I loved sitting down to talk with Matt about his story of how he ended up where he is today. It is a story much like my own, and it is great to hear about all he has learned from the mistakes made along the journey.
There is a lot you can take away from this week’s episode on things to do and not do when starting an agency.
An 11 year journey
Matt started his journey in college making websites.
After several successful projects, Matt started to try and build his business. He began hiring a team and taking on more clients. And, in not much time, he had a vision for where he wanted his company to be.
The big dream
Although Matt laughs at it now, when he started, he thought he was going to create the biggest and best website development company in the world.
And, right in line with his mindset of the time, he focused on building a big team, renting and renovating a big office space, and taking on a $70,000 loan to help the company grow.
In not too much time, Matt had created a company with tons of overhead. They were taking on whatever projects they could find. They didn’t have any processes in place for finding new work.
He found himself working 80 to 100 hours a week to get everything done. It was a stressful situation where he was on an emotional roller coaster that changed every month depending on revenue, meeting deadlines, and producing quality deliverables.
Over time, it became clear to Matt that this wasn’t something that could be sustained.
Time for a change
Matt had to sit down and look at the mistakes he had made. He had to figure out where he had gone wrong along the way and what needed to be done about it to help him create a healthy company and a healthy lifestyle.
Mistake 1: He had way too much overhead
The amount of work that needed to be done to just clear overhead was astronomical.
His main expenses were his office rental and staff expenses, so he quickly got out of his lease and started making the staffing changes necessary. While this downsizing didn’t fit his initial idea to build the biggest company around, Matt had matured enough to change his goals and vision for the company.
In order to be sustainable, it was essential to analyze what unnecessary costs were holding them back.
Mistake 2: He didn’t know who he was targeting
Like I mentioned before, they were taking any business that would come there way. Matt knew that they needed to hone their focus in order to provide the most value to their clients.
By focusing in and having specific criteria for the clients they took on, Tilted Pixel could become better at what they offered. They could put processes in place. They could become experts in their field.
Realizing these mistakes, guided Matt’s next steps.
Be picky who you work with
Immediately, Tilted Pixel started turning away 90% of the business that came their way. The drastically lower overhead allowed them to be more picky about who they worked with.
Matt also changed his focus on getting new work. He found there was a lot of additional opportunity with existing clients. Rather than having to go out and build new relationships, build trust, and try to make the sale, he could focus on the trust that had already been built with those he had worked with before.
Judging the fit
With a large amount of work and revenue coming from existing clients, Tilted Pixel only has to bring on about 3 to 5 new clients each year. But, when they do look at bringing on a new client, they qualify them based on a few questions.
What is their budget?
Matt knows what the budget needs to be for a project in order to be profitable. If the prospective client’s budget doesn’t add up, he turns them away.
But, Matt isn’t only focused on how much he can make from the project, but also how much value he can provide. If a client is going to pay him $30,000 for a website, he wants to make certain that the value they get from the site outweighs that cost.
It has to be a smart business decision for both parties.
Do they have a premium product in their space or a complex membership process?
This is the space Tilted Pixel has focused in on. They are familiar with this market and know they can do a killer job on these sites in a way that generates a ton of value for their clients.
Are they thinking of their business as a business?
Some people just want a website to have a website. If there isn’t a specific goal or metric the company is hoping to get out of their website creation or redo, they probably aren’t going to see as much value out of the project.
Do they have insane deadlines?
Over time, Tilted Pixel has created processes to make sure they deliver quality websites. And, like all good things, they take time.
If someone approaches them needing a new site up in 2 weeks, they turn them away.
Think like a consultant
Matt really started to see change in his company when he stopped thinking of himself as a commodity and started taking on the role of a consultant.
Look at a problem the client is trying to solve rather than just providing them with what they are asking for.
When someone comes to Matt, he asks them what they hope to achieve with their new site. That could be more sales, increased engagement, or a multitude of other things. When he approaches the main goal of the site, he is able to use his 11 years of expertise to address things and improve things in a way the client can’t.
This sets him apart from someone who just takes an order for a website and cranks it out just as the client asked for it. This allows him to provide more value, build more trust, and it opens the door for a better relationship with the client. He is addressing real issues, and that allows him to work with a higher tier of clients and charge more for what he does.
He always pays attention to what is happening with his clients, so he understands how the website is performing. If he notices anything off or a way to make improvements, he’ll let the client know. It is important to create dialogue.
And, he holds a free strategy call with his clients every quarter.
These steps set Tilted Pixel up as more than just a commodity, but a consultant to those they work with.
His biggest mistake
Matt says his biggest mistake was not treating his business like a business, and he urges those starting out to make sure of two things.
Figure out who you are targeting and what problem you are solving for them
Focus on operations - Create a lot of processes that will guide your client’s projects from start to finish. Otherwise, you are just creating a stressful job for yourself that will just crumble when you stop working.
There is a ton to be learned from Matt’s journey, and unfortunately it is a path many agency owners and freelancers have taken. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Working Without Pants, and that you can implement some of Matt’s advice to avoid making the same mistakes in your company.