Activating ideas using simple frameworks and tailored, direct advice has been Jenny Erickson’s passion in her 20-year career. After holding a wide array of roles in Marketing, Finance, Supply Chain, Technology, and HR – she decided it was time to make that knowledge accessible where it could make the most impact on the world --- in the hands of small and micro business owners.
Her company, ACThoughtful Consulting is focused on unleashing the impact of micro-businesses through advice, coaching, and Fractional-COO support --- where no fraction is too small. Want to size up your business and decide where to focus? Self-assess your business and see where you can make the most impact.
“Do the work that works for you.” - Jenny Erickson
Max Traylor: Yeah, I made that sound myself. I have to admit, I did open my beer early. I'm drinking a Troy German Pilsner. I don't even think there's a name to this beer. It just says Troy from Fall River, Mass, and I played golf at Fall River Country Club recently, so it caught my eye and now I'm drinking it, plus I'm on kind of a Pilsner kick. I've had it with the IPAs, too many calories. So that's me. And my guest today did not bring wine, but we're going to discuss a little bit about wine because in my research, very recently, I realized that she knows something about it. Jenny Erickson, ladies and gentlemen. That's my round of applause from my significant fan base. Jenny, first of all, what did you bring to drink today?
Jenny Erickson: Well, like you said, you know I had to be a little quirky, since I come did the wine thing, I figured wine at a beer's event is not necessarily kosher. So I did Pistachio Cream Ale by Indeed. So it's a thicker, a little bit of a richer, and has a nice smooth flavor. I don't know if you've had cream ales. It kind of falls in that type of a camp.
Max Traylor: Yeah. Well, I've had it. I can't say I'm lining up at the liquor store for my next Pistachio Cream Ale. But just as an observer of life, it's really interesting to me what someone that is so into wine drinks for beer. So it seems like you're a bit of an adventurer, if forced to partake.
Jenny Erickson: I am. I am. And when you said IPA, so I'm an adventurer, but I'm also a bit of a supertaster. So that's what makes me work pretty good with wine, and that I can taste-
Max Traylor: You've got an articulate palette.
Jenny Erickson: Yes, and also very sensitive to tannins. So I'm not a huge fan of the super grippy, bitter stuff. I definitely taste it. And so I love rich, complex beers or light, nuanced beers, but I don't like the super happy, super bitter ones.
Max Traylor: I've been respecting more of the nuanced German pilsners Kölsch style things that don't . . . not traditionally big in the taste department, but are refined and can be drinkable. And don't give you a tummy ache.
Jenny Erickson: Yes. It's a good thing.
Max Traylor: And the spins after two or three of them.
Jenny Erickson: Also a good thing. Czech Republic has amazing beers. That's one of my favorite places I went and enjoyed the beer there. It's just wonderful.
Max Traylor: That's true. Anyway, long story short.
Jenny Erickson: Side note.
Max Traylor: So I actually want to ask you about your wine business because I haven't, I didn't know about that before, and then we'll get into the other stuff that you do like our regularly scheduled program. But since we're in the pre-program, tell me about your wine business.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. So I absolutely love tasting wine, but I found that when I first started tasting it, there was a little bit of a, there was a level of language that I didn't have, and that I felt like I needed. People were telling me what I was supposed to experience about the wine, if that makes sense. And I didn't want to be told what I was supposed to experience. I wanted to find my own language. And I believe that in a great wine tasting event, it's not the facilitator that does all the talking, it's the people around the table. And so that's why I decided to start this taste experience; your wine, your home, your way. It was an idea that anyone can throw a wine break. I don't care what you know about wine. I don't care what you don't know about wine. You should be able to throw an amazing wine party that impresses all of your friends and brings them together, and you guys can swap stories about what you're tasting.
I find you learn more when you're in it and not feeling threatened by other people telling you what you're supposed to think about that wine. So I created the playbook basically. I started selling playbooks for that wine. So it's really a downloadable tool kit, and it'll be a tasting; a full tasting experience centered around a specific topic. So, the first one I released was Bordeaux, and it was really about the different grapes within a red Bordeaux and how you can taste them all over the world. Gives you a buying guide, email templates to send your friends, principal education you can have in front of each of them. Got all your tasting notes, side by side tasting profile. So you can just throw a party for 1999. So, that's kind of what I wanted to do. I wanted to make it so anyone can do it, [inaudible 00:04:35] their home.
Max Traylor: That is so cool. Do you want to partner on a beer tasting experience?
Jenny Erickson: I would love that! That would be fantastic.
Max Traylor: I need the next step for Beers with Max. It's been six years of drinking beer with people, and the ideas are starting to spin now. So you're a creative business modeler or like I can just feel that you're a systems person and you take your passions and you go, you know what, this is cool for me, but what if I put together a system, and I put it in the hands of a bunch of other people that want to create in this case wine experience . . . Anyway, what a cool thing. What do you do, dare I say, professionally, or what's your other. . . When you meet somebody, do you say that you're the wine person, or do you say that you're this other thing that we might talk about today?
Jenny Erickson: I usually say I'm this other thing.
Max Traylor: Okay.
Jenny Erickson: My day job is the other thing. My fun hobby is the wine thing. So it depends on if I'm at a wine party or a work networking event. So it's-
Max Traylor: Okay. So if I got that backwards, it would be very offensive and we'd have trouble-
Jenny Erickson: Never. Never.
Max Traylor: If you were really the sommelier and I say, oh, what's your real job? And you're like, nah, that is my real job, I'd be very embarassed.
Jenny Erickson: I am not. I'm about as unpretentious as they come. I forget a lot of things. I have some basic certifications, but no, I indefinitely do not consider myself a sommelier. If you've ever watched the movie Somm, holy!
Max Traylor: I haven't watched the movie, but I have been in the presence of one, so I can relate to the experience of being told what to expect, but I got a lot of free food out of it, so who's counting. Okay. So what do you do professionally? What's the day job?
Jenny Erickson: All right, the day job. I basically help micro business owners grow. I'm really, really passionate about the everyday business owner. So, start something, wants to grow something, does not want to lose their life in the process, wants to make a difference in the world, make a profit, make an impact, and isn't necessarily large enough to have a really big pocketbook to spend on getting the help they need at those early stages.
Max Traylor: Is there a technical definition of micro business?
Jenny Erickson: That's a great question. If you google it, you'll often read that it's about 10 employees or less and a million or less, or somewhere in that bucket is what you'll often read. I actually stretch it up to 2,000,020 employees, but the way I define it to people is, it means your company's gotten larger than you can fold yourself, right? You no longer can have all the direct reports referring to you. You no longer are running all the functions yourself. You've gotten bigger after you get out of micro business. So once in a micro-business, it means you can still keep your pulse on everything. Your fingers are in all the pots and you're running all the business.
Max Traylor: No longer have fingers in all pots.
Jenny Erickson: Is when they get over micro-business, yes. Sorry.
Max Traylor: Yeah. That's like the-
Jenny Erickson: It was my very passionate definition.
Max Traylor: What's that alternative definition site where just they let people whatever?
Jenny Erickson: Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about.
Max Traylor: That would be my entry.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah.
Max Traylor: No longer have fingers in all pots, Max Traylor, 2021. So-
Jenny Erickson: That's where I'm headed, but I'm not there yet.
Max Traylor: So what's the . . . I’ve got a lot of ways of asking this question, but what's your secret sauce? What's the pitch? What's the thing that you've discovered?
Jenny Erickson: I help people learn how to take risks by quantifying them. So really I work with people who are often who are a little bit risk averse, or they take risks regularly, but aren't quite sure the risk they're taking, right? They can't put a number around it, they can't put a size on it. And so what happens is it's hard to grow a sustainable business that way. But when you can put a box around it and say, here's what's standing in my way from moving forward, what it's going to cost me, what it's going to take to solve it, and where I need to invest. Then suddenly, they can be at choice with what's in front of them, make the decision and move forward. So it's all about data. Everything that we do is data, data, data.
Max Traylor: It sounds financially. It sounds CFO-like, but when I go to your website, it says fractional COO operating officer. So, once again, the question, how do you identify, you're at a party, someone goes, what do you do? And you say what you say. And they're like, ah. And then you reply with like, yeah, I'm like a fractional COO and they go, oh, I get it.
Jenny Erickson: You know it's funny, they don't actually know what a fractional COO is often. So what I, step it back, [crosstalk 00:09:25].
Max Traylor: It's like a third and fourth degree of explanation.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. So they want to grow their stock, they're not sure who to go to. End of story. We're the first step.
Max Traylor: You're the un-stucker for the micro fingers and no longer in the buckets people.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. If you know you need a CFO, go get a CFO. If you know you need a CMO, go get a CMO, not sure exactly where the problems are, come to us and we'll help you figure it out and pull the right people in.
Max Traylor: Got it. Now, what are you... I talk to a lot of people, and I think we're actually in a time where... I grew up with my dad telling me everybody should do their own thing, it's the only way to have the personal life that you really want, because you can build a business around your personal life. And I think we're in a really exciting time now because people have been forcefully shocked by this terrible event, but they've been forcefully shocked into knowing that they can work from home, they can do things on their own.
And I see a flood of corporate people coming into the entrepreneurial space, doing their own thing, either because they realized their job employers don't give a shit about them, or they realized that they're really smart and there's demand for it, and they've been home and they've had some extra time. So my question is, I guess my first question is, what do you see is the common denominator of the biggest thing holding people back? Where you're just like, I see it all the time, this is the classic. What is that? What is holding people back?
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. So there's different stages. And so we'll start holding them back from first starting their business is a combination of either they don't know exactly what they want the business to look like and what they're selling, what it's going to cost them, what the case looks like. And so they stop from just going out there and building and selling, because they're afraid they don't have all the answers. But the truth is you have to go out there and start talking to people before you get all the answers. So there's this iterative process about putting enough on paper to make sure you're protected; you've thought through the basic things and then just go out there and talk to people and keep iterating on what your business model is. So, don't get too married to whatever you release. It's going to change within your first 12 months at least a dozen times.
Max Traylor: So people are stuck because they don't have all the answers, but you're sitting there just shaking them going, you got to talk to people. Nobody has all the answers. That's not how businesses are started. Businesses are started by going and talking to people with a rough idea prediction, maybe you were drinking one night and had an idea. Go talk to people.
Jenny Erickson: Exactly. So that's stage one. The next breakpoint that I often see happens around $300,000 in revenue give or take depending on the industry. And that break point is they've run everything themselves today, and now they can't do it all themselves anymore. And so there's usually a control aspect, meaning, how do I delegate? How do I teach what's in my head? Where do I let go and where do I hang on? Because I can't let go of everything of that size yet. And there's just all of this confusion that sits around that as to how do I prioritize what I need to put processes around, systems around, what data do I need, who do I need to hire, how I teach them? Really helping them organize that into one step at a time that they can work through, so they can break through that cliff level.
Max Traylor: Is it called the control freak stage?
Jenny Erickson: That's a good name for it. We should call it that, Max.
Max Traylor: It's in my notes. That's the thing. I've got the starters. I've got the starter pack and then the control freaks.
Jenny Erickson: So have you found that as well though in your . . . because you've been around a lot of business owners too? Is that a point that you see as well? And is that around the right size?
Max Traylor: I can't disagree with you yet.
Jenny Erickson: Okay. There we go.
Max Traylor: The 300,000 thing; people stumble into places where they can be making a lot more money and it's just themselves. But yeah, I've got actually a few examples that popped into my head that are right around that.
Jenny Erickson: And that's usually in the services, especially.
Max Traylor: Yes, especially in services. And I don't see a lot of people in software get to that point and get stuck. They usually sink a lot of money into something, and either that 1% where it blows up really fast, or it just stifles because they weren't prepared for a volume based business. The service based businesses are cool because you can get to three, $400,000 with clients that you can count on one hand. So, like you said, a single person can manage half a dozen relationships; three, $400,000 in revenue without thinking about what's next. They're just like, oh, yeah, people pay me a lot of money, and they start raising prices. And they're like, sounds good. I like this. Then they can't pick up the phone for their kids and they're like yelling at people and [crosstalk 00:14:32].
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. So is that the control freak?
Max Traylor: They can't do the wine parties anymore. It's a real shame.
Jenny Erickson: It is. It is. No, but I agree with you, tech startups are very different. Tech startups are a very different piece for sure.
Max Traylor: So you got the starters, the problem is clarity. The answer is talk to people. You've got the control freaks where the problem is they do it all themselves and the answer is systems.
Jenny Erickson: Yup.
Max Traylor: And then?
Jenny Erickson: And then; so after we get through that next phase, then it comes around, and again, I'm more in the services side, of course, to some degree, product if it depends. Around the million-ish mark, you have another point. And that's where you made it. You've actually got a legitimate company, right, that's made it through the ups and downs. You've hit that point. And now it's about how do you make sure that your company can continue to grow and thrive when you're not there? Oftentimes owners will hang on to a couple of... Business development is a common one. They'll hang on to sales.
And what they haven't learned yet is how to lead leaders and how to inspire people and set expectations with them, that they are going to grow the company, whether or not you're there. How do you handle culture, so that people don't say, hey, my owner's absent all the time, why should I work? Right. You have to work through all of those culture components. And so that's the next breaking point. And for that, you have to step back even more and really think even more strategically than at that earlier level. Sorry.
Max Traylor: The lost leaders.
Jenny Erickson: You're very good at this creative naming thing. I like that.
Max Traylor: Only whilst drinking beer. I discovered that six years ago. I've been doing it ever since.
Jenny Erickson: I like that. I like it.
Max Traylor: It's a pun.
Jenny Erickson: It is?
Max Traylor: I think.
Jenny Erickson: I think?
Max Traylor: Isn't the lost leader, isn't that a thing? Anyway, I digress. Let's move on. I think it's-
Jenny Erickson: No, this is kind of fun.
Max Traylor: Yeah, it's like the name game. Okay. I love systems though. I love systems. I wake up [crosstalk 00:16:35]. So you have systems. That's why you're here to be honest. But so you got the starters, the control freaks and the lost leaders. I love that. All right, so I understand you help people in the micro business. I understand you help people at these different stages and you're a systems person. I look at your website and get all excited because I'm sure you help people one-to-one.
You get on the phone with people, you help them, you give them advice. That's like the standard fee for service business model, but then you've built all this cool stuff, because at some point in your life, I'm sure you said, I am not satisfied with helping the half a dozen people that I can help personally one-on-one at a time, and you started building stuff to contribute to the world with less effort. You know what, tell me about the first thing you did, because I'm interested in the breakthrough. There's a lot of people that need to experience the breakthrough that I'm sure you experienced once upon a time. I want to hear about that.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. So I love your questions by the way, Max. You ask the best ones. So . . . they're really good. Yeah. They're really good.
Max Traylor: Welcome to my show.
Jenny Erickson: You're like you're digging in a little deeper. You're going-
Max Traylor: Insert comments here. Compliments, complaints.
Jenny Erickson: All right. So I am a little quirky and I usually start with the system. So one of my mottoes is do the work that works for you. So, I very rarely just take a client and do the work. I take the client and say, what is something that I'm doing for this client that will need to be redone for other clients in the future? And I build the system first, and then I do the client work. So rather than trying to create [perfection 00:18:19], I'm constantly creating a library and then iterating on it. So, a temptation a lot of times in consulting is for people to take the last client that they worked with and then save it as, but the problem is they lose all of that great collateral because you're constantly tweaking and modifying for different clients, and you actually lose some of that... some of the changes that you make.
So, is there a certain part of it that needs to be customized, for instance, by industry. Why not have a template for each industry? Is there a certain part that needs to be customized by size? Why not have a template for each size? So I always start with a template whenever I'm starting with a new project and I say, does this template need to be modified based on what I'm learning now? And then I work the client; the actual client workout. So I created my first assessment, my business assessment, before I even had my first client.
I pulled it together and said, okay, I think this is what I want to teach on. I think this is what's important, and I went and actually created a curriculum around it before I ever kind of as I was going through the sales process. And so as I started landing my first clients, I already had it available. That's not what people normally do. Normally people do the client work, if that makes sense, and then-
Max Traylor: You're a systems thinker.
Jenny Erickson: I'm a systems thinker.
Max Traylor: There's a lot of people pleasers that make shit up and then somebody pays them, and then they're really good at delivering, but they're not systems thinkers, so you did the...
Jenny Erickson: I started with the system and then I got feedback on it. I delivered a course on it; a live one, so that I could get feedback. Through COVID actually, I did a live cohort, and I tested out all my systems with a group of business owners. Got feedback on it [crosstalk 00:20:04].
Max Traylor: I've got a system of my own, if you can believe it, and usually the one to many business model is not where people start. They start with a one-to-one and then I see them go to like one to 10, a group workshop, if you will, that they kind of fall into. And then they're like, oh, this actually kind of works. And then they experiment with the one to many, like something that can be scaled to 100 and beyond. So, you actually created a system, and the first time you were delivering it, it was to like a dozen people or so, or did you start with a single client? The single clients came after, is what I'm saying.
Jenny Erickson: Yes, single clients came after. [Loose slate 00:20:43], but right around the same time I started, I started both. So I had a couple of single clients that I started and I got the group. But the group, I worked through four or five different systems. So it was a four week program, where week one was system one, week two was system two, week three with system three. Figured out what made sense or didn't make sense to them, and then I took that and I broke it into actually an eight week program that I made and recorded and made it available online with all the templates. In parallel, I was delivering for my first one-on-one clients, and I was using it and making modifications to the systems as I was figuring out what worked and didn't. Also, use it on my own business. That's the easiest way to do it, right?
Max Traylor: Whoa. Well, you know what, we're going to get further into the different things that you developed and what you're really excited about pursuing. First intermission time everybody. Pause the recording, take a drink, see you in a second. And we're back for beer number two. And it's one of those times that I get the beer too close to my face when I open it, but I'm not sitting in beer. Jenny, I've actually [crosstalk 00:21:50]. Well, yeah, I've actually done a number of episodes sitting in a puddle of beer because someone has been irresponsible in the placement of it in the refrigerator. So we started to talk about the really exciting stuff, the things that you've built to impact more people with less effort, your legacy, if you will, the dream. You are living the dream. So just give the menu. Give me the menu of the things that you've built that you think are worth noting, because I'm sure some things have ended up on the cutting room floor.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. Yeah. So there is definitely. There's a lot of things I didn't. And there were a lot of things that I started and it just took a while to come back around, right. But my first and favorite is probably the business assessment and the idea activation plan. Those were my first two. So the very first person that said, Jenny, I would like to talk to you more about working with you, I created an intake process and a sales process, and what are they going to get at the end of that discovery session, right? That first initial kind of sales session where you're really unpacking, and I create a deliverable that they get out of that, and that is really a simplified strategy. So I believe that one of the reasons that strategy overwhelms people is it's either too esoteric or it's so long, it's not usable.
Small business owners often need a one pager or a two pager that they can keep in their binder, put up next to their wall, something that can keep them centered around what matters when there's priorities everywhere. So the strategy process I use starts really simple. It gets at the why, and I actually do have a worksheet on how to come up with your why for people who struggle with dreaming. There's a lot of clients I work with who really struggle with dreaming. One thing that's different with my whys, I don't stop with the esoteric. I actually have them connect the dots between their personal why, their business why and then the steps that they have to take to get there. So, that is in the first section. Then the second section is on their measures. I pick the five key areas they need to focus on in their business.
And that I do have a library of those areas, and I add to them as clients have, I encounter new things, so I'm constantly building a library. I have a backend database where I capture all of the recommendations and areas I give to clients, so I can basically start to roll up and connect. They came to me for this need, I gave them this recommendation. So, over time, that becomes a really robust library and then eventually I can automate into technology.
Max Traylor: If / then statements.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. Exactly. So that is really the five key areas and I split them into two sections. One is results they want to accomplish. The other one is actions that they need to take to get there. And I have common areas of use for results, so that I'm always using a consistent language. And when I self-teach this, people know they're covering all the key results they need to. Then I break it down to metrics underneath those five areas. So what does success look like? Quantitative, yes, no, this has to be true numbers. Something that they can say, yes, I can confidently say, this is true.
The next section under that then covers the next steps or projects that you need to take on. So what's the work and actions you need to do? I break it into the top three priorities. And then under that, the top three to five actions. Bottom section is personal development or cultural development for their business. So, what do they need to do differently in order to be successful? There are things that worked for them very well today that they're going to have to change in order to get to the next level.
Second page is a 12 month roadmap. It's just an easy, visual breakout of this is what we're going to do over the course of the year. And I always tell people, the plan will be wrong, but it's a plan that we can anchor around, so we can decide if it's wrong and change it together, instead of just imagining that we're on a different page. One of my favorites.
Max Traylor: My dad always said, take the reason that they don't want... Take the reason that they won't work with you and make it the reason that they have to work with you.
Jenny Erickson: Yes. Yes.
Max Traylor: That's what you're doing. You're saying the plan is wrong. That's why you're going to... Anyway, just having reflections of my childhood as you hear. And this is just the first thing that you created?
Jenny Erickson: Yep, that's the first thing, and then I went into the business assessment because these two things rapidly happen in parallel. So that is, originally, it was something I taught for people to go through and assess or evaluate the health of their business. One is across their operating systems. So that is strategy, execution, planning, right? Your three... Well, let's switch [inaudible 00:26:34]; strategy, planning, execution. And then the second area is all the tactical things that you need to do to grow your business; brand, marketing, sales, HR, finance, right? All the things that you have to be good at in order to grow, and it's a health check.
Max Traylor: Is that the five areas where you expand those five areas?
Jenny Erickson: Five areas.
Max Traylor: You said the five-.
Jenny Erickson: I meant five. Yes.
Max Traylor: Brand, marketing.
Jenny Erickson: Oh, yes. Oftentimes those end up in the five areas. Yes. Usually on the areas of top, it's typically going to be money and time, or the results measures that are most important to most people, sometimes they'll be experiences and impact. And the areas that I look at for actions are going to be, like you said, client, finances, like you said, sales, marketing. It'll be one of the dimensions they need to do [crosstalk 00:27:21].
Max Traylor: Okay. So to simplify for the drinkers out there, you've got a one to two page strategy.
Jenny Erickson: Yup.
Max Traylor: And we've got a recording that people can listen to on half speed. They know exactly what you're doing.
Jenny Erickson: You definitely have my number. I talk way too fast. And the more excited I am, the more we talk.
Max Traylor: This is why we record. And technology, we can slow it down, we can speed it up. It exists. Okay. So you've got this one to two page strategy, then what else you got?
Jenny Erickson: Then it's the business assessment. And that is really, like we talked about, the triage. So they answer a set of questions and rate themselves, and then based on that, it computes a health score by each of the areas. If I'm working with that client at a larger capacity, I will do then an independent review of that. So, yes, they said they're healthy, but I will start to dig in deeper and figure out, okay, I happen to know what healthy looks like, so let me poke under the covers a little bit and make sure they're actually healthy in that area.
Max Traylor: So, my observation is that the first thing that you created is an introductory offer, something that creates a really good client. I always think at the beginning of a great relationship is strategy, it is the plan, it is the knowledge, [inaudible 00:28:34] gets people excited. The second thing you built is, I mean, that's a demand generator. That's like something to help you scale. That's something to help the fill the pipeline. That's a nice little lure over here. You can do this for yourself, and then I'll help you evaluate it to get them into that strategy offering. So you build the offering first and then you build kind of a tool to help you scale the pipeline [crosstalk 00:29:02].
Jenny Erickson: Yup. I did.
Max Traylor: Go on.
Jenny Erickson: Go on. So then what I did is build an actual full assessment around that tool, plus several other tools I have. So, one of them is a systems assessment. So that goes incredibly deep in each of these areas and evaluates tools, metrics, KPIs, like where they're at. And that is basically where I start coming in and doing an independent audit. So I'm actually getting access to other systems. I'm looking at their books, I'm interviewing their team, I'm doing focus groups. And out of it, they get a roadmap. And I take what seems like boiling the ocean, and this is common for the one to two million plus is usually where I start to get engaged for some of this.
But I'll come in for a one-time period and I will do the assessment. I will dig in and I'll give them a roadmap out of it, along with some implementation support. If you want to do this, this is what it looks like. And then from there, we usually kind of move into some level of either retainer or some sort of support to help them be successful and guide them through that implementation process.
Max Traylor: It seems that you eventually will be limited by you being the only one that can perform these in-depth assessments, create the roadmap. When people start calling to go, "Umm hello, I would like your help now, even though I can do it all on my own, I would like to pay you." Do you have like a fleet of minions that are flying the Erickson flag?
Jenny Erickson: Yes.
Max Traylor: Okay. Yeah.
Jenny Erickson: I do. I do. Yeah. My goal when I started this business was if my knowledge dies with me, then that's a very sad day. I've done a lot of strange, weird, awesome things in my career and then very eclectic, and that has given me a ton of experience that not everybody has that ability to have said, I worked 10 different careers, right? No. They might be very focused on something or worked a couple, but I jumped industries, careers, jobs so many times that I see the connections between all of them, which makes me perfect in this kind of general manager operating role, because I can see how it all fits together. So I am teaching that. I already have people out there doing it, and we have a process that they go through.
I have videos, internal videos. So my team goes through all my external training content that I offer for clients, or for people that just want to buy the courses individually. And then I also have an internal training that I put them through that focuses on, okay, what do you need to know? I actually do this inside. Like what's the inside track? How do you make decisions on where to put them and what questions to ask? And then I pair that with a senior mentor. So there's an entire internal mentorship and review process where we review their outputs and then they start with smaller clients and work their way up to larger ones. So yes, other people can do this.
Max Traylor: So to clarify, you've got on demand training for end. . . we'll call them end clients, but business owners. And then you've got on demand training for-
Jenny Erickson: My team.
Max Traylor: Right. What some might consider employees you might've flipped that business model on its head and-
Jenny Erickson: Actually it is. I do. I do have an employee model. It's very intentional to the side to build an employee model, which is unusual, I know, for-
Max Traylor: So you're hiring employees and you're training them on this . . . And was it intentional that you decided not to charge for that certification and do a revenue share like a lot of these IP organizations and sales operations? The first thing that comes to mind is . . . This is beer and a half. I lose things that I talk about every day. Entrepreneurial . . . EOS! Thank you. Circle gets the square. God.
Jenny Erickson: I'm sorry. I would've given you the word.
Max Traylor: Yeah. That’s the classic, hey, we're going to have people out to actually pay to be certified. We're going to send them out there in the world. We're going to do a revenue share. We're going to charge them for the information. So you're intentionally bringing on employees and taking on that risk.
Jenny Erickson: I am. And so far it's been very successful because with employees comes risk, but also there's number one, a higher long-term loyalty and growth. Number two, you can keep costs down for your customers and remember on a scaled model. So I always tell people when you're trying to build a pricing strategy, you have to know who your customer is and your why. And my why is to serve smaller business owners that don't have quite as many resources. And so I have to figure out how to deliver efficiently and still make a really healthy profit. Employees are the best way to do that to keep costs down. So as soon as you had a franchising or licensing model, you're really in essence adding at least 30% on top of it, if not more for all of the fees that have to get passed through it, so.
Max Traylor: One day I'd like to debate you just to-
Jenny Erickson: We can debate, man. That would be a fun Beers of Max.
Max Traylor: Well, the problem would be, I would be like, yeah, that's a great point.
Jenny Erickson: I think why I love actually debating this topic with you is because we see both eye to eye, and yet we apply it so differently. And it's so much fun to talk to you.
Max Traylor: The reason the debate wouldn't work out is because the business model that you have chosen is rooted in a very intentional understanding of your audience. The reason, everything that you just ranted off in 15 seconds is not debatable. I think the problem that I've seen is people are only aware of one business model, and that is taking on all the risks when they are looking at a clientele that you can charge whatever you want. There's people charging a lot of money and there's folks out... So, anyway.
Jenny Erickson: Well, that's a really important topic though, Max, because I completely agree with you. I usually recommend that my clients don't do what I do, do what I say. And the reason why is because your business model, their business model is different than mine. Their audience is different, the depth of pockets they have, the value of the service relative to what they can make from it is all different. And so it's very, very important that you take that into account. So there are plenty of clients where I've told them to double, triple or quadruple their price, and they have been wildly successful at it, but it is definitely a, don't just follow it blindly, it's a choice. Pricing strategy is a strategy you have to think of it that way. So we agree.
Max Traylor: Whoa.
Jenny Erickson: Whoa, what?
Max Traylor: What else have you . . . Is there more?
Jenny Erickson: More what? There's more things? As in like, systems-
Max Traylor: You've got a strategy, you've got then the business assessment, then that factored into hands-on assessments, I'm guessing [crosstalk 00:36:01] five areas. Then you created on demand certification material so that you can scale your employee base to deliver those types of assessments. And then?
Jenny Erickson: And like you also said, I have this external material for clients and that's all specific on implementing certain aspects of this assessment. So for instance, we have a deep dive course for a business owner, just starting out. How do you figure out what you need to make in terms of revenue to actually get paid a certain amount? Because oftentimes we're focused on revenue and not what they're going to get paid, which is the more important metric as we all know when you're just starting out. So I have little mini courses that solve very mini problems and break them into bite sized pieces across all these different dimensions. And as my clients ask for new things, I record it, create the template, record it and release it.
Max Traylor: Sober people will say they love their children equally. Have a cocktail, everyone's got a favorite. What's your favorite here? What do you like? If you were taken away from it today and you had to reminisce, what's your favorite? What takes the cake here?
Jenny Erickson: My favorite in terms there's two ways I'm going to answer that question. My favorite in terms of esoterically is how all the dots are connecting. That's what juices me up, right? In terms of the ability to teach clients, how to make decisions based on all of these dots being connected and do it methodically, the ability to teach my employees, the ability to know that my business model is hyper-connected, right? And that every decision was intentional. In terms of my favorite work product, I'm assuming that's what you mean. My favorite system, the business assessment is definitely my favorite. Hands down, easily my favorite.
Max Traylor: That thing that allows, that brings people in that gets people hooked like a [inaudible 00:38:02] evaluation . . . Yes.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. And here's why. It serves many purposes. Number one, in individual clients that can take it and say, wow, I now understand where I need help, what I need, I'm ready to talk, it does that for them. For a client who wants to self-implement its value in and of itself. I've had people walk away and say, I now know my authorities for the next quarter, I don't need you. That's fantastic. It delivers value. And then it also, I see the bigger picture on the data. So I'm a huge data person. So long-term, I want to turn that into intake where I can start to aggregate data anonymously across a lot of different sectors and industries.
So I have visions for where I'm going to take this, so I can start to produce white papers in case studies on different nuances by industry. And then now if you add on it, we're doing an independent audit for some of these clients, we can start to look at where are the differences between perception and reality? Are we having an independent person come in and start to do more research to help people? Because I really want to get into the research side of things a little bit more.
Max Traylor: [inaudible 00:39:09] the data.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. Potentially, not there yet. What are you thinking? You have a thinking face on, Max.
Max Traylor: Rarely do answers come faster than questions.
Jenny Erickson: Hopefully they're decent answers.
Max Traylor: I'm very impressed. I like this. I like this discussion. Ooh! Here's a question. What does someone that is seemingly four steps ahead in their thinking get excited about? What are you most excited about? I'm talking about like, well, I'll keep it broad. What are you most excited about?
Jenny Erickson: What am I just most excited about? Okay.
Max Traylor: We'll start there.
Jenny Erickson: First of all, opening the door so my dog stops barking is one of them, because he's been barking for the last 10 minutes. After we're done with this, I'm going to let him out. But, what I'm most excited about in the long-term? So the way I see this all is it's a set of stepping stones. So I'm excited about number one, this trend that you mentioned early on, more people coming into business, and the fact that I can be in a position to help them without necessarily doing all the work myself. I fully intend to step away from the day-to-day to a degree. I will always maintain a certain percentage of my time as client delivery goes up. I have a philosophy around professional services, and that you have to have some contact time with individuals to make sure that you're staying current and present. So, that will never fully go away. But it's more so that I can stay present with what's happening in the industry, what's working, and what's not, where things are at.
Max Traylor: It's a sanity check. You gotta keep one foot in reality.
Jenny Erickson: And it's a little bit of a humility thing too. And remembering you're human, and you got a lot to learn and grow, and things are changing all the time around [crosstalk 00:41:18].
Max Traylor: It's also product development. You're in contact with people, you're understanding of their problems. Rewind 30 minutes, that's where these systems came from, talking to people.
Jenny Erickson: They did. So my hope is that in the next three to five years, I'll be able to step back from that being the primary, and start to add in some other companies that will allow different things like growth trajectory for my team, allow me to develop new products and new spaces. I also want to do more content creation and writing. I fully intend to publish books and start doing some of that. So I'm excited for how can I enable this wave of change without necessarily doing all the work myself? And I'm already starting to see that happen slowly piece by piece.
Max Traylor: You're a creator.
Jenny Erickson: I am, first and foremost. Yeah.
Max Traylor: Yeah. You do the doing, because you know you need to keep a foot in reality. And there's a certain type of someone that always needs help doing the doing, but you're a creator. You're already thinking about creating before you even help people do it. And that's backwards. That’s what's so interesting about you out of all the people I talk to. You've got it backwards. You've got the engineer gene.
Jenny Erickson: I do. I do. I had a wise person once say, just make sure you don't move so fast to the next thing that you haven't gotten this thing done yet. Because when you are in that creator mode, that's the biggest risk you run, right? Running too far ahead of where everything's ready for.
Max Traylor: Wisdom.
Jenny Erickson: Good wisdom. Yeah.
Max Traylor: I'm sorry. Did you answer the question?
Jenny Erickson: The question of what I'm most excited for?
Max Traylor: Yeah.
Jenny Erickson: Which is that I'm most excited for, in three to five years, when I have a team that's doing all of this amazing work, and I am only doing it to stay current president in product development, and I can see that this impact is being made and the reach and the mission is growing when I am not doing it all, doing a lot of the work myself. So that's a huge milestone I think.
Max Traylor: What do you think will be your . . . you have a very clear understanding of what your superpower is. What do you think the most important hire will be, or the most important partnership will be to get you to that space? Because it's not going to be a fleet of minions. There's going to be someone out there that's the yin to your yang. That's like, yeah, this is going to allow me to focus on what I do best because the other half is now accounted for. It's usually how it goes and . . .
Jenny Erickson: Yeah. Yup. It is. It is. Yeah. Very good point. So my focus has been on growing two folds, growing from within. So, really bringing people through over the course of several years, being able to lead these more complex things and run them and then step back away from operations and to creation. So that's one avenue I'm going down. The second avenue around partnership that I am looking at is I'm starting to bring people into the fold that I can partner with it, provide fractional CFO, where I need a little bit more hands-on support in a specific competency area. Because we go so far, but then sometimes we'll get clients that, this is more complex. And I just want someone who's an expert to come in and really help us get this shaped up. So we're starting to move into that area as well and baby steps. I'm also, yeah, because I want to [crosstalk 00:44:48].
Max Traylor: You don't need someone that pretends to know something about productizing consulting services. I might know someone and do other things better too.
Jenny Erickson: Oh yes, yes. You are the best, Max. You are the best at that. No [crosstalk 00:45:07]. So, [crosstalk 00:45:17] can I let my dog out now quick? Because he's barking and driving me crazy.
Max Traylor: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, let him out. And I got one more question. I got the final question. The final answer... do, do, do, do.. It's the break for final jeopardy and we're back. What kind of dog do you have?
Jenny Erickson: Oh, that's a great question. Maltese.
Max Traylor: I'm a Golden guy myself, that’s because I don't make decisions. My wife makes the decisions and now I'm a Golden guy because we have a Golden. If you could go back three years and give your former self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Jenny Erickson: Love that you make me think.
Max Traylor: Take your time.
Jenny Erickson: So good to think. So I think going into this, I'll give a little backstory. What's a little bit strange about me is that I take risks regularly, but I'm naturally more risky. I weigh risks very quantitatively. So I don't jump into anything. But because I can weigh risks so well, I jump into things that not everyone else will because I see the math and the math adds up. So I was slower going into this than I would have liked to have been. I could have taken off a lot sooner and a lot earlier had I had the courage to lead corporate earlier. And I would say if I were to go back and give myself some advice, it's that you will land the clients. You will perfect the systems. You will help people and make the world a better place. And no matter what happens, you will figure it out. And don't worry about [crosstalk 00:47:04].
Max Traylor: . . . you're a survivor. Get the fuck out now.
Jenny Erickson: I felt like I needed more in the bank and more reserves than I actually did, because I was [crosstalk 00:47:12].
Max Traylor: We make up thresholds where like I will do this thing that I know I should do when this happens. And then inevitably this happens and you're like, oh no, you make up more shit.
Jenny Erickson: Well, the good thing is I didn't make up more shit at least. Thankfully. I laughed when things happened.
Max Traylor: That’s why you're here. Yeah. What a great piece of advice. You will figure it out.
Jenny Erickson: Yeah.
Max Traylor: You know how I think about that is like, look, you landed a great job. You figured out what you felt you needed to figure out at that time. It's no different. You just have to make a decision on what you are going to figure out. Because the world told you to be successful in this way. And you were successful in this way. Why do you think you wouldn't be successful in this other way or any other thing that you applied yourself to?
Jenny Erickson: That is a great, great question.
Max Traylor: I'm great at this, but I'm going to probably fail over here. And end up on the street, it's like, you're doing pretty well.
Jenny Erickson: And it's all because it's known versus unknown. It's a path that's defined. And we love the known. The known is safer, even though it's not safer actually. But we perceive it that way.
Max Traylor: Ooh. Why is it not safer? I have a theory. But you got me [crosstalk 00:48:32].
Jenny Erickson: Oh, I like that. So it's not safer because of the way our brains work, what's known as safe, it doesn't trigger the same, a big delay response. So we don't have the same reactions and the lizard part of our brain, the animal part that's looking for threats, that's constantly standing to see what are you afraid of? That it's known-
Max Traylor: Just to clarify that we're on the same path here. You're saying that people think corporate is safer than doing your own thing.
Jenny Erickson: They do. They do.
Max Traylor: You have a different opinion.
Jenny Erickson: They think it's safer because it's what they've known. So I'll take you as an example, Max, you were told from the beginning, do your own thing, right?
Max Traylor: Yeah. So I was told, never put 100% of your income in the hands of someone else.
Jenny Erickson: There you go.
Max Traylor: Which is what a full-time job is. Someone out there has complete power to cancel all of your income at any given time. And that’s it.
Jenny Erickson: And it makes it harder to say no to certain projects. It makes it harder to say no to work. It makes it harder to choose your own destiny. It's often [crosstalk 00:49:45].
Max Traylor: It's control. Once you know subconsciously that someone else has 100% control over all of your income and could cancel it at any time, you're coming in on Saturday, you're driving into the office after COVID when they say, Hey, we're going back to five days a week. And you're like, that sounds effing crazy. But you do it because you're scared. Maybe not now, now people… there's a lot of articles out there. Millions of people are leaving their jobs because their jobs are going, yeah we're going back to the office and they're like, oh, well you actually don't give a shit about me then, huh? So there's actually a lot of people hiring.
Jenny Erickson: There is. There is. It's the perfect time right now because that perceived safety has gone away. People have been home, they've been successful at working. They found an integrated life that they liked. And now they're like, wait a second. I don't actually have to do this. And so it's a whole different ball game and conversation now.
Max Traylor: Shocked out of their routine to realize that there is life outside of work. Usually that doesn't happen until people retire at 70 and they're going, oh, I'm like, I can't walk. So, Disney ain't what it used to be.
Jenny Erickson: Yup. I never planned on stop working completely. And I never plan on stop living until it's done, right. That's just [crosstalk 00:51:08].
Max Traylor: My dad would say, you never stop contributing to people. You as a creator will never stop contributing to people. You have built legacy. You were building your legacy before you got your first paycheck from your first client. That's what's unique about you. That's what I appreciate about you.
Jenny Erickson: Well, thank you. Thank you. I need the compliments back stamp here. It'll be an old beer can.
Max Traylor: You started it. Well, hey, cheers to that. If you're listening, wow. Don't be intimidated by Jenny. Talk to people as she says. We're not all systems thinkers, but they're out there and that's why you’ve got to talk to people. You’ve got to figure out your own superpower. And the thing that you can't ignore, the closest thing that you've probably heard today is you can do whatever the hell you want.
Jenny Erickson: You can.
Max Traylor: And there's people out there that will help you do it. And bless you for that. Cheers. Tip your waiters and waitresses and don't operate any heavy machinery. Listening to Beers Max, see you next time.