An eBook as a lead generation tool is a fantastic content marketing initiative that can position you as an expert in your industry while developing new business. As an eBook author herself, Susan was recently a guest of Rob Kosberg, on his podcast: Publish. Promote. Profit. Rob Kosberg is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Forbes, and Entrepreneur magazine. On the show, Rob shares his own expertise on authority marketing and the power of writing a book. Listen as Susan and Rob talk about the following:

  • How a fractional COO can help small businesses achieve success without breaking the bank
  • Common pitfalls of business owners that stifle growth and scalability
  • How eradicating chaos in your business through systemizing and creating processes can give you your life back
  • A simple three-step process to streamline your operations
  • How Susan’s eBook identifies the problems in your business that prohibit growth

Please find the full video transcript below. 

Rob Kosberg:  Hey, welcome to the Publish Promote Profit podcast with me, Rob Kosberg. Every week I interview thought leaders and experts who have used the book to grow their income and their impact. Tune in weekly for these interviews so you can learn how to use your own bestselling book and go from hunting for clients and opportunities to instead being the hunted.

All right. Hey, welcome everybody. Rob Kosberg here with another episode of our Publish Promote Profit podcast. Excited to be with you today. I have a great guest I think you’re going to learn a lot from. I’m actually really looking forward to speaking to her about her process to take entrepreneurs beyond the chaos of their business. Susan Fennema is the CEO, and CEO stands for Chaos Eradicating Officer. I almost said chief. That was just ingrained in my brain. Your business, of course, is Beyond the Chaos, a consultancy for small business owners to simplify their operations and manage their projects so they can grow their businesses and get their lives back. Love that.

You obviously have 30 years of operations and project management experience, so I imagine you’ve developed your process from that time. Of course, living in McKinney, Texas, it says when you’re not making multi-cores dinners, you enjoy Texas A&M football games, go SEC, and Blackhawks hockey. So, Susan, great to have you on the podcast. Thanks for being here with us today.

Susan Fennema:  Thanks for having me, Rob. I’m looking forward to this.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah, it’ll be fun. We were chatting obviously just a little bit before we got started, and volumes of material have been written. I think probably the E-Myth comes to mind the most for me, of small business owners that become trapped by their business, and that may be because of how they got involved in it, or it may be because of not knowing what they don’t know. In your case, I’m sure that that’s a part of it. Maybe let’s start a little bit from the beginning. How’d you get involved in it, and did you have your own kind of problems and mistakes that you had to work through? What did that look like for you in the beginning?

Susan Fennema:  You know, it’s interesting, the way I started my business is because I have always been that employee at a company who worked directly for a business owner, helping them do all that thing, all those things.

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  The one that everybody goes to, the one that knows how everything works, or at least knows who to send you to.

Rob Kosberg:  I love that employee. That’s a great employee.

Susan Fennema:  I know.

Rob Kosberg:  Oh, yeah.

Susan Fennema:  I work at a lot of places where everybody’s like, “Oh, you need a Susan, I need a Susan.” There was always that. I love the way that makes me feel. It makes you feel really needed.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  When I left my last company, part of why I left was I wanted more, and I just kept thinking over and over, “Why would I keep only working for one at a time?”

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  That’s where the idea came about of fractional COO type work.

Rob Kosberg:  I was going to ask you about that, because I saw that on your LinkedIn, and I’ve never seen that before. Obviously, fractional CFOs are common, but I’d never seen a fractional COO before. That’s a very, very cool way to put it.

Susan Fennema:  Well, and for the companies I work with, which are usually 25 people or fewer, hiring a COO full-time, that is expensive and it is a long-term obligation, and probably substantially more than you need. Now, once you get to 25 people or more, you probably need someone like me, even if it’s not at the C level, maybe it’s an operations director or something like that. But up until that point, really hiring one full-time, it’s a lot of money to put out, and it’s all overhead, right? It’s operational stuff. The only time you can make money back really on somebody like that is if they’re also doing project management for your clients and you have clients that require that, and then maybe you could build some of that out. But you’re not ever going to capture all of it.

One of the things I learned throughout my history is that first year, year-and-a-half, man, the impact that you can make on a business while you systemize and develop processes, it’s huge. But then after that, okay, well, keep paying me. I’m floating. All I’m doing is making sure it still keeps going, which if you have a fractional person, then maybe they are just checking in once a quarter and making sure, or touching base once a month and make sure you’re staying on track, or however the case may be there. But it really avoids you having that long time employee too, who is not having as much impact.

Rob Kosberg:  You know, I love that. I have a great operations person. He’s been a friend for a long, long time. There was always that little fear of what was it going to be like working together. I think both of us had that, but one of the amazing benefits for me besides the fact that I’ve offloaded so much of what, honestly, I wasn’t good at anyway onto him, but an amazing benefit has been the number of happy clients and referrals that we have gotten. I mean, I probably need to one day really put pen to paper and maybe even track it, but it’s pretty considerable what happiness and happy clients lead to when it comes to real business growth. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of that as well in what you do.

Susan Fennema:  Cleaning up that fulfillment process is definitely part of what we do, whatever that may be. In our case, it’s professional services type work, but there are absolutely operational experts and even fractional COO’s for manufacturing type companies and product-based companies. That fulfillment part, it doesn’t matter how much you sell if you can’t fulfill and make somebody happy. You want to make sure that they’re coming back, that they give good reviews, that they will refer other people,

Rob Kosberg:  They buy again.

Susan Fennema:  Right? The easiest client to keep is one you already have.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  So, what are you putting in place to manage that client after they become part of your team and are a part of your business? I even look at it from look at that person taking that first step from entering into your sales process, however they come in, what is their path all the way through to when they are giving you referrals? What does that look like, and what are those processes all involved along that path to keep them moving towards that end goal of happy customer?

Rob Kosberg:  Love that, love that. Tell me, I mean, you’ve seen a lot, I’m sure, not just in businesses that you’ve worked for, but in this fractional role that you do as a consultant now. What are some of the biggest mistakes that business owners make over and over and over again that kind of traps them, if you will, in this place?

Susan Fennema:  There’s two that are really big. One is, I don’t want to say that they’re penny pinchers, but maybe it’s more believing I can or have to do it all, and I don’t want to spend money on that.

Rob Kosberg:  Gotcha.

Susan Fennema:
So, you’re spending hours and hours and hours on building your website, which is not your skillset.

Rob Kosberg: Right.

Susan Fennema:  But that’s what you’re going to do because this one time you took a class and you learned WordPress. You know? That’s not necessarily a great use of your time, but you talked earlier about what are some of the pitfalls that I fell into even knowing better, and that was definitely one of them. When I was starting out, especially when I started out before I had a team, I did feel like I had to do everything. There isn’t money to give away, to give away. I’m doing air quotes, because it’s not really giving it away. Right? It’s investing in something that somebody can do better than you.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  That’s one of the main things, is realizing what that hourly rate is for you, and then figuring out what all of those other tasks are worth. So, if you’re a $200 an hour person, say that that’s what your rate is, then is responding to every single email that is about a potential meeting, is that something that you should be doing, or should you have a VA that be $20 an hour doing that?

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  Especially if they do it great, like mine does. She’s awesome. So, thinking about it in those terms, that’s one of the first main things I think that small business owners get sucked into. The other is not having any process so that they cannot delegate. When you say it’s just too much, you’ve finally given up, “I’m going to get help. I know I should get help,” “Man, nobody does it.”

Rob Kosberg:  Right, right.

Susan Fennema:  “Nobody does it the way I do it. I have to do everything.” You know? It comes back to that, and that’s a process issue. That means it’s all in your head. It is not written down in a way that is reproducible by someone else.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  This prevents you from scaling your business. If you have to own every single thing in your head, then you can’t scale. It needs to be simplified and it needs to be systemized.

Rob Kosberg:  Nice. I love it. I love it. I’m actually interested in your VA that does your email.

Susan Fennema:  She’s great. She’s super great.

Rob Kosberg:  That’s one thing I’ve never let go of, and I probably need to let go of that, especially as my email is just floating around the whole world. It’s something I need to let go of. So, that’s good. I really like that. Okay. With those two things in mind, those kind of two big block things, talk to me about your process. You mentioned maybe it was while we were talking or before that you have a three-step process that you use. Tell me what your process is and how does it fix or fit in those two big gaping holes?

Susan Fennema:  The first step in our process is that systems set you free. We spend some time with you digging out all that stuff that’s in your head.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  Getting it down, I would say on paper, but no, not on paper, somewhere in the cloud for all of your team, whether they’re in your office or virtual can access it and know what the expectation is, getting all that set up. Now, here’s the big part of this, but that doesn’t mean you’re done. You’re never done with process. It evolves and grows with you over time, and you use it and grow it. We make changes to ours all the time, because something comes up or there was a question. If that question came up, then let’s make sure it’s clear the next time.

Another great part about setting up the structure is that now when something goes wrong with an employee, you can blame the process instead of the person, and that’s so much easier. Now down the road, you might find that that person just can’t follow a process. That’s a whole other thing. But it’s so much easier and less confrontational if you are starting with, “Hey, that is not the outcome that I as the business owner was expecting. I read this way, where did we go wrong?”

Rob Kosberg:  Nice.

Susan Fennema:  “Let’s fix it.” Then now you’ve educated, you’ve updated, and the next time it shouldn’t happen again.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah. It becomes what is it about the process that’s broken rather than why are you incompetent, which is never a good and easy conversation to have. Yeah. Yeah. That’s great.

Susan Fennema:  Yeah, right.

Rob Kosberg:  And not fair, right? Not fair.

Susan Fennema:  It’s not fair. It’s not fair. Most of the time, what you get is a better process, a better relationship, and now you’re teamed up together to make this happen because you’re putting your vision into it too. They’re now seeing what the vision is that I, a business owner, expect and want my business to look at. So, we start with that.

We dig in deep and we spend probably about a month digging into what are all the tools you use? What does your team do? How many team members do you have? What hurts you the most every day? Where are you wasting time? We start with that, and then the next thing that we look at is how we start implementing all of it. So, writing the processes, perhaps managing the projects, especially if you’re a software developer or creative agency. If you don’t have a project manager as part of your team, that can be a real sap on the business owner managing all those details every day.

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  So, getting that off the plate, making sure you have the right tools for everything, from sales to your project management tool, to even how are you sending out proposals? If you need to send a written proposal, because, for example, you’re a software developer and you want to make all the specs clear or something, are you sending them a Word document in your email that they can’t sign? Make it easy. Are you using signature software?

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  That type of thing. How do you get paid? You know? What software are you using to get paid? All of those things are things that we look at to help kind of walk you through that whole system in that project management piece of it, which is the second piece there. We’re looking at, what is repeatable? What types of projects are you doing over and over again? Let’s put a template in place so that we’re always starting in the same place and we don’t forget something and have to come back to it.

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  That’s also where you get quality control, is when you start building that kind of thing too, so that you’re making sure that the copy gets proof-read, and those steps that might go by the wayside in an emergency, and if you plan it better, there will be fewer emergencies.

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  That’s part two. Then part three is really managing your interruptions. Now that you are the business owner and you have delegated and you have systemized and you have good project management in place, how are you handling your day? How are you not responding to everything, and instead driving everything? So, you’re not letting your business drag you around like a bull with a ring in its nose. Instead, you are actually deliberately doing what your business needs, and hopefully finding yourself with more free time.

Rob Kosberg:  Love that. I love that. We talk a lot to our clients about being proactive, not reactive.

Susan Fennema:  Yes.

Rob Kosberg:  Of course, we talk about that in relation to their book, using their book in terms of their marketing and that sort of thing. But, of course, you’re talking about it in terms of the entire business itself, right?

Susan Fennema:  Yes.

Rob Kosberg:  So, just wondering, what do you find with… because it sounds like you work with software companies, you work with service-based businesses in your consulting, when you free up an entrepreneur in these ways, when you accomplish step one and step two and you leave them to step three, where do most of them fall there? Not fall as in they make a mistake, but where do most of them thrive, and where’s the place that you see most of them primarily functioning in? Is it a marketing role? What role is that primarily? Just wondering, curiosity.

Susan Fennema:  For sure. Most of the business owners go to the marketing and sales part because nobody can sell your businesses as well as you can.

Rob Kosberg:  Sure.

Susan Fennema:  Nobody can. You’re the face of the company, whether you really want to be or not.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  More introverted people might fall more towards the implementation aspect, especially if you’re looking at a business owner who started their business because they were great at software development or great at a form of advertising, maybe they want to keep writing copy. So, in those ways, then you become billable to your client, and then you can hire somebody else to do that business development. So, there are ways to make all of it work, but the main thing is to find why you’re passionate about your business in the first place, because let’s face it, after you’ve done it for a long time and been beat up enough, you tend to not be passionate about it anymore.

Rob Kosberg:  Right. Right, right, right.

Susan Fennema:  What do you love to do? Let’s make sure there’s time for that in the schedule that we plan. Calendaring is a big thing that I use with that, and making sure that whatever that focus is, whether it is sales and marketing, whether it is actual implementation, that you are allocating the right amount of time every day to that job, that job you’ve made yourself.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, the thing that only you can do, and perhaps you do best.

Susan Fennema:  Or that you love to.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah, yeah.

Susan Fennema:  Or that you love to do.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah. Love that. Oftentimes, the cobbler’s kids don’t have shoes. Just wondering where, in a moment of honesty, where you find yourself maybe in error in this process, just in your own business? What’s the toughest part for you?

Susan Fennema:  That’s a great question and very fair, because we’re not all perfect. What we’re talking about is hard to do.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  So, yeah, I definitely… cobbler is last to have the shoes. Didn’t get my sales process systemized that well until last spring. Once I was able to hand that part off, I was just able to see how this could grow and how everything can scale, and how other people can understand my vision and be able to implement it just by creating a simple package. What I was selling was too hard. Nobody could do it but me, nobody could do the first part but me. We could get to the implementation and they could do it, but I had to do all the first part. It was too hard.

Rob Kosberg:  Wow.

Susan Fennema:  So, I had to actually look at, what am I selling? How do I make it simpler for my clients to understand? Then how do I make it so that my team can actually implement it for me?

Rob Kosberg:  Right.

Susan Fennema:  Because they were perfectly capable. I just hadn’t figured out how to get it out of my head.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  So, we did that last year, and I’m really starting to see it roll out so beautifully so that I get a check from a client and we say, “Hey, client, here’s your consultant,” and they go.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  It’s great. That part has been great. But, yes, that was definitely a struggle for awhile, that and also trusting somebody with my emails.

Rob Kosberg:  Oh, yeah, yeah.

Susan Fennema:  That was hard.

Rob Kosberg:  Back to email, yeah.

Susan Fennema:  I kept saying, “Oh, I don’t have any email problem,” and I didn’t. I mean, my inbox was always zero. It’s still always at zero, but, like most business owners, and I still do this, man, I’m stressed, and if I just go and open my email, I can get things done, supposedly, but you’re not getting anything done. You’re just wasting time.

Rob Kosberg:  Right. Right. Very true.

Susan Fennema:  So, it feels like you’re accomplishing something, but you’re not. But now I’ve gotten to the point that, except for those few times that I feel like I need that break, I can actually not look at my email all day. My team alerts me when something’s important, and they leave the things that I need to respond to for me to do later in the day. Now it’s not also distracting me from the things at hand.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah. I imagine you’re more productive than ever.

Susan Fennema:  Yeah. Even if I have to go in and reply to something, I still have to curb myself from looking at everything else that’s in there.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  So, that can be a challenge too. So, I’d say those are probably the two things that took the longest to get there. I’d say right now there is still part of the sales process in my head. I am the only one doing that part. That part is in my head. But at some point, it does get cut off and my team is able to even help me with that.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah. All of us, I think, that our entrepreneurs start in a similar way. Right? I mean, we’re all in two businesses. We’re in the business of the magic that we provide to clients, of course, but we’re also in the business of client attraction, getting the next customer. No one else, in my opinion, no one else does that as well as the business owner. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get help and all of that.

One thing that you’ll see, and I want to, in just a second, move to the first thing you talked about, which was the sales piece, because I want to talk about your book and how you’re using that as well. But one thing that you’ll see is even outsourcing, I don’t do any sales calls or any of that, and we drive three to 500 applications a month to work with the company. But I know if I was involved more directly, we would close a lot more than we do, a higher percentage we would close, just because, like you said, I’m the face of the business.

Being the face of the business does matter when it comes. I’m the one that’s written the best-selling books, et cetera. But that’s just not the business that I want to have. Right? And that’s not the best and highest use of my time to be on 80 or 100 or however many calls per month. So, it’s very, very good. I love the stuff that you’re saying. Let’s talk about the sales piece. I’d like to know what you’re doing for the sales and marketing piece yourself. You have a book. Tell us about the book and how do you use the book to attract clients, maybe frame yourself better, grow your authority, that sort of thing.

Susan Fennema:  Our book is Three Ways to Remove Chaos From Your Small Business. Pretty straightforward.

Rob Kosberg:  Pretty clean.

Susan Fennema:  I just told you the three ways. We use that book in our sales process as a giveaway, actually. It’s free. You can download it on our website. It pushes people through that process. The first part is educating them, and that’s what this book is for. It is that education. Then at the end, we’re giving them the opportunity to fill out an audit. In that audit, we ask a bunch of questions, and then we go through all of those and we prepare three customized suggestions for them to improve their business based on those questions.

Rob Kosberg:  No kidding.

Susan Fennema:  That begins our sales process.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  So, that call is our sales process.

Rob Kosberg:  Nice. Are they three solutions based on investment level? What are the three different various levels of solution?

Susan Fennema:  It’s usually not levels based on income. It’s usually flat-out suggestions.

Rob Kosberg:  Okay.

Susan Fennema:  You know?

Rob Kosberg:  You could try this, try this, try this.

Susan Fennema:  Try this, try this tool, use this tool differently. You need to get a handle on this area. Look at a bookkeeper. You know, those types of things that come out of looking at a bunch of businesses over time and being able to identify from that pain that the client is experiencing some ways that it could help them. Very free to take that, run with it yourself.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  But then we complete that with a sales process at the end where we talk through what we’re going to do. The book was intended to educate our clients, but it also gives some authority to what we’re doing, and it makes us appear as though we have a process, which we do.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah, yeah.

Susan Fennema:  So, it has been threefold, really, in helping us be able to explain better, just like you were asking. I haven’t heard of a fractional COO, what is that?

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah, yeah, it’s great. That might be a cool title for a book, Fractional COO. Yeah. That’s cool. I mean, because everyone’s heard of a fractional CFO. I don’t know that I’d ever heard of a fractional COO. But I get it. Even your honesty in that there are diminishing returns once systems are put into place and processes are more fully developed, though they continue to develop over time, there is diminishing returns, unless you’re deeply involved in customer service and other things, which as a fractional COO, I imagine that that’s not the case. You don’t need to be.

Susan Fennema:  You don’t. Yes, a manufacturing company, for example, might need more help as you install new equipment, as you do all of these types of things. I think even with a services businesses, as you start to grow, there are going to be turning points where you need a few more tweaks, where you need a little bit more pizazz or something to make things run a little better, but it’s not always. You can build something that you can work on. As long as you’re good at maintenance of it, it will continue to work.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah. Love it. Susan, thank you. Thanks for sharing. What a great interview. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think I like implementing those things as much as I like talking about them.

Susan Fennema:  You know, you’re not alone. Most small business owners, they are so creative. That’s why they started their business.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  They are horrible at follow-through. Horrible. That’s why you need someone like me somewhere.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah, yeah. I totally agree. Totally agree. Tell us the best places for people to find you get a copy of your book, that kind of thing. Where can we send them?

Susan Fennema:  Go to the website, beyondthechaos.biz/ebook.

Rob Kosberg:  Okay.

Susan Fennema:  You can download it there, and then all the contact information is available there too.

Rob Kosberg:  Great. So, beyondthechaos.biz.

Susan Fennema:  Yes.

Rob Kosberg:  Then /ebook, but they’ll also find, at the .biz address, they’ll find all the information on your business and everything?

Susan Fennema:  It’ll even be on the ebook page.

Rob Kosberg:  Yeah.

Susan Fennema:  You have one-stop shopping if you just go there.

Rob Kosberg:  Awesome. Love it. Love it. Well, thank you. Thank you for being here with us. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I hope you’re able to help a lot of small businesses out of the chaos.

Susan Fennema:  Me too. Thanks so much, Rob. I appreciate it.

Rob Kosberg:  My pleasure.

 

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