The #1 mistake when starting a productized service

For the past 4 years of my entrepreneurial career, I have been on a path of building a scaleable, productized service. 

For years, I stopped and started many that ended in failure.
And eventually, with Lead Cookie, I hit a pretty decent success.

But even with Lead Cookie, I still made the #1 mistake that I am going to share with you here.

And as I move into scaling up a second productized service focused around Linkedin content, I am committing to not make this mistake again.

In this post, I will share with you the #1 mistake I made many times over when launching a productized service and how you can avoid it.

What is the big mistake?

Most of the people I know who are trying to launch productized services are agency owners, freelancers, or consultants in one form or another.

And so this is how they approach building a productized service:

"I have [X] set of skills and expertise, so let me take a piece of that and build it into a productized service." 

That is all good and great. 
It does make sense to start a venture in your area of expertise.

But in that simple statement, lies the massive problem. 

To articulate, let me share a story.


My first attempt at a productized service

Years ago, I made my first attempt at a productized service.

The venture was called Outbound Creative and here was the premise:

People are being overwhelmed with cold emails and cold calls. So we are going to get your prospects' attention by sending them an eye-catching campaign in the physical mail. 

We would send our clients' prospects cakes, Donald Trump pinatas, and elaborate packages.- anything to get their attention.

We would charge a flat monthly fee to our clients to deliver 10 of these highly personalized and customized packages every month for them.

This offer worked great. We actually ended up getting up to $25k MRR rather quickly.

But then everything came crumbling down... and the reason lies in that #1 mistake.

You see, I started off delivering this service to our first group of customers. The first 4 accounts we brought on, I ran them.

And so when we started trying to then hire people and bring them in to run the service, it was a total failure.

It is not because the other people were not good, but it was because ultimately, our customers were hiring me and my expertise. 

Because I was the one delivering service from day one, I baked my own expertise into the delivery without realizing it.

That is the massive mistake...


How that mistake played out in Lead Cookie

I made this mistake again, even when I started Lead Cookie. 

While I got the "operations delivery" off of my plate immediately with Lead Cookie, I still created all of our clients' scripts and strategies.

For 18 months, I was still the one who wrote every script and onboarded every customer.

Eventually, I hired a new account strategist, who is now rocking it (way to go Rick!), but it took me months train him up and fully offload this responsibility to him.

The reason is that I had baked so much of my expertise into the service through those first 18 months of delivery.

Even today, I still have some clients who seem to want to hire Lead Cookie for my consulting as opposed to our actual services. I've tied myself far too close to the service, and this made it difficult for me to pull myself out of it. 

If I could go back and do it again, I would have hired another strategist and copywriter WAYYY earlier and coached them over time and created frameworks for them. This is what I do now, but it took me 18 months of working in the strategist seat to get here.

By delivering the service myself for so long, it was a painful experience to pull myself out of it. 

Instead, avoid that mistake and hire out from day 1. 

Most entrepreneurs do this when they attempt a productized service

They think about their service as I will deliver the service at first. And then once we are profitable enough, I will hire someone else to fulfill.

That is a freaking trap! 

When I was mentoring with Alex McClafferty, he referred to this as "The Master Splinter Principle".

If you think about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they had Master Splinter.

The Ninja Turtles would always go out and do what they thought was best, and then when they came back to Master Splinter, he would put his palm to his forehead because they screwed everything up.

Master Splinter knew all the wisdom, but he struggled to convey it to his team. 

When you start off in the delivery seat, you fix problems with your own expertise, instead of fixing problems systematically.

How to avoid this #1 mistake

It is simple. 

Hire someone else to handle the delivery of your service on Day 1. 

You focus on building the systems, the marketing, and the processes around delivery.
But someone else delivers. 

Examples of hiring from day 1

WP Curve
If you have ever read The 7 Day Startup, which chronicles Dan and Alex's adventure with WP Curve, then you can see this in action.

Neither Dan nor Alex were developers that knew the inner workings of Wordpress. They had both used Wordpress, but they couldn't dive in and fix site speeds on their own.

So they hired a Wordpress developer from Day 1 and started selling the service, which was ultimately giving access to that first team member. 

From day 1, the service delivery did not involve them. 

They didn't start by doing fixes themselves and then hire someone when they could afford it. They did it the other way around. 

Design Pickle
A few months back, I had a coaching call with Russ Perry of Design Pickle. This was right around the time that I was starting up Content Allies, which would eventually become Nurture (and will be rebranded again soon).

I told him about the challenges I had with Lead Cookie and his advice to me was simple.

He said, "When I started Design Pickle, I hired a designer and a project manager on day 1. I never did the design or service delivery, and worked on the business from the start."

Russ did not start by designing himself and then hiring a designer when he could afford it. He did it the other way around. 

Audience Ops
When Brian Casel launched Audience Ops, he never wrote a blog post himself. From day 1, he hired writers and project managers to handle this for him. (He wrote about this in his recent blog post)

If Brian started off writing the blog posts, then his expertise as a writer would have been what people hired him for. Instead, he hired out from day 1. 

Lead Cookie Nurture / Content Allies
Recently, I launched a new offering called Lead Cookie Nurture. This will probably be rebranded back to Content Allies, but regardless, here is the point.

Here is what we offer: Nurture your Linkedin audience with consistent and quality content

From day one, I hired out a content writer and strategist to implement this service. I have never written a single social post for any of our customers.

Yet, we are already at $8k MRR with roughly 20 customers and many of them are ecstatically happy with the service already.

This venture is only 1.5 months old, yet I just took a week and a half vacation. Upon returning, the only things that are failing, or are fires to put out, are basically the processes that I have not built yet.

I am building this venture, from day 1, to run without me and that will create freedom and can be scaled.

If you want to scale, hire out delivery from day 1

Don't deliver the service yourself first and then figure out how to hire someone to replace you. 
That is possible, but is a recipe for failure. 

Instead, hire someone else to deliver your productized service from day 1.

That is a much faster route to a scaleable service and to freedom. 

Improve your sales, marketing and leadership skills

Sign up for my 10 part email course