So today, I wanted to take you through some of the big system changes we are making behind-the-scenes here at Leonie Dawson International. I thought it would be helpful to walk you through what we are working on and why we are doing it. It might be useful for your own business – you might learn about new tools that could be helpful, and the way we make decisions. And mostly, you’ll just get a working model of how we do things behind-the-scenes here.
Also, if systems stuff really fucking bores you, scroll to the end of the post where you get to see all the creative donkeys I’ve been working on! SQUEE!
FIRST… BUSINESS SYSTEMS POLISHING!
When Grant & I first started working together, we did a full audit of everything that was working, and everything that needed some love and polishing.
Many of our systems have been around for four or five years. When we first started using them, they were industry leaders. But in the time between, other systems have emerged as the new industry leader. New software has been invented. All in all, it was time for a review + a clean up.
Grant said something that I really loved when we first started talking about all this. Both of us are massive Jim Collins fans (writer of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” and a bunch of other business bibles. Also the dude I went to see live!)
You’ve already got a world-class message and a world-class tribe. Let’s build the organisation and systems up behind it to be truly world-class so we can go even bigger.
Let’s make the company be a beautiful loudspeaker for your work.
Yes. What a beautiful analogy, hey.
And of course, we’ve always been making that happen behind the scenes – fixing, remoding, remodelling systems. But with someone who was totally committed to the task, and who had the systems experience, we got to supercharge our efforts and move a lot faster.
CUSTOM CODED MEMBERSHIP SITE
My personal bugbear has been using Ning as our membership site. I started using it 7 or 8 years ago. In ye olden days….
It was super helpful when we first began.
Now… not so much.
If we had a smaller number of members it would probably still be fine.
But with thousands of members, we needed something more powerful.
Shit that is wrong with Ning:
- we can’t integrate our shopping cart/mailing list (Infusionsoft) with Ning.
- we can’t automate sign-ups and membership removals.
- functionality is suuuper limited.
- forums aren’t interactive, don’t allow for tagging, and are super old school.
In particular, our tribe also found it difficult to:
- explore all their Academy resources + courses
- know where they were up to in courses.
We’ve been on the hunt for a decent membership site platform we could build from the ground up for a loooong time.
Eventually, we settled on a WordPress plugin, Memberium, that connects to Infusionsoft, which houses all of our database.
Cool shit we are developing with our new site!
- so much easier to find all the content
- easier for us to deliver the content – so we can create even more programs + resources for our Academy members (we have a shiz tonne up our sleeve).
- members can see exactly where they are up to in courses, and exactly what they’ve completed.
It’s SUPER cool.
We’ve got even more functionality in the development pipeline…
- they can update their credit card details, address + all that fun stuff.
- directories so you can find members in the same industry as you – or if you need a VA/designer etc!
- local meetup group functionality.
HELP DESK SOFTWARE UPGRADE
We moved away from using Gmail as our general email for support + started using Helpscout some time ago. It really is a MASSIVE improvement to using Gmail. Having dedicated help desk software for emails makes it that much better for our staff.
Why it’s better:
- Each inbound email is converted to a help ticket
- Multiple people or actions can happen on one ticket
- Tickets can be tagged by the type of issue & rules can be built for specific types of problems
- Canned responses!!! (You don’t want to do this haphazardly, but really, aren’t there just some questions you have answered before?)
- You can track productivity and how long it takes to response, resolve, how many times a ticket comes back
- You can also track how happy your customers are with your service!!
So Helpscout was a major step up, but it had some limitations. It has fairly limited reporting functionality so we couldn’t see where the majority of customer service issues where coming up… we wanted to know that data so we could go straight to the place that was creating the issue and fix it from there.
As Grant says:
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t even HAVE customers needing to email us. They are only emailing us if they’ve got a problem. We need to fix problems before they even begin… create a seamless customer experience.”
So Joyce + Grant started doing a hunt around for even better functionality… all in the name of providing exceptional customer service.
We fell upon Groove, and have been fitting it out ever since. It lets us build out a shithot information base so you can get answers IMMEDIATELY if you have any issues… we can fit it out with awesome tutorial videos… walking you step by step through any areas that might trip people up… and just give immediate service, ya know?
It’s cool. Super cool. Can’t wait to show it to ya once it’s all fitted out!
We’ve been using Infusionsoft for our email service and mailing house for the last three years or so. WAY more powerful than our previous setup (using Aweber + e-junkie). However – anyone who has used Infusionsoft knows it is as complicated as fuck. They should seriously hand out Infusionsoft degrees… oh wait, they do.
Anywaysies, as Infusionsoft updates its software, and as our database grew + changed, it got… unwieldy. We were still using outmoded ways of doing things, we were chockfulla tags + it needed a damn good cleanup. So that’s what Grant/Amber/Joyce/Kelsey/Ruth have been doing.
Sprucing up our Infusionsoft interface.
It probably doesn’t make much of a difference from your end of what you are seeing – beyond cleaning up a few weird bugs (WOO!) – but it definitely makes a difference from our admin perspective.
NEW AFFILIATE SYSTEM
Another area that needed some improvement is our affiliate tracking & payment system.
Currently, we’re using Infusionsoft, but given the number of affiliates we have (over 4000), it can be a real pain in the anus. Or painus, as I like to call it.
We are now upgrading to jRox in conjunction with Infusionsoft.
This solves a bundle of stuff including:
- Let’s us pay affiliates automatically via PayPal
- Makes tonnes of reports available for both us AND affiliates
- Makes getting resources and new sales challenges easier than ever
- And we can pay affiliates automatically with PayPal
- Let’s us set up different commission programs to reward our best affiliates.
- Did I mention, we can process payments automatically, with PayPal? SAVES SO MUCH TIME ERMAGERD
This technical upgrade is just part of a larger overhaul on our affiliate systems… we’ve got MEGA plans to completely reinvent the affiliate wheel… support + communicate with our affiliates in an even bigger, better way.
Our amazing affiliates have been such a big part of our success story for the last seven years or so… I LOVE that we get to reward our most passionate fans with thank-you moneys for sharing about us to their friends + fans!
HIRING + GETTING THE RIGHT TEAM ON BOARD
You may have noticed (or maybe not! I have no idea how much I’ve been able to communicate during this crazy wonderful busy time) that we’ve hired a bunch of staff over the last couple of months.
Here’s where the org chart sits currently:
- Moi – CEO + Creative Director
- Chris – Director + Production Assistant
- Grant – COO (Chief Operations Officer)
- Joyce – Customer Support + Systems
- Erin – Customer Support + Social Media
- Amber – Customer Support + Systems
- Ruth – Reporting + Systems
- Kelsey – IT + Coder
- Aylie – Academy Graphic Designer
- Shiloh – Designer
- Naomi – Designer + PR Maven
- Tamara – Editor
- Our accountant + bookkeeper
Fuck me, right? I KNOW! I KNOW! It’s like we’re a real live company or some shiz!
We WILL have an awesome team About page at some point… but that’s after our current donkeys have been ridden.
So why have we been hiring so much?
Well… partly because we needed for sheer workload right now… and also to put in the groundwork for the next big leap in the company.
Jim Collins in his business bible “Good to Great” (highly recommended!) talks about how great companies need to:
“Get the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus, and get everyone who is on the bus in the right seats.”
I think it is a bonza analogy for hiring + firing.
There’s been places in my business over the last six years where I’ve needed to fire staff who weren’t the right fit. Sometimes, they are a great fit for a long while, and then as the business grows, it surpasses their skills + mindset.
Either way, it is never, ever, ever easy to fire someone.
But my loyalty always has to line up with the company.
If I don’t fire someone who is holding the company back, I am putting the company’s sustainability and longevity in danger. I have to protect my other staff, my clients + the company by doing what’s best for the company and its mission.
Anyways, I absolutely have done some mis-hires… I didn’t follow my gut instinct… I held on too long to what wasn’t working… I kept working with contractors who weren’t pulling through fully.
Over the last year, we’ve gotten rid of staff and contractors who weren’t up to standard – the remaining original members of our team are our two solid gold VAs Joyce + Amber (and me and Chris of course!). And then with a whole lotta lessons under my belt, I started assembling a Dream Team that could not just keep up with our current demands but start birthing the next vision of the company forward.
And I did it in my usual weird, oddly-shapen hiring method… of hiring people I already knew and loved, or going off recommendations of people I really respected, or done a hiring round and place company culture fit as the #1 priority (i.e. do I lurrrrve them as a person?)
Our latest hire I met at the live meetup I organised.
She was sitting next to me, we got on like a house on fire, and I had a big gut instinct that she was super smart + had skills we needed. I went home, pinged Grant an email, and we online stalked her and thought she was amazing, and Grant was asking for her CV an hour later. Her CV was beyond perfect, her skills were the perfect fit. BAM. HIRED! Hahahaha!
Another hire was Tamara who is one of the original members of the Academy (back in the Goddess Circle days!) who has stalked me live in person twice, we’ve been mini-golfing together, and I thought she was an all round smart, savvy chick. BAM! HIRED!
And now we have this bonza team of magnificents… all of them working on different projects in their zones of genius… and I feel like I am sitting on a rocket of magnificence… so much power behind it… ready to shoot for the moon + the stars + beyond! It’s EXCCCITING!
LDI US TEAM RETREAT
Once we hired Grant as COO, his first order of business was to organise a face-to-face team retreat of most of our US staff – Amber, Erin + Joyce
The photo above of them makes me gigglesnort. It looks like a take out of a sitcom!
We had an ace photographer/videographer there… so you can get to know these magical peeps more closely. Will share them with you soon!
And Grant is going to write up a “How To Run A Team Retreat” blog post for ya’ll soon with more goss from that event.
Once we finish riding these donkeys, that is.
THE CREATIVE DONKEYS I AM RIDING!
I’m riding the wild donkey of the 2016 product range.
And things are moving so quick I made that donkey riders infographic like two weeks ago, and it’s already out of date – we hired another person since then (magical Naomi) AND I managed to forget to put Ruth in it too. Nicely played, Mrs Dawson.
AND I’ve got deadlines coming out my anushole, so I’m not going to go back and redo it. Because there are DONKEYS snorting their noses at my fence. They are very impatient. They keep looking at their Apple Watches fastened above the hooves, and saying:
Times a’tickin’, buddy.
I’m sequestered away in our studio with our designers Shiloh + Naomi – both ridic talented, ridic adorable chicks who are a joy to be around.
We are being powered by Spotify, chocolate + tea.
This year we’re printing:
- Life workbook (totally redesigned + reshuffled + looks amazing)
- Biz workbook (totally redesigned + rewritten + bigger + better!)
- 2016 Diary
- To Do list pad
- Wall planner
I’m supposed to be finished by end of this week to get off to our printers. That probably (will definitely) not happen – I think we are going to be a week or two late delivering. But still within our time frame – Grant’s timeline allows for a little flexibility thank gawd.
I thought I’d give you behind-the-scenes of how we are putting it all together:
Here’s the maker details:
- We asked for feedback about what people loved + what people wanted changed in the workbooks using Typeform
- I wrote the updated workbook copy out in Google Docs first, and shared with Grant + Tamara (our editor)
- We had a Skype group call to go through it together + edit the doc simultaneously
- Once the copy is down, we move on to the art making.
How I illustrate the books
- I painted all the backgrounds separately using Sennelier ink + watercolour paper (any brand will do. Arches is always nice).
- It’s really nice having Shiloh around – she kind of art directs me around + pushes me to try new things. Like: “Ooooh! Can you try combining different colours? Different textures? Make splatters?” It’s AWESOME!
- Then I drew + wrote everything using a Kuretake Brush Pen. Hundreds and hundreds of illustrations, frames, borders, icons, hand lettering… anything Naomi or Shiloh need… I produce it for them.
- Some more pens I use for lettering: Copic Multiliner + Uniball Eye. And my beloved, beloved brush pen.
- We scan everything in using an Epson A3 workforce scanner. And by “we” I mean – usually Mr D. He gets to come down to the office to a giant inbox overflowing with artwork to scan + clean up. And then be sexually harrassed by the boss. #hardlife
- The designers (and me, on late night creative binges) edit + clean everything up in Photoshop
- Sometimes it feels like Death By Illustration… but honestly… there are worse ways to die.
- The designers vectorise (i.e. ultra clean it up) in Illustrator
- We’re all hyperexcitable people… so our design process makes me laugh… We’ve been brainstorming ways to make the 2016 workbook design more magical… Shiloh is on holidays for the rest of the week to go see her favourite tree (no, I’m not kidding, so awesome!)… But she came up with some new ideas out at dinner and scrawled them on a napkin for me and texted them my way… Twenty minutes later I texted her back my ink mockups. Hahahaha…
- The designers lay out the book design in Indesign.
- Once we’re finished, it will be edited and reviewed again and afuckinggain, and a hundred sets of eyes will be over it, and we will still not find all the spelling mistakes, and I’ll spy it in the print edition and feel super grumpy with myself (like every author ever known to womankind) and I’ll add it to my list of “how to do even better next year”… (I guess that’s the good thing about these workbooks – there’s always next year to make ’em even better and fix any remaining dastardly typos!)
- We’re also adding recommended resources pages to different sections in both workbooks… along with project suggestions to stimulate the inspiration! A lot of peeps shared they find it hard to come up with ideas, or wanted to know where else to go for more information… so we’re providing that.
- During this crazy intense busy time of growth, I’ve felt totally overwhelmed + like my head was overflowing, to be honest. One night, I couldn’t sleep, so I got back up, grabbed a notepad, and wrote down EVERYTHING that was in my head. There was EIGHT pages of this crap!! From life stuff to parenting stuff to admin to business to staff to packages I had to send. I felt a BIG weight off my mind after it was all out in paper… and then I could scribble it all out VIGOROUSLY as I went!
the donkeys are calling my name!
Off to go make magic happen!
Big hugs, love + excitement,
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