Mike O’Donnell Life Screenshot April 2013

Posted on April 7th, 2013 in Business Development, Goal Setting, My Story, Outsourcing, Reflection | No Comments »

Every now and then I like to do a complete brain dump and write down the different things are currently “in the mix” in my life. This helps me reflect on the opportunities in front of me and it also serves as a screen shot into my decision making. Typically, some opportunities will take off while others will fade away or never get off the ground. The opportunities that you never hear about actually have a major impact over your thoughts and actions in the present, so they are worth documenting.

* On April 28, 2012 I moved to Montreal to start my partnership with Ben. This was a milestone decision that has affected almost every single area of my life. We’re getting very close to my 1 year anniversary of this big life decision and the past year has been an absolute roller coaster of ups and downs, successes and failures. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunities in front of me that I do now and if all goes as planned I expect the next year to be even better than the last.


3D Printing

The first opportunity I would like to talk about has to do with my Marketing Business, Hyacinth Marketing. About 3 months ago I got back in touch with an old friend who informed me that he was starting a 3D printing business on the side. They were in the process of securing funding to purchase large 3D printers that could print in multiple different types of materials such as silver, gold, ceramic, plastic, etc. Basically, their business model is going to be Manufacturing as a Service. Designers will be able to upload CAD files of designs to their website and they would print the design in the material of choice and dropship to the customer. They spoke with a bunch of different companies, but in the end they decided to have my company build the website for them! This website is pretty much going to be an “eBay like” ecommerce site, so it’s a total WHALE of a project.

I’ve spent over a month so far just planning the website out and going back and forth with them before we start. There are so many moving parts and features that they want included, that we need to be absolutely crystal clear on the Statement of Work before we start. Right now we are just discussing phase 1 of the project, but my estimate is that when the website is finally done it will have cost them around 35-45K and take about 6-9 months to develop. This is great for my business because it’s going to be a big contract that provides stable cash flow for an extended period of time. However, I am a little bit concerned about how this will affect our friendship if anything doesn’t go exactly as planned.


Equity Partnership

The 2nd big opportunity on my plate right now is an equity deal with my former sales mentor, Mike Kruszewski. In March of last year I sourced a web development team in India to help design his website and code the back end software for www.reportsonlineplus.com. Around that same time last year I became a member of the Equity Investors Network and had a conversation with Mike telling him about how Ben and I were approaching companies to do equity deals with in exchange for a full suite of marketing services. We never did much with the equity investing stuff because we were focusing on building up Convernet, but my conversation with him in March planted the seed. A couple weeks ago he approached me and told me that the business is ready to go, but he needs my expertise to help get it off the ground. We’re meeting sometime this week so he can present my deal to me and we can discuss the details of the partnership.

I’m pretty excited about this opportunity for many reasons. First, Mike was the person that hired me out of college and served as my mentor while I was working at Simplex Grinnell. I just think that it’s really cool that just 2 years later we are now discussing being business partners together. He’s a hell of a salesman and a great guy personally so I think we will do very well working together.

The second big thing is the opportunity itself. The life safety industry is incredibly behind in terms of technology. Most of the big companies still use paper files for everything to this day. It’s an absolute nightmare. Reports Online Plus is basically a fully automated SalesForce.com geared specifically to the life safety inspections industry and is incredibly easy for businesses to get started. I already have a small mom and pop inspection company that I have spoken to that wants to do a test run of the software.

Finally, the third big reason I can’t wait to do this deal is because of the automation factor. This is a software as a service company, so there really aren’t too many moving parts to keep the business running. Once we get the user base up (I have a great marketing plan for this) we will be making money every month on a subscription basis.


Physical Products

If all else fails, physical products are going to be my primary business of the future. I’ve hinted at it on here before, but I’m looking to transition into a more stable business where I can build assets and also have the ability remove myself from the business without it falling apart. This is that opportunity!

I started out researching how to import products towards the end of February/early March. I was looking specifically at importing a batch of cell phone batteries for around $3 a pop that sell for around $25 each. Basically, I just wanted to do something small and spend about $1000 so I could learn the ropes of importing and make a couple bucks along the way.

That vision quickly changed a few weeks ago when I heard about what Matt Clark and Jason Katzenback were doing with their Amazon businesses. They each used to be big in the internet marketing community until they started focusing on Amazon and are each making over $100,000 per month selling their own physical products. “Their Own” is the key term here. When you sell other people’s products on Amazon you need to compete for the “Buy Box” but when you sell your own brand of products you get full control over all of the marketing copy and are the only person with the Buy Box.

What they do is they pick out product opportunities and then contact manufacturers to do a private label deal. You would be surprised at how many products are actually all made exactly the same in the same facility and then they just slap a different label on it and call it by a different name.

Being the awesome guys that they are, they broke their entire business down into an 8 week training course and were offering to train a group of people on how to build a business just like theirs. I heard about this course and sent a quick message over to Justin Lee to see what he knew about it. One thing led to another and Justin was able to get us both in for FREE, bypassing the hefty $3,500 ticket price.

We’re about to enter week 4 of the course and things are starting to heat up. My action steps for just this week alone were:

  1. Make my final decision on a product. I’ve spent easily around 30 hrs researching different product opportunities and my final list has come down to: Tealight Candles, Elongated Toilet Seats, Dry Erase Boards, Bird Feeders, and Grill Brushes. I’ll save the details behind how I came to these conclusions, but I have finally decided to go with Grill Brushes as my product.
  2. Compare domestic and foreign manufacturers and work out a private label deal. I’ve done all of my research and starting tomorrow morning I will be picking up the phone to call each of the suppliers on my list.
  3. Create a new Brand name and product name. Still working on this part. So many damn action steps to complete in only a 7 day time frame.
  4. Design product packaging and labels. This is dependent on figuring out what I’m going to call my brand and product. By Tuesday I will have all of the specifications and hire a designer to create all of this for me. I also need to figure out what kind of warning labels and certifications I may need since the brushes touch food.
  5. Order my initial batch of inventory. By Wednesday I need to have my first order placed and be ready to start selling my own brand of Grill Brushes!

To an outside person reading this, I’m sure this sounds absolutely ridiculous and impossible. It’s crazy, but I have complete confidence that I’ll have this entire business up and running and generating cash flow before May 10th. I just wrote it down so now I’m committed! I’ll make sure to write a post when I make my first sale. I’m siked!


Training Courses

Along with getting access Matt and Jason’s course, I also managed to get access to 2 of John Reese’s courses for free as well. The first course is called Money Mindset and it is basically just a ton of great mini workshops to rewire the way you think and act. From a pure informational standpoint, I have heard a lot of the same things that he teaches before. However, the fact that he links everything with actions and makes you do the mini workshops is great because it forces you to implement the ideas.

The second course I am in the middle of right now is Outsource Force. I’ve done a lot of outsourcing over the past year, but the stuff he teaches in this course goes way above and beyond in terms of opening my eyes to the different possibilities. He takes things to another level and actually builds teams of full time workers overseas to run his entire businesses. He also covers a lot of information on how to design business models and automate parts of your business which is great. He’s a really smart dude and an excellent teacher, so I have a lot to learn from him. To put things into perspective, he teaches how to hire very qualified people who will work 40 hours a week for only $300. You can’t beat that baby!

Mike O’Donnell Learns How to Utilize Outsourcing and Delegation to Build a Business Machine

Posted on July 23rd, 2012 in Business Development, Canada, Management, Outsourcing | No Comments »

One of the things I often hear success coaches and business mentors say is that you need to put yourself in the mindset and act like someone who makes the amount of money you desire to make. For instance, someone who makes a couple hundred thousand dollars a year does not spend their time doing $10 or even $30 an hour tasks. Their time is much more valuable and much better spent doing other more strategic things in their business. As someone who has yet to ever have considerable spending money, I have developed the personality traits of always trying to do things myself. Although this method saves me money and gives me the opportunity to learn many new things, lately I have been realizing just how powerful outsourcing and delegation can really be. It is good for me to learn and understand these new things, but when it comes to implementation I have been reminding myself of this valuable quote, “A Jack of all trades is a master of none.” My biggest strengths are in Marketing strategy and business management/development and that is where I need to focus the majority of my time.

Now that I have explained my current mindset, I would like to dedicate the rest of this post to the discussion of outsourcing and how it plays a vital role in the creation of a business machine. You see, I have actually known how to outsource for a few years now, but it wasn’t until I started working with Ben that I was really able to start shifting my mindset from relying on myself to utilizing other people’s expertise. Before coming to Canada, I actually did my own SEO and manually built citations every day because that way I didn’t have to pay anybody to do what I already knew how to do. Now, we have a team in India that we have trained to provide SEO the way we want them to and I can spend my time on other more strategic projects. The key lesson here is that if you want to make your business scalable, you need to remove yourself from the equation. You need to train people and build bulletproof systems so the business can run without you.

As far as the SEO team in India is concerned, that was in place before I got to Montreal. My personal experience with outsourcing has been from developing our system for posting reviews for businesses throughout Canada. Ben had developed a system before I got here, but as our reputation management client base has grown, I have been in charge of modifying the system and hiring, firing, and managing our outsourced work force.  So let me give you an overview of what this “system” really is.

We have almost 300 businesses throughout Canada that have the ability to send us anywhere from 12 to 120 reviews per year. These are real reviews from their customers and we are in charge of making sure they get distributed across the internet in a natural pattern over a certain period of time. We receive these written reviews either by pdf in an email or through a fax number which gets forwarded to an email. Some weeks we receive only a handful of submissions and other weeks we can receive over 100 review submissions. With only a few hours per week of management, our system allows us to have every review transcribed into a spreadsheet, posted on various business review sites, and double checked that the review goes live. At any point in time I can tell you both the macro and micro metrics of the system. For instance, how many reviews a certain business has submitted, how many have been posted, where each review has been posted, how many have been verified as live, and the percentage of plan usage that business has utilized so far.

To make this system work, I have been utilizing a Filipino work force. Before Montreal I never actually implemented outsourcing, so this alone has been a tremendous learning experience for me. Like most learning experiences I’ve had to make a couple of mistakes before I really got the hang of things. Originally we relied on 1 person to do the review transcriptions, a girl named Emmalyn. She was the first person I had the opportunity to manage and I learned a lot from her. The first lesson was how important communication really is even for a data entry position. When I was managing Emmalyn, I didn’t have any form of regular communication with her and I just accepted her work as is. I mean, how bad could she mess us data entry, right? Big mistake. One day, I noticed our queue starting to back up and when I checked in on Emmalyn I learned that she hadn’t worked in 2 weeks. She claimed a bad storm had been disrupting the internet for 2 weeks, but when the internet was available, she never notified me of the situation and that she wasn’t working. From then forward, I learned that I needed to have a standard daily communication from all of my workers and that I needed to encourage communication so I could plan ahead. I also learned that we needed to have redundancy in the system. Emmalyn not working became a single point of failure and the queue backed up. We needed to have multiple people trained to do this job so when something broke down we could react quickly.

My next big outsourcing lesson was a hiring mistake. Interviewing for a data entry position is tough because it is hard to distinguish between good and bad candidates. It took the hiring of a lady named Dennise to teach me how important my job was to frame the importance of her position and motivate her to want to work. I hired Dennise through a simple sms chat on Skype instead of speaking with her live on audio. This was a big mistake because I just took her word that she understood everything I had been saying. Dennise ended up not being a right fit for the job because of her lack of attention to detail and I eventually had to fire her. It was my fault that things had to end the way they did because I made a poor hiring decision. On all future hires, I have made it a point to really get to know the person before deciding to hire so that I know they will be a good fit.

Taking the lessons that I learned, my system now consists of two people who are both cross trained to do 2 separate jobs. They work on Mondays and Wednesdays and alternate jobs so 1 person is doing job A on Monday and the other is doing job B and vice versa for Wednesdays. At the end of every day, I get a detailed report from each of them letting me know exactly what they did so I can spot check for quality and also letting me know any questions or comments they have. All questions get added to an FAQ document which is available for all future hires for the position so I can speed up the learning curve. By having them work strictly on Mondays and Wednesdays, I can quality check on Tuesdays and Thursdays and also make modifications to the spreadsheets as needed. My current employees, Jonnel and Caecilia, are highly motivated and really enjoy working for me because of the open communication and level of respect that I give each of them.

When I say this system only takes a couple of hours per week to manage, that’s because I am still involved in the quality control process. While this is good because I have a certain level of comfortablity, the next phase is to remove myself all together and bring in another person to do quality control. For me this is a big step because I need to relinquish more control, but it will allow me to spend my time more wisely and help shift my activities away from operational and towards managerial.

When I talk about how we are focusing on building business systems, this is an example of just one system. Both Ben and I are spending the majority of our time building systems like this into the business so we can quite literally build a business machine that generates profit without our daily interaction in the operations.

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