Yes, it is impressive. Sometimes, I get a little teary eyed thinking about how far we’ve come. If I let my mind wander through all the valleys on this journey, I really get choked up. My wife and I know all to well that it has never been easy. The stationary entrepreneur will always have it easy, but an entrepreneur who innovates will face struggles. When people tell me they’re impressed with what we’ve built, I tell them “Thank you!” and I sincerely mean it. In today’s post, I’ll share with you my innovational story and why entrepreneurs should push the limits of innovation.
The Mirror’s Reality Check
It was late 2011 and we had a bundle of cash in the bank. Sarah and I had never made that much money before and it was a great feeling to give my wife some security. We vacationed, fixed up our house, and enjoyed being able to give more often. Even though we were profitable, something inside of me just didn’t feel right. While some of my marketing clients were growing, others were stagnant. Our training business was having issues as well. My motivated marketing students were quickly landing large clients, but there were glaring issues indicating they needed more training and support. Taking an honest look in the mirror was a little painful. We were extremely profitable but inside I knew the guilt came from not delivering enough value to our clients and students.
Deep Mud and Struggles
After some thought, I realized I had two options. The first option was to lower my prices and keep things the way they were. This would be the easy way. The problem with this mindset is eventually, my entire business would become obsolete. The second option was to invest in innovation and be proud of our value offering. That was three and a half, LONG years ago. For the innovation capital, I wrote a business plan and sent it to a few people who were interested in me and our business model. Because of our profits and margins, the money poured in and the work started. Sarah and I dumped our bank account into the business as well. We were all in! We set-up an office. We improved our web platforms. We invested in systems, tools, and staffing. I declined accepting new marketing clients and completely restructured our training model.
It was a big undertaking and the mud was to be extremely deep for quite a while. The rapid transformation and improvements meant we’d pass up on immediate revenues in pursuit of building a better product and a strong business that would last. It would also mean that our cash flow would be spent on building infrastructure. I paid myself less and I worked harder. In 2015, we stopped accepting new marketing students altogether and for an entire year, we focused on innovation.
Opportunity Versus Adversity
From the inside looking out, we knew that we were on to something good. While we weren’t adding many new marketing clients, our existing ones were experiencing huge growth numbers. As they implemented our ideas and systems into their business models, their businesses grew and we were even able to increase their monthly spend with us. Our existing students we’re also thrilled with the additional support, tools, and training.
Our team passionately believed in what we were doing. We wanted to be the world leaders in marketing services and training. We wanted to over deliver and have a powerful unique selling point. We wanted to be able to hold our heads high and be proud of what we offered our clients and students. In my heart, I know that if we pushed ahead of our competitors, the revenues would follow.
Innovation’s Big Payoff
As I’ve shared in the past, innovation is messy. The end result is awesome, but the process sucks. You trade “now” dollars for “tomorrow” dollars. I wish I could tell you that our investors all stood behind me in faith, loudly cheering for success. The truth is, I frustrated some of them to no end with missed deadlines and yet undelivered results. Understandably, they were on the outside and couldn’t see the potential. They wanted to see the results sooner. When they pushed back with ideas of downsizing, I would have none of it! I pushed back that it was impossible and principally wrong to even think of it.
So did our innovation pay off? Was all the struggle and hard work worth it? Yes! It was worth it! This year we’ll increase our revenues by at least 300%. The stress of innovation will be long forgotten. The beautiful thing about this increase is that we can hold our heads high knowing we’re delivering killer value for our clients and students. And no, we’re not done innovating. In 2016, we still have big ideas on the table that we’re going to implement. Remember, every start-up is born as an empty shell. It takes passion, vision, and innovation to make it into a business.
While I still work at home often, I wanted to share some of the innovations we recently made to the LMS Office. Who says innovation can’t be fun too?
LMS Internet Conference Room (Where I work when I’m at LMS)
Office Lobby Area
FSMC Virtual Training Room