Book Review: Built To Sell v1

Book Review: Built To Sell v1
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Been a while since I posted one of these, but since I recently hire a biz coach, I think I'll be doing much more reading / digesting / implementing at his direction.

Built to Sell hit home in the best & most painful way possible. It follows a marketing agency owner, Alex Stapleton, as he goes from do-it-all-himself generic marketing guy to highly specialized logo creator and strategic business manager. I am 100% Mr. Do It All right now, and that's a tough pill to swallow. It's time to take steps in a new direction at Cardinal eCommerce.

If I'm being honest with myself, I never wanted to be an agency owner, but it's the best bridge between employee and owner that I can think of. My first Shopify app (aka product) is live on a customer's store, and I take that as a huge win. App #2 is close behind, and I really believe in the potential there. In the meantime, I have bills to pay, and pimping ain't easy, so it's nice to keep a solid pipeline of cash flow going, hence, I have Cardinal eCom.

It's almost natural as an agency to take what comes, but that ends up creating too much diversification, and I'm there right now. I do strategic consulting, I build Shopify apps, I build Recharge apps, I build websites, and I manage headless website projects. Obviously with so many prongs, I can't do any of these things at a truly elite level, save for the headless stuff, since that's so new, I think I'm ahead of everyone else.

Alex Stapleton is the same - he's doing logos, brochures, print ads, TV ads, and more when we first meet him. One client of his dominates his revenue = 40%, and I'm even worse haha! Ok, so what's the antidote? Perhaps it's obvious, but Alex's mentor Ted tells him he needs to pick 1 prong, and turn that into his entire business. I asked myself that question this morning, what's my #1 prong? Honestly...I'm not confident there. I guess if I had to pick, I would say Recharge Applications. I know that platform super well, I know the API like the back of my hand, and I enjoy backend application development. In Alex's case, he has a 5-step process for creating client logos, he enjoys it, and his clients are satisfied with their work there. So he decides to be a logo business.

Why only 1 prong? That's how you systematize an agency => a product. You do one thing, you do it super well, and you have a well documented, repeatable and scalable process for it. Agencies don't get sold, product businesses do. Moreover, with a super tight process, you feel in control. Right now, I am scattered. I would love to hone in and feel more on top of Cardinal's work.

Ok, so now I have a start. Step #2 is to optimize the team for that effort, and start building a pipeline of leads. That's where my mind is today, I need to get some sales going, I need to find another backend engineer, and I want to do this by end of August. Right?'s scary! Alex goes through this same hemming and hawing - he ends up turning down a huge marketing contract to keep focus on the logo business. I'm skeptical any agency can make $1mm+ doing logos, but the book's point is still taken. Do 1 thing, do it better than anyone else.

I'm starting today - posting on Upwork, speaking to friends in the industry, and making a budget. I'll be back next time, with a goal, with a team update, and with any new business drummed up. I think the hardest part will be saying "no" to big money, and trimming / adding to the team as necessary. I don't feel elite in the human capital department. But we'll get there.

Until next time...