Simon Severino, an expert in go-to-market and business growth strategies, founded his own business, Strategy Sprints GmbH, with the dream to help others achieve the same success he had found. He talks with The Industry Leaders about struggling to balance his time between life and starting a new business, how he solved these problems, and how he now works to solve the same issues in other people’s businesses.
Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are right now?
So, 20 years ago, I needed a job, and after a lot of searching, I stumbled upon the work I do now, which is all about go-to-market strategies: how to enter the market; how to dominate the market; how to succeed in the market with your product. This is what excites me. And so I started working as a strategy advisor, flying around and solving go-to-market problems.
I loved it so much that, 20 years later, I'm coaching others on their go-to-market strategies. I have a team of my own now, and we have a presence in 114 countries, helping business owners enter and succeed in the market. We have fun conveying the message, closing deals, closing bigger deals, closing better deals, and enjoying running a business. That's, ultimately, why we start businesses: we want freedom, and we want fun. And now I can help other people get out there, just as I did.
You said that you tried a lot of different things before you got to where you are now. How long was that process? And what exactly were you doing before this?
My twenties were an exploratory process. Try this. Try that. I think that this is something that I will also convey to my boys when they are old enough: in your twenties, try as many things as possible. Try to find out whether you are a front person or a back person. Are you more front end or back end? Are you a single player or a multiplayer? Find your thing. That’s what I was doing when it clicked for me.
Then, in my thirties, it was all about volume. As soon as you find your thing, then it becomes all about volume. How can you help one person solve their problems each day and be the best at it? If you can do this every day for a year, you will have 365 superfans, and you don't need more than that. From there, you can scale up. Now you have the foundations for a real business. So, that's what I did in my thirties: volume, volume, volume.
Now I'm in my forties, I’m just working as the CEO — I’ve retired from operations. Now I focus on hiring culture, community building, talking on podcasts, writing books, and investing in crypto as a part of balance sheet management, cash flow management and wealth preservation.
When you start working with a business, what do you usually find to be the biggest problems in that first month that you need to solve.
Usually, the people who have started the business are still in the weeds, and so the first bottleneck is usually to do with time: they don't have enough time to work on the business. For example, we ask them to write down their vision in five pages, and they tell us, “Oh, no, Simon, I don't have time to write down the vision.” So then we ask them what they’re doing tomorrow that’s taking all of their time, and we find out that they’ve been working eight hours a day in the business, and zero hours on the business. They're doing their own social media posts; they're doing their own calls; they're doing their own data entry into their CRM, etc. And so we find that these people are using all of their time to run core operations or complete admin support tasks, which is understandable because that’s how you start — you do everything yourself. But then we step in and help them get out of that stage, out of the weeds.
So, we have them write down for us how they spend their time, and identify what gives them energy, and what takes energy from them. What is low leverage and what is high leverage, in the tasks that they did today? And when they do that exercise, they come up with things that they want to either delegate, or cut, or automate. This exercise helps us find that entry point into systemising. That's usually the first bottleneck to solve.
Then, once we’ve found 10-14 hours a week for them to work on the business, we look for the second bottleneck. We now want to improve the form, fit and function of the sales system. This is where we bring fresh cash in. That can take a month to one and a half months to happen. And when we have done that, when we’ve oxygenated the system, we go to marketing and create a trio of marketing activities: old media, paid media, leveraged media. For old media, maybe we look at the website and make some improvements, some updates. Let's improve the content. Are you running a podcast or a YouTube channel? Let's improve that. Then for paid media, maybe we explore some PPC, some Facebook ads, some LinkedIn retargeting — whatever helps there. And for leveraged media, maybe we can set up a joint venture system.
Then, the last month is really just focused on scaling everything up. This can be done with all three types of media I just mentioned. Having freed myself from my own business’ operations, I’ve been able to scale up and focus on high-impact leveraged media. I’m free to talk to you and your community right now; I’m free to speak on five podcasts a day; I’m free to work on writing a book. I’m free to focus on these high-impact activities because I’ve delegated out all my admin and operations tasks.
Your business is focused very much on other people's businesses. How do you make sure that you're identifying and removing bottlenecks in your own business?
This same thought hit me like a brick once I realised the problem. I had spent the week solving three problems for three teams, and I remember I was travelling when the thought came to me: when the hell am I going to solve my own problems? It’s Friday night, I’m super tired. I haven’t seen my kids. I haven’t seen my friends. I don’t want to do any more work. I realised that I’d given myself zero time to work on my own problems. I was a glorified freelancer, and I was completely burned out.
So I hired a coach for myself to help me work on creating a scalable business model. And this coach and I decided that I would spend three days a week working on my clients’ problems, and then I could have two days each week to focus on scaling my business and solving my go-to-market problems. In six months, we found a way.
That was the point where everything changed for me. I found my balance.
That’s great! And now your story is a perfect reflection of what you're offering to clients.
Yeah, that's how we started. I had to solve my problems, and people started asking me, “Do you have a spreadsheet for that? Can I have that spreadsheet? Do you have a joint venture process? Can I have that?” This interest is what led to me creating the first module that I work with clients on. And now we have 274 modules ready for them to use.
Your sphere of influence online is on LinkedIn — I see that you’ve got a pretty big following on there. What do you credit that to? And what advice would you give to somebody who wants to build their own following but is struggling with it?
My best advice is to show up every day and share what you have to say. Now, this sounds so easy, but it's actually super awkward. I’ve gone live before on LinkedIn and had nobody reacting or joining my conversation. It was like that for about two years. And so, during that time, I felt so awkward. I felt like nobody cared. But this is what you have to do to build an audience. You have to keep going.
Don't look at the numbers for a full year when you start. I'm doing the same now on YouTube. I'm showing up every day, and now some people are starting to react. It's nice when somebody reacts, but you can’t expect that in the first year. It took 300 episodes of my podcast, being on LinkedIn, showing up every day, to build this following. Imagine, then, that those 300 episodes are you showing up 300 times in that first year. Just show up and do it. You have something to share.
What's next for you and the business, and how can people follow what you're doing?
We hang out at our website, strategysprints.com, where you can find out more about the things I’ve talked about today. There are free open-source tools that you can download there as well. And I also have a daily YouTube channel where I talk about what I’ve been learning each day and, more specifically, what I've been buying and what I've been selling. These are the main two things that I'm talking about. Revenue systems and maintaining that cash flow. And every day I make sure that I share one thing. Right now, it's mainly about blockchain investments and stocks.
I also have a book coming out in February!
The book will be launched at our Growth Festival. There’s going to be nine expert masterclasses on the nine toughest problems to solve; lessons on how to do sales, how to do marketing, how to do operations, etc. We have Perry Marshall, Rita McGrath, Anthony Annarino and more — all really cool people.
Whoever wants to attend our festival will also get my latest book. Or you can go directly to Amazon and find it there. It’s called Strategy Sprints, by Simon Severino.
Check out the full interview with Simon Severino, here:
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