Working From Home: Episode 25: Remote working and decentralised companies with Raj Goodman Anand
In today’s episode, Nelson is joined by Raj Goodman Anand to discuss core tenets of business management, from niching your services, to client relationships and more. Raj is the founder of the content writing company Goodman Lantern.
- Building a remote company
- Niching your offerings
- Investing in your business
- Operating a values-centered organization
[0:42] – Nelson introduces today’s guest, founder of the content writing company Goodman Lantern, Raj Goodman Anand.
[7:06] – Why Raj set up his company to be remote from the beginning, and how this reflects his personal values.
[12:44] – What it means to have a productized company, and how to implement it.
[17:12] – If you can’t delegate a process to someone else, you don’t understand the process as well as you should.
[24:45] – Why you need to understand your client’s vision and to secure a long-term commitment from them to truly do exceptional work.
[29:15] – Long-term business investments versus short-term business investments (e.g. SEO versus paid advertising).
[39:05] – Niching down on your core competencies rather than trying to offer a variety of services.
[48:22] – Communicating your values, and hiring people who share those values as a remote company.
[54:43] – Female representation in business, and other closing thoughts from Nelson and Raj.
Nelson: Hello, and welcome to the working from home podcast with your host me, Nelson Jordan. Today, I am really happy to be joined by Raj Goodman Anand who is the founder of Goodman Lantern, a native English content writing company. Raj, thank you so much for joining us.
Raj: [00:00:59] Nelson, Good to be on. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Nelson: [00:01:02] No problem, I find your story fascinating and it’s kind of a real sign of the times at the moment. I think the stuff that you’re doing is going to be so useful to everyone else. So I’m delighted to have you here, I guess, just for context then – obviously you’re working heavily in remote working at the moment, but that wasn’t always the case, was it?
Raj: [00:01:26] Not at all, not at all. So this company is my third company and before this I was working for an organization in Europe and over there I was working in the office. I was the first sort of non-Latin, non-Spanish speaking person in the company. I joined the company as head of innovation and got into sort of management style stuff very quickly, and then became the CEO of the company.
At some point I was taking 280 flights per year around Asia and Europe to meet customers and to shake hands with them, which nowadays obviously corona times you won’t do. But it was something which is my perception of working from the office and setting up an office in every country to kind of thinking about remote working a bit more when actually the condition I made eventually was to kind of reflect this new lifestyle, which I think is very plausible as well as actually makes life much easier and makes it that much cheaper as well.
Nelson: [00:02:37] Just to clarify, did you say 280 in a year?
Raj: [00:02:42] Yes. So about, about one, about one flight per day, more or less?
Nelson: [00:02:47] So yeah, like two in three days, you’re doing like two flights on the average three, three days span. Wow, okay. There was a time when I was working in Valencia and commuting back to Birmingham, and I maybe took like four flights, because I had to take indirect ones. I was taking like four, maybe five flights a month and I felt kind of hard done by a little bit.
Raj: [00:03:14] It’s insane. I mean, I remember a time when I did, for example, dinner in New Delhi, I finished at about 12:30 at night, jumped on a flight at four o’clock to Heathrow airport. Followed by… to have a breakfast, lunch at another airport, followed by dinner in Barcelona, and then flew back to Asia via the UAE. So I mean, that was all in like one day, so insane life.
Nelson: [00:03:45] yeah, pretty insane schedule. Well I’m guessing the outcome of this already and to kind of preempt where you’re going with it, I’m guessing that was unsustainable.
Raj: [00:03:56] Well, it was, I mean I just got married at that time, so you know we got married with the aim to spend time together, but actually I would just see my wife once a month. Somewhere nice, obviously that was that the perks of the job. I could actually travel quite a bit and it was okay to kind of go somewhere nice.
But It’s not sustainable to really fly so much and it is bad for our health for example. I mean, I had a bolt in my back from that flying. I wasn’t awesome for sleeping patterns, for example, or socializing, you know I had a set of friends in Brighton, some in London, some in Hong Kong, some in the Philippines, and it was pretty hard to keep in touch with what’s going on for instance.
Nelson: [00:04:47] Sure, I totally get that. In terms of the health thing, because I was flying on the cheap a lot of the time, I was going on Ryanair flights, Easyjet flights, things like that. Definitely not in business or executive class, and my back really paid the price. These days I have an alternating sitting standing desk just because I think that played a large part that I was traveling and I was in these really uncomfortable seats with not a lot of leg room and things like that. Yeah. I’m totally with you there. Was there a kind of tipping point almost where you’re like I need to do something else now?
Raj: [00:05:33] Well, I think multiple areas, I think one was obviously the flying part, which played a major role, but also with the company, when I came in, they were doing about seven and a half million Euros a year and you know, I helped them scale up to 45 million in revenue. And obviously as your company sort of employee contractor, you really can’t charge them what you may deserve because there is an upper limit on company owner versus contractor, as it were, and I think a combination of the fact that there is something which I can do with my skill sets which are to help scale up, my skills are to tell stories and narrate an idea, which helps the company get through somebody’s difficulty gatekeepers because there is some interest in to offer that and I thought to myself well I have this skill, I have this sort of opportunity to kind of think about something differently with working remotely for instance, and building remote teams is something I did quite a lot in every company I’ve ever worked in, including my previous companies. And I thought to myself the time has not come that I sort of say my goodbyes here, start my own venture, use replicate some of the learnings I had in this company and my previous experiences and then use that to allow my customers to have benefit of storytelling and content for instance.
Nelson: [00:07:01] Okay, so it seemed like you already had an idea in your head from it wasn’t necessarily a point where you were like, well, I need to stop doing this. It was more like, well actually I think I’m better placed and I can serve people better by operating in this environment that I know about very well, I’ve already helped companies with, and you already were kind of thinking that that’s going to be remote from the start, right?
Raj: [00:07:39] Absolutely. So, in all the companies I’ve worked in, except my first company, which was my venture up to university, the idea of delegation and remote working were the two principles I used to set the foundation of the company. So remote working for me as always been something I think was going to scale up really well and it’s going to come mainstream, but it took this year for it to become legit and that people could actually work remote and they can work from home and it’s actually fine. Before this, the perception was if you don’t have a glass office, you don’t have something brand-new spanking kind of office space or a high street or refined or a lovely address, you aren’t legit company. And I think that’s something which is a perception, which has maybe changed a bit now and people can work from home and be as productive if not more.
Nelson: [00:08:32] Well I don’t want to disrupt your flow too much, but we’ll definitely talk about that signaling that goes on with office spaces later, I don’t want it to get in your way too much, but okay so you were starting that company, you knew it was going to be centered around content. Did you set it up as a company where you were going to be very much in the trenches or did you set it up as a company that you would be leading taking on this kind of CEO or MD role from the beginning and hiring those people to fulfill those roles?
Raj: [00:09:11] Well, my philosophy is that to be able to delegate things, one needs to understand what it takes to really deliver of the service and so the first step I actually did was to learn about what it takes to deliver the service. I’m not a copywriter and I’m an engineer by profession, but I really enjoy marketing. I’ve really enjoyed this still throughout the very early stages of my career. So, the first step was to truly understand how do we offer the service as a service and not really like a custom service, but a productized way of building a company. So when one can understand the offering and say, okay, this is interesting we’ll go ahead and get your services, for example, which is engineered by a step-by-step process. So we have a clear process designed for our customers to follow and I came to follow as well. So the first step was the first couple of years I was just trying to figure it out what is the process we have to adopt for this? What would be the appetite? Who’s the customer, for instance? The first couple of years, actually I did waste a lot of time because I had just sold a company as well. So I had a full-time job and I had a company on the side, which I actually sold eventually. So for me I was okay. I actually thought to myself, maybe I retire to be honest, but you know, no rest for the wicked. To be honest, I was really very much into this next company without actually thinking about if I didn’t want to go to work anymore or take it easy. So the first couple of years I kind of spent time experimenting, thinking about stuff, building a team. So we’ve got a few people on board as well. Delegating some tasks. The growth really came the last two years. So the real goods were coming the last two years where the processes, the industry, the focus became much clearer for us. We now understand exactly what we wanna do. As a person my job and my role has always been to kind of think about delegation and thinking of the helicopter view as opposed to working in the business. Because I think that’s not going to be helpful for a CEO to kind of do that sort of stuff. It’s really, the role really is to coach, the role really is to delegate and to enable the teams to kind of perform with the best person that can be for the particular role they’re taking on. So that’s what my role really is. And that coaching role, that mentoring role is where we focus on right now. And the coming years, we want to take up that growth using the last few years and keep going further. And to also help us think about how can we become more efficient, how can we become even more tailored to our industries, looking to focus for example.
Nelson: [00:12:07] Okay. Well, let’s talk for a second about this idea of productized services, because from what I’ve seen passively the reason, one of the large parts that a lot of agencies don’t make the profit that they could make – because they are making in a lot of cases, good revenue – but they’re finding that because they take on a lot of custom work that doesn’t necessarily look the same, they’re not making the margins that they perhaps could. So could you tell me a little bit about productized and where that kind of mindset comes from and how to actually kind of implement it?
Raj: [00:12:50] Of course. So now have you worked with lot agencies in the past? I’ve seen that agencies love to do everything like you can bring them on and they’ll say, Oh, we can do your ad campaigns, we can do your branding. You can paint your offices, you can supply your tea, you can do everything you’d like us to do.
And I think that is where I don’t want to be in that sort of area or in that kind of thinking, because I think when companies are specialists at what they do, they have a clear way to define a process in the company. That’s one, number two is it’s clear what you would recommend a company for. So, for example, if you’re going to Samsung phones, Samsung probably isn’t the best example because they have multiple products…
For instance, if you look at say a glass company, it’s pretty high-end glass, for instance, then that’s what you recommend them for you. You don’t talk about them and you’re talking about cheap glass or glassware for your offices, very high-end designed glass vessels that’s what they do. So in a similar way, having a very tight knit niche focused on our business, our product or service allows us to make this easier for our customers to recommend us for the particular work we’re doing well. It will be a clear focus and process for it as well.
Nelson: [00:14:22] That’s something I’ve noticed in my personal business and I was talking to you before this call about how my business or businesses have changed over the course of this year, over the course of 2020 and it’s been quite significant. One of the things that I found is actually when you do niche down, when you are known for something, you generate far, far more referrals, and that’s something that’s happened to me, you know, rather than if I talk about the copywriting and content strategy and content creation side of my business in particular, I started off kind of with the copywriting writing for every industry.
You could think of basically like this year, I’ve written for lots of real estate clients dog training, gyms, SAAS companies, e-com companies just the list, honestly, it could go on and on and on, photographers as well, but for lots of those, I’ve just done one off projects.
Now, they’re probably not going to be able to recommend me to somebody who is also going to go in to use my products or going to use my services, I should say, purely because if I work with somebody in real estate, well they’re not going to want to refer me to any competitors are they? They’re not going to want to say, oh, you should use this great copywriter content strategist because he’ll get you X results, because that’s competition for them.
But when you’re in a particular industry where there’s not necessarily competition, but there’s some similarities there. So like within e-commerce, a luxury fashion company is quite happy to refer you to another company that specializes in games, for example. So really the fact that you know how to make it work for e-com companies is the selling point. It’s not the fact that you’re suddenly kind of pinned in by this competition because people don’t want to refer you to somebody who’s basically going to make their life harder. So that’s something that I’ve really noticed. The other thing is process. As you said then, just referring this to something that I’m more familiar with, if you know how to do something once you know there’s a different kind of skillset that comes from just muddling your way through something versus doing it again and again and again, and refining your process. It’s like that quote by W. Edwards Deming:
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
I think that’s something that rang really true to me. I’ve heard it several times said by people and it’s actually for me one step further when you can explain it and delegate it, that’s when it’s really a process. When you’re not even there for somebody to come back and ask questions on it you know you’ve explained your processes so well, you’ve created the resources necessary, the SOPs that people can use to do the same task up to the standard that you’d expect from yourself is doing it. I think that’s when you’ve nailed your processes.
Raj: [00:18:05] I completely agree I think that’s important as well. I think delegation is a very important part as a company owner to have in place because when you bring in specialist people, they do their job. It’s a bit like a factory, isn’t it? You know, you kind of go through a sort of a melt situation where you bring in different people doing different things for you and they specialize in that and they have passion for this and the experience of working on different projects in a similar kind of area. All of that put together builds a very nice process to get it done so that every part is taken care of properly, the client gets the proper experience of going through these different elements and getting it done well for them.
So I’m a big, big believer of that. That’s where I’m really focusing with my energy zone is to even build a more specialist area or for company, for instance, and pretty focused on the value creation for our clients above and beyond what we just do for them, for instance.
Nelson: [00:19:02] Perfect. Well, I want to find an example of a process that would be relevant to a lot of service companies. And I think obviously I don’t want to just narrow it down to the content side because there’ll be plenty of people listening that’s not as relevant to. So I think a good idea for us to talk about is your process for onboarding clients.
So this is something that I don’t think enough people spend time on and it’s so, so important to kick things off in the right way. So if you’re able to talk about your process of onboarding, that would be fantastic.
Raj: [00:19:42] Well, before jumping into the actual onboarding process, one thing I mentioned is that my mindset as a person is long-term. So when I hire team members, they are for long haul, when I’m onboarding customers and looking at it, they have a long-term appetite. Because I think short term and the short-term mindset leads to failures in the long run. It really is about the long-term. And the value is clear when you look at the long-term for example.
So that’s why when the clients come on board to thinking more long-term and for long-term customers our mindset is to put in something from our end, which is on our dime. So we don’t charge them for this example. So, for instance, for the onboarding process we spend a lot of time to understand the vision, the values and the core values, the mission that sort of plan for the world domination which they have said that they will do, for instance. We spend a lot of time to really understand that, you know, what they say is what they really do. For instance, you know, we look at the competition, we look at their reviews by their customers on other sites for instance. Just to check that what they’re saying is actually in line with that. We do our homework the first couple of months, this is something we do in parallel to our delivery of work for content, for example, or if you were doing some of the design elements for them, for their brochures or the marketing or the marketing website, for example. And this way of working when we write for them, we’re doing work for them which is authentic, because we are speaking just like they would, for instance, and that kind of representation of the company is where we bring in real value because at the end of the day, our role really is to make their life easier so they can focus on the core business and not on copywriting or content part of it. We want to take on that pain from them and deliver for them and when they require things for instance, on a monthly basis and that’s what we do. So it’s important for us to really allow to represent them as themselves, with their content on social media, on their blogs, articles, their writing long form eBooks or white papers, for instance.
Nelson: [00:22:09] Okay. So it sounds to me then that you’ve got to focus on a few different areas. You’ve got kind of the understanding of the kind of customer reviews, your understanding of what the customers are actually saying about your product or sorry, your client’s product, your client’s service, but also the understanding about the company, what the company is actually saying about themselves.
So I guess that could be distilled down to core values or brand guidelines or mission, or you know everybody has kind of a slightly different term for this. So do you ever find some sort of disparity between what the clients say they believe in versus what you think they actually believe in based on the customer views or based on your observations of how the company actually operates?
Raj: [00:23:04] The simple answer is that core values are something which you have within the company internally for your own team members, externally as well. So if say, you know, I was sort of meticulous about my planning that would be the same way at work and even at home as well, for example, that’s just the way human beings are designed to be we are.. If you different clothes, for example, then inside us is the same person, the same heart, the same mind. So often at times what we do is we, you know, we will ask them for the core values, the mission, vision, and we try to ask them questions and we try to be, you know, we try to be supportive, but also ask them hard questions upfront, because it’s really important for us to understand the true company ABC so we really understand their way of working. Sometimes there is a dispute, which we discover in the first month or so, and again, we’re very, very clear and transparent about our approach. Listen, Mr. Customer or Ms. Customer. I noticed that there is a bit of disparity there. If you were us, how would you read the situation for example? Is what we ask them, and then it’s up to the customer to explain to us what they believe is the case. This is not trying to catch the customers, it’s just what we have to do. Our aim is to represent them with the content. So we have to be clear on the tone, the voice we have for them. And if that’s not clear, then actually we won’t be like them on the blogs or when they’re doing guest blogging, for example, or in that, you know, the videos for instance as well.
Nelson: [00:24:44] I’m curious, I mean, that all makes complete sense to me. Have you ever got push back from clients when you’re doing all this onboarding work, particularly the work that you do to understand their mission and values from clients that say, you know, hang on, why do you need this? Why do you need this information? Why do you need to understand our core values? We just want you to create comms as a company.
Raj: [00:25:13] Our business is to build a long-term business for us and for our clients. And while the clients select us, in the background we select the clients as well. And so we were very careful about people who bring on have the same vision for the long-term, the long haul. If the client doesn’t have that kind of vision or mindset, it’s actually not going to help them or us too because it is going to create some sort of friction at some point, working with them. So the answer simply is that, you know, typically in bringing clients on, you know, they are the same mindset as us. They have a very clear outlook towards that this is going to be something we’re going to be focusing on for a few years. You’ve got a very clear plan, maybe a content plan, for example, or just a plan for our marketing and our vision. And we’ll execute that plan sometimes, you know, we have had obviously all made mistakes and we’ve had sort of you know, one, two customers who didn’t really match our values for instance, and we were polite about the situation and say, listen, obviously there’s a bit of a disagreement on our ways of working and, you know, we will help you with what we can, but also maybe in the long-term it’s not a good fit for us and we will allow you to, you know, find someone else and we’ll recommend some other customer agency to you. And it’s just been trying to spend with the client. I think at the end of the day, what we do is what we love, we put our heart, mind and soul into it, and you want to work on projects which are very interesting for the client and for us and we want to make sure that we deliver the best possible job for them. And for that, it requires to be open and transparent with them about our feelings about what they’re doing. And they’re open to our thoughts and looking at working with us together, that’s awesome, hopefully we’ll show them some great results very quickly, and we always do. But equally, if there is a bit of disparity and they aren’t open because there’s a different mindset – which as I said is very rare that we have it because we have a very strong interview process in place in both directions – then we find a way to kind of say, you know what, we find some of the other customers, other agencies might be a better fit for you.
Nelson: [00:27:28] Fantastic. I mean, I think we should spend more time talking about this vetting process because it’s something that is incredibly common in the agency world, is incredibly common in freelancers, in just seeing somebody with money – a client that wants to use your service, has the financial means to use your service, whatever it is that you’re offering, and I feel like it’s unfortunate that too many people take on whatever clients that come to them. So it’s not really a critical selection process and I’ve come across agencies that say that they’re very selective with their clients, but actually when it gets down to brass tax, they will essentially take on anybody that has the budget. And it’s kind of this for me, it’s this short term versus long term outlook. Yes. You’re taking on money, you’re taking on clients, that’s fantastic for the short-term and I’m kind of putting aside for the minute, like, obviously there’s a caveat that sometimes you just need to keep the lights on. Especially this year. So, you know, nobody kind of get angry with me and tell me I’ve missed that out.
Sometimes I’ve been in the situation as well, where I’ve worked with people that are less than ideal, people who I don’t necessarily even like much on a personal level. I have worked with them before when I’ve needed the money as a freelancer. But as soon as I got into the position where that wasn’t the case, I became far more selective about who I wanted to work with, for example. I’m all about the long-term versus short term. So if people are kind of saying, okay, when will we see results? And they’re constantly talking about that sort of thing, for me that’s a red flag. Especially when you’re talking about something that is kind of an upfront investment, but takes a long time to pay off like content strategy, for example.
Yes, you can see your short-term wins, but a lot of the time when I work with clients, I say, okay, well, you know, we’re interested in kind of hitting that big exponential uptake between 9 and 12 months. And a lot of people can say they can wait that long and then in reality, don’t, they can’t, they get pressure from above, they get pressure internally to kind of generate those results. And for content especially, it’s a much longer play than like paid traffic acquisition, for example. You know, I can set up a PPC campaign in the next two hours and have something live with Google by the end of the day that will drive traffic now. Whereas I can’t even write an article by the end of today, you know, let alone edit it, publish it, it getting picked up by Google it finally getting some traction then, you know, doing kind of link-building and things like that and outreach. It’s got a lot of upfront work before you see results.
So that kind of really dialing in the sort of customers, the sort of clients that you want to take on is so, so important for growth. It’s so, so important if you don’t want to just survive and you actually want to flourish. So what are your thoughts on that kind of mentality of taking on any clients versus being incredibly selective.
Raj: [00:31:12] Well, a couple of things. I think the first answer, probably from the point of view of just to kind of address that content situation, content is a gift that keeps giving. Now. I think that’s something that is, to kind of clarify for everybody who’s listening to the show is that, you know, with content, when you invest into content, it’s basically SEO, for example, it will pay back in multiples in the coming months and years and just on and on. With advertising, generally speaking, when you switch off the advertising, the topic falls off and so does the leads and the sales.
Nelson: [00:31:47] Yeah, I mean, we’re using that PPC example. Yes, I can get something started today, but if I turn that campaign off tomorrow, there’s your traffic source gone, you know that it doesn’t exist anymore. Whereas you said, yeah, with SEO you can create something today that still bring in traffic in 10 years’ time.
Raj: [00:32:11] And Rome wasn’t built overnight. It took a long time to come build something tangible. And if it was as simple as, you know, switching on something that quickly and getting results for you, then it’s probably the barrier to entry for competitors actually is lower as well. So it’s actually not sustainable really as a strategy for any company to really focus only on advertising PPC. It has to be a marketing mix and then it comes to you know, our role that you play as a company. We are part of a bigger mix and our aim is to be supportive and by the side of the customers through thick and thin and to support them with that marketing mix and that’s really important for us as a company to address in general. I believe in the power of now, it’s really important to not only say yes to everything, but also to know sometimes that is not a good fit for us, because I think when clients, especially hear a no, it is a bit offensive for them. I get it. I mean, I’m also a client. We have suppliers as well. But equally you respect that their mission, vision, their core values as a company, that they’re focused on what they do and do it really well. And I came across this was one company in the UK, they’re called Hicks design, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Hicks Design Google them, I came across them through somebody to work with many years back. They have built logos for some of the largest tech companies like Mozilla, for example really, really great logo designs for example, and they aren’t cheap and they aren’t cheap, but there’s a queue to get designs built by these guys because they’re so bloody good. And I think the value of no, is that when you say no to everything and anything, you actually are saying that I am a much more of a niche player, that I do this one thing very well, I’m a skilled company team doing this particular job, and that’s what I’m going to do. And if you want this come back to us, if not doesn’t matter. But often what happens is when you say no to one customer or a generic job, for example, you get, you know, three, four other more niche jobs which are in line with your sort of skills and values and I think that’s what the value of saying no is. I believe in it and it’s really important that we all practice this as companies because it’ll give us a much more focus in our life and really enjoy the work we do.
Nelson: [00:34:51] For me the power of now I think is incredibly important and I see it for agencies and freelancers in particular. I see it in two different contexts, the saying no to specific clients, which allows you to focus on just getting well-known in one industry for one thing, and then saying no to specific services as well. So recently, one of our e-commerce clients that we work with on the Facebook and Instagram advertising side came to us and asked us, because they liked what we were doing, they’d had great results, they also wanted us to take on email advertising and I had to just be incredibly upfront with them and say, look that’s not something that we want to particularly get involved with, but because we’ve got a really, really good relationship with the client, they own multiple companies, they just brought on another brand. I actually went out and found them somebody from my network. Therefore, I was able to help out both the person in my network, but also the client. And I found them somebody I effectively hired them a freelancer to work on that stuff because it’s not something that I want the agency or I want myself to become good at. E-commerce emails, for example yeah we’ll offer that, we’ll set it up. We might even help him manage it as the middleman, but this isn’t a core competency for us that we want to focus on because it inevitably will detract from growth in other areas. If you’ve got a certain amount of time per day, you’ve got a certain amount of resources of course, it’s going to impact.
Raj: [00:36:39] Absolutely. Yeah. I think there’s a time also in the company where in the beginning we take on everything and that’s absolutely fine, but as we understand what the business is all about and what we really enjoy and can deliver, that’s when we can change a tactic to being more focused around the stuff which is going to create the maximum value for both parties.
Nelson: [00:36:57] That’s it. And again just seeing it from a personal level, we talked about the kind of website copywriting projects that I was taking on. When I was kind of a little new to it, it was everything that paid money, I think it would be a fair classification. And now my first niche was okay, well, I’m just going to do a copywriting and content strategy and content creation within SAAS and e-commerce companies because that’s my background, that’s what I know. Well, that’s what I’m passionate about and even these days I might eventually niche further into just doing content strategy and content creation for SAAS and e-comm, I might drop the copywriting elements and it might be something that I still offer to companies that I’m working with on the content strategy side as a bit of a value add, but I won’t necessarily go out and pitch any new business on the copywriting side.
So, yeah we see this journey with companies that are operating well I think, and it’s quite interesting that sometimes you have this this kind of SAAS terminology of land and expand. But typically for agencies like the ones that do well, I think a lot of them go the other way. A lot of them go, let’s experiment with this, this and this. Let’s see what finds traction, and then let’s just get super, super good at this one thing.
Raj: [00:38:27] Absolutely. I think one thing which is that in SAAS world, there’s technological MRR, monthly recurring revenue, and I’ve seen that MRR typically increases when you have a customer who’s with you longer. So it’s actually cheaper to retain customers than to get new customers in general. So the actual acquisition cost is actually much lower when you keep the current customers on board and increase the MRR of an agency as such we need to be focused on giving our customers the best value for money and giving the best service, for example, to make sure that they’re really happy.
So my way of thinking is that if we keep them with the stuff that you’re really good at and deliver that day in day out, that’s a much better strategy to help them sustain as a client, than to show them different things. You can’t really do any, just making things up as you’re going along. So that’s what we try to do as well.
Saying that there’s also the element of expansion. Sometimes when you are looking at doing say a task, there’s opportunity to expand a little further into a different area. For example, I think for those kinds of opportunities, there has to be a circumstance conference around what you can do and what you can’t do.
For example, instead of going a million miles away from building a landing page. And you said looking at building VR software and stuff, you’re like, oh that’s way too different from where you were initially. And so that been important to kind of keep it a nice little mix that for ourselves, but equally not go a million miles away from our core mission and vision of a company.
Nelson: [00:40:15] That makes total sense. I mean Charlie Munger, who’s the long-time investment partner of the more well-known in some circles Warren Buffet Billionaire investor. I don’t know how many billions he’s racked up now. But he has this idea of kind of circles of competency. This area that you’re really good at. And the theory is your mistakes and your failures happen when you step too far outside of your circle of competence in there. And I see that same thing with companies. Yes, you can take on some things that are adjacent to that. So maybe if you start by doing, we’ll keep this as a content example, maybe if you start with the research and the creation of the content, maybe you could also learn how to do effective distribution as well of that content. But it’s probably not a great idea if that’s your core competency to then do okay we’re also going to do web development. You know, because it’s two completely different skill sets. It’s different audiences as well. There’s going to be so much to learn. It’s just going to really put you into quite tricky waters. So the way I think about it is almost like a Venn diagram, you know, there’s this circle of things you could do and then the circle of all the possibilities and then there’s this much smaller part of things you should do based on all of those opportunities. And sometimes it takes some trial and error to find actually what is within your circle of competence. But other times you can use this framework in your head to say, actually, what am I good at? Is this new service that the client is requesting – it’s not something that you’re necessarily all the time trying to foist on them to find new revenue streams, that might be something that they ask for – Is that too far outside of what we can do? What is the opportunity cost of pursuing this new service What would we have to give up in order to pursue that? Because you know, if you’re focusing on getting better at your job you’ve got less time, you’ve got less resources. It really does add up. And I don’t think enough people are aware of what happens when you stretch yourself too thin in terms of your offering.
There’s the direct impact in terms of this is quite easy to see if I spend two hours a day working on this, that’s two hours less than I have to do this, but there’s also this indirect impact of this. For example, the stuff we talked about, niching and its impact on referrals earlier, you know now people don’t really know what to refer you for to their colleagues or to people that they’ve worked with in the past or people and their network, you’re not like those content guys anymore. You’re kind of like, well, they do a bit of content then they do, like a little bit email, bit of web dev, but suddenly you’re muddying the water. You’re not stand out in one thing. You’re just kind of like jack of all trades. Yeah, they’re alright at that. But it’s so, so hard to get good at one thing and why would you try and get good at four things at the same time?
Raj: [00:44:08] Completely agree. I think again, there was, before we jumped on the show we discussed about this book Built to Sell by John Warrillow. And I think that book talks about how having this one focus is such an important thing. I think this also applies to investment. I mean, I now do investment into startups as well. For example, as an angel investor. And my philosophy is simple, I only invest in content related businesses. So they are producing content for example, or they are just businesses which run around content, for them that’s what the business is all about. That’s all I invest in. I don’t invest in, you know, I’m actually an AI engineer, I studied it at university, I don’t really invest in AI companies unless they are in this specific niche of content writing. That’s what I believe in as well. I kind of focus my attention. My life is great, eat and drink and sleep, to be honest.
Nelson: [00:45:05] Yeah and it helps you to understand far, far more than people that are just dabbling, I suppose, in that. So even within agencies, there’s ways to offer these multiple things and not kind of go belly up, I suppose. And the way to do it is by employing specialists. Yes, they’ve got to have a certain level of understanding how their specialism impacts the rest of it, whether it’s the marketing mix or we’re in some discipline and the people that get promoted and work between teams especially, they need the knowledge of how it all fits together, but really you want the people that do nothing else but this thing, because they’re going to be the A players basically, aren’t they? They’re the people that know this stuff like live, breathe, and sleep and could talk about it in their sleep and probably do. That for me, they’re the sort of people that I want to hire. So I kind of see that as my clients, they probably want to hire somebody similar, who not only does this stuff day in and day out, but also is involved in the community, also knows all the key players, also know what’s going on at any one time.
So it makes complete sense for me and with regards to your investment ideology as well, that makes complete sense.
Raj: Thank you.
Nelson: No worries at all. So you’ve obviously experienced tremendous growth. Have you seen any teething pains in terms of bringing on new employees or freelancers changing your delegation from just individuals to then delegating to people who are then delegating.
Raj: [00:47:12] Well this year has been, you know, last year has been a year of growth. It’s been incredible. I mean this last month I’ve been, we’ve been hiring a lot of team members and I believe the first 40 team members of the company are the company founders, even if the role is to manage the office, for example. Which obviously, we don’t have one, we didn’t have an office. But It is important that you bring in the people with the right mindset. And again, I keep talking about core values and that’s really important for us. We have core values and they’re experimentation, implementation, integrity, encouragement. These are all things that you believe in and we want that our team members have the same mindset. So when they come in for interviews, for example, we ask questions which are outside the scope of normal sort of your skill sets and stuff, to ask them about their life and how they are maybe off work for instance, so you can understand the core values and they match with ours.
Nelson: [00:48:15] Oh, so just to jump in here, Raj. I was actually going to ask the question. Okay. Being remote first and in your setup, how do you kind of communicate your values to these employees? But it sounds like actually you’ve kind of answered that it’s not necessarily that you focus on communicating them, but you purposely select for people who already meet those values.
Raj: [00:48:41] Absolutely. I mean, there’s famously there’s a very interesting document by Netflix about their values and how they communicate that for instance. And while we are not Netflix, obviously, but we make a really conscious effort to put out there our vision for our future team members and our social mission as well. So, you know, as a company we want to help encourage the women in the industry, in the tech industry especially, in marketing as well. And there are less women than men and our board rooms are full of men, for example. That doesn’t help the industry. Actually, we need to have a more diverse mix of people in the boardrooms, in senior and mid management as well and so we encourage and empower them and then behind more than 90% of our team members are women. They are in senior roles, but in management roles as well, and we really help empower them. And for clients hiring us implies that they actually bring in that sort of a diverse mindset to the company as well and their thoughts and their persistence comes into the company. That’s again, really important for us. It’s part of who we are. This is my third company and this company is known, they’re making money for me and my shareholders also, but giving back at the same time, and this is what we believe, and this is what we are all about.
So finding people is actually not that difficult because we often get referrals from our current employees and team members and there’s a whole big queue there, for example, but to function that they are in the same mindset, the same core values is really important for us. So process is a bit lengthy, but it’s important to find the right plan. So each one who comes in from the bottom, the role, they will kind of grow with us and they will come to do management role at some point in their career with us and they will be with us for many, many years to come.
Nelson: [00:50:42] Fantastic. Well, I think there’s this concept of almost self-selecting for the applicants, right, you kind of accomplish this by putting your values and your beliefs and making them known, putting them out in the ether. So people can understand what it is you believe in not just when it comes time to hire, but also just during the normal course of business. And then you’ll suddenly find that you get applications from people that meet those, regardless of whether you actually have roles open, there’s this kind of like “You guys believe in that? I believe in that as well. Maybe we should work together.” And you’re seeing that through the referrals as well from current employees who think if I believe in that, then chances are that lots of my friends will believe in the same things. Lots of the places that I’ve already worked will believe in the same thing. So I think that’s really key and really clever.
Raj, I also love how you mentioned your focus on female employees and diversity. There’s something I’ve talked about several times on the podcast. Now. I feel like the world of traditional work has failed several key demographics.
You know, from a personal level woman in particular falling out of the workplace or struggling to find that place, particularly around the time when they have kids, I feel like current workplaces, there are some good ones that make it easier for women to return to the workplace, at least in a part-time capacity and offer childcare and stuff like that.
But honestly, I think those companies are few and far between. I like the context of all the potential that remote work brings, especially when it’s asynchronous and doesn’t have to take part at set times for the day, like so many jobs require you to work between nine and five, say, between these set hours, but I have one of my friends in Valencia, she’s a primary school teacher who was teaching via zoom. Obviously, she has set hours and she really struggled with that because she still had to had to breastfeed or pump various times and she was she’s a single mum, so she’s got a baby around and I kind of feel like there are a lot of women that struggle to get back into work. And I feel like even if their goal is to get back into this kind of traditional maybe office work paradigm, which is absolutely fine, you’ve got to do what’s right for you, that maybe remote work offers kind of an interim opportunity for them, almost a stepping stone to get back into the workforce and they might find that they never want to go back to traditional work.
I found that, particularly because I have a lot of freelancer friends, the kind of freedom that is brought particularly on the schedule allows you to have a better family life. Suddenly you’re not spending all your time commuting, you don’t have to be set places at set times. You can take your kids on the school run and be around for them and help them with their homework and work and other times. What’s your kind of view on the future of that, do you think that’s going to increase?
Raj: [00:54:43] I really hope so Nelson, I really hope so. For several centuries, they’ve had this sort of mindset that women are meant to be at home and men are meant to go and earn. I am completely opposed that. I think that’s a stupid idea to be honest in the first place. I mean, just look at the response to coronavirus COVID 19 and in countries which had female leadership outperform the male leadership in the response to coronavirus almost in every country. It’s kind of clear that’s happened and I think it’s a testament of what women can bring to the leadership roles. For example, there’s a lot women can do and they don’t get the opportunity to do so. I remember from my experiences growing up, I’ve seen women who were not given the opportunity and there were women so bright and so driven to make a change, but you know, because of where they were or where they were born or the culture that they were born in, they just couldn’t do it. And I think that’s just pretty wrong to be honest. So I feel really strongly about it. It’s also probably the UN SDG goals alongside pollution and climate change. For example, this is really high up in the agendas of UN as well.
I think all of us should make an effort to encourage women to be able to perform. So there’s one thing I learned from my experience with COVID-19. And beyond that, women require flexibility. I think you’re talking about it as well, you know, whether they have a family for example, or they have other needs, flexibility is something which women require more in my experience working then maybe the men I’ve worked with at the company and because we work in an environment where we can be flexible and we’re looking at a global kind of context that allows people to set their own times. And I mean delicate things from their managing position to someone else in the team as well. So I think today we have the ability to perform and work at the same level as we can from the office, from the likes of internet, Zoom, mobile phones, for example. And let’s use that to actually get more people into the workforce. We can add some really good value which actually helps neutralize the sort of male dominated in the boardrooms and beyond of companies and actually help us all. The sustainable future for us, for our kids I mean, for my daughter I’d like her to come into a workforce where everything is a little bit more equal for instance and I think it’s going to only help us, going to help the entire sort of human race as such.
Nelson: [00:57:26] I’m a hundred percent with you. One of the things that we haven’t touched on so much and because it’s an incredibly complex topic, I’m somewhat reticent to mention it towards the end of an episode, but at the same time I feel it’s important. So it needs saying for the listeners, please just appreciate that there’s not enough time and enough depth to do this subject justice, but it does need saying I’m in the age group where I have several friends that are trying to have children and are struggling from a purely biological perspective. They’d be much more fertile at a younger age than they are now, but they’ve been pushed into this kind of career first mentality. You know, they get promotions and they do perform at work and the family side, obviously there’s a biological imperative to start a family earlier, rather than later, just in terms of potential success rate for getting pregnant, but also fewer problems if you have babies younger. I also feel like a place where remote work and can really help from a societal level and make things better is by saying to women, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it doesn’t have to be all career or all family you can have both together. You can, if you want to have children earlier than hopefully remote work will be a tool to aid that process. Hopefully we’ll see less heartbreak of people getting to early thirties, mid-thirties, deciding, okay, now they feel like they can, they’re at a place in their career where they can have children and then realizing that they maybe past it from a biological perspective and they might struggle which is heartbreaking.
So I’m kind of hoping there’s remote work, and it’s not the panacea let’s be clear about that. It’s not fully worked out yet, but I’m hoping it’s a stepping stone and in the right direction for a lot of these people that these groups, these demographic groups, and I feel like the demographics like women who in terms of the career race have drawn the short straw because of their responsibilities, you know traditionally women have been the main caregivers.
I feel like remote work will go some way to kind of rectifying or equalizing that disparity. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.
Raj, thank you so much for joining us really, really appreciate it. I’d love to have you back on at some point maybe to dive into that the kind of topic of women in the workplace and stuff that companies like yourself can do to improve those.
Tell me a little bit about Goodman, Lanson where we can find them if we’re interested and how we can learn more about you.
Raj: [01:01:01] Wow sure thing, so if you Google Goodman Lantern, you’ll hopefully find us as the first link. If not, then something is wrong with are SEO. Hopefully it’s not the Goodmanlantern.com is a link to our website and you can find me on LinkedIn. Look for Raj Goodman Anand and add me as a connection and drop me a message I’d love to hear from people. So certainly, get in touch and Nelson, I want to say thank you for the opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion and love to be back on the show when you are ready.
Nelson: [01:01:30] Fantastic, thanks, Raj.
And that’s it for today. You’ve been listening to the, working from home podcast with me, Nelson Jordan. We’ve been talking about the good, the bad and the ugly side of remote work. Thanks so much for listening. And I really hope you’ve enjoyed the time you spent with us today. If you’d like to discuss the podcast, you want to make a new friend, or you’re interested in working with me on a copywriting or digital marketing project, then visit Nelson-jordan.com. That’s Nelson-jordan.com, where you can also sign up to my newsletter to hear about this podcast and other exciting projects until next week. Goodbye.