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August 17, 2022

Sabir x Simon Severino

TL; DR

Are you starting or growing a service-based business? If so, Simon Severino could help. Severino is a master strategist and he has helped many individuals in the SaaS sector. He joined me for the latest episode of This Week With Sabir to discuss strategies and tips, including insights such as:

  • Hire the Right People: Whether you’re hiring freelancers or full-time staff, you need to hire the right people. These people should be hard-working and capable of growing with your company.
  • Manage Time Efficiently: Use your time efficiently, investing it in areas where it will maximize profit and productivity. The same applies to your employees and if you’re giving them tasks just so they have something to do, things need to change.
  • Don’t Blame Bad Luck: If something fails or you don’t get a client you were chasing, don’t just blame bad luck and move on. More often than not, these failures are a result of poor execution and planning, so look into your methods and see how they can be improved.
  • Use the Right KPIs: What KPIs are you using and why? Always ask yourself this question and don’t just use the KPIs that are common in your industry or have been recommended to you.
  • Grow Operations with Sales: Don’t invest too heavily in marketing and sales without investing in operations. If you suddenly get lots of sales, you’ll want to make sure that you have the means to handle them and don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Be Careful with PR Companies: When working with PR companies, don’t agree to give them a large sum of money every month with no fixed goals. Tell them what you what and define exactly what they should achieve.

Check out the full video or read the accompanying guide to learn more about B2B growth strategies.

How To Grow SaaS And Service-Based Businesses

Simon Severino is the creator of the Strategy Sprints® method, a strategy designed to help SaaS entrepreneurs experience rapid growth. It’s a multi-faceted approach that deals with the many complicated issues that business owners face, and in the following guide, we’ll cover the highlights.

Simon Severino was the latest guest on This Week With Sabir and he was more than happy to provide tips and solutions that can help entrepreneurs in the SaaS and service-based sector.

You can watch the full video on YouTube or embedded on this blog. I have also compiled the following extensive guide, covering all of the points that we discussed and more.

You Need Good People On Your Team

One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when launching a new business is assuming that their skills and knowledge are all they need.

I have seen it many times with digital agencies.

Freelancers work for agencies and through freelancing platforms. They make a lot of money, gain a lot of experience, and realize that they could start a business and do it all themselves.

They do the same work but take a bigger cut—perfect!

But working for a digital agency and starting your own company are two different things entirely.

The work might be similar, but you also have to think about invoicing, staffing, payroll, and marketing. How will you get the clients, how will payments be processed, and what will happen if something goes wrong?

If you’re in the SaaS sector, it can be even harder, and there are many elements at play.

There is no IT department that you can contact when everything goes wrong; no marketing team to help you with a Google Ads issue.

You can’t simply hire all of these teams, either. Chances are, you won’t have a lot of money in those early stages. You can’t rely on a steady income and probably don’t have lots of capital, either.

It can seem like something of a Catch-22, but there is a solution.

It’s important to hire good people as and when you need them and make sure they are adequately trained.

Hire people you trust who are ambitious and motivated. Ideally, you want people who will assume other roles as needed and aren’t just hyper-focused.

For instance, if you’re running a digital agency, look for writers who can cover all subjects and content types, including SEO and marketing copy. Look for designers who can handle websites and landing pages, as well as logos and infographics.

Developers should know Shopify and WooCommerce, as well as other platforms and general development.

If they are not quite experts in all of these things, but they are willing to learn, teach them!

If you can’t quite afford full-time employees, hire freelancers instead. As noted in my guide to launching an online business, freelancers are a great solution for small businesses and service-based businesses. If you discover a freelancer who does great work, keep giving them projects and provide them with the incentives they need to stick around.

Measure The Right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

There are two questions that every entrepreneur should be able to answer about their business:

  • What are your key performance indicators (KPIs)?
  • Why are they your KPIs?

When determining your KPIs, don’t take someone else’s word for which ones are best. Don’t make an assumption based on what a friend or fellow entrepreneur told you.

If someone says, “the most important KPIs are this, this, and this “. Ask them why they are important and do your own research.

Maybe the KPIs that the “expert” is talking about apply to a different industry. Maybe they don’t know what they are talking about.

I’ve seen business owners get excited about impressions and article clicks when they should be focusing more on what those impressions and clicks lead to.

Simon notes that critical thinking is very important. Always think about why those KPIs are being measured, whether they need to be, and if you should change them.

Luck As A Metric

Why do some companies succeed and others fail? Why do some companies and teams get the work and projects while others don’t?

It’s something we dismiss as luck, but in fact, it comes down to execution. In Simon’s words, strategy is nothing without execution.

As the saying goes, “You make your own luck in this world.”

As an example, I recently worked with a small business that had a great product but was being overlooked in favor of its competitors.

The owner kept pumping money into the business thinking that his lucky break would come sooner or later. He was treating it like a lottery—keep buying those tickets and watching the draw, and eventually, I might win.

But when I looked into his practices, I saw that most of his “marketing” was basically just spam. He was cold-contacting people believing that his messages would stand out.

“I know it’s technically spam,” he told me, “but it’s written in a unique way and we have a genuinely unique product. We also target specific people”.

Upon hearing this, I showed him an email account for one of my businesses. It’s relatively small and new, yet it gets 100s of spam emails a week from SaaS companies, SEO companies, wholesalers, and god-knows-what else.

“This is what the recipients of your emails are seeing,” I told him. “So why on earth would they single out your email over all these hundreds of others?”

It’s very rarely down to luck.

There is always something you can do, something that is within your control. As soon as you start dismissing things as “bad luck”, you’re telling yourself that you’re not the problem, it’s just fate. And that’s rarely the case.

Teach your team. Grow your team. Test your strategies. If it isn’t working, don’t dismiss it as bad luck and then move on to the next one. Try to discover what went wrong, try something different.

It’s true that only a small percentage of businesses fail, but that doesn’t mean that business is a lottery, it just means that most companies aren’t good enough or optimized enough.

Time Management For You And Your Employees

How you manage your time and the time of your employees is crucial for all stages of your business.

Don’t waste your time on useless things when you could be doing something more productive. Don’t give your staff meaningless tasks just because there’s nothing better for them to do.

I’ve seen situations where staff meetings have been called with over half a dozen people, just so they could provide instructions to a freelancer who already knew what they needed to do.

Those meetings would take days to arrange and would consist of relaying info that wasn’t needed and/or could be provided in an email.

I’ve seen entrepreneurs waste time packing and shipping products, neglecting to focus on marketing and delegation.

When you are a service-based business, you are the product. You are the money. You need to make sure you are using your time well.

Just as you would seek to shave pennies from product packaging, so must you shave hours from your day and invest time elsewhere.

The reason so many small businesses fail is that the owners don’t know how to properly manage their time. They work 15+ hours a day, but only a few of those hours actually require their expertise. After a few months, everything gets too much, they burn out, and the business collapses.

Instead, they should be hiring people to do the jobs that are easy or beyond their skillset while focusing their time on growing and optimizing the business.

As for staff members, if you genuinely can’t find anything for them to do, rethink why you’re hiring them in the first place. You can’t afford to hire people who just sit around all day and wait for you to give them meaningless tasks.

And if it’s just a one-off, use that time to train them instead. Alternatively, you can put them to work elsewhere and give them jobs that will promote your business.

Be Ready To Scale Your Business Quickly

Simon talked about a time when he was very busy and had a phone call from Google, his perfect client, but he had to turn them down as he couldn’t take on the work.

If you’re in a position where you’re turning down your dream clients or any clients… there’s something wrong.

It means you’re not managing your time effectively and aren’t prepared to scale.

Scaling a business is tough.

You can’t hire all of those additional staff members in advance, as it means you’ll be paying for things you don’t need and hoping they will be needed someday soon.

At the same time, you can’t start with nothing, wait for those clients to come along, and then scale straight away.

Those big clients won’t wait for you to get your stuff together. They won’t give you the weeks or months that you need to grow. They will just take their money elsewhere.

The trick is to scale slowly and steadily while making sure you can go from 0 to 60 when needed.

This means preparing logistic firms and freelancers. It means building a strong team of hard-working experts. It also requires a mix of ambition and restraint. Be prepared to take on more work and bigger clients, but don’t push yourself too hard and don’t stretch yourself too thin.

Simplify Your Business

Businesses are made of hundreds of moving parts. There are a lot of spinning plates, so it’s best to keep things as simple as possible.

In previous blogs, including this one with Kristina Bucaram, I have referenced Kitchen Nightmares, and it’s a reference that works here, as well.

In the show, Gordan Ramsay visits failing restaurants and encounters owners who are heavily in debt and in denial. There are usually lots of things wrong with the restaurants, but it all starts with the menu.

The menus are vast. They cover a huge range of dishes and this creates many problems.

More dishes mean more waste. They also mean that fewer quality ingredients go into those dishes and the chef spends less time on them. The restaurant inevitably starts serving frozen food and becomes reliant on microwaves, as it’s just not possible to keep so much fresh produce in a failing restaurant.

One of the first things that Gordan does, is streamline the menu and focus on a handful of meals.

It’s better to do 7 or 8 dishes really well than 50 terribly.

The same is true for your business. It can be tempting to increase your offering as it makes sense that it will attract more clients, but it means you’ll be offering less quality and will struggle to build the strong relationships that you need.

Focus on the things that you do best. Don’t try to be the best in every aspect of every industry. Just stick with the basics and when you master that you can branch out into other areas.

Improve Operations With Sales

When scaling your business, don’t focus solely on sales and marketing.

Make sure you have the operational infrastructure in place to make those additional orders when they arrive. If not, you’ll be spending those first few weeks apologizing to clients, making excuses, and dragging your reputation into the ground.

This is less of a problem for online service-based companies than it is for retail companies selling physical products, but you could still face some issues.

What happens if you suddenly get the big client you have always wanted? What happens if your website gets 2,000% more hits every day and your software gets more new clients in a day than it has had in months?

Your clients won’t wait around for you to sort things out. As noted above, they will just move on to another client and, in the process, your reputation will suffer and you’ll burn a lot of bridges.

So, when you increase your marketing and sales, make sure the operations increase along with them.

Be Careful With PR Companies And Always Set Strict Contracts

Simon spoke briefly about PR companies and how you should never set aside large sums of money for ambiguous reasons. PR companies will often tell you that they can help you for $5,000 or $10,000 a month. They want you to put them on a retainer so they can guarantee an income.

But while that’s great for them, it’s not always great for you.

I know many clients, friends, and acquaintances who have had bad experiences with PR companies. There are some great PR companies out there, don’t get me wrong, but some of them are so accustomed to working with big clients and throwaway budgets that they don’t always focus on efficiency.

As an example, a friend of mine gave a PR company over $4,000 to promote his book. They made some vague promises and they had a good reputation, so he didn’t really think twice about hiring them.

They wrote a couple of articles for him, created a publicity story, and everything was going well. But it didn’t get any results. When he dug further, he discovered that they only pitched the story to a few outlets, and when it failed, they gave up.

Their response to his complaints was that they had done the work. They had created and written a story, and so technically, they earned their money.

My friend is a writer—imagine how frustrating that was for him to hear.

PR companies should be results-driven. You’re not paying them for their writing or photography skills. You can hire writers and photographers for that, and they’ll charge you a lot less.

You’re paying them to get your story and company out there. You want articles, publicity, and something that will actually convert.

When working with PR companies, make sure you stipulate exactly what you are expecting of them. Base it on results and hold them to those results.

The same is true for all other contracts and for everyone else who takes your money. Don’t let them give you vague promises about stuff you don’t really want and can’t use.

You need something tangible, and if you don’t get it, they didn’t deliver and shouldn’t be charging you anything.

ABOUT SIMON SEVERINO

Simon Severino helps business owners in SaaS and services discover how to be able to run their company more efficiently which results in sales that soar. He created the Strategy Sprints® Method that doubles revenue in 90 days by getting owners out of the weeds. Simon is the CEO and founder of Strategy Sprints which is a global team of certified Strategy Sprints® Coaches which has offers a customized strategy to help clients gain market share and work in weekly sprints which results in fast execution. He is also a Forbes Business Council Member, a contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, and a member of Duke Corporate Education.

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