Category Archives: Entrepreneur

My brain dump system to create clarity

About once every week or two my brain starts to feel overwhelmed or unsure of the ‘most important thing’ to be doing that day. It’s important to always be checking to make sure you and your team’s working on important things!

The issue is, important things change. And change fast. I’ve created a weekly or bi-weekly habit of a pen to paper brain dump in my daily to-do notebook. I start off with a few power questions that always rotate. Here are some examples:

  • What will help us reach our goal this year the fastest and simplest way?
  • What is out biggest bottleneck at the moment?
  • What small changes would make the biggest impact?
  • What could we do today that has a CHANCE at 10X our business this year?
  • Why are we in this business to begin with?

This gets me focused on the bigger picture and lets me spot the items on the list that could bring the biggest results with the least time or money.

Then, I write down anything and everything related to the business. It’s usually about 2 full pages of bullet point items. I do this off the top of my head first as it brings out the things most top of mind  (usually the ones I should do first that maybe have not). After that, I look back at the previous brain dump and check off the completed ones (this feels good) and add any I’ve  forgotten about to the new list I created.

Reflecting back on this is awesome! I can see the ones that have been on the list for too long and either take action, remove them entirely if no longer important or just let them float along till the time is right. It creates clarity and lets me know we’re focusing on the right things.

This master list is always evolving. We add new ideas, new tests, new product lines. Anything that might help us get to our goals as a company. Here are a few on my list this moment that are not done yet. This will give you a scope of the size of these tasks from large to small:

  • setting up an upsell and split testing system to outsource and automate
  • look back and find scaling triggers. can we find a pattern in the data showing us which products could have scaled faster and learn from that?
  • start testing and creating systems around international expansion – create the MVP
  • Build more KPI’s around the key drivers for our business (the key drivers are held internally)
  • create a dashboard for easier view of business in real time (klipfolio or other)
  • automate monthly accounting tasks
  • find new partners to promote as affiliates or paid ads
  • create videos for top selling skus + systemize
  • collect video testemonials for website
  • split test cart and checkout pages to improve conersions – simplest way?
  • improve thank you page – think of ‘connecting generations’
  • improve overall ineraction level and personality of the company – how and what is it?
  • licensing deals?
  • create a premium brand
  • test a new theme for dramatic conversion rate test – protect the downside
  • implement and hire legit SEO peeps
  • test new traffic sources like taboola, ourbrain, yahoo, email and other
  • continue to create manuals and systems for aspects of business
  • review ‘high our put management’ questions and take action on points
  • book a room for the team to meet in before next week
  • finally automate bi-weekly emails and forget about them!
  • meet suppliers in person

These are just a few, are the specific enough? Not really. But as I choose from this list we break them down into actionable steps and decide who is responsible. This lets our team execute on what’s most important. The list never really shrinks, in fact, it always grows, but it’s a great refference of ‘are important things getting done?’ And to make sure were not just focsuing on daily immediate emergencies. It ensures we never stop improving the business as a whole and lose site of our why.

Going back 3,6,12 months and reviewing the list reveals a lot about where time has been invested. Are we not getting some important things done? Why has this been on the list for 6 months with no action? Is it because it’s not important? Because we don’t know how to do it? Are we focusing too much on short-term emergencies than building the company? Which leads to the question ‘How to reduce or eliminate short-term emergencies so we can focus on the important things?’.

This all adds to the brain dump and I always get new ideas while doing this exercise. Hope it helps, give it a try!


Using Your Customers to Create Accountability and Consistancy

Deep down you know what needs to be done in your business…but if you’re like me…sometimes I just don’t do them…they don’t ‘seem important’ right now because it’s to small of scale or the time vs effort isn’t there…but it’s the small things that add up over time… here is the story on how we forced ourselves to do the right thing by promising our customers…

Our email list was growing at about 100-400 emails a day from potential customers either opting in or buying…it slowly built up and we’d email them now and then…a promotion…a survey…then 2-3 weeks would slip by with no emails. Why? I knew these relationships were the whole basis of the business, they were people who had bought from us already! I was focused on building/scaling the customer list and not taking relationships with my current customers to the next level…

This was the old affiliate marketer coming out in me…we got the ROI on adspend so we were profiting while growing the list…emails was just a side bonus so I wasn’t taking it seriously (even though the reason I started this was to get away from affiliate marketing and to build a true asset) – Dang habits coming back to get me!

It was actually worst then that…when we would email our abuse and unsubscribes were huge…I even got a warning from mailchimp. These were real people who trusted us enough to buy or opted in a few weeks ago now marking us as spam…I can’t blame them…we’d disappear then pop up with an email asking them to buy again…how selfish!

So we made a promise to each individual person…we’ll send out our VIP emails every Tuesday and Friday. We told them in the welcome email exactly what to expect. So now they new what to expect and they got regular emails from us…keeping that relationship warm. To the top of each email we added a quick reminder of who we are, why they are getting this email and detailed instructions on how to unsubscribe if they wish…

Abuse reports went down, unsubscribes went down and open and click rates went up and best of all sales went up! Thanks to making a promise and keeping it. On top of that, it’s motivating…seeing the list growing, staying active, and producing more repeat customers and sales…

We solved our consistency problem…now it’s just a procrastination one – we still do last minute emails on Monday / Thursday nights to get them scheduled in time…but that’s for another post…

How to Find and Keep a Business Mentor / Friend

Everyone talks about how important it is to get a business mentor (not a huge fan of that term). There is only one problem…it’s not that easy. So lets talk about how to find that person and have them WANT to help you…

When I was first starting out in Internet marketing I knew NOTHING. I didn’t even know how to buy a domain or set up a server….I remember spending hours and being so happy when I made a site that said ‘Hello, this is Joel’ in plain writing in the top left of the screen….a website! These hours started laying the foundation of my future businesses. They also made it possible for me to get a ‘mentor’….

Speak Their Language

After a few Internet business fails (this will be another post) I started to get quicker and learn the game… I learned about wordpress, autoresponders, html, php, CPA, CPC, CPM, tracking pixels, split testing and other ‘lingo’ in the Internet marketing business. This is key (I didn’t know it at the time).

When you meet someone who could potencially help you out…they need to know you’re not a beginner looking for an easy out. They didn’t have an easy out so why should you? Knowing the language, talking the language and showing you understand the language goes a long way in proving your worth their time. It shows you’re already invested and taking action. Successful people like that. They know that is what it takes. If you’re not ALREADY sacrificing and taking action no one will help you…and they shouldn’t!

Offer them Value in Some Way (doesn’t have to be business)

Sometimes this can be hard. But if you’ve put in your time above chances are you can even help them in their business some way. Make it short, simple and actionable if this is your route. Or send them a link to an article you think they would find interesting (easy way yo give value, just copy and paste)

In my case, I didn’t offer much but a good time in a new city! We went out partying the first day we met and it’s a crazy story we still talk about (he’s one of my best friends now). It was fun. We didn’t talk about business or marketing. We just hung out. Got a little (VERY) drunk.

Don’t Come Across As Desperate

Nobody likes someone who’s desperate. It creates an automatic reaction to push that person away. It’s negative. Wether that’s a desperate guy in a bar going up to girls or a desperate person at a meet-up who asking around for help or a mentor. You need the attitude that you’ll make ‘enter your goal here’ happen with or with-out a mentor. Confidence will help you attract the right mentor and people to help you succeed.

Ask Engaging, Specific Questions (And not to many)

If you just keep asking boring, simple questions you could find out yourself you’re going to have a very hard time keeping them engaged. If Google can answer it for you…don’t ask them! Before you ask a question…TRY and TRY and TRY to do it yourself. So when you ask it goes something like this”

“I’m having trouble with ‘A’. I thought ‘X’ would work but then this happened. I then tried ‘X2’ but that didn’t work…I read a few post about ‘X3’ but I just don’t get it. Can you point me in the right direction for ‘A’?”

This shows you invested time into solving it yourself (showing your commitment). You’re also not asking them to do it for you…just to point you in the right direction. This is a big difference. One is needy the other is a person grinding that needs a little help.

The best part about this…is you’ll learn more and grind harder to make it work. You’ll make it work with or without a ‘mentor’. When that person comes along they will be willing to help because they see you working. Sacrificing. Risking. Just like they did at the start.

That is how you get a great business mentor. No one said it would be easy. And if your mentors says that…find a new mentor.

3 Illegal Businesses I tried Growing Up…What did you try?

I tried some crazy ways to make money growing up…most of the unknowingly illegal. Do you have any? Think way to when you were a teenager, a pre-teen or before? I’m not talking a lemonade stand…what crazy things did you try or plan? Here are 3 of my favorite attempts…

Business attempt #1: My Own ‘Publishing Company’

Before I turned 10 I was reading one of my favorite books and saw the price tag…WOW $19.99 (or something close to that, it was enough to make me think ‘holy, that’s a lot of money’)

My little entrepreneurial brain was cranking…I grabbed some free printer paper from my parents, sat in the basement and started TRACING…haha oh man, I wrote out all the text and traced the images…thinking I could sell this book for even half the normal costs…why wouldn’t someone buy that? Anyways, after many many hours more then I thought…I gave up and realized the time combined with my lack of tracing skills put me out of business…

Business attempt # 2: Why not print money?

I remember hearing about people counterfeit money…more specifically $50 and $100 bills…I was back to the free paper and printer (with-out letting my parent know) – it was time to literally print money. My parents had those photo cutters that did nice sharp edges…I scanned a $5 bill (thinking who would check or care about a $5 bill?) It was genius…I didn’t need hundreds I only needed fives (probably for candy and hockey cards).

After a few attempts at scanning and printing straight….we got pretty close (but I mean come on – we used printer paper) – In the end my parents saw what I was doing and told me how illegal it was…what’s next?

Business Attempt #3: My Bookie Business

Looking back this makes me laugh so hard. In grade 9 my friend Marc (RIP) and I thought we knew everything about sports and hockey. We figured if we made our own odds for NHL games that week and took bets…we’d win. We basically went off gut feel for who was going to win giving odds like 2:1 or 3:1.

We kept track in a binder of all the bets placed. Money was collected upfront and kept in a jar in our lockers.

The first 2 weeks we made a little money and we thought we were going to me rich. We increased or marketing (all viral to friends and friends of friends and even some teachers) and we took on way more bets.

**Note on the teachers – Mr. Kast and Mr. Reid were both skeptical and didn’t want to get in shit from making the bets with grade 9 students. How freaking cool of them to do it. I can only image what they were thinking and telling their friends.

Anyways, back to scaling our business…well…after upping our bets and putting our profits into a contingency fund (just in case) we waited for the games to play out….it didn’t go our way. A few bad losses and we were out of money…after being about 50-100 in the red we shut it down and realized we were not as good at odds as we thought…

Looking back, I laugh and smile. We were out there hustling…trying to make a buck to buy some more candy and hockey cards. I’m so thankful for my parents, teachers and friends that let me try. Even when it was illegal or the worlds dumbest idea.

Do you have any stories or memories as a kid trying to make it rich? If so, maybe you were born to be an entrepreneur…it’s inside you. Get out there and hustle.