How did Carl Quested and Carl Crowther take their side business Brandstrong to over $100k in annual recurring revenue in just 11 months, whilst both were running full-time businesses?

You’re about to find out.

For five years Carl Quested ran a real estate marketing business and Carl Crowther a wide format printing business.

 

“Having run a more traditional business for the last 5 years, my co-founder Carl Crowther and I knew we wanted to start something that wasn’t tied to a specific location”

While their more “traditional” businesses are still in full swing, Brandstrong has become the solution to reaching markets beyond a specific location. A way of achieving recurring revenues from clients around the world.

Brandstrong is a subscription-based graphic design service where, for a fixed monthly fee, clients get unlimited graphic design work.

“We arrived at this to provide consistency in income, rather than ‘as and when’ , but also to deliver higher value to our clients – they don’t have to worry about the hourly rate, or how long a design might take to complete”

Prolific Over Perfect: Balancing the Side-Hustle

But running an online startup while keeping their existing businesses afloat hasn’t been easy.

“Both my co-founder and I have busy businesses, so being able to keep the wheels turning on the job that pays the bills, whilst working this side hustle has been tough”

Their strategy was simple: Stay focused on the big picture. Quested and Crowther decided not to sweat the small stuff, but to rather learn as they went along.

“You really have to focus on what is important right now. If you only have a small window in which to achieve results, you don’t have the luxury of spending time on every detail. You have to learn that prolific beats perfect, otherwise you’ll never launch.”

The Brandstrong co-founders also had the challenge of coordinating roles, responsibilities and expectations between themselves. Starting a business with a co-founder takes a careful kind of approach.

They started by establishing roles and responsibilities before the business even got off the ground.

“This is where having a co-founder really paid off, as we were able to spread the workload. If you have a co-founder, make sure you take the time to understand their existing business.”

Carl Quested explains that people run their businesses in different ways, have different peak seasons and busy periods, and these may not always line up. This means that as co-founders, Quested and Crowther had to be understanding of each other’s business commitments, and pick up each others slack when necessary.  

“Finally, whether with a co-founder or not, be honest about what is realistic – if this is a side hustle, you need to understand that things will take longer. You have to factor this in and not get frustrated when things take longer”

But, while things may take slightly longer with a side-hustle, Quested and Crowther have found ways to save time and effort. Cutting out administrative tasks like bookkeeping has allowed them the time to focus on what they’re best at – growing their business.

“My co-founder and I have too much to deal with already. Having Bean Ninjas look after our bookkeeping just means we know everything from the numbers side of things is taken care of. I couldn’t imagine trying to keep on top of all of that ourselves”

Related Reading: From 2 Founders to 1: Lessons Learned About Business Partnerships

Adwords As An Effective Growth Strategy

So how do the Carl’s grow Brandstrong? How have they achieved a growth to $100k recurring annual revenue in just 11 months?

Of course they’ve utilised their existing networks, and offered free trials that sometimes lead to lasting clients. But one of their biggest helps has been Google Adwords.

Brandstrong recently ran an a successful Adwords campaign giving potential clients a comparison with their nearest (and bigger) competitor.

“We basically set up a landing page giving a comparison between them and us, and why we believe we offer better value. We don’t belittle their service in any way, simply provide a comparison, and let people decide. We’ve been running this for just a few weeks and has already generated over $1,000MRR from about $250 investment”

These are the steps Quested recommends for using Google Adwords to your advantage:

Step 1: Start out small – pick a couple of very specific keywords, and try to keep the focus on what your end user will search for.

Step2: Use the keyword planner tools in Adwords – to understand what level of competition there is for your terms, and also what sort of person is searching for it. If you can get low competition and medium to high search, you’ve got a winner.

Step 3: Don’t just send people to your home page – create a landing page that is specific to what your audience are looking for. In Brandstrong’s case, one of the keywords was their competitors name followed by ‘alternatives’ – they were targeting people who wanted to find an alternative to their competitor. And so they provided them with a landing page to show them exactly what the differences were between them.

Tapping Into Helpful Resources For Online Entrepreneurship

One of the key resources recommended by Carl Quested is Mixergy.

“We actually started the business after listening to Dan Norris on Mixergy. It gave us the inspiration to pursue a productised service business. I love Mixergy.”

Quested also listens to This Week In Startups, and is a member of Dan Norris’s Mastermind group. The Key Person of Influence programme is another network that he feels has definitely assisted in his journey.

Related reading: Why Build a Productized Service (Instead of Consulting)?

Carl Quested likes to hang out with cool people sometimes, like Gary Vaynerchuk

What’s in store for 2017?

We asked Carl Quested what Brandstrong will look like in 2017.

“For Brandstrong, we’re looking to solidify the growth we’ve had over our first 12 months. We have a full time developer on our team that has been working to create an amazing client portal, to really streamline the job submission process. We’re of course looking at what we can do to bring on new clients, and we’ll also be looking at how we increase the offering to our existing clients”

In a first effort towards their 2017 objectives, Brandstrong has started rolling out landing page designs, which is a first for any subscription design service.

Personally, Carl Quested will also be making an effort to improve his focus in each his family, career and self.

“When you have multiple businesses, family and so on, it becomes very easy for the headless chicken syndrome to kick in, and you end up doing a lot of unproductive things. So I will be looking to be more focused and structured in each area of my life”

Now the question is, what does your business look like in 2017?

Like the Brandstrong co-founders, improve your focus on your own business, and contact Bean Ninjas to cut out the distractions of bookkeeping.  

Meryl Johnston

Meryl Johnston

Co-founder at Bean Ninjas
Meryl is a Chartered Accountant, entrepreneur and surfer!

Prior to Bean Ninjas she ran a cloud accounting consulting firm, worked in both commercial accounting roles, as an auditor (BDO), and as a lecturer in accounting and audit.
Meryl Johnston
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