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3 systems you need to have in place for a successful business

Years ago when I managed a climbing gym we had an issue with the Tuesday night closing routine. Yes, the person in charge of it was generally awesome, but week after week the gym just wasn’t as clean as it should be when we came in Wednesday morning.

Nothing major was missed but all sorts of little things that together added up to a facility that wasn’t as inviting as it should be.

Despite pointing out the issues to the Tuesday night closing staff many times, lots of little things still got missed each Tuesday night.

Here is where many employers would just stop letting the employee close. Instead of investing a bit more themselves, they’d figure that the employee just couldn’t cut it. They would cut their losses and train someone else in the position.

But that’s not what the owner of the climbing gym did. He took on the responsibility himself, made a cleaning checklist and got everyone that closed to use it.

In reality, it wasn’t just the Tuesday closer doing a less-than-stellar job. Yes, he was missing pretty much everything every Tuesday, but it seems that almost everyone who closed the gym was missing something.

With the new checklist in hand there were very few missed items and the facility looked awesome all the time.

Today we’re going to talk about the 3 systems I invested in for my business that yielded the biggest returns, both in my time and in making my projects run smoothly.

1. Prospect Follow-up

How many times have you talked to a new good prospect and then just let them drop off the radar? Months later you find their name and reach out right away only to find out they forgot about talking to you and went with someone else.

I tried to put prospect follow-up in Todoist and OmniFocus when I used them as my task managers of choice. They worked better than just trying to remember the prospects — but only just.

The biggest issue here was that when I reached out to a prospect the task would be done and I’d need to set up a follow-up task some weeks/months later. While it’s entirely my fault I forgot more often than I remembered, it all added up to a system that was more broken than fixed.

Then I found Contactually and never lost track of a prospect again. With Contactually you can sync your whole address book in and then it automates the reminders for you to follow up with clients.

You can set predefined templates for the emails and if you have a 100% repeatable process you can even automate the whole email sequence so you don’t have to manually manage it.

In the first two weeks I used Contactually I recovered $30K in work that I had simply forgotten to follow up on.

When I started using it regularly (even just an hour a week) I ended up with much less ‘dead’ time between projects in a year unless I specifically scheduled it as time to work on personal projects.

If you don’t have a system to remind you to follow up with new leads, then you should try out Contactually today.

2. Client Vetting and Onboarding

How many times have you invested hours emailing a prospect then get on the phone with them only to find out that they were never really qualified for your services in the first place?

Yup, I know — happens all the time. It used to happen to me as well. Then I got serious about my email onboarding process and crafted an opening set of questions to ask all prospects.

With that standard set of 10 questions asked of each prospect I almost never waste time on the phone with an unqualified prospect.

You can get all my email templates by purchasing Effective Client Emails and stop wasting time with unqualified prospects.

3. Project Shut Down

Many business owners just send an invoice to a client and then the project is over. There is no follow up, and sometimes no long-term contact. They leave it entirely up to the client to get in touch when there is more work.

If you haven’t talked to a client in two years then they are just as likely to forget you as you are to forget them.

To close a good project down properly you should be doing at least these four things.

  1. Sending the invoice, of course.
  2. Sending them any assets from the project they should be getting (put together a checklist for this).
  3. Sending a thank you note of some fashion, and for a really good client send a gift.
  4. Put the client in your long-term marketing follow up so you touch base with them two or three times a year.

Note Number 4 because it’s the key. I put my past good clients in Contactually and follow up with them once a quarter just to see how things are going. It’s not about asking for more work currently; it’s about staying top of mind with them for when there is work.

One of my previous clients is a cyclist (as am I) so I generally ask how riding/training is going and if he has any events/races planned. At least once a year the response includes something like, “Oh yeah I was just talking to ____ yesterday and they need some work done. I’ll send them your name.”

If I wasn’t following up long term with clients I’d leave many thousands of dollars on the table each year.

That’s it! Just those three systems will free up your time, get you working with better clients and keep work coming in more regularly.

Implement them today, and if you’re not sure how I’d love to talk to you.

photo credit: tim_norris cc


What you need to build your ideal week

There I was — relishing a week in total ‘flow’ state[1]. Nothing could stop me.

I didn’t have 52 things pulling my attention away from what mattered. I could focus day in, day out on what mattered. The quality of my work reflected that heightened level of focus. Even things I expected to be difficult came easily.

But then a piercing beeping sound interrupted my focus. It started out faint, but kept getting louder, and louder, and louder.

Suddenly, everything was dark, and I realized that I was in bed and it was time to face another day in my fledgling business where I had way too much to do and way too many people expecting me to deliver work.

I had three calls with about an hour between each where I could ‘work’. In a full eight-hour day I really only had two hours that weren’t squeezed between meetings, and those two hours came at the end of the day.

Looking at the rest of my week, it didn’t look much better. A few calls each day meant I had no day where I could just sit down and work without interruption.

Oh, the ideal week

Way back then I knew something needed to change; I just didn’t have any idea how to implement that change.

I knew my weeks were crazy, but prospects kept asking for calls on random days of the week and clearly it would be a terrible idea to say no to them. They were the ones with money that would pay my bills.

Then I learned that I’m a maker[2]. I need large blocks of time with no distraction to get things done. Dividing my day up into little hour-long chunks is a sure fire way to have no project really move forward effectively.

So I started saying no and designed my ideal week.

When I work with an ideal week, most of the time I get into the state of flow a number of times every week. You can too, if you sit down and properly set up your week.


Now before you can define your ideal week you need a few things.

First, you need to know what your purpose is and you need to know how that purpose relates to your business.

If you’re having trouble defining your purpose grab my PDF with 8 Questions to answer that will help you figure out your purpose. You can find it at the end of the post.

Purpose in hand

Once you’ve got your purpose in hand you’re ready to build out that ideal week.

For the makers among us, it means confining calls to one, maybe two, days a week. I do all my new prospect calls on Tuesdays and take calls on current projects on Monday mornings, which leaves me the rest of Monday to make progress on any items that come out of the calls.

I almost never deviate from this because I want to get work done, not spend hours on the phone each week.

I spend Tuesday morning before calls writing for one of the many sites I contribute to, or working ahead on the content for this site.

After those calls I have no call availability for the rest of the week. It’s all about getting work done for three full days with no interruptions.

I even try to get all the business errands I need to run done in those first two days, and get all my writing done Tuesday morning so I can devote three full consecutive days to pushing client projects forward.

Now that I’ve designed my week properly and limit calls to two days a week, I can fill out my weeks with clear focus and work from a state of flow most days of the week.

I don’t have to jump around between way too many projects. I get to focus on what matters instead of getting pulled around on the whims of others.

If that sounds like something you want to achieve get in touch and I’d love to help.

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photo credit: clement127 cc

Write your ideal life statement daily

Earlier this month I talked about your single statement about your business.

I’ll review mine for you:

My business will let me spend much of my time travelling and in the wilderness.

From there you need to define what needs to be true for you to get to that ideal statement but when I started it was hard to define my truths.

In today’s video I’m going to talk about one daily practice that helped me really figure out what needs to be true for my business to get to it’s ideal state.


This must be true for your ideal life

Last Tuesday we talked about your ideal life and how you define what that looks like for you.

For me it means spending time in the mountains, and with my kids. I haven’t yet achieved my ideal, but I know my goal, which means I can start — and stay — on the path.

My first stop is to define a few truths.

What’s true

Let’s talk about this dude I know. He gets to charge well for his services, but he still typically operates by a one-and-done business model. That means he does the work for a single client and then it’s mostly done and he moves on to the next client. He doesn’t get to sell the exact same work over again.

That means that his next project is also a bunch of time spent working for his client. Every dollar has time associated with it, even though he doesn’t bill hourly.

He realizes how blessed he is to work for himself and blessed that he can charge in the top of his field.

He’s blessed that he gets to take off around 4 weeks every Christmas and can travel to his family across the country without missing a beat in his business.

He’s got a lot going for him, but he’s still striving to create his ideal life.

If you haven’t guessed, that person is me, and reading through the above story you can tease out a few new truths about my business if I want to transition to my ideal.

One to many

My main truth is that I need to transition my business from a one-and-done business model to a one-to-many model. Meaning I write a book/course/something, and then sell it many times.

I’ve done that with my current book, Effective Client Email, but it’s not earning enough yet to say that my business runs on a one-to-many business model.

A second truth is that that in order to reach my ideal life, I’m going to need to cut my Internet requirements — as in the days I need to be online. Currently that’s 5 days a week, but if I really want to be able to spend days in the mountains I need to cut that down to 2 days where I require Internet access.

That also comes down to having a business model that earns me many times based on the work for one book/course/thing.

Your truths

What about you? For you to get to your ideal what needs to be true about your business?

Once you’ve broken down your ideal into a few truths you can go about working to make those true.

To get to a one-to-many business model I need to release more products. I need to bring more traffic to my site via guest posting, guest podcasting, and writing posts that get shared more.

I need to drive more people to my email list and then market to it effectively.

Having identified my action steps, now I can start breaking those down into smaller bits and start actually accomplishing them.

Way too many people (myself included at times) dream of their ideal business and just keep dreaming. They don’t figure out what needs to be true to get to their ideal. They don’t then break the truths down into action items.

But they dream and dream and dream yet continue to wonder why they can’t achieve their ideal life.

Without a solid plan you’re not going to get to your ideal. Without defined steps to take day in, day out, you’re not going to get to your ideal.

If you need some help getting that plan and putting your steps into action I’d love to talk to you.

Oh, and don’t forget to get my free PDF of 8 Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Your Purpose just below the content here.

photo credit: barneymoss cc

A day at the beach-5440475661

What is the ‘ideal life’ anyway?

Do you know what your ‘ideal life’ is? The life that would leave you fulfilled daily because you’re working on awesome stuff?

Note I said working? Some of you may have been thinking of lounging on a beach, drink in hand and not a care in the world. I hate to break it to you, but that’s not an ideal life — that’s a fantasy land that will leave you unfulfilled.

How I will be

Meet future Curtis. Not only is he good looking (wait — he is already), he’s smart (check), has a beautiful wife (check) and kids who always listen and never fight (okay, that’s a fantasy).

He gets to spend a few days a week in the mountains. He travels to awesome spots around North America and gets to experience the beauty around him. He participates daily in the homeschooling of his kids.

Yes, he works — mostly writing, but he really only needs an Internet connection two days a week to catch up on email and to take some coaching calls with his clients.

He travels to speak, but takes his family with him most of the time because he hates it when he’s away from them.

Most of his money comes from a business model that is one-to-many. So that’s books, courses, a few plugins. Things he builds once and then many people can benefit from.

He actually does web development still but he’s super picky and charges much more than he currently does. That means he only does web development a couple weeks every quarter.

He does still dig into development of things he finds interesting, but as he wants, and usually for personal projects.

How will you be?

That’s my story of where I will be. What’s your story? If you’re not sure ask yourself:

If I didn’t need money what would I do with my time?

As I said above, I’d spend more time in the mountains (or in the great outdoors) and I’d still help people because I simply can’t stop myself. I want to see people succeed.

There is a problem with that question of how you’d spend your time, even though it’s a good starting point. Money isn’t really a predictor of happiness and an awesome life.

If only I looked that way, if only I had more money, if only I got that job…but since I can’t get that, oh well, it wasn’t meant to be, and I’ll just stay stuck in this lousy place. – Shift for Good (

Asking that question gets us too focused on money, and implies wealth being a place of happiness. But happiness is a choice, in large part. Just like being busy is not a sign of success. You can be happy with no money to your name, happy barely making it, and happy with lots of money.

You can also be unhappy in all those states of your financial journey.

Another question to ask yourself is:  What tasks do you currently do that leave you more energized? I know that when I talk to people about how to run their businesses better and help them take steps to earn more without simply adding hours to the day, I get breathless.

Yes, I literally talk so fast and pace so much that I have to stop to take a deep breath as we talk.

Knowing that I get so energized by that I want to do more of it.

Finally do you know what your purpose is? Do you know why you’re around on this earth?

Mine is:

To help people run an awesome business so they can live the life they want to live

Knowing that allows me to make decisions about what I’m going to do.

If you haven’t figured out what your purpose is then get my free PDF with 10 questions to ask yourself to find your purpose.

The rest of this month I’m going to talk more about how to get to this ideal life in your business.

photo credit: sesen cc

Do you have these two broken mindsets about your employees?

This month we’ve talked a bunch about running a business with employees. From listening, to mentoring, to rewarding them a lot of ground has been covered. What I want to talk about today is the broken mindset so many business owners have.

They view employee mentoring, training as a business expense not as an investment. They also spend it in the wrong spot, at the top of their organization with their best people.

Both of those ideas are broken.

To see the books I talked about check out the post on my site

  1. Building & Managing Virtual Teams (
  2. Creating a Done Done Culture (
  3. Entreleadership (
  4. Work Rules! (
Réparation vélo-11808271916

Do you think about employees in a broken way?

This month we’ve talked about investing in your employees. From dealing with employee failure to how you reward them, how your best people may be hindering innovation in your company and mentoring the people you have working for you or getting them mentored by their peers.

If that seems like a lot of work, you’re totally right — it is. I’m sure you’re asking yourself how on earth you find the time to implement these things when you’ve already got so much to do.

I hear that sentiment most often when it comes to mentoring employees. It goes something like:

Shouldn’t they just know how to do their job? I can’t take XX off the job for a few hours a week; things just won’t get done.

The shipper

Years ago at one of my jobs we had a shipping department that had been run by one person for about a decade. Everyone was convinced that person would never leave. Something about the job just screamed that it was a perfect fit and this employee was really good at keeping the place organized.

Then one day that employee gave two weeks’ notice and moved on to other things. Suddenly, we were in big trouble. Sure, every other employee could handle putting something in a box, taping it shut and adding a label, but no one else really knew the company’s shipping system — only that one person who had been doing it for a decade.

Compare this to another job I had where the company shipped canoe parts all over. One of the best people they’d ever had in the shipping department had a baby. That event was expected, but on pretty short notice she had complications which meant she needed a few unexpected weeks off work, right when things were at their busiest.

The company had no time to train someone or to hire, but it really wasn’t a problem. See, during slow periods, management had taken the time to train my wife and one other employee to do the job. And, the general manager had handled the shipping about a decade previous.

So, among these three people, all orders were shipped on time — while these three people still kept up with their regular work — and we barely missed a beat.

The salesperson

Now let’s look at a hypothetical situation where you have five sales people. Let’s say their sales go something like this:

  • Person 1: $1,000,000
  • Person 2: $500,000
  • Person 3: $500,000
  • Person 4: $500,000
  • Person 5: $500,000

Clearly Person 1 is the best sales person by a huge margin. What if that person was taken off the job for 10% of the time to mentor the other salespeople? Let’s assume it would be a straight drop of 10% of sales. In that case, Person 1 would then be selling $900,000.

What if that top performing sales person could help each of the other sales people increase their sales by 5%? That would mean a $100,000 increase in sales, which would mean a break even on sales the first year. But, as sales went up for the other four, overall sales would return to the cumulative volume of $3,000,000, which is what they were before Person 1 stepped back into a mentoring role. The breakdown would look like this:

  • Person 1: $900,000
  • Person 2: $525,000
  • Person 3: $525,000
  • Person 4: $525,000
  • Person 5: $525,000

Okay, now let’s stick with the mentoring in Year Two, and again people get just 5% better. That would mean an overall increase of $105,000 in the year for a total sales of $3,105,000.

If you stuck with this plan for a third year you’d end up with total sales of $3,215,250 and in Year Four you’d reach $3,331,010.

Really, 5% is a low number and 10% is certainly within reach for the first year or two, so instead of simply breaking even in Year One, it’s certainly realistic that you could hit the Year Two sales (an increase) in the first year. Note this increase just keeps getting bigger every year despite about the same amount of investment.

Most companies would invest their time working with the top sales person, when they’d really get more benefit by developing the lower performing people, helping them be better. They are the ones with the most room to improve.

Mentoring isn’t a cost

The real issue with most business owners is that they have a broken mindset when it comes to employee mentoring. They view it as an expense not an investment.

Many view mentoring as something that drains resources rather than building the company up and opening up new possibilities.

They often say they’ve tried it, but what they really mean is they had two meetings with someone and nothing changed, and they realized that it was going to be hard so they gave up.

They want effortless reward not hard work, but hard work is what the top businesses in your industry are doing. If you want to be one of the top performers then start doing that hard work. Start mentoring your employees. Start investing in them.

Get more knowledge

If you want to really dig in with your employees and do the hard work I’ve got a few reading recommendations for you:

  1. Building & Managing Virtual Teams (
  2. Creating a Done Done Culture (
  3. Entreleadership (
  4. Work Rules! (

All of these are great reads and will help set you on the right path for that top performing business you want. Just remember after reading them it’s up to you to do the hard work.

photo credit: clement127 cc

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Curtis McHale

Helping you answer the hard questions about your business