I’m joined by Jason Blumer of Blumer & Associates. Jason started as a CPA but he’s evolved his services especially for the creative industry. In addition, he has created a unique community called Thriveal that serves CPAs who think differently.
In this episode, Jason discusses the struggles that fledgling businesses face and how to overcome the first 5 years to grow a business that thrives.
If you’re struggling on how to niche, value your services, and organize your company, this is the episode for you.
Episode 6 Soundbites
Jason Blumer on Risk
If you run a business, what you have to do is learn how to balance risk. That's what people don't know how to do in running a business. It's not making mistakes. It's knowing what mistakes you can make and that they won't cost you your business, that's part of the deal. You've got to take risks. It's taking too big a risk that can shut your company down, which are foolish.
Jason Blumer on Niching
I think you can read a lot of things and a lot of books and a lot of articles that you're supposed to be doing, like develop a niche. Value price. These concepts are real important. I think a lot of times people try to implement these things into their business too fast. A start-up business needs to generate cash in a serious way. You're going to create some baggage. You're going to do a lot of things wrong. When you're starting up, you need to generate cash. You can't be too proud to cold-call. You can't be too proud to do whatever it takes to generate cash. Cash flow it going to be what legitimizes your business in those early years.
The business, if you want it to succeed, it's got to generate enough cash to support you and your family as a proof of concept. Now the business works. People will pay us enough money to live on this. Then you make some of those more mature moves later. A lot of times people will try to niche too soon. We like to tell people, "You can't niche too deeply into a niche, but you can niche too quickly."
Will Stewart on Pricing and Value
There's so much psychology when there's a dollar that's passed. It allows you to create value but also it makes people assign value to it that maybe didn't before. There is a difference between a free seminar and one where you even pay maybe five bucks. It doesn't have to be 1,000 dollars.
The first three years when I started my business, I started with nothing, just absolutely nothing. It was very difficult. That's where I lost sleep: how do I value myself? How do I get to where it's competitive enough to where someone's going to choose me over someone else, but I'm getting enough money that I can actually pay the bills.
Will: Welcome in. This is episode six of the Fire at Will podcast. I've got Jason Blumer here with me.
Jason: Hey, hey.
Will: Jason is a CPA but not just any CPA, a CPA on steroids.
Jason: I guess.
Will: You're like the Lance Armstrong of CPAs.
Jason: Yeah, maybe. That's cool.
Will: I guess.
Jason: I like that.
Will: We'll be getting into that. This show is a lot about helping small business owners, helping them grow and learn how to market themselves. A lot of people are experts in how to create whatever it is they can do, but maybe they're not as good at marketing.
Will: You're the first service provider type person ... I know you're also an entrepreneur, you have like a thousand gigs, things going everywhere. But, having you come in and just talk about finances, and a lot of things, all good stuff.
Jason: We can touch on any business-related thing we want.
Will: For the three people in the world that don't know you, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jason: I'm a CPA, have been in public accounting for 20 years. Public accounting is where you're in business to serve the public, basically, as opposed to private accounting which is you're an accountant for a private company, so we're guns for hire. Our firm is a virtual firm, a virtual CPA firm. My partner Julie and I lead that virtually. We have a team of about 12. We're going to maybe add more in the next few months. We serve creative design and digital marketing agencies all over the US, and our team is all over the US as well. Then Julie and I, we also are partners in a consultancy called Thriveal. Everybody pronounces it wrong.
Will: How do they say it? Thriveal?
Jason: Yeah, they say Thriveal, which has got an "e" in it, but the URL was available with the "e."
Will: You've got to do what you've got to do.
Jason: You've got to do what you've got to do.
Will: This was back in the .com, .net and .org days, right?
Jason: That's right. I got the .com, baby. Thiveal.com is a consultancy to help CPA firms know how to run their businesses better. We have events, coaching, community, things like that. All kinds of groups that we teach, professional education, all entrepreneurial education for firm owners-
Will: That's awesome.
Jason: -in Thriveal.
Will: What got you into CPA? Did you just wake up one day and say, "I have to be a CPA?"
Jason: Two years into my college career, I had long hair and I was in a band, a rock band.
Will: What was the name of your band?
Jason: Silence So Loud. It was awesome. We went into the studios, hard rock stuff. We probably sucked, probably. I thought we were awesome. We sucked, and that gig was not going to work out. I thought we may tour the world. That never was going to work. Two years into college I had to pick a major. My dad was an accountant so I picked accounting. That's it.
Will: Really. That was it?
Jason: He's provided for our family, so I thought I guess I'll be an accountant.
Will: Just a very practical thought.
Will: Were you good at math?
Jason: Yeah. No. I had to pick something. It could have been history. I picked accounting.
Will: Could be anything. Interesting. What do you think has allowed you to sustain that for all these years? I know you've just been out of college for maybe five years or so. What's your skill set, is I guess what I'm trying to say. What's that special sauce that makes Jason Blumer Jason Blumer?
Jason: I am an entrepreneur. I'm good at running service-based businesses and teaching people how to do that. I just know how to do it because I'm also an entrepreneur, which means I've started things and some have failed. I do multiple things. Entrepreneurs do multiple things, like you. You're doing something new. That's kind of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Jason: I have the experience now where I can actually help people know how to do it better, how to speak to those things. How to take risks in effective ways that work, those kind of things.
Jason: My partner and I could consult, really, with any service-based company and help them grow in a healthy way. We could vet that out through consulting. We can do that. That's our skill. We can do that for anybody. It just took a lot of learning, messing up a lot and doing a lot of right things, and so now that's what we can do.
Jason: The CPA world was great, because that is a great job to have. You can make a good living. You can run a business, you can run a firm, and people need it. It so happened to be a great service business to be in.
Will: And probably a great launching point if you are an entrepreneur, if you do love helping people and you do have that skill set where you can understand how do you launch a service.
Jason: Yeah. There's a little bit of luck for entrepreneurship maybe. I'm in a profession that's not super creative.
Will: It's an old profession.
Jason: Yeah. It's an old profession. It struggles to adopt things quickly. It's a very slow moving profession. If you're somewhat creative and you stand out, you kind of are already positioned well to be noticed. It's just being in this right profession.
Jason: If I was in digital marketing, I would struggle a little bit more probably because people like you are already just very creative.
Will: Right. That's totally interesting. It's interesting that you decided to take an industry that thinks in an old way, thinks in, "We've never done it that way before" kind of thing, and decides to revolutionize it and turn it on its head.
Will: What led you to that thought, "Oh, this is ripe for the picking?"
Jason: Probably like most entrepreneurs I didn't do it on purpose.
Will: It's the truth, it really is.
Jason: It can be an accident of a lifetime. Running the firm, I was doing it in the way that I would do anything: creative. I wanted to try stuff. When you own your own firm, that's when you actually get to play around. That's when you can make a lot of mistakes too, because you're free to do whatever you want, which may not always be good for every entrepreneur.
Jason: When I went to work for my dad ... He started our firm in 1997, and he's been retired for years now, but he started it. When I went to work for him and started running that firm I was free to try a lot of things. I tried many different things. Some worked, some didn't. That gave me the experience to know what does work and why it works. From there, I needed help, found a lot of other creative CPAs that were also doing things all over the country. Found them on Twitter about nine or ten years ago. There was about five CPA's on Twitter then.
Jason: We'd start talking and I just formally needed to be with people more. I know I needed that help and support, so started a community. Didn't know I was started a community.
Will: That's super interesting.
Jason: Called it Thriveal and said, "Does anyone want to come join?" It was free and everybody said sure.
Will: You just kind of created a tribe.
Jason: Yeah. Did a press release and a webinar. People showed up.
Will: You found people who were like you. "I'm in the CPA world and it's broken. There's new ways. It's a new world."
Jason: They're creative. They needed freedom to be creative. I could go to lunch with local CPA's in Greenville and they would think you're weird. A lot of our members in Thriveal do feel that. They don't feel accepted. I guess we're the weirdo tribe is maybe what I'm saying.
Will: Yeah, you are.
Jason: That's nice, that's cool.
Will: I've been to a Thriveal event. I say it with the most love and respect. It is a very weird group.
Jason: It is.
Will: I love it.
Jason: They're extremely entrepreneurial. They run businesses the way you're supposed to: take risks. In a service-based business, it's a very intimate heart-based business model. It's human service to humans. You have to love what you do so we tend to attract people who are very sacrificial, loving, and they want to go deep into the relationships with clients and things, which is just a model of how my partner and I serve people.
Will: I think that's the way you create a sustainable business, don't you?
Jason: Yeah. It depends. I guess you could really love people and go broke.
Will: There's always, there's a ditch on both sides of the road.
Jason: There's a balance. In Thriveal, we started it ... I just wanted to be with people. I needed help. It was a free community. There was a point people started asking for more and more help and guidance. I had to put a price on the community. That didn't go so well with everybody.
Will: Oh, I'm sure.
Will: They probably thought you were just money grabbing and trying to take advantage of them.
Jason: We probably knew who they were, but we said, "We can't keep giving without a price being attached to it." You can't ultimately do anything free forever. If there's value in this world there has to be a price attached. That's what represents the value.
Jason: We put a price on it. Some people were like, "Ah. You suckered us in to surprise us with a fee." Other's were like, "Yeah. We're totally open to that. We'll do it." They knew it was right.
Jason: We went through that. We went through balancing love and care and I'll sacrifice for you, also wait, I have to have a salary and help my family pay bills too.
Will: Once it got to a certain side where you started having meet-ups and all that, that's time out of your day and you use a lot because the organizing.
Jason: Yeah. When you attach a price to something that's valuable is when you really get to commit yourself to the investment of it.
Will: It's true.
Jason: That's when you really get to change lives, right? Now I can focus. My partner and I can focus on Thriveal. We can leverage it to change people's lives. People running businesses, it's a fearful thing. It's hard to do. It's confusing. It can be very complex. People need people. We tell people in Thriveal, "You should never be running a firm alone." Even though we target that smaller, start-up, more agile firm that's one and two million down with five team members below. That's a particular market we serve in this community world, because there are other communities. Those people are alone, and they don't need to be alone. It's rough running a business alone.
Will: It is.
Jason: You do it. It is tough, man. It's just you and the mirror sometimes, and you're like, "The mirror is not helping me."
Will: And the guy in the mirror is telling me I suck.
Will: You know what? He's right.
Jason: That's right. There's a lot of messaging you give yourself.
Will: It really is.
Will: It's funny with pricing, how pricing just turns people ... There's so much psychology when there's a dollar that's passed.
Jason: Oh yeah.
Will: It allows you to create value, which is I think a great point, but also it makes people assign value to it that maybe didn't before. The difference between a free seminar and one where you even pay maybe five bucks. It doesn't have to be large amount.
Will: It doesn't have to be 1,000 dollars.
Jason: We teach a lot about pricing. Pricing services that are service-based, it's all about psychology. It really is. It's about building trust and setting up processes and ways in which people trust you. Higher price means a different level of value you're setting with that price. You're making statements. The higher the price is, the higher the value you're promising to the market you're trying to serve.
Jason: A lot of people try to get in with free. That may work in some markets, like a product-based market, or something like that. Service-based is totally different. That is human to human work and you can't sacrifice and pour your life into other people's lives unless you're being paid to do it, I think.
Will: It's not sustainable.
Jason: It's not sustainable for you, and it wears you out. You're giving your heart to something that you're kind of not making money. You just give up eventually.
Will: I find it trains, not to interrupt you, I find it trains your clients to value your service in a certain way.
Jason: That's right. Oh yeah. Definitely. In a service-based business that creates a whole lot of things. Now if you have a lot of people that come in at a low price, you're building a legacy-based model where now you have a whole legacy-based client base, and they expect service in one way, with a low price. Then you want to start growing. Now you're creating a whole new group of clients that are new, that are maybe paying you more. Now you've created a dual business model, really, where you're serving a legacy group of smaller, maybe transactional volume-based services like tax returns. Then you have this other group that wants to pay you 80,000 a year for growth-related services. THey're willing to pay for it because they've got the money and they need it.
Jason: It's just hard, and pricing is a huge component to running a service-based business well, really huge.
Will: You're right. The first year ... The first three years I think when I started my business, I started with nothing, just absolutely nothing. It was very difficult. That's were I lost sleep was just how do I value myself? How do I get it where it's competitive enough to where someone's going to choose me over someone else, but I'm getting enough money that I can actually pay the bills. My wife loves it when she flips a switch and the lights come on.
Jason: We all do.
Will: We really do.
Jason: Those start-up years are really just difficult years. Painful. You've got to push through those. I think with the creative agencies we work with, sometimes five and six years in they've gone through some ups and downs. They have some knocks and some scars and they know what works. A lot of times that's when they really start to go, "All right. I need some help." Or, "This is a real thing. I want to start making this something," after that five or six year period. There's people who get serious.
Will: Someone who has just recently started their business, or maybe it's a year in. They're trying to figure out pricing and value and how to value themselves. Are there some general thoughts, general concepts that people can use to start getting their pricing and value aligned properly to where they're actually getting paid what they're worth?
Jason: I think you can read a lot of things and a lot of books and a lot of articles that you're supposed to be doing, like develop a niche. Value price. These concepts are real important. I think a lot of times people try to implement these things into their business too fast. A start-up business needs to generate cash in a serious way. You're going to create some baggage. You're going to do a lot of things wrong. When you're starting up, you need to generate cash. You can't be too proud to cold-call. You can't be too proud to do whatever it takes to generate cash. Cash flow it going to be what legitimizes your business in those early years.
Jason: The business, if you want it to succeed, it's got to generate enough cash to support you and your family as a proof of concept. Now the business works. People will pay us enough money to live on this. Then you make some of those more mature moves later. A lot of times people will try to niche too soon. We like to tell people, "You can't niche too deeply into a niche, but you can niche too quickly."
Jason: What that means it there's untold levels of depth in any niche that you can fall into. You can go deeper and deeper into any niche, but that's a mature move that you make over years, but you can do it too quickly.
Jason: You can say, for example, you really don't have a business. Nobody knows you. You can niche. When you're niching you're narrowing. Narrowing can be very dangerous if you don't have a hold of some part of a market. If you niche too quickly, you've narrowed your market so small that you can't justify that.
Jason: Niching is a statement to a market that I'm an expert. If you're not, you're not going to make money if you niche too early, because you're not an expert.
Will: You also need to know what their fears are, what they're needing.
Jason: That's right.
Will: The gap that's in their lives that you can fill.
Jason: You have to know that stuff, and a lot of that comes with experience and we did. We niched over time. We had a generalist type firm, which means we would serve anybody that would walk in the door. That's an okay model when you start out, because the focus is generating cash. That's the key thing you've got to do when you're starting out. But you make these narrow moves, these more, I call them mature moves. You'll read an article but nobody says, "Be careful because niching is for a more mature model, for somebody with experience." Nobody says that, but it's true. Niching is narrowing your market, and that's just inherently dangerous.
Will: Yeah. You're right.
Jason: There's a lot less people to serve.
Will: You just have to know the territory and the terrain that you're walking into.
Jason: It's good if there's enough of a market in that narrow place that you've narrowed to, to justify a higher price. When you niche, you have to raise your prices too.
Will: That's true.
Jason: You're making a statement that, "I'm an expert." Prices must reflect. They must be significantly higher than your competitor that's not niching. Those are just truths about business. You grow into that over time.
Will: Are there any books or resources that you enjoy reading or recommend to others about niching or pricing value?
Jason: Oh, god. Oh yeah. There's tons.
Jason: We read a lot of books in the creative industry. Tim Williams, Blair Enns. These guys are friends of ours. We've had them on all of our podcasts. We've been on their podcasts. Things like that. They write great books. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns, or Positioning for Professionals, Tim Williams. These are really foundational niching-type marketing and ways to position yourself as a professional service-based business.
Jason: Peter Thiel, he wrote one, is one of my favorite books. He's a tech start-up guy from Silicone Valley. Just a brilliant guy. I call him a contrarian. I love contrarian writers because they write the opposite of what everybody says. They take an opposite viewpoint. Those kinds of books are great. Simple Numbers by Greg Crabtree I think. That's just a really basic business book that's even good for CPA's to read. That's just got some really basic financial understanding: what is a financial statement, how you should pay yourself, what is a salary. These kinds of things. Great books.
Will: Switching topics to having a community and having a tribe. Somebody's maybe starting out, I think that's so important, to have people that you can just grab a coffee with and just talk to. We're all having the same troubles and issues. Even from industry to industry, I can guarantee you the stuff that you've discovered and stepped into, I've done the same or I'm about to.
Jason: Oh yeah.
Will: How do people search out and find ... This is the reason why I'm asking the question. I see there's a lot of Facebook groups. I think those are good. They do serve a purpose and I'm not knocking any of those. Maybe just tell me if you think I'm wrong. Do you think there's something to be said for just face-to-face interaction and actual physical meetings, and that versus just a Facebook group where people just like ...
Jason: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I think my partner and I have discovered that. We run a virtual firm and that's kind of an up and coming cool thing to do in the accounting profession, run a virtual company. It's actually much more difficult to do, building culture is really hard with people that work and live in homes. That's very difficult. That's true of the Thriveal community. It is a virtual community. We have a lot of intentional meetings. They meet with their coach and facilitator on a monthly basis.
Jason: We have some live events too. The live events are transformative for the people that come. They're designed to be that way. We're creative people. My partner and I are very creative people. Even in Thriveal, even though it's a community for CPA's, every event is very experiential. We take months to plan it.
Will: They're amazing.
Jason: We visit the venues. It's meant to be an experience that you really can't explain when you leave. In that we want to create a world they step into that's transformative. It's a different place they've gone to, where they trust us in a way that we can actually transform them through that.
Jason: I would say a Facebook group is great, but you cannot replace face-to-face interaction. I think now I'm an old fart. I'm going to say stuff my dad would say. "Just pick up the phone, would you? Call somebody. Quit texting everybody."
Will: It's true.
Jason: There's a place for all of it, but you can't beat face-to-face interaction. You can't. There's no way to out-do it with a camera.
Will: What do you think makes a healthy tribe versus an unhealthy tribe? How have you been able to foster something where people find value, they're excited to go there?
Jason: That's a great question.
Will: They're willing to fly to it. There's a lot of time and money investment.
Jason: Oh yeah. People will fly from Canada, Australia. They'll come from all over the world for the event. I think our tribe really trusts us. They really trust us as leaders. We're very present leaders I think. In a community that's hard because in a community you can't talk to everybody face-to-face. At some point you can't be available to everybody in the community. They have to trust you at a point to know that. Over time that changes, because when you start out with a community and you have 30 people, you can get on calls with everybody all the time. There comes a point when you can't do that, when it starts growing. That's what's happening. We're growing and we're trying to figure out, "How do we stay involved?" We have to be really intentional about the things we do give our time to. The vision and the messaging from my partner and I have to be very visible.
Jason: I have to do videos. I have to talk. I have to share what I think. A lot of times the things I'm saying are what Julie and I think. It's what do we think about this community and what they should do. There was a point in time when I struggled to be that person. I didn't feel like I was worthy to be that.
Will: Interesting. Why not?
Jason: I went through a hard period of my life where these businesses were starting to cripple me and overwhelm me. It because personally overwhelming. You start really struggling with believing with yourself. You mentioned the messaging to yourself. Entrepreneurs are super-bad about that. That's a common theme with entrepreneurs. They talk pretty poorly to themselves oftentimes.
Will: That's true.
Jason: That's a common thing we know about entrepreneurs so those are things we attack, wrong messaging a lot of times, at these events we create, because we do a lot of encouragement. I went through that. I was overwhelmed and crushed, so I started stepping back from the community, and wanted to not be the leader, when I'm the only guy that should be. I'm the only guy that can be the leader of Thriveal. I stated it. In our community, they know we love them and we do, because we sacrifice our lives for them to care for them.
Jason: Yeah. I just had wrong messaging in my head: Feed myself lies. It's just really common. You have to combat lies. People around you who you surround yourself with help you combat those lies. I needed that. Now I know I have to speak. I have to be there.
Jason: At Deeper Weekend we've always had speakers. We would hire speakers. We've stopped that. Now I'm the speaker.
Jason: I'm the only guy that's going to speak. Our facilitator and coach, he'll help do some workshop-related things that we do too, but I'm going to be the speaker. These are my people. I love them. I want to be with them. I want to teach them. You know what? They want me to.
Will: You probably also know what they need, too, with where their struggles are, where they're at.
Jason: I do. I stand in front of them, I go do a question and answer session with me and Julie at the end of a conference. They know we run a firm. We're not just writing stuff. We just fired somebody Monday and the conference is Wednesday. Hey. We feel like crap. Welcome to Deeper Weekend.
Will: Aren't you glad you made it.
Jason: But they're like, "Yeah, I feel like crap too. I just fired somebody before I came." I'm like, "Me too. We're here."
Will: In our industry right now, my industry, video production, there are so many people who set themselves up as experts in their field who are just for $999.99 you download this PDF, e-Book, watch this workshop video.
Jason: I know what you're talking about.
Will: There's a whole sales funnel thing.
Jason: Oh yeah, sales funnel thing.
Will: It's like, here I am with this skinny girl and a pool. Let me get out of the pool and go walk up to my Ferrari while I'm talking to you. Lots of fronting.
Jason: Real estate's big into that stuff too.
Will: They really are. What's the difference between those guys and a genuine leader? How do you break through that? I've even seen people that, they're intentions are good. They're good people, but they try to lead when no one's looking for a follower, or try to create something and you know there's some kind of monetization down there. Is it just because they're not the kind of person for it? Does it come down to a personality thing?
Jason: I think anybody can be a leader, so there's not a personality--this is a great leader, this is a bad leader. I think sometimes it's a fact. If you run a business, you're a leader. You may not feel like a leader. You may make wrong decisions. You are a leader. Just understanding what you are is one thing.
Jason: I don't know. It's hard to sort through that fronting that people do. I think leaders are very sacrificial. They're very consistent. They're long term. Those are leaders. It's people who have been there a long time. They show up day after day after day after day. They trudge through things. There are things we don't want to do that we have to do.
Jason: I've been running firms for 15 years. When I stand in front of people and talk about running a firm, I know what I'm talking about, and you're all going to listen to me. You know what? Just saying that is something I couldn't have said maybe five years ago. I would shy away and go, "I made mistakes. What do I know?" But I do know.
Will: Seth Godin talks about that. He talks about doing the work and making a ruckus. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just show up.
Jason: That's right. I think, yeah, make a ruckus. That makes sense. Positioning is a marketing term. Sometimes positioning, that's basically making messaging statements to the market you've chosen to serve. That's proper positioning. It's got to match your vision and your purpose for what you're trying to build, but that position often needs to be very polarizing. I think good leaders recognize their faults but they are not scared to say the things that they believe. I think leaders have to say things they think are true. That means leaders are going to not be liked by some people and they're going to be liked by some people.
Jason: If you find a leader where people love them and hate them, I would want to gravitate towards that leader and find out what truth do they believe is true, that they're willing to stake their reputation on, to say publicly and out loud, to the point that people would hate them. They were saying things also that they truly believe, and people do love them.
Jason: Typically for a leader it's true that they're not right for everybody. There's a group of people they're meant to lead. They can't lead everybody.
Jason: I don't know how you sort through that online. I would probably want to ask how long have they been running a business. How long have you done this? What's the latest thing you've sold? I would want to ask, "Tell me the things you're doing that you're selling to me? Are you doing what I'm doing?" That would help me trust you.
Will: That's interesting because that's something that I've done too, as I've seen people in my industry that are like, "Hey, just do this webinar. You too can make $40,000 a month just making three videos."
Jason: I wish. No.
Will: Yeah, exactly.
Jason: Are they going to tell me how to do that?
Will: I wish there was a formula. Where's the magic formula? I have not found it yet. I have found hard work and just creating the work and showing up. I've looked at their body of work, at least I've tried to find them and I can't find them anywhere.
Jason: Only in the funnel. Maybe you should look for them outside the funnel.
Jason: If you google my name, there's a lot you're going to find, and it's all me. It's because, well you know Will. I'm here on Saturday, and there you are on Saturday.
Will: Oh my goodness.
Jason: You and I work in the same co-work space, so we're both here on Saturday because we've got stuff to do, man. You have to balance all that stuff.
Will: I'm not Instagraming it either. I'm not like, "Working so hard."
Jason: That's true. I haven't seen your working hard Instagram posts yet. That's because you don't have time. You're actually trying to get something done for a client.
Will: It doesn't make any money.
Jason: That's right.
Will: Literally these days, and my wife laughs at me, "Do you want this drink or this drink?" I'm like, "Babe, that question does not make me money. Just give me a drink. Just give me anything."
Jason: It doesn't matter. I trust you to pick out my drink at this point in my life.
Jason: I just need a drink.
Will: Yeah, exactly. I don't care. I don't care what I eat or drink or wear, as is quite apparent.
Jason: That's great.
Will: You talk about success and failures, as you've gotten to this point. Now you're successful, you're doing great things, you're making a difference in the world, but it probably hasn't always been that way.
Will: What are some failures that you had along the way, and what is it that you learned from that? That's very open-ended. Maybe pick one that you thought, like, man I wish I would have done this differently.
Jason: Oh my gosh. I started a digital media business, with debt, a long time ago with a design partner. There's a big long story to that, but we didn't know what we were doing. We didn't know what it really took to run a business. We started something with debt that we actually didn't know how to do, but nobody could have told me otherwise. People did try to tell me otherwise. "Hey, don't do this with debt." "No, no. My spreadsheet says I'm going to be making a million dollars in a couple of years." The spreadsheet prediction. You could stick anything in a spreadsheet.
Will: That's true. Just add a zero.
Jason: Yeah. Just add some zeros and you're like, this is going to work. We didn't know what we were doing. We didn't know what a business took. We took a huge risk using debt. I'm not saying people shouldn't use debt. It can be dangerous, right, because you're borrowing from the future. You've got to really be certain that your future can work out.
Jason: I just started a business before I knew how to run a business. That was not smart, but that's kind of I think how you do it. You start a business before you know how, and you kind of figure it out along the way. I think that's how you do it but we did it with debt. What that did was it meant we had to figure it out faster than we actually able to figure out how to run a business.
Will: It shortened your runway.
Jason: Yeah. It shortened our runway of figuring it out. If you self-fund yourself, you might be broke for five years but you don't go out of business. You learn how to do it. Then after five years is when you really start growing. We ran it on debt, and we had to shut the company down. That was dumb.
Will: How did that feel whenever you had that? Did you feel like a failure, or were you like, "This didn't work and I'm going to go do something else?
Jason: Yeah. You feel like a failure. I wasn't a failure.
Jason: I made some wrong decisions. That doesn't make me a failure.
Will: Not at all.
Jason: That's true for anybody watching or listening. You're not a failure because you make mistakes. You make mistakes because you're human.
Jason: If you run a business, those are the ingredients to running a business is making mistakes. What you have to do is learn how to balance risk. That's what people don't know how to do in running a business. It's not making mistakes. It's know what mistakes you can make and that they won't cost you your business, that's part of the deal. You've got to take risks. It's taking too big a risk that can shut your company down, which are foolish. That's foolish. That's what I did. I didn't know.
Will: I found that when I've made mistakes ... I've made, we could fill a whole podcast and a half with ...
Jason: Me too.
Will: I didn't understand what the risk was that I was taking.
Will: I didn't understand the ramifications of it. I didn't understand if I make one move what will happen to me.
Jason: Yeah. We teach a program called ... It's an incubator program. It's a two and a half day, we call it a mini-MBA for entrepreneurial firms. They're start-up firms typically. Some of them haven't even started their firms. They're trying to figure out how to launch. We have a whole session on risk versus reward analysis. Teaching people how to assess risk alone is a skill you have to learn. You can bump through life trying to figure that out as you run your own business, but there is a skill to it. You have to figure out how to do it. It takes work to do it. It's just one of your jobs. As a leader of an entrepreneurial organization, one of your jobs is to assess risk, and to take some risks, and to choose which ones you can't take. Figuring out how to mitigate the risk, or what's the upside potential to the risk.
Jason: There's this work you have to do. You have to spend an hour or two digging through decisions a lot of times to figure that out. You're right, I think a lot of people don't even know what risks they're taking and you have to know those things, so you have to slow down, take time.
Jason: I would also say entrepreneurs struggle with decisions. That's what sets entrepreneurs apart. Good ones and the ones that typically don't succeed is leaders, entrepreneurial leaders are always deciding things.
Will: It's true.
Jason: Always. Every day it's small things. They do assess, but they move on and they do something. That's a very common thing. Just deciding, that sounds weird. We work with a lot of entrepreneurs, and they sometimes discuss things way too long. You have to decide. That's a key part of being a leader is deciding and doing something.
Will: What do you think that comes from? Is it because someone's too precious with their company?
Jason: It's fear. There's a lot of fear in entrepreneurial mindsets and the hearts of people.
Will: Fear's a motivator.
Jason: Yeah. Fear can be a motivator or it can paralyze you too. That's the thing. It can make you do wrong things. It can paralyze you so that you do nothing. Those are all wrong things. Fear is really bad, but that's part of the life of the entrepreneur a lot of times because as an entrepreneur, everything's on your shoulders. It's all sitting squarely on your shoulders, and you know it.
Will: If you don't move, then nothing's moving.
Jason: Nothing's moving if you don't move.
Will: If you don't paddle, we still ain't going anywhere.
Jason: That's how it works. Entrepreneurs, they're keenly aware of the responsibility being on their shoulders. That weight is very heavy for a lot of people. That just depends on the context of their lives and what they're doing. That weight can really crush people. It did crush me at one point.
Will: As my company has matured and grown and changed and evolved and so much has happened, I've had to look at myself and go, Okay, am I an entrepreneur? Am I a CEO? Am I a guy, just a freelancer? Where do I want to be? Do I want to build a video production empire? Or do I just want to be one guy with a camera running around. It's got to be some kind of hybrid between the two.
Jason: That's big. That's all messaging. We do a lot of business coaching with agency owners and firm owners. A lot of that messaging is common. We'll challenge them on a title. "What's your title?" "I'm a freelancer." "Are you? Why aren't you the CEO. Tell me you're the CEO." They're like, "No, I don't feel like the CEO." "I didn't ask you to say something you feel like. Tell me what you are. Are you the CEO?"
Jason: We'll battle a role title in coaching.
Will: These are people with multiple people under them?
Jason: Oh yeah. They'll have ten member teams. They're like, "I'm just a ... I'll only put owner." "Why didn't you put CEO?" "I don't feel like a CEO."
Jason: Just battling the title, it's not about a title. We're trying to get to the heart of that individual and the messaging about themselves. You have to say it.
Jason: I am the CEO. I'm the CEO of two companies. You know what? That comes with a lot of responsibility, and it means I get to do a lot of things that I love to do, but there's a lot of things I don't get to do. I had to come to those realizations, to marry the things I don't get to do with the things I'd love to do, that's the sweet spot for me. I'm there, thankfully, but I was not always there.
Will: Yeah. That's good.
Jason: I was fighting myself about what I want to do, who should I be. I'm the CEO, at the front of our tribe. I'm the one that's meant to stand up in front of these people and talk to them. They know I love them. Some of the sessions we're teaching, we're even going, "Hey you all, this is a session we're about to start that we are working on right now." They'll do the questions and answers and they're challenging us. I'm going, "Didn't think about that. Julie and I, we'll talk about it. That's a good question. I told you all we're working through this." That's how we teach and care. People trust that kind of leadership. They know we're not perfect.
Will: It's good you're vulnerable too.
Jason: Yeah. That's a part of it. You have to be vulnerable when ...I don't know if you can gain authenticity, but we are authentic, just because we love what we do and we love the people we do it for. I think that shows. Maybe that's the difference in those sales funnel videos. There's no authenticity to it. You can't just say, "I'm going to trick people into thinking I'm authentic." You can't do that. Authenticity is not something you go try to do. You just are and everybody knows you are. It's a thing you're known as. It's not a thing you can market.
Will: You can't describe yourself as authentic. It has to be described by a third party.
Jason: Somebody else calls you authentic. You don't call yourself authentic, and you don't make a video to say, "Hi. I'm the CEO of Blumer CPAs and I'm an authentic CPA." It's just something they're going to find out is true or not.
Will: That's good. Going back, you talk about the first time you started asking money for the growing tribe tree building. If your goal, as some people possibly accused you of, to sucker these people in, sell them. Kudos for a long-term, very subtle goal to do that. If actually that's your goal, if your goal is just to make money, then I think a lot of times, I feel like that's where a lot of businesses go wrong when they're just saying, "We're trying to get money. We've looked at this market and we found that for every dollar we spend we'll get five dollars back, and we're just going to bleed this dry."
Jason: That's right.
Will: Versus having some kind of model that's set up of, "We love our community. We love these people. We want to make their lives better. Yes we're going to get money in exchange for services." That's the way the world works, but it's not our goal.
Jason: Maybe you don't start with what can I create that makes me money? It can be more. It's got to be more. It's got to be more of ... At least this is true in a service-based business, which my partner, we're experts at leading people to service-based businesses. That's where our expertise lies, which means we're real good at it, and we suck at everything else. There's no other business model. I could not help a restaurant owner or a manufacturing company. I would run those businesses in the ground with you. Right? That's what happens. You become an expert at really narrow things as you grows. There's a lot of cutting away of knowledge you need to start dropping in your life.
Jason: As you move from a generalist to an expert, you have to stop learning and stop knowing a lot of things so that you can devote time to the thing you know. If you become that, I think that's how you approach people. You say, "This is the thing I know and I want to sell this to you because it helps you. It is a good thing." You have to pay me too. The money is almost a secondary thing.
Jason: Prices are important in our economic society because prices are the thing that denote value. I have to do the work of putting a price on the thing I'm selling. That allows you, the human, to place value on and invest in me. If we're doing ongoing coaching every month, you've got to show up for those coaching sessions. You've got to trust me. We're going to say hard things. You've got to do the homework we come up with. You've got to let me hold you accountable. If you're paying, you're going to show up for those sessions. You're going to do that work. You know what, if people don't want to pay, they're not your client. It's pretty basic. That's obvious, right? You're not going to serve them for free. They're not going to pay you.
Will: I used to think anybody who had a checkbook was my client. Then I realized it was anybody who had a check book and a check that would clear.
Jason: That's a good one.
Will: Then I decided it was even much more than that. It was people whose values aligned with mine. That's even less work for me, when I find the client that believes in what I believe in. We're not having this whole discussion. It's more like there's less onboarding that has to happen, and there's a lot of shorthand.
Jason: They're ready. They picked you. They're like, "Will, tell me. What do I do next?"
Will: I forget the exact statistic, but there's a vast majority of small businesses that close the doors after four or five years. They just don't make it. In your experience, in the few minutes we have left, what do you think is the reason for that? From a financial and values, where do you see common mistakes that people are making, and what are some things they can do to mitigate that?
Jason: I think if you do make it to the five year mark you've got a good proof of concept of something that works. Even if you struggled that whole time. If you've made it without debt, then your revenue has supported your company. Kudos if you've done that. It probably means you can expand it in some way to be something more than it is now.
Jason: I think it's just really dumb mistakes I think. In those first five years you're learning and you're growing. You're trying to figure out a lot of things. You're really doing a lot of unwise things probably. Probably in that most people have taken a risk without any kind of footing or foundation to support that risk, and it's just put them out of business. It could be that.
Jason: I think they've tried to bite off more than they could chew, like I'm going to go take over the world int eh first five years, when really you need to get five clients. Keep them. Renew a contract with them or whatever, and try to get five more the next year. I think growth is a very methodical move that you make. Later when you're more mature you can make some big moves. You can make some big statements. You can put some big prices on things. That comes later. It doesn't typically come in the first five years for everybody. Probably they've just really made some bad mistakes and they've overlooked that it takes a lot of work daily to just do the work you're doing for those five clients. Serve those five people that have agreed to pay you.
Jason: Entrepreneurs can be very distracted people-
Will: Very much.
Jason: -as you know.
Will: You always have an idea. You're like, why not?
Jason: Right, and you own the business, so let's do all of them. That's really bad. In that first five years you need to stay focused. You need to really have proof of concept of what you sell produces money and you need to service. You've got to deliver the stuff you sell. You have to show up and then do the great work and blow their minds with what you've done.
Jason: I think people are just biting off more than they can chew. They've taken risks they shouldn't. Probably in those first five years if they get into debt, that's pretty dangerous I would say. Not that debt's always bad, but you want a business that can support a debt payment. In the first five years that may or may not be true so you've got to be careful.
Will: It's hard when you're starting a business to be patient.
Jason: It is, man.
Will: That's the difficult thing.
Jason: Maybe you need patience in those first five years.
Will: That's what I needed. The two things that led me to making mistakes in my business were I wasn't patient or I was afraid.
Jason: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Common.
Will: Usually it was a fear was going to be at the scene before I am. I had this idea. If I can just throw a lot of money at it, with a poorly conceived plan, just charge the gates, surely it'll work.
Jason: Yeah. That's a great setup for failure. Spend a lot of money on something. Charge the gates. Nobody knows that it's valuable. You go tell everybody and they're like, "No."
Will: And you bounce off the gates.
Jason: You bounce off, bam, bounce off the gates, and that can lead to failure. I would say don't take as big a risk in that first five years. Really be pretty methodical with your growth. You do have to take some risks. Make sure you can pull off the service you're providing. Stick with those clients. Serve them well. You'll get to make those bigger moves later. You will.
Will: There's a lot that can be done with just the meat and taters stuff.
Jason: Oh, yeah.
Will: Just the cold calling or just telling everybody you know, "Hey, this is what I do."
Jason: Yeah. What supports our businesses, both our firm and Thriveal, are the monthly methodical things that we do. I'm here talking to you about growth and coaching, that's a small percentage of what we do because it's such a high level value, few will buy that. Everybody, all of our clients obviously, are buying accounting taxes and payroll for an agency. All of them. Our team does that work and they're awesome. That's what supports our firm, it's that methodical day-in, day-out thing that really is what supports us. The big fancy cool stuff, it's not the things that typically supports ongoing business needs and operations.
Will: A lot of value you've dropped today. I appreciate you swinging buy.
Jason: Thanks for having me.
Will: For people who want to learn more about you, where should they find you?
Jason: You can google Jason Blumer. You'll find a lot of videos. Probably for Blumer CPAs and Thriveal CPAs, we have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn on all of those. You can go to Jasonblumer.com. That's just a splash page of the things I'm involved in, the things I do.
Will: Jason has videos that he posts, I don't know how often you post. They pop up on Facebook all the time.
Jason: I do two to four videos a week. That's the free content we put out just to help people.
Jason: A great place is to find all those on my LinkedIn profile, Jason Blumer. We put all the videos there. We put them on Facebook too. For business, LinkedIn's becoming a great place for those things.
Will: Are you finding value in LinkedIn?
Jason: Yeah. We do a lot of messaging with people that want to contact us. You may not be able to find my email necessarily online. They will message us on LinkedIn. We use it as a messaging tool and as a platform for all of our videos.
Will: I'm still trying to figure that out. I feel like I'm friends with eight million people and I don't know any of them.
Jason: We're still trying to figure all that out too, but it's a place for us to put some of our content to help people.
Will: Definitely check out Jason's stuff. I really appreciate you taking the time. It's been fun getting to know you all these years. I've been looking forward to having you on the podcast. I'm glad it finally happened.
Jason: Thanks for having me.
Will: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. For everybody who has watched the live show on Facebook, thanks so much. I really appreciate you doing that. If you're a podcast listener, be sure to like and subscribe and if you're someone who's at the podcast, come on Facebook and we've got the live. If you want to see Jason's face, we've got him plastered here. For those of you who maybe are watching live on Facebook, we also have the podcast, so run on over to the podcast.
Will: Thanks again, man. Really appreciate you.
Jason: Love it. Thanks Will.
Will: Thanks everybody.
Jason: All right. Take care. See ya.