Software & Tech

Leveraging People, Processes and Technology with Jason Staats

In order to get your business into maintenance mode–and build a stronger business while you're at it–you have to answer the question, "What if I'm not here?" Ideally, the answer is that nothing changes. That's the goal of maintenance mode, to me.

Susan Boles
May 25, 2021
42
 MIN
Podcast
"How Jason is able to run multiple businesses and the key questions he asks himself when considering a new business opportunity."

You can't step away and do something else if everything's going to come to a screeching halt when you do.

To be prepared for maintenance mode, you have to figure out how to get the behind-the-scenes systems to operate, consistently, without you.

In order to get your business into maintenance mode–and build a stronger business while you're at it–you have to answer the question, "What if I'm not here?"

Ideally, the answer is that nothing changes. Invoices still get sent on time, your products and services still get delivered, and the wheels on the bus keep going round and round. That's the goal of maintenance mode, to me.

There are some tasks that really don't lend themselves to having a computer do it. But MOST back-end administration of a business can be automated.

And for me, automating that back-end tasks means my business won't break if I'm not here for a bit.

The other payoff is that even if I AM working in my business, I have time to do other, more interesting things. I could even start another project like my friend Jason did.

Jason Staats is a CPA in Salem Oregon. He's principal at Brenner LLP by day, and an accounting tech enthusiast by night. In addition to his CPA firm, he has also started Launch for Accountants, which is a newsletter and website with all the latest software launches. He's built Realize, a community for accountants and he is launching a software product.

All those projects he's started and continues to run? He used technology to make that work and keep them all running, even if he's not IN that business all the time.


Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • Why creating a single space to gather opportunities and priorities across projects fights overwhelm
  • How knowing what his “anti-goals” help Jason choose which projects to pursue
  • How considering new projects in terms of skills development keeps distraction and shiny object syndrome in check
  • How getting to maintenance mode lets you choose to pursue side projects and shiny objects

Episode Transcript

Jason Staats (00:00):

It's worth acknowledging maintenance mode. It's a spectrum. If there's a mistake I made early days, it was getting to a point where, oh, I'm not going to be able to automate this or something like that. And then that was kind of it. We didn't build a process for it. That was kind of where it got left. And I think a big thing that I've learned in the last few years is a really crappy manual human system is infinitely better than no system. So, if maintenance mode sitting on the beach is the destination, there's a hundred stops along the way there, each of which are valuable.

Susan Boles (00:39):

You can't step away and do something else if everything is going to break or come to a screeching halt when you do. To be prepared for maintenance mode, you have to figure out how to get the behind the scenes systems to operate consistently without you. I'm Susan Boles, and you're listening to Break the Ceiling, the show where we break down unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost your profit and increase your operational capacity. Part of preparing for maintenance mode is building strength and resilience into the systems and processes that you have. You have to figure out where the bottlenecks and the breakpoints are, and then figure out how to reduce the friction in the process, then how to make it not require your intervention.

Susan Boles (01:25):

In order to get your business into maintenance mode and to build a stronger business while you're at it, you have to be able to answer the question, what if I'm not here? What happens then? Ideally, the answer is that nothing changes. It doesn't matter if you're there or not. Invoices still get sent on time. Your products and services still get delivered. And the wheels on the bus keep going round and round. That's the goal of maintenance mode to me. And there are two basic strategies. You can hire someone to do it in your place, or you can use technology and automate it so no one has to do it. And which strategy you choose depends on what precisely you're trying to accomplish.

Susan Boles (02:07):

Computers and automation are fantastic for tasks where no one has to make a decision, where a human would follow the same steps the computer would, and hiring a person is great for more complex tasks where someone needs to take in some information, make a decision and then take an action that couldn't be easily predicted ahead of time. There are some tasks that just really don't lend themselves to having a computer do it. They're just too complex.

Susan Boles (02:35):

But most backend administration of a business can be automated. For example, here's some stuff that's automated in my business. Booking and scheduling appointments, that happens through Calendly. Setting up new client folders and putting report templates in the folders on Google Drive, sending invoices and taking payments, onboarding new customers and clients, classifying financial transactions and recording payments in my accounting system. And those are just a few examples. That's not an exhaustive list.

Susan Boles (03:05):

But all of that stuff happens without me having to lift a finger or having anybody else do it either. And that means that my business won't break if I'm not here for a little bit. And the other payoff is that even if I am working in my business, I have time to do other more interesting things. I could even start another project like my friend Jason did. Jason Staats is a CPA who's a Principal at Brenner LLP by day and an accounting tech enthusiast by night. In addition to his CPA firm, he's also started Launch For Accountants, which is a newsletter and website with all the latest software launches. He's built Realize, which is a community for accountants. And he is currently launching a software product.

Susan Boles (03:48):

He is especially interested in the intersection of the accounting industry and emergent technology, specifically how we can turn the automation doom and gloom narrative on its head and proactively leverage new technology, and all those projects he started and continues to run, he used technology to make that work, to keep them all running even if he's not in that business all the time.

Susan Boles (04:14):

So, you are a little bit of a master at kind of the set it and forget it business system. Give me kind of an overview of how many businesses and projects you are actually running right now. If you can give me a rundown of what you've got and what they all are.

Jason Staats (04:32):

Yeah. If I consider one thing kind of my main thing that takes up most of my days, it's running my accounting firm. I own an accounting firm in Oregon here with a team of about 35. I've got a partner in that one. And that's what consumes probably the majority of my time and attention. But I have a lot of interests. Anytime I think you totally go all in on one thing, you kind of get tunnel vision for that thing. And so kind of exploring other things has always been something that makes me happy and keeps me enjoying all the things that I do. Like you said, I've got some other projects, but really it all started with realizing that I needed to kind of build my own audience first.

Jason Staats (05:32):

Last year I really started engaging on Twitter with people, just kind of sharing what I know and things that would have been viable to me. And honestly, like I don't... We put kind of a box around how we define businesses. But that's a big one. I mean, building your kind of personal following that will come with you regardless of where you're doing the things that you do, that's arguably the biggest thing there I think. So that was kind of where it started outside of my normal kind of role that takes up most of my time was just sort of building an audience.

Jason Staats (06:19):

From there I went on to launch Launch for Accountants. So it's kind of like, I think of it like product hunt for the accounting profession. We feature kind of new tech launches inside of the accounting space, but also in the bigger kind of general B2B space because all the tools that we use are not necessarily accounting tools. From there I went on and launched Realize. It's a community for accountants. So accountants spend a whole lot of time doing the exact same things in parallel, solving the same problems for clients, working through the same headaches. And I think that's a great use case for community because you can kind of come together and do that stuff together rather than everybody perpetually reinventing the wheel on their own. And then most recently we launched FinDaily, which is a SAS app that is just about to go into open beta.

Susan Boles (07:17):

That's a lot.

Jason Staats (07:19):

It is.

Susan Boles (07:19):

As someone who is an end-user of three of those things, I adore all of them. They're all fantastic. So, you tend to use technology to help all of these new projects. So you've got a lot of balls in the air, and you use technology to help put them into something that can kind of run automatically, it can run on maintenance mode. So, can we talk a little bit about that, maybe break down each venture or project and the main tools that you use for maintenance mode there?

Jason Staats (07:56):

The first thing I'd say is it's worth acknowledging maintenance mode, it's a spectrum. I think if there's a mistake I made early days, it was getting to a point where, oh, I'm not going to be able to automate this or something like that. And then that was kind of it. We didn't build a process for it. That was kind of where it got left. And I think a big thing that I've learned in the last few years is a really crappy manual human system is infinitely better than no system. So, if maintenance mode sitting on the beach is the destination, there's a hundred stops along the way there, each of which are valuable.

Jason Staats (08:42):

And I'll be the first to admit, just going down my list of projects, in reality none of these are total maintenance mode, but because I've gotten a lot of them down that spectrum, it lets me explore other things. So in my accounting firm, my biggest source of leverage there honestly is human leverage and just having been able to hire the right team to make a lot of things happen there. There's a lot automation going on and kind of all of the different things that we do. But given that that's a service business, very hands-on, like working directly with clients, answering client questions, that sort of thing, by its nature, a service business I think your ability to go into maintenance mode on that is going to be dictated by being able to build the right team. So, definitely lean into automation where we can there. But that's the reason that that's able to run is just having found the right people.

Jason Staats (09:47):

Twitter. Man, I lean a lot into tweet scheduling and always repurposing content where I can. So if I'm reading a book, I'm going to share the tidbits from that book that were viable to me. I'm probably going to do a video. If I do a video for the accountant community, kind of some of the nuggets coming out of that, I'm going to tweet about them. And so I think the more you can... I guess there's just a lot of different ways you can repurpose that content in ways that are going to be valuable to different people.

Jason Staats (10:27):

What's next, launch. So Launch for Accountants, this is our kind of accounting tech discovery platform. Susan, have you seen that super nerdy video I made about this one?

Susan Boles (10:38):

I have not.

Jason Staats (10:40):

This is probably the most interesting one and if you're looking at like how automation can run a business, I think this one's interesting. The premise of this business is basically it's kind of a feed of new software launches that accountants should be aware of because tech discovery is hard. There is so much new tech coming out every day and it's just going to keep getting worse because there's just going to be more and more tools. Like the development industry, the number of SAS products that are coming out every day, that's just going to keep growing. And so discovery is going to become more of an issue.

Jason Staats (11:19):

This one, we lean very heavily on automation. So I basically got an Airtable form that I complete for each tool that I want to feature. I put a few things in there like what it's called, the website, some kind of tags to kind of organize all the different types of tools. And then I put two bullet points in there about why I think it matters. And so I submit that form. Now, I do that for each tool and that's usually five or 10 a week. From there I lean really heavily on Integromat. It's like Zapier but I think it's a little bit more powerful.

Jason Staats (12:01):

From there, Integromat goes out, fetches a screenshot of the website. It sends a screenshot over to a tool called Bannerbear and creates kind of different social media images for it. It pushes that item to the CMS for our website. So the website's constantly publishing a feed of new tools and that schedules that automatically. Schedules a tweet with the social images and the bullet points I provided. It does a similar thing for Facebook posts. And then it gets added to a queue for me personally to feature that tool in the weekly videos that I do.

Jason Staats (12:43):

I put five or six things into that Airtable form, I hit submit, all that stuff happens in the background and it queues it all up so that it's not like you don't need to be at a spot every single day to hit the button. It's scheduling that stuff in advance. So I could queue up a bunch of those to go out maybe a week and a half from now. And then maybe I'm just going to coast on this project for the next couple of weeks and that's fine because I've got like a steady queue of content going out. That's a lot, but that's probably my best example of a project that is largely run by automation.

Susan Boles (13:23):

Okay. I'm curious about all of the different ventures. How do you end up dividing your time between all of the different projects? Whether you have automation or no automation, what does the time breakdown of running essentially four separate businesses look like?

Jason Staats (13:48):

I'm a big believer in kind of getting all of your kind of personal task and kind of life management back to I guess a single channel where you're prioritizing the stuff that you have to do. The aspect of this that's overwhelming is I got to come over to this business and prioritize something over here. And then I got to come over to this business and prioritize something over here. I think that's the wrong way to think about it. I think you've got to pull that all into a single place and then the opportunities that need to be prioritized are more global.

Jason Staats (14:28):

If I've got a great opportunity with the accounting firm to get that hire that we've really needed for a long time, I need to prioritize that. If you've got a great partnership opportunity with this other project you're doing that is maybe timely, maybe it's seasonal, then that becomes a priority. So the more you can pull those aspects of your life into kind of a single framework, the less overwhelming that becomes because having to prioritize across different channels, that's just a nightmare and it's kind of impossible.

Susan Boles (15:06):

So, what's your approach to making sure that each new project or venture or thing that you start can operate in maintenance mode? Do you have a system of routine that you follow when you come up with a new thing to kind of get it up and running or do you customize it to each project? How does that process work for you?

Jason Staats (15:28):

Yeah. I think this is probably different for everybody. For myself where I'm at in this stage of my career, I've got my main commitment and that is my accounting firm and the team that we've got there and my partner there. That's the main thing I'm accountable to. So I have to be careful taking on anything that's going to conflict with that. And so what I look at is when I pick up a new project, in general it has to be something that is not such a commitment that I can't decide to drop it one day either because I'm not enjoying it, because there's more interesting things I can be doing with my time.

Jason Staats (16:09):

So, I think it's totally okay to be noncommittal to projects. And so that means realistically you probably don't want to go into these things with a partner that you're going to have to be accountable to where if you decide six months is not for you, you really owe something to this partner still and maybe you end up feeling kind of trapped in something like that. That's why in general on these things, I'm not taking in other partners. I'm really careful about any sort of long-term commitments. In general, I just don't do them. And then I'm always looking at kind of what are my anti-goals, what are the things that I never want to... What are the situations I never want to find myself in?

Jason Staats (16:54):

And so if I look at what success looks like in the future with this project, is it working with customers one-on-one every day? Is it having to manage a big team of support staff? Is it going to take me to a place that kind of conflicts with my anti-goals? And I think those are different for everybody. The things I'm really avoiding are something I kind of touched on before, having to be in a specific place at a certain time. I want projects where I can kind of cue up content, have the flexibility to do that work when I have the time for it and the motivation for it and when I want to do it rather than having this calendar that's perpetually filling up with all of these different projects.

Jason Staats (17:47):

And in general, I avoid kind of one-to-one work. So I'm looking for ways to leverage everything that I do more kind of one to many. So, how do I reach the most amount of people and in a high leveraged way? And if this project is going to take me down a path that doesn't enable that, then it's probably not something for me.

Susan Boles (18:11):

That totally makes sense. Here's kind of the opposite, I guess, not necessarily the opposite, but when you are thinking of a new project, how do you decide what's worth pursuing and building and what is a shiny object that's just distracting from your overall ability, your overall capacity to do stuff?

Jason Staats (18:37):

Yeah. I think about projects less on the kind of business vertical and more so on the like what are the skills that I'm developing that are going to benefit me long-term? For example, last year I decided I really wanted to lean into video because video is such a high leverage ability to kind of develop and it has so many applications, and I was so bad at video 12 months ago. And so I was looking for, I guess, how do I start a new venture in a way that's going to encourage me to keep kind of building compounding stacks of skills. So that's one thing that I always look for in a new project. Is it going to teach me something new?

Jason Staats (19:32):

And for me, Launch for Accountants was that. It forces me to publish a video every single week. And so I'm sitting in front of a camera, I'm iterating on my camera set up and how I do videos and I'm building this whole video workflow. So now when I sit down and record a video for 10 or 20 minutes, it goes off to another team automatically who's doing the editing and the publishing and all that stuff. And I've got this really nice workflow that I can use in this business and in other applications as well.

Jason Staats (20:02):

The same thing happened with the accountant community. I think 2020 was kind of like the year for communities. I think in any professional where a bunch of people are doing the same things in parallel, communities become really powerful. This was just a way for me to learn about communities and like what it's like to actually run a community. And so I launched the accountant community knowing that for me and what I do every day, this has value, but a side benefit I'm going to get from this is I'm going to understand communities better and be in a position to kind of see opportunities for those and other applications, whether that's in my accounting firm working with a specific niche, if that's working with the clients in my accounting firm that may benefit from a community.

Jason Staats (20:56):

So actually I think more about, at this stage in my career, what's going to be a really high leverage skill I can add to what I already know. And oftentimes I'll look for projects that are going to take me down that path to develop that skill.

Susan Boles (21:12):

That's a really interesting perspective because most of the time we get told anything that is not focused 100% on the thing that we are building is not valuable but it's a distraction. We spend a lot of time as business owners, I think, trying to turn off our affinity for shiny new things. We like shiny new things. They're fun. They're interesting to build. And I love the idea of shifting that to be really a personal development tool.

Jason Staats (21:47):

Yeah. And because if you come out running a business from the standpoint of wanting to get it to maintenance mode, which is not how most people start a business. Most people start out because there's a thing that somebody will pay them to do and they're going to do as much of that as they possibly can. And eventually they hit their ceiling, like everybody does, but then you kind of become captive to that business because you're the secret sauce and how are you going to train your clients off of you being that secret sauce. So the earlier you can look at a project in terms of is this something that I can hire the right person for so that that notion of needing to hammer on that thing that is driving your business forward every single day, somebody's got to do that work and maybe it has to be you. But I look for business opportunities where it doesn't have to be me.

Jason Staats (22:46):

Launch for Accountants, that's a lot of sales work. It's a lot of Zoom calls with people launching apps that want to advertise and stuff like that. But that's something that I can make a framework for and hire somebody into. So now I've got a guy that's doing a killer job with that. Takes all those Zoom calls every week about doing ads that I just don't want to do. And it's because I was able to kind of make that framework and somebody else could be the one hammering on that one thing that matters for that business every single day.

Jason Staats (23:15):

So I think most entrepreneurs when they go down that path for the first time, and I'm absolutely in this boat, you're doing whatever you can do to build that business. And it usually means you're the secret sauce. And so when I take on these additional projects, I'm very hesitant starting out to say, I don't want to be the one that has to be hammering on kind of the core purpose of this business every single day. But what I do want is something that's going to give me kind of a wider depth of experience to see opportunities and to pull interesting different things together, like really highly produced videos for accountants. Like interesting intersections like that where things don't exist.

Susan Boles (24:04):

Hey, there. It's Susan. If you've been listening to this interview and it's making you think about some of these issues and ideas and you wish you could talk to some other real live business owners about it, I wanted to invite you to my free monthly roundtable, Dollars + Decisions. Once a month, I get together live with a group of amazing business owners just like you to geek out on money and operations and workflow and software, all that stuff that you hear me talk about here. The roundtable is kind of like a live interactive version of the podcast. So I would love to have you join me. To sign up for the next roundtable, head to scalespark.co/dollarsanddecisions, no spaces, no hyphens, or you can just click the link in the show notes. Hope to see you there.

Susan Boles (24:54):

You mentioned hiring people. Talk to me a little bit about what the team looks like for each one of these projects.

Jason Staats (25:01):

Sure. The accounting firm has a team of about 35. That's big. So that's probably the messiest one, but that's a mix of people who have been at the firm for a long time and a mix of kind of newer folks, many of whom are non-accountants who are super talented in their own right and more kind of are driving the business in the more general sense, not necessarily in the like technical tax sense or something like that. I think the secret for that team, because there has been such a shortage in that profession of people you can pick up, the secret there has been just picking up non-accountants. Talented people who can do a lot of non-accounting things like payroll and stuff like that, and still give a really, really good client experience. But they're not people necessarily that even have the traditional expertise you would expect.

Jason Staats (26:01):

For Launch, I've got a developer that I work with on kind of putting the things out there that are over my head like the website, that sort of thing, kind of building the framework that I'm able to automate off the back of. He's going to be the one to build the website, making sure all that stuff is working correctly, but I'm the one connecting to the CMS, pushing content in there automatically on an ongoing basis, that sort of thing. And then in that project, we've got a head of partnerships as well that's taking the calls with the people that want to advertise on the platform.

Jason Staats (26:42):

In the accountant community, I've got a few people that I've pulled in that kind of build content within the community. We've got like a news aggregator of content that's most important to accounting pros so that they can very easily spin that out into like a newsletter for their clients, that sort of thing. So inside of the accountant community, I'm looking for opportunities to pull people in and build shared resources that everybody can benefit from so that there's more... There's just a lot of kind of valuable things happening inside of the community that people can lean on.

Jason Staats (27:23):

And then for FinDaily, I've got a technical co-founder, the same guy I'm working within Launch for Accountants who's working on the product itself. And then me with my audience and my kind of connections in the profession, I handle kind of the marketing and kind of connecting the dots for people where there's good opportunities for that tool.

Susan Boles (27:50):

What does a normal week look like for you? Is there a normal week? How do you-

Jason Staats (27:57):

Probably not. It kind of comes back to like that centralized framework of what's the highest priority thing that's happening across all of your projects right now. So right now, realistically for me, it's probably two things. It's we're starting six-month mastermind groups in my accountant community and the signups and at the end of this month. So I'm building content around that. Yesterday I did a video that highlighted 18 reasons why people said they've signed up already and I'll put that video out on social and a couple of different places just to drive signups to that project in the next couple of weeks before it closes.

Jason Staats (28:43):

Similarly, in the accounting firm, we've got a lot of COVID relief items that we need to get on top of now that we're kind of getting through the worst of the tax reporting this year. So that blast that goes out to clients and kind of the onboarding workflow for people that want to engage us to do their employee retention credits and stuff like that. This is the time for that because we're kind of getting over the hump on initial tax season. And that's a big opportunity for our business to generate a lot of work for being kind of a managed COVID relief solution for our clients. And so those are two things that are kind of hot front of mind right now.

Jason Staats (29:26):

Last week, I hired a guy off of Twitter. The week before, a member of my accounting team took another opportunity. And so all of a sudden that became a priority. And so I kind of started shaking that tree and working through my online network to find the right person to plug into that role, and it came together in like a week and that was really exciting. But it's every week is different, honestly. And that's why I like it is I'm kind of touching different things each week as things become priorities. I think you're more or less doing that in any business. If you're working on a single project, you're probably doing the same thing. But like I said, that notion of getting to maintenance mode, that's a spectrum. And the further you can move your projects down that spectrum, the more it gives you the flexibility to work on kind of these different projects that are going to develop you personally into building these kind of complementary skills.

Susan Boles (30:31):

All right. We covered a whole bunch of stuff. Is there anything you think that we should talk about that we haven't either about using automation, tech, or just generally about maintenance mode and figuring out how to put a business into it?

Jason Staats (30:50):

I'd probably reiterate two things. I'd probably reiterate the importance of building your audience. Your audience, the people that think the way that you do, you're going to attract those people the more that you write online, and those people are going to follow you to whatever you decide to do. And that is an absolute superpower. From being able to hire somebody at the drop of a hat to being able to launch a new product and immediately having your first 100 customers, that is a superpower that's incredible to have. And so when you're taking on projects, when you're deciding how to spend your time, think, is this project going to increase my reach? Is it going to allow me the space to still build content to grow my audience because that's kind of, for me personally, like that's the foundation driving all of my projects.

Jason Staats (31:43):

That's very important. That's something that you can lean into automation on from scheduling social posts, automating that across multiple platforms, repurposing content. It's also something that you can hire help for. Right now I've got a big pool of content stuff I've done and I can hire a manager to come in and help resurface some of that content, present it in different ways. And that way I'm not reinventing the wheel every single time I'm sending a tweet or something.

Jason Staats (32:17):

I'd say the other thing to reiterate is focus on the projects that are going to develop your personal skills. Think less on the business dimension, having this new business, this new project, this new entity, and think more on the personal development spectrum. So, what is another skill that's really complementary to the things that you already know? Like Susan, I think you're a great example of this is you've got a killer podcast not because you have some like mystical podcasting knowledge but because you have this really unique background and skillset from the things that you've done so far, and you can flip a switch and overnight have a really interesting podcast. And that's not possible unless you've got a really interesting complementary skillset. So I would say you can take on projects that will help you to develop those skills, but I personally, I think skillset first rather than business first.

Susan Boles (33:22):

I love that perspective. I'm curious, as you were building all of these things, was there anything that was a specific challenge for you as you started building and multiplying how many things you're focused on? Was there anything that tripped you up or that you had a hard time with?

Jason Staats (33:45):

I think something every entrepreneur struggles with is finding the right people to plug into different roles. That's a hard thing to do until you've done it. I think it's getting easier because you end up building connections with people and they'll work with you on different projects. If I have something where I need a developer now, that's really easy because I can lean on kind of the network I've built through other projects. But that's a hard thing to do if you haven't done it before because, I mean, you can go out and buy any service that's out there. That's one thing.

Jason Staats (34:28):

But to build a relationship with a person or a team that's going to understand where you're coming from, what you're looking for and efficiently be able to knock that thing out kind of from beginning to end, rather than wasting a bunch of time and investment in something that maybe isn't going to take you where you're trying to go, that is incredibly valuable. Now to for example we've got other products on the way and to be able to flip a switch and say, "Yeah, I'm 30 days. I think we could ship this," because we already have a good understanding. We know where we're headed. We can kind of define what the scope of that project is. And we've already done other projects before and so we know kind of what that process looks like. That is a superpower.

Jason Staats (35:15):

It's another reason for building your audience because for example, when I got to the point where I really needed a video editor. I was spending too much time editing. I just need to be on camera, I don't need to do the editing. I was able to put a tweet out and then hire somebody based on their response there from my audience. And that is almost always going to be a better hire than buying a service off the shelf because that's a person you can build a relationship with that's going to understand your vision, that you can work with longer-term. So finding the right people, that is a hard one but is absolutely something worth investing your time in.

Susan Boles (35:56):

I'm curious, are you a grow to hire or hire to grow kind of guy? Did you hire for your projects before the revenue was there to support them or did you wait until you were generating enough revenue on your own to outsource some of the stuff you were doing?

Jason Staats (36:13):

Yeah, I'm probably a hire-to-grow person because if I take on a project, I'm always thinking, is this going to demand everything of me? And if so, I'm probably not going to do it. I'm always looking for that framework where you can plug somebody in and it's going to be relatively easy for them to be successful in it. And so for me, actually across all of my different projects, really all but one of them, maybe two of them are pre-revenue. The accountant community, that's making good money and that finances the bulk of the other projects that we're doing, some of which we think will be bigger than the community someday, some of which, I don't know, we'll see.

Jason Staats (37:01):

And virtually every case, I'm hiring that support before that company's profitable. You have to see a path to profitability and you can get creative with that. Like if you have somebody doing sales, you're not going to pay them a salary, their pay is going to largely be based on commission so that you're kind of in alignment on the goals there and you don't have a big potential financial outlay if it doesn't end up working out. So there's ways to kind of temper that. But I definitely, I think I'm probably hiring out ahead of that growth, both because we have the flexibility with some projects being profitable but also because I'm always looking for a project that someone else can kind of be taking the helm on as early as possible.

Susan Boles (37:58):

Yeah. That makes sense. Anything else before we go ahead and wrap it up?

Jason Staats (38:03):

Find things you enjoy. I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't super fun for me. This is not fun for everybody. There's definitely people that it's more fulfilling for them to go deep on one thing and that's what they do. But for me, I kind of I follow the skills and I follow what I think is going to be fun. I think as long as you're doing that, it's not going to take over your personal life. You're not going to be a monster when you turn the computer off. And it's something that can, I think, give you energy rather than just drain you every day.

Susan Boles (38:43):

All right. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect and learn more about any of your projects?

Jason Staats (38:48):

Yeah. Best place is on Twitter, @JStaatsCPA. Good luck spelling that, but I assume you'll put it in the show notes.

Susan Boles (38:58):

It'll be in the show notes.

Jason Staats (38:59):

That's the best place. I'm chatting with people on Twitter every single day and that's where I connect with people.

Susan Boles (39:06):

The thing that has stuck with me since I talked to Jason is this idea that shiny object syndrome doesn't have to be a bad thing if you couple it with maintenance mode and leveraging technology. Now, I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to keep myself from getting distracted with new ideas and new projects. We have talked about shiny-object in just about every episode in this maintenance mode series. And it's always with the context of how to avoid the shiny objects; to work the system, stay the course and focus on getting the one thing working. And that makes sense because that's really the essence of maintenance mode.

Susan Boles (39:46):

Jason's perspective that I really loved that felt so freeing to me was that if you actually can put a business in maintenance mode, the shiny object problem isn't really a problem. New projects can be an opportunity to expand your personal skills, to be fun and interesting. It doesn't have to be a distraction. It could just be a fun side project. Now, don't take this as me saying go start all the things because distraction really does cause a lot of problems for businesses. You have to finish building the systems and make sure the first business is in maintenance mode before you move on to building the next. Building a bunch of half-finished projects is where we get into trouble.

Susan Boles (40:29):

But the beauty of maintenance mode is that it buys you freedom. The time and effort you spend building those systems and making sure they run pays off because you have choices. You could scale the same business with your freedom. You could take time off with your freedom. You could build something else with your freedom. To me, maintenance mode equals the freedom to make those choices.

Susan Boles (40:54):

Next week, I'm talking to India Jackson from Flaunt Your Fire about the second strategy we talked about at the beginning of the episode, hiring for maintenance mode. So, make sure you hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it. And if this episode got you thinking about how you can start to leverage technology more in your own business, let's talk. Come to my next Dollars + Decisions Roundtable. It's a finance and operations strategy session for business owners like you. And it is a great way to talk through how to smooth out those bottlenecks or to get some ideas from other business owners about what's working for them. You can register at scalespark.co/dollarsanddecisions, or just click the link in the show notes. See you there.

Susan Boles (41:38):

Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin. Our production coordinator is Lou Blaser.


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