We see it so vividly in our minds and we almost see it so vividly as it has already happened, and I was running fast to make that happen. All right guys welcome back another episode of a mere proved now. Today’S guests is good friend of mine, dev Bassett. Now before we begin, today’s show a little bit housecleaning notes for everyone out there. Now, if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe to my youtube blog because every single week, I’m picking two lucky people to earn twenty dollars in bitcoins so make sure to subscribe, and if you’re listening to this on iTunes, if you leave a review, I will also Be looking for one to two lucky people, so I can get them 20 bucks in Bitcoin now without further ado, our special guest.
Today our guest is dev Basu. He is a founder of power, bi search, a performance media and digital marketing agency that helps b2b software technology companies, such as click funnels and Shutterstock in 2018, powered by search work has driven over 2.4 billion in annual sales directly from the intent engine mythology apply successfully To SEO and direct response paid search, let’s impress her brother.
Well, you like it’s all, it’s all downhill from here Goodman. I have to have you on the show man thanks for having me yeah man, so the reason I want to have you on the show is like, first of all, kudos our round of applause for a building powered by search. Thank you. It’S impressive and you know you and I know each other for a while, and I would love to know the ins and the outs, the ups and the downs of smiles and frowns, of what it took to build power, buy search.
And maybe, if you can kind of rewind and tell us a little bit history of the process and what it actually took to create this amazing business that you built yeah for sure man, it’s a what a trip we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this October. So I can take you down memory lane to do it. So 2009 is when I started the business and recall: wasn’t the best time to start a business after the crash right after the crash to start working in technology and marketing.
But honesty was a boon, because what I realized is money flows from less effective blogs, the more effective blogs. So one of the things the wind that was at our back back then was a fact that businesses that we used to work with and we didn’t work with software businesses when we started it was, you know, small businesses, local businesses, they were pulling money out of This thing, I don’t, if you even remember it’s called the Yellow Pages yeah.
What is that thing good for a door stopper these days yeah, so they were pulling money out of there and they needed somewhere. To put it so most of the time, advertising and marketing goes down in a recession, but the part that remains what actually ends up happening for growth businesses as they go. We need to cut, but we’re not going to cut everywhere. Let’S cut down the blogs that are the worst performers now that we have some savings, there’s no point just putting it under a pillow there, a business you want to grow.
You realize that a recession is actually a really good time to grow your business, to be able to get more market sure, so you got ta put it somewhere and the thing that most of our clients wanted was they wanted to figure out how to get Google To love on them how to get Google to love their websites? How to get you know, visibility had to get clicks. How to get. You know phone calls and leads, and that was kind of the Wild West back then, and so that’s what we helped them do and it started off real small, so the business it started when I was when I was, I was probably 21 yeah 21.
At that point you know starting to finish up my university career. I did an undergrad at: U of T the BBA program to live in Scarborough, which is on the east end of Toronto. Small 50s good fifty sort of square foot condo solarium, is where I started this business and the way it came around actually was. I was working at a job. You know it was interesting. I was a director of marketing at an agency that was affiliated with the Yellow Pages, so I actually got to see the inside track on how the Yellow Pages was sold.
What kind of businesses used it how they tracked and measured success, and I was also able to see what was going to happen to it next, and you know, I think it panned out in a way which wasn’t exactly a curative or ry+ for for them over The last decade and and that’s why there are door stoppers right, so I looked at that. There’S a point where my boss, at that time she calls me to Maya into her office and sits me down and says: have you know you’re you’re graduating soon? What do you want to do? They said I don’t know you know I’m having a fun time working over here.
I’M learning Lots. I would just want to contribute and continue working in this field, and she says you know. I think you should never start your own business, really yeah Wow. I said what. Why would why do you say that, and she said I think, you’d be a terrible manager. I’M going now I’m curious right, I’m not I’m not even mad. I’M curious, I’m like what what makes you say that she said well, even a split that aside, you know, for you know just a minute, a hot minute.
Do you know how expensive fax machines are? I know fax machines. It’S 2009. I haven’t used a fax machine since 2007. That was still you know, because the company Hughes fax machines. At that point she said you know how many found much phone lines cost. I’M like I’m. I use Skype so 2009 right and I think just the that nature of the argument I think reflecting on it. You know hindsight’s always 20/20.
She was worried that I’d go on my own and she predicted that correctly, but that was also the tipping point for me. I, despite like oh yeah yeah, I was ever this person is yeah. I thank her. Thank you so much right, so that was like. On a Friday I was in Montreal. I flew back to Toronto. I went and registered an incorporation. I was like you know. Just basically playing around with names like what can I call this company and the genesis behind the name powered by search actually comes from me being a nerd, remember, vbulletin, before I’m sorry, yeah, so at the bottom of every vbulletin forum was powered by people didn’t and So I kind of I did some soul-searching over that weekend and it’s odd.
What do I call this company? What’S my what’s on my DNA, and it was just as fact that I had learned so much about how Google and other search engines worked over the last. You know five years what I started in 2005 and I said it’s got ta be powered by search. That’S what we’re powered by. If I, if there were no search engines, I wouldn’t know what to do in this business. There’D be nothing to optimize there’d, be no! You know advertising to run, and so it’s going to be powered by search.
That’S that’s! That weekend was magical because I went from incorporating the company online, not knowing anything, about how to incorporate a company at all to starting to put down the site map and then just updating my LinkedIn profile on that Monday and just saying hey, you know what I’ve Gone out of my own, I’m an independent consultant at this point in time, and that was it. It was interesting that there was just an outpour of people who are my network reaching out and saying hey? Can you help me and would you have a look at my website and then before I knew it that first I think two months it was already at 30 to 50 km RR and then just kept growing from over there, and it was too much work to Handle – and you know how it goes well, there’s too much work to handle and you’re a technician.
You hire another technician and that kept snowballing into this. This agency, that and this consultancy that we’ve built now ten years later, and so you mentioned 20k 50km RR yeah – was that just through word of mouth completely who word-of-mouth, okay yeah it just came in, and you know I one of the things that I really learned About pricing in the early days was never to charge by the hour. I made that mistake, mm, probably eight I’d, say I’ll.
Tell you the story. Actually I uh I designed a website. It was for a florist in 2008 and I didn’t know a lick of HTML or coding, and I thought this is a really get good way to get. You know to get paid to learn. So let me take this on, and this is back like I was using notepad mm-hmm notepad to design these websites, and the guy gives me an Excel spreadsheet with you know all the different types of flowers and whatnot he has and got some images.
He just gives me a USB key, no Dropbox at that point, not not that I can recall at least it says, design me a website, it’s a simple directory style site and you just keep clicking clicking clicking until you get to a point where you find a Flower, you like and there’s a phone number. You can call super simple, so it was a hundred, maybe pages that I needed to design I charged him 500 dollars for this website and then a hundred hours later.
Well, I calculated my per $ 1 per hour. Yeah yeah, my effective, I really rate, and I was like oh boy. This was an expensive lesson, yeah yeah, and so I think what helped in those early days was just using value pricing understanding what expensive problem I was being hired to solve and then really helping the business of the owners I was working with and as a simple Right now, it’s like what two people three people in the company yeah.
I was two people. Okay, it was two people at that point in time, and then it grew to three by the end of the first year it was four and and then it just kept growing more over there. So you were hiring people like developers, designers, yeah, yeah and in the beginning they were like. You know Swiss Army knives right, so people who were generally complete generalists – and you know they could talk to clients, so they could build decks and they could write copy and they could build ad campaigns.
They knew how to do outreach things like that and then, as we started honing I learned about you know what t-shaped talent basically looks like where you can go deep in one area and and that’s how we started: building or functional practice areas. And so when did you when you exhausted your word of mouth, then referrals? What was your next strategy to take growth to the next level? We decided to practice what we preach, so that meant publishing speaking.
You know getting beats by our own SEO, our own AdWords. So one thing that you might see is: like digital agencies: don’t advertise, you know the good ones, don’t and it’s all referral, referral referral and, frankly, I think it’s a little lazy, because you should be getting better at your own craft, not just getting better at it. Based off your clients time, and so, if you aren’t walking the walk, then your believability goes down mm-hmm, and so, as a result of that, we really practice that, and you know whatever our focus was over the years.
We got really good at it and then we just started sharing freely. So the idea was that you know our best. Thinking was either going to be really expensive or it was going to be free and it’s ping-ponged over the years as to what that is, and currently our best thinking is free. You know, but we know that it’s going to be one of those situations where no one’s going to come in, lift it and just do it on their own.
So what was it the? So? I really want to dissect this. So you don’t 2250 K. You know people can kind of understand that right, yeah get a couple of leads in yeah, a retainer. You know, okay, you know tema, for what between like? What would you say? The Jim was a gradual jump, or did he go from 50k? Tens like 300k a month like how did that process look like doubling every year, doubling every year, doubling every year so first year, I think our revenue was 480 okay.
Then it was like 960. Okay. If I recall correctly, we went to 1.7 the then it was 2.5 it was. There was what year we were three and it just kept growing, basically over over there until this is all paid like majority of the normal SEO and paid yeah SEO and paid. You know that’s 90 % of it, and then 10 % was other things that clients needed, whether that was you got into some really cool projects. By the way, you know building voice of customer research or analytics and attribution projects, but largely, I think, the the big thing that businesses wanted to work with us and hire s for was getting traffic and converting it.
Okay and so the two ways you do that, are you know you can you can pay for it? You can earn it or we can collaborate with somebody else to get it, and so we didn’t do referrals or influence or type programs. We just did you know you can pay for it PPC and you can earn it and that was SEO yeah, so you’re putting in the money in the vending machine. So if people wondering like how would that campaign look like? So if we were winding back a couple of years, you know you had a couple of million dollar revenue, say: 1.
9 million. What did that funnel? Look like so you’re bidding on what kind of keywords rebidding on like for other agency owners or other people who might be in similar situations, is that it was the strategy back then, oh just for like getting leads yeah I mean sir. You start at the bottom of the funnel right, so if somebody, if you’re trying to get local clients, what we would do is look at all the variations of Toronto Plus digital agency web design, agency marketing agency SEO agency and so on, then you want coverage over There and then you build up and you go okay.
So that’s like somebody who takes a small percentage of market who are already looking for an agency there’s, so many more people who are in the market looking for help. They just don’t know that they want an agency ad. So then you start looking at all the different use cases. So an example of you know: huge growth periods for us was when Google would come in and penalize a bunch of different websites and so they’d drop in their rankings.
They’D reach out, because what we had optimized for was Google penalty recovery, ok or AdWords suspension recovery, and I seen are. This – is like early early days like so. If you end up seeing that, like you know, an advertising program is feeding someone’s business. Let’S it’s an e-commerce business and they get banned or suspended. They want to come out and go. How do I quickly get back up and running, and so we bid for those terms.
We would you know, optimize and have landing pages for those terms. So it’s really scrappy really really scrappy stuff and so yeah. We don’t want to go 50,000 foot high level talking about a lot of ideas, but not doing CPC landing page fill out the form getting a call, easy, peasy right and then one thing that we did, that was kind of interesting, was sequential remarketing. So one of the big problems we saw early when remarketing came out, which is just you know the ads that follow you around.
If you don’t do the thing that the website and what you do they just retargeting the problem with those ads is that most marketers think of the audience the person they do. Humanize the person say this is a lead as a lead as a lead, and so, if you’re, a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and so you just keep seeing the same ad again and again and again and eventually get sick of the brand right.
Like you hit like that ad fatigue, ad fatigue and you might hit like don’t show this to me again. You know I’ve done that on Facebook and other networks, where you see ads, hitting you again and again again, so what we did was we wanted to be sequential. So if somebody came to a page where we wanted him to fill out a form and they didn’t do it well, what are some possible reasons why they didn’t do it? Maybe they weren’t ready? Maybe they needed to see more proof? Maybe they wanted to see some case studies.
Maybe they wanted to understand what the process was right. Maybe they didn’t know that if they could afford it, and so each one of those deserves a different message. So we’d start with the most probable one and then, if that didn’t work, and not three to five date, have appeared, we’d switch it up. We’D show them a different at that point in time, and so that just kind of like we saw that everybody’s got a different track in their customer journey.
But you got ta meet the customer where they are yes, not where you want them to be, and so at this point, are you still the only person who’s trying to close the deals like all these deals are coming in the top yeah yeah yeah yeah, all Coming in through, we had a very structured sales process, for you know, engaging and enrolling and basically getting started with clients, and I mean I recommend this there’s a specific process for almost any type of consulting, which is you start off without trying to prescribe the solution To your your prospect, because that’s what the number one rookie mistake is you tell me what your problem is and I already am going to say: I’ve got a solution for that, so instead, what you do is you diagnose before you prescribe right? Just like a doctor, you think about all the experts that you trust in implicitly trust.
You trust your your doctors, your lawyers or surgeon. You don’t have a question any of the recommendations, but each one of them will ask you a few questions and then give you a course of you know a way to go basically with digital. The problem is that every everybody thinks they can do it. Everybody thinks they can write copy. Everybody thinks that they’ve got an opinion and design, and so, instead of just coming out of the end saying we can take you on it’s going to cost X and you know work with us the better ways to say hey.
I don’t know if we can help you or not, but if we did a discovery where we diagnose what the gaps are, we have an idea where you want to go where you are and let’s figure out, what’s the blocker, you know the the things that are Roadblocks in the middle, then we come up with the right strategy and roadmap and then from there we help you execute it. Does that make sense and for most people who are rational, logical layer like that makes complete sense.
I wish somebody would actually spend the time to articulate what the problem actually is, rather than guessing or feeling their way through a problem wasting a bunch of time and then saying oh yeah, I didn’t work six months later, except now I’ve been paid, and you know The clients pissed off, which is the majority of incoming clients, that we we’re seeing had that frustration being loved another agency.
They left another agency. We were very rarely where we, the first agency, that anybody worked with. They had done a different budget for things. They’D work with individuals, consultants or freelancers they’d hire other agencies and then the beginning. I don’t blame them, it’s not their fault because they just simply know one thing, which is what it costs. What the you know, the monetary funding basically is required.
They don’t know how to tell good from bad, and so they go through a couple of experiences which lead them. You know, leave them underwhelmed and then they go. I think I need someone better, because that tier of investment didn’t get me a bespoke or tailored solution. I got a cheap solution instead and so that’s kind of like this philosophy of you. You know you either are very you’re a premium or you give away your best ideas for free, but nothing in the middle.
Basically, so would you say the the pain point started happening in the company, we’re like like now what oh yeah so cuz right now, like you’re growing you’re, doubling here by a year? So that’s you know, compound growth when, in that process like what year was like yeah like things are going to I’m going to say falling apart, but things are kind of hectic they’re hectic yeah. I think that came around year three for sure.
I realized that we were having a hub-and-spoke model where we didn’t have any systems we didn’t document anything we were flying by the seat of our pants yeah. Of course man. I know it’s, it’s really just getting a bunch of smart people together and hoping and praying that big things just work sure. So we didn’t have. We had no one-on-ones, we didn’t have a weekly stand-up structure, we didn’t have properly track goals, we didn’t have objectives and key results.
It was literally just do what you feel is best for the client in their best interest, and so that was a dart core kind of thing was, you know we have a fiduciary duty to win, for our clients do what it takes to make that happen right, But when you start scaling your company and you get to the point where you’re anywhere above 10 people things start to fall apart, and it’s just a there’s, a simple equation for the nodes of communication.
Uh-Huh developers would know this very easily. It’S actually one of the first things in the early days, LinkedIn used to test engineers. With this question saying you know, LinkedIn’s got this one-to-one and then in a second degree, third degree, fourth degree and it starts becoming geometric right. The number of nodes of connection, so can you calculate what the most efficient way to get to people who are not connected with each other and three degrees apart to talk to each other? So I saw that, and I said okay.
This is where it falls apart. People don’t talk to other people and information gets lost in the ether and they assume that communication has happened and as a result of it, they are operating in silos, and that can happen in a company as little as ten people. So that was her third year, where I reckon that you know we couldn’t have a a command and control type of structure. We couldn’t operate without having meetings and we needed some structure in place and the funny thing I think is you know when you start a company, you most people have worked with other companies and they hate way to hate structure.
They want freedom right and then you start your own company, and you realize that oh man, like people say they don’t structure, they don’t want structure, but they actually crave it mm-hmm, because it gives you gives you lines to color with them. The other thing as well as and I think in the beginning, you start hiring people who are like you, it’s just a common human condition. No one tells you that you should hire compliments of yourself.
You know the things that you’re not the greatest at you hire for that, rather than people who are likeable and are easy to hang out with and exactly thinking the same way you are, which I did you know so I hired for four skills over sort of Fact did the DNA, the drive, nature and acumen of what these people would bring to the company, and that was a mistake. You know, obviously in hindsight and so around year.
Three is when we really started sort of playing with what would it mean to put some structure and and creating SOPs and looking at what were what things we were doing. That was repeated as well and that’s when we started putting in kind of the the codification of who we were what we stood for, how we worked, we created something called the playbook, and the playbook was the first thing that an onboarding hire would see.
In fact, we started showing little bits of it, even in the interview process as a means to actually show them that look. We’Ve thought this stuff through we’ve spent the time, and I think that was a big game-changer, because one of the things that I I discovered was different about. The way that we built the company was all of the smartest people and the best people from a culture fit that we hired had one thing in common.
They were typically a lone wolf wherever they worked before they were. The experts expert everybody used to come to them and say what do you think we should do, but as a result of that, they didn’t have a feedback loop. They didn’t have people to talk to and bounce ideas off of, and they crave that, and so when they came to us, they found that they were like okay. These are you know. A group of people are really passionate about what they do interesting.
There pause for a second, you said something that struck me: lone Wolf’s worked by themselves. Yes, rock star self motive, motivated how the were you attracting these people. It was a couple of different things, so you do the basics right like if you think about a massive pyramid of hierarchy of you know you, you have to realize that the best people are not looking for jobs. Of course, they’re not getting headhunted they’re getting headhunted.
So we wanted to build community around what these people were not only involved in, but the next level up as well, so supple, a couple of things that we did that were offbeat and seemingly you know somebody would look at us at that point in our journey And said that this was a waste of time, you should be going out and building a sales team or you know doing something of that nature or maybe hiring a headhunter.
So, instead, what we did was we created a meet-up series and then in Toronto is called you know, inbound tío, which grew quite large and every month what we would do is to supposed to free Meetup, different digital marketing topics. How the guest speaker come out. We would speak as well and the idea wasn’t to get a single client out of it. The idea was to assemble people and give them to be the connector really in the room.
I would say you know what we’re going to take we’re going to put this investment in of time and money and effort. It would always be after hours, by the way that was it was never during work. Hours would be like between 7:00 to 9:00 p.M. Or 6 to 8, and you know different people’s offices when we didn’t have the space. We worked with friends who had bigger offices and could loan us a room and whatnot.
This is like the early years right and that thing grew and grew and grew, and then we created a conference called endowed con, which grew – and you know it started. You know fairly small, a hundred people and then it’s a tight. It was like 450 people coming up to a conference we took over the CBC. You know their whole hall, basically over there and production costs of 300 thousand dollars for for that conference right and so just by being this hub, I think it really helped with that.
Very hard to track word-of-mouth, which then attracted these people to us became the epicenter yeah yeah hard to connect the dots kind of as you do it, and you just have a good feeling about it. But it’s easy to look back at and go okay, I see how that all figured itself out, and so how do you know now? We have thanks for sharing it’s really good strategy. You know creating community right building the tribe.
You know letting people know that you know like they you, I just respect them, but this is more than just business. This is about making friendships. You know building a local community mm-hm funny thing like you know, for Toronto, being such a big city, always gay! You probably get this question a lot too. I mean you know any growth, hackers, I’m like, oh yeah, for a big city. We don’t have that many like, I feel disconnected at times.
You know yeah for sure, um, just fascinating um. So with the with the new introductions of okrs, kpi’s and systems. How did that transition look like to adopt these new systems? Rough yeah? I bet yeah. You know what I didn’t realize I think was. I was running a mile, a minute of surrender and then I think the the key thing that entrepreneurs do differently and maybe we’re configured a bit differently than than other people.
Is we see a reality? That’S not here. Today we see it so vividly in our minds and we almost see it so vividly as if it’s already happening – and I was running fast to make that happen and some mentors basically said hey it’s a bit like you’re the bus driver. You’Ve got everybody on the bus, you start taking a 90-degree turn on this bus and you’re going 60. You know kilometers an hour everybody’s going to fall out of the bus yep and that’s you know that it was the risks that we really ran when all of this happened.
So I really have to teach myself to go slow enough to have one major change at a time and that’s still a work in progress. You know 10 years later and having this business, where I want to continue pushing my nature is driving its impatient. It’S. Why can’t this happen any sooner? What do we need to do to cut through the noise? Did you have any employees or team members that could not accept the adoption of these new systems yeah for sure, and they left? Oh yeah yeah? I think that – and I think that’s good for both them and for us right so, and there’s no judgement in that as well as I think this is just always about fit, and I always thought about this as a like fit should exist between your team members And it should also exist in the client agency relationship as well, and so, if you have great fit like you’ve, been there Amir like where you work with people and some people are such a joy to work with and others.
You want to pull your teeth yeah. So just you know when you find the right person when you find the right who yeah life is such a joy, they can almost they can pick up exactly where you’re leaving it things off, and then they can run with it. They’Re yeah they’re alert they’re the resource folder, you know very easy to work with, and so when we and we realize that that that, like you know, you want to take a mirror earth and look at yourself as well, so there was every year you know.
I would do that as a year came to a close and says say what who do we need to become? Who do? I need to become personally to attract that kind of person into my life, whether that was a key higher key client that I wanted and even a reputation I’d like who do you need to go? What contribution do you need to make for that to be true, and so how did that process look like? Was it just you booking off three hours of time, just thinking that pen and paper or yeah, I just basically go I’ve got.
I follow right now. What I do is I follow a process called your compass, okay and every year. It’S this download this questionnaire essentially, and it helps you reflect you slow down, you’re just going to go. What worked well, what didn’t work so well? What goals that I said that I hit that I need to say for this. Your compass, that’s about your compass time, cos you’re like why you know your your your compass, your compass, yeah, and it’s made by some guys in Europe, and it’s really nice that they just kind of did this as a service to the world where don’t charge anything For it, you can print it out.
We can do gatherings or parties with people where you everybody does it together. As a group, I do it, I do its introspective kinda on my own, and so that was one of the key processes that I used. You know there’s a there’s that and and then just asking questions about, like you know how, like how might I type questions, how might I improve our client service? How am I did? How might I be of higher service to my team? How am I push my team in kind of a gentle ways right and just like doing that and also getting feedback as well, so we we put in a feedback loop at first, we use it a system called tiny pulse, tiny policy, yeah and then – and now We use something called office vibe and the idea is fairly simple.
It’S like you know, work happens on a day-to-day basis. You can typically look back and a on a week on a Friday and go. How do I feel about my week? What we’re highlights, where were the lowlights, and you should capture that and do it in a way where psychological safety is really important in teams like, if team’s trust, each other Trust is the basis upon which everything else happens. You know performance doesn’t come without rest and so yeah we put this in and we started measuring how happy and how engaged our teams are and that one had to tap in every every week right.
It would just ask you different questions about engagement and, and then we were on custom poles as well. So just ask like okay, how are we doing about topic X or how am I doing as a CEO? What else should I be doing if you were a CEO? What would you do instead? I love that question and it’s great, like you just start, seeing all these different things that people see from their own lens that they were in the SEO department.
They would say something different than if they were in design or if they were working with clients, they would say ABC things and would just like create ideas for where to go next, and so at this point year, three growing yeah employment systems. Some people leave some people like it. It’S part of the process. Are you hiring more sales reps now because it can’t just be you closing the deals all right.
So, what’s that next stage like what was that next pivotal stage to build your company, maybe to 3x from there on it, yeah yeah? So what we found was here’s a characteristic, we’re solving a complex problem, we’re going up and to the right in terms of the clients we worked with so higher ticket in terms of what they would invest annually with us more complexity in terms of SEO and PPC. We moved beyond local businesses moved to national it, businesses franchises ecommerce businesses and then technology businesses where we really found our stride.
You know software and technology businesses and what what I found with that was. They wanted a an agency that had a codified way of thinking. So not just smart people, but a smart, smart people with a way of doing things that would get them to the result that they wanted. The second thing was they: they wanted transparency as well know something that really locked in this. This industry, where you know agencies, would do this thing where they’re cobbling together a deck five minutes before the Commission walks in the door and they’re like hey, look over here, yeah, okay, yeah and then they would just make stuff up, and so that we saw all Of that, and as we were rolling it out, the key thing that we wanted to really emphasize on was that we will be in it too.
It both for ourselves and for our clients is one of our win situation. Just isn’t one for us exactly and then you’re aligned right, I think you’re you’d figure. That would be like basic business practice yeah. I think it’s ingrained. You start seeing it and in interesting ways. You know I’ll give you an example of where I found that incentives mean everything. So the way people behave is heart highly predicated on what their incentives are.
Always men right, so features of habits right, so you can create good incentives. You get good behaviors, basically that right so to I’ll get to your point about like whether we hired salespeople are not in a second. What we found is with clients who were bigger and we started working with. You know national global brands like a FedEx, PMO, Remax, etc. Their procurement departments would start getting involved or the buying department now procurement departments.
You know I love them, you know, god bless them, but they start thinking of every single thing that they buy as a blue widget. So, if you’re trying to buy expertise, if you treat that the same way as you’re buying computers doesn’t quite work mm-hmm, you know it doesn’t give you the end result, but the incentive is always we need all of our terms to get accepted on our you know Terms that protect us against risk making sure that we get the best possible price and we need to negotiate down the price as hot as low as possible.
Essentially, and so we started looking at that going. Oh, this is really interesting that their incentives are set up. This way, how might we, you know, win in that situation, and it was not to battle procurement? It was the best way to win in that situation was to have an internal champion to whom the cost of not hiring us was larger than the cost of doing so, and so we recently did this with a large brand, and you know procurement was giving us A hard time and just saying hey, you know what look we can’t do this and that you got ta accept our terms, we’ll pay you in 180 days, Natalie.
No, that’s not going to happen! 80 days 90 days, and so we just got simple conversation with our internal champion or stakeholder and just said: hey, look before you. If you want to buy the expertise, we’re really not for you. If you’re trying to essentially get a six-month loan for 0 % interest – and she said yeah – I totally understand – let me take this back – you should not be dealing with this, which was a very refreshing change, 10 years into the business compared to what would it look Like in year 3, so to answer your question, we didn’t hire salespeople.
What we did instead was we got our operations team involved as part of the sale. Ok, so how? How does that look like? So what I found is that on, in my experience, working with salespeople and being someone who sells you know day to day me myself, you have to qualify, you need to make sure that it’s good fit. Then you need to figure out what you need to work on together. You need to write up a proposal or a discussion document.
Then you get across the line. This is like the standard consent, simple stuff right, the part where I think most salespeople, if you’re, not in the delivery of the result where they miss it, because they’re not part of that process, is they make promises that the delivery team can’t keep, of course, because They’Re just trying to sell it. Yes, exactly thinking it’s a its affirmation base, whatever you know, and it’s that’s where the incentives start falling they’re very different right salespeople are incentivized to sell into closed operations.
Teams are incentivized to retain right and to grow and to delight I said this doesn’t make any sense. We’Re a small company like what we should be doing, that the client should have a joint, unified experience from the get-go, and so what we would do is I’d. Come in vet the deal and say hey: is there something for us to work on over here and then I’d have strategically people from my team come on board number one problem that agency owners often face in their early years is they are the face of the Company, and so everybody just wants to work with them as they’re already grows thanks men yeah, there’s like we want to work with you, we don’t know your team yeah, and so what we did instead was we’re like.
How do we change this so that they’re seeing the team from the get-go not when they closed the deal, and that this, the simple answer was only to people who are fits from a values, thinking budget goals, perspective and then introduce them to the team as soon As you know that to be true get the team involved so that you can shape the deliverable together, so would that mean every time a new potential client came through this team would be a combination of people from your whole company, like you, wouldn’t be the same Team from different people interesting different people.
So if we identified that a the you think about a triangle, you’ve got like acquisition up top got engagement on one side and conversion which one hurts the most, which one are they weakest at if it was converging, we’d pull in designers and developers, UX people right, Because that’s what they needed, help with sure and those people being in the day-to-day would know about what to do to fix or diagnose that situation way better than anyone in sales could in their limited capacity of dealing with the client.
And if it was somebody in you know they didn’t have any traffic, this makes sense, pulling an SEO or PPC consultant and they’d be able to go. Let me have a look at your problem and that it was. It was a dual sided thing. It wasn’t just it made sales easier it. You know boosted retention, but it also didn’t make the delivery team grown. When a new client comes on board, cuz they’re, a part of the process was like the IKEA effect, they’re co-creating.
What to work on together? Now you were, though, one of the keys here and that’s a brilliant strategist. First time I actually heard that the IKEA strategy, no, no, this got into great sales processes yeah, because everything is kind of saddled before them. So the the the beginning, part, though, is you, are still triaging or yes heading at the beginning, right so you’re doing the filtration to kind of weed out the potential bad fit at the beginning, yeah.
Well, so just two things like so even in operations. We think about it as when you’re starting to work with collaborating. So if you’re a senior consultant – and you want to work with your team to deliver you’re not involved in a day-to-day delivery, it’s like the AES are at ten. Eighty ten rule you set, you shape the project and the temp of first ten percent of it. The team carries at 80 percent of the way, and you polish, at the other ten percent right as you’re influencing the work on both ends of it, but the largest part of it is the expectations or the outcomes or set.
He knows exactly what they need to do and then you help you bring in people to help you with that ten percent as well to help them grow. So, let’s fast-forward, like let’s say, contract comes in it’s a hundred k contract yeah, whatever your takes eight months, cause a lot faster than Oh Nance contract right yeah, who, how do you have the system set up for at the end of the line to kind of Continue this relationship with that company, yeah, great okay, so I’ll, give you a more recent example, so went on honeymoon recently, Portugal, anyway, congratulations! Thank you.
Thank you and we actually had a deal worth a hundred and fifty K close without any of my involvement whatsoever. Didn’T even open the deal right, and so all I knew in terms of updates was deal came in. I had a director of strategy come in and vet the deal. He created a project task team to come in and say what would the you know the diagnostic stage, a discovery stage, look like the road mapping, the execution stage.
Now that that’s closed. What we also have is we, you know, unlike a lot of agencies, have like account managers or account directors, and we tried that for a couple of years, didn’t work for us at all, and I think the the key thing over here is that this whole idea Of the division of labor, like that, goes back to the Industrial Revolution where you know, let’s make this look like an assembly line where each person does a different kind of work in what we do.
It just doesn’t work and not in our experience at least, and so the best consultants are the ones who can understand the client understand their business needs. Translate those business needs into what the what needs to be done in terms of the work. They don’t necessarily need to do all of the work, but they can work with a team of people who do the work and then once you’ve got the data. You need to be able to tell a story with it.
So turning a data into insights, and so they so the entire team is actually maintaining a relationship with the client we’re very upfront with our clients in saying. Look if you, if you’re, hiring us, because you know you have the desire only working with one person or probably not the right fit for you, because you’re primarily trying to hire someone to manage a relationship and a relationship essentially implies that you are you’re buying a Commodity think about it.
This way you have an Account Manager for a commodity, like maybe your bank right, so you might have somebody who manages your mortgage. For example, all mortgages are essentially the same right: different interest rates and whatnot, essentially the same product underlying. So you don’t buy a mortgage because of its expertise. It’S a commodity to come out. It yeah, so you’re buying the relationship and that’s what most people stay with their bank is they have a relationship now that’s going away by the way.
Right, like that’s, really go. Some cost bias is leaving yeah, that’s that’s leaving, but most people they’ll continue working with whatever the professional is in their life because of the relationship and relationships are a really good reason to stay, but not a really good reason to attract a client and there’s a Very key distinction between that what you should do to attract the client is to have demonstrable meaningfully different, exacta, Bertie’s right and so now that the clients got a relationship with everybody on the team.
We have structured intentional interactions and so, if you’re on the senior leadership team once a quarter, we’re dropping in and just saying, hey how’s it going so we’ve got the standard. You know Net Promoter Score every month, asking them a scale of 1 to 10. How likely would you two be to refer powered by search to a colleague of similar caliber? We’Ve got the quarterly drop in that happens with the senior leadership team.
We’Ve got people who are directors of paid and of SEO, looking at quarterly Business Review reports that make sure that the QA and that’s done properly, the where you know, there’s high throughput in terms of what we’re, what we’re delivering to a client. But there’s no one person that owns that client relationship, which is also kind of different. It’S contrarian a little bit because intuitively it makes sense that you would want a high.
You know a person who’s got high relationship bias like they’re just good at connecting with people and building. That’S interesting strategy, though it’s like point of failure is kind of the biggest point of failure is for anybody with relationships that and leaves and takes those relationships. A hundred percent yeah yeah, so it’s strategic yeah right, because the idea is you get everybody to shine where they’re meant to shine.
So, instead of this having this old school to, you know thinking that, like if you’re running, if I was running a web development agency, what I’ve heard in the industry is, you want to have your front facing kind of sales relationship, people who don’t know anything about The code mm-hmm and then you’ve got people in the back room coding and that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
So why would you do that with marketing? You want the in the copywriter, the designer the PPC consultant right there in the room. All three of them working with the client and we asked for the client to not just be having one person but having their product people their sales people. So we can ask questions that are more dynamic. It’S not just about getting the lead or the marketing qualified lead hey.
How did that demo go? What questions are you asking on the demo? Where are you finding friction and then it’s just beautiful, like um there’s a book that came out recently, it’s called trillion dollar coach I’ve been meaning to read it, it’s really great, but I actually download inaudible. It’S still sitting there, it’s a great book. So one of the the the quotes in this book is from that. The specific coach is work, the team, then the problem don’t work, the the problem first and then the team.
So the idea is, if you just pair up people and you point them in the set in the right direction and say, go figure this out. I don’t care how you figure it out, but work together to figure it out. Don’T just say: okay got the problem and you go off in your own silos and we do that on our team. But we also do it with a client and we say: look, let’s start from the same side of the table and approach this problem together and we’re it’s going to be a better together, approach, wonderful and so that’s around year, three or four yeah, and that that’s Ideology has existed all the way here thing yeah.
When would he say Dannette next hurdle or roadblock, and I came in after, like here three or four yeah, so you’re four. I wasn’t in place in the hub-and-spoke model going. I don’t have enough time to spend with our team of 14 or 15 at that point in time that with to spend with each and every one of these people developing, you know they’re they’re, you know competencies, capabilities or growth maps all of this type of stuff And I thought I couldn’t hire at that point.
It was naive enough to think that I couldn’t hire anyone to help me with that. So what I did was, I said. Okay, you know the only way to go about this is potentially to find someone to partner with give away equity in my company and get a few partners on board, and maybe we could delight in conquer, and so I went and found a few people were running Their own agencies ended up partnering with them and then stayed partnered with them for the next four years, and that process was very interesting interesting.
You know going through the process of merging together and I was Arsuf working together. Oh that’s, I’m actually interested. I was more interested in the fact that you were able to sell them the story, because you had your company doing or you know, two million dollars plus yeah. You have these two other individuals, yeah, I’m assuming they’re, doing okay, yeah, right and so to meet up with two other parties yeah and then sell the dream and story to come together.
That’S a that’s fascinating! Well! It was kind of interesting, because what I figured was that pretty much everybody at that size was having the same growth challenges: okay, right, the lack of systems, a lack of focus in the specific area of the business, whether there was operations or new business marketing finance Right and running a really tight ship over there and I didn’t go into it with a plan of like hey, I’m going to sell these people on the dream mm-hm I went in and hey what are you doing? What are you finding? Are you have running the same problems I’m running into and we just got to talking and they’re like yeah we’re running into the same problems, and I think we sold ourselves on the fact that if we put our heads together, we would be able to focus and Have our own lanes essentially, so everybody brought in something friend, yeah yeah, at least on the surface level.
It felt that way and that we would be focusing in different areas and it’d be a better together approach. You know three heads are better than one hmm. How did that merger look like? Well, it was yeah, it took probably six months to put it all together and figure out the logistics of it, and I think the biggest thing was in the first year of that merger. It’S a little bit like when two families like you’ve got a stepmom stepdad, basically come together and you’re, bringing in kids into the picture and that’s exactly what it was like, and so you guys all want to like same building like same same same they were remote.
You know I had an office and they came together and we were 60 people overnight Wow. So you went from like 15 to 60. Oh yeah, huge growth, you’d started that new team then or the new merger that they start adopting the system you built before yeah and and part of it was also the chief operating officer that we took on at that point that my partner’s at that. That point had his own systems that he you know he was heavy into automation and process, optimization and my talents always being and visualizing and architecting, but I followed through his crap mm-hm.
So you know I’ve always been the ideas guy and I needed somebody to work. The system again and again – and that was what I wanted this partnership to look like so the bottom line is yeah. They came in with their own systems and we had a mishmash essentially until we found our footing. It took like a whole year to be able to get to that point: yeah yeah Wow, that’s crazy man, yeah, okay, so the merger happens, 60 people overnight same office, different systems all trying to kind of find equilibrium among each other.
What, then, the hardest part of about any kind of partnership is understanding who’s, taking lead in a specific area and not succumbing to decision by committee and I’m the type of guy who is very open-minded. I want to listen to everybody else’s ideas and I started really seeing okay they’ve had their own success that got them up to here. Let’S start this better together, three heads, you know put together type of approach when I realized was that we ended up.
Actually, you know Neapolitan ice cream dan sullivan says this all the time where it’s like strawberry you’ve got your chocolate and vanilla, and there are nice. You know there’s three very distinct ones, but if you put them in a bowl and it’s out in the sun, you end up getting mush yeah. So in hindsight, that’s that’s kind of what happened like we were watering down each other’s ideas as opposed to reinforcing them.
We had growth, you know I, we had a couple years of solid, getting new clients on board new team members on board, but if I were to look at hindsight of core values and mission and why we were doing what we were doing, each party bought a Different vision to it, and that’s that was both a source of growth, but also a source of healthy conflict, sometimes unhealthy conflict as well in the business.
At this point, when you, sir, like things have to change them, yeah, it’s I’ve always just been a proponent of you know. If I’m feeling a certain way are other people feeling that way, let me start polling mm-hmm and I started pulling. You know incoming team members. You know their first two weeks, they’re still fresh. What are they seeing that’s different about how we’re doing things versus wherever they came from and I over-index on exiting team members as well and the exit interview like hey? What are you seeing? Why do you know? Why didn’t this work out for you and the thing that camp kept coming up is well and without you know, trying to code it in any sort of fancy paint it was.
You know one partner says one thing: the other partner says something else that where there’s some level of conflict we don’t know what to do hmm, and so I think that created confusion. And to me I looked at that. I said: okay, what needs to change over here is there’s no judgment or good or bad. It’S simply. There are many different ways of running a company and what a team needs is clarity on what is the one way that we’re going to run this company and that’s the clarity I think the team deserved.
So I looked at that and I really want hmm. I think we need to change the way that we’re approaching this and the way that the business is being run and that led to a conversation and in 2018, where we decided that well, one of us is going to kick by it by out the others and That process culminated it. You know last year in June, where I bought them out of their shares and that’s a whole circle. Isn’T it from 2014 going from running a business as a sole founder? How did that conversation go like originally was like random, like hey guys, you know.
I think that the key thing I found about it is that people don’t like being surprised, and so what I really focused on was how do I deliver a firm but kind message as well? I don’t think they were surprised by it. Nothing any of us were surprised by the conversation. It was the right thing to do and then, as is probably true for anyone going through an acquisition or through an M & A type of process, it kicks off all sorts of dirt into here right and it’s a whole thing.
Oh yeah, it’s a whole thing. Oh yeah, yeah Zeke side is trying to figure out how I get back bigger piece of the pie. I brought this and uh well, it just goes back to incentives. You know you have opposing incentives at that point in time, and so it’s hard work. It is, it is very hard how long did the negotiation or process take to siglos yeah? Well, I mean I’m exceptionally fortunate that it closed in three months.
Really yeah 90 days need everything bring up talking yeah. I thought about this. For a long time, though, I was thinking about it towards the end of 2018, talking to some mentors trying to figure out what the right cuz I wanted to really like. When I’m said in a direction, I really go for it. Mm-Hmm I take I’m a high fact-finder on the Colby. So just means that I’m gathering a lot of data, I’m playing it through all the angles, and then I commit right, and so I knew what different directions it could go down and I had lots of great people and my you know – support network helping me both As a great ear to kind of listen to what was going on to mentor me through the process as well, and so that’s one of the reasons why it was most, you know it went as a sort of efficiently as it did it kind of like.
You know, I know a lot of entrepreneurs were, like my friends are entrepreneurs, so I there’s someone else who I know and in our community who closed their deal recently and that deal took a a year and eight months, which is a long time a long time About the opportunity cost right, hmm, the negotiate it ever bring up the day, maybe wanted to buy you. Oh oh yeah, yeah that that was like that there’s a dance that happens right, so the dances about it’s like playing poker.
You don’t want to show all your cards, you don’t see everyone else’s cards, and so it’s a it’s a back and forth where you have to strategically kind of think about like what’s right for the company. What do you want personally? What does the other side want? Hmm and I learned a lot of a negotiation last year – master class man – Oh, is I felt like I could talk about that for hours. Looking back in hindsight, anything that you would have done differently with the negotiation.
I know I mean we. I think it went well. I think that every did we never resorted to. Never any sort of yelling shouting matches that kind of thing. It was just cool and collected and unpatient. Like that’s one thing like, I have a name page, and I heard this from navall and it kind of summarizes me well very impatient with actions definition with results. So I thought thing you’ve gone on for another two months: Odeon fine with it, and so where are you at right now with powered by search so the buyout went through that was last year? Luckily, I went quick and easy mm-hmm, you know um.
What’S the major focus now, what’s the because now you’re in charge, you know it’s one single-minded or you can cook the kitchen yep, what’s happening with paradise search we started at the ground level, which is any consulting business, is ultimately a people business. You can have all the greatest systems and thinking of everything else, but I’ve, no, sir people to execute on that it’s difficult to scale.
So we went back looked at every one of our people. We looked at. What do we need to do to support them and their growth? What’S their growth, not basically look like what’s the last time that there’s chaos, it happens when you have this type of partnership turmoil where you start ball, dropping some balls like you know. When was the last time we did a quarterly bonus. Oh oh crap! Now that didn’t happen, so, let’s start going back and keeping every single promise that wasn’t kept and make good on it like.
That was just super important to me. So we did right by our people. First recognize people who were high performers coached the ones that needed some more help offered. You know a path up, so you know coach up or coach out mm-hmm, so we had to do that. The next thing we did was brought in a VP of Operations, because I knew exactly where I wasn’t going to excel in the company needed somebody with high systems follow-through and looked at.
You know, through my network and talked to people and found this person and hired hired her and then went to clients and said hey. Well, you know what could we be doing differently for you than we’re doing today? Had honest great conversations got there, Net Promoter scores worked on stuff, it’s been like a huge amount of growth along that path, and then we were very flexible throughout the the journey.
Like a couple of things, I don’t know if you know, but we offer five weeks of paid time off to everybody at powered by search doesn’t matter whether senior already is the agency. Business is one where people work long hours. They burn the midnight oil from both ends, you know of the candle and we didn’t want. I never wanted a company that was unsustainable, like that said, if you don’t have time to enjoy life like what’s the point of like saving up for this retirement thing, so five weeks of vacation, it works out to roughly about 10 % of pay.
If you look at it for the entire year, and so we give that, then we were offering people two days of work from home as well, so 40 % of your work week. If you really wanted to, you could work from home and there were people who loved it and are heavy. You know great contributors and other people who kind of bent the rules a little bit. I know they. They took advantage of that privilege. They saw it as a right yeah, and so we looked at that and said: hey look.
You got this great office in downtown Toronto. You’Ve been there, we’ve done a nice office. Yes, it’s good office, but there’s a conversation we have with a mutual friend of ours. Jason Gaynor and Jason, I mean we’re having lunch and after lunch he said hey. What are you thinking of doing with the office and the team and everything and I’m like you know, I want to grow it so putting in all the right Lego blocks to be able to do that, and he goes yeah.
You realize that you could be buying a Toyota Corolla every single month, with what you pay in rent. I don’t know that was like the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and I’d been kind of toying with the idea of what would it look like to work with the best in the world, and you know, would I be thinking it was my head Up I’d screw it on the right way to think that the best people in the world are going to be an hour’s commute from this office, and I realized the answer was no, because I looked at all the people that I admired and they were all around.
The world they were and they were in Australia in the UK in the US you know in South America – I’m playing. How do i? How do I tap that? How do I make sure that I can get these people to to connect and become part of powered by search, and that’s when this idea of going fully distributed? Remote first came up. I guess in hindsight, like I’ve, always been thinking about like how do I do it differently than it’s done today, and that’s one thing that you don’t see with too many agencies, especially Akamai.
That’S probably interesting kind of transition, oh yeah, again it was well planned. We did surveys, we asked everybody and her team. What do you think about this? What do you think our clients will think about it? How will it impact you and then we quantified it and said? Look most of you are spending two weeks of your entire life commuting every single day. Yes, two weeks, what would it look like to have two weeks back and then we actually got.
You know type form survey responses of? Oh. What would you do and said? I would walk my dog. I spend more time with my parents, you know I’d go to I play with my little brother and things like that right play with my kid. Like that’s priceless right there. You cannot put a price tag on uh-huh, and so that was also a very motivational push towards going remote, and so we made that change and man. It’S been a world of difference, that’s amazing, yeah, but the system’s have to be there.
Oh yeah, the processes. Okay, ours, KPI or boards for tracking reviews, yeah everything. So how frequently do you guys physically meet up for some type of generally speaking like once a month? Okay is when we meet up, and that’s still because a large portion of the team is in Toronto. Yeah, we’re still figuring it out in terms of what we do. We hired our first full-time guy in Cape Town, South Africa, oh cool earlier this year, he’s working out fantastic, he’s fantastic at what he does, and so the next step is really to go to an annual retreat that where we fly everybody down and use the budget That we would have used for on-premise, you know in office and that’s just a great way of like incentivizing people towards an end of year, like here’s, where we’re going to go uh-huh.
It’S amazing man, yeah! Well, thanks for sharing the story. Yeah. Thank you. Like wow nice file, virtual man, that’s crazy, yeah yeah, especially the offer everybody. No, no, especially for that team, I’m totally in favor virtual. If you can do it, yeah um, you know overhead cost. You save save time, especially throttle net traffic. I think I’ve become especially sensitive now to getting stuck in traffic yeah, because I just look at any go.
There’S all the other ways. I could be spending this time like yeah like yeah. The funny thing is that remote doesn’t mean you’re working at home um, not stepping out like. I am very happy to jump on a flight to go, see a client mm-hmm, that’s quality, in-person time. You know what I mean like. The difference, I think, is when you are putting in that time in the commute, but it’s low-quality, that’s right! That’S a waste yeah and I think remote work is the future cool man.
Well, Deb thanks for sharing good if the people want to get in touch with you, learn more about power, bi search or what you’re doing on the side. What’S the best resources hit me up on LinkedIn, just search, dev Vasu, and then our site powered by search calm when we publish we’re on a publishing role actually right now something publishing methodology around how to grow: software’s and service businesses and b2b technology business as well Cool guys go check out, dev and I’ll see you guys next week, peace