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The Zero-Sum vs the Abundance Mindset with Austin Brawner - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 156

Austin Brawner is an Ecommerce business coach and the host of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. 

About 5 years ago, he built a successful eCommerce growth agency and worked with a bunch of brands you’ve probably heard of like MVMT Watches, Pura Vida Bracelets, Blenders Eyewear, Kettle & Fire, Tecovas, and Four Sigmatic. 

He has an intimate knowledge of what it looks like in the trenches of fast-growing DTC brands. 

He also has an inside perspective on all the ways business owners sabotage themselves from building the lives they want — because he's done it to himself in the past. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:25] Chase and Austin had similar Ecom starts
  • [02:08] Austin’s Ecommerce journey
  • [04:27] Early marketing automation software
  • [05:07] Brands that Austin worked with
  • [07:39] Any automation is beneficial and profitable
  • [09:23] Owned and retention vs paid and rented
  • [10:01] Pushing to grow vs knowing what makes you grow
  • [12:46] Being first is not enough
  • [13:35] Negativity hurts your success
  • [16:21] Mindset makes it easier or harder to work
  • [17:07] A day in the life of Austin
  • [19:56] Learning through books and other founders
  • [21:16] Relationships and timelines
  • [23:03] The 3 business lifecycle stages
  • [24:38] Think like marketers, not manufacturers
  • [25:47] Think first before outsourcing creative work
  • [26:41] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [27:01] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [27:46] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [29:12] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.io/honest
  • [29:45] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [30:32] The Effortless Growth Operating System
  • [33:51] The EGO System is accessible through membership
  • [35:00] Determining what you really want
  • [36:03] Grow your business to a point 
  • [37:33] Making your growth simple
  • [38:26] Ask better questions
  • [39:07] Paint a clear picture of where you want to go
  • [40:34] Focus on one goal at a time
  • [41:14] Assemble your championship squad
  • [42:33] Sticking to your philosophy
  • [43:47] Circumventing processes lead to bad people
  • [47:08] Raise the floor
  • [48:00] Run an agency or an Ecom business?
  • [49:04] Books that changed Austin’s life
  • [50:41] Reverse testimonials
  • [52:19] Where to find Austin

Resources:

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  Transcript:

Austin Brawner  

I think the biggest mistake that a lot of physical products brands make is that they think that they're like a manufacturer, but they're actually a marketing company.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show.

Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer.

And for those of you that only listen to the audio version of this, you should probably go check us out on YouTube because I cut off all my hair and I think this is the first episode where you guys will see it.

I donated over 12 inches to Locks of Love about 2 weeks ago. So there's that. Check out the YouTube channel. Please subscribe

I'm trying to grow that nonsense over there. But today... 

Austin Brawner  

You look good, Chase.

Chase Clymer  

...I also... Thank you, thank you. But today we're bringing an awesome guest to the show. I was on his podcast a while back. He is the host of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. 

Austin Brawner is the CEO of Brand Growth Experts where he provides coaching and training for Ecommerce entrepreneurs. 

Austin, thank you so much. Welcome to the show. 

How are you doing?

Austin Brawner  

I'm great. Thank you for having me.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. This is gonna be a fun one. 

The conversation we had a while back was a blast so make sure you go find my episode on his podcast and subscribe because he talks about all sorts of awesome stuff. 

Let's just dive into it. How did you get started in Ecommerce?

Austin Brawner  

Ooh! How did I get started in Ecommerce? I was working at a startup in Los Angeles and it was... We were selling healthy vending machine franchises. 

Chase Clymer  

It's so weird. 

Austin Brawner  

That was one of the first... What's that?

Chase Clymer  

It's so weird you say that. That was like one of my first forays into Ecommerce as well here in Columbus. 

The guy sold the vending machine things for corporate lunch rooms, if that makes sense. 

Austin Brawner  

Yes! Yes. 

Chase Clymer  

And then they'd make all their money on stocking it.

Austin Brawner  

Yes. So yeah, it was my first real, I guess the second real job out of college. And I got... I was one of the first employees at this company. And I got really involved with the marketing. And we started getting... 

We were super excited about Infusionsoft at the time, which was all this automated marketing. It was the first of its kind. You could take emails, make triggers, and all these different things. 

We built this really fast growing large business based entirely on lead gen, to automated emails that closed with one salesperson. And it was super cool. I learned a ton about marketing, a ton about automated marketing. 

And I think at the time, we built like a $15 million company and we had one salesperson closing all these leads. So it was super powerful. We got second place in this thing called Infusionsoft Ultimate Marketer competition. And so I learned a bunch of this stuff and I was like... 

I had a friend who was building a company called Blenders Eyewear. One of my best friends from high school started that as a co-founder. And I noticed that he was doing none of it. There was no marketing automation going on in Ecommerce at all. 

And so when I wanted to leave that company, I said, "Hey, let's team up. I will come in. And I know this is going to work because we were selling $100,000 franchises with automated email marketing. I bet we can sell $40 sunglasses." 

So I actually hopped in my car, I drove down to San Diego from Los Angeles, and I stayed on his couch for a month. 

And we built out all these emails and they were growing really fast at the time, and it went really, really well. This is actually even before Klaviyo existed. So it was super, it went really really well. 

And then their neighbor company called Pura Vida Bracelets, --which you guys might have heard-- they saw what we're doing and they're like,"Oh, let's hire you as well."

And so that was kind of my first foray into working in marketing with E commerce brands. 

And I was very interested and passionate about this idea that you could create marketing automation that would sell for you regardless if you were doing anything.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think that marketing automation is the coolest thing ever. How... Did you ever get into like what Russel Brunson was talking about and building over there with...What's his company? 

Austin Brawner  

ClickFunnels

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Austin Brawner  

So we do have a ClickFunnels account. A lot of the same stuff like ports over. I think he's done a really good job of taking this landing page building software and turning it into something really big. 

He was second, right? Leadpages was first.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Austin Brawner  

And he blew out Leadpages with a much better version of it. But yeah, doing some really interesting stuff there.

Chase Clymer  

It all just comes down to... It's like having... You gotta build a quality funnel. And then  some of the pieces that make it more valuable. 

Then you gotta start upselling people and just make it easier for them to say yes to your offers.

Austin Brawner  

Yeah. What was so interesting at the time is... We now think about Klaviyo and  it's so powerful, you can do all these things. 

Back then it was really, really challenging. We were using Infusionsoft before Klaviyo came out. But it went so well that our business started growing really fast. I was just doing consulting. 

And there's more and more brands that are like, "Hey, can you do this for me?" And then Klaviyo came out. And I remember starting to work with that. And it was basically when there were just 2 people there. Ed and Andrew were the founders, the founders of Klaviyo. 

And I remember emailing them being like, "Okay, this is cool. This is working." We'd talk. I went to their headquarters, when they were just tiny, and thought it was like a 10-person office in Boston. 

I was working with them and it was super cool. And I built this agency where we are doing all this stuff for brands - Growth marketing, referral marketing, and automated marketing. And that's like really how I got my start in Ecommerce, learning what actually works and what doesn't work. 

Those first couple years, it was really exciting because I was working with these brands that are growing super fast brands, like I've heard of MVMT Watches, which is a big growth story. 

I did some work with them, helping them build their referral program and emails. And it was just interesting, because the first couple years, I was like very in the trenches. 

We were just talking before hopping on this into about Black Friday and how as a younger person, it's easier to be like, "Alright. Yeah, I'll take on this project at the last minute." That was me. I had all these clients. It was like... 

Black Friday was always the craziest because we were just trying... We're running marketing for 10 companies and going into the biggest time of year. And so that was kind of my real start in the Ecommerce space.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. It's an awesome story. And I see a lot of parallels between what you did and what we did starting our agency

The first thing is just like, we're just naturally curious and we're like, "Well, this thing looks interesting. And a lot of people are saying it's helping them grow in X, Y or Z ways." 

And I remember that Klaviyo was one of them, where we just sat down like, "You know what, this thing is really cool." And now we're forcing everybody to use it.

Austin Brawner  

Yup.

Chase Clymer  

It changed a lot of the businesses that we were working with, too. And that was just the power of email automation, and then just helping... It's... When brands are in that  growing, that scaling phase… 

After they've got product-market fit, they've got an almost predictable funnel, they still don't have enough support or team members to really do things the right way and anything that you can automate is a game changer. 

Austin Brawner  

It is. It is. It leads to a lot more profit, right? That's the thing that... I think the lightbulb that flipped for me was realizing how much money... How much money... I actually came back to an article from a guy named Kevin Hillstrom. And Kevin has been on my podcast

He's got a pod, it's called... He's got a blog called MineThatData. And he used to work at Nordstroms

An old school marketer guy, an analytics guy, and he talked about tolls. And he was like, one thing that we forget about are the tolls that we pay to do business in Ecommerce. 

And a lot of these is that when you break down your P & L and you look at where the money's going, so much of that goes to tolls to Facebook, to Google, to all these companies that are actually the ones that are truly making the profits when your business is growing. 

It's the cost of doing business. But the cool thing about marketing automation, the reason I was so excited was it's very low toll based. It's a flat fee, pretty much, for Klaviyo. You can send almost as many emails as you want. Doesn't... 

Your performance is not tied to their profits. Or their profits aren't tied to your performance, if [that] makes sense. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. And I think it's... It's one of those things where you start talking about things like owned marketing or retention marketing. It's just how much more profitable those types of marketing efforts are versus building a business on rented land if you're doing an Amazon play or your whole acquisition strategy is paid traffic

Even this year, there are 2 major blows to paid traffic. And some people still aren't recovering. And then there's also the whole data privacy thing so that's why you need to grow with the times.

Austin Brawner  

For sure. And it also just makes it a little less stressful. And that was one of my big realizations from spending a lot of time working with these fast growing companies was that it's just so stressful being completely reliant on one channel. 

And the ups... Living and dying by Facebook results is... It's tough. It's really tough.

Chase Clymer  

I do have a question for you. And you can answer this any way that you think that you can. But there's something that I always found curious with working with fast growing brands. And there's 2 types of founders, I guess. 

And somewhere, it's growth for the sake of growth? And just because they can, they want to. And it's always faster and quicker and stuff like that. But then there's... Honestly, sometimes there's just the complete opposite. 

They're growing so fast, they don't understand why and they just need help. With your experience in working with different types of founders, what are the pros and cons of each of those approaches?

Austin Brawner  

Well, I think it's... I don't know how I would categorize it in the exact same way. The second category of "We're growing so fast, but we don't know why." I think that's interesting. Because that's usually like you catch lightning in a bottle. It's like something that is so...

Chase Clymer  

Mm-hmm.

Austin Brawner  

...perfectly timed. One of my good friends, Anthony Gustin, started a company called Perfect Keto. And he was already in the Keto space. Before keto became a thing, he already had a product. And it just happened to be the time that he was... 

They were the first ones to launch and the first ones there on the upswing of the biggest diet trend in the last 20 years. 

And so they... Yeah, it was literally like "Holy crap, we're just growing so fast, we got to just keep the wheels on the bus." 

On the on the flip side, I think partly the mindset of somebody who's just like, "We need to grow, grow, grow faster, faster, faster, faster." I think that often happens. 

Maybe when they don't catch lightning in a bottle, necessarily and they're trying to figure out.... They have something, but it's not exactly flying off the shelves. Or maybe it is growing quite fast and they're not satisfied. I don't know. 

Between the two of them, [the] pros and cons... I think, ideally, you'll catch lightning in a bottle and you solve your demand issue right away because again, that's the hardest thing. 

Selling is going to be the hardest thing and then you can solve a lot... You can control your own destiny on the back-end of how fast you actually want to grow. 

So that's my... Ideally, you find something that's just unlimited demand and you hit it [with] the perfect times. Timing is so important with all these companies. 

I think the biggest change that I've seen from back when I started working with these companies 6 - 7 years ago and seeing the fast growing brands back then... 

Back then it was easy. Well, back then all you had to do was you had to be first. So a lot of these companies, it was like, "We're the first ones to do it online." 

And that was a differentiating play. Now, it's not differentiating play. Just being first is not enough, right? We've gone up the hierarchy of marketing needs. So it's not like we're first... "We're the first direct-to-consumer." That's just not even that really compelling anymore. 

And now you have to think too. It's a little bit more of a sophisticated market. And that makes it more challenging. It's still a bigger market, but it can be more challenging.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So within those 2 terrible analogy, types of founder, there's a lot of people out there that are just getting started. What would you say would be the attributes of a founder that will most help them be successful?

Austin Brawner  

So I'll flip it. And I'll say the 2 types of founders that I have seen. The 2 that I really recognize are, there are some people out there who have a little bit of like... I would describe it as a zero-sum mindset

And it's interesting, because I've worked with, at this point, hundreds and hundreds of Ecommerce founders. And what I've noticed is that there's basically 2 types. One type... They both can grow really fast. 

But one makes it really harder for themselves, and one makes it easier on themselves. There's a zero sum side. 

And that often comes up when people who are really worried about competition. I've launched this... 

I have this thing called the Brand Growth Accelerator, which is like a... It's a cohort group of businesses that all go through it together. And the whole idea is that after you go through the accelerator, you'll have a system to run your business. 

And also you'll have a community of other people that you know that are going through at the same time. And I talked to some in person. She had an incredibly fast growing business and she was like, "Nope, I can't... I won't do it. I don't trust anybody else." 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. 

Austin Brawner  

"I don't trust any other founders. I don't want somebody to  see what I'm doing and then rip me off." Meanwhile, she's doing a couple million dollars. 

It's like, it's not that easy to rip off a couple million dollar brand like that. But that mindset makes it really hard for her to be able to have really big success. And you flip it over to the other side. 

And I interviewed the founder of Pure Life Organics. They do I think $60 million to $90 million. Somewhere in that range. And the mindset is completely different. 

He's like, "I'll never miss an opportunity to invest in connecting with other founders and learning what they're doing and sharing an unlimited amount of my knowledge." 

Because it's not zero sum, right? They're not taking your sales away. There's more than enough for everybody. 

Chase Clymer  

It's an abundance mindset. 

Austin Brawner  

An abundance mindset. Right. Yeah, exactly. 

Chase Clymer  

That's a fantastic way to look at it.

Austin Brawner  

And that's... To me, that is the biggest difference that I've seen between people that make it easy and people that make it hard. And you definitely... And that actually connects to so many different decisions in life. 

Chase Clymer  

Mm-hmm.

Austin Brawner  

Just in business and whatnot.

Chase Clymer  

Oh absolutely. That's really fun. And I'm probably going to dive more into that in the future, especially when talking about the types of clients that aren't... 

Our agency wants to work with... Let's be real. There's one of those that's more appealing to me.

Austin Brawner  

For sure. Right. We've all had the experience being on the service side of having somebody who we have to fire. We have to fire a client. I remember the first client I fired. 

The first experience with that, I woke up with 15 text messages about... There was some issue with an email that went out. But it was like from 4 AM to 7 AM, just a barrage of text messages. I was like, "Okay, you've made this very easy on me. It's over." (laughs)

Chase Clymer  

So let's fast forward to now. How much kind of direct consulting are you doing with brands these days versus... 

I know, you're doing a lot more coaching and training of entrepreneurs, which is a little bit different than like a more traditional agency play I guess. So... 

Austin Brawner  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

But what does it look like these days? What's the day in the life?

Austin Brawner  

So a day in the life. I have basically 2 things that I'm doing. Or I would say 3 things I'm doing. One of them is continuing to grow something called.. 

It's called our Brand Growth Membership and that's a community of people who run Ecommerce brands and they have a growth mindset and they want to…

They want to learn what has worked for other businesses. Our whole idea at our company is that we go and we interview people on a podcast, like you're doing here, and figure out what's like... 

What are people doing? What's working right now? What's the playbook that's actually providing results in 2022? 

And then break that down into ways that people can install it in their business. So that's a lot of what we're trying to do is just help people be able to make it easier to run their business. 

And so I've got this membership. There are about 300 members there. And they're helping each other. We have... It's like a forum. And then we [also have] our whole platform. 

We've got all these different trainings and templates and stuff that you can use to install in your business. A lot of the content from that comes from my interviews. So we put a lot out in the podcast. They also come from working directly with clients. 

Like I mentioned, we've got something called the Brand Growth Accelerator. And that's a cohort program that happens a couple of years... A couple of times a year. 

And that is where I spend most of my time working with clients. We have a group, usually about 20 to 30. 

And over a period of 8 weeks, we will go through and... The idea is to help people get really clear on what they want to go and build systems in their business to make it so it's possible. 

And that's... It's a combination of group coaching and then one on one. And that's really fun, because that whole community that we've got, it's all established Ecommerce entrepreneurs and we go through and figure out what is everyone trying to accomplish here? How can we collectively help each other out? 

And what's interesting is that everybody has something unique that they're really really good at and the reason that they're growing their business.

And often it's just much easier to find out what somebody else is doing. Learn from them, and take that, and install it in your business rather than trying to come up with something new.

Chase Clymer  

It's the power of a library card. Honestly, just go to a library and you can get the cheat sheet to growing a business. 

Austin Brawner  

100%. 

Chase Clymer  

I've mentioned these books like a million times on the podcast but.... Without a doubt like Profit First by Mike Michalowicz changed our business overnight. Traction changed our business overnight. 

And those were just 6 - 8 hour reads, boom! Our business is just so different. And library cards are free, but you could have bought them for $10. And it's just wild. 

Don't reinvent the wheel. People... Especially now, people have done everything that you are thinking about doing before, just in a different package.

Austin Brawner  

Yes, they made all the mistakes and learn from them. I think a lot of what I've talked about is just like mistakes that we've made. 

And also helping people try to run their business in a more sane way, because of the insanity that we went through when running an early gross agency. That was just... It's hard. It's like, it's hard enough to grow one brand, let alone like 6 or 8 or 10. 

And so you learn a lot of things about what you want in your life, how you want your business to work for you... All those different things. And then you can tag tournament the systems. And... 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. 

Austin Brawner  

...that's... It's really helpful. (laughs)

Chase Clymer  

Just the collective knowledge of being at a growth agency and helping a dozen brands at a time... You're just learning... You're learning in solving 10 times faster than anybody, any one brand out there.

And that's the power of, you know, finding a partner --like a consultant or whatever-- that is in your corner that can help you trust this because they more than likely have experienced it before or they have someone in their network that they can ask and get the answer right away.

Austin Brawner  

For sure. It's so interesting, I think I have looked at the service provider-agency-freelancer relationship. And it's very interesting, because there's so many polarizing opinions out there. 

People are like, "Never use an agency. Only use an agency. Never use a freelancer. Hire in-house." The way I think about it now is that it's a life cycle.

Chase Clymer  

It goes back to something you just said earlier. It's an abundance mindset versus a zero-sum mindset.

Austin Brawner  

Yes, that's very, very important if you're going to have success there. And also, almost every relationship has some sort of a timeline on it. Right? So what will help you early on, might be a freelancer, right? 

But that... If your business is growing, there's going to be somewhat of a timeline on that. You're probably not going to work with that freelancer forever. So it's okay to think about this as like, "In this moment, it's okay to have this... This person can help me right now." 

But maybe as you grow, now you need to trying to transition to an agency, because a freelancer doesn't have enough time to dedicate to you. That's okay. All these things... 

It's not like the freelancer is bad or good, and the agency is bad or good. It's just at this time in your business, this is what you need. And if we can step back and realize that, that's the most important thing, it makes it a lot easier.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think about things in the business lifecycle. So there's 3 extremely easy to pinpoint stages. But then there's obviously just minutiae of other things in the middle. But it comes down to... 

There's your Startup phase, where depending on "[Are] you bootstrapped or not? [Do] you have an investment or not?" Your budgets are really going to impact whom you can partner with to work with on certain things. And you get what you pay for and that's the truth. 

And then as you move through that startup phase, and you figure out product-market fit, you then move into the Scaling phase of things. 

And this is where you can kind of afford whoever you want, really. But there are pros and cons to each of those things. And I think that one thing that a lot of people... 

People that like to work with agencies like to have one point of contact to handle anything that they don't want to do. I think that's... 

And that's something that a lot of agencies do is they find a way to do a few things really, really well, and cross-sell it and be a good partner for (clients) in that scaling phase of things. And then the third one that's super obvious is as you grow as a brand... 

I would say even if you're over the 10 million mark a year as a brand, you're getting into enterprise territory. 

And that's when you probably should --especially your CFO is gonna say this-- is bring everything in-house and start to rein in the spending, except for really strategic initiatives where you do want an outside opinion.

Austin Brawner  

Yes. Some things are outside of your core competency. I think it's interesting. I was talking about this with clients. It's like, "What is your business?" 

Are you a... I think the biggest mistake that a lot of physical products brands make is that they think that they're like a manufacturer, but they're actually a marketing company. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. 

Austin Brawner  

And so they think because they have products and they maybe did a little bit of... They're developed somewhere and they're selling them, that they are manufacturer and that's the most important thing? No, no, no. The real, most... 

90% of the direct-to-consumer businesses out there, the most important thing is marketing. And that's where... Maybe you can have a 3PL, but you need to make sure that you're not outsourcing your most important channel. 

And that's where often with Facebook agencies or Google agencies, whatever one's your most important channel, it can be really hard to have success if you are going to outsource your most important channel, unless you've already figured out what works exactly. 

You're just trying to speed up the volume.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think that... In that regard, I think there's something that also needs to be differentiated. It's like, I think a lot of people have failures with outsourcing... 

Especially… Facebook and email are especially the creative side of things. I think that's really, really hard to outsource. I think that a brand needs to keep the creative element of it in-house. 

And the more execution and strategy can be a partnership between you and another agency. But, they're not going to have that vision of the product you do to create the assets that you need. Like... 

Austin Brawner  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

That's something that you got to really build those systems internally.

Austin Brawner  

And it's just not gonna work. (laughs) 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Austin Brawner  

It's not gonna work until you're like way up. Maybe a level where you know exactly what's already worked. 

You've got all your SOPs and you know how to sell perfectly, you could possibly outsource that. But that takes a long time. And most people listening are not in that spot.

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Chase Clymer  

Obviously, there are entrepreneurs in all shapes and sizes, listening to my show right now. And we talked a lot about the mindset of getting things started. 

I know you have this concept of the effortless growth operating system. How does that help merchants? What is that?

Austin Brawner  

So this is my... I talk a lot about what I've done working with clients and how I run my own business. 

We packaged it into something we call the Effortless Growth Operating System, which is similar in a way to Traction where it's an operating system to run your business, but it's more optimized for an online business and Ecommerce business. 

Chase Clymer  

Mm-hmm.

Austin Brawner  

And it's like a 6-step process. And the idea is that if you take your business and you break it down into a similar thought process where you're looking at things over a year, over 3 years, over 90 days, and then down to a much smaller time period, that you can create systems in your business that allow it to basically run itself with some of those components, dashboards... 

Like having a dashboard that is designed for your business, that everybody in the company knows if your guys are doing well or doing poorly. That's something that needs to be created to make it easier to run the business. 

Having a clear vision of where you're going. Having a vision that's very clear so everybody in the company knows where you're going over 90 days, over a year, over 3 years; and this path to get there. 

I think, often, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is not doing enough reflection about where they actually want to go before going in and taking massive action. 

So my whole belief is that less just immediate, massive action, more setting the sales in the direction where you want to go. 

And we have a process of how we think about that. It's like... It starts out by asking yourself a lot of questions, journaling, preparing for where [and] what you actually want, and then turning that into a vision for your team to be able to actually align behind. 

Once you've got that, then it's breaking it down into putting people in the right roles for their business. So understanding what you actually need as a company and figure... And realizing that you need somebody in marketing. But what does it actually mean? 

Are they... Is there somebody who's responsible for marketing? Then is somebody who's actually doing the marketing? Is there somebody who's... Breaking your company down. A small company has a lot of different roles that they need to be filled. 

And you may have lots of people sitting in these different seats, but it's important to be able to visualize that. Yeah. So it's a system for creating easier growth in your business and being able to... 

You can't really take your hands off all the knobs until you know where they are. And everybody knows where they are, if that makes sense. 

Chase Clymer  

Now, is this something that you are walking the members in these cohorts through?

Austin Brawner  

Yeah, yeah. So if you join the membership, you get access to it. And you can go through all the trainings... And basically, the idea is over like 3 months, you should be able to install this in your business and start running your business in this way.

And the idea is that if you install it, you go through all this and you go through my reflection process: You figure out where you are, then you create a vision for where you're going, and then you get like super clear about who's gonna help you get there, that it's going to make it a lot easier. It's made my life a lot easier. 

The amount of time I spend running my business today versus 3 years ago, it's probably a third of the amount of time and that's been basically the same for all my clients. It's like, it's just the ability to take things away that are... The ability to delegate things in and also find out what's really important to you. 

Back to your point about some business owners were just like "I want growth, growth, growth, growth, growth." Well, why do people want that? And it's usually because they're not clear about what they actually want or not clear about where they're going. 

And we're seeing a lot more exits now in the Ecommerce space, which is really exciting and really cool. And something that 6 - 7 years ago, it just wasn't happening. 

But what's exciting about that is if you really get clear about where you want to go about how you want to sell your business and all those different things, it's a... There's an opportunity to actually get there. 

And it might not include growing revenue. It probably doesn't include growing revenue as fast as possible. 

Every single person that I've talked to who sold their business was not... It was not about how fast they grew their revenue, it was how fast they grew the bottom line. 

And that also doesn't mean "Facebook ads at all costs." which has been a strategy that a lot of people have fallen for... 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Austin Brawner  

...for a while.

Chase Clymer  

No, it's really interesting. It's funny. I spoke with a gentleman the other day and he was explaining how, it's just if... They got there when they got there. 

And they've made a really, really amazing business. And they're not looking to sell really, but it's interesting to talk about and figure out why he should sell. 

And you're like, "Pitch me on this. Why do you want to buy this? What do I have that's so cool?"

And I just think that  perspective on things is just getting a business to the point where you can sell and it's just up to you whether or not you're done having fun is super enticing to me.

Austin Brawner  

Yeah. Well, also, I think, to package it that way, it makes it so that it takes off a lot of the burden. Somebody wants to buy a business as well. They don't want to buy a business that's poorly run. 

They want to buy a business where the owner has the choice to continue to run it and isn't burned out, rather than somebody who's completely burned out by the business that they built. All the things that... 

All the things that happened to create a business that's more valuable are also better for the business owner. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. Especially, it's better for your pocket. If you kind of get rid of... Honestly, any opportunity that a potential investor sees or potential purchaser sees is things that you should be fully aware of. 

And if you just fix that yourself, now your valuation just went up.

Austin Brawner  

Yes. 100%. 100%. One of the most important things to focus on and one of the 6 steps of this effortless growth operating system is first and foremost, making sure you keep growth simple. 

And you've talked a lot about this in the podcast, as well. But it comes... It's very easy to see shiny objects everywhere, especially if you listen to podcasts, if you listen to training, all these different things. But at the end of the day, it is very simple.

It's "Can you boost the average order value? Can you drive more traffic? Can you increase your conversion rate?" 

And everything should come back to that. Everything should be coming back to these things. Because those are, truly, your only levers that you've got. Also increase repeat purchase rate. But it's again, very, very simple. 

And that makes the whole part of running your business easier if you can stay away from some of these shiny objects. The second part of it is asking better questions. And there's a... 

Tony Robbins has a saying that really resonated with me, which is "The quality of your life is equal to the quality of the questions that you ask." I think it's the same with your business. 

The quality of the outcome you get from your business is equal to the quality of the questions that you ask. 

And so when I was talking about doing some reflection and trying to figure out what you're looking for in your business, you're talking about building it in a way that you can choose to sell or not. I think that's a really good way to think about it. 

But getting really clear about what's working, what's not working, getting  grounded in reality is important because you don't want to be... The biggest mistake that I see people make is that it's not being realistic about where they actually are with the product. 

You can be totally unrealistic about where you want to go. And I think that can be okay. But if you're not clear and if you're not realistic about how people are perceiving your product, you're probably not going to have that much success. 

If you think that they know they love it and they don't. Well, that's not a good place to be. The 3rd thing in this operating system is to paint a crystal clear vision of where you want to go. And that really... That really makes it easier for other people to... Other people join you. 

And there's a... Cameron Herold, who ran 1-800-JUNK, wrote a book called Vivid Vision. He talks a lot about how as entrepreneurs, we have this vision in our head of where you want to go. 

And it's all... It's like... We're like laying bricks, basically, ahead of us. And we're laying bricks fast as we continue to move forward. 

The problem is that often, nobody else sees where those bricks are going and where you're going to be laying them. If you take the time and you actually get super clear about what it looks like, then other people can help you. 

Other people can help you get there. So that's the 3rd step is getting really clear about laying out in front of your team. 

The 4th is focusing on just one goal at a time. Another big mistake that I have seen and committed myself many times is over a 90-day period, committing to 3 to 5 big goals. 

And especially with a small team, if you just have... I think you just focus on one thing a quarter, that's a big thing to move forward. 

Other people could have smaller little things that they work on. But one overall vision for what you're going to do. One big milestone to move forward a quarter. I think that's been very successful. 

The 5th step is assembling your championship squad. Back to abundance mindset, I believe wholeheartedly that you should try to bring in the best people that you can possibly work with, because it's going to make your life so much easier. 

Whether that's in house, whether that's an agency or a freelancer, you gotta attract the best people. 

So many people spend a lot of time trying to sell their product, not selling their business. And what I mean by that is that you want to have a clear, compelling story for your business so that people are attracted and want to come work with you.

Chase Clymer  

Basically, when it comes to hiring a team member or hiring an agency or consultant or freelancer, whatever, you should honestly spend as much money as you can afford, because the returns are going to be directly correlated to your investment in a sense. 

And I'll let everyone in on some things. A growing pain of the agency was hiring juniors before we really could if you have a team of less than 10. So it was 1 to 10 full-time employees. 

Austin Brawner  

Yeah.

Chase Clymer  

Whatever job you're hiring for, the person has to have done that job before somewhere else, been trained somewhere else, and know exactly how to do what you're hiring for them to do. 

You cannot teach somebody how to do a job in a startup.

Austin Brawner  

That's funny. I have a completely opposite philosophy. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah? 

Austin Brawner  

Yes. I am not as worried about hiring people early on that have done the job before. And the thing I almost always look for is just the most talent... 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah?

Austin Brawner  

...and then do training. But that's also a philosophy around our business that we want to help people... We want to... It's about training people. 

And we're like, "Okay, we've got all these things to train people." And it's interesting, because I think both of them work. Both of those things can work, but you have to be clear with your philosophy. 

Don't...like You have to... Which is exciting to talk about because we have a philosophy. You have a philosophy. It doesn't matter what your philosophy is, if you stick to your philosophy.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.  I guess where I'm coming from is that I've made that mistake in the past and we realize that we have so much going on, we don't have the time to train as well as we should to help juniors level up in their careers. And that's just something we realized as an agency.

Austin Brawner  

I think in an agency that's actually pretty accurate, especially if you're growing super fast, because it's so... It's frickin hard. There are so many moving parts.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, there are. And it's just... A mistake was made and we learn from it. And now we're hiring lead devs and things like that. 

And we built out a whole bunch of SOPs and frameworks and inefficiencies along the way that we can teach people as they join our team. 

But as a founder, trying to distill out all the information of how you'd make decisions to a junior isn't the best use of your time. 

You should hire someone that can do the things because they have the experience and you just give them the vision of where you want them to go. 

[You'll] be like, "This is what the goal is." Don't delegate a to-do list. See, that's the difference there. 

With someone that is younger in their career, you'd be delegating it to-do list and they wouldn't be learning or creatively thinking and problem solving how to do it themselves or a way that might be more efficient in the way that you're thinking about it. 

As opposed with someone that is more senior in their career with whatever subject matter expertise we're talking about. You can be like, "Look, you're gonna go build our pilot CRO program. We know you've done it for the last 3 years." 

Austin Brawner  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

"I'll talk to you in 3 weeks. Let me know what you come up with."

Austin Brawner  

Yeah, man. It's interesting. Definitely from anything technical, no hiring of juniors, that's worked out very poorly. Hiring... 

We need somebody good and you hire a brand new designer? Generally not (laughs). Or a developer, generally, not good. But yeah, it's interesting. 

I think I'm of the same philosophy that you want to get the best possible people that you can, and figure that out, because they're going to directly help you have success in your business. 

The quality of your company is going to be highly correlated to the quality of your team. And it's interesting, when you hear people complaining about their team, or "Oh, I can't get people to do anything." Well, that's on you. 

At the end of the day, it comes back to whatever process that you went through hiring. I think, for me, one thing that has been really helpful is never skipping the process. 

All of our bad hires... All the hires that did not work out, --when say I bad hires, the ones that didn't work out-- it's always been because they skipped the process that we have.

Chase Clymer  

What's funny is that is completely true with bad clients, too. Anybody that wants to skirt the process in the vetting process of becoming a client, "Discovery's dumb." All that stuff. It never works out.

Austin Brawner  

Never works out. It never works out. And it's one of those things that goes back to philosophy. I think we have a hiring philosophy of trying to hire for trying to attract people with lots of talent and train them. 

And I think that works out super early. When it's really small it's worked out well for us the first couple of hires. But also we have a process to weed people out. Throughout that it's like a multi step hiring process. It's in the membership. You can go take a look at it. 

But it's a multi-step hiring process that we put people through. And every time we've gone all the way through, we've come out with a great candidate. 

Every time we've skipped it and been like, "Oh, we need somebody now." We're gonna go for a referral from somebody who maybe we don't trust entirely, it's ended up poorly.

Chase Clymer  

Again, back to books for a cheat sheet. The Who hiring process is what we use to build out our internal hiring process.

Austin Brawner  

It's great. And I think the key word is process. Everybody should... It makes it so much easier when you have some sort of process to fall back on. Yeah. And then the last step of this is called, we just call it “Raise the Floor.” 

And it's like every 90 days, try to put in systems that help you raise up the floor of the business, so you don't fall backwards. 

So anything that has worked over the last 90 days, is there any way to automate it? If you can, then the business improves. 

And you don't go from the boom-bust cycle that is probably the most stressful part of running a business.

Chase Clymer  

Aw man, we went all over the place today. And I hope people…

I hope you will enjoy some of the behind the screen, running a service business stuff that I tangent off to sometimes. But it's just, these are things that I like to talk about.

Austin Brawner  

Yes. I was talking with somebody else. I was talking with Taylor Holiday who runs Common Thread Collective and we're talking about is it better to run an agency or an Ecommerce business? 

It feels like people on each side are like, "Oh, you know..." 

Chase Clymer  

Grass is always greener. 

Austin Brawner  

"...grass is always greener." Grass is always greener. But both... At the end of the day, both are challenging. Both have their upsides and downsides. 

And there's also a lot that you can learn from running either one.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And that'd be a whole another hour long conversation, honestly, if we wanted to dive into that with which one's better? 

But I'll just have you back in a couple months, and we'll dive in there or somewhere else. 

Austin, is there anything I forgot to ask you about today that you think would resonate with our audience?

Austin Brawner  

What books would I recommend that changed my [life]. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah.

Austin Brawner  

You have some good examples.

Chase Clymer  

And I'm gonna pull up my phone and I'm gonna write down all these and get them.

Austin Brawner  

Yeah. You know, one that I liked recently that was very simple [that] got recommended to me. Double Your Profits by Bob Fifer. Have you read that one?

Chase Clymer  

I have not. I'll have to check that out.

Austin Brawner  

It's good. It's a very short read. It's like 78 steps or something. Each one's like a page. That one's really, really good. I too, like the... 

Well, on the financial side, a book that completely changed my life is... Oh my gosh, I may not remember the name right now. It's got a crazy name. Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits

Chase Clymer  

I have heard of it. 

Austin Brawner  

Such a good book. Such a good book. And again, one of those things you can take, install in the system, and run with it. So that's it, that's a good one. That's like required reading. 

The other one is The Brain Audit. I love The Brain Audit. It's an excellent, excellent book.

I've had the [pleasure of having] both of those people, the person who wrote Simple Numbers and the author of the Brain Audit on my podcast

And because I read it, I was like, "I gotta bring you on." talk to them about it. But it's a really interesting breakdown of conversion, and why... It's why customers buy. That's the whole book. 

And it's really helpful for Ecommerce, because... I'll share one of the things I really liked. It's something called "reverse testimonials". 

It's that we often think of leading with our best testimonial. Somebody that says something like"Brand Growth Experts is the best company. We had the best experience..." 

All those different things. But in real life, nobody ever shares a testimonial like that. The way that they share it is... Let's say you're recommending an ice cream place. 

Maybe you would say... Okay, maybe it's a coconut ice cream place. 

Okay, so you might start with something like, "Alright, so typically, coconut ice cream is not my thing. But this is incredible." And that's actually the way humans share testimonials. 

They start with a negative. Like "I've had terrible experiences with agencies, but this agency blew me away." That's an example of a negative-negative testimonial. That's way more powerful. 

And that's where you can install that in your own product page. And those tend to be a lot more effective than over-the-top, effusive, praising testimonials.

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah. That's fantastic. And funny you say that. We interviewed all of our clients. Well, not all of them. But we interviewed about a handful of them. 

And one of them basically said like "We've worked with a bunch of agencies, and they all said they were Shopify experts. But Electric Eye was the only one that actually..." The proof was in the pudding. 

And I was like, "That's really cool." Now, I'm like, "I should probably put that on our contact page." (laughs)

Austin Brawner  

That's probably the best testimonial. That's the best testimonial.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Austin, where do people go to check out the podcast, to check out the membership, to learn more about the cohorts? What do they do?

Austin Brawner  

So I would say the best place to go check out is just go to brandgrowthexperts.com. That's going to have... The next Brand Growth Accelerator kicks off in February. 

So if you're interested in joining that or you can join the membership over there. And then the podcast is called Ecommerce Influence podcast. It's where all podcasts are found. 

Wherever you're listening, you can just search the Ecommerce Influence podcast. And I think we've been doing it for quite a while. Maybe 300 episodes?A little over 300?

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. You guys have been doing it for a little bit longer than I have.

Austin Brawner  

Chase, thank you, man. I really appreciate you having me on.

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. I had a blast. And I look forward to talking soon.

Austin Brawner  

Thanks a lot, man. I'll talk to you later.

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.