Lessons Learned from 50 Marketing Agency CEOs



Over the last 2 years, I have had the good fortune to interview a total of 50 agency CEOs on my podcast.  Until I actually counted them all today, I had no idea that it had been that many.

Think of it this way: I have had an insider’s look at how 50 different CEOs are growing their companies. That is a lot of valuable advice.

In fact, the reason I am the owner of Groove Digital Marketing today is due largely to the all the insights that these wonderful folks shared with me. Suffice to say, I’m grateful to each and every one of my guests for being so open with me during their interviews.

In today’s post, I wanted to summarize some of the very best ideas that have been shared with me over the last two years. My hope is that you’ll come away with some “Bright Ideas” that you can put to use in your own business.

Pick a Niche Market

In her interview, Rebecca Geier of Trew Marketing shared with me that one of the smartest things they did was to pick a very specific niche, and focus on only working with clients that fit that niche.

Trew only works with companies that are deeply technical in nature (mostly engineers and scientists) and as a result of this decision, their revenue growth has been impressive. Their net profit margin is even more impressive.

(Her interview will be published on Sept 15th, 2014.)


So if picking a niche is so important, why doesn’t everyone do it?

Good question. I suspect it’s because people are afraid they will “miss out” on all the other companies that might not want to work with them if they make it clear that they are focused on only one niche.

Want more info on how to pick a niche? I have already published a detailed post on how to do it.

Create a Culture

zak dabbasDo you think that dedicating time and energy towards creating a company culture is worthwhile? Zak Dabbas of Punchkick Interactive sure does. In his interview, Zak shared with me how he’s grown his agency from just $371,000 in revenue in 2009 to $8M today; and, according to Zak, the company culture they have created has played a huge role in their success (so has niche selection!).

Want to hear all the details of this incredible success story? Listen to the interview.


Run a Virtual Company

FRACHEL COGARRachel Cogar is the CEO of Puma Creative, a 7-figure boutique inbound marketing agency and an evangelist for inbound marketing methodology. In addition to running her business, Rachel juggles Mom duties with three children, including (at the time of our interview) a 6-week-old newborn.

Puma Creative is a 100% virtual agency with a team of 13 people all around the world. They focus on small to mid-size businesses around the world that believe in the power of inbound marketing. Their clients are all on retainers of $4,000 – $10,000 per month.

While I was in Boston at HubSpot’s head office, I had the chance to meet Rachel in person, and she is a fireball! Stuffed into a tiny little frame is a monstrous amount of talent and ambition.

Thanks to her keeping her company virtual, Rachel has succeeded in creating an incredibly profitable agency that sells only by retainer. In her interview, she gives all the details on how she did it. Having masterminded with Rachel a number of times, I can assure you that her ideas are well worth listening to.

Build a Team

Drew McLellanOne of the things that I consistently see in the more successful agencies that I interview is their focus on building a team of talented people and then creating systems and process for the team to rely on.

The agency owners who are “stuck” running small companies, invariably are trying to “do it all” themselves. You can either have total control, or you can have growth. Take your pick.

With solid systems, you can have plenty of growth, without totally sacrificing control.

Without systems and processes, you are going to have a much harder time growing your business because you are going to become the bottleneck to growth.

When you adopt the mindset explained in the eMyth and Built to Sell, and focus on working “on” your business instead of “in” it, all sorts of incredible things start to happen.

To learn more about this, I interviewed Drew McLellan, founder of The Agency Management Institute. Drew has been running his own agency for 20 years and founded AMI to help other agencies succeed.

Create Content

BILL FAETH FCOver at Groove, I thought we’d done a pretty good job at creating content (96 blog posts since March 2014) and growing our traffic, and by most barometers, we have.

And then I interviewed Bill Faeth of Inbound Marketing Agents.

Within just two years, he’s grown his traffic to 40,000 visitors a month! Aside from creating a LOT of content, the key to Bill’s success has been to syndicate his content to high traffic sites that already have the audience he wants to attract. If you’d like to hear how he does it, just listen to his interview.

Leverage LinkedIn for Outreach

Tony WrightCold calling may be dead, but that doesn’t mean that you should ignore outreach all together. In fact, at our agency, we have a comprehensive prospecting system that is supported by the content we create.

LinkedIn definitely plays a role in our system, and I learned a great deal about how to best use LinkedIn from Tony Wright, CEO of WrightIMC, an integrated marketing agency on track to earn just over $3M in 2014.

In his interview, Tony shared with me quite a number of things, including his 4-step strategy for SEO, how speaking gigs help land clients, and why he spends two hours a day on LinkedIn.

Focus on Inbound Marketing

Max TraylorAt Groove, we are very focused on offering only one service: Inbound Marketing.

Why? Simple, all the most successful agencies that I have interviewed focus on Inbound – and they are all doing very well, thank you.

For example, Max Traylor has built a very successful inbound marketing agency. IMR focuses exclusively on content marketing and only takes clients on retainer.

In his interview, he shared with me how they built their agency, the type of customers they have, how they sell their services, and the essential role of content strategy in the overall process.

What is Your Goal?

The most successful entrepreneurs are people that have clearly defined goals and a plan to attain them.

In my case, my current goals for Groove are simple: get to $20K a month in retainer income and play no part in the day-to-day work needed to maintain that level of revenue. If you want to see how I’m doing, check out my Groove status updates.

To achieve my goal, I will need to create systems that will support growth, and then build a team to do the day to day work. When I achieve this goal, I will set a new one.

So far, I have managed to “fire myself” from the following jobs:

  • Content creation
  • Blog management
  • Social media management
  • Account management

The only day to day jobs that I’m still responsible for are:

  • Selling
  • Content strategy

In time, I plan to fire myself from these two jobs as well.

There is another trait shared by all successful entrepreneurs: they surround themselves with peers that are at least as successful as they are.

Some people do this informally. Many (self included) do it via a mastermind group.

The thing that I like about a mastermind group is that, assuming they are run by a competent facilitator, they create a structure for idea sharing, networking, and accountability.

The fact that each of the members has to invest money, in addition to their time, ensures that each member is going to be totally committed to the process.

The Bright Ideas Mastermind

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know that I run a mastermind group for marketing agency CEOs.

What you may not know is that I’ve just made a big change to the criteria for applicants. Now, to be eligible, your agency must be doing at least $1M in annual revenue.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of joining the mastermind.

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How Elle Phillips Became a Successful Designer With Her Freelance Work

Elle Phillips RS


From freelance work to owning her own business, Elle Phillips made a living out of self-management.

In her 18 years in graphic design, Elle has worked her way to entrepreneurial success. Though this story itself is worth the podcast, her points on the importance of having a mentor, and becoming one herself, are really great topics as well.

If you’re a freelancer or if you struggle with pricing your services, this is a must-listen.

Listen now and you’ll hear Elle and I talk about:

  • (2:25) Introductions
  • (4:15) How did you get started freelancing?
  • (5:25) Has overseas competition affected your business?
  • (7:25) How has mentoring played a role for you?
  • (9:55) Tell me how you and Jason began your mentoring relationship
  • (14:45) What did you advise Jason to do next?
  • (18:55) What type of clients are you attracting?
  • (23:25) What advice would you give for designers on how to price their services?
  • (26:05) How do you work with clients that don’t know what they want?
  • (30:05) What are some of the most common mistakes you see freelancers making?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!


About Elle Phillips

Elle Phillips2Elle Phillips is the Owner / Creative Director of Red Couch Creative, inc., a creative design group located in Eagle, Idaho. With her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Visual Communications, she started her professional career at 19 years old and has successfully grown and expanded her graphic design and marketing skills over the last 17 years, most recently as the owner and freelancer of Elle Phillips Design.

She’s worked with a wide variety of clients such as Pepsico, T-Mobile, Verizon, Spraying Systems Co. and VIP Products, among many others. Known for her ability to take on any project with extreme dedication and bring it to completion on deadline with consistency and grace, she has been working as a freelancer and entrepreneur-ette since 2004 with huge success.

Elle is proud of her ability to work with all personality and project types, happily extends her dry sense of humor onto those who don’t necessarily seek it, and enjoys assessing a clients’ needs with an almost psychic-like ability.

Additional Resources

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To share your thoughts:

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  • Leave a review on iTunes. It's your best way to say thank you to our team.
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Click Here to Access the eCommerce Fast Track

How to Land Clients the Fast Way With Serial Entrepreneur Tom Gay

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Thomas Gay RS

Thomas-Gay-Interview_0I should mention that I don’t use the term “serial entrepreneur” lightly.

Tom has been starting companies since the 80’s and he isn’t slowing down now. He grew some of them into Inc 500 winners and one of them to $80M in sales. We’ve had quite a few entrepreneurs on this show, but few have been entrepreneurs for as long, and done as consistently well as Tom.

If you are an entrepreneur or are in business development, this is a can’t miss episode.

Listen now and you’ll hear Tom and I talk about:

  • (3:45) Introductions
  • (7:35) What is Refer.com and why does the world need it?
  • (10:15) When did you start and how much traction have you got so far?
  • (15:15) Why did you change the name to Refer.com?
  • (20:05) Please tell us about one of the pivots you’ve made and what you learned
  • (29:45) How should I get started at better leveraging my own network?
  • (38:45) Explain how your software helps with this
  • (42:45) What advice would you give to people who want to start their own business?
  • (45:45) How should an entrepreneur find a viable business idea?
  • (46:45) How should people “just start” in business?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!


About Thomas Gay

ThomasGayThomas Gay is a life-long business owner and entrepreneur. In the 80s he founded National Decision Systems, the pioneer in advanced site selection and target marketing tools for major consumer goods companies. Tom’s firm was twice honored with the coveted INC 500 Award and he sold it in 1988 to Equifax.

In 1990, Tom started VistaInfo. After going public in 1997, Tom was honored in an Individual Investor Magazine cover story (May 1999) where he was called one of the “5 Best Undiscovered CEO’s” in the USA. VistaInfo was named a “Magic 25” company in 1999 and was acquired in 2000 with sales of $80M to create what is now known as Fidelity National Information Solutions.

In 2001, Tom and his wife, Patti, went to South Africa where they started a non-profit ministry organization, Monte Christo Ministries. Today, MCM feeds thousands of people daily and brings together organizations, churches and universities, world-wide, to relieve the burdens of poverty, apartheid and HIV/AIDS in the Cape Town Area. In 2014, his company IdeaLab was renamed Refer.com

Tom serves on numerous corporate and community boards and is a frequently sought speaker on the topics of socially responsible business, relationship marketing and leadership development.

Additional Resources

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment in the comment section below
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To help out the show:

  • Leave a review on iTunes. It's your best way to say thank you to our team.
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Click Here to Access the eCommerce Fast Track

Entrepreneurship Ideas From Jayson Gaignard on Going From Massive Debt to Massive Success

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Jayson Gaignard RS

Jayson-Gaignard-Interview_0Not every new venture is successful – in fact, even the ones that seem to be can come crashing down at any minute.

Jayson Gaignard provides an example of just that. His company hat reached millions of dollars in sales, when suddenly… it tanked. The loss of his prior company and how he came back with a new outlook on business gives a great story for all entrepreneurs to hear.

It’s not all big sales and mojitos on the beach. Sometimes things fail, but if they do, it helps to see how others have taken adversity and ramped up another successful business.

For the good, bad and the ugly of entrepreneurship ideas, check out this episode.

Listen now and you’ll hear Jayson and I talk about:

  • (03:05) Introductions
  • (03:50) How did you get started in business?
  • (06:40) What did you do to ruin your company?
  • (16:50) What is MastermindTalks?
  • (21:50) How did you get started with your first event?
  • (29:50) How did you attract other speakers?
  • (33:50) How did you drive traffic to the application page?
  • (35:50) What is an Influencer blast?
  • (38:50) What did you charge?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!


About Jayson Gaignard

JaysonGaignard2Jayson Gaignard is the founder of Mastermind Talks, an annual invite-only event designed for elite entrepreneurs. He started Mastermind Talks after a failed business left him a quarter million in debt and with a ton of questions about what to do next.

Jayson went on to become the Founder of MastermindTalks, Mastermind Retreats, and The Early to Rise Podcast. Jason has revitalized his vision and is realizing a different kind of success.

Additional Resources

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment in the comment section below
  • Share this episode on Twitter or Facebook

To help out the show:

  • Leave a review on iTunes. It's your best way to say thank you to our team.
  • Subscribe on iTunes
Click Here to Access the eCommerce Fast Track

The Story of Tony and Tina: A Tale of an Agency Gone Very Wrong and How You Can Avoid the Same

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digital marketing strategy

If you run your own business, yours is a family business – and to think otherwise will lead to disaster.

It doesn’t matter if your family members actually work in your business or not. Whatever their relationship to the business, each member of an entrepreneur’s family will be profoundly impacted by the decisions the entrepreneur makes about his business.

Sadly, many entrepreneurs tend to compartmentalize their lives unless a family member is directly involved in the business. For most entrepreneurs, they believe that their business life is separate from their family life.

As you are about to see, this is far from the truth.

What Happens in Business, Happens at Home

In reality, your business and your family are inextricably connected to one another. Whatever is happening in your business, is also happening at home.

Consider the following, and ask if each one is true:

  • If you are stressed at work, you are stressed at home
  • If you are having money problems at work, you are having money problems at home
  • If you feel out of control at work, you feel equally out of control at home
  • If you are having communication problems at work, you are also having them at home
  • If you are having trust issues at work, you are having trust issues at home
  • If you feel alone and isolated at work, you feel alone and isolated at home

The truth is that your business and your family are one – and you’re the link that connects them. If you are trying to keep them apart, your business and your family will be like strangers and you will have created two separate worlds for yourself – two worlds that split each other apart.

The Story of Tony and Tina

Let me tell you the story of Tony and Tina.

Tony and Tina met in college and have been married for over 15 years. They have two kids and live a modest lifestyle.

For 8 of the last 10 years, Tony worked for a mid-sized corporation and earned more than enough to pay the family’s bills as well as to save for retirement.  For 8 of the last 10 years, Tina was a stay at home mom and made sure that the needs of the family were well looked after.

digital marketing strategy

Excited For The Future

Two years ago, Tony decided to quit his corporate job to pursue his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Prior to quitting, Tony and Tina talked about the change at great length. They talked about what type of business Tony would start, the type of clients he’d go after, how long it would take to replace the family income, and many other details involved in the transition.

They determined that they had sufficient savings to make the transition and agreed that the risk was worth taking. After all, as a successful entrepreneur, Tony would have more income and more freedom than he ever had during his corporate career.

With this extra income and freedom, Tony and Tina planned to take more vacations and to get more involved with their kid’s lives. The possibilities were downright exciting!

Tony’s New Business

During Tony’s last few years of corporate employment, he’d worked in the marketing department and had become quite passionate about his profession. He saw how his work had directly benefited the company and how growth had increased as a result.

The only problem was that Tony’s income didn’t go up in line with the success of the company and this was something that he desperately wanted to change.

Given his past experience and passion for marketing, Tony decided to start his own marketing agency – and unlike many traditional agencies, Tony’s agency would specialize in digital (online) marketing.

Online marketing is still quite “new” relative to traditional marketing, so change is a constant. As a result, Tony saw a huge opportunity to serve a customer segment he knew well.

The services that Tony planned to offer his clients included:

  • Website design
  • Content marketing (blogging)
  • Social media management

Unlike many traditional agencies, Tony want to focus only on digital marketing services as a way to differentiate his firm from the masses.

The First Six Months

digital marketing strategy

All Signs Were Looking Up

Tony’s first six months in business were nothing short of amazing. Using his personal and professional network had yielded terrific results. He had attracted several clients and the cash was rolling in.

In fact, things got so busy that Tony was having a hard time keeping up with all the client demands, and to solve this problem, he decided to hire two other people to help him.

Finding just the right people to join his firm was incredibly challenging. Trusting them to do the work the way that he wanted it done was even more difficult. But what choice did he have? He just couldn’t keep up without them.

Managing his new employees was more complicated and took more time than working for someone else. Tony not only supervised everyone, he was always looking for ways to keep them busy.

More Staff. More Demands. More Stress.

With more clients and more staff to manage, the demands on Tony’s time were greater than at any other point in his life. To cope, Tony began leaving home earlier in the morning and coming home later at night. He rarely saw his kids now. For the most part, Tony was resigned to the problem. He just saw the long hours as essential to build his company.

digital marketing strategy

Every New Opportunity Comes With Some Drawbacks

Money was also becoming a problem. Much to Tony’s surprise, clients didn’t always pay on time and when they didn’t, it had a huge impact on his cash flow. He still had to pay his bills on time. Why didn’t his clients do the same?!

Back when Tony was an employee, he got paid every two weeks, but now that he was the boss, there were times when he didn’t get paid for a month or more.

The financial stress was taking its toll.

Making matters worse was the fact that Tony didn’t feel like Tina was sensitive to his troubles. Though, given that his mantra was “business is business”, Tony didn’t talk to Tina much about it. Instead, he believed it was her job to look after him and the family.

As time went on, Tony became even more consumed with running his business. Not surprisingly, Tina became increasingly frustrated with Tony’s lack of communication and increasingly long hours. She’d put many things in her life on hold to focus on the family, and now her husband was barely ever at home.

Tina was not impressed.

Client demands never let up and Tony was now regularly working 10+ hours a day and it still wasn’t enough. To keep up, he was now also getting up at 5am on Saturdays so that he could catch up on emails before the rest of his family started their day – a day that they expected Tony to be a part of!

Tony hated working so much, but he just couldn’t see any other way to keep up with all the work he needed to get done.

Not only that, Tony had exhausted his list of personal contacts to drum up new business, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to do the activities that he knew would attract new clients.

Problems With Clients and Staff

On top of all this, some of his existing clients were complaining. They were upset that Tony’s staff wasn’t delivering the quality of work that they had come to expect when Tony was personally handling their accounts.

One client was so unhappy, they told Tony they’d planned to leave if he didn’t fix the problem within a month.

As a result of working so hard, Tony was starting to feel burned out. He was also feeling overwhelmed and really stressed out.

After a few months of this, Tony’s stress levels started to impact his business – and his family.

As the owner of the company, Tony felt very alone. There were so many things he needed to talk to someone about – and talking to his staff about these things was totally out of the question.

Instead of talking to his staff, Tony micro-managed them even more. He just couldn’t afford to lose any clients, so everything had to be done exactly the way he wanted it done.

With the micro-management increasing, Tony’s staff started to become disillusioned – and, unknown to Tony, they started to look for employment elsewhere.

More Stress and Isolation

Around this same time, Tony began to isolate himself from his staff. This was a marked change from how things were at the start and his staff began to behave in ways that surprised Tony. They didn’t seem to care as much. They missed deadlines. They didn’t tell Tony about problems that they should have.

Digital Marketing Strategy

The Stress Was Taking Its Toll

As you might guess, this drove Tony’s stress levels even higher and his relationship with Tina and his kids was now suffering. When they did spend time together, Tony was always preoccupied with thoughts of the problems of the business.

Tony didn’t feel like he could tell Tina that his business was suffering. He wasn’t getting as many new client leads. He wasn’t getting as much work from existing clients. His staff wasn’t very happy.

If he told Tina about any of this, she’d be stressed out, too!

As time went by, things just weren’t getting any better.

One of Tony’s employees told him that she just wasn’t enjoying working for him any more. The environment had become one of stress, frustration, and negativity, and she wanted no part of that, so she handed in her resignation.

The thought of having to replace this person was more than Tony could take, and he became angry.

Now, instead of feeling full of optimism, Tony’s daily routine had become one of anger, frustration, loneliness, and despair. What this really what he signed up for?

Family Life Starts to Suffer

Tina was running out of patience with Tony, too. When they started this business, their goal was to get more balance in life.

That had not happened. In fact, Tony was working almost 50% more hours now than he ever did at his corporate job. Tina and the kids were feeling neglected, to say the least.

One night when he got home from yet another long day at work, Tony noticed an unfinished email on the screen. It was an email from Tina to her sister complaining of how distant Tony had become and how she was thinking about leaving him as a result.

That night Tony slept on the couch. He left the house early in the morning before anyone was awake. For perhaps the first time in his life as an entrepreneur, he was in no mood for questions.

When Tony got to the office, he headed straight for the liquor cabinet beside his desk…and you can image how the situation goes from here.

What is the Lesson Here?

What lessons can we draw from Tony and Tina’s story? As I’ve already emphatically said, every business is a family business. Every business profoundly impacts every family member – whether they work there or not. Every business either gives to the family or takes from the family, just as individual family members do.

If the business takes more than it gives, like Tony’s did, the family is always the first to pay the price.

digital marketing strategy

Sound Familiar?

Tony’s biggest mistake was trying to do everything himself. True, he hired staff, however, he didn’t really trust them to assume responsibility for important projects and he micro-managed their work.

Had he succeeded, life would have been grand and he would have felt fantastic. Instead, Tony unwittingly isolated himself thereby achieving the exact opposite of what he sought.

He destroyed his life – and his family’s life along with it.

Repeat after me: Every business is a family business.

Are You Like Tony?

I believe that many entrepreneurs have many things in common with Tony. You must learn that a business is only a business. It’s not your life – it’s just a part of your life, albeit an important one.

Your business can have a profoundly negative impact on your life unless you learn how to run it in a way that is different that what 99% of other entrepreneurs do. You must not run your business like Tony did.

Tony’s business could have served his family in the way that he’d originally envisioned. For that to happen, however, Tony would have had to learn how to master his business in a way that was completely foreign to him.

Instead, Tony’s business consumed him. Lacking in a true understanding of the critical strategic thinking that would have allowed his business to flourish, Tony and his family were doomed from the start.

There is a Solution

The story that I have just told you was inspired by the story of Edward and Abigail in the book eMyth Attorney, by Michael Gerber.

digital marketing strategy

I Made My Business Work For Me

When I read the book, I was reminded of my first business, Dyrand Systems, which I started in 2001. Within 6 months of starting that business, I’d discovered and read Michael’s first book, The eMyth, and it was my decision to embrace the principles in The eMyth that allowed me to grow the business from nothing to several million in revenue, while working 40 hours a week or less.

In the year that I sold Dyrand for $1.2 million, I barely needed to show up for work. The fact that the company continues to do well today is ample proof of how redundant I’d made myself using the principles I discovered in The eMyth.

For some people, just reading the book will be enough to help you alter the course you are on.

For others, I suspect more support would be highly beneficial.

How to Avoid Tony’s Mistakes and Get the Support You Need

After reading the book the other day, I posted a message in the Facebook group for my Mastermind Elite members to see. Being exposed to the eMyth again after all these years had reminded me of some things I’d forgotten, and I wanted to see if the members of my mastermind group would be interested in what was now on my mind.

When you read the thread below, pay particular attention to Drew’s comment. Drew grew an online retailer to $6M in sales and then sold it for a tidy sum. He and I are the only two guys in the mastermind that have (thus far) grown a company to millions in sales and then sold it for 7 figures.

Both of us LIVED the message in The eMyth. Perhaps you would benefit from doing the same?

If so, keep reading and I will tell you how I’d like to support you in that regard.

digital marketing strategy

How to Embrace the Principles of the eMyth

The eMyth is now going to become a guiding pillar for the members of the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite.

We are all going to read the book and we are all going to embrace its principles in our respective businesses – but we aren’t going to do it in isolation. Instead, ours will be a coordinated approach.

Taking a coordinated approach to problem solving is a fundamental part of any mastermind group. Why figure everything out on your own when you can instead share your ideas with, and learn from, others who are pursuing goals that are similar to yours?

If you’d like to be a part of a group of like-minded entrepreneurs and build a business that allows you to live the life of your dreams, instead of becoming a business that sucks the life out of you, then please accept my invitation to apply for membership in our exclusive group.

At the time of this writing, we are a group of 8 entrepreneurs who all share the goal of building a highly profitably business that is built to run on systems. Systems that will empower our staff to deliver excellence, while giving us the freedom to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Like Drew, I have already experienced the thrill of selling a company for over a million dollars, and I can assure you that I plan to do it again – and experience tells me that the way to do that is to build a business that is built on systems.

I’m sure some of you can do this on your own and if you do, please write to tell me about it.

For those of you who don’t want to do it all alone, I recommend you apply for membership today. Trust me when I say it will be the best decision you make this year. But don’t take my word for it. See what one of our members has to say…

digital marketing strategy

What is Holding You Back?

What do you think? Can you relate to Tony’s struggles? Please share your thoughts down in the comments, and if you are feeling bold, go ahead and share with me what one of your biggest struggles is. If I have advice for you, I’ll be sure and reply to your comment. Thanks!

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4 Ways You Can Become a Stalker



I have recently decided to become a stalker, and I think you need to do the same.

Say what?

Before you go thinking I’ve lost my mind and am about to become some kind of creeper, let me clarify that I’m only using the word “stalker” as a euphemism for a methodical approach to expanding your professional network!

Why You Need to Network Every Day

For many people (me included), the thought of going to a networking event to “make small talk” with strangers holds very little appeal. Having said that, over the last year, one of the most important realizations that I have made is that, even though I run an online business, networking with others is a “must-do” activity…which is why I have included it in my content marketer’s daily activity checklist (free download).

When you spend time getting to know other people, you are creating all sorts of opportunities. Here’s just a few:

  • You can learn from them
  • You can get referrals from them
  • They can help you to promote your content
  • They can help you to promote your products
  • They can introduce you to other people who can do the same

Obviously, to get results from your networking, you need to go into it with a “help others firsts” mindset, and you actually need to target the right people – and that is where having a Stalker List comes into play.

How to Create a Stalker List

notebook listIn a post I published the other day, I described how you can use Followerwonk to help you build a list…but what I neglected to mention was a few other ways to do it…plus, in today’s post, I want to share with you how to use it.

In addition to using Followerwonk, you might also want to try some or all of the following ways:

  • Go to Amazon and find a list of authors who have written books that would be of interest to your audience
  • Google terms like “top 50 social media influencers” or “top 50 marketing blogs”, etc…
  • Copy the title of a blog post that would be of interest to your audience and then search on Twitter for people that have shared that post
  • See who some of your favorite influencers are following on Twitter

One thing to keep in mind. Keep your list short, probably no more than 20 names. Then, as you start to get traction with some of them, you can move them onto a “maintain” list and add some new people you’d like to get to know.

How to Use Your Stalker List

One you have you list, you should do the following:

  • Follow them on Twitter
  • Circle them on Google+
  • Connect on LinkedIn
  • Friend on Facebook
  • Comment on the blog
  • Share their content
  • Retweet their tweets
  • Comment on their Facebook page

When you do reach out to these people, don’t be creepy. Don’t adore them. Instead, find ways to add value to their conversations. Treat them with respect and have confidence in what you have to offer. You won’t become pals with all of them, but some of them will end up becoming valuable business allies, and when that happens, the benefits can be incredible.

What do you think?

Do you have comments or questions? Please use the comment form below. If you have a strong opinion one way or the other, I’d like to hear it.

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How to Stay Focused with a Daily Activity Checklist



Sometimes I’m not as disciplined as I’d like. When first start my day, there are tasks that are absolutely critical to growing my business that I know I must do, yet despite this, I sometimes forget…or get distracted by something else.

Sound familiar?

How to Stay on Task – Day After Day

Last night after my wife and I finished watching Homeland (we’ve just finished episode 2 of season 1), my brain decided it was going to go into “bright ideas” overdrive and one of the ideas that surfaced was the need to create a daily activity checklist.

Pilots use checklists. So do astronauts. I’m sure there are many other types of people that use them as well. Why? Simple, they don’t want to forget anything.

We actually use a lot of checklists already. We have checklists for podcast post production, writing blog posts, blog post editing, blog post promotion, onboarding a new client. You name it, we have a checklist for it.

Oddly enough, prior to last night, I’d not yet created a checklist of daily activities. Go figure.

My Daily Activity Checklist

Bad habits, distractions, and laziness be gone. I now have the first draft of a daily activity checklist to keep me on task.


Click Image to Download a Copy – BrightIdeas.co

Want to get a copy? Click here to download your own.

Tweet: Succeed at Content Marketing with this Daily Activity Checklist http://ctt.ec/7am47+ @trentdyrsmid

How to Create a Stalker List

In the checklist above, you will notice that I referred to something called a stalker list. This is not a list of people that you want to creep on! Instead, this is a list of the influencers who you’d like to build a relationship with. There are plenty of ways to find these people and one of the ways that I’ve found is to use Followerwonk by Moz.

With Followerwonk, you can easily find people who are influential in just about any niche you can think of. To see how to do it, simply have a look at the screenshot below.


If you aren’t a major influencer yourself, I suggest you start by targeting people who are slightly above your level of influence, as opposed to shooting for the stars.

This was a tactic that we used to recruit other bloggers to help spread the word about The Digital Marketing Handbook. We used Followerwonk to find out who we needed to connect with and then I had my VA comment on two posts and tweet those posts out (using my Twitter account). After that, my VA (using my email account) would send them an email to ask if they’d be interested in reviewing my book.

Because we’d focused on helping them first (comments and shares on their posts), when we emailed them, it wasn’t a cold email and many wrote back saying they’d love to review the book…as well as share it on their own social networks.

What Do You Think?

Even though I have interviewed over 100 entrepreneurs on my podcast, I’m well aware that I still have plenty to learn. If you have ideas for daily activities that a content marketer should be adding to this checklist, please share them in the comments below.

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How to Avoid Overwhelm, Hack Growth, and Get Results 3X Faster (in your pajamas)


mastermind-eliteIt’s been about 3 weeks since the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite mastermind group was launched, and so far, the participation and ideas shared have been absolutely wonderful.

But more on that in a minute.

First, I want to address a very real problem that I, and many other entrepreneurs experience on an all-too-regular basis. The problem I’m talking about is overwhelm; caused largely by information overload and trying to do too many things simultaneously.

According to Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, multitasking increases the chances of making mistakes and missing important information and cues. Multitaskers are also less likely to retain information in working memory, which can hinder problem solving and creativity.

And when do I find that I try to multitask the most?

When I’m feeling overwhelmed and am trying to “beat it down” by being uber-productive.

Yeah, right.

Let’s be honest here. NO ONE is productive when they are feeling overwhelmed. I’m sure as hell not. Just ask my wife.

(Feeling overwhelmed was one of the reasons why we recently spent all day working on our 90 day strategic plan.)

What Causes Overwhelm?

The root cause of overwhelm is simply having too much to do at one time. You didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?

Of course not.

Like you, I’m a hard-charging, fire-breathing, gonna-kick-some-butt entrepreneur, and because I’m wired this way (thanks mom and dad??), I find it very difficult to just ignore what I see as potential opportunities.

So, instead of ignoring them, I just add a “little task” to my to-do list, because I’m “sure” I’ll have “more time” later to investigate the idea.

Sound familiar?

Do I ever get back to investigating the idea? Yes, sometimes I do, but more often than not my to-do list just grows…and then keeps on growing to the point that I can’t bear to even look at the bloody thing any longer.

If you can relate, go ahead and leave a comment below. Or, if you don’t have time now, you can just put it on your to-do list and come back later *smirk*.

How to Growth Hack

half-life-2-3478Back when I was in my 20s, I spent waaaaay too much time playing a first-person-shooter game called Half Life. The game was insanely addictive and I poured hours into it.

Often, I would get “stuck” in a level and would then invest far too much time trying to figure out how to complete the level.

One day, someone told me about something called a “walk through”.

A what?

A walk through is a guide that was created by someone else who’s already completed the level. Not only do they describe in detail how to get through the level in the least amount of time, but they also would tell you how to find and unlock every bonus along your way.

Talk about helpful!

With walk throughs, I no longer had to spend hours trying to find the super-duper bonus or hidden room. No more frustration, no more taking 3X as long as I needed. Armed with a good walk through I could now blast my way through the level in record time.

So what the hell does a walk through for Half Life have to do with feeling overwhelmed?


In a game, many people actually enjoy the time-consuming hunt for the bonuses, etc…

But in business? I don’t know about you, but I have absolutely ZERO interest in learning things the hard way. When it comes to business, I’m all about speed and efficiency. I want results now, dammit.

A Mastermind is a Walk Through for Business

If you are like me and you want to avoid overwhelm and get results faster, then I suggest that you find yourself a mastermind to join because being in a mastermind is like having your very own “walk through for business”.

As the name suggests, the collective intelligence of a group of people all focused on solving the same problems is far superior to just one person trying to do it on their own.

Back when I ran my Dyrand Systems (IT Managed Service Provider), there was always so much to learn and do that I often felt extremely overwhelmed.

mastermind-tpAnd then I decided to join a mastermind full of other people that ran companies like mine.

Now I was a part of a close-knit group of like-minded people, all trying to solve similar problems. Did participating completely eliminate overwhelm? No, but, thanks to my not having to re-create the wheel with every new idea, my participation drastically reduced overwhelm-related stress.

As a member of the group, each time I discovered a new idea that I wanted to test, the very first thing I would do was to communicate with the other members of the group to ask them if they’d tested it. Many times, I found that my “new idea” had already been tried by another member without success.

Phew! Now I didn’t have to blow X hours figuring that out for myself. What a relief! (Remember, the mastermind members are all experienced business people, so I could trust what they told me.)

Not only did I not have to waste time testing ideas that had already been proven not to work, but I was also regularly exposed to new ideas that I probably would not have otherwise discovered and many of these ideas are why my company was ranked as one of the PROFIT 100 fastest growing companies in Canada for two years in a row.

Thanks to my fellow mastermind members, I was able to hack the hell out of growth!

Bam. Take that Mr Overwhelm!

What to Look For in a Mastermind Group

There are literally thousands and thousands of mastermind groups on the planet, so finding one that will be a good fit can be a chore.

Here’s how I find the ones that I joined back then: I called other CEOs in my industry and asked them for recommendations. Brilliant, eh?

Of course, now, thanks to the Google, if you don’t feel like calling other CEOs, you can also search to your heart’s content.

That said, I think you are nuts if you skip making the calls, because, as was the case for me, making those “cold calls” most often led to some very productive discussions and a few of them even led to what have become long-term friendships (Hi Mike, Josh).

IdeaLightBulbHandsNurturingAside from recommendations from others, I would also suggest that you pick a mastermind whose members are as closely focused on the business you are in as possible. Ideally, they do EXACTLY what you do, because the more similar the business, the more valuable the ideas shared in the group will be.

How Much To Invest?

In terms of cost, I would suggest you join the most expensive mastermind group that you can afford.

Why spend top dollar?

Simple. High priced groups attract more successful members. Simple as that.

Who would you rather surround yourself with? People just scraping by, or people who are running 7 or 8 figure businesses? The answer is kinda obvious, isn’t it?

Does that mean that you should join a group that costs $1,000 a month right away? If you can afford it, yes; however, if you can’t and your business is tiny compared to the size of the other member’s businesses, then no. Instead, I’d suggest you find a group more suited to your current situation for now. You can always join the more expensive group later on if you find that you are outgrowing the current one.

Does Your Location Matter?

In terms of location, the groups that I used to be a part of, and the the group that I now run, all have members from all over the place. In the old days (2005-ish), I’d hop on a plane 4 times a year to fly down to a resort for a three day meeting. For the more expensive groups, this is still pretty common; however, given how easy it is to meet online to share ideas, I don’t feel like flying to a location is as necessary as it once was.

Instead spending money on hotels and plane tickets, join an online group and then spend what you saved either on the dues for the group, or, if you can afford it, hire yourself a VA to help get some work off your plate.

If you know of a good group, please share the name down in the comments.

If you are an independent marketing consultant, freelancer, or small agency and you want to mastermind with others who are building the same type of business as you are, then check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite.

The Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite

The group that I currently run meets online once per month and we have a daily discussion via a private Facebook group.

The online meetings are just that. We use GotoMeeting and hold an online discussion during which we all take turns sharing what we’ve learned since the last meeting, what is working, what isn’t, etc… We also have a hot seat each month where one member can volunteer to have the other members do a critique on whatever they like. Could be a website, a landing page, a free report, a proposal template, etc.

Possibly even more valuable than the monthly meeting has been the Facebook group. In the group, on a daily basis I and the other members are sharing ideas and asking questions.

Here’s just a few examples of what has been shared recently:

  • Mike shared a landing page that he is testing for lead capture in the dental niche
  • I shared how I’ve increased website traffic by 59.44% over the last 30 days
  • Todd asked questions about how to handle recurring billing to clients and got several answers
  • Bobby shared a diagram of his 3-step lead generation direct mail campaign
  • I shared the results of a recent mailing that I did and promised to do the same with the next one
  • Todd shared an interview he did with a guy who’s getting a 38% conversion rate on a lead generation campaign

What Current Members Are Saying


If getting to participate in our discussion is something that appeals to you, then I encourage you to apply for membership now.

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How to Stay Focused and Get Results (Faster) with a One Page Strategic Plan


Do you ever feel like you have too many projects on your plate and you’re trying to do too many things at one time? Does a sense of overwhelm or a lack of focus end up actually lowering your productivity?

If so, you are definitely going to find today’s post helpful.

One of the things that I love about running the Bright Ideas umbrella of companies is the freedom that I have to take my business in virtually any direction that I like.

One of the things that I find most challenging about running the Bright Ideas umbrella of companies is that I have the freedom to take my business in virtually any direction that I like.

Can you see the problem?

With so many different opportunities to pursue at any give point, I often find it quite a challenge to choose which one to focus on at any one time. Whenever I find myself in this situation, which has been far more often that I’d like, I find that my stress goes up and my productivity goes down.

The Negative Side Effect of Having Too Many Choices

Too many choices can be paralyzing. (image source: 123rf.com)

Too many choices can be paralyzing.
(image source: 123rf.com)

According to research from several universities, humans ability to to weigh choices is remarkably advantageous; however, it can also come with some serious liabilities. When faced with too many choices, most of us find it extremely difficult to stay focused enough to complete important projects, handle routine tasks, or even take our prescriptions.

These findings appear in the April issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Kathleen D. Vohs, PhD, the study’s lead author and a member of the University of Minnesota’s marketing department, concluded that making choices apparently depletes a precious resource within the human mind. “Maintaining one’s focus while trying to solve problems or completing an unpleasant task was much harder for those who had made choices compared to those who had not,” says Vohs. “This pattern was found in the laboratory, classroom and shopping mall. Having to make the choice was the key. It did not matter if the researchers told them to make choices, or if it was a spontaneously made choice, or if making the choice had consequences or not.” (Read more at: http://phys.org/news127404469.html#jCp)

In other words, the more choices we have to make on the fly, the worse off we are.

Reducing the Number of Choices with a Strategic Plan

Even though I built (and sold) a multi-million dollar company that was ranked as one of Canada’s PROFIT 100 fastest growing companies for two years in a row, I’ve never really considered strategy to be my forte.

Profit 100

I’ve known how to grow businesses, but I haven’t always been the best with strategy.

Instead, I would attribute much of my success to my ability to compartmentalize my “fear of failure” in such a way as to allow me to take a “ready, fire, aim” approach to my business endeavors.

While my “ready, fire, aim” approach has served me reasonably well over the years, more recently, I have come to realize that taking some time to create a strategy, while seemingly unproductive in the moment (“what work am I getting done here?”), is actually highly beneficial in terms of its ability to help me stay focused and reduce my stress.

For large companies with a board of directors and a complete management team, developing a strategic plan is pretty common. However, for the vast majority of small business owners like myself (and most of my readers), I am willing to bet that taking a day per quarter to create a strategic plan for the next 90 days is rarely, if ever, attempted.

With that in mind, I thought it would be very helpful to many of my readers if I was to delve into how we spent the yesterday coming up with our Q4, 2013 strategic plan, and to provide an example of our simple strategic plan.

How to Develop a One-Page Strategic Plan

As your company grows and you add staff, ensuring that everyone remains on the same page will become increasingly challenging. Over time, different members of your team will have different ideas about who your company is, what products or services it provides, and how it provides them.

If you don’t yet have a team, you are unlikely to ever grow to the point where you need a team, unless you have a clear focus on what you are trying to accomplish.

Like most things in my life, if strategic planning is going to work for me, I must make a routine of it. To do that, the very first thing that my team and I did was to schedule a full day once per quarter in our calendars.

I realize that this isn’t the most profound of ideas; however, I’m willing to bet that if you don’t take the time to schedule your meetings in advance, they aren’t likely to actually happen.

Once we had our date(s) selected, the next thing we needed to figure out was a framework for creating a strategic plan that didn’t end up being just another useless piece of paper that was stuck on the wall.

To do this, we turned to the book, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish. In this book, there is an entire chapter devoted to mastering the one-page strategic plan.

According to the book, to remain competitive, any organization needs three things:

  • framework that identifies and supports your corporate strategy
  • a common language in which to express that strategy, and,
  • a well-developed habit of using this framework and language to continually evaluate your strategic progress.

Most importantly, to make this useful for us, the process had to be relatively simple. According to Verne, the strategic framework that works best for emerging companies is called the Planning Pyramid.


The beauty of this pyramid is that it graphically conveys to everyone on your team how all the various vision pieces – values, purpose, targets, goals, actions, schedules, and accountabilities – align, establishing a common strategic language that is easy to use and helping to eliminate confusion.

If you’d like to follow Verne’s exact process, you can download everything you need from gazelles.com.

How We Made It Even Easier

As my team and I started to go through the plan, step by step, we realized there was a lot of repetition in the gazelle’s planning document. Perhaps it wasn’t really designed for a team of less than 5 people, or perhaps my brain just works differently than Verne’s?

Either way, after an hour or so, we realized that we wanted to simply the template to eliminate any duplication and possible areas of confusion.

The Bright Ideas One Page Strategic Plan

The one page template that we created was broken down into 3 main sections.

  1. Stuff That Shouldn’t Change (much)
  2. Annual Targets
  3. Quarterly Targets

Stuff That Shouldn’t Change (much)

We called the first section, “Stuff That Shouldn’t Change (much)”. Pretty spiffy, eh?

In this first section, we wrote down the following:

  • our core values and beliefs
  • our core competencies
  • our purpose
  • our sandbox
  • our brand promise

The reason that we called this section  “Stuff That Shouldn’t Change (much)” is because from quarter to quarter, as the name suggests, the items in this section aren’t likey to change.

Is this section important? You bet it is!

Core Values and Beliefs

First, whenever you are building a team, if you don’t have a very clear idea of who you are, then how on earth are you going to attract other like-minded people to your team? Do a little bit of reading up on the importance of corporate culture (think Zappos) and you’ll quickly realize that culture can and does play a massive role in the long-term success of your business.

The next four sections are as much for the internal team as they are for the world to see because attracting customers is just like attracting employees. If you don’t know exactly who you want to have around you, it’s pretty unlikely that you are ever going to get them, right?

Core Competencies

In our case, we wrote down content marketing and marketing automation so that everyone on our team clearly understands what we are all about. If you want to learn about outbound sales tactics, we aren’t your guys. However, if you want to discover how to attract interest to your company so that you can use marketing automation to nurture and convert those people into customers (with automated systems), then we are your guys, and if you ever want to work here, then you need to know what we are about.


What arena are you playing in? (image source: 123rf.com)

What arena are you playing in?
(image source: 123rf.com)

As the name suggests, the Sandbox is where you play. For us, we wrote, “to be the leading source of information and tools for marketing agencies with up to 25 employees”.

Notice that we limited our Sandbox to agencies with just 25 employees. Why? Because the tools that we have expertise in were designed for this size of company. With bigger companies, the best tools are different and we aren’t experts with them.


Brand Promise

In my opinion, the promise of your brand is really about setting expectations. If you can set and meet expectations, people will trust you and spread the word. In our case, we wrote, “we will help you to become lean and extremely profitable within 12 months”. While I’m sure we could tweak the statement to more clearly define “lean” or “extremely profitable”, the main point that we wanted to convey is the part about the “12 months”.

Transforming a business from average and barely profitable to lean and extremely profitable doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. However, if you have less than 25 employees, 12 months should be enough time to accomplish some pretty meaningful results.

Annual Targets

In this section, we listed only two things:

  1. Top priorities
  2. Financial goals

Top Priorities

The top priorities that we identified are as follows:

  • produce epic content
  • produce epic products
  • maximize conversions
  • maximize automation
  • maximize content promotion

While none of these items are a specific goal, we feel that if we make these our priorities that everything else will fall into place. As you’ll see when we get to the section on Quarterly Targets, we got a lot more specific with which activities we needed to focus on.

Financial Goals

Your financial goals are an important piece of your plan. (image source: 123rf.com)

Your financial goals are an important piece of your plan.
(image source: 123rf.com)

Here’s how we defined our goals:

  • deadline: 12 months out
  • revenue
  • net profit margin
  • profit
  • number of subscribers
  • cash in the bank

That was it for the annual targets. Keep it simple.

Quarterly Targets

Now that we have defined who we want to be when we grow up, it’s time to define the blocking and tackling that we are going to need to keep focused on over the next 90 days to make our game plan work.

For us, here’s what that looks like.

SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats/Challenges

We chose to put this in the quarterly section because these things can change rather quickly from time to time and we wanted to ensure that we were continually reminded of what they were (or what we believed them to be).

Strengths: Track record and awards for past entrepreneurial achievements
Weaknesses: Constrained cash flow, focus (I have entrepreneurial ADD)
Opportunities: Sell more info products, software, memberships, SaaS subscriptions
Threats: Competition from other gurus/blogs

Top Priorities (same as annual)

The top priorities that we identified are as follows:

  • produce epic content
  • produce epic products
  • maximize conversions
  • maximize automation
  • maximize content promotion


To understand Rocks, think of filling up a mason jar with rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. If you want to really fill up the jar, you start with the biggest items first (rocks) and then add pebbles, sand, and finally water.

Obviously, if you didn’t put the rocks in first, you’d never get them all in, and, because they are the most important, you need to start with them.

For us, our rocks are:

  • publish my book
  • launch our SaaS app for marketing agencies (beta)
  • publish and promote 22 blog posts and 10 podcast episodes
  • deliver an epic talk to the San Diego chapter of the American Marketing Association on Nov 7th (hope to see you there)
  • launch the new/improved Bright Ideas website (coming soon!)

For each of the rocks above, we also defined who was responsible for each one so that we could all be held accountable. We also made a spreadsheet listing out all the topics we wanted to blog about and then scheduled each one of them in the editorial calendar. The goal is to have all content created and ready to go at least 30 days before it’s published.

Financial Goals

Here’s how we defined our goals for the quarter (same metrics, different dollar amounts from annual):

  • deadline: 12 months out
  • revenue
  • net profit margin
  • profit
  • number of subscribers
  • cash in the bank

Key Performance Indicators

While these could have been also included in the annual section, we decided that if we achieved them each quarter, then we’d be on track for them annually as well.

Given that Bright Ideas (not including our agency, which is a separate entity with its own plan) is an information products and software company, it seemed logical that our #1 Key Performance Indicator (KPI) would be revenue per subscriber. The fact that this is extremely easy to calculate and track made the selecting this metric as our #1 KPI even easier.

For tracking purposes, we identified four levels:

  1. current level (shown in red)
  2. minimum acceptable improvement (shown in yell0w)
  3. target performance level (shown in green)
  4. exceptional performance level (shown in bright green)

As I’ve described above, each of these numbers are displayed on our scoreboard in the denoted color.

Rev It Up! (image source: 123rf.com)

Rev It Up!
(image source: 123rf.com)


I like to play games, and I like to win. With this in mind, we decided to come up with a theme for the quarter, name it, decide what the measure number is, and then define a reward for winning.

In our case, here’s what that looks like:

  • Name: Rev it up!
  • Measure Number: Revenue per Subscriber
  • Rewards: I get to hire another full-time programmer

Establishing a Meeting Rhythm

Now that we have our Q4 strategic plan complete, we needed a way to ensure that we stay on plan. To do that, we meet first thing every Monday morning and review our progress. During this meeting, each member of the team talks about what they have accomplished as well as what they are struggling with. For the struggles, we attempt to come up with a solution. For the tasks completed, we express sincere appreciation.

How to Create Accountability

When you are a company of one (solo-preneur), keeping yourself accountable can be quite a challenge. To help with that, I would suggest you find someone to partner up with, and then each of you becomes the accountability partner for the other.

You don’t need to work together, however, it would be a good idea that you are faced with similar challenges. Ideally, if you run a small agency, you want to select an accountability partner who runs a similarly sized agency. That way, you will both understand each others’ challenges, as well as be in a position to help each other with shortcuts to solutions.

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Hi, I’m Trent Dyrsmid, Founder of Dyrand Systems and BrightIdeas.co… Ask Me Anything



I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life as an entrepreneur trying to create companies that help other businesses succeed. My first company was Dyrand Systems and it was recognized as a PROFIT 100 fastest growing company in Canada for two years in a row. My second company is BrightIdeas.co which provides software and training products for marketing agencies and consultants. My third company is….you guessed it…a marketing agency that will also run under the Bright Ideas brand.

Although I have failed plenty of times (you can hear some of my mistakes with Dyrand in this Mixergy interview), I’ve been fortunate enough to learn something from every one of my failures. For that reason, I want to do something different today, in which I want to share with you what I’ve learned over the years.

However, instead of listing out what I’ve learned, I want to make it as relevant to your business as possible so that it helps you succeed (thanks to Neil Patel for this idea).

The way I’m going to do this is to use a simple question and answer format. All you have to do is leave a comment with a question and I will answer it. The question can be about anything you like; a problem with your business, a technology question, or whatever you like.

And finally, don’t worry about holding back. You can ask me anything you like, no matter how foolish it may sound, as I plan to respond to each and every question.

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