PreFocus Updates: 2019 Has Been a Tense Year.
As I continue to build out my company and look for a soft place for PreFocus to land, I’ve come to realize my goals and aspirations continue to evolve. Things I once viewed as important are becoming vague memories as we trek forward qualitatively. While partnerships and clients have fueled growth, a commitment to the process has allowed me to continue understanding things from a real perspective, my own – not those you read about and take notes on. When it comes to running a business (or three), experiences are always going to carry you forward. If you’re unable to analyze and understand setbacks or downfalls, you’ll never be able to overcome.
As soon as you think you’ve got one need filled, the bottom falls out and you’re back to square one. No matter how many milestones you reach, a new set always awaits your pursuit. The things you learn and experience along the way will inevitably lead you in the right direction you if you allow them. I was reading a book called “As A Man Thinketh” while my family and I were on vacation and James Allen does an amazing job of painting this picture. There are too many quotes worth referencing so I’ll go ahead and urge you to read it for yourself.
Nonetheless, I took away that far too many of us ignore the actualities of our being in order to hide our deficiencies. We actually work harder to mask than uncover. Ignoring what could eventually drive us into the ground is pure ignorance. Growing through what we go through is the best way to sustain whatever it is you’re building.
Don’t Be a Distraction, Make Things Happen.
Those that call out or demean others for being vulnerable are simply jealous they’re unable to get in touch with themselves this way. But this isn’t just an interpersonal thing, the same can be said for business. You may think your customers don’t care, but they want to know what you’re really up to. They want to know who you really are and what you’re really like. Not just on the good days, but the bad ones too.
Whether you’re a new business owner or a successful CEO, you’re just another human being with flaws. Taking advantage of the lessons you learn along the way and sharing them is a powerful way to eliminate the barrier between the consumer and the business.
Why I’m Doing PreFocus Updates
I wanted to start publishing updates on what’s going on with my companies so people know I’m serious about what we’re building. Over the years, many people have told me it’s extremely difficult for them to understand what it is exactly that I do. They understand what I’m saying, but they aren’t understanding how PreFocus is packaged. But this isn’t discouraging to me, it’s encouraging. I want to know how I can be better and serve better.
PreFocus means so many different things but derives from the same purpose: to market better. So over the past few months I’ve been working at this. Slowly, surely and never haphazardly. The continued success over at Bluesoft has allowed me to remain busy and profitable while doing so. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t faced a number of setbacks since the new year rang.
What I’ve Been Able to Learn Through in 2019.
The beginning of the 2019 was kind of crazy. My business partner (Nate Seeley) and I had just signed two more big clients and our pipeline was full. Before I knew it, I found myself sacrificing family time in order to make it work. Although I have an agreement with my wife to not work overtime or on the weekends, I got a pass because of a life event that was closing in on us. We were expecting our 5th child the first week of March and I was on a mission be be completely present by then.
The first quarter of 2019 also provided me with a unique opportunity. Ever since I started working for myself in 2016, I’ve been chasing consecutive $10k months. As our momentum continued to surge, I was determined to experience these profits before the baby came. Even though I hit this goal and profited nearly $30k before little Selah was born, I wasn’t able to sustain it. You might immediately think it was because I had less time of my hands, but you’re wrong.
Nearly every relationship we fostered up until that point wasn’t sustainable. The clients we took on were looking for employees to hand out their tasks to. The PreFocus element of the business model became lost as we sought out ample contractors to fill client requests. The overwhelment of not being in my element caused me to accept things I normally wouldn’t. Honestly, the way some clients were treating us was blatantly unacceptable. But when the money is there, it’s easy to “ignore” it, right?
By the time the baby came, I was exhausted. But the plateau allowed me to sit back and analyze everything that was going on. It was time to be real with everyone about what we were experiencing.
I have to Remind Myself I’m Invested in Quality.
When I partnered with Nate to evolve Bluesoft, we promised each other we’d commit to quality with opportunistic and purposeful strategies. By mid-March, we found ourselves in the middle of far too many projects that didn’t fit this mold. Without going into too much detail on how disadvantageous this was (due to the amount of experience we had), I’ll keep it simple. We ended up off-boarding (or firing) a handful of clients that didn’t value quality work – and that, quite frankly, weren’t pleasant to work with.
Like I mentioned in a recent article about the value of quality, you can’t always expect people to believe in what you know until they see it for themselves. Instead of continuously seeking appreciation and trying to educate our clients for free, we decided to hit the reset button to a certain extent. It’s been liberating and highly beneficial for everyone involved.
I want to make one thing clear, we did not give up on anyone. We volunteered more than enough time to help them set up an account on Upwork and transition their strategies to new marketers. But the relationships just weren’t meshing with where we’re going, or where we knew we needed to be. But it wasn’t just clients that got the boot. We had to finally come to terms with a marketing partnership that just didn’t make sense. Even though we were receiving a few thousand dollars worth of monthly business, our process and time just wasn’t being respected.
It was hard because we invested a lot of time into this relationship. But realization set in and we found ourselves using the invested time as an excuse. We had to cut the cord in order to progress. The entire time, we were essentially hoping for the best instead of acknowledging it was just never going to work. The type of product and service we want to provide was never going align with the quantitative methods used and we knew it. At the same time, I’ve never really been in business to make friends. Which reminded me, passion isn’t a weakness.
Self Examination Applies to the Entire Culture.
In the end, watching time pass while working harder wasn’t the solution. If we wanted to surpass the goals we already reached, it was impossible without a quality team. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Seeing this also forced us to realize our employees and contractors were holding us back as well. Long story short, since baby #5 joined my family, I’ve held more interviews than I’ve been on. And let me tell you, before I started my business, I went to a lot of interviews.
We had to let go of a project manager we’ve paid nearly $40k to over the last year. We’ve implemented KPI’s and completely revamped the way we go about recruiting. Investing in the person and not their experience means something totally different to us now. Communicating this commitment to our clients has them excited. This shows them we care about them, not about decreasing our costs. Those who’ve respected us throughout now know our standards mean something. That’s what people want from a company claiming to foster growth.
We understand that in order to position PreFocus as a premium entity, we have to posses a premium team in order to execute at a high level. We can’t do it all anymore. This is why establishing Bluesoft comes first. There’s no need for me to sell my ability to piece together a brand if the implementation doesn’t have the same standards. That’s not quality and I’m OK admitting that. Up until a few months ago, the stagnancy has been our fault. The way we’ve been treated has been our fault. But we’re owning it and using this to make the business better.
While it might be easy to point the finger at less experienced people, we inevitably hold the reins to the business. This is what we want to help business owners understand. It’s not always the marketing teams fault you’re not converting prospects. The element of culture has always been important to us. At the same time, we have to understand not everyone will work out. But it doesn’t mean we failed.
We have to commit to finding the right people and set the expectations better. It’s how all businesses should view accountability I have to remember what PreFocus means. I have to stay committed to my vision and not just what provides for my family. We’ve have some very difficult conversations over the past few months, but it’s been liberating. I have to remain humble and patient throughout the process. We know we’re on the right track because it feels right.
Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Original Revelations.
We’re not trying to hide behind a make-believe persona or act like we have everything figured out. We want you to know we’re in for the long haul – and that requires a few hiccups along the way. Documenting the journey allows us to add substance to the story. Although realizations and pivots can be tense, they provide a fruitful harvest for those that learn from them.
Despite my personal profits decreasing 20% since April, I’ve been able to cut my work hours in half. This has allowed me to avoid daily drama, spend more time with my family and start marketing my business again. This blog is a prime example of that. I look forward to continuing the discussion behind PreFocus. I truly believe we all have a journey worth sharing.