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Intro: Welcome to the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast with JP Stonestreet, episode #24.
JP: In today’s episode, Jessica Winkler shares some of her web design expertise. She is a very talented web designer and web developer located here in the Denver metro area, but before we get into the interview, I would like to invite you, as I always do, to go to my website JPStonestreet.com and sign up for my newsletter to download the free stuffs that I offer as a thank you for signing up. I send out a newsletter about once a week and it usually got some entrepreneurial content and a digest of the week’s content that I put out, the podcast, the YouTube videos, the blog, just a weekly digest plus a little bit of extra content just for you subscribers. Now, let’s welcome Jessica Winkler. She is a two-time graduate from The Art Institute of Colorado. She spent the last dozen years in the video production and web design and development industries, a Denver native with a penchant for geekery, Jessica took her unique skill set and started Digital Simplicity, an internet, web, and new media company focused on collaboration development. Now in her fourth year as an independent business owner, Jessica is looking forward through continued education in her field to new collaboration with clients and growth in professional leadership. So, let’s welcome Jessica Winkler.
Welcome Jessica to this episode of the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast. How is your Monday going?
Jessica: It’s going fabulous JP. Thank you for having me.
JP: You bet. I have been looking forward to talk to you about your business. You are my first web designer. We also do video production. So, we can talk about both of those. You and I met at a networking event, what was that like 5-6 months ago probably?
Jessica: Yes, shocking. Networking events is where you meet everybody these days.
JP: I know, we just keep bumping into each other at them. So, I thought it would be good to interview you on the podcast and get your entrepreneurial experience recorded for posterity.
JP: So, let’s go ahead and jump right in. Why don’t you start by telling us about yourself, who are you and then tell us about your business?
Jessica: I am a Denver native. There is not that many of us here I swear.
JP: There is not.
Jessica: I am a two-time graduate from The Art Institute of Colorado. I went for two film degrees. When it comes to web development and design, I am totally self-taught. I started making Star Wars website when I was in sixth grade just for fun and it turned into a job, who knew, but yes, I have had my own business now for four years doing both web development, design, and video production and I am really just looking forward to continue to grow it and meet new partners and collaborate with great clients and see where it takes me.
JP: Cool. Did you say Star Wars websites?
JP: I caught that right.
JP: What is that about?
Jessica: I am a geek, a born one and when the Star Wars movies were re-released back in the 90s, the original trilogy before the prequels came out, my obsession for it grew to new heights and I remember making gifs for star-filled background for my first website and it was really just a fan page about how awesome Han Solo was. My roots in geekery and web development go deep, they go deep.
JP: Awesome, so that’s how you got your start in web development with Han Solo fan page.
Jessica: Yes, totally.
JP: Great. I love that origin story. That’s an awesome origin story.
Jessica: Is it worthy of a comic book?
JP: Yes, why don’t you do that? You have an Arts degree, a couple of them. Why don’t you make your own comic book?
Jessica: Yes, I have thought about that and yes, it seems so daunting with all the drawing.
JP: It does, yes it does. All right, so tell us about your business now.
Jessica: Let’s see. My business, I own a company called Digital Simplicity. Like I said, I have had it for about four years and my main focus is really working collaboratively with clients, offering them a place where they are able to actually sit down with the web developer or Skype in certain cases and have a hands on process available to them as far as everything from the conception of the webpage to figuring out functionality how is it going to work for them, making a tool for them that works within their specific industry and business, it’s actually useful as well as a marketing tool that’s effective for their clients and so, I really try to bring along the client along on the process. Communication is absolutely the key, I project manage every site that I do and it just allows them to really see the process of it as well as be a part of it, be able to give feedback quickly and I have found it has really made the process a lot simpler for one and a lot more enjoyable. I find talking with most people that their biggest problem with past web developers is it just felt like it was such a huge deal. It didn’t go as smoothly as they wanted to; communication always seemed to be an issue. So, I really tried to take my history of video production and being a producer as well as years of customer service, thank you service industry, and bring them into my web development business. So really giving that customer care, that customer appreciation, and that service along with creating a process that’s enjoyable as well as productive.
JP: Cool, awesome. So, why did you decide to start your own business instead of just going and getting a job, there are lots of web design jobs out there. So, what was your motivation for starting your own business?
Jessica: I was working at my dream job at a video production company right out of college and I did that for four years and then 2008 happened and the whole world got laid off including myself and the idea at that point of looking for work seemed totally daunting and not really appealing to me and so, I kind of pondered it for few days and really decided that I have got some long-term clients that still need my work, the company that laid me off actually hired me back as a freelancer almost 24 hours later and I was in a position where I could start my own business which is something that I had always wanted to do and always had an intention of doing and I was thrown into it a little bit more or little earlier than I originally anticipated, but I thought it worked out well. So, that was sort of the point which I decided to go into business for myself.
JP: It seems like every time I ask that question, it’s almost always the same response – I got laid off, I got fired, I was told my skill sets would be better used elsewhere, I have heard almost every interview of entrepreneurs so far. You are I think the 21st or 22nd interview, almost everyone of them has had that – basically you just got kicked out of the nest and decided to start your own business and it’s I love that as an origin story for businesses because it often happens that way because a lot of times entrepreneurs don’t fit in great in the work environment as we just are motivated differently and so that happens a lot. You get kicked out and you are like “I am just going to do this on my own.”
Jessica: Yes, it’s not a bad way to go and honestly I kind of think about it now, it has been four years since I have had a W2 job and I don’t even – I can’t even tell you where would I possibly look for work, I have no idea, I think at this point I have made myself unemployable.
JP: That’s what I say, I am unemployable. So, hopefully I don’t ever have to get a job. That would be bad. All right, did you have experience specifically relating to web design because you worked at a video production company? So, how did you decide to do web design?
Jessica: When I was working in web development, this is the pre-YouTube era, which I know doesn’t seem like it’s that long ago, but it feels like it’s decades ago, but one of the first jobs that I was doing at that production company was for a website that was coming out of New York and it was a comedy website and it was really ahead of its time and so we were creating all these absolutely hilarious skits about working in an office and everything else, we were working with some of the best improv troupes in New York. There are faces in there that you would have seen in like SNL and other places. It was kind of a big deal, but the biggest component of this website was it was video on the web, which was still kind of this emerging thing and so I had the opportunity to really kind of learn beside some of the experts in the field as far as putting video on the web and once that project ended and we continued on, it became an ongoing trend. A lot of the clients that we had wanted their videos to ultimately be either posted to the web or put on their website and of course this was still like the Flash days as well and I had the opportunity to really dig deeper into my web development skill set and learned Flash at that time and everything else because things were just going hand in hand and so, when I left video production, I had clients that I was able to take with me because my former employer wasn’t really able to take the web stuff with him. He was very strictly video production. So, that worked out well, although I still do video production today, it is the other part of my business. It’s just not something that I network as thoroughly as I do my web development side simply because I love video production so much. It’s my passion, it’s sort of my – I don’t know, it’s the love of my life and so, sometimes I don’t feel like I need to network it, I just kind of let it happen and I still get pretty consistent while doing it, so I am happy with that.
JP: That’s cool. So, video production is the love of your life. How does your husband feel about that?
Jessica: He really did have to come to terms with the fact that I get totally obsessive over things. I am totally a fan girl for far too many things and he is kind of had to just realize he shares the stage with some of my geekier obsessions. It’s okay. He has learned to also grasp his own and follow his own obsessions as well.
JP: That’s good that you give him that freedom.
JP: Is he an entrepreneur too or does he have a job?
Jessica: He is an entrepreneur himself. He has his own business. We are certainly – I am starting to think there is this new un-hirable generation that’s somewhere between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials and we are definitely both part of that and so yes, he has his own handyman and carpenter business.
JP: Neat. Wow! So you guys get to commiserate about your ups and downs, the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship together.
Jessica: Yes, yes and we certainly have bonded over the ups and downs of clients and slow seasons and budgets and marketing and everything else.
JP: Yes, you both understand each other. That’s a nice segway to my next question which was what’s the most difficult challenge that you have had to overcome so far and how did you overcome it?
Jessica: There are a couple of challenges that I have had to overcome and I feel like some of them are consistently having to be overcome on a daily basis. I would say one of the harder issues I have had to get over, and I kind of touched on this earlier, was there is a little bit of a predisposition to web developers and designers today either because they have been burned by them in the past or there is a learning process to it and so they kind of get a little fearful of going into a web development project. Some of the clients that I have had, it may have been their first foray into it, they finally accepted that they just cannot go on any longer with their geocities website and so they must continue to look for new outlets and everything else and so I kind of really had to retrain those that I have talked to that it can be a good process, it can be something that only will end you with a new website, but with a great marketing tool and you will know how to use it and it will be something that’s actually useful to you and you will see your return on investment on that. So, that’s kind of one of the things that I still see a little bit, although it certainly improved over the last few years especially since the mobile devices have stepped in, people are getting a little bit more web savvy than they were previously, but that’s still something that’s out there.
JP: Yes, okay I used to do web design. In fact, I am doing one right now because it was kind of out of the goodness of my heart because I felt bad and this is before I knew you well enough to recommend you, believe me I wish I would have recommended you. So, rather than trying to do it myself; I am not building it, I have a guy in Indonesia who is doing the development and now I am having my assistant Jennifer project manage, so I am really not doing too much with it, but here is the problem that I have seen in web design business and since most of the people that are going to be listening to this are not web designers, I want them to hear this. My biggest challenge with clients is getting content out of them and also answers to questions just about the design in general. So, how do you handle that, how do you deal with that?
Jessica: Part of this thankfully has come from my years of video production. When it comes to getting content with clients, it’s all about project management, putting them on timelines, giving them checklists, giving them hard dates, I even have my accounting set up in a certain way. So, a lot of times what happens is they get freaked out if they realize they have made a payment or two, but nothing has happened because they haven’t got me any content and that has really alleviated a lot of that. As far as design, a lot of times what I do is I really just kind of sit down and listen to them and it’s one of my stronger suits, something that I am so grateful that I have picked up over the years just listening to clients talk about video which tends to be far more obscure than people talking about websites and usually just by talking with them and listening to them, looking at their competition websites, looking at websites that they like, I am typically able to get their design like 98 percent there without even having to have them like show me a color palette or something and then I build it, they look at it and the tweaks are phenomenal and that’s kind of how I have sort of overcome both of those, but yes, content is definitely absolutely one of the biggest hang-ups when it comes to working with web design and I am constantly tweaking my systems to really try to keep people on pace with that.
JP: Yes, it’s such a big challenge and it’s really frustrating from a web designer perspective because we usually don’t get our final payment until the project is delivered to your satisfaction, to the customer’s satisfaction and if you don’t respond to e-mails or phone calls and you don’t provide the content for the website or answer basic questions, then we never get our final payment and you never get your website.
Jessica: Right, yes. That’s always fun when that happens.
JP: It is. It’s very, very, very frustrating; one of the main reasons why I got out of web design is because of that. If you own a business, your priority is the business and the website is just another marketing tool that you have to deal with and a lot of people that owns small businesses, they are not totally web savvy and it’s just one of those things they have to do. So, it’s the lowest priority and it can be really frustrating. So, please be kind to your web designers, listeners, and respond to them and give them the content they need so they can get your website launched and you can move on with your life.
Jessica: It’s one of the most powerful and cheapest marketing tools you could use seriously. I can’t think of a cheaper marketing tool out there with the reach that websites have.
JP: Yes, and even I have met a couple of people who didn’t have websites and they have service based businesses that are not technical in nature, but the first thing people want to do when they hear about you when you give out your business card is they go to your website and they want to check you out and see if you are legitimate and find out more of what you have to say and if you don’t have a website, it basically just says that you are outdated, you are just not up with the times.
Jessica: Not to mention these days it can send a red flag. With all the authentication processes that have been put in place now, especially on Google, as people get more web savvy, they are looking for real people, real businesses and they want to see that genuine authentication. So, not having a website can send up a red flag these days.
JP: Yes, it can definitely. Awesome, this is good information, I love it. How do you cope with the stress of owning a business? We talked about this entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, ups and downs. So, how do you deal with it when you are in the downward loop?
Jessica: I think one of the most important things you could do really as an entrepreneur is to educate yourself. I think sometimes people jump into having their own business as the technician because they are good at something, but they haven’t really thought through the rest of the business. How are you going to grow it? How is it going to move forward? Where you want to be in five years? How are you going to manage your time? How are you going to manage your people? They don’t quite grasp the whole picture and I think it’s really important to take the time to educate yourself on how to run a business and by doing that it allows you to put the systems that you need in place like marketing and development and where you are making money at and recording things and keeping tracks of things, all those things really make a difference. So, when you are in the slow times, it’s consistency, it’s knowing that if I go to this many networking events and have this many meetings and put out this many bids every month, I am going to have this much work and it’s kind of figuring that out and for me typically the first quarter of the year is my slow season, it’s also my husband’s slow season, but it’s knowing that the processes work. I know what I do for marketing works and so, even at the slow times I just stay consistent and I know it’s going to pick up and eventually it’s going to turn chaotic, but for right now it’s what you are doing and it’s almost just kind of having faith in the systems that you put in place and in the value that you are offering to other people and knowing that it’s going to get to where you want to go if you work it correctly, but really I think the best thing any entrepreneur can do is just continue to educate themselves.
JP: So, how do you do that yourself? How do you educate yourself?
Jessica: I realized I am an avid, avid reader and so I read a lot of business books, I also listen to audio books, I think having those in your car is like one of the best things ever especially when you are constantly driving to places like Lone Tree and the Denver Tech Center from up north where I am and have all those hours in the car and I also just keep tabs on different blogs and entrepreneurs that I read online as well as meeting with other small business owners, other entrepreneurs whether they are in your field or not, they are a great resource for information and hearing their stories and how they have overcome certain obstacles I think is just a fantastic way to learn.
JP: That’s awesome. When I hear podcasts, this is a new phenomenon, and these podcast things are really good to listen to in the car.
Jessica: Podcasts are fantastic to listen to in the car, especially if they are long enough. You can almost perfectly time the right podcast to whatever your trip is.
JP: There you go. I know mine usually run between 50 and 60 minutes. So, if you have to drive an hour, it’s perfect.
JP: Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast on your iPod in your car, best way to do it.
Jessica: Yes, educate yourself as you are going to networking event.
JP: Yes, there you go. All right, we have talked about the stresses and the obstacles; now let’s talk about more of the fun stuffs. The first thing is what’s your most favorite aspect of owning your own business?
Jessica: Other than being able to tell people what to do and they pay me – no. For me, there is a lot of satisfaction in it. It’s a daily challenge, it’s an ongoing challenge and I love the problem solving part of it regardless of what it is whether it’s trying to like figure out this particularly tough piece of code or in some cases finding the typo in the code, the semi-colons will get you every time.
Jessica: Or really trying to help a client work through an issue with content or if they are stuck on something, those types of things where you really get to see the kind of result of your action, of your expertise and the time that you have put into yourself and to your business, I think that’s what really makes it satisfying is when you can really just see the results of all of your hard work that you have put in over the years.
JP: It is; you need to look back and see how far you have come.
JP: Yes, especially if you can remember back to the first days and that’s a perfect segway to my next question, which is how did you get your first five customers and I know you said that your old job hired you back as a freelancer. So, let’s talk about how did you get the first five customers that you didn’t know already?
Jessica: Let’s see, my first five customers were all word of mouth. I locked out the first few years that I was in businesses and was able to kind of skate by just on referrals of word of mouth and a lot of them were either friends of friends who knew somebody who has a company who needed a website done kind of a deal, so they are kind of out there connections, almost six degrees of separation, but yes my first five customers all came that route and usually once I am able to meet with somebody face to face and really talk through what I do in the process and everything else; my close rate is pretty solid and what’s great is almost all five of those clients I still have four years later.
JP: That’s cool, that says a lot about you. How did your friends and family and connections know what you were doing? Did you tell them or did you buy a billboard on I-25, what did you do?
Jessica: I don’t know if my family even understands what I do, they kind of know that I sort of do web and video, but they really don’t understand like what it is. A lot of it really was just letting them know. I think a Facebook status is all it took and most of my connections knew what I was up to.
JP: Awesome. So, you used Facebook or just word of mouth, you told them “Yeah I am starting my own web design business, if you know anybody.” Is that kind of what you did?
Jessica: Yes, that was a lot of that and I had some really great – some of my early clients are really great advocates for my work and referred me a lot, which was awesome and so that was a really great push and start to what I was doing, especially since I was going into web development fulltime from really doing like split time between video and web. So, it was a really great starting point for me to have such great advocates in the beginning for what I was doing.
JP: That’s cool. That’s so important to just go to your friends and family first, tell them what you are doing and ask them if they know anybody that might need help from you.
Jessica: Yes, I have always been amazed by who I have gotten just from talking to a few people. A lot of times even today a lot of the referrals that I get are still just like somebody who saw me at a networking event and had a friend who needed something done. It’s always like this totally random round about ways that I end up with referrals.
JP: I think part of the challenge for some people is that once you start telling your friends and family and everybody you know that you are in business and looking for clients, there is really no turning back at that point. You are invested; you are all in at that point. I think a lot of people they have a hard time getting there. They think “Oh I am not going to tell anybody until I am already successful.” A lot of times, in order to be successful, you have to rely on your network.
Jessica: You really do. That’s like trying to say “Oh I am not going to launch my website until it’s totally done.” That never happens.
JP: Yes. A website is a living, breathing entity and it’s never done and I tell people that all the time just launch it, you can perfect it along the way, but the important thing is to get at least the basic website up there.
Jessica: Your business really works in iteration as well and yes, you got to get out there and just start talking with people. You can always turn people down, but let’s face it having that network out there knowing and understanding what you are doing is crucial.
JP: Speaking of turning things down, do you find yourself doing that? Are you introduced to people that just aren’t going to be a good fit or if you are working with a client and it’s not a good fit, how do you handle that?
Jessica: It’s been pretty rare that I had to turn people down. I will receive projects once in a while that I feel other companies would do better typically because they are of larger scale than what I would want to take on at that point or they are looking for something so specialized that they would really need somebody who knows that industry a lot better than I would particularly. I have fired quite a few clients mainly because it’s impossible to – usually what happens is that I work with them for one project and then they come back and I tell them no and then I tell them why and then they feel really bad about that and then beg and plead to come back and with fancy new accounting standards in place. I am like “Sure, why not.” A lot of it really just has to come down to respect. I am not one who ever wants to burn bridges and so when it has come in the past where I have really just had to let a client go simply because it’s not working, it’s not working out for any number of reasons. I try to send them off to somebody who I trust that I feel could be a potential replacement for what I am doing in a certain sense and I also try to be really upfront honest with them as far as why it’s not a good project for us to be doing together and typically in that honesty it’s enough to start a dialogue in which we can work something out and continue our project together. I think all, but may one or two clients in the past who I have had to fire have come back.
JP: Yes, we had to fire a few clients at our business. You are right, what was funny is usually when we have that conversation and we say “You know what, this just isn’t working out for either of us, so let’s just go our separate ways and call it a day” and usually that would spark ”Why, what did I do wrong, what can I change?” and lot of times they would become the best clients.
Jessica: Yes, they just have to be trained enough.
JP: Yes, a little bit of fear I think may be forced them to change or something or that fear of rejection I guess, I don’t know, but it does work and sometimes you have to do that especially if you are in the service business where you are working pretty closely with the clients. If it’s not working out, it’s okay to fire a client.
Jessica: Yes, and really in some places it’s smart because it’s not worth the brain damage after a certain amount of time. It gets to the point where you are losing weight, you are getting gaunt, your spouse is pissed off, you have not eaten in days, and it’s not worth the brain damage.
JP: Yes. I totally agree with that. Okay, so we talked about your first five customers and let’s fast forward four years, what do you find to be your most effective marketing strategies or tactics now?
Jessica: A lot of it is really just getting out there and talking to people, it’s expanding my sphere of influence for lack of a better term.
JP: No, it’s a good term.
Jessica: It’s a good term, but I don’t know, I think it’s kind of cheesy, but it makes sense. It really is just getting out there and networking and meeting new people and I do a lot of one-on-ones. These days I am also starting to do speaking events, which I have found to be incredibly beneficial as far as really covering what I do to a larger audience and so those have been the ones that have really helped to push my business forward and continuously grow.
JP: So, you are talking about speaking events, and that’s a great thing that I recommend all service based business owners do, especially in the beginning to kind of establish yourself as an expert. So, how do you go about getting those speaking gigs?
Jessica: For the most part, it’s nice – I have so far just been invited to speak. I will make it known that I am available to speak and more than willing to do so and I have got a couple of presentations put together as far as being able to talk to various audiences and a lot of times, most of the networking groups I go to, they are always looking for people to put on the calendar and it hasn’t been difficult so far to kind of fill in the gaps between months and everything else. So, so far it’s been fairly easy. You just let people know that you do that and they will invite you.
JP: So, you go out to the – how many networking events do you go to because I have seen you at, at least two different ones?
Jessica: Yes, I typically average between five and six networking events a month and that’s on top of the leads group that I do every week. So, I am usually at about two networking events every week.
JP: Wow! And how did you decide to go to Lone Tree since you live in Lakewood. What makes you drive across town?
Jessica: Honestly it was the networking groups that are down there and there are a lot of businesses down there. I know there’s lot of businesses in Lakewood, but I don’t know, part of it is like I wanted to get out of my neighborhood. I had grown up in Lakewood. I had spent my time in Lakewood. I went to high school in Lakewood. My parents still live in Lakewood. So, I kind of wanted to get out of Lakewood.
JP: Poor Lakewood.
Jessica: Yes, I know, but I feel like a lot of the networking happens in the DTC and Lone Tree area. I am actually trying to find some groups that I like that are in the Denver area more. So, I am not always down there and everything else, but it really is just looking for the quality groups and stuffs that I will see return of investment on.
JP: Okay, so that’s a good point to make is that sometimes you might not live in the best place to network for your type of business and yes Lone Tree and the Tech Center that’s where things are happening or Downtown.
Jessica: Yes, those are much more business centric. Lakewood is suburbia. It’s not much for independent businesses out there.
JP: Yes. All right we have talked a lot about what’s great about your business and entrepreneurial journey. So, what is not working in your business right now? What’s something that could be working a lot better that isn’t?
Jessica: At this time, it’s leveraging my time. I am really trying to get to the point where I am able to hire certain things out and I have started talking to a lot of people as far as getting references for that and outsourcing a few things and really trying to make the most of the time that I have. So, I am putting my skill sets, my expertise that I lean towards more myself to use because that’s where I make the most money. I am really trying to unload some of the grunt work so to speak. So, I am not – my time is not consumed by the piddly stuff. So, that’s the thing that’s really been frustrating. I have been trying to get to that point for the last year or so and it just hasn’t quite happened yet. So, I am hoping this year is the year where I can really start to outsource and to hire out some stuff and really start to leverage my time better.
JP: Yes, outsourcing is huge. It’s something that all entrepreneurs need to embrace. Delegation and especially like what you said the piddly tasks, the things that you shouldn’t – that you can easily pay someone else a lot less money to do than what your time is worth and you just have to realize that it’s an investment because most people look at it as an expense.
JP: It’s not an expense; it’s an investment because it frees your time. Now if you are going to go sit and play video games or during the time where you could have been working then that’s an issue, but if you are using that time to work in your business then it’s a great thing.
Jessica: Absolutely, yes. I did finally hire a bookkeeper this year which I was like super, super excited about.
Jessica: Because I hate doing my accounting.
JP: Yes, that is the miserable part of being an entrepreneur.
Jessica: It is and of course I ended up doing the accounting not only for myself, but for my husband’s business and our personal stuff. So, it just – yes I am done.
JP: That’s good. That’s one of the first things you should. I have had a tax account for a decade that she handles my business taxes, my personal taxes and I use Mint for my personal accounting software and I use Outright which is now owned by GoDaddy for my business financial tracking and it’s so easy. I just have it automatically connected, all I have to do is go in once a month and categorize stuff and that at the end of the year I just print out a report to give to my accountant and I don’t have to do anything. It’s so nice, it makes things so easy.
Jessica: Yes thank God for technology, otherwise accounting would be that much – I can’t even imagine having a book, a ledger.
JP: Oh! I know. I know when I was…
JP: I am going to date myself, but when I was in college and I took accounting that’s what we were learning how to do, was keep ledgers and I can’t even imagine doing that now.
JP: So, as an entrepreneur, what could you use more help with right now? We just talked about delegation. So, besides bookkeeping, what are the kinds of things that you do delegate?
Jessica: Honestly, at this point that’s about all I delegate.
JP: What would you like to delegate that you are not?
Jessica: I would like to delegate all like the finishing parts of websites. The stuffs that’s really entry level, has to be done for every website, but it’s just time consuming, things like testing and debugging, making sure a website is cross-browser compatible, making sure all the responsive code is working, iOS and mobile device testing, doing all those little final checks that’s really just spending a lot of time, digging around in CSS and refreshing a page. That’s the stuff that I really love to just unload.
JP: So, why haven’t you? What’s your obstacle?
Jessica: Honestly part of it is time and I just need to like actually sit down and find some people who would fit well into that and the other is just taking that leap. It’s kind of hard. It took a while. It took three years for me to finally let go of my accounting, oh my Gosh! And I really just needed to take the leap and be like “Just do this for me.”
JP: It’s addictive, I will tell you. I am going to warn you, it is addictive. Delegation is addictive. Once you start seeing the power of it, then you start looking for everything. Can I delegate this? Can I delegate that? Everything you do, goes under the microscope and you ask yourself should I be doing this or should I have my assistant do this or should I – I use Elance, that’s how I find my help because it’s affordable and it’s easy and I can read reviews from their past clients and stuffs, so I use Elance for that, little stuffs that I don’t need to be doing and shouldn’t be doing. So, I would recommend that’s a great place you might want to start plus you could try somebody on one project, you don’t like them then try somebody else on the next one, but it’s a good tool, affordable tool to use to find that kind of talent when you don’t need a highly specialized skill set. Actually, you can find highly specialized skills on there too, but they are more expensive.
Jessica: Yes and I know the power of it, and it’s like “Oh! It’s such a big step in your business journey and I just got to do it.”
JP: Yes, I was publishing all of my podcasts myself, I still produce them myself, but I was doing all the publishing process which took a good 30 minutes minimum per podcast and I decided I am going to have Jennifer, my assistant, do that and it took me a good 3 hours to document the process for publishing a podcast and the whole time I am thinking “Oh! I could have just had this thing done by now.” That was about – I think she has done the last eight podcasts and so that saved me four hours. So, I have already more than recouped the time it took me to write all the training manuals and to do the training for it. It’s only going to save me more and more time. So, it’s an investment that’s continuing to pay back and time savings for me which allows me to work on other things like go to networking events or put together new presentations or work on my social media presence or whatever it is that I think is important for the day.
Jessica: That’s another thing I wouldn’t mind unloading, all my social media.
JP: Yes, I had a social media manager and it didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. Some of the stuffs that was posted just wasn’t what I wanted posted and it wasn’t posted at the right times and I put together a training manual, it wasn’t being followed accurately and I just got to the point where it wasn’t working, I wasn’t getting any return on investment from it and when I took it back over and that’s one of the things I still do, I have my assistant post the podcast. She tweets and post that stuff to Facebook, but I write all of the content that gets posted now and I have her post-it which saves me a lot of time, but when I took that back and started actually doing it myself, writing it myself, then I have seen a dramatic increase in the value of social media as far as marketing. My website traffic has gone up, my connections have gone up, my interactions have gone up and it’s all mainly because I am doing the important stuffs myself and I am paying someone else to do the tedious part of it.
Jessica: That’s one way to go about it, yes.
JP: So, that’s my advice to you on that.
Jessica: Yes, I know the power of social media. My God, I can teach a 3-hour course to my clients on it, but following it myself sometimes is a little bit harder.
JP: I know, it’s funny. I gave an hour long presentation at the SBA on social media and I have used it a lot, but I would say that there is a secret to it that was not in that presentation that I now understand about social media. It’s like I have seen The Matrix, it’s kind of what it feels like. Before I was like “Yeah, I gave a presentation on the world that they live in The Matrix,” which is real, there is nothing unreal about it, it’s valuable content, but now I see The Matrix and that presentation would be a lot different.
JP: It is weird how that works? Do you have a mentor or a coach someone that you work with that you bounce ideas off of or somebody that holds you accountable?
Jessica: I do, I actually have three people. The first one is – he was my former boss at the video production agency and I have known him now for eight years and he has been a great business mentor for a lot of years for me and we still talk on almost weekly basis either because we are working together or we are passing by or what not, but he has been a great resource for me with business as he has been a business owner for a long time.
JP: What’s his name?
Jessica: His name is Bryan Hagar and his company is HagarFILMS and of course back in the day when I was working with him, it was direct edit – yes, he has just been a great mentor for me for a lot of years and then I also have a business strategist, Terri Starck with LifePoint Strategies, who you may have met. She networks quite a bit too. I started working with her in the past summer and she has been absolutely crucial to helping me organize my business better and really get my systems in place and step out what are my next goals, what are my next milestones as a business and kind of getting me back on the path to really seeing huge growth and she also works as accountability for me as well and then the other person that I have is actually a group of people, a group of women who are my age and we are all small business owners, but we are all in different stages where we are on the business and we do board meetings on monthly basis and we are all good friends as well and it just allowed us to have accountability partners and we keep track of what each other is doing and just having a really good support system that way.
JP: How did you find that group?
Jessica: They are actually just all friends of mine and we all kind of – we are all sort of in different areas, we had a couple of them who are just starting new businesses and I was in the process of really reorganizing my business and we are like “We should just get together and talk about this, be able to read our marketing materials and get feedback and stuffs like that” and so that’s kind of how we started and that was probably about six months ago and so we are still going strong on that one.
JP: Awesome. I just had this conversation yesterday with Amelia, my significant other, and I was telling her – she is in commercial sale, she sells lighting to national accounts, the big names like Guess and Sephora and those big companies like that. She sells the commercial lighting for all of their stores and I was telling her that she needs to put together a group like what you are describing for people who do national accounts. I said just call up your clients and say “Hey, who do you work with on flooring or windows or bathroom fixtures or whatever” because all of these national accounts have suppliers for all of these different parts that I am sure your husband is familiar with how this works and I said ask them for their best sales people and get those people together in a group the way you guys like a mastermind group, so you guys can talk and bounce ideas off each other because the national account is a whole different world than what most people are used to.
Jessica: Yes, and I think it’s so important to have that sort of support system that mastermind system in place. It really makes a big difference.
JP: It does and it’s not just the connections or the network, it’s not a leads group.
JP: It’s kind of a support group.
JP: An entrepreneurial or business support group and you just happen to – you might actually share leads with each other as part of the process, but that’s not the main focus.
Jessica: Yes, I know, it really is. It’s almost like an AA meeting sometimes because business just gets to be like that, but I think it’s so crucial. If you want to be successful to have that support in place and to have different kinds of support in place.
JP: It is very important. All right, Jessica, who or what inspires you? Do you have a hero?
Jessica: Do I have a hero?
JP: Who is your hero?
Jessica: I have got a few heroes.
JP: Think your top one.
Jessica: Okay, my top one would have to be my grandpa. He was a pioneer in preventative medicine at the Mayo Clinic and this is back during World War II and he is my hero in a lot of ways because I didn’t know to the extent of his impact in the industry of medicine and what he was a part of until after he passed away, he was that humble and he was on the board of directors for airlines. He worked with the astronauts. He knew Buzz Aldrin and he – really the man was a part of history, but what really stood out to me and specially since he was my grandpa is it didn’t matter what he had done or what he had accomplished, when he was talking with you, you are the most important thing in the room. His focus was on you and to be able to separate that out, there was never any ego about it ever. The man had zero ego and I think that’s a lost character trait and I think to be able to really sit down and listen to people and hear what their needs are and try to find ways to help them and put your ego away is something that the world sorely needs.
JP: It does and I agree with you. I think it was a lost art, it is making a comeback. There are people I am interviewing Bob Burg next week who wrote The Go-Giver and he talks about this premise of giving in order to get and it’s – you are giving because you want to give not because you want to get, but it starts with that and it sounds a lot like what your grandpa just lived his life by.
Jessica: Very much so, yes.
JP: Another book is called The Seven Levels of Communication; I have talked about a lot. It’s the same thing, it talks about the importance of building these connections with people and giving people your undivided attention while you are there, while you are with them and so important to build those connections and relationships and your grandpa probably, too bad he is not here, he could teach us all a thing or two about that.
Jessica: Oh yes, definitely.
JP: So, is there a book that you can recommend?
Jessica: There are few books that I could recommend. I think the books that have made the biggest impact on me just in the past year was The E-Myth Revisited, which I am sure many people talk about and what not. It’s kind of almost like the small business bible in certain ways.
JP: Who is the author of that one?
Jessica: Oh Gosh!
JP: I will look it up. I will post all these links on my show notes page.
Jessica: Yes, I can’t remember on the top of my head.
Jessica: The E-Myth Revisited was really fantastic and helping me sort of structure and organize my business and really think about it in a totally objective way instead of being so subjective because people can’t see the forest for the trees typically when in their own business because they are just too close to it. So, it kind of helps me to step back and really take a different perspective on it.
Jessica: Then the other one was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and honestly it was a very inspiring read, especially as a woman and I think any woman who has done any business or had a job ever, should read that book. I think it’s a very interesting insight into the workplace and to a changing workplace whether it would be gender roles and stereotypes or really just business in general and it was very inspiring.
JP: So, could us guys get something out of it too?
Jessica: Absolutely, oh my Gosh! Guys would be very smart to read it because it really gives a good glimpse into the women’s workforce for lack of a better term, which is an organism onto itself.
JP: Yes, awesome. I will put links to both of those on the show notes page for this podcast. Okay, we have time for a couple more questions. Looking back from where you are right now, would you do anything differently?
Jessica: Yes, I would have started organizing my business and taking my business more seriously from the get-go. Like I said I lucked out really with word of mouth referrals for quite a while and I look back now and I am like “Oh Man! Had I started what I started year ago, four years ago, where would I be now?” but I think I would have really taken those first steps to educating myself on business and running a business a lot sooner.
JP: That’s great advice and that might be your answer to the last question which is what is the most important piece of advice that you can give to somebody who wants to start a business?
Jessica: Yes, start educating yourself, get few books, start reading. Go talk to other people who are in your industry. There is no lack of information out there and if you are not willing to go and look up the information, it’s willful ignorance and there is really no excuse for any more not in our information age. So, I think the opportunity is better than ever to have your own business and I think as the economy continues to do whatever it’s doing, I think that’s going to be even truer as time goes on, it’s going to continue to be easier to find a client than it is to find a job and so if you are willing to learn and be taught, I think there are some absolutely amazing opportunities out there.
JP: I love that. I am going to quote you on that “It’s easier to find a client than it is to find a job,” love that. It’s so true. It really is true. It’s the age of the entrepreneur and it has never been easier to start a business, thanks to the internet and still hard if you want to start a restaurant. That’s not – it may be a little easier, but it’s no less expensive than it ever was, but if you want to start a business whether it is service based or web based, it’s never been cheaper, never been easier. So, there is really no excuse not to if it’s something you have always wanted to do.
Jessica: It’s very true, it’s very true and it’s smart too. I think if you take the time to do the research and talk to the right people, you can definitely be successful.
JP: Yes, and even if you just do it on the side to start. I always recommend people keep their day job to pay the bills until their business is taking off or until you have saved enough to support yourself for a while, but just start it on the side even, just do something because you never know when your job may dry up, may be outsourced, may be eliminated, they may determine that your skill sets would be better used elsewhere.
Jessica: Yes and I think in this day and age, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
JP: Yes, exactly, it really is. It’s a matter of when they decide that you are no longer needed.
JP: And if you have something going on the side already then you are not in panic mode even if you have to get another job for a while, at least you have a business on the side that can may be bring in some income and give you something to do and keep your skill sharp while you are looking for new job.
Jessica: Yes, diversifying is smart.
JP: Yes, diversify. Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.
Jessica: No, cannot do that anymore.
JP: All right Jessica, that is all we have time for today. Thank you so much for a fantastic interview. I really enjoyed talking to you.
Jessica: Thank you JP, appreciate it.
JP: As I said before, I will put all of the links. I will do a shout out for your mentions for Bryan Hagar and Terri Starck as well as the books on the show notes page for this podcast. So, go check that out at JPStonestreet.com/podcasts. Awesome Jessica, thank you so much and we will chat soon.
Jessica: Thank you so much.
JP: I just love seeing young entrepreneurs go for it. Jessica is a perfect example of that. She just took the bull by the horn, started her own business, and one thing that she said in this interview that I really like is that it’s easier to find a client than it is to find a job. This is the new world we live in people. It is easier to find a client than a job. Jobs are going away. Businesses are booming. Follow Jessica’s lead, go out start your own business. Whatever it is that you love doing and whatever you are good at doing, figure out what other people are doing, copy them and start your own business. So, go start, just start your business guys, start it. All right, I think that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jessica. If you want links to her website or anything we talked about in this podcast, of course it will be on the show notes page at JPStonestreet.com/podcasts and you can find Jessica Winkler’s podcast episode in the list and then go look at all the items mentioned. All right until next time, this is JP Stonestreet with the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast.