Behind the Scenes of Successful E-commerce Businesses With Expert Krista Grasso

Episode 198

What if you could learn the strategies to optimize your online business from a 19-year industry veteran? Let’s buckle up and journey with Krista Grasso, a seasoned e-commerce expert and strategic planning mastermind, who turned her passion for art into a successful jewelry business, skillfully marrying lean manufacturing principles to business optimization.

As we navigate the business landscape, we traverse the ‘messy middle’ of transitioning from a one-man handmade business model to a scalable venture and the common pitfalls entrepreneurs encounter in this phase. With Krista at the helm, we delve into the importance of understanding the profit behind each product, the significance of inventory management systems, and the role of automating and streamlining processes. She also sheds light on the crucial aspect of hiring strategies, particularly the concept of ‘inspired ownership,’ and innovative compensation models to align team interests with business success.

Lastly, we journey through the uncharted waters of creating luxe client experiences, guiding buyers through their purchase journey, and maintaining product excitement. Krista unpacks the four pillars of the Lean-Out Method: context, clarity, commitment, and kaizen, providing invaluable insights on transitioning from an artist mindset to an entrepreneur mindset. Encouraging us to reimagine and reevaluate our vision constantly, she emphasizes the role of systems, planning, and team in creating an ecosystem of success. We also have a special offer for listeners, Simplified Scale Ops Academy, a program that helps you put systems in place and train a ‘Lean Dream Team.’ Head to the show notes for a hefty $500 off the program. So, are you ready to lean out and scale up your e-commerce venture with Krista Grasso’s expert advice?

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00:00:24:03 – 00:00:48:03
Unknown
Welcome, everyone to the Firing Demand podcast. On today’s episode, we are joined by Krista Grasso. Krista is the go to strategic planning and systems expert for online businesses when they want to scale. She is known as the Business Optimizer and has the ability to quickly cut through the noise and provide clarity on core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably.

00:00:48:06 – 00:01:12:23
Unknown
She’s the founder of the Lean Out Method and creator of the Lean Business Scaling system, as well as the host of the Lean Out Your Business podcast. We’re very excited to have Krista as a part of the show. Welcome. Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. Absolutely. So to start things off, can you please share with our listeners a little bit about your background in your path to becoming a business optimizer in the ecommerce space?

00:01:12:24 – 00:01:36:08
Unknown
Yeah, absolutely. So I had always wanted to run my own business. I actually went to school for fine art back many, many, many years ago and about pretty close to graduation. I started to think about what do I really want to do if I’m running my own business? I probably need to know something about business. I know a lot about my craft, but I don’t necessarily know a lot about business.

00:01:36:09 – 00:01:56:09
Unknown
So I ended up switching majors, graduating with a business degree, graduating with a whole lot of business debt, as many people do. And I decided that I was going to work for a few years to pay off that debt while I figured out what I wanted to do and launched my business. I knew it was going to be an e-commerce business I did eventually launch that ended up being a jewelry business that I’ve had for 19 years.

00:01:56:09 – 00:02:28:08
Unknown
So really great experience with that. But what I wasn’t expecting was the job that I took that I thought I was taking for a short period of time just to pay off some college debt ended up being something I absolutely loved and I ended up falling into lean. I ended up falling into project management and consulting and all of these strategies that I later ended up using in my e-commerce business when things got way too complex and I scaled the business way more quickly than I was ready for, I didn’t have a lot of the systems in place that I needed.

00:02:28:08 – 00:02:53:14
Unknown
I did not have a lot of the team that I needed to support me. There was no optimization of anything going on. It was a hot mess and kind of a surprise that I got orders when they came in and when we had that experience where I ended up scaling really quickly what felt like overnight. Although it wasn’t, I quickly realized that I needed to leverage a lot of what I was doing with my other clients in the Lean consulting and bring it into my own business.

00:02:53:14 – 00:03:15:16
Unknown
And that ended up being the creation of the Lean Out method and a lot of what I do with my clients, which is really about optimizing what’s working, creating systems, creating the right structures around you from a people process tools perspective. So that you’re able to actually sustain the growth and scaling that you want in your business. So one follow up question I have is you refer to Lean In.

00:03:15:16 – 00:03:34:20
Unknown
So for for people that are not familiar with that term, what is it as we’re going to be referring to it quite a bit throughout the episode? Absolutely. So Lean came up in the manufacturing space and really at its most simplistic form, it’s really about increasing value and decreasing waste. And for any sort of e-commerce business, I feel like that is so incredibly important.

00:03:34:20 – 00:04:02:01
Unknown
You want to make sure that whatever it is that you’re selling is of high value, that the experience that you’re creating for your clients is of high value and you want to make sure that you don’t have waste, you don’t have wasted inventory, you don’t have wasted time, you’re not wasting money on things. So I felt like Lean ended up being really, really applicable in the e-commerce space space especially especially for anyone who has physical products that they themselves are manufacturing tracking inventory for and all of the complexities that goes along with that.

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00:04:02:04 – 00:04:23:12
Unknown
Awesome. So, Krista, thanks for sharing your background. I really like how you’ve been down in the weeds and working in e-commerce business for a very long time. Let’s see. You bring a wealth of knowledge to the show and I’m excited. My first question is one that I really, really enjoy asking other entrepreneurs. And it’s, you know, you’ve been building I think you said the jewelry business for 17 years, 19, 19 years.

00:04:23:12 – 00:04:43:02
Unknown
Okay. So 19 years of being an entrepreneur, building a business, lots of mistakes and failures along the way. Right. And so I think as entrepreneurs, we we can learn the most from asking other entrepreneurs like what? What did you what mistakes did you make? How did you recover from them? So can you share with the audience maybe your top three mistakes in the last 19 years and the jewelry business?

00:04:43:02 – 00:05:02:09
Unknown
And what did you do to recover? Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s there’s so many. I feel like we could talk for about four days just on this topic alone. I’ll try to narrow it down. That’s for I think one of the big transitions for me was more of an identity evolution. And I think as business owners, we go through these different experiences where we need to shift how we look at who we are.

00:05:02:09 – 00:05:21:10
Unknown
And I started off with a jewelry business that was very much a business that was mine. It was an extension of me. I handmade every product. I went to jewelry fairs. I sold on Etsy. People were buying from me as much as they were buying the products that I created. I realized I hit a ceiling on that business.

00:05:21:10 – 00:05:37:11
Unknown
I wasn’t going to be able to scale it or take it where I wanted, so I needed to change my business model. And I did. I partnered with manufacturers. I slimmed down my product line. I did a lot of things right to build a scalable business model, but I hadn’t changed who I was and how I approached design.

00:05:37:11 – 00:06:07:03
Unknown
And so I still designed like an artist instead of like a business owner who was trying to make a profit. And I made things way more complex than they needed to be, which meant things were way more expensive than they needed to be. So my profit margins were slim, my prices were higher than what the market expected did, and the things that I thought were so incredibly important and that mattered in a small handicraft market were not things that people cared about at all when they were buying off of my website and didn’t know or care about me as the artist.

00:06:07:03 – 00:06:30:03
Unknown
And so it was that transition of maker to business owner, artist to entrepreneur, right? It was really starting to look at things with more of a business lens to design with the end in mind and look at what’s the right price point for this product, what’s the right profit margin that I want to have? How can I have a product that fits that instead of just creating what I felt like creating and then trying to apply everything after?

00:06:30:03 – 00:06:45:17
Unknown
So that was one of the really big mistakes that I made, and it was a very expensive mistake that I made. I ended up with a lot of inventory that I ended up having to sell at a loss because all those special touches that I put into the product were things that people were not willing to pay for it, much to my dismay.

00:06:45:18 – 00:07:02:10
Unknown
So and that was number one. That’s a huge pivot, too, by the way, like also recognizing that you needed to make that pivot and then making that pivot that I think that’s that’s huge. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And then I think the other one to number two is, of course, I had changed the business model. I decided I wanted to scale in.

00:07:02:10 – 00:07:22:16
Unknown
So I designed for scale. I hired sales teams, how I hired sales reps. I went to all of the major big shows that you went to to sell your product. I did all the things that I was told I should do and I’m saying should in air quotes there. And I never took the time to stop or consider that I didn’t have to do it that way.

00:07:22:16 – 00:07:50:08
Unknown
I just thought, this is how you scale a jewelry business, is how you become the next big e-commerce jewelry business. And so I accumulated it’s like embarrassing to say, but listeners, please don’t do what I did learn from my mistake. I accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt because when you are manufacturing product, when you have way too many SKUs, which was something that I did, another mistake and you think that you need to go all out for you buy all the product so it’s available for shipment immediately.

00:07:50:08 – 00:08:08:19
Unknown
All the expensive shows fly there, send your product to do all of that, produce these amazing fancy printed look books, all the stuff that at the time I started the business were the go to things that you saw the big brands doing. It just didn’t make sense. I was emulating a brand that was about 100 steps beyond where I was without realizing it.

00:08:08:19 – 00:08:29:23
Unknown
And I was taking advice from sales reps and others who did not care about my vision, never even asked me what my vision was. They were just telling me what they saw and thought that I should do. So that was another really big and really expensive mistake that I made. Absolutely. I really like those those mistakes that that you made along the journey and that you are the pivots that you made.

00:08:29:23 – 00:08:46:19
Unknown
And so I think we’ll get into a couple more of those throughout the throughout the episode. Can anything else you want to follow up on that now, though? I thought those were huge. And yeah, I think, you know, everybody listening can learn and two things. One is like knowing when to pivot and two is making that pivot. And you know, that’s both crucial.

00:08:46:22 – 00:09:08:24
Unknown
So keeping with the theme of mistakes, there is a revenue range between about a half $1,000,005 million. It’s often referred to as the messy middle. So my question is, what are some of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when they are in the messy middle in they’re trying to scale their business? Yeah, absolutely. It’s you know, we’ve all heard the what?

00:09:08:24 – 00:09:26:06
Unknown
Gotcha here won’t get you there. And I think that is so, so true in for some businesses they hit it at 500,000 other businesses hit it at a million, some hit it just over a million. But there becomes a point in time where all the things that were working stop working. You used to be able to kind of wing it a little bit.

00:09:26:10 – 00:10:00:06
Unknown
You used to be able to pivot on a dime rate and all of a sudden you realize, I need people, I need better people, I need structure, I need some kind of planning practices. I have to be really, really intentional with my time, with my money, with what I do. And I think that that ends to happen for most businesses in, like I said, that 500000 to 1 million mark where you become somewhat of a one person leader in the early days, even if you’ve got a team to surrounding you, whether you’re a solopreneur or whether you have a team around you, you still are really the sole person who is making a lot of

00:10:00:06 – 00:10:17:16
Unknown
the decisions, doing a lot of the things and kind of making a lot of the stuff up as you go along and all of a sudden that needs to change. At some point because you cannot keep doing it. I know that was very much what happened for me. I went from selling a couple hundred products in a month to selling thousands of products a day.

00:10:17:16 – 00:10:37:02
Unknown
I could not do things myself. It was not possible anymore. I needed systems, I needed real inventory, not the Excel spreadsheet that I had been tracking things in. Right? I needed to look at real tools. I needed to surround myself with not just people to get things done, but people to help me with really important things in the business.

00:10:37:02 – 00:10:57:16
Unknown
It’s not just like the people you’re delegating grunt work to. It’s people who can actually help you to deliver strategically and bring things forward. And I think that you need to get there in the business in the sooner you get there, the sooner you’re going to break through. But where the mystique comes in is a lot of people cling to and hold on to the things that they did to get them to that level.

00:10:57:17 – 00:11:28:17
Unknown
And they don’t want to put the systems in structure in place. They feel like it might be too restrictive to do things like planning, and they don’t always want to bring on team or bring on high level team who can help them make decisions. They just want to bring on more lower level team to delegate things to. And it’s the longer you hold off on making those changes, the longer you hold off on shifting things in the business, you actually keep yourself stuck right at the level you’re at instead of allowing yourself to break through to that next big revenue milestone.

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00:11:28:20 – 00:11:44:04
Unknown
So, Krista, if we if we rewind a bit to where you were, you had mentioned, you know, you went from selling a few hundred a month to thousands per day and you were in a predicament, I guess, at that point in time. So take yourself back to that point in time. And what are some of the steps that you did from right there?

00:11:44:04 – 00:12:02:19
Unknown
Like if we have listeners that are listening to the show and they’re there at that point or they will be soon, what what are some what are like the top two or three things that you did that that helped you go from that level to the next level? Yeah. One of the very first things that we did was we needed a really accurate inventory management system because again, we had things that were very asynchronous.

00:12:02:19 – 00:12:19:06
Unknown
We sold in multiple places, we had sales reps, so we were selling wholesale, we were selling retail. If you’re only selling a couple of something, it doesn’t really matter the chance that you’re going to oversell an inventory item isn’t really high, but when you’re all of a sudden selling, it really high volumes, you can really quickly sell stock that doesn’t exist.

00:12:19:06 – 00:12:38:16
Unknown
So we had to get an actual real system that tracked and managed our inventory and that sent to our Shopify store that sync to our Etsy store so that everything was updated in real time. That ended up saving us a ton of time because we spent so much time emailing. People were so sorry this sold out. Can we get you this instead?

00:12:38:16 – 00:12:56:07
Unknown
And sending people links? And so it eliminated a lot of the churn and disappointment when people would buy something and oops, we didn’t have that. Or we were killing ourselves trying to find the inventory or make the inventory. And so that was a really big thing that we did in the beginning that made things better and really saved us a lot of time.

00:12:56:07 – 00:13:13:03
Unknown
Plus helped with the client experience because nobody wants to be excited about an order and then get the email that says, Just kidding, we don’t have. Brian Yeah, that’s the worst, but it’s so great that you wanted that. But no, so we, we had to take care of that and address it. So that was one of the things we really dialed in our processes.

00:13:13:03 – 00:13:31:17
Unknown
We really standardized a lot of the responses that we would send when people would email something in. We made sure and looked at themes Where did we get asked the same questions? How could we change the receipts that we send people so that they don’t ask this question? We put it right on the receipt. How can we have an auto responder that answers the most common questions?

00:13:31:17 – 00:14:03:02
Unknown
So we look at things like that where where could we automate as much as we could? Cause we need to make sure that we are not spending our time anywhere, that we don’t need to because our time is very stretched thin and precious, right? We brought on the right team to support everything But one of the other really big pieces that went along with the inventory management was not just the inventory of in-stock ready to sell the unit, it was the inventory so that we knew accurately what our prices were and what our profit margins were, because we had kind of been winging it up to that point.

00:14:03:03 – 00:14:20:06
Unknown
Probably cost us about ten bucks. I mean, that seems about right. This is this much this is this much if we charge to, it’s a good profit margin. Cool. Oh, we’re going to wholesale it now. Now we’ll charge 35 or 40 for it, and we’re we’re gold, right? All of a sudden you start selling at that volume, you’re giving steeper discounts, you’re paying reps, you’re doing all these things.

00:14:20:06 – 00:14:38:10
Unknown
We really needed to know precisely how much profit was in that material, how much profit was in each product. So we knew what to sell, what not to sell. So those were some of the things that we did, but it was really just tightening up our systems, our processes and getting the right people in place more so than anything else.

00:14:38:10 – 00:14:57:06
Unknown
On the topic of people, what was what were some of the first positions that you filled and you had talked about finding of the type of person that can make decisions as opposed to someone you can delegate task to? So what were the positions and where did you find the people? Yeah, so there is a concept that I believe in fully.

00:14:57:06 – 00:15:20:09
Unknown
It is one of our core values when we’re hiring somebody and it is I never want somebody. I want to that I have to delegate to. I want somebody who takes inspired ownership. So it’s something that we interview for. It’s something that we really make sure that we get the right candidates for. We want people who are going to come in and who are going to own the outcome and do whatever it takes until the outcome is achieved or to figure out how to get there if they don’t know how to get there.

00:15:20:09 – 00:15:41:20
Unknown
So things aren’t constantly being bottlenecked by me having to answer all the questions and make all the decisions we want, figure it out, or like smart people who can figure stuff out. So less things come to me from a decision perspective. So that was the approach that we took. And of course we refined this a lot over the years, but one of the very first people that I hired is still with me to this day.

00:15:41:20 – 00:16:13:00
Unknown
She has a complete and total rock star. She’s my director of operations and she did everything from oops, we didn’t have that product in stock. So she would be making that product so that we could send it to clients to handling the customer service and really making sure that all of the inventory was done. Everything was done partnering with our manufacturers to answer questions, she became an extension of me, my right hand person, so I could stay more in the place of design, relationship management and those sorts of things.

00:16:13:00 – 00:16:31:05
Unknown
And she could handle delivery and operations. Now, she obviously did not do all of that herself. That’s a very big role for one person. But she owned all of that and she very quickly learned about. I also knew I could trust her to make a good decision, even if the decision she made is different than the one I would have wanted.

00:16:31:05 – 00:16:50:01
Unknown
And I could course correct and say, Hey, next time that happens, instead of doing this, we should handle it this way. I could. I knew with full confidence that whatever she decided would not be opposed to our values or would not in any way really hurt the brand. So that to me was super important when I hired her and I’d say she’s been my most critical hire and and that’s why she’s still with me.

00:16:50:01 – 00:17:07:11
Unknown
I don’t even know ten years later since I first hired her a long, long time. She is amazing. My family has a saying that everybody in their life needs a Kylie. I agree fully. So, Kylie, if you’re listening. Thank you. You’re amazing. But that being said, beyond that, we had customer service people as we started selling at much higher volumes.

00:17:07:11 – 00:17:28:17
Unknown
That became really important. We brought a lot of our sales in-house, so instead of paying external sales reps, we did the sales ourselves working with wholesalers and other stores who were selling our products. So we brought that in-house and again, Kylie just managed it all. She’s amazing. I got one follow up question. I love this concept of inspired ownership.

00:17:28:17 – 00:17:49:17
Unknown
So my follow up question is, do you have any recommendations on compensating these individuals to align interests to where when they achieve the desired outcome? There is kind of a carrot at the end for them. Yeah, I love that model. And it’s really interesting, right? Because the reality is we frequently need to hire people before we feel ready to hire them financially.

00:17:49:17 – 00:18:06:19
Unknown
And one of the ways that you can do that is by incentivizing performance. And it’s really easy to do with somebody in a direct sales role, right? A sales rep, you’re going to pay a percentage of sales of somebody doing sales. You do. But what do you do when somebody is an operations person and they track your inventory for you and answer customer requests?

00:18:06:19 – 00:18:30:01
Unknown
Right. It’s not as easy to manage and not as easy to track in. So what we would do is I would do a percentage of profit. So at the end of the quarter we would look at how profitable we were and I would do a percentage of profit on top of what I paid. And it was a way in the beginning because I didn’t really pay very well in the beginning because I couldn’t I mean, I paid what felt like a whole lot for the business at the time when I first started.

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00:18:30:01 – 00:18:52:05
Unknown
But looking back on it, it wasn’t a great amount of money that I was paying, right? I’ve adjusted that quite a bit over these past ten years. For all of the people that I’ve had that have worked for me. But back in the early days, not so much. But that was a way that I felt really good about it and a way that helped everybody really buy into the success of the company because they end up getting bonus out based on that.

00:18:52:05 – 00:19:09:06
Unknown
Yeah, I like that. That it kind of aligns both interests, you know, where it’s not a guaranteed bonus, it’s based off of profit of the company is successful because of your contributions, then you’re going to get a piece of that. So that’s awesome. One other thing you said, Chris said that really resonated with me was hiring problem solvers.

00:19:09:06 – 00:19:36:00
Unknown
And so if, if, if along the way, as you’re hiring people to help you grow your company, hiring problem solvers, and that that will keep more problems down at a level and not let them bubble up. So that really resonated. I want to get back to knowing your numbers. And so you kind of mentioned that a little bit earlier of like that was a kind of a piece to the scaling is like, hey, you have to be sharp on the numbers and so why should your business be lean looks and leverage when you want to scale sustainably?

00:19:36:02 – 00:19:59:02
Unknown
Yeah, absolutely. So lean as we talked about increasing value while decreasing waste, nothing is going to eat into your profit margins more than waste in your business, right? Whether it’s time of people that you’re paying for to do things that don’t need to be done. It’s money that you’re losing because you have poor quality in your product or whether you’re overpaying for certain pieces of the components of your product, whatever that looks like.

00:19:59:02 – 00:20:15:24
Unknown
Right? So you want things to be lean, you want to have confidence that you’ve got the right things at the right level of quality without any extra waste in your system. So I think that’s really important. That helps you with your profit margin, that helps you with getting really clear on what your costs are and that you’re investing in the right things.

00:20:16:00 – 00:20:38:15
Unknown
Now, Lux is luxury, and to me this comes in to client experience. This comes in to are you providing an exceptional client experience at every point along the buying journey from the time that someone first finds out about you, how are you guiding them towards a purchase decision? How are you making it really clear what they buy, when they’re going to get it, what it looks like?

00:20:38:15 – 00:20:57:11
Unknown
Like how are you having them maintain the excitement of their purchase instead of fall into the impulse buy regret that a lot of people have, which is, Oh no, why did I buy this right? You want them to remain a really positive and excited end. We all know that customer lifetime value is way more important than just a one time purchase.

00:20:57:11 – 00:21:16:12
Unknown
So how do you maintain that really incredible client experience and create a reason for people to come back and buy more, either for themselves or as a gift for others, depending on what your business model is and what your product is like? One We’ve talked a lot about my jewelry business, but I also have a 90 day planner, so I have an e-commerce business that sells planners as well.

00:21:16:13 – 00:21:32:19
Unknown
And one of the things that I found is people do buy four times a year because they buy for themselves. But I would notice people buying more often in the four times a year cycle. And what I found was people liked it enough that they started buying it for their teams or they started buying it for their other entrepreneur friends.

00:21:32:19 – 00:21:54:01
Unknown
And so I think when you create a really luxe client experience, people want a reason to buy more and they will find a reason to continue to buy, continue to support your brand. They will. I mean, I can’t tell you how many pictures people post in my jewelry, of my planners, of my products. And I think that that also is part of that luxe client experience that you’re providing.

00:21:54:01 – 00:22:12:15
Unknown
And just an extension of that internally in the business, too. Just like I shared the mistake that I made where I kind of did a lot of the things I felt like I should do that is not walks. Luxe is making sure that we are building the business that we actually want and making decisions based on what feels good and feels a value and kind of fulfillment and alignment for us.

00:22:12:15 – 00:22:31:14
Unknown
Instead of really feeling like you need to do the must and shoulds. So I think there’s the client experience perspective, but there’s also the owner experience perspective. It’s your business. You should have a business that you love in a business that you want. And I think a lot of times we can fall away from that because we get influenced too much by so many other must and then finally leveraged, right?

00:22:31:14 – 00:22:49:03
Unknown
Anything that you’re doing in your business, you want to make sure is fully leveraged. How can you get the absolute most value out of every dollar that you’re spending and every hour that you’re investing? And I think that that’s where the leverage and the optimization that we talked about really comes into play. What would be a good example of someone to leverage adding leverage to their time.

00:22:49:08 – 00:23:10:16
Unknown
So I think this is a trap that a lot of entrepreneurs fall into. Oh, my gosh, absolutely right. So obviously automating anything that does not need to be done manually. So that is key, right? Not everything in business can or should be automated, but there’s a whole lot of things that can be right. And if you’re investing time in something that can be automated, if your team is investing time in things that could be automated, that in and of itself, right?

00:23:10:16 – 00:23:35:16
Unknown
Definitely not working smarter. That’s working harder. That’s not leverage. So look first at where you can automate the other things is where can you really simplify what you’re doing? Where can you simplify and where can you do things at scale right? Leverage in a lot of ways helps you do things at scale. So can you spend one hour doing something for multiple people instead of one hour doing something for one person so that you’re really maximizing your time?

00:23:35:17 – 00:23:59:01
Unknown
This could look like in your teams, right? Where do you repeat yourself a lot? Where do you have the same conversations over and over again? Whether it be with client, whether it be with leads, whether it be with your team members, and how can you consolidate communications meetings, things of that nature so that you’re saying something once instead, Can you create and have a queue on your website or record a video so you never have to say it again, Right?

00:23:59:03 – 00:24:15:00
Unknown
Look at things like that. That’s where leverage really comes in. And people sometimes say, Well, I don’t even know where to start. Just pay attention to where you repeat yourself a lot or where you get frustrated that you’re like, If I have to say this one more time, well, you might not need to just get really creative with how you address it.

00:24:15:00 – 00:24:39:21
Unknown
So what are the biggest areas of waste that drain time in profits on a business? I’ve identified ten specific areas of waste that I see quite often in most online businesses, the very first one and the biggest one is unnecessary complexity. And I shared in my example of my transition from kind of artist mind to entrepreneur mind. I made my products so much more complex than I needed to, so much more complex.

00:24:39:21 – 00:25:02:21
Unknown
It felt so important to me and genuinely nobody but me care, right? And so I overcomplicated the process, which meant that there were way more materials. It meant that there were way more expenses. So there’s a lot of that that we do. And I use that example because if you remove yourself from that specific example, but just think about your business and the things that you hold dear, the things that you’re like, This is so important.

00:25:02:21 – 00:25:20:22
Unknown
I have to do it this way. Do you really? Sometimes you do, but a lot of times if you can challenge yourself, you’ll realize there might be a much simpler solution. Anything that feels really heavy, really complex, really time intensive to really good, to challenge yourself, to say, is there a simpler way to get the same or better result?

00:25:20:22 – 00:25:44:07
Unknown
And the answer is often yes. We just frequently don’t give ourselves the time and space to really think through that question. And so we just keep doing things but complex. It shows up in so many different ways. That is the number one area of waste for sure. The other thing is new verses optimization. So especially for those of us who are natural visionaries, who are natural creators, we love to create new things.

00:25:44:07 – 00:26:03:03
Unknown
We absolutely love to create new things. We frequently do not like to keep doing the same things over and over again. Well, new is the most expensive in the hardest thing to sell, right? You have to build up demand for it. You have to if you have, you know, e-commerce, you probably ought to do pictures, you have to do descriptions, You have to do all of these things that take a whole lot of time.

00:26:03:03 – 00:26:34:05
Unknown
What if instead you keep refining and refining and optimizing the same core things? Think of what you can do from an SEO perspective. Think of what you can do from a like brand recognition perspective. So you really want to optimize what you have. Obviously, people love new. It’s not saying don’t do new. You always have to do some version of new, but we tend to overindex on new and under focus on optimization and I think it has to be the right balance between the two to really have a lot of success where you don’t have a whole lot of waste.

00:26:34:05 – 00:26:50:04
Unknown
So those are two big ones. I can keep going. There’s a whole lot more, but I’ll pause there because I think those are the two that feel really relevant to me. Yeah, I like both of those and I can definitely see how they would have a huge impact. It’s a it’s the the kiss theory, right. Keep, keep it simple.

00:26:50:04 – 00:27:08:03
Unknown
And sometimes entrepreneurs, we like to not keep it simple. So if if myself or my team, if I wanted to capture back time, let’s say, say 5 hours per week, how could I do that? Here’s what I find really often is a lot of the work that we end up doing ends up being work that we don’t need to be doing at all.

00:27:08:04 – 00:27:28:23
Unknown
And this again, gets us one of the other areas of what he says are needed work. But practically, if you think about the vision that you have for your business long term, where you really want to take the business that you have, and then you look at the goals that you have for the near term. So if you’re looking, you know, long term, here’s where I want to go here in the next 90 days are the things that we need to focus on in order to take us closer to that vision.

00:27:29:00 – 00:27:49:07
Unknown
If you have that clarity, a really, really valuable exercise to do is to look at the day to day of what you and what your team are doing and look at the things that do not support the long term vision and the short term goals. And I have yet to ever find a business that has not had a whole lot of things that they are doing that does not actually support either of those things.

00:27:49:07 – 00:28:11:03
Unknown
In a lot of times it will because we’ve always done it this way. Oh, well, I thought I needed to do that. Well, shouldn’t I be on this new platform while Right. There’s a lot of reasons why we do things that aren’t really necessary, but a lot of times there’s hidden time right in your business. And it starts with getting really clear on where you want to go long term and what you need to be focused on in the next 90 days.

00:28:11:03 – 00:28:30:03
Unknown
And a lot of people don’t even take the time to do that. So it’s no wonder that they’re spending a whole lot of time being more reactive instead of proactive and doing so many things. But if you get that clarity and really do the diligence to look at what are we actually working on and is what we’re working on supporting where we want to go in the short term and where we want to go in the long term?

00:28:30:03 – 00:28:48:15
Unknown
You will inevitably get that time. Like I said, in all the businesses I’ve worked with, the thousands of businesses I’ve probably worked with in these past 20 years, I have yet to find one that did not have stuff that they were working on that was not in alignment. So what is the lean strategic planning and why is it a better fit for entrepreneurs than traditional planning?

00:28:48:15 – 00:29:11:04
Unknown
Yeah, so I grew up as I shared that very early job, I got to pay off the college debt. I did a lot of project management back in the day and I learned more traditional project management practices in for anybody who has ever had a corporate job, which I bet a lot of you listening have, if you are not still in one, right, you probably are super familiar with the strategic planning practices that the companies do, and they’re great.

00:29:11:04 – 00:29:26:20
Unknown
In some respects. It’s really important to have clarity on where you want to go and what you need to be focused on and to make sure that you’re putting your time and your money on the most important things. There’s aspects of it that are really, really valuable, but that planning practice, if you think through it, typically takes a whole lot of time.

00:29:26:20 – 00:29:48:17
Unknown
People very reluctantly do it because they know people probably aren’t going to follow the plan or the plan isn’t going to be super realistic. So they end up kind of frustrating going into the process. And as a result, when people have their own business, what I find is one of two things. They either model the traditional planning practice because it’s the only thing they know or they push so hard against planning because that’s what they know that they don’t plan at all.

00:29:48:17 – 00:30:08:14
Unknown
And the reality is what I think you need is something in the middle, the nature of a small business, of an online business. It’s very dynamic. Things change really rapidly. We have more ideas than we have time. And no matter, you know, what we have going on, there’s external factors at play all the time that are shifting how we market, how we sell, what we do right.

00:30:08:14 – 00:30:42:09
Unknown
And so we can’t do these really, really deep, intense predictive planning things because things aren’t that predictable in a small online business. But we also can’t wing it because we need to know where we’re focused. We need to have budgets, we need to be clear about what we’re doing when in So to me, lean, strategic planning is a lean version of strategic planning that helps you get clear on where you’re going long term helps you get clear on what you need to be focused on in the next 90 days into look really holistically at what you and your team, where you’re spending your time, where you’re spending your money in, doing it in a way

00:30:42:10 – 00:31:08:17
Unknown
that is adaptable, that’s agile, and that supports the very dynamic needs of a small business. So I created the approach to planning the civically for businesses like ours because I didn’t really see anything out there that fit. There’s a lot of personal productivity systems and there’s a lot of complex planning systems, but there’s not a lot of lean, lightweight but really impactful systems that help people achieve their goals without making it really complex.

00:31:08:18 – 00:31:30:12
Unknown
I like that. It definitely makes sense because you’re right. Like, you know, you can you can over plan and then also have no plan and then, you know, it doesn’t it goes south, you have no plan. So I’d like to pay a little bit in the lean out method. Can you share with the audience of the four key pillars of the clean up method and how do they help a business accelerate growth without being overworked and overwhelmed?

00:31:30:15 – 00:31:49:13
Unknown
Yeah, absolutely. So the four pillars are context, clarity, commitment, and Kaizen, and I’ll explain a little bit about each of them, but where I find most people end up really struggling in business is when they don’t have their context dialed in. And we’ve talked a bit about that already. Context is your vision and your goals. So where are you going?

00:31:49:13 – 00:32:05:21
Unknown
Why is it important? What do you see for the future of your company? What do you need to be focused on in the short term? And do you have the right business model to actually get you there? That to me is context, and I think it is so incredibly important. It’s also not something that you set once Unforgettable out, which I see a lot of people do.

00:32:05:21 – 00:32:23:12
Unknown
Oh yeah, I have a vision. I’ve got a vision. My business model solid, but they haven’t circled back yet to see have things changed and evolved right As you grow as the leader of your business, as your business grows, the vision of what you see for what’s possible typically grows and changes as well. So I think we constantly want to be reimagining pop labeling the vision that we have.

00:32:23:12 – 00:32:41:07
Unknown
We consistently want to be getting clear on what our near-term goals are so we know what to be focused on this year, this next 90 days. And we want to be constantly looking at our business model to say, is this still relevant? Is this still working really well right now? Where might I need to pivot? So that is the first pillar, which is context.

00:32:41:07 – 00:32:59:01
Unknown
The next is clarity. So you know where you’re going, you know, from a goal perspective, what you want to be focused on, Great. What specifically do you need to do in the next 90 days? That’s where the lean strategic planning comes in, where you get really clear on where you and your team are going to be focused next is commitment no where you want to go long term, you know exactly what you’re going to do near-term.

00:32:59:01 – 00:33:16:15
Unknown
Now what do you need to get there? Like what are you going to do when you run into issues and roadblocks, when the mindset gremlins creep in and you start to doubt yourself and start to delay things and aren’t sure if you should make that hiring decision. And while I’m not sure right, so are you going to commit to seeing things through and keep going in?

00:33:16:15 – 00:33:35:23
Unknown
Are you going to create your ecosystem for success around you with the systems, with the planning, with the team, with the things that you need to actually achieve the goals that you want? And then Kaizen is also really critical. This is another one that I see a lot of people miss. It’s a lean word that means small changes for the better and continuous improvement.

00:33:35:23 – 00:33:57:08
Unknown
And to me this is, do you know your numbers? Do you have your metrics? Are you looking at both quantitative and qualitative data? Are you making informed decisions and regularly reflecting on what’s working as an input to what you’re going to do next? So that’s the lean out method. It’s four pillars, and I think it applies to everything we do in our lives and not just our business.

00:33:57:08 – 00:34:16:21
Unknown
Do you know where you want to go? Do you have a plan to get there? Are you committed and what do you need to actually achieve the results in how are you going to reflect and pivot as you need to along the way? I like the four pillars. That’s helpful there. Remember, very great explanation on those. So can you tell us a little bit more about Lean out method dot com and what types of clients you typically work with?

00:34:16:23 – 00:34:37:04
Unknown
Yellow. Absolutely. So lean on method dot com is where you can find all things. Krista And the work that I do, I really help people focus on the operational side of their business more so than anything else. So it’s the systems, it’s the planning, it’s the team, it’s the ecosystem that you need around you to be able to scale in a simple, sustainable way.

00:34:37:04 – 00:34:56:23
Unknown
It’s also looking at operationalizing what you do for marketing and sales. So it’s great that you’re out there bringing in new leads. We need that. That’s absolutely critical. How can you optimize that process and really refine that process, automate what you can really making sure that you’re creating leverage with what you’re doing so you’re getting the best possible results.

00:34:56:23 – 00:35:20:18
Unknown
So it’s both the back end operations as well as operationalizing the things that you’re doing more front end to be bringing in new clients and actually selling. So that’s a lot of the work that we do with our clients. I work a lot with coaches, consultants and service based businesses. You’ll see that on my website a lot. But privately, because I have such deep experience with e-commerce, I work a lot with e-commerce business owners.

00:35:20:18 – 00:35:41:20
Unknown
It’s just I don’t have most of my group programs to it because we all know e-commerce is complex. There is a lot of complexity in e-commerce and I have found it needs that more personal touch and that more personal deep dive in what a specific business needs as opposed to something a little bit broader. Excellent. So, Krista, all of the guests that we bring on the show, we run them through the ringer and it’s called the fire round.

00:35:41:20 – 00:35:59:02
Unknown
Are you ready? Bring it. What is your favorite book? The Big League hundred. So if you’ve heard the term Zone of Genius, which I absolutely love, it comes from that book. Awesome. That’s a good one. What are your hobbies Right now? I’m obsessed with pickleball. I never thought I would say that, but as soon as we’re done recording, I’m going to play pickleball.

00:35:59:02 – 00:36:16:20
Unknown
This is what I do to transition from my workday to my non-work day almost every single day that it’s not raining. That’s awesome. I love pickleball too. My son loves to to kick my butt in pickleball. So that’s awesome. What is one thing that you do not miss about working for the man? So I bet a lot of people probably say freedom.

00:36:16:20 – 00:36:31:15
Unknown
And the same is true, but for me it’s freedom of choice. One of the things I love so much in business is we get to choose who we surround ourselves with. We get to choose how we spend our time, the right to choose what we do. We get to choose who’s on our team. And in a lot of other environments, you don’t get that choice.

00:36:31:16 – 00:36:45:16
Unknown
You have to or you don’t get as much influence over that choice as you do in your own business. So that to me is the most important. I truly get to decide exactly what I’m going to do and who I’m going to do it with and how I’m going to do it in a way that I think is harder to do when you’re working for the man.

00:36:45:18 – 00:37:08:00
Unknown
That is so very true. All right. Last one. What do you think sets apart success for entrepreneurs from those who give up, fail or never get started? I think it’s honestly a combination of the last two pillars of Lean Out method, that commitment and Kaizen Right. How committed are you? Are you willing to keep going? Are you willing to work through the challenges that come up, whether they’re internal mindset challenges or whether they’re real world challenges that you’re facing?

00:37:08:00 – 00:37:28:23
Unknown
And are you continuous only doing that reflection to see what’s working, what you like, what you don’t, and pivoting so that you are continuing forward with something that you really love and that you feel inspired to instead of reluctantly moving forward with something because you said you were going to, which never ends well. Okay, excellent. Absolutely. You’ve got a special offer for our listeners.

00:37:28:23 – 00:37:48:17
Unknown
And so I just want to give you a moment to share that special offer. Yeah, absolutely. So I shared a little bit about operations. I do have a program called Simplified a Scale Ops Academy. And for anyone who is interested in putting those systems in place, learning more about lean strategic planning, building up their team, what I call your Lean dream team, that’s what we do together inside that program.

00:37:48:17 – 00:38:06:00
Unknown
And it does include private, personalized coaching and support. And if you head over to the special link that you’ll find in the show notes, you will find $500 off that as a thank you for listening to this episode and or having me on the show. If people are interested in getting in touch with you, what would be the best way?

00:38:06:00 – 00:38:20:06
Unknown
Sure you can head to lean out method dot com for all the things or head to Lean out podcast WSJ.com for more conversations like this one. Awesome. Well, Krista, I want to thank you for being a guest on the Firing the Man podcast and looking forward to staying in touch. Thanks so much for having me.

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