Have you ever thought about selling products on Amazon, but aren’t sure if the opportunity is real? Are you curious as to how to get started and how much revenue can be produced?

Today’s episode is a little different than the norm in that yours truly is actually the guest on the show, and my “guest” Ian Paterson, is actually the host and the one interviewing me!

Ian is the founder of a SaaS company called Plurilock and when Ian and I were introduced, the original goal was to have me interview him. All that changed however, once Ian learned about my story of how selling supplements on Amazon ultimately led to my founding a software company called Flowster that Ian now uses.

When you listen to today’s reverse interview, you are going to hear:

  • How I got started selling brand name products on Amazon
  • How we grew from zero to over $100K/mo in just 5 months
  • How a chance opportunity to speak at an industry conference about our success has forever altered the trajectory of my business(es)
  • How we launched Flowster and our plans for the future

Full Transcript

Trent:                  Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of the bright ideas podcast. As always, I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid, and I’m here to share the stories of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and more importantly to extract all the golden nuggets that you can implement in your company starting today on the show with me today is Ian Patterson. Make sure you unmute your mic, Ian. and we’re doing what Ian suggested is a flip interview in that he is actually going to interview me. So with that said, Ian over to you.

Ian:                      Yeah. Good morning. So Trent, let’s, let’s get your last name right, cause I, I thought it was Dyersmid, Dyersmid, is that right?

Trent:                  Dyrsmid.

Ian:                      Okay.

Trent:                  Just like you’re writing a letter to a guy named Smid. Dyrsmid.

Ian:                      There we go. We’re learning things already. So Trent, we had talked a little bit earlier about, about my companies and as interesting as they may be, I’m actually super interested in Flowster. And specifically, it sounds like you’ve, you’ve gone after this in a really interesting way and had some really interesting stories about the, the launch or even before the launch, kind of the genesis. So I’m actually super curious to hear. So first what, what is Flowster and then let’s kind of get into some of the story about how you arrived, where you are today.

Trent:                  Sure. So Flowster is a cloud-based workflow and process management application intended to help people who have a team, be they in one location, or dispersed around the world and need to be able to execute known processes over and over and over again to perfection while easily delegating them to other people.

Ian:                      And how did this come up?

Trent:                  Yeah, completely by accident. I started an eCommerce company that is an Amazon reseller in the summer of 2016 and because I’m not a first time CEO because I’ve always been a huge believer in documenting all of your business processes, largely thanks to reading the E-myth many, many years ago when I launched the company, the very first thing that I did, rather than sit at my desk and start to do the work to make the company grow, instead I sat at my desk to create the processes that I would need to be able to delegate all the work needed to make the company grow. And as a result of that, I was able to get a very big multiplication on my efforts because instead of just one person being the founder and you know, kind of getting the show on the road, I was able to hire quite a number of folks from the Philippines to do a lot of the really, mundane, honestly that I didn’t want to do.

Trent:                  And because of that magnification of labor at a very economical hourly rate, we were able to simply out hustle everyone else. So I had learned this whole business by this guy named Dan Meadors, who I interviewed on my show in my bright ideas e-commerce podcast back in the summer of ’16. So by taking this approach within five months, our eCommerce business had eclipsed the a hundred thousand dollars per month barrier. We did 1.1 million in the first year and just this year in 2019 we were ranked number 254 in the Inc 5,000 so it grew quite quickly. And after a year, Dan got wind of what we had accomplished and he was like, well how did you do that? And I explained to him kind of what I just explained to you and he said, well that’s really cool. Do you want to come and talk at my conference about how you did that?

Trent:                  And I said, yeah sure that sounds fun. So I get up on stage at Dan’s conference in front of I think 500 odd people who are all in the very same business that I was in. And, and I opened my talk by saying, Hey guys, I have nothing for sale. I’m going to fire hose you with information. So get your pens out or turn on the recorder, whatever. Cause you need to take good notes cause like this is it. And then proceeded to do exactly that, firehose them with all this detail on how we had sourced our products and leverage virtual assistants and all the math and this and that. And the other thing and much to my surprise in the Q and A after the talk,

Trent:                  basically everybody said the same thing. Loved what you said. I know we absolutely need that. It took you a year to build it. I don’t want to spend a year building it. Can I just buy a copy of yours? And, and I’d never honestly thought when I was making these things that it would ever be a product we would ever sell them. I just made them cause I needed them. And long story short, in the two years since then, we have sold just shy of $2 million worth of premade standard operating procedures for Amazon sellers who use the reseller model. And out of that

Trent:                  pretty significant amount of profit, we created a software company called Flowster because I knew that if this was going to be a commercial product, I also needed to own the software layer cause. Workflow requires two things: It requires content, you know, the words and the pictures and the big red arrows of you know, Hey this is how you do a thing. But you also need the software element because as you gain more people and you have more concurrent workflows, there’s a number of issues that come up. The most obvious are who am I delegating this thing to and when is it due? And then multiply that by 30, 40, 50 people and however many workflows are going concurrently and suddenly you have a very real management issue, which our software program obviously helps us to make it easy to control for our customers.

Ian:                      So I think that’s a super interesting story because most, most entrepreneurs start with an idea that they’ve come up with, then they, they may go and try and build something and then they try and figure out who, who needs this, right? Like, how do I sell this, this magical idea that I’ve created? I think what you’ve done is, which is the opposite, is actually the way that it should be, which is, Hey, I’ve of done this thing, I don’t expect to sell it. And well I suppose if you need to give me money, I suppose I will take some of the money. So, so walk me through what was that experience of, of effectively pre-selling access to the tool because it really, it really disrupts that, that traditional paradigm. And especially when you start talking to VC and angel funding and getting money upfront. Like walk us through how that works.

Trent:                  So when in the day after the conference, when there was all this obvious demand from customers, of course they’re all Dan’s customers cause there was his conference, his attendees and so forth. And so I said to Dan, I said, I’m open to the idea of making my content available. And again, we had no software platform at this point in time. It was actually in a competitors software application. And because we were using it for just us, we didn’t need to make a software app when there were other apps that we could kind of make it work in. And so we agreed, well let’s, let’s give it a shot. And so I looked at the size of Dan’s, customer lists, and just did some really quick conversion math and we chose a price point of $2,500 for our product. And I thought, well, you know, if 25% of his customers buy this, which I thought was going to be like top end of what the conversion would be.

Trent:                  That was, I think a pretty optimistic assumption. Then in the launch. So we released it for a week. You know, you’ve got to create scarcity to get people to act. So we ran a very traditional product launch where there’s a warmup and there’s a webinar and there’s a bunch of content and then there’s an email everyday while the cart’s open for I think it was five days. So the best case scenario, I thought we were going to do $250,000 in sales. And if we did that, I mean that was going to be an absolute home run. And we did over $400,000. So, I was surprised pleasantly. Dan was surprised and that was the moment when I realized, Oh wow, this is actually a thing. This is going to be a thing that I need to keep doing.

Trent:                  And that’s when I went to a very good friend of mine who’s now my co founder and I said, this is what I just did and this is how much we sold and I don’t have a software company to put all this stuff in and because we’re going to do this again in six months and six months after that. And so, cause we would do two launches a year. So I said, you know, we need to get software ready within a year. We need to, we need to have it ready for me to beta test in six months so that I can test it internally with my team for six months. So that when you know, a year from now when we do this again, you know, a couple of more times, that we have it available and that’s exactly what we did.

Ian:                      So you’re selling to a captive audience. You had some brand equity from Dan, so you were a trusted individual. It sounds like you were selling an information product to people looking to buy information products.

Trent:                  Yeah, to a certain degree, I’d say that’s accurate. They had already purchased Dan’s training course to learn how to be successful. And I think they’re the reason why there was such a good synergy or whatever word you would like to use is because once people got into the business of trying to build an Amazon reseller business, they realized how much work there is. And many of these folks, have a job and they’re, they don’t want to eventually have a job, which is why they’re trying to do this. And so they’ve run into the bottleneck that any would-be startup founder runs into. And you know, if they still have to work nine to five to pay the mortgage and the rent and the groceries, you got a whole another job to do. And my message to them was, yes, that’s true. However, a lot of this other job is actually really mundane work and you shouldn’t be doing this yourself.

Trent:                  And I think for the first time entrepreneur that was kind of a surprise to them because they had suffered .They’re first time entrepreneurs. They don’t know about delegation and building a team and working on your business instead of in it. And that’s the perspective that I brought to the table. And obviously with a certain percentage of, of Dan’s customers, that message really resonated.

Ian:                      So where, where are you today? You had a very successful launch, you had a couple, it sounds like you did a couple of, of product releases, to that group. So where, where are we at today? Do you still have those original customers in Flowster?

Trent:                  Oh yeah. Actually, our churn is really, really low. It’s only three and a half percent, which is pretty good according to what my CTO tells me. Because he pays attention to those stats closer than I do. So yes. we’ve, we now have 2,500 odd users on the platform somewhere, probably 450 ish or so of them are actual paying customers. And then we have a strategy. So for the people who aren’t paying, we use a freemium model like many other software companies on the planet. And what, I also figured it out relatively shortly after commercializing Flowster. You know, one day I’m in the shower where all the good ideas come and I thought, all right, so I’ve proven that in this one particular niche there is people, there are people who are quite happy to pay for premade standard operating procedures that they can customize if need be. But way better than starting with like a white blank whiteboard. Well, I’m sure that there’s parallels in other industries and other niches and there’s other experts who could do what I did. And so we launched a a template library, we called it The Marketplace.

Trent:                  And then we set out to create more and more and more free SOPs and through partnership programs with other software companies, we’re continuing to add more content with the goal of, you know, if I can get you to start using Flowster for free and you get this one on SOP and you think, well this is really cool. And then you see another one and another one and another one. Well once you get to five and then you need to start paying because there are on the freemium program. And so that is a, a huge push for us going forward.

Ian:                      So is the idea then that you’ll, you’ll also use other influencers and other niches where like, Hey, this is a super successful $5 million a year person in I dunno, automotive and they’re going to create their SOPs and license those SOPs out.

Trent:                  That is absolutely a part of the strategy. [inaudible] and companies, software companies. Cause what I also realized early on just through my own experience and for example, trying to learn SEO, there’s a tool that I really, really like. And of course it’s got a lot of buttons in it and so you need to figure out how to use it. And when you’re new to SEO like me you’re not bringing a lot of experience and knowledge to the table. So what do you do? You go to their training videos and you start watching them and that’s great in that you get smarter. However, I don’t know about the listeners or you but if I watch a 10 or 12 minute long video on YouTube explaining how to do a thing, I’m not going to remember every last little detail.

Trent:                  So then I got to watch it over and over again and I got to take notes and screenshots or whatever. In other words, I’m building a process watching the video cause I’m a delegator. I don’t even, whatever is being covered in the video, I don’t necessarily want to have to do that myself unless it’s really strategic. Like maybe keyword research to a certain degree or what have you. So it put a big burden on me, the customer to create, to watch their videos and then essentially repurpose this content and turn it into content that’s way easier for the new customer of the software company, in which case, in this case, me to make it easier for me to use their platform. And so I wrote a pretty long blog post about how using video based training only is putting a pretty big burden on a Saas companies customers.

Trent:                  And I’ve been using that blog post to start conversations with other Saas companies to say, Hey, is, does this resonate? Does this what you’re doing? And in the eCommerce space, the folks that I’ve talked to so far, it’s resonating. So we’re we are now starting to form partnerships with other companies that have much larger audiences than we do because they’re, what are they interested in? Well, they’re interested in landing more customers and making sure their leads convert and you know, maximizing ARR and LTV and all the things that they pay attention to. And so to a degree we are becoming an enabler to that end.

Ian:                      I find that super interesting. I remember my last company, [inaudible] which I had bootstrapped, I did the same approach that you did, which is how can I arbitrage different time zones and different costs of living to grow my business. So I remember going through the whole, at that point it was oDesk which is now Upwork and we’re going through the whole oDesk hiring process, finding people and then trying to train them. I had no idea how to train effectively. That’s why I started off by writing out what it was that I was looking for somebody to do and there were still some, you know, there was some gap then. I think language and cultural understanding and probably my shorthand and probably I didn’t proofread what I wrote. So from there know, then I was like getting feedback from my team members. Like, Hey, can you do a video? Okay. All right. So, so I go and do the video. What I would do the video slightly differently. And in the absence of the written, the written piece. And so then my video is, it’d be like 20 minutes long. And so people would then go through and try and follow the video, but they’d have to stop and start. And so the whole like, to your point, like it wasn’t, it wasn’t a guided process. So I realized when I was doing quality assurance afterwards of the product that was being delivered back to me, I was realizing are there some steps in the middle of that don’t, don’t seem to be working very well.

Ian:                      And so was it really big time-suck for me to then go back and say, okay, well let’s identify where on the training did we kind of go wrong. So I completely validate that pain point. And for me it was more in the ad tech industry and working with data. I guess I’m curious, you started in eCommerce where there was a lot of very manual work that’s repetitive. What are the other verticals that you’re finding are really good fit for this?

Trent:                  Well, much like Trello I think can be used in virtually any industry. I think that workflows are used in for virtually any industry. You know, the places where we’re looking right now are obviously e-commerce and marketing agencies but you know, think about if you run a doctor’s office or you run a property management company or you run an HVAC repair company, all of them have processes that happen over and over and over.

Trent:                  Like hiring an employee, firing an employee, onboarding a new customer, sending out an invoice, scheduling a job, on training new employees. I mean,there’s really no limit to where these processes can be applied. one of the other areas where we’re having a look is in industries where there are regulatory compliance issues because like pharma, because the burden put on those folks is immense. And so they absolutely need workflows and in our research, we’re getting a lot of great feedback in that, yes, we need this, but at the same time, I don’t know yet if that’s going to become a market focus for us because there are issues. One I have no domain experience in that industry at all. I have no network to speak of. I have one contact who’s been really, really helpful so far.

Trent:                  So I don’t know whether that’ll become an industry of focus for us in the near term or not. But the short answer to your question Ian is virtually every industry has repetitive processes that are known in advance and you’d to happen over and over again.

Ian:                      It makes total sense. So, two companies ago, I was with a Saas company. It was actually e-commerce analytics. And I remember going through the pain of putting visual workflow tool into the app. So if you’re going through and you’re doing e-commerce research, then, then we had a widget. It was a third party, which I can’t remember exactly which one we used. It would, it would walk people through the workflows and I remember it was a huge cost center because for, for us, the Saas company, we had to pay for the tool.

Ian:                      We had to create all the content and it was a lot of mind share and it was a lot of budget. What I heard from what you’re saying is that you’re actually looking to partner with other Saas companies presumably. Is there like an affiliate program or something where if, if there’s some other Saas company they’re pushing customers to Flowster, do they actually make money by leveraging your tool?

Trent:                  Absolutely they can. There’s a couple of ways they can do that. One, there’s the affiliate program. Where did they get 20% of the, the user fees, the, the annual contract or the monthly contract and they get that for life. The second way is by offering those premade SOP templates. They could monetize those in one of two ways. They can monetize them on the front end. In other words, make someone buy them, which I don’t think the math, the vast majority of Saas companies and the less that was a Saas company that was also selling a training program of some kind and then they could incorporate the SOPs into the training program.

Trent:                  But more likely, I think what they would do is monetize it on the back end by having all of these free SOPs, you’ve got great calls to action for whatever content you’re producing to promote your tool. And then by making it easier for new customers to get the benefit from the tool very, very quickly. They’re monetizing on the back end because they’re increasing their conversion ratio, new customers on tool. Or maybe there are putting a link in one of their SOPs to, you know, come to a webinar or to learn even more and maybe that webinar is going to convert them, but there’s any, you’re only limited by your own marketing creativity on how you could monetize it on the backend.

Ian:                      Do you have any, either statistics or, or sort of interesting anecdotes about really popular or either popular controversial workflows that you see people working with in the marketplace?

Trent:                  I don’t have anything controversial yet. but that, that Ahrefs keyword research one, then that was one that I created myself because I was learning the tool. That one’s been downloaded quite a bit and the downloads, you know, we’re a relatively young company, we don’t have a lot of website traffic yet. The, the growth of Flowster has largely been because of my bright ideas podcasts over the last year. And only now are we at the point where we’ve decided invest more in the company to hire a dedicated content marketer who’s then going to hire a team of writers and we’re going to really start to pump out the content. So, even for the level that we’re, at the number of downloads of the, the free SOPs, has been a surprise to me. So as traffic grows, of course that number I anticipate is going to go up substantially.

Trent:                  And just because of the main nature of our model, when you get after five free ones, you got to start to pay in our tool is not a particularly expensive one. So I would be surprised if it does not drag up our ARR as well.

Ian:                      So how much does it cost? I mean you’re talking a little bit about pricing and then you also mentioned wanting to invest more in content. Based on the popularity that you’re seeing right now or the traction that you’re seeing, is there a plan to, to raise funds at all?

Trent:                  So how much does it cost? with our current pricing model, which we’re in Saas, things are subject to change. Paid accounts start at $15 a month and at a minimum you would need an administrative user. So one one user, if you have employees who are going to create or edit SOP templates and assign them to say virtual assistants, you would need paid accounts for those people as well for all of your virtual assistants or people that are, whether whether they’re virtual assistants or employees kind of irrelevant.

Trent:                  The people who are doing the work of the recipients of the workflows here do this thing and it’s due by Friday. Those accounts are all free. And are we going to raise money? I’m starting initially because I have another business that’s quite profitable. We haven’t had to raise any money and I’msitting on a pretty decent war chest of cash and I think I’m probably going to go this content manager that we’re hiring, we’re just funding that from our war chest and I’m probably going to go really hard at it for three to four months to see what type of results we can achieve and then revisit the idea of are we going to raise. There’s no question. It’s a race. the competitors that don’t exist today are going to, you know, somebody’s going to listen to this interview and think, Oh man, I want him to be a competitor, that guy. So, I don’t want to lose momentum. So I have not ruled out the idea of raising money.

Ian:                      I think with, with raising money that you get two things, well you should get two things. One is you get the capital and then the second you get the, either the domain expertise or the strategy advice or some of that value add, particularly from tier one venture capitalists. If somebody were to come inbound to you and preemptively offer you a term sheet, other than the cash, so you, I’m going to give you $1 million regardless. What are the other qualities that you would look for? What would those qualities be? Such that it would make you say, maybe actually we’ll take money now instead of four months from now?

Trent:                  Yeah, that’s a great question. So let’s go back to the pharma example. So thanks to my network of individuals. I know this fellow who used to be in pharma, he put me in touch with the company he worked for previously to the VP of Technology. We’ve had a really great conversation so far and, and he has affirmed that there’s absolutely a big need in our space for what you do. If an investor were to come along who had a lot of expertise in pharma as an example, and had contacts in pharma and said, you know, here’s my million dollar check. And by the way, I’m going to introduce you to a couple of CROs that are doing clinical trials and that’s going to amount to, you know, X amount of users. That’d be probably pretty hard to say no to unless the terms were just really awful. So until you know the specifics on an offer, it’s foolish to take a blanket. No, I wouldn’t be interested in listening.

Ian:                      So I, I’m curious. Obviously you had a lot of success with the SOPs in the eCommerce business, which makes total sense. Can you talk a little bit about what are the SOPs that you’re using actually in this business? Like how are you eating your own dog food, so to speak, within Flowster to accelerate growth.

Trent:                  Oh, so SEO and content production. So when, when, when I decided is that okay, I don’t have enough bandwidth to be the content manager, so I need to hire somebody before ever posting the job, I thought, well, okay, I’m not even an expert in this stuff yet. So started creating SOPs for keyword research, started creating better SOPs for publishing text blog posts because on my Bright Ideas Show, it’s a lot of podcasts as you might guess, I have SOPs for podcasts, but I don’t publish a lot of written text posts there. I created SOPs for that. I created SOPs for how to build links basically half a dozen different SOPs all around content marketing and only when we had those SOPs done and we’d all, and I’d done them a few times and my cofounder had done them a few times like okay We’re now ready to put a body in and say, okay, there’s your systems now go out and hire writers and this is how much content we want produced on a weekly basis.

Ian:                      Can you talk a little bit about what the, what the tracking or the reporting looks like? Cause I think one of the challenges certainly I’ve had, working with, with remote teams is that unless you have a feedback loop at the end of it that says, okay, such and such was supposed to do X, Y, Z, and here is either my report or here is something that indicates, yep these seven boxes were ticked through this process. And again, it’s difficult to really trust the process implicitly. And so you end up actually, yeah, kind of going back and thinking, well, do I need to double check this? Need to reread..this or so. So what does that feedback loop look like within Flowster?

Trent:                  So there’s a number of ways that it happens. So let me preface all of it by saying, if you had, I’ll call it SOP fraud. If someone who was working for you is just ticking. Yes, yes yes they’ve done all this stuff even though they haven’t done it, that would show up in, you know, like if they’re running a podcast SOP and they’re saying, I’ve done all this stuff and then I look in the episode didn’t get published or stuff was missing. I mean you’d find out pretty quickly. But if somebody who I guess was devious enough, I mean maybe there’d be a way to fool you. So we’ll set that aside for the moment and let’s talk about what the application actually does. So as someone who’s delegating a task to somebody else on your team, you can assign the work, the overall workflow, both to you and whoever you’re delegating it to and you can give it a due date.

Trent:                  And, and so the byproduct of that will be that as that SOP moves closer to being due, first of all, you’ll get an email notification saying you’ve been assigned to a workflow and let’s say you made a due on Friday, Thursday you’re going to get an email saying, Hey, it’s due tomorrow. Friday. You’re going to get an email saying, Hey, it’s due today. You can then take individually individual steps of a given workflow and assign those out to other people with different due dates and they’re going to get email notifications. Then we also have a calendar function where you could literally log in, once every day or whenever you would like. And anything where you’re assigned to a task or a workflow will show up on your calendar. If you wanted to check in on one of your subordinates, you can log, you can just click their name on the left hand side and you’re going to be looking at their calendar and you’re going to be able to see, Hey, are there things that are overdue?

Trent:                  Cause if you’re on Wednesday and there’s stuff on Monday that is not done, you’re going to know it. And then the other thing, in addition to the calendar, we have a like a search box basically where you’re able to, there’s all sorts of filters. There are state filters, there’s who did I delegate tasks like show me all the SOPs that I delegated to Dave, that are, that are due, that are overdue or that are due by this Friday. Or you know, like there’s all these ways that you can search and build a list. So that’s one of the key things that I talk about when I’m talking to prospective customers about managing workflows. As you get a number, a larger number of employees and so forth as you need ways to make sure that the wheels don’t fall off the bus, the people who are supposed to do the work or actually getting the work done in the timeframe that you asked them to get the work.

Ian:                      Makes total sense. So you’ve talked a little bit about the ideal investor that came inbound. Who would, who would the ideal partner be for you today in your current stage?

Trent:                  Yeah, so keeping in mind with the e-commerce niche, just for the purpose of this, but you could obviously extrapolate this to any other niche. The perfect partner right now is a Saas company in the eCommerce space who has a product that is moderately to maybe extremely complex to use and is currently relying on video based training during their onboarding process to bring their customers up to speed, and even more so if many of the things that that software application does would likely to be delegated to subordinates of the person that made the decision to use that application. In other words, the boss that makes the use case even stronger.

Ian:                      So what would one actionable item be that a listener could put into practice tomorrow? Okay, so I would encourage people to go, I mean Flowster free. So there’s not a lot of risk in going and checking it out. It’s at flowster.app. F L O W S T E R dot app. And as soon as you create an account, then I would encourage you go, encourage you to go to the marketplace where there is a couple of dozen premade SOP templates and I would encourage you to download one. They’re free to do, some of them are paid, but many of them are free. Download one that you think would be relevant. Most folks probably, are creating content and using SEO. So maybe go start with the Ahref’s SEO keyword research tutorial or whatever one strikes your fancy and have a look at it. And right away I think, well, I know because I’ve talked to so many people about this, when you see what a good quality SOP looks like, you’ll immediately start to get little light bulb moments of how, even if that particular SOP isn’t something that you have a huge need for, you’ll draw parallels in your mind very quickly.

Trent:                  And the platform, much like Trello, you can go and create your own SOPs from scratch and many folks might have that content already kind of spread around their ecosystems in Google Docs or blog posts or maybe in videos or what have you. And you can start to then repurpose that content into your own SOPs. And if you are, if someone listening is a Saas company and this is resonating with you, but you’re running into the bottleneck of, Hey, love everything Trent is saying, but you know who’s going to do this for us? If you’re having a bandwidth issue. We actually just recently launched an SOP concierge service where, we have a team of virtual assistants who can take existing content and repurpose it into SOPs on your behalf. And depending upon what your breadth or what your reach looks like, we may even foot the bill for you to do that.

Ian:                      So that sounds really practical. Maybe just one last question. So you’re talking a lot about working with with offshore teams, folks in the Philippines. Do you have any, any advice for folks who, who maybe have not, hired there in the past or maybe just hadn’t hired teams at all? How would you suggest they go about that hiring process? Cause it does seem like in order to make the SOPs effective, we kind of need to be able to hand them off to somebody. So if you don’t already have that person, what would you suggest?

Trent:                  So I think that’s actually, there’s two things that are really, magical for lack, better descriptor about having documented workflows. The first is with respect to hiring. So the way that we hire virtual assistants, we don’t do a conventional interview where you know, we’re asking them about their employment history and what their goals are and profiling questions and all that. We don’t do that because we’re hiring virtual assistants to do basically one task or a couple of tasks over and over and over again. So we’ll put up a job posting and we will hire five of the applicants to do and we’ll just create a user for each one of those people in the Flowster app. And we’ll assign them the workflow and their ability or inability to do that workflow really is the job interview. And by hiring five and maybe we’re all paying them 10 bucks or whatever it is, cause it’s a relatively short task, it might only be an hour or two or three. We’re going to see who did it the fastest with the least amount of questions and errors and that person or persons, they won the contest so to speak. And that’s who we’re going to hire. And that’s, we’ve been doing that for years and that’s worked really, really effectively for us.

Ian:                      I was just gonna say that that’s actually very interesting because most of the time people assume that the hiring process is, is costly in time for the applicant. And so you know, the longer you make the process, kind of the more, the more time you’re taking from them. But what you’re saying is actually if they apply, presumably you have some filters or screening questions on the application. Basically if they apply and they fit, then immediately they’re hired. And so you’re actually compensating them for that work which I think is actually setting you apart from other, employers. So do you find that you’re getting either like a higher quality or maybe a larger number of, of applicants because of that?

Trent:                  I don’t know what the number of applicants, cause I’m not the one that runs that into the business, but I can tell you that our turnover is extremely low. I’ve had virtual assistants, one of them, she’s been working for me now for I think seven years because when they are supported and there’s things beyond the SOPs that we do to make sure that our VA stay around, we really do treat them like employees. We give them the 13th month, we give them birthday presents, we get them time off. I mean we treat them like human beings just cause they don’t show up in the office every day, they’re every bit the valued member of our team that someone who walks through the doors is. And now I’ve lost my train of thought on whatever the other part of that question was.

Ian:                      Well, I think that the, the cross, the crux of the question was, are you perceived as a better employer? And I think what you’re saying is yes and the KPIs that support that is retention where people are just sticking around longer than, you know, constantly having to go back to the well so to speak and hire somebody once a month or once every couple of weeks cause you’re just burning out people.

Trent:                  Yeah. I think that’s not been an issue for us.

Ian:                      Right. So I found this super interesting. I really want to go sign up now. Is there anything that we haven’t covered that listeners should know?

Trent:                  Yeah. Actually there’s the one last thing that I was going to get to, and I consider this to be honestly one of the most valuable aspects of having of using Flowster and having documented processes. So as a CEO of three different companies, my job is to work on the businesses, not in the businesses. And what the reason I became, one of the reasons I became an entrepreneur is because I enjoy the intellectual stimulation and challenge of learning. So I do podcasts, I read books, I go to conferences. I’m, I am a knowledge acquiring machine. If you don’t have processes though, how do you implement that knowledge? So let’s say, let’s use the scenario where one company has a bunch of talented employees who are doing things based largely upon their memory and experience. So the CEO of that organization comes back to the office after attending a conference, having learned some great new thing that’s going to improve this process or this, this, this type of work they do all the time. So he sits everybody down in the conference room, he explains to them all the thing and says, okay, I want everybody to do that.

Trent:                  Well, the challenge that that in that scenario is, you now are looking to change one of the most powerful forces in the universe and that is the human habit, very difficult to do. Whereas in scenario B, someone who’s using Flowster or some other application, but Flowster in particular has this functionality. So I’m the CEO in that scenario, I’ve learned this great new thing. So I sit down, I open, I do this all the time. By the way, I open up my blog posts SOP cause I learned a new thing that I thought was particularly clever from someone who I interviewed on my show and I make a new entry in the SOP and I document that particular piece of knowledge and I put over whatever screenshot needs to be in there. And then I hit update all workflows, which I kind of call the magic partner in software says, Hey you have 12 or six or seven active workflows based upon this SOP template.

Trent:                  Would you like to update all of those workflows? And I click yes and instantly that new piece of knowledge is now pushed out into the organization, into all of the live workflows that employees are working on. And they can’t archive. If I make it mandatory, which is a little tick box, they’re not able to complete that task or archive that workflow without doing the thing that I just added to the template. So now I don’t have to change human habits per se. I simply have updated our documented processes and the culture of our organization of course, is that we follow our document processes. So it gets done.

Ian:                      Super powerful. Trent, I am glad we met. I definitely, I’m going to go sign up for Flowster right now and I’m not even being compensated for that. So super appreciate it and looking forward to seeing more, as you launch this podcast series andhave others on the show.

Trent:                  Alrighty. And then thank you so much for offering to do this. This wasn’t my idea when I reached out to you. I had wanted to interview you, but, you very kindly said, Hey, I really think we should flip this around. So thank you for doing that. And I hope that the folks who, listen, got some value out of this and as Ian has suggested, he’s going to try Flowster it’s, if you haven’t already figured it out, it’s free to try it’s at Flo, Thanks man. Thanks again.

Questions Asked During the Interview

[01:46] When did you get started on Amazon?
[02:42] How did you find profitable products?
[03:02] How did creating SOPs and hiring virtual assistants affect your results?
[04:03] What happened after you spoke on stage at the industry conference about your success?
[04:51] How did you start Flowster?
[06:22] What did it cost you to develop the software to the point where you could launch?
[10:19] What problems does Flowster solve and how big is the market for this?
[18:52] How did you attract your first 1,000 users?
[30:59] What are your plans for the future of Flowster?

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Today’s Guest

Trent Dyrsmid is a serial entrepreneur, husband, and father. In addition to hosting the Bright Ideas podcast, he is Founder of Flowster, a business process improvement application used by thousands of businesses around the globe. His company ranked 254 on the 2019 Inc 5000 of America’s Fastest Growing Companies.

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