Today we’re going to talk with Rachel Gogos from BrandID. Like many, she started her career working for large organizations. She found that having children and working in corporate America does not necessarily work well together.
Rachel and her team were the people who built the AskJoshPatrick site and I have to say I’ve never had a better experience working with a web design group. They did everything on time and their design is exactly what I wanted to convey on this site.
She wanted to be a role model to her two daughters and thought a great way to show this was through being in her own business as well as having enough time to be great Mom. Coming from the background of a seeing her parents in business made it easy for her to at least imagine that being in her own business was not only possible, but the best avenue for her to make her dreams become reality.
Here are some of the highlights we saw in our interview with Rachel:
- How learning to say no to potential clients early in her business has served her well.
- Why you need to tell your clients the real timeframe you can do their work.
- Learn where real satisfaction comes from in running your own business.
- Lessons Rachel learned about delegating to her employees.
- Understand where retreats fit into a great business process.
- Know that meetings don’t have to be a complete waste of time.
Narrator: Welcome to the Sustainable Business Radio Show on podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. The Sustainable Business is all about creating great outcomes.
Here’s your host, certified financial planner, student, entrepreneur and private business expert, Josh Patrick.
Josh: Hello, today’s guest is Rachel Gogos from brandiD. I found Rachel from a recommendation through Chris Brogan who is one of the internet stars. Rachel did a website for Chris and he highly recommended her to me to design our site AskJoshPatrick. I have to tell that I’m actually thrilled with the work she did. As she can tell, if we have some time, I was not the easiest guy to start off with when we first started working together. But doing the work we did together, I found that Rachel worked at the United Nations and she worked at the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones. She has been a serial entrepreneur. Today, I read her bio and found out she even grew up in a family business as I did, so she’s no stranger to the road that successful business owners take.
Today, we’re going to talk with Rachel about the process of starting a business from scratch. I’m especially interested learning about some of the areas where she may have gotten stuck and what sort of action she’s taken to build a sustainable business. Let’s get right to it and start our conversation with Rachel.
Hey, Rachel, thanks a lot for joining us today.
Rachel: Hi, Josh, and thanks so much for having me on today.
Josh: It’s my pleasure. What made you start and found brandiD?
Rachel: About eight years ago, I was about to have my second child. I was looking for a way to be able to be a very involved and hands-on parent but at the same time keep exercising my brain and being able to do work that I found meaningful and purposeful, and also be able to just set a good example for my daughters. I had a two year old and my second child that I was about to have is a girl as well. I wanted for them to see a role model of someone who’s able to parent and start and grow a business.
Josh: That sounds like a tough way to start a business – having two children under two years old and trying to get a business off the ground.
Josh: What kind of challenges did you have with that?
Rachel: Funny, you’d bring that up so smartly but I read an article right before we launched brandiD which was a month after my second daughter was born, it said, ‘The worst time to launch a business is when you’re about to have a new baby’ – when I thought, “Well, that’s all the more reason that I still have to do it and be successful at it.” But some of the early challenges were just balancing home life, balancing physical exhaustion and balancing the work life. The way I dealt with that challenge was I’m typically a very ambitious person and I truly just kind of quelled my ambitions and thought, “I just have to be realistic about what I can do and not bite off more than I can chew” because I didn’t want to server anyone poorly so we just started small.
Josh: In other words, you would learn to say no to people when you are at capacity?
Rachel: Yes, absolutely. Frankly, in the early days, I hadn’t done any marketing because I just kind of wanted to start in the stealth mode and get really, really good at what we were doing. I didn’t even have to say no at the very, very beginning. It was more of just not biting off more than I can chew and making sure that the clients we did say yes to I felt absolutely comfortable that we could service and meet the goals we had established together.
Josh: Let’s talk about capacity for a second. What, in your opinion, is 100% capacity? Is it 100% of the work that you could be doing? Or is it some number less than that?
Rachel: Good question. I think 100% capacity is having enough clients where we can pay the bills very comfortably that everybody’s working to their strengths and nobody’s feeling strained or that they can come apart at the edges. Now, we have a full team behind brandiD so I’m always very careful before we take something on new that is going to add strain – that might be in the type of project or even that potential client themselves.
Josh: When something might add strain or would make you too busy, do you tell the client “no“ or do you try to put the client off and reschedule the time where you will have the right capacity?
Rachel: I’ve actually done both. When I thought a client might not be a good thing for us, I’ve just said “no.” And when it’s been a client that we really wanted to work on their project and it’s a good fit then I just give them a realistic timeframe of when we can start their project. That might range anywhere from two weeks to four weeks out.
Josh: Okay, cool. What would you consider a good fit for you?
Rachel: We love to work with either entrepreneurs, or solopreneurs, or small business owner who have purpose-driven businesses and who are ethical business owners.
Josh: Could you, just for our audience, explain what you mean by a purpose-driven business?
Rachel: Sure. We have a handful of clients that I call or say they’re bringing good things to life. Their work, while it might be around coaching or consulting, might have an unusual spin to it and at the core of it, aside from being a profitable company, they really want to leave the world a better place with the work that they’re bringing forth into the world. We love working with those types of business owners. And then the ethical part is we don’t want to just work with people who purely want to make money or we might sense that there might be greed or, again, like that lack of that purpose-driven in their work. So, regardless of what people are doing, we love when they’re compassionate and thoughtful entrepreneurs, especially when it’s kind of ready to take their business to the next level.
Josh: Here’s something that I find that a lot of businesses have happens along the way, they get stuck. I am assuming that at some point along the last eight years, you’ve gotten stuck? What’s caused that when you gotten stuck? And what are some of the areas where you’ve gotten stuck?
Rachel: In some of our 1-to-1 service-oriented work, sometimes, I’ve been stuck by I hadn’t anticipated a challenge that might come up with a particular client project. Those challenges could range from – they might want something technological in their website that we either don’t know how to do internally or can’t be done. Another type of challenge is if I’ve underpriced or underestimated the amount of time something would take and then I may have to go back to them and explain that. And then a third type of challenge is just kind of me, as an entrepreneur, which is staying focused for the long course on whatever it is – if we are going to try to launch a program. In the last three years, we’ve actually launched two other businesses. So, staying very focused on why those other businesses, I wanted to launch them and what the purpose of those is and the business model, so just not biting off way more than I can chew.
Josh: How many folks do you have working with right now, Rachel?
Rachel: On retainer, we have five people right now. And then there’s folks that just come in per project. But it’s the same well of people, if you will, in the sense that there’s people on our team that I’ve been working with for years but they just might be staffed on a particular project versus being on a long-term retainer.
Josh: Do you have any other W2 employees in your company besides you?
Rachel: Yes, those five other retainer folks.
Josh: Okay, so they’re all W2 folks with you?
Josh: When you were learning to delegate to them, what were some of the challenges you had?
Rachel: Feeling comfortable that things would get done to my standards and on time. Those were my two biggest challenges. It’s just kind of letting go and I think that’s the quintessential issue that a lot of us deal with around delegating, is that we feel—when I felt that someone can do it better than me but there came a point where I just had to let go and trust in the folks that were coming onto the team.
Josh: Was it a process of learning how to build trust with the other people in your team?
Rachel: Yes. It was building trust. But also, for me personally, getting very clear on what the need were in this other person – like fostering a high quality team environment has always been something very important to me. The business I grew up in with my family is a restaurant. And so, I’d seen how the lack of teamwork impacts and kind of creates a domino effect. So, that’s always been something very top of mind for me.
Josh: What are you doing to foster team building within your company?
Rachel: We actually do a couple of retreats throughout the year. We do one per quarter now. In previous years, we used to do them towards the end of the year and plan for the year coming up ahead. So that, I like to kind of take everybody’s opinion on the work that we’re doing and the clients we’re serving. “Are they a good fit? Do they not fit?” I want everybody to kind of weigh in on that.
The other thing we’re doing is through our communication tools, because we work remotely even though we’re all based in the same city or at least the majority of us are based in the same city but we have some communication tools that we use, that help us feel as if we’re in the same exact space working together. That’s really helped improve our connection and also just kind of the intake of bringing someone new in as I’m asking questions and making sure they are multidisciplinary and also very team-oriented.
Josh: What kind of tools are you using to help you guys communicate better?
Rachel: One we started using this past year is called Slack which is essentially a chat tool. We can set up private chats just between our team. And then we can even get more specific and set up chat groups around specific projects, so our communication stays very organized, around a particular topic. And then the other thing is just good old-fashioned we have a weekly call, every Monday, where we talk about every project. And again, any other projects we might want to be doing internally. And then the third tool we use is called BaseCamp which we use with our clients as well and there’s a good bit of communication that goes on there that helps us stay organized. And again, that becomes client communication, so it keeps us all on the same page there including our clients.
Josh: What are you doing to scale your business? I mean, it seems like you’ve got some nice pieces in place.
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. We are scaling through partnerships which is great because they come about organically. One partnership we’ve put in place a few years ago, and again, it was somewhat organic and actually it’s more like five years now, is with a company called Studio Press which was started by the folks that own Copy Blogger. We are considered a preferred development partner of theirs and their WordPress themes, which we think are one of the gold standard WordPress themes available on the net, and through that relationship we end up getting quite a few clients that are just funneled our way. They get to take a peek at our work and then see if they think we might be a good fit for them.
And then there’s other partnerships through folks that I find their work on the internet and it might really resonate with me for a reason or another and then I invest in those people’s – either their programs or their in-person events and just by default of connecting with them, we end up creating a really nice relationship. Oftentimes, they refer business to us. That’s much how you and I became connected, Josh, was through the Chris Brogan connection.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what we call the networking strategy.
Rachel: Right. I didn’t do it strategically. In hindsight, it might sound like it was strategic but it wasn’t. It was purely – I really liked what they are doing. Let me read and learn from them. Oh, they have a course, let me invest in that so I can continue to evolve myself or our team et cetera. And then it’s just come about again very organically.
Josh: That sounds like a great way to do it, to me. One of the things I find really interesting, especially for somebody in your business is you’ve had a zero marketing budget yet you’ve managed to grow your business in a really competitive landscape. Is it the networking strategy that allows you not to have a marketing budget or are there something other reasons? How do you manage to do this?
Rachel: It is the networking strategy. And then it’s also the word-of-mouth strategy by just providing really strong work consistently for years, for months after months after months. And so, just through word-of-mouth, we get a consistent client base.
And then just good old Google. Over the years, we’ve kind of practiced what we preached on our websites. Our own site is built on a Genesis theme which has some great SEO built in. And then we’ve kind of practiced the other SEO to do’s through content marketing, just simply posting blogs or making sure our key words are in our own web content. And so, we actually rank on page one for a few Google searches that are kind of within our sweet spot of work.
Josh: Oh, that’s very cool. So, SEO can actually work?
Josh: Okay. Let’s take a little switch here. We have about five minutes left and I have some questions for our business owners who might want to actually build a site. So, if you’re a business owner and your company has employees, what should they be looking for when they develop a website?
Rachel: Just a little clarity on the question. The caveat about the company having employees—
Josh: Yeah, it’s not a solopreneur. It’s a company that has 25 to 100 employees.
Rachel: Okay. So, making sure that their communication to their potential client is clear, making sure that they have identified their ideal client. Something that is very unusual to most business owners is that if they niched down on their target market that they might lose business but actually they attract more business when they’re very clear about who they are marketing to. And then just a third thing, making sure the user experience or the navigation – the way somebody is going to utilize their website is very user friendly.
Josh: How about readability? It seems to me, as I look at these 25- to 100-person companies, they seem to have like jammed 8 zillion words on every page and when I look at it, I say, “Is anybody really reading this stuff?”
Rachel: Yeah, I know. I agree. Just kind of keeping communication and text concise is very helpful. The average time that somebody spends on a webpage is somewhere between 7 and 10 seconds. A website that actually provides a lot of psychology behind web communication is one called socialtriggers.com which is an excellent website. The owner of that is Derek Halpern and he talks about things like font size and margin size and sort of the psychology and research behind those things.
Josh: So you would recommend people look up socialtriggers before they start a website design project?
Rachel: It can help them. They don’t necessarily need to be in on all of the nitty-gritty research because we read Derek’s website, so work up on all the standards for sure.
Josh: Here’s something else I notice a lot about what I call the lower middle market is that they don’t really communicate very well to all their stakeholders about what their company stands for and why. Can you use a website to actually help with that process?
Rachel: Absolutely. I think a lot of companies post their mission or post their core values. One company that comes to mind that’s much bigger than the 100‑employee is Zappos. They have their core values right on their website and their stakeholders can read those and see where they might fit into them, even their customers can see if it resonates with them.
Josh: Would you recommend that you put your core values on the home page or should it be in the “about us”? Where would you put it?
Rachel: I’d recommend putting it in “about us.” Depending on your company, your target market, and the way you do business, you know, what is it that you’re offering you may even want to have a separate page that just outlines your corporate values and that could be nestled under the about page.
Josh: What would you say is the best way for the 25- to 100-person business. Now, I know it’s not your target market but if they wanted to build authority and visibility on the web, would you have like five people from the company involved in doing that or should one person do it? I mean, how would you recommend they go about getting a presence that a solopreneur really doesn’t have the resources to do?
Rachel: Sure. There’s a couple of things they can do. They could have what I call a multimedia blog page on their website and the appropriate employees – and that might be all those in the marketing department or the biz dev department. They could write or provide various types of blog posts. It could be a video. It could be a written blog post. It might even be an audio blog post or a podcast episode around categories that resonate and frankly sell well for that company.
And then they can also invest in social media marketing. They may have one or two people that are just focusing on social media but I would recommend just focus on the social media that your clients are using. You don’t need a presence on every type of popular social medium but just the ones where your ideal clients are actually consuming content. I’d say that those two activities could really help put a company on the map.
And actually, one third thing that comes to mind, Josh, is if there are other popular companies that have a blog or allow you the—or maybe it’s a news article, that someone was in your company and your niche could respond to that through a comment on a blog, that’s another way because very oftentimes, that comment on the blog allows you to provide a link back into your site. So, if it’s a site that gets a lot of traffic, it’s great to have an inbound link from that site to your site. And also, again through your response, kind of start to show yourselves as an authority or an expert in your field.
Josh: That’s great advice. So Rachel, if someone wants to build a site and they want to use your company, how would they go about finding you?
Rachel: The best way to find us is through our own website. The web address for that is www.thebrandid.com. We have a contact form right on there on the contact page. We also list our phone number right on there.
Josh: We’re pretty much out of time. I thank you so much for your participation today. I hope we have a chance to speak soon.
Rachel: Thank you, Josh. I appreciate your time.
Josh: You’ve been listening to the Sustainable Business Podcast where we talk about what you need to do with your business if it was to be here 100 years from now. If you like what you heard and want more information, please contact me at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2 or visit us on our website at www.stage2solution.com or you can send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Josh Patrick and thanks for listening. I hope to see you soon for another edition of The Sustainable Business.