Question for you…and really be honest about this…
Are you creating a job, a business or an exit with your web design business?
If you’re anything like me, you likely stumbled into web design, just happy to make money building sites and freelancing. Then before you know it, you have a legit business.
Then the questions become…
- Do you carry on as a freelancer/solopreneur?
- Or do you make this thing into an actual business? Something bigger than yourself, perhaps even a small shop or agency?
- Then, what’s the long game look like? Do you want to build websites forever? Or eventually build an asset to sell like I did?
If you’ve never sat back and thought about this, now is a great time. It’s really all about casting a vision for your business that you can make solid plans around for the next couple of years.
To help you with this, I can’t think of anyone better to share how to successfully cast a vision for your business than the CEO of Smart Passive Income and Pat Flynn’s biz partner, Matt Gartland!
Matt is back on the podcast to help you identify what you really want to create as a web designer…a job, business or potentially an exit.
Whether you’re brand new to your business or a seasoned agency owner thinking about the future THIS EPISODE IS FOR YOU!
Seriously, boy howdy did I enjoy this one. And I think you will too.
In this episode:
01:43 – Create a Vision for Web Design
13:36 – Understanding Mission, Vision, and Goals
24:29 – Incubators and Small Business Growth
30:56 – Pivoting a Business Model
34:41 – Sunsetting Services and Pursuing New Business
42:16 – Apple’s iPod and Web Designer Evolution
45:56 – Measuring Lifetime Value and Future Planning
Connect with Matt:
Featured links mentioned:
Episode #310 Full Transcription
I received some and this will sound basic, this will sound very fundamental and maybe that’s the point, but very good, salient, sober advice from an executive coach a long time ago which is like what are you building? Are you building a job, are you building a business or are you building an exit? And if you sit with that question for long enough, you might actually kind of get some a-has popping off at you. Welcome to the web design business podcast, with your host, josh Hall, helping you build a web design business that gives you freedom and a lifestyle you love.
Hello friends, great to have you here for another episode of the web design business podcast. I just sneezed like big time hardcore dad sneeze. Something may got on the mic so I’m recovering from that sneeze, so I had to rerecord this intro. Anyway, so good to have you for this episode of the podcast because we have a very special guest. The CEO of smart passive income, matt Garland, is here with us in this episode and, my gosh, you guys, this conversation I’m so excited to share with you something that he’s been actually personally challenging me with, which is to really ask yourself and think about what you’re creating in your business. Are you creating a job as a freelancer, as a solopreneur, web designer? Are you creating a real business that you’re going to run and treat like a business, or are you even potentially creating an exit? Do you have the idea that maybe you don’t want to do this forever and you may want to sell this, in which case you’re going to build your business very differently if you’re going to plan to sell it one day? This really gets into the idea of vision for your business, and I was going to originally call this episode like how to vision cast your web design business, but, as Matt and I talked about this, he became so apparent that this is the topic we need to dive into. So we’re going to dive into just that to help you cast a vision for your business, no matter where you are, what stage you are in your business, to help you decide whether you are creating a job, a business or an exit. If you don’t know Matt, again, he’s the CEO of smart passive income. If that brand sounds familiar, it’s because it was founded by Pat Flynn and Matt has been partnered with Pat for many years now, and why I’m extra excited to bring Matt on here is he just has an incredible skill set with vision. And what’s been really interesting is I’ve seen Matt and Pat execute this big change in the smart passive income brand with how they present their courses and their training and their resources, and I’ve seen them, over the years, create a vision for a two to three year roadmap, execute it and like finish like a complete a phase of their vision and move on to the next thing. It really is inspiring. So I think it’s going to help you again, no matter where you are with your business, to help you create a vision, maybe even to encourage you to just pause for a second and have a CEO day and go think about your business and really be real about what you want to create. This really helped me and I’m excited to hear it’s going to help you too. Now, real quick, before I bring Matt on. I cannot recommend enough the courses that Pat Flynn and Matt Gartland here offer inside of SPI. They have been some of the most impactful courses for me. The ones I’ve been through are these power up podcasting course by Pat Flynn, their email marketing course, game changer and perhaps one of the most ones that’s maybe the most underrated, is their webinar course. I cannot recommend enough that you guys check these courses out, even as web designers. Even if you don’t think that these are applicable to you, they have a suite of courses that are crucial for all entrepreneurs, even web designers. So if you’re interested in their courses, we have a special link set up. You can go to joshallco S P I courses and that will zip you over to their all access pass to see if any of their courses are a good fit for you. To help you out. I’ve gone through many of them. I am in that community, I’m in their all access pass and I highly recommend it. Additionally for those of you who are really serious about taking the next level to your business, they have a pro community S P I pro. If you’re interested in that, go to joshallco S P I pro and you can felt the application to see if that would be a good fit for you. For those of you who are really on the next level interjectory in your business, those links will be, of course, links in the show notes for this episode of joshallco, slash three, 10. All right, without further ado, here is Matt Gartland, ceo of smart passive income. Let’s talk vision and help you decide whether you are creating and what you want to create Either a job, business or an exit. Matt, welcome back on to the podcast man round two. Pleasure to have you again. Thanks so much for taking some time to chat today.
It’s the new year. Thanks, buddy, for having me back. It’s a thrill.
I intentionally wanted to get you back on in this new year because, as I mentioned before we kicked off here, you being local in Columbus Ohio as well, I count it. First of all, publicly I want to say it’s an honor to know you and to be able to chat with you often. We recently had a meet up and you just kind of nonchalantly just laid out the vision that you had for S P, I and smart passive income and then how it kind of came to life over the past three years. I was thinking about that chat we had and I was like gosh, there’s so much gold in there that I wanted to just kind of to not only learn from but just to help my audience out with as well. Because I think there’s a big difference and a challenge with casting vision for particularly web designers and entrepreneurs, and you even mentioned there’s kind of a difference between vision and goals. Would you care to explain maybe, how you view vision and goals and the difference?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, vision is remarkably important, but maybe, to put it in contrast, yeah, let’s start with actually goals. If we think about goals as the things that we want to achieve, they’re the results of our hard work. They are things that are outputs. If we are doing the work, if we’re working with web design clients, if we’re redesigning and launching our own website, if we are enhancing our sales materials or pitch decks or things, that’s all the work and we do that in part to hopefully achieve again the outputs of goals. That might be an increase in clients, an increase in revenue, an increase in a profit margin. We might also just want to optimize for time. We want to get more of our time back in terms of our lifestyle, businesses or things that are quantifiable in nature. These are things that are goals, but hopefully these goals are dimensions of something bigger. They are aspects of the prism that is vision. So why accomplish an increase in revenue? Why pursue that? Why also, at the same time, maybe try to get more time back in your business? Why do you potentially want to especially if you’re a web designer maybe move into a different form of a channel in terms of customer acquisition, because maybe you’ve specialized really well in one niche market and maybe now you’re considering growing into a second niche market. Essentially, why do all of those things? You could ask why, on repeat, and the answer should hopefully be informed by some bigger idea, some larger purpose, and that’s what we think about in terms of vision. What I really appreciate and I think is underappreciated in general. My spicy opinion when we think about vision and we talk about vision is that when it’s formulated really well and with great intention, vision informs direction. It gives you a bearing Let you know I need to go this way, not this way and is your master decision-making filter on what should I be doing and what should I be prioritizing in my small business. What am I trying to grow up to be that is useful for any form of really an entrepreneur, whether you’re a web designer, you’re a creator, you’re a coach, you’re an executive consultant or something like that. These concepts are transmutable. They’re usable in almost any business model, which is why I think they’re that valuable and that powerful, why I think there’s even a resonance when you and I were having coffee and catching up at the end of the year on this stuff. The last thing I’ll maybe say in terms of trying to define really what vision is, is that you should know when you get there. Again, with the discipline with which you put it on paper and you actually you write it out and you maybe go through some revisions as anyone should even we still do to really sharpen it into something that is clear and precise. The standard benchmark, or earmark, is to think about two to three years. If you’re writing a vision statement as a small business owner, as an entrepreneur, you want to write that statement thinking ahead, future state to two to three years forward. Then you will know if you get there in two to three years. That should be your reality two or three years from now. It’s not your reality today, but it should be your reality two or three years from now. That’s what a vision is and then it’s brought to life, to come full circle with the goals.
That’s so well-framed and well said. Yeah, I’m sure I was probably drooling and mouth agape talking with you because I realized, oh my gosh, I’ve been a part of the SPI world since shortly before you started. I feel like the vision of the last three years and I’ve seen it come full circle. I’m like this is amazing. But it all starts with that vision which I’ve personally struggled with. I have a hard time and I’m sure I’m not alone in looking past about a year. Maybe that’s just intentionality, that I haven’t really thought through what that would look like, but I think for me the waters were muddied between the difference between a goal and a vision. Is it fair to say that a vision would almost be like the mission and a goal would be the roadmap? That actually is the practice. How would you yeah, is there a way to kind of no you’re very, very close.
That’s really great thinking. A vision statement and a mission statement technically are two distinct things, but they operate at sort of the same altitude. So your mission statement would almost be something that and a lot of larger companies, especially tech companies, do this like they put it on the wall, like it’s almost your tagline or your mantra statement. It’s something that, if also you craft that really, really well, it is timeless, like it works, like infinitely, it’s consistent, it’s accurate, it ages well and you can go out there and just search in Google for high profile companies you think Tesla or you think Ikea or Lego or Nike, and what are their mission statements. And mentioning of Nike, I don’t mean their slogan, I mean what is their corporate mission statement. So those things exist and that should really speak to, I would say again, to be timeless, like it’s the essence of who you are as either an entrepreneur if it’s just you or just like your business. So that’s what a mission is and hopefully that mission, because a mission is something that you’re never going to get to. It’s not a point on the horizon that you achieve in terms of a live reality. It is unattainable. It’s just sort of like it is the energy orb that’s inside you powering. The guiding light, maybe, yeah, which, again is complementary because they’re useful together, but distinct from vision, where vision is something you can achieve, but you can get to that live reality. Mission statements are typically shorter they’re a sentence right or a sentence fragment right, they’re really punchy, whereas a vision statement that might be a paragraph right and inside that paragraph, again, to try to give some dimensionality in shape to a vision that then, like, you will know when you get there, you should probably have some numbers, some metrics, like so maybe you are putting a revenue goal out there, maybe you are talking about a team, a part of your vision, and this isn’t, again, true for everybody. But this is again the magic of, like working on your vision, right Is I want a team, I want a small team, I want to have a couple people on my team full time. If that’s true for you, then that should probably maybe be written into your vision statement and then you can put a target in terms of number of people on your team. Right Is another way of doing it If you’re thinking about evolving your business in, say, brand like rebrand, right. Or if you’re evolving your business model, or like how you position your business in relation to the market that you’re serving and it’s going to take two to three years to get there, because it’s a big thing. Then talk about that as well inside your vision statement. And that last point certainly maps, josh, as you know, to SPI. You know, in the journey that we’ve been on over I mean quite a number of years now, right, in terms of our vision and mission, the mission has evolved a little bit, but I’d say like the essence of it has always kind of been there. But the vision has definitely changed, right, because you get two to three years out. We’ve mostly hit those marks, you know, over time. And then you have to vision cast again and at least in the world of SPI coming out of last year, now that we’re recording in January of 24. Like, we’ve mostly hit the then current vision statement. So it was time to like reintroduce the next vision statement. So our next vision statement is for 2027. So the one that I rolled out to the team at our strap planning summit in New Orleans last year, last October, was effectively the 2027 vision for the company, like where we will be. If we maintain course and we achieve what we need to achieve, we will be here by 2027.
So much gold here, matt, I think I just had a mental breakthrough, realizing that a mission is timeless. The vision is probably a two to three window and then the goals. I would imagine could be broken down quarterly, annually, to make sure you’re on track for the vision.
Yeah precisely right the goals are. Think of them like really important breadcrumbs, right. They kind of lead the way, and goals can change and flow over time, because maybe you’re in a season of your business where revenue is really important I would say that probably revenue is always important, but maybe in this particular season it’s especially important. Maybe you’re trying to build a new revenue stream, right. So you want to define that as a goal and, like you can think about also kind of just to re-reference tech startups, like frequently, with tech startups that are well capitalized, if they’ve raised a lot of funding, they operate unprofitably with intention, like profitability is not a goal, right. Profitability might be our goal, though, or in different seasons, profitability may become more of a goal, right. So goals can ebb and flow and, again, think of them as like those really important breadcrumbs along the way.
So, when it comes to casting a vision, this is what I think I just I don’t have any true experience with this. I haven’t really read enough about this or been in any programs that have helped guided me through this to this point, but I’m just wondering how far the two to three window makes sense to me. I even struggle looking that far, though, and I can’t imagine I’m uncommon with that, but I guess how would you help me or anyone who has trouble looking past about a year with what it looks like, because I have an idea of what I want, but I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing or what it looks like. I guess the question is okay. Now we’re in, like you know, therapy session, matt, why can’t I look past a year?
if we’re going to dumb this question down, yeah, I will do my best to play therapist, but I’m not a certified therapist.
Business therapist, of course.
Yes, precisely More. Maybe executive coach a little bit, but any which way, you’re absolutely, especially not alone. It is remarkably common in, not just like the creator world but, in my strong opinion and my experience, most of the startup world in general, small business, because so many of us that are founders or co-founders starting these little companies, whether again, they are service-based or product-based, or if they’re any commerce or if they are anything, we come to that, almost trying to solve our own problems as some version of a maker. We’re trying to make the thing. We’re a creator, we have creative energy, we’re doing the work. We don’t always, and especially not usually, come from, I’d say, a deliberate business background. I just happen to come from a business background, I guess, among other backgrounds. I guess the point there is yeah, it’s just an underdeveloped muscle, I guess, to play pseudo-therapist, I don’t in any way analyze what you’ve even just said or our conversations today, josh, as, like I don’t know, you have some unprocessed source of trauma when you’re past that business, that is blocking you? I think it’s reps. We need more reps. Or, to mix metaphors at bats, to think about baseball Most of us that are participating in the creator economy and continuing to try to find our way online especially. We’re doing this without a playbook. We’re making it up and we’re listening to good people as best we can select them. I’ll continue to throw a spicy opinion in the mix which is so much of it for years and it feels like it’s even getting louder is build your audience, build your list, which these are all really important things like. To be sure, it drowns out some of this conversation. It drowns out. But what are you building? It’s one thing to be like yeah, you should go build an email list and get skilled in email marketing. Oh, by the way, you should also get serious just about, maybe, copywriting, because that’s really important for conversion. Maybe you can consider a podcast too. Those are all important things to take seriously and seriously considered doing. If you make the choice to do that work, okay, do it well and hopefully it’ll generate results. Still, I could ask the question of why do that? That’s the work. That is a bottom’s up approach to business. Let me just start doing work, see if it works and maybe at some point I’ll figure it out along the way. I’m not trying to be in any way and I hope I’m not coming across like dismissive or putting that down. It’s a great way to get a lot of experience, but it is again incomplete. It doesn’t take a moment to take a breath and step out of the work and say, okay, this is all the bottom’s up stuff. I should probably think top down also. I should think top down about why am I doing this, where do I want to be, and then also look at your business that way.
I think you’re spot on, matt. What you’re making me realize is what the path that I took, coming from a musician background into just building websites, doing graphic design, to suddenly doing that for clients and then suddenly I have a business so I had to learn to go from being a freelancer just hunting for work where I could to being a business owner, and I think, in a lot of ways, the years of doing that is still what I’m working through now as an entrepreneur and as a business owner is I’m continuing to take things like vision casting, mission and big picture stuff more seriously. Where I was quite reactionary the first decade of my journey as an entrepreneur and I think that’s I think you helped me pinpoint exactly why I struggle, or have struggled, with really thinking past about a year, because I tend to think about annual goals and that’s about it. Like I know what I want to make, I know what kind of lifestyle I want this year, but that’s about it. But this is really framing this differently and I think it makes a lot of sense to my audience too, who have the same path that I did primarily your freelance crap. You got a business. Now you’re becoming a business owner. What I would love to know is what is the difference and what are the categories between a vision and a goal, like I imagine. With vision, like you mentioned, revenue is probably a part of that. Team may be a part of that, but I imagine those could still be goals too. So I guess I’m kind of curious how do you see the difference between what a vision is that’s like a two to three year thing and a goal, but maybe a year?
Yeah, no, that’s great. Let me start again with vision, actually an important quality to me and, I think, especially for business owners in more advanced lifecycle phases of their business. So maybe not necessarily from day one, when you’re freelancing, for example, right, but as you get some traction and as it’s working and you’re evolving, I think this quality I’m about to express takes on that much more value and significance, which is like the identity of your company, right? Identities are really powerful and important thing to think about, to distill, to try to be very precise about with language, and when you think about describing your company, your small business, what is the identity of that? Right? If you’re a web designer, do you have a web design agency? Is it a web design studio or is it not that Like, what is the identity you’re choosing for your company, not only in the current moment, right, but vision-wise, two to three years forward. For SPI, we’ve made some really bold moves when it comes to the notion of identity. First and foremost, it’s not just about Pat, right? So for folks listening that have familiarity with SPI and with Pat, he’s the creator. I came into the picture a little bit later and yet and Pat’s still a really critical piece of the puzzle, Don’t get me wrong, and he’s still kind of the face of the brand, but we’re a media company. At least that was the identity that we really chose and built more into. I’d say it’s starting three years ago when Pat and I really decided to take some bigger moves. Right, it wasn’t just oh, we’re a creator or we’re a personal brand, oh, it’s Pat Flynn, and it’s like no, there’s a team, there’s a larger purpose, yada, yada. And now, as I rolled out to the team last year and we’re starting to talk about it a little more publicly with that new vision statement for 2027, because we are all in on community and think, josh, we’ve talked about it and I believe I’ve brought up on the show in the past Our bigger idea is to become much more the incubator for online small businesses, and that word choice and that identity is very deliberate. It pulls from references and inspirations, at least to me, in terms of thinking about tech stars and white combinator as really remarkable organizations in the tech world that are incubators of tech companies. I think about other much larger professional organizations like Vistage and EO and some of those sorts of models that are private networks for business owners and executives, and we’re trying to create a hybrid idea of that and a more approachable version of that for an underrepresented in our opinion swath in the market. Because when you think about tech stars and white combinator from the tech world and Vistage and EO and others in this higher end executive coach access kind of play, they’re expensive, they’re hard to get into and we’re often kept out of those things. I’ve gotten into some of those in the past, at least Vistage in EO but we want to be able to create a version of that that’s really helpful and very approachable for creators, freelancers, coaches, consultants, small business owners, solo printers. So to us that’s a really galvanizing idea. It’s a bigger idea than just like oh, we have courses, right, oh, or it’s just one person. Now our vision is to be the go-to incubator for online small business in the way that we define that.
Is that what identity, be a part of the mission or separate from the mission? If you were to write out a mission statement, I think the mission informs it.
I think the mission is a big part of the energy source of the vision. So again, I think they are, or I know them to be, in the way that I have practiced them and have learned them from my past mentors, right, and executive coaches, like they are distinct things but they work so well together and they should very much interlock, yeah. So, yeah, and I may be over-processed, that’s all right. But then again, from that vantage point, in that point of contrast, goals are very outcome-oriented and the way that I coach this and teach this is to even not only have like a number, like an absolute value. I want to generate X in revenue, I only want to work so many hours per week, et cetera, et cetera. But in addition to that absolute value is to have the rate of change as a percentage. So if you track these things and it’s not overly difficult to do, at least in terms of some of the fundamentals so again, let’s just take revenue. It’s like, okay, you might know your gross revenue figure from last year and maybe for this year, or you could subdivide that down to a quarterly level and say, hey, I want to hit now this revenue number and that represents a percent growth of Y, right. So if X is the revenue goal as an absolute value, y is the percent growth as a rate of change, if that makes sense, and that’s what a goal is. A goal is something that you hit the bull’s eye, that’s what you’re shooting out with your arrow right, and you can also put against it a percent rate of change.
Yeah, that makes a tenet sense too, because I was wondering. One of the questions I had for you was like, how do you measure a vision other than like getting to the tail end of three years and being like, all right, where are we at with it? Do you? Do you measure a vision annually, or or how do you? How did you more specifically measure the vision in any way you could with SPI? Since what? 2019 to the end of twenty three or so?
You measure vision, I guess, insofar as you have confidence in some version of forecasting okay, to the things that you care about and the things that you’re defining within your vision. So if you say like, hey, you know, in three years I’m going to be a million dollar business, right, because you’re not a million dollar business right now. But if you want to be right and you say, okay, so I’m going to be a million dollar business, I’m going to have like one million as a number as a part of my vision statement somewhere. It’s like okay, well, I know what my number is today starting point. I know where I want to be million dollars to three years from now. I have a path and I need to maintain a path. I need to, in fact, measure rate of change. I need to measure growth rate, right. So then that’s, that’s how you would measure. Vision is like okay, once you get six months in your first year in, hopefully, there is growth is. Is that growth path like going to get you there, right? Is it going to get you to that million in two to three years? Or are you under that, right? Or maybe you’re over that, maybe you’re just killing it, right, which would be great. So that’s how I would measure, like vision right. So you’re using goals and goals within different time frames, whether you’re doing goal planning at a quarterly level, at a biannual level or doing it at an annual level. And these are all independent personal choices. There is no like right or wrong. There’s no judgment to this. It’s. These are all tools that you know different entrepreneurs can can select and use and wheel differently. But then like whatever you choose and let’s just take annual because it’s maybe a little more commonplace it’s like okay, and let’s say the vision is three years to kind of give it a longer time horizon Okay, well, growth is never linear. Don’t think that it’s going to be, but you could use that as a swag. So it’s like okay, if I’m at $100,000 right now and I want to be at $1 million three years from now, I need to generate on average a growth of $300,000 per year for three years. That would be a linear growth rate. Is it going to be that? Probably not likely. Things always go up and down, but the net average right up and down. If you were to like zoom out from that graph, if you plotted it right, would be like your trajectory is good even though it’s going up and down, like in the like, month to month or whatever, like your overall trajectory is, you’re on target right to hit that million dollar larger aspiration as a part of your vision state.
I love that idea, matt, of like looking at the two to three year mark, because I’ve tended to and again, sure, I’m not alone I tend to look at years as standalone things. I’m like 2019 was here, 2020 was here, which was a big year for me. As a course, grader 21 was my biggest year to date. 22 was a slight drop in 23,. As I mentioned to you and as I mentioned publicly, it’s been a really challenging year, but the foundation, particularly the back half of 2023, was much better. If I zoom out on this, what feels like a bit of a failure year for me personally and full transparency of 2023, I’ve actually what I’ve realized I’ve done is I’ve started the new vision. I kind of ended the vision in 2022 for my business, set up the way it was as a solopreneur, but now that I’ve got web designer pro going and really made this its own thing, with me as the leader and the driver, but it’s become a community. It was a business model shift for me. It was a pivot for me that I I didn’t really tactfully, you know, plan the vision. I just kind of kind of happened. I would do some things differently. But what I, what I am excited about now and why. Why I’m thinking about this like zooming out approaches. While it’s a bit of a painful year in the short term, I actually think as I zoom out and look at the forecast for the next couple of years, this is probably the best decision I’ve ever made and it was just pivoting when I really didn’t clearly lay out the vision. But now that’s what I’m working on. It’s one reason I wanted to have this conversation live with you is I’m literally looking at the next two or three years now, which I’ve never done before. I was standing really exciting. You mentioned to me something about the analogy of like turning the battleship. Can you explain that, especially for somebody like myself who has a business in motion and had a big six, multi, six figure business in motion? It’s not something that I could easily just turn off and switch around. And even with with launching web designer pro, which is really similar in a lot of ways to what you have, it’s kind of a hybrid between what you’ve done with SPI pro in your all access academy, the community of courses Mine’s kind of the hybrid of both of those, but it was a big shift between what I had previously with just selling well and off courses and that was pretty. That was pretty much it. I was living and dying off of launches. I had really good months and really bad months, but they kind of even now. Now I have lesser waves but I have much more stable income that is not gone would going up into the right month after month, so that might my. My succinct question on this is like how do you pivot something that is, you know, in my case, like a several hundred thousand dollar business that’s in motion but I need to change it or want to change it, or want to cast a vision for the next few years, and that being a bit different, yeah, I think you’ve almost beautifully even described almost your own or answered your own question there, which is that it’s slow and messy, at least frequently, but it was also usually.
If someone like you is seriously contemplating this, like if it just intrinsically feels right in terms of how you want to show up and add value to the customers and clients you have, and your own sense of the economy and the market and where the market’s going, then it’s worth doing like, it’s worth going through the slowness and maybe some version of the messiness to to transform right, to kind of enter that cocoon as a caterpillar and try to emerge as something very different, right. And again, that’s my own lived experience, and not only with SPI, just more recently with SPI, but some of my past startups also we’ve done, you know, different kind of identity transformations, not just with the words but then the underlying model as well. And all of that throws back to the battleship reference right as a metaphor, you know, which is like these are big boats that you can’t just snap their direction and turn on the dime right, like they take wide arcs in the open ocean. You know to turn these things, and I think that is not only true, I think it’s. It’s frequently maybe underappreciated in the small business kind of entrepreneur community, because, oh, it’s like it’s just us, it’s small, it’s just me or I have a small team and, at the end of the day, like it’s not the biggest business, right, like, so I should be able to change that quickly and maybe you can. But I think, even in a way that you just described it, like and or, and maybe I’ll just speak to my own experience and I’ll try to guess too much to your, but like you don’t want to just like I don’t know fire all your clients overnight, right, right, like there’s a certain, perhaps, sense of obligation or duty or responsibility to how you’re showing up right now and in serving and thinking about how do I sunset that? Right, how do I give people notice? How do I try to wind things down? Right, how do I do that in a way that I can feel good about in terms of my service levels, right to my clients? But ultimately I am, I’m living out and beginning to live into the transformation, right, right, the vision, the new vision that I want to pursue and that right, there is the turning of the ship. Right, it’s not you’re snapping it overnight, but you’re trying to create an arc, right, trying to create an arc to what you’re doing, to mix metaphors and, without hopefully confusing people, are making it messy. You can think about as the bridges analogy, like you have, you have a bridge right now, right, going over something, and it’s an old bridge. It’s a bridge you don’t want, right. You want to build a new bridge, right, but you can’t just blow up the current bridge before the new bridge is done, right. So you have to keep operating and maybe throttle down over time, right, like traffic flow, if you will. They keep the keep with the metaphor the way, I know why this my?
because there’s so much dang construction in Columbus. I feel you there.
Well, yes, yes, nice, yeah, but you got to build up the new one then and then at some point at some point that old, that old bridge comes down, yeah, right, at some point. So, like for us and I know so many others, especially in the online education, professional education space that you know did just like live through the golden age, as we did, of, you know, diy core sales, right, which, in my opinion of the market and I know others do as well like, we’re past that golden age. Like you know, online’s core sales, diy core sales, are never going to go to zero. But, especially if you’re entering the market and you’re more of a beginner, you’re more kind of at the ground level, like it’s Increasingly hard to make that like your key thing, right. So, anyway, like we had to intentionally cannibalize that revenue stream which was a choice, a deliberate choice we made, which is a hard choice to make like to take our primary revenue stream and Crater it right and somehow do that responsibly so that, like you know, you don’t end up without a business, right, while then you’re trying to build up a new revenue stream that you want, right, and try to throttle that so that again you remain cash-flow neutral or at least you know you maintain operating capital and you know you’re not trying to upset a lot of clients or customers over here and you have to re educate them on a whole lot of things. So that was true for us right like there’s so much going through that right now. Yeah, absolutely right.
So yeah, that’s, that’s why this stuff is is difficult.
It takes more, I’d say like practice skill takes more reps takes more critical kind of top-down executive business thinking, you know, to design, to plan out, then just kind of like again rushing into it from a bottoms-up standpoint and just doing work and Trying to have it all produce something that you know is intentional. This is so great too, matt, because I feel like what’s more common, particularly for my audience of web designers is, the first few years are messy.
We’re just trying to make enough to pay our bills and become a freelancer. We realize we have a business and then suddenly, then the goals and the vision and the mission and the forecasting comes into play, even more so at the new year, right now, with everyone here in this episode. Now is the time to really look at the future of the business and the future of the business. It’s the time to really look at that vision over the next two to three years and what that looks like. But it brings us to a really interesting point that we’re at right now, which is that Most of my audience already have some web design clients and I’ve helped a lot of members of my pro community shift this to where they’re like yeah, I don’t want to do graphic design anymore, I just want to do websites, which was my story, and I I learned that term that you just said a little bit ago sunset. I think it’s a really important term to focus on here because you’d, like you said, you need to be very tactful With how you change your offers and your models, not to piss off your current clients, not to blow up your revenue streams If you don’t have something stable behind it. Um, and I think that term sunset is something that is probably not is talked about in the entrepreneurial world. Uh, which kind of makes me think about making like a playbook on it for for my pro members, because I’ve learned a lot about that, which was to like ease down services, make some small shifts, or maybe reserve those old services for your best clients, but just not promote it or publicly do it, and then start to change the narrative about how you help with copy messaging on your website. That’s kind of how I sunseted. Uh, sunset, what’s the right word there? Sunset it. Well, anyway, that’s kind of what I do with my web design business. I went from being a graphic designer to doing websites, to doing websites and then phasing out my my graphic design, which is really common, but that gets into the vision, because if you don’t have a vision for how to do that, what that looks like, and I imagine you could even set goals and bitch sparks on, like, okay, if I do graphic design for three more months, but every month I chip away this and this and this, I guess that’s how you could probably measure sunsetting right, like by the end of the year. I want to Share this completely off my plate, kind of thing.
Yeah, you could define goals and you can use goals to then illustrate a reverse growth rate, like like a decline, right, um, where it’s like you, I currently have 20 clients, right, and you don’t want that anymore in the way that even Josh, you’re articulating beautifully like you want to sunset, dial down that side of your business while you’re growing, maybe a membership community, while you’re trying to do small group stuff, you’re trying to maybe create web design templates, right, and you’re trying to sell them like those useful templates, and I have a buddy in the web design space that does that. So, anyway, so with clients, it’s maybe I want to be at 20, or I am at 20, I should say right now, and I want to be at five at the end of the year. Right, that can be a goal, right. And then when you put goals next to each other, if you again design this with great intention, maybe, maybe the master idea is I want to keep my revenue neutral so you could have a revenue, revenue. Whatever it is today, your goal at the end of the year is the exact same freaking number, right, it is flat, right, but then by itself you’re like, well, okay, whatever. But if you then stack other intention goals to say, look, my revenue is flat but I’m going to have a 75% decrease to the amount of clients I have, going from 20 to 5, right, and I’m going to have X amount of community members from maybe zero, because you don’t have that today. If this is the choice you make, you’re making that choice for your business, right, and then that’s going to create this new revenue, right. Like that’s how you can start to stack these goals together and that kind of tells the story. It tells the story of sunsetting this, bringing this new one up and trying to keep revenue flat at the same time.
Yeah, I love that visualization and that approach. I’ve honestly never thought about that, with the idea of setting goals to reduce a wing of a service intentionally in order for the next best thing to come. I mean, what we’re really getting into is killing off something that’s good, to birth something that’s great, or to create something that’s great. That’s kind of how I’m looking at this.
Yeah, the most perhaps iconic example of this ever is Apple and what they did with the iPod. Right, if you’re old enough, like me, to have lived through that, the iPod was revolutionary Right, of course it was. It was a remarkable invention.
Yeah, now, ken, you’re like what you have to move your thumb in a circle, what?
Yeah, I mean, unless you’re going like I don’t know eBay or some third-party market to like get them, I don’t even know where you would get them. Like Apple doesn’t sell, I don’t think they sell.
I didn’t even think about that yet. I didn’t sell them anymore. I didn’t sell them anymore right now.
Right, I don’t, I mean, maybe they have like one?
Wow, I didn’t even think about that. They literally don’t even sell them. It’s just the phone, right? Yeah?
Well, so they took their. I believe that one moment it was their flagship product. It was the thing that was their wedge, that drove revenue like the craziest. It was their thing. Right, that was super mass market.
Yeah, it’s why podcasts are called podcasts and not radio casts, or yes, right yeah.
So, but they cannibalized it intentionally because of iPhone, right. So like, basically, the iPhone is an iPod that has a phone in it, right, and now a whole lot more. But that was kind of their product evolution, right. So they, they brought down iPod, they cratered it as they had other brand new, more exciting things coming.
Yeah, that’s so interesting man. Again, I’ve been really thinking about that, as my business model has shifted a bit in what is Web Designer Pro, which in my humble opinion, is great. What I had previous to this was good, but I realized I also found pain points with my students and I saw what was working really well. In my case, it was the students who had all my courses and were also getting coaching with me. Those were the ones who are getting the best results and that’s what I decided I need to make something that has all of this and if somebody’s going to go through it, they got to go through all of it to get the results. That’s how I came up with Web Designer Pro. I say that and I share that. Examples to say for any web designers looking at your clients, look at what results the best results you get for clients and then make an offer around that. Did that factor in with SPI, with how you and Pat were looking at students of the DIY courses? Did you find commonalities between students who maybe had more resources that were getting better results? Or I’m just wondering if you were able to measure any student results that help you come up with Pro? And then now the Academy with the all access to courses.
Absolutely, it was a key input, not the only one, but a very clear and to some degree measurable one. So you can in, I would hope, at least every major kind of LMS platform worth its salt the Kajabi’s Think FX, teachables of the world and we use teachable. You can measure. The system will tell you completion rates of your students going through courses. It is an imperfect metric, I will say that, but it is a barometer and traditionally, like not just us but just like in the wider market right of kind of isolated learning, diy course learning, completion rates are pretty low. That’s kind of the general idea. But when you move more into interactive learning, when you move more into cohort based environments or community powered environments, you see exponential improvement in terms of completion rates. And again, it doesn’t tell the whole story, that kind of that one metric, but it begins to tell the story, begins to give the signal, like the direction right to some of these. Now we believe truths, right, empirically, you know, with other things in terms of lifetime value, right, how do you measure lifetime value as a real economic, you know indicator from, you know DIY course sales? And then how do you measure lifetime value from, say, someone now that is a community member, where we have courses and we’re designing pathways through our curriculum and we’re hosting our accelerators, which is what we call it. You know our cohorts and now we can measure LTV in a very different way and it’s a much more exciting number for us, right? So, yeah, absolutely, when we think about retention, we think about quality of experience, when we think about outcomes, right for our students, the results that they’re getting, which is what you’re talking about. You know the model that we have and that others are certainly moving into as well, like we’re doing, I think, with not only the right, I’d say, like business motivations, right to run a healthy, vibrant, profitable company, but also the right customer motivations, right to give them a better quality experience. And potentially, as a very loose parallel, I guess I could think back and then harken back to that iPod, you know example, whereas, like the iPhone, experience is superior right to the iPod, even though the iPod was in its heyday, like the best thing, but there’s just a better thing now.
Gosh. I hope everyone takes that to heart with their own web design customers. Like look at what’s working, make the pivots and changes accordingly to keep on getting better results. Because at the end of the day, what I’ve realized is, if you focus on what gets people better results, it just makes everything stronger. You get more confident with your packaging and your offers and your rates, with how you sell Like it’s a lot easier to sell something when you know a lot of people have gone through this and they’ve got really good results. Suddenly, there’s just a framework and a foundation of confidence that you never really have, especially as web designers, when you’re like I made you a nice site, but I hope it works, whereas you can really start to track and measure those results from web design clients in particular. I just want to encourage everyone to really think about that this year in 2024. Matt, as we get ready to close this conversation now I know we need to both need to roll here soon I did want to ask one thing real quick about vision. It brings me back to when I first started my business. I had a friend from high school who shocker, was not a business owner, he was an employee. But he was like oh, so what’s your five year plan? And I was like Maybe they’ll update that in over years or years, no idea, I could only look a month out back then, let alone a year. So to that I say to you like, what are your thoughts on people who have that mindset of like a five-year plan, a 10-year plan, or do you feel like two to three years is about the max that’s realistic or at least you know, attainable for vision?
Yeah, no, it’s a great question I feel this a good bit of the time when it like teach draft planning as like a formal business discipline. This territory is where we start to kind of get more into the art side of this than, say, the science. You know what’s the difference between a three-year vision and a five-year vision? Not much, honestly, like like, yes, it’s two years and yes, you can accomplish a lot in two years. That’s hopefully, you know, obvious. But when we think about, like, the practical utility of doing that as a business exercise, especially in small business right, where you know resources are limited we’re not, you know, a corporate goliath right when, like, you really need to be, like, really dialed in to probably you know, four or five six-year plans, if you have physical inventory and your supply chains are crazy long and complicated, right, like that’s a whole other thing. Right, in terms of, probably the practical utility of, like a five-year plan being different than a three-year plan. But I think for our purposes as small business owners, there’s not as much variability, right. Right In terms of, again, the practical value of sitting down, especially if you’ve never done this before, like if this is the first time you’re even considering this and hopefully getting excited by this of like sitting down and doing this, like what’s the difference between doing a three-year version versus a five-year version? Frankly, very little right, because it’s new, the reps aren’t there and our businesses are not so sophisticated for some of the reasons I just mentioned, that like it’s going to make the biggest difference in the world. So I guess that’s a more qualitative than quantitative answer, or thought it feels different man, Five years feels way different than three.
Right it feels different right.
It’s a qualitative thing. It’s like I have a better grasp, just mentally. I can almost like get my hands around two years, like I can kind of get a sense of that right, but five years, like I can’t get my hands around that idea as well. So is it worth my time to try to try? Is it worth my time, my team’s time, to try to get our hands around a five-year vision Right? Maybe, but especially if it’s just you, especially if you’re earlier in this kind of practice for your business. Yeah, I would say, stick to the shorter end honestly. Yeah, I think that’s great advice, man.
Well, I have one final question for you, matt. Before I get to that, though, where would you like everyone to go to check you out? I have an affiliate link with SPI that I’ll put in the show notes, but what would you prefer folks go to? Do you want them to? Check out the podcast, or were you? What would you like people to go?
As you know and as I have perhaps said on the show in the past, is like I like being sort of like a silent secret weapon, so like I’m not a big you know Twitter ex-guy or any of the social stuff. You can find me on LinkedIn. If I do anything at all, it’s on LinkedIn. You can just search for Matt Gartland for LinkedIn. And then, yeah, you know, SPI to what even degree like strap planning and business development, just all of these sorts of things potentially excite you. You know I talk about that a lot. I have a course, I run an accelerator around strap planning for entrepreneurs and small business owners inside our pro community specifically that you know. Josh, yeah you have a referral for. So yeah, like check that out if that sounds appealing to you.
Heck. Yeah, man, I’ll make sure we link that all in the show notes. And yeah, I’ve actually dubbed you the Batman of entrepreneurship just because you do a lot of awesome work, but it’s usually in the shadows, not always facing Huge Batman thing. But I’m still going to try to convince you to write a book one day, because I want to read the heck out of that thing that I want to do, that I want to do the get famous online, have a million Twitter followers.
That’s not my thing, but I do want to write a book, okay.
Well, hopefully, maybe that’ll be the after the next three years, maybe that’ll be the next vision. Real quick map for those who are really pumped up about this. What would be like, but they’re still like okay, I’m going to write my vision statement today. What would like a one on one basic vision statement include in them? All help off here.
I received some and this will sound basic, this will sound very fundamental, and maybe that’s the point, but very good, salient, sober advice from an executive coach a long time ago which is like what are you building A job, are you building a business or are you building an exit? And if you sit with that question for long enough, you might actually kind of get some a ha’s popping off at you. Oh, that’s good, because, well, like when we enter, or at least when so many of us do not, to pay, hopefully with two broad brush. But if you endeavor to create your own thing, one of the greatest, most awesome choices in pursuit, I think of you know, sort of even the human experience, not to get too philosophical about it, and there’s no wrong answer here. Let me quickly and very emphatically emphasize that. Next, there’s no wrong answer. But just with intention, if you want to build a really great job, fantastic, do that, right, you know, replace your nine to five or just, you know, create a really great job that supports your family, right, like that would. That would be amazing if that’s true, if that’s what you want. And, quite frankly, even with the entrepreneurial journey, a lot of people start there, right At the freelancing level. I even have that tour duty as well under my belt, right. But potentially over time, you know, at a different season of your business, you may realize, huh, I’ve built a really great job. But now my aspirations have changed, they’ve evolved, and I have a great job and I’m grateful for this job that I’ve created for myself. But I think I want to climb a slightly bigger mountain. I think I want a business now, right, and it’s a very different thought. It’s a very different way to then. Kind of it would flip back on everything we’ve even talked about over the last hour around top down thinking, vision statements, different sets of goals, right, how you’re defining those goals, how you identify yourself in your own head. You’re not just an entrepreneur, you’re now an executive, you’re now a CEO. Right, you got to think and act differently. Should you enter that headspace? Right, you’ve got to think about something you go after. And all of that is even very different than like, if you’re building an exit Now, not many of us do that. Like, exiting is hard, building something that sells is not easy and it’s not for everybody. So I’m not trying to say like, oh, it must be that outcome. I’ve had a couple Like that’s, I guess, exciting to say, but also it’s been torturous. Some of them Like it’s been hard. So that question, yeah, what are you building? And that doesn’t have to be like for the rest of your career, right, it could just be contextualized to what am I building in the next year? What am I building in the next three years? Am I just building a really great job that supports my family in the next two to three years? Fantastic answer. But if it’s like, if you sit with that long enough, if you have talked to your significant other, you talk to some trusted friends, you’re like dude, maybe you should push yourself a little bit more. Or maybe that idea just kind of keeps in on. There’s like you know, I think I want to business, right, that’s great too, but then it really informs. Then subsequent questions right, yeah, to everything we’ve talked about today.
That is some gold advice there, ladies and gentlemen. Matt, thank you so much for this again, and we’ll have to make round three, maybe about exit strategy, because that’s a whole nother conversation we could.
I mean, I have some humding, some humding stories for that.
Yeah, we’ll really dig into the painful, matt. Pass on that one then. But yeah, that’s fascinating. What gold advice. Dude, thank you for your time.
This has been fascinating for me, my pleasure and I’m sure hundreds of others.
So thanks again for coming on, man.
Yeah, Love it, man. Thanks for having me. Cheers Matt.
Is he good or is he good that idea of job, business or exit? I don’t know. I hope it resonated with you just like it did me. It’s really since having this conversation it has really made me re not rethink, but be like more intentional about how I’m thinking about my business and really setting a vision for the next two to three years. Not that things are going to be, you know, set in stone, but it is good to like just take time to think about your business and I hope it helps you as well. Again, I cannot recommend Pat and Matt’s courses with SPI enough. I have been through the podcasting course, the webinar course, the affiliate marketing course several, and you can get access to those as well. If you are interested in taking your web design business to a level where you’re creating more content and building your business in any ways that they can help you maybe doing webinars and workshops for clients you can use that course and you can get access to all of their courses by joining the all access community, which I’m a part of. You can go to my link, joshallco Slash SPI courses to get access there. And again, for those of you who want direct access to Matt in the premium community that SPI offers. You can go to joshallco slash SPI pro for that one. Any questions, let me know. Otherwise, all the resources, links and everything mentioned here are going to be at the show notes for this episode, which you can find at joshallco slash 310. And, my friends, I would love to hear from you If you have any takeaways from this episode. Just leave it there as a comment. If you would go to joshallco slash 310, leave a comment. I read all the podcast comments. I try to get back to each and every one, so I would love to hear if there was a takeaway here that challenged you, and I’ll be. Maybe I’ll even give you some resources and some coaching advice in the comments there. I’m really trying to do that more and more. So zip me a comment. You might just get some free coaching. Sound good, all right, see you over there at joshallco slash 310. And I’ll see you on the next episode. Make sure you subscribe so you get the next one. Cheers, friends.