98. How to create a $100K per month side business in less than 2 years with Davis Nguyen of My Consulting Offer

 
 
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What’s it like to scale your business to $100,000 a month in less than 2 years?

In this episode of the Bean Ninjas Podcast, Davis Nguyen of My Consulting Offer generously shares his experience and insights on scaling his business to $100,000 per month while working on it part time at the start.

Davis shares the framework he used and how he succeeded in reaching his goal. If you are a business owner wanting to scale your business, you shouldn’t miss this episode because there’s so much to gain from his knowledge.

In this episode, we discuss:

[02:15] Davis’ entrepreneurial story and an overview on his business.
[07:06] His reason behind pursuing management consulting after university.
[10:40] His thought process about moving to the education business.
[14:09] The framework he uses to decide what to sell in his business.
[20:18] The price point of his initial sales.
[21:09] Next steps after selling his products
[23:34] Deciding to scale his business and getting a company name, website, etc.
[26:55] Having contractors in his business and the tasks they handled.
[30:23] The framework he uses and how he looks for personnel to work for him.
[35:55] The status of the business when it scaled to $100,000 / month in 2019 versus today.
[39:26] Their future plans for the business.
[42:57] The importance of having a “why”.

Transcription

How to create a $100K per month side business in less than 2 years with Davis Nguyen of My Consulting Offer

Announcer Welcome to the Bean Ninjas Podcast, where you get an all-access pass to see what happens behind the closed doors of a fast-growing global bookkeeping and financial reporting business.

Meryl:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Bean Ninjas Podcast. Today, we’re chatting with Davis Nguyen about how he has created a $100,000 a month business and how he did this in less than two years. And from that period, he was working full-time.

There’s some really interesting parts to Davis’ story and I like the way that he was able to validate his idea in a weekend. And the way that he started his business without a website or a Facebook page or even a company name, specifically for the first year of his business. So he was being really careful about where he spent his limited resource of time. And he was forced to do that because he was working full-time, and he was just working on this business on the weekends.

And towards the end of the podcast, we’ve talked about Davis’ why; so the reason that he is in this business and what he wants to achieve from it. And I think he articulated this really well, and it might not be what you think. So listen in and I’m sure there’ll be some actionable takeaways from Davis’ story.

Hey Davis. Welcome to the Bean Ninjas Podcast.

Davis:

Thanks for having me, especially on your birthday, too.

Meryl:

Yeah. We planned this well in advance. And yeah, it’s fun to be talking to you and we were chatting prior to recording, and I was mentioning that the DCx Gold Coast event, which I talk about the DC community quite a bit on this podcast. And that’s actually kicking off today as well. So excited to be celebrating not only with my local friends but also some friends that have flown in for the event.

Davis:

I’m excited for it.

Meryl:

So we met at DC BKK, the event in Bangkok, in October. And I think we met at a group meet-up that was around the topic of online courses. And during the course of that meet-up, I heard about a presentation that you will deliver that people were raving about. And in that presentation, you were talking about how you had built a side hustle to $100K a month within the space of two years.

And so, I really wanted to get you on to the podcast to talk about how you went about doing that. So before we jump into that, could you give just a little bit of background about who you are and also what your business is.

Davis:

Absolutely. So I’ll give a background about my entrepreneurship, and then, we’ll talk about my business itself. So I guess I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. So my grandma immigrated; well, it’s kind of like the one, which is a political refugee from Vietnam. So they escaped the Vietnam war after it ended, and they pretty much had to escape through any means that they could to land into the United States.

And so, when they landed, my grandma didn’t speak English. They came with my uncles and my mom. No one spoke English, so they had to take a lot of service-type jobs that they’re working in, for example, airport airlines. They were working at, let’s say, restaurants; whatever they could to make minimum wage.

But eventually, my family decided, “Well, we have a family of five to feed. We probably should start a business.” And pretty much, that’s how the entrepreneurs started in my family. It’s like, no one at that time went to college, and they were just like, “Well, let’s just put together a business.” The business is just very simple. We’re just a brick and mortar store about how to do nails.

But I learned a lot from my grandma watching her become an entrepreneur because she had to go to the struggle of being in a new market [Inaudible 00:04:01], being a first-time entrepreneur, not being educated, not knowing how she was going to make money tomorrow, figuring out the sales, the marketing, the retention; all of that.

And so, I really looked up to my grandma. And so, I joke about this, but a lot of Asian parents will say, “Oh, you should be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer.” My grandma grew up saying, “Oh, that’s boring. You should be an entrepreneur.” So that’s how the entrepreneurial bug gotten me.

And then, so I grew up, my family; the businesses are doing okay now. But when we were growing up, they were pretty struggling. And so, to make ends meet, I would also take a lot of odd jobs. So for example, in high school, I would clean tables. In college, I played poker to pay money for my mom to take care of her.

And so, I always had this entrepreneurial bug, but I just never knew how to capitalize on it. So I actually started a bunch of businesses since I was as young as 18. And I will tell you like all seven of them failed except for one. And then, so my track record as an entrepreneur is actually pretty poor. So it’s pretty surprising that my latest business worked, but I’ll summarize it.

But I ended up going to college, every tech that will talk about college. But I ended up working for a company called Bain & Company after I graduated in 2015. And so, Bain & Company is one of the big management consulting companies in the world. And I’ll tell you in fact to what we do.

But for anyone who’s not aware, management consultants are basically like SWAT teams for business. So if you have a problem you can’t solve, you hire a consulting firm to come in and they consult for you on, in this case, business and management.

And so, I worked there for two years before leaving to work out in an education company down in Los Angeles. So they were a startup in the education space. So I took a pay cut to do that. And for a while, we weren’t actually profitable.

So eventually, we would grow, and I will tackle some of the topics that I learned so much from them that within a scale of a year, this business is a startup in L.A.. We went from non-profitable, making 6 figures to making like over 8 figures and we were profitable. So I learned a lot during my time there helping them scale to that massive scale within a year.

But while they were not profitable and I was still helping my mom and supporting my parents back home, I decided to start a small business on the weekend. So the business is called My Consulting Offer. Actually, for the first year, we actually didn’t have a name. So I think there’s a lot of things I don’t think we needed and the name wasn’t one of them.

And it was just in my living room, in my bedroom on the weekend; Saturday and Sunday. It was basic; very simple, which was I wanted to help university students and recent graduates get jobs in management consulting. So the same job I had when I left university myself.

And it was very simple; as in the business was just two things, which is, one, how do I help people get the interview? So helping them with their CVs, their resumes, their cover letters. And then, helping them pass the interviews. So basically being a mock interviewer for them, talking about the areas they needed to work on, their questions, how they presented themselves; stuff like that.

And that was pretty much the business was help people get interviews in management consulting, help them pass the interviews. And at the time, the average success rate in the industry was about 2%. We were getting over, roughly, when I first started, roughly about 95% to 100% that first year. So that’s pretty much how the business started. It was just in my living room, and we did that for a while before I went full-time.

Meryl:

That’s, I think, an incredible story. I actually have so many questions to ask you just from what you’ve talked about then. Before we dive into how you grew My Consulting Offer, I’ve got a couple of questions for you just going back to some of the decisions you made before that.

So you grew up in an entrepreneurial family and you made the decision to go to college. And then, to go into management consulting. And was your intention always that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? You mentioned the seven businesses. And if so, why did you decide management consulting as your first job out of college?

Davis:

Absolutely. As in, so just a little bit of background about how I ended up in management consulting was; so the community that I grew up then; so, as I mentioned, my grandma and my mom, they immigrated together. They were political refugees. So when you’re a political refugee in the United States, you don’t get to pick where you live. It’s just kind of like they tell you where you can, then you just go.

So it’s not like you say, “I want to live in Beverly Hills.” It doesn’t work that way. And so, we ended up growing up in an area outside of, on the east coast in the state called Georgia. So not the country, but the State of Georgia, and in a little town outside the capital. And it was one of the poorest communities in the US.

So I think the last census, we were about 1 in 5 or 1 in 4 who lived in poverty. So that’s the high poverty line there. And so, when we were down there, I didn’t have many mentors. Like many people didn’t go to college in my community. As in a lot of us were also refugees, we were minorities. Our school system was actually called the worst school system in the US for a long time. So it’s kind of like we had a saying that, “People go to jail and not to Yale.” And that stood to me.

So growing up, there weren’t many mentors. So when I went to university, I wanted to have as many mentors as I could to it. So what I did was every time I will read a book, like let’s say I read a Tim Ferris, the Tools of Titans or 4-Hour Workweek, or whatever book I would read, I would try to reach out to that person and just say I wonder if I can just have lunch with them.

I reached out to over a hundred or 200 people during my time in university. And a couple of them, one of them was Susan Cain who wrote the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, which is also one of my favourite TED Talks of all time. And she decided to take me on, and I ended up working for her for about two years.

And I thought about my entrepreneurial goals and she was starting a business about how to empower introverts. And at the end of the summer, she and a bunch of other people I work with who were my mentors at the time just said, “Hey Davis. It seems like you want to be an entrepreneur.” I’m like, “Absolutely.”

I was like, “I know what it’s like to not have money. I know what it’s like when you get evicted from your home because my mom and I got evicted many, many times. I know what it’s like not having electricity. So it’s like being an entrepreneur, worst-case scenario is I just bum in someone’s couch.” And so I said, “I want to take that risk. I want to create some value in the world.”

And she said, “Davis, you’re going to be great. You definitely have a hustle and energy issue, but you should probably go and get some structured training.” So that’s where management consulting came in where it’s like management consulting; people described the training as it’s kind of like having military training for business. It’s kind of like they’re very strict, very disciplined, you are working like 70-hour plus weeks, you’re being asked to go to meetings, you have to dress professionally. There’s like a code of conduct.

And so, she said, “Do you know what Davis? You’re probably not going to fit in very well just yet. But just go into consulting for two years and learn it. And then, you’re going to be a better entrepreneur after the fact.” So that’s how I ended up going into management consulting was three of my mentors, so Susan being one of them, just told me, “Hey, you should go into management consulting.”

And I said, “Well if these three people are all entrepreneurs I respect and they think I should go into management consulting, there must be something about that.” So I went back to management consulting and went in.

Meryl:

That’s really interesting, and I thought it was important to ask that question. There’s some similarities with my background around that. So I always knew that I wanted to run businesses and I worked at a big accounting firm for three years; one of the big international firms for the same reason – to build a skill set, to learn how to do things professionally with the idea that I would go and run businesses later.

And I think the reason that I asked that is because I think that when your goal is to be an entrepreneur, a lot of what you do in the earlier years is around learning and building your skillset, and you don’t have to, from day one, build the ideal business. It’s a career, like being a doctor or being a carpenter or something else.

So the follow-up question I had around that was related to your decision to take a pay cut and leave management consulting and move into the education business. And what was your thought process there?

Davis:

Absolutely. So a good mentor of mine at Bain would tell me that everyone eventually leaves their job at Bain because the turnover rate of profit is about two years. So I was like, “We’re at the cracks of it.” And the mentor said, “There’s two ways you can leave Bain. Either Bain pushes you away, as in, there’s something that goes terribly wrong, or you just don’t enjoy it. Or something pulls you away that really attracts you.”

And as I mentioned earlier is my school system was actually called the worst school system in the US, which is like absurd. When you think about it, there’s over 100,000 school systems – how are you ranked at the bottom? And I always knew that my past university and having the career at Bain was a thanks to my teachers and those who supported me back in my home community. So I knew I wanted to go back into education.

And so at the time, I was just constantly always looking for my next opportunity. So I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I remembered Susan’s advice as well as my mentors from university who said, “Learn from other people who know what they’re doing before you make the jump.”

And so, I thought my next jump would be, “Let’s make a small transition; not quite go start my own business yet.” But let’s jump into someone else’s business where there were like essentially five criterias I was trying to meet.

One was that, I would have to, one, join a company where the founders were previously successful; so they knew exactly what they’re doing so I could learn from them. Second, there’s a culture that I actually enjoy working at so it mustn’t feel like I was working long days for people I didn’t enjoy. Third is that I would be in a role that would allow me to grow the company so it’s a very sensual role. The fourth one was I need to enjoy the product. And then fifth is that they were showing signs of growing, so as a result, I would have more and more responsibilities at the startup.

And so, I kept a tab of, I think an excel sheet, I think, of kind of like 50 companies I was tracking that were in the education tech space. And this particular one, Jumpcut, stood out because they were essentially combining online courses. And they were trying to be the Netflix of education at the time, which is how do we make education entertaining?

And they were founded by certain entrepreneurs that launched successful 7-figure businesses before. So I knew I was going to learn a lot and it was a small company at the time so I still joined early on.

So that was casual with my job was that I love the people with a leadership team, the founding team. And once I visited them, I was like, “Wow. I’m sold. As in, I want to be part of this vision of yours to be, to grow this business and to change the world of education.”

And so, that’s why I made the jump. It was more; it less was less of an impulse with more of – I knew Davis’ was eventually going to transition to someone else’s company to learn the ropes before I start my own. But let’s find one where I knew I was going to learn the skills that I would want to have as an entrepreneur down the road if it’s two years, 20 years; whatever year down the road.

Meryl

Yeah. I love that. And it sounds like you were optimizing for learning rather than for money in the beginning, and also, trying to align yourself with people who had already done something that you were going to do so you could learn about that process.

And I believe you started My Consulting Offer while you were working in that role. So could you talk through what it looked like in terms of how did you actually decide what you were going to sell? I think you have a framework around how you can quickly validate a product or a service. Could you talk through what that framework is, but also, how you applied that to actually figuring that out for yourself what your product or service is going to be?

Davis:

Absolutely. So I’ll talk about the framework, but I’ll talk about the fire that I had to put out in order to move fast with that framework, which is, I moved down to Los Angeles. So I joined Jumpcut; loved the company. It’s like probably the best companies, I think, anyone could ever work with.

And at the time, we weren’t profitable and I was still living in California. So I was still filing California taxes, rent and I was still supporting my mom back at home. So when I took that 40-45% pay cut to work there, my idea was that either one, Jumpcat was going to quickly grow and then my salary can grow. Or two, I would have to find a business on the weekend to supplement.

It wasn’t too hard until one day, one of my family members had an operation that cost about $21,000. And that, I needed to pay off. And all of a sudden, I didn’t have that money in my savings. I was like, “Oh, shoot. I had to pay this medical debt.” And then, my parents, very bad with health insurance; of US healthcare system in general. So anyone who’s not watching this where those podcasts from the US just like their healthcare system there. But the US healthcare didn’t do us any favours there.

And so, that was the fire that I needed, which was, now you have this $20,000 USD debt. What are you going to do with that? And so, I needed to quickly validate a business. And as I mentioned, I’ve had like six businesses fail; one that was kind of successful, but not as good it will pay off $20,000.

And so, the framework that I use was very simple, which was within a weekend, I would try to validate different ideas, and I had a saying, which is that, “It’s not science, you need clients.” And when I say clients, it’s going to be like customers, users; whatever it is. But I just needed people to start paying me.

And so, what I did was I made a list of ideas that I thought could be helpful. And it usually revolved around three things; my hypothesis, which was, one, what’s the problem that exists that people are trying to actively get a solution to? Like, for example, there are books trying to solve it; there are forums. People are actually spending time and money trying to solve it.

Second one that I can actually build a business around, like I actually have a skill set to do it. And then, three, one that would actually; I enjoy in a launch room. There’s a thing in the launch room there.

So previously, how I learned this lesson was back a couple of years earlier before for this venture, I was invited to speak at TEDx, which is one of the highlights of my public speaking. And a lot of people wrote up to me. It’s like, “Hey, Davis. I would love to speak at TEDx.”

So to me, I thought, “Oh, wow. People probably want to learn how to speak at TEDx. So what if I make an online course about this?” And so, I ended up spending months creating this online course, and then I tried to launch it, and then nothing. No one bought it, so I basically lost time, I lost money. I actually bought a site to host all of this. It’s like, went to crap, as in, I wasted three months. This is like before I moved to Jumpcut.

And so, I didn’t want to repeat that same mistake. So what I do is when I start a business that I quickly validate it to figure out if people are willing to buy it. So what I’ll do is I’ll go and find a community of these people who are talking about the service and the problem, and then just be a member of it so I can solve people’s problems.

So the framework I used is very simple. So on a Friday, I’ll literally find a forum. So in the case for My Consulting Offer, it was all about management consulting, which is actually the first item on my list to do. It’s like, “Well, let’s give it a try.” So I try to find communities, and there was one community online on Reddit called SubReddit Consulting.

There are people asking for advice on their resume, on their interview skills, so I just started contributing. And then a bunch of people reached out to me like just organically; like just direct messaging my user account on Reddit. And I just said, “Hey, how about we get on a phone to talk about it?”

And then, we would just talk on the phone. I would provide a ton of value for like a 30-minute call consultation. And then, at the end of it, I would literally ask the question of, “If I had a paid program, would you be interested in learning more?” And that’s how I gauged the interest. It’s like, if they said NO, there’s no interest, but if they said YES, I’m on to something.

But even better is remember, it’s not science, you need clients, and I just say, “Great. So the price of the program is X. And I’m only going to hold the spot for today. Would you like to join?” And I find that money speaks louder than words. Like, people could say that they want your service, but until they actually put the money down, you don’t really have a business.

So as a result, what I ended up doing was having people commit. And once I had people committed; so I said this to myself, “If I can get 12 clients with this service over this weekend, I will run with the business. If not, I’ll just refund everyone’s business.”

And long story short was that the first 12 calls, all people enrolled. So that taught me that my price was way too low, but also, it’s like I think I had a viable business. And that’s how My Consulting Offer started. But had I not gone the 12 sign-ups, I would have gotten to the next idea, then the next idea, then the next idea until eventually, I would find one that works.

But it all started with finding a community of people who are very passionate about solving the problem at hand, and providing them a ton of value, and asking them to essentially transfer cash for you in exchange for helping them solve their problem.

Meryl:

And so were you taking payment on the go or were you getting a commitment call where they’re physically giving you their credit card details?

Davis:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. As in even in day one, actually, in hindsight, I should have set up a credit card portal for it. But in the beginning, I literally just took Venmo or PayPal because it’s like I did not want to bother with Stripe or anything just yet because I was just really validating an idea.

So I was taking commitment on the call, and if sometimes people needed like a couple of hours or 24 hours, then that’s totally fine. But I needed to validate everything by the end of the weekend. So like Friday when I started interacting, Saturday when I have the calls, and by Saturday and Sunday, hopefully, we have those 12 people enrolled.

Meryl:

I’m going to ask what your price point was, if you’re comfortable sharing; when you’re making those initial sales?

Davis:

Yeah, absolutely. So funny enough, back then, the price was then at $1,000. So it was just me needing to know; like if I knew I had 10 people, it would be $12,000 at the time. And then, obviously, our price have gone up since then. But back then, I just needed a validation. And it’s like the fact that 12 people just said YES immediately or within a couple of hours really spoke that our price on it was low.

Meryl:

Yes. But also, I mean, I love that story. It also shows that you gave enough value and there was enough of the pain point that without having a brand or a company or website; any of that, it was literally you providing value on that call that were willing to part with $1,000. So yeah, love that.

So what did it look like after that? So you, over the weekend, you validated the idea. You saw that people were willing to pay for it. So what did you do next?

Davis:

So the next thing that I got to do was figure out, again, what their pain points were. So I actually had to build a product on the go. So instead of building it all like I did in the TEDx videos, what I did was I decided, “Let’s just do it in batches.”

So for example, in a management consulting or the job hunt space is get the interview, pass the interview. So I decided to divide the program into essentially four weeks. And there’s nothing magic about four, but it’s like, two of them were spent about getting the interview; two of them were spent about passing the interview.

And so, every week I would just go in a group call and then have one-on-one calls afterwards just to figure out what their pain points. I would come up with a couple of slides about things I will teach, but a lot of the materials, people are just asking questions about. And so, people would ask these questions and I would build it up.

And so, in the beginning, I was just trying to build essentially a minimal viable product. And just, in the beginning, it was just literally a Zoom call uploaded on YouTube. That was how simple our first online course was and then with the coaching. But basically, it just helped them everything I could.

So I will say that after two rounds of it, I was able to pay off the medical debt. But in the beginning, if you really looked at it, I probably would have made more money as an Uber driver just because I spent so much time per person. But it’s like, you needed that initial results to validate everything else.

So I knew people were paying me. So the second part was just the fulfilment. So I did everything I could to help them get the result I promised, and then at the end of it, collected testimonials, which today, I think is like the biggest asset outside of our people that we have is the testimonials. Because when people go to our page, nowadays, we have nearly a hundred testimonials.

And if you just go through the page and see that, wow, these are real results of real people who are recording this that was on videos, saying, “I can actually look on their LinkedIn, I can actually find them on Facebook,” all the ways that you could prove that these are actually real results.

And so, I collected the testimonials but did everything I could. And I calculated my earnings, and I think it was like $5 to $7 USD per hour. So again, I could have made more as an Uber driver. But that initial push gave us the viral, or not viral; viral as in, the community, which is people started referring me to other people. We didn’t do paid ads or anything.

And that’s how the business took off on the weekends was just going through it; providing a great service. And people say, “Hey, you have talk to my friend Davis,” or “You have to talk to my coach, Davis,” “You have to talk to my mentor, Davis,” or whatever it was that they called me. And that’s how we started the business at the beginning was just being really great to our current clients.

Meryl:

Yeah. That really makes sense. And so, at what point did you decide, “Alright, it’s time to get a company name, time to get a website.” And where did you take it after the; you mentioned doing two cohorts or two groups of students? And I think we went from 0 to about $3,000 per month. So what did it look like scaling from there? And then also, at what point did you decide that you needed to get things like a company name or a website?

Davis:

Absolutely. And I say that about those place like company name, I probably need a bookkeeper, I probably need all of these things. So funny, I actually did not decide to do that until; it was actually about a little less than a year, in like 11 months in.

So the first time, as in, when people ask me, “Hey, do you have any testimonials?” I was literally, I would send them a Google Drive folder; it had all our testimonials. And then, if people asked about the program, it was just literally a PDF that I would send them. No website or anything; it’s just a PDF.

And because again, I didn’t have time. I was just doing this on Saturday and Sunday on top of the full-time job Monday through Friday. So I just didn’t have time to even upload a WordPress site or anything like that. And if it’s really needed; no one ever asked for a website for the first one.

But as we grew roughly around 11 months in, that’s when I started thinking, “We should probably speak at universities.” And so, to start that, I actually did need a website. So my first website was actually just a landing page. Basically an About Us page with some video clips and so forth from YouTube.

And it was like nothing fancy at all. It was just literally a landing page. It wasn’t even hosted by a WordPress or anything. It was just literally put up a page really quickly. And eventually, I had to do our taxes and so forth, and the CPA who I was working with said, “Hey Davis, you’ll probably get an LLC.” I was like, “Yup. I should probably get an LLC.”

And then, of course, when you get an LLC in the US, you can’t defer your name; you have to pick a name. So I was like, “Alright, team,” or, at the time, I had a bunch of contractors, I was like, “Alright, which name do you guys like?” And they’re like, “My Consulting Offer.” “Great.”

So I always thought I could change the name. Turns out, it’s very complicated to change your LLC name. And so, that’s how we got My Consulting Offer. It wasn’t like something scientific, it was just more like, “ Alright. My Consulting Offer. Well, done. It’s available. Let’s just take that.” And so we ended up taking that.

And that’s how we ended up getting a website, which was that at the point of need. And then tax is the same idea was the point of need for all these credit card bookkeeping; it was made at the point where I needed to be able to make it to the next level but not before I needed it.

Meryl:

I think that’s a mistake that a lot of newer business owners make; focusing on the wrong thing. So spending months on a website when probably you’re going to iterate your product or your service and there’s going to be a lot of changes. So focusing on getting customers and being really clear about what problem you’re solving is super important, but it’s sometimes hard to do.

It’s easy to focus on what’s my logo going to look like or what colour scheme are we using? But those things don’t matter. So I love this lesson that you can scale up a business without a website for, I think you said for the whole first year.

Davis:

Yeah. First year, we reached 6 figures, and that’s 6 figures a month. We reached 6 figures within a year with just no website. It was just like Google Form, Google Docs and a PDF.

Meryl:

And you mentioned when you were coming up with that name that you had a team of contractors. So what did that look like? At what point did you decide to bring on contractors, and what was their role? What tasks were they helping you with?

Davis:

Absolutely. So after we started earning some money, and we passed the per month average cost time, one of the things that I wanted to be able to do was to think about how do I free up my time because I was only working on this on the weekends; so Saturday, Sunday.

And, of course, I realized I was doing a couple of things that, for example, I was doing; there were a couple of people reaching out for like questions – so answer emails. There were, essentially me, making sure that certain emails went out at certain times. And of course, we didn’t have a software or anything like that that was keeping the operations. And in terms like, for example, reaching out to universities to speak.

And I realized the first person I needed was to free up my operations time. So away from, for example, answering emails and so forth. So the first person I ever hired a contractor was just a VA; so a Virtual Assistant for me and just to free up a couple of more hours on my weekend. And so, she was also a working full-time job, so she just wanted a job on the weekend. And so, she became my first contractor was just to free up some time so I can do more coaching, more sales calls and more marketing.

And that went on, so she was my first and only contractor for a little bit. And then, later on, about three or four months, business is growing. I was like, “Oh, crap. I don’t have enough time.” Like, I literally was working 12 hours; 12 to 14-hour calls per day per weekend. So like, 28 hours straight calls. I literally would buy my lunch in the morning at the breakfast by the time I go to and I would just have like double sandwiches or whatever.

Meryl:

And then back to your full-time job on Monday.

Davis:

Exactly. I was just so exhausted on that one. So that, I realized, “Okay. So the next thing I needed to do was like fulfilment.” So it’s very similar to what you and Ben realized when you’re doing Bean Ninjas. It’s like essentially, you just needed to be able to hire people out to do some of the work itself as well.

And so, we did the same thing, which was how do I operationalize my fulfilment? So the first role that I hired out contractors were just for coaches. And so, I was very strict on the first people I hired because these were like; basically, we didn’t have a name at the time. It was like, this still in the first year.

And so, I would have people go through the wringer, I would look every gear and so forth before I even hired any contractors. But I ended up hiring contractors who were former consultants themselves who were looking for a side income. So in the beginning, it was like students who were going back to business school who had worked at these prestigious firms and getting a degree.

So it was a win-win. They had time. They wanted the cash and I had the clients. But I wanted to make sure it was; they were as good or better than me, so I had to have guidelines. We’ve since grown our entire curriculum. So we have this, but in the beginning, I was just monitoring everything. It’s almost like I was replicating the work. It’s like the analogy I’d like to use is almost like I was hiring a babysitter except, I would watch the babysitter babysit. It was like so redundant.

And so, that was a learning for me that I needed to let go. But that was the first time that we did was I had a bunch of coaches to do some of the coaching with me. So then, that reduced the number of coaching sessions I had so I could focus more on the marketing, and eventually, bringing people to ride on the sales calls. And that’s how I went with my time.

So that was the first contractor was the VA, then we have the coaches. And that was all within the first year. Eventually, we would hire more contractors for like other operations role, project coordinator, and eventually, a sales team. But in the first year, it was basically just all operations and fulfilment.

Meryl:

Yup. And Dave, you’ve got a framework for deciding what sales channel to focus on, too. So where you spend your time and looking at the impact of what different sales channels would be. So could you talk about the framework and then how you decided what; I think you described your early sales channel, which was jumping on a call; so commenting in communities that had a group of people that were interested in your offer. Jumping on a call, and then, at the end of the call, presenting the offer.

Did you keep using that strategy? And then, at what point did you then start to test other sales channels, and how did that fit into the framework?

Davis:

Absolutely. So I’ll walk through the framework and then we’ll walk through the example. Great. That’s a great question. So the framework I have is essentially I would take people back to their Math school days here is imagine an X and Y plot axis. So a 2 by 2 matrix for anyone who’s aware of that.

But eventually, you have an x-axis and a y-axis. So the x-axis is, essentially, for me, thinking about how much time is it going to take me to implement this. So how much time, again, I’m working on weekends, so ideally, I want to be on the right end side of it, which is it takes very little time to implement.

And then, the y-axis on the side is going to be the impact. So high impact means high up and then low impact means down to the lower side the Y. And of course, if you can imagine this 2 by 2 matrix, what you want to aim for is you want to aim for things that are long time commitment but also high impact.

So that is the goal that you want to do is things that can immediately have an impact on your business. In this case, for me, it was how do I grow my profits, or how do I grow my results for the clients I’m working with, and how do I do it in a minimum amount of time.

And so, that’s how I think about a lot of these decisions, especially in the first two years of our business when I was just working on it part-time. And so, I would think about the ideas, like, for example, let’s take one of the ideas that someone presented, which was, “Hey, Davis. Do you know what? You know it would be great if you can form a formal relationship with these firms.”

And these companies, like they’re trying to hire like via headhunting model. And I was like, “Yeah, that could be. As in, that would give you access.” But I realized that’s going to take a lot of time to do to build these relationships but I didn’t have many of this. So it would be on the left-hand side and the impact was probably going to be low because why do they need me when they already have access to like the Harvard’s, the Oxford’s and so forth of the world.

So that would be like the opposite of what I want, which is going to be high-type commitment, low impact. So ideas like that, I would blew it up. And of course, there are other items that were high impact, but also, but it took a lot of time, for example, SEO. We actually didn’t start SEO until the end of 2019.

And so, SEO, for me, it was also, it was a high impact item. So it was like high on the Y, but it was also on the left-hand side of time because it takes a lot of time for anyone who’s in the SEO space for it to kick in, especially if you have a new website. So that was out.

So the only left, the last thing, which was the things that are quickly, but either high impact or low impact. So I was thinking about things that we’re high impact and high time. So at the time, I knew Reddit was working for us. But one of the things that took a lot of my time was I had to go in there and post one-on-one by myself, and that took a lot of time to generate leads.

So then, Reddit came to me and they said, “Hey, do you want to write some Reddit ads?” And I was like, “Oh, geez. I didn’t know Reddit have ads,” as in, “Alright, I could try.” And for anyone who’s in the ads space, the CMP for Reddit ads at the time was about $1.12, which was like insane when you compare it to like Facebook, which is like $40. So that’s like you can get it for; it’s actually 98% cheaper. So I was like, “Alright. Let’s take it.” And it’s targeted.

So I decided to set up a Reddit ad. And it took, literally, it took me less than two hours to set everything up because Reddit ads are very simple. It’s just, what’s your headline, what’s your call-to-action link, and then, do you want an image? And now, they have a video. But it’s like, what is those three things, and then, you could set all that up really quickly.

So I just basically create everything within it. I used Google forms in the beginning because I didn’t have a website, remember? And so, we used Google forms, so people will just find me out there. And I just set the ads to run, and then, all of a sudden, I was getting about like 20 people interested per day from that.

And remember, in the beginning, I was just literally just spending my time on these forums. And maybe I would get like, maybe 10 on a really good weekend of people interested. But here, automatically, like I’m getting 20 people submitting their interest to work with me on Reddit of all places. And I didn’t have to do it automatically. I just have to spend a couple of dollars on it. So it just became a very easy platform for me.

And so, high impact; low time. And we continue to do that iteratively every single year when I’m thinking about what platform or what channel for us to explore next is. And I do this for not just sales but hiring for operations, for projects that we take on is what’s going to provide us immediate impact for the lowest time that we can commit.

So it’s the same thing with our school relationships is we think about what schools have our ideal audience or ideal clients, but also, they are willing to work for us. So it doesn’t take that much time there to basically tell them that this collaboration is going to work versus like a school where it’s like the opposite, which is that they have a lot of gatekeeping processes and then the audience isn’t really relevant to what we wanted to do. So I use this 2 by 2 matrix for pretty much a lot of decision-making in my life.

Meryl:

Yeah. Because it’s easy; so many people give you advice when you’re running your business, “Oh, you should do YouTube. Oh, you should do SEO.” And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or feel that you have to do all those strategies. So I think having some kind of framework to make decisions about what’s going to have the biggest impact for your business, and also assessing basically what the return of investment is, what’s the time required or the resources required is super helpful.

So we’ll come back to your story. And you’ve taken us through how you started and then how you’ve got a product-market bid and the way that you started to scale that and build out your team of contractors. And now, I’m interested in what did the business looked like when you scaled it to $100,000 per month. And this was back in 2019, I believe.

Davis:

Yup, back last year.

Meryl:

Yeah. And then, once you’ve answered that, if it looks any different now? So what did it look like as $100,000 a month business?

Davis:

Yeah. So when we met back in Bangkok in October, so at $100,000, I will tell you, people ask the question of how does it look like but I want to prefix it by saying, “You don’t need to get to this big,” as in, I will tell you, it does take a lot more. You can do it with software and so forth, but we have essentially a coaching consulting business, so it’s a little different.

But just make sure that I would ask anyone who’s thinking about scaling, “Do you really want this?” Because I’ll tell you what we’re doing right now. So if I compared myself to year one when I first started this back in 2017, it was just me. And then, of course, I had a VA who took care of the email support.

But fast forward two years, and you essentially have these teams. So right now, last year, what it looked like was we had a sales team of three people, we had operations team of many people; contractor plus operations manager to look over everything. And then we also had a staple of contractor coaches; all part-time, who were putting in a couple of hours per week to coaching our clients and making sure that they can get interviews and offers.

And I was pretty much the same old me is that I wasn’t doing the coaching or the sales or the operations a bit, but I was still managing people, and that was a lot of people to manage. So I would tell you, like, for example, when one of our coaches in the middle of our busy season who was; his father was involved in a car accident. So obviously, he needs to go across the country to go be there, but of course, but his clients also have interviews that week.

So I’m over here like calling to see who could fit in their schedule, their niche, and transfer their knowledge and everything like that. So it is, as you grow, the type of problems you also encounter also grows. So that’s how the business worked, which was just that I learned to remove myself from the coaching, from the sales, and from the operations of it. So I was focusing mainly on the marketing part of the business and just managing each of the teams. And that’s how it looked last year.

And how it looks right now about, well, probably four or five months after the event is that we’re still growing. And then, I went back to the drawing board and thought about, “How can we get and generate more interested potential clients?” So did that, and we actually, some of the things that were on our matrix last year, the 2 by 2 that took a lot of time, now, didn’t take as much time since I have a team now.

And so, it moved over from long time commitment to short time commitment. And I was able last month to have some bunch of channels, a bunch of different ad channels. Like I said, I’d like to do things that take a little time to invest but I could quickly find out if the ROI is positive or not.

So I did talk about the successes, but there’s been a lot of failures and things that are short term, but let’s say the impact was pretty low. But we discovered one channel that worked really well for us, and then, we decided to scale it. But the amount of the problem was people were waiting two to three weeks to talk to us.

And for anyone who does any consultation type sales or accounting or lawyers and either of that, you’ll know that if you have someone schedule a call two to three weeks out, their chance of showing up dramatically decreases because it’s like no longer, it’s like, they’re like, “Who are you?” And so, I am back on sales, the sales team currently right now until we continue to grow it out. So it’s a good problem to have, but it is a problem.

Meryl:

And what’s next for you? Is there something that you’re aiming for revenue-wise or team size-wise or profit; not that you need to share numbers, but how do you set those targets in terms of where you want to be in the future? What are you thinking about?

Davis:

Yeah. So this is maybe me not being as good as you are with the numbers and knowing our end goal, but my goals are pretty qualitative. So there’s like three goals that I have. And one of them is external to the company, and one is internal to the company, and one is internal to myself.

So externally to the company is I want us to be the number one resource that people go to when it comes to being able to become a management consulting. So it’s kind of like what people think of Bean Ninjas. They think this is the standard of bookkeeping and making sure that it’s stable.

I want that for our industry where it’s like people go to us and they recognize us as the leader of our industry. And my joke is that one day, I want us to be so good that some of the firms that we help place people either want to work with us, or they’re like, “Screw you, Davis, for changing how we do our interview process. Just screw your company over.” So that’s the goal.

And of course, in me, it’s like, so this year, for example, we’re spending a lot of time investing in R&D into our curriculum, training our coaches and making sure that we have a better platform, better materials. And we’ve gone a long time since YouTube and Zoom, so I want to make sure that we continue to evolve that. And so, that’s the external goal.

The internal goal is I actually want to empower my team. It’s less about the money but it’s more about how do I empower my team to step up and take a leadership role, like be the head of product, be the head of operations, be the head of our marketing sales and so forth. And that’s the next step is internally, I want to empower my team. They’ll feel like this is the best place they’ve ever worked.

And the internal goal is for me. And so this is more me, but a lot of people don’t notice but a lot of the profits we actually make, like even last year we made during the 2019 year, I actually donate to creating schools.

So I really care about education, and the summer before I started working at Bain after I graduated from university, I actually; I volunteered at a number of nonprofits across the world and a lot of them was about building physical schools, like picking up a hammer or cement and things like that.

And so, a lot of the profits we make, or after expenses for the team; like I guess might take a bit, I would actually donate to starting scholarship funds to non-profits because I realized how lucky I was going back to my grandma that my grandma decided to just leave Vietnam to go to the US to start a better life so that I could eventually go to university.

So I want other people to have that opportunity even if they are living in a remote village in Laos, for example. And that’s pretty much what my mission is that as the business becomes more successful is that we’re able to outfit more schools, sponsor to more schools and to be able to provide an education, a better opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn’t have this opportunity.

So it’s kind of like I want to play the role of helping people create opportunities for themselves. And just [Inaudible 00:42:18] because I always say to myself every day I wake up, it’s like, “You know what it’s like being a business owner; it’s like high and lows.” Like, we’re talking about my highs now but there’s just so many lows about being a business owner that we don’t talk about.

As in, we always talk about the glamorous parts, but if you look at my day-to-day, a lot of it is not glamorous at all. But I’m always grateful because I am given this opportunity to run this amazing business. And so, even in my low days, I always think, “Wow, this was given to me. I didn’t really earn it. I was just born into this.”

So even if we were born into like a poor community in the worst school system in the US, I was at least given a chance to succeed, so I want to help other people succeed. So that’s my third goal. So hopefully that answers your question about where the vision of this business is going.

Meryl:

I love that. And really, it sounds like you’ve got a very clear why around the business. And I like the way that you framed that in terms of what was external, what was internal, and then, what was important for you.

And I, too, I’m interested in things like metrics and things like targets, but I actually think it’s really important to work backwards from a why. So there’s no point in just having a random revenue goal, “Oh, I want to be a 7-figure business or I want to get an 8-figure business.”

And yes, it  actually aligns with what your own why is around what kind of business you are trying to create, what kind of team you’re trying to create, what kind of life that you want to live.

We have an episode where I talked about my own reflections on this when I think revenue can be more of a vanity metric, and it’s important to think about building something sustainable that you enjoy and work backwards from; what kind of life you want to have rather than having random metrics that you’ve picked because you feel like you have to. And so, I think the way that you articulated that was a great example of that. So thanks for sharing.

Davis:

Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a lot of people; well, I always think about what is your why. To me it’s so important is that I know people who, mentors of mine, who are multi-millionaires, and they’re just not as happy as some of the people I’ve been able to meet, let’s say, the owner of a duck and rice store. And that’s just like nowhere near their scale, but they’re just so much happier in the balance in life, as in, I think having a why is just so important to what you want and it just really helps you with your low days.

As in, obviously, you share a lot of it in your podcast, and people don’t realize is that sometimes, you wake up, it’s like all the problems from yesterday; it’s kind of like if you don’t have that why – why you’re continuing and why your purpose, then it’s so easy to give up.

And I think being entrepreneurs, that’s the most difficult thing is that it’s not your competitors, it’s not changes in the market, it’s not a complaint by one client or customer. Really, it’s that mental battle that you face with every day you wake up is. And if you don’t have a why for that, your fortitude eventually goes away, and then all of it just; you burn out.

Meryl:

Yup. Absolutely. 100% agree. Well, Davis, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. You’ve shared so many really valuable insights from how you’re doing things, and I think they’re really applicable to other business owners, too. Was there anything else you wanted to add or any final comments that you wanted to share before we wrap up?

Davis:

Yes. Well, one of the things I always think about is that; just two things, is that, one, the fact that you’re listening to this podcast or any podcast at all, just realize how grateful this opportunity is. As in, take it from someone who basically watch my grandma’s store being burned down and being robbed multiple times that she has to literally start all over again is that we’re in such a great place that even though the lowest moments of your low; I felt low as in there’s like 99% in the world, which is, they’re wearing your position. And I think that’s such a great place for us to be but we need to be able to recognize that privilege.

And then, the second thing is also realize, too, is that when you’re running a business, you can see like there’s a hundred million things going as a team that businesses is how do we scale today is always think about go back to the basics and think about what are the two, one or two things you want to focus on, as in, I guess one of the pros and cons like going to a conference, you meet fantastic people. For example, that’s how we met.

But it’s like, at the same time, it’s almost overwhelming. Like, people are telling, “You need to do this, you need to do that.” But just go back to the basics and think about what is your why and how do you get there. And so, when people look at our business, it’s like, it’s super simple and I try to keep it that way on purpose.

And so, just make sure that when you feel overwhelmed, just remember, go back to the basics. And second, just realize how in such a great position you’re at.

Meryl:

Yeah. Thanks so much. And lastly, if anyone wanted to get in touch with you, where’s the best place, and website or are you on social media?

Davis:

Yeah, absolutely. I’m super easy to find. So I’ll send in the show notes for you. But you can contact me at myconsultingoffer.org or you can just go to my personal blog, davisnguyen.com. Both for those; I’m super reachable.

Meryl:

Fantastic. Great. Thanks so much, Davis.

Meryl:

You know, recent industry survey was found that 41% of eCommerce businesses have done nothing to compare for an economic crisis. But what are the top sellers doing and how has the recession impacted these eCommerce sellers?

Well, to find out, Bean Ninjas have created a survey to gauge the impact of the economic recession on 7-figure eCommerce sellers and we’d love for you to take part. The more data we can gather from different eCommerce sellers, the better analysis that we can put together.

And we’ll be sharing the results and expect that it will be helpful for all eCommerce store owners to benchmark themselves again to what’s happening in the industry, and also, how they’re tracking compared to some of the top eCommerce sellers out there.

You can take the survey at BeanNinjas.com/recessionsurvey.

That’s BeanNinjas.com/recessionsurvey. All one word. And the survey closes on the 5th of June.

Thanks so much for your participation. And if you know of any other eCommerce merchants who might be willing to complete the survey or who might benefit from the results, then please share it with them, too. Thanks.

Contact Davis Nguyen:

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