email. They had been collecting email addresses for a long time, but never sent out any emails other than sale alerts.
Within a couple months we started to account for a very significant portion of their sales that were coming in from emails I had constructed for them. The most interesting thing we found was that not only were new customers purchasing their product, but existing customers were purchasing their product through our emails.
Even blu came to us and said what an amazing impact it had on their company and that we should think about just doing this service for companies. However, I never really thought about it.
And that was it – Par Program was born.
It met my basic screening test:
Was this a badly needed service? – Yes, anyone who sells a product or service drastically can benefit from the PAR Program.
Is this a service that I would use every day ? – YES! Forget about what I bring to the table for a minute… The features and level of service of a true enterprise level automated mail marketing service was badly needed.
So, again that’s it. That is what I am doing, and I am going to do this right.
But, it’s obviously not that easy. In order to do this right I needed to get away from the fly by night stuff, which has always brought in an awesome injection of capital when needed. Plus, I had a LOT of overhead still, and to do this right I needed to commit to investing a lot of money carried over from last years profits.
It was very painful to see your monthly financial reports in the red… sometimes tens of thousands of dollars… month after month. Being told we will now profitable… then surprise we lost money again. Sometimes I just felt so demoralized like there was no hope, and I should just quit and take up plan b. I don’t like that feeling.
Fortunately, we were on the right path though and midway through the year we were back in the green monthly and attacking our debt aggressively.
As of December, the PAR Program is now over $50,000 a month in gross revenue. Our overhead is 1/4th (literally) of what it was a year ago.
So, now we are on the right track and it has been an educational experience to say the least.
Here is what I have learned from switching to running a real company:
Talk to smart people with real experience : I was in the Entrepreneurs Organization, and a huge thing they do is allow you to present problems to other business owners. Just to be in the organization you have to be the majority owner, and do over a million a year in revenue. In my group there was a medical delivery company CEO, a printing company CEO, a heavy construction company CEO, a local sandwich franchise owner, and a janitorial service company CEO. I met with these guys all the time, and even though their businesses have nothing to do with the internet, just the learning the basic business structure for me has been priceless. I have routine calls with people that own internet companies and some of them I have weekly calls scheduled. I also pay a couple grand a month to a guy I highly respect to have a one hour conversation with him and my team. He holds my team accountable and even myself. It’s kind of like a business coach, only more like a 1 hour a week CEO. However, the thing is he is a guy that has been a CEO at various internet companies and currently is running his own search marketing agency. So more then just holding me responsible he has my respect when he tells me I am doing it wrong.
Do not underestimate what you bring to a company: I have been making money selling millions of dollars of my own products/services AND selling other people’s products and services as an affiliate. Now consider this, a company gives 30% or more to a affiliate network to make sales, then the network gives half to an affiliate (formally me). But, now through the PAR Program I am doing this directly for the company and not only is everything 100% off of their plate it’s also much cleaner, insightful, and it delivers a much larger ROI then what they were doing through affiliate networks. Well there is a lot more… copywriting, graphics, marketing insight… I mean I bring 10 years of invaluable experience doing this.
ROI on everything: I am not sure why this always escaped me, I am dead serious on this. I never thought of things this way, but one day I came to a revelation that everything I spend money on I need to get a positive return. This actually seems comical given the fact I have been calculating ROI promoting affiliate offers like crazy that I never actually looked at more obvious things.
One of the big things, actually THE biggest was employees. If I am spending 10k a month on an employee what am I getting back? But, this is as much about me as it is any of my employees. Lets say I am worth $500/hr to the company when focused on what I am best at. So, if I can hire 2 full time people to take care of misc things at $15 an hour that not only take up time, but distract me from what I do best then you would have to be an idiot not to do it. Again as crazy as this sounds I would say at least half of my time was being taken up with jobs that I now have interns doing.
Roles and responsibilities: Make a list for each of your employees on what their role and responsibilities should be. Ask them to do the same including exactly what they do day to day. Make them responsible for the job they are doing and the tasks they are responsible for. Do not, under any circumstances, do something that is their task. The problem with knowing how to do everything is that you know how to do everything, and if you’re like me and have no patience it’s very very hard to wait for someone to fix an issue that you know you can easily do. But, here is the problem if you fix the issue. It now becomes your responsibility. The person who was previously responsible for fixing that issue no longer has ownership of it. You do. When a client goes around their client manager cause its 9pm on a Sunday night, and they know you will be available cause you have no life you need to tell them to go through their client manager. Otherwise guess what? You are now their client manager. When they ask their client manager if I did what I said I would do at 9pm on Sunday she/he will be like um what is this? And like I said you are now their client manager. My point is this – I am a badass at sales, marketing, and copywriting. Those are my roles and responsibilities. When I do another employee’s job it’s a bad use of my time, costs me money, and undermines my employees.
Getting things done: Read the book. It has changed my life.
Regular short meetings: Another thing that made a huge impact. It’s important to meet everyday for a few minutes. Everyone tells me where they are at on the projects they are working on. If time lines have changed, over/under budget, and if they need any help. I try to limit each person to 5 interrupted minutes. Someone will take detailed notes especially if someone needs help.
Now don’t get me wrong… Sometimes I can’t help but promote the occasional affiliate offer or try some new angle on something. But it’s more like a hobby to me.
I also planned for a slow January this month so, I am releasing the book (hopefully on the 7th or 8th FINALLY). I am doing Affiliate Summit, will be home for a day (1 day) and then going to Hawaii with my wife for 10 days. So, between January 12th and 31st I will be home 5 total days.
I have had an agency approach me about shooting an infomercial, which I am still not sure about… but basically I don’t have to do anything but film. I also have a smaller product that will be coming out this month.
But, for the most part 99% of my day is focused on the PAR Program.
I went through some hard times, recovered, and refocused in 2012. I look forward to a much more organized, focused, and profitable 2013.