At Mighty Digits, Josh Aharonoff helps startups with finance and accounting.
He’s recently experienced some terrific growth in his business, and for the benefit of listeners, James has him on this episode to share the story.
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Josh Aharonoff has seen his accounting business, Mighty Digits, grow significantly, and is on the show to share how it happened.
He talks about the challenge of getting clients to deal with someone other than the CEO.
He discusses the importance of documentation in scaling a business.
And he shares the insights he’s gained around sales and hiring in the process of growing.
Table of contents
1. When the client only wants the CEO
2. When documentation becomes a priority
3. Making it easier for the new guys
4. Having a roadmap
5. An employer mindset
6. Determining a realistic goal
7. Posting more content
8. Final thoughts for the listener
When the client only wants the CEO
Josh Aharonoff operates in a fairly old industry. Accounting and finance has been around for some time, and has become fairly commoditized.
Lots of people are competing for startup businesses, so it’s not an easy field by any stretch. And probably the biggest challenge for Josh at first was taking himself out of the delivery process.
When he hired his first manager, it was a question of, how could he tell his clients they’d be working with her instead of him? A lot of people, they want the CEO having eyes on their books and doing everything.
To educate clients to deal with his staff, one of the things Josh put in place was a group access email address. Google Groups has this feature for free.
You can create an email address for, say, James Schramko, [email protected], and have the client send inquiries or concerns there. Everyone who works on that account will get the information, and someone can respond.
When documentation becomes a priority
Josh realized that, as an organization scales and new people come in, it becomes necessary to share knowledge in a repeatable, scalable manner. This is where documentation comes in – there’s a lot less room for error when you have a tangible resource to work with.
In his opinion, documentation, standardization and SOPs become a real priority when you surpass maybe five to 10 people. It was one of the biggest challenges in his business, but having someone do that documentation has been immensely helpful in freeing up his time and creating an infrastructure and wireframe for how things get done.
Before documenting something, you standardize, deciding exactly how you want someone to handle a specific situation. Then you get it into a document management system – for that, they’re very happy with Notion and Loom.
Making it easier for the new guys
Now when someone new enters Mighty Digits, they go through what’s called the Mighty Digits Academy. They come in, review how to do things, watch videos of how tasks are done.
That’s huge, says James – he remembers companies he’s worked at where he got little or no training. At his debt collection job, he was given a cassette player and a stack of 20-year-old cassette tapes by way of orientation.
Upon becoming a sales manager at Mercedes-Benz, James built an induction system that was rolled out to all the Mercedes dealers.
An academy for new people, he says, is seriously pro. When you give a new hire the tools and resources to succeed, it frees you up to do your specialty, and it means you’ve grown an actual business, one that doesn’t depend solely on you.
Now when it comes to wikis and training, says James, the cautionary tale is don’t over create and don’t make it too complicated. Keep it simple, keep it in one place, and keep it fluid. Obviously when things change or update, it’s important to update the standard operating procedure.
Having a roadmap
Josh had an employee come to him and say, Hey, I don’t really understand how I’m going to be growing in this organization. That surprised him – he’d taken for granted that everyone had the same drive and vision that he had.
He realized then the importance of letting newcomers know:
(A) What it looks like in the role they’re in, in the role that they’re going to graduate into, in the role after that, and what they can become in your organization.
(B) That you’re committed to actually getting them to that status.
They created a path to promotion document, outlining the different roles in the company and the traits or skills that each required.
An employer mindset
Did it cross Josh’s mind to prevent team members from leaving to set up their own companies?
At the end of the day, says Josh, it takes a certain individual to want to be not only an entrepreneur, but also a business owner who employs other people. He thinks it was always in his blood to become an entrepreneur.
And he may be naive, but he hasn’t assumed it would be an everyday issue that people would leave to run their own businesses. It takes a very special individual to go out and handle the stress and the time commitment that requires.
James thinks that out of 100 employees, six are likely to go off and do their own thing, at some point.
So you get the conflict: do I train them up and show them how we operate everything, for them to then clone me and take our IP and steal our customers and compete with me? Or do I train them up and they stay with us and we dominate? Or am I just going to hire the safer ones who aren’t going to leave but don’t do as good a job?
A lot of these things start to come into play. But the more you get off the tools, the more your actual job is strategy and looking after team, and James agrees that it takes a huge responsibility to be an employer.
Determining a realistic goal
Being in James’s community, one of the things Josh came to realize was his own limited mindset. James would ask him why he was settling for something when he had the method to scale to something bigger.
What it was, and still is, says Josh, was doubting his ability to handle the potential growth of his business. It was not enough to be able to implement things – he needed an entirely different mindset.
It’s one of the things James brings to the table, being able to tell people whether they’re aiming for something more or less than what’s reasonable.
He might ask someone, is $10 million a year really the goal, or is that just what you think you should be chasing? Or, two years to launch a podcast? Why not next month / next week / tomorrow?
Sometimes you need someone in your corner to tell you when a plan’s unreasonable, and when you’re selling yourself short.
Posting more content
When Josh considered posting on LinkedIn, he was thinking a video a week, of really high quality. Why not every day? asked James, and, why are you so focused on quality?
Josh has now been posting every weekday for five months, the biggest result being that everyone who has been in his network knows what he’s doing and is constantly reminded of it.
People are reaching out to offer business and schedule meetings. It’s not yet what he’d call a huge success, but he believes he can get to that point.
Final thoughts for the listener
What final advice would Josh have for someone listening today?
At least in the early stages, number one to him is sales.
Do you have a repeatable method of first, identifying who your target audience is? Just finding and understanding them? And then do you have a method of reaching that target audience?
There are numbers of different growth tactics – outbound prospecting, whether cold emailing or cold calling and the like, can work well if you’re starting out, as long as done in an un-spammy manner.
Partnerships are also a great source, because you can close one partner as opposed to one client, and you’ll get 10 clients as opposed to one.
Ideally, you’re building a business where the more clients and customers you have, the more repeat business you get, the more referrals you get from those customers and it creates a compounding effect.
Getting hiring down
Another really important part of effectively scaling is hiring. You can’t be everywhere or do everything at once, so knowing how to construct a compelling job description is crucial.
One of Josh’s favorite platforms is JazzHR. It will allow you to syndicate your job posts to all different job boards, as opposed to having to go one by one on each.
Often Josh will include questions to gauge, how good of a cultural fit are they? How good of a fit are they based off their expertise and their background? From there, you can gradually narrow your funnel.
Resumes, references and interviews are great. But one really effective determiner is seeing someone actually perform work that you give them – this shows how well they follow instructions, how thorough they are, and if they’re able to deliver on time.
Having a strong infrastructure
After sales and hiring, the rest comes down to building a repeatable system, to train people, to move them and to take yourself away from the work.
Josh once heard a podcast where the CEO mentioned, Every time I do a task, I ask myself, how can I never have to do this task again? And that is really the whole essence of delegating.
Having a strong infrastructure operationally, not only for how you’re going to do what you’re doing when it’s just you, but how you’re going to scale that, that, Josh thinks, is maybe the third important piece of scaling.
So sales, says James, basically marketing, people and systems.
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