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About The Business Fixer Podcast
Hosted by Haroon Rashid, the Business Fixer Podcast is for any business owner who wants to know how to get from A to B in the simplest possible way. This business podcast is full of business tips including leadership, sales, marketing, finance, culture and much more. Does something need fixing in your business? Don’t know where to begin with your startup, grow or turn around your business? Whether you’re a startup, established business or a multimillion-pound business, the Business Fixer podcast will help you understand where you are, clearly define where you want to be and guide you on the road to get there.
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About Our Guest
JAG PANESAR – XPAND MARKETING
Jag set up Xpand in 2007 with a goal to use his experience in marketing strategy to help organisations build their brand. Since then, he has delivered projects for clients across the UK including master chocolatiers Lindt & Sprungli and HM Prison Service.
Jag and his team created SOLAR7, a marketing framework that involves seven steps to achieve marketing return on investment. The model has achieved success for clients throughout the UK time and time again.
[SHOW NOTES] Business Growth Lessons w/ Xpand Marketing
SOLAR 7: The 7 Stages To Achieve Marketing Success:
SOLAR7 is Xpand Marketing’s 7-step process to achieve marketing success. Find out more here.
[TRANSCRIPTION] Business Growth Lessons – Xpand Marketing
Business Fixer Podcast 013
Hey sports fans and welcome to the Business Fixer podcast where we believe that clarity is king and simplicity is queen. Today! Episode 13 business growth lessons from Xpand Marketing. We have a very special guest on the show today. Jag Panesar. Jag has been a really good friend of mine for over, uh, over a decade actually. And when we first met, we both had black hair. Yeah. How about that? So in this episode, Jag is going to be going through some really crucial business growth lessons. You don’t want to miss it.
The Business Fixer podcast is sponsored by Dad Mode. Let me let you in on a little seat. Dads are sick and tired of getting the same old shitty gifts. That’s, you know, deodorant and socks and whatever else you can think of. We just kind of open up those gifts and go, oh yeah, that that’s that’s great. No, no, just, yeah. Grab me a beer, cause I need to drink to, just to get through this awful present. So dadmode.co.uk we have a load of great dad gifts. That’s dad joke T-shirts, dad joke mugs. I mean. Make him smile. That’s the best gift you can give somebody. But also at Dad Mode, there’s a social focus. Every purchase counts towards the fight against male suicide. We have the Dad Mode podcast where we interview some great people, great mental health charities. We create promo codes. Use that promo code, and a percentage of the profits will go towards that fight. So please visit dadmode.co.uk, listen to the podcast, more importantly, buy something using the promo codes that we have and give those dads the gifts that they deserve. The dad of laughter. That is dadmode.co.uk.
So, as I said, I’ve known Jag for a while and it’s been a delight to watch him grow his business over the last 12 years or so. When we first met, he was a solopreneur. Uh, he was in the marketing sphere. I was in the marketing sphere. Um, I’ve just watched his career, um, over the last 12 years and seeing him grow his business, how he’s managed to land some really big clients like Lindt chocolates. Uh, he does marketing for them. I just eat Lindt chocolate. Uh, but it’s been a delight and he’s just going to go through a load of stuff, uh, about how businesses need to grow, um, how, what they should be looking out for. And we talk about things like structure and processes, and we really talked about values a lot, which is really interesting to me. So I think that’s going to be a really good episode for you guys to listen to how.
Jag set up Xpand in 2007 with a goal to use his experienced in marketing strategy to help organisations build their brand. Since then he has delivered projects for clients across the UK, including master chocolatiers, Lindt and Sprungli. Am I saying that right? Sprungli and the HM Prison Service. Oh, wow. Okay. I didn’t know he did that. Jack and his team created so lost seven that’s S-O-L-A-R seven, all one word. Um, and as a number seven at the end. Uh, so, so lost seven is a marketing framework that involves seven steps to achieve marketing return on investment. The model, the model has achieved success for clients throughout the UK time and time again. So if you head over to businessfixer.co.uk, we will definitely be putting links to that in the show notes and let them know, uh, that, uh, Haroon sent you without further ado here’s Jag.
So, uh, Jag, I know we’ve known each other for over 10 years, but I have a confession to make. I hate Star Wars.
How dare you! I’m going.
Can’t stand it, man. Can’t stand it. The thing that hurts me the most is that my son now, he also loves comic books. Like I do. He likes Star Wars a lot, and I feel like, should I disown him or not? I
I’ll take him.
But like when we, but when we met each other, it was it probably about a decade ago. It wasn’t, it probably over 10 years, over 10 years. Probably about 12 years ago. And then you would, you were just a sole trader at that point or was it just, it was you by yourself near my own. Yeah. And then now, like 12 years later, you have six people, recognised as one of the top digital agencies not only in Bradford, I would say in the north. You’ve been featured in a lot of like really good publications. So. We’re going to talk about what’s happened in this last 12 years and how you got from A to B, so I think this, for this episode, I wanted to really talk about growth stories. So. Just tell us, start anywhere you want, man. Like, how did you do it?
Um, oh, I said, this is quite a long story really, but, um, I’ll give you the puppet version. Um, you know, I think a big part of growth comes down to mindset. The first five years of me being in business, I kind of fell into it. I always knew I wanted to be in business, but I fell into it because I was made redundant, which is quite a classic story for a lot of kind of new starts.
Um, it was a very niche industry. It was garage equipment, like lifts and tire chains and mot bears, all the stuff you see in a garage workshops. So it’s a very niche industry and I was made redundant and because everyone knew what was going on, a couple of companies wanted me to go and work for them. Uh, but my little Mark 2 Polo wouldn’t have made a couple down the, in 62 every day because one of the people that offered me a job was in Liverpool and I was based in Bradford at the time.
Um, so we decided that, okay, well, I’ll just charge you an hour break and I’ll work from home. I said fine. And that’s kind of how it started. So I ended up kind of staying within those kinds of valuable industry for quite a while. Um, I set up another business with a business partner, uh, we telling in car accessories at the time and I was probably biting off a bit more than I could chew at that time.
I was doing too many things. I was getting a little bit too excited about it. So I ended up dropping out after about a year or two. And then, uh, in 2011, that’s when I really decided right. This was at the end of 2011. I said, 2012, I’m going to push it. And that’s it. I’m going to start employing on the building agency.
And within the space of six months, it went from just myself to there’d be four of us. Um, and that was a pretty huge learning curve. You know, without any solid management experience, I was used to kind of doing everything myself and just building out this team. I had a designer, I had a developer, I had an apprentice and we were very much a creative agency back then.
Um, and yeah, it, it was a very interesting time. Um, and the the biggest kind of learning curve and still is to be honest, is it’s all about the systems, rarely the kind of the hand, the, the, the process of growing and getting things running efficiently is having the right systems in place. And of course having the right people in place.
And if you can get those two things, right. Really, you know, the people say, if, sometimes I ask questions to prospects or clients, you know, who are the most part people to you, they might say customers, but the reality is most important people in the business is that internal resource that you have within the people.
If you get the right people in the business, then quite frankly, The work will, the brand will build itself. You know, we call it employee advocacy and employee engagement. If they’re really engaged and absolutely love what they’re doing, they are the best ambassadors for your brand. Um, so yeah, I think that’s kind of fundamental to the growth of the business, getting the right people in place.
Take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers and they’ll take care of the shareholders. Classic Richard Branson. Isn’t it. Um, so what, at what point did you know that you had to start putting in systems or processes in place when it wasn’t, when you hired your first person or was it when you grew to about four people?
Uh, well, that happened very quickly in the space of six months. And it was at some point between the cause, you know, the learning curve for me was, I just need you to do this. Um, obviously everything was going on in my head and I just didn’t fully understand that, that time, you know why they’re not doing this, why they’re not doing that because nothing was documented.
Nothing had been fully trained up. And even the way we were communicating and managing projects, when it was just me, it was all happening by a phone or email. But then we knew that. Kind of a central system to be able to store everything so that the commons with clients would be a lot easier. So we’re kind of, one of the first kind of big moves for us back then was to bring in a program called Basecamp.
I don’t know if it still exists, but it’s kind of a really good at the time. It was a really good communications tool just to kind of house all the projects and messaging within one place to keep it moving forward. Um, we then brought in, um, a system to measure our timing. Um, called Toggle and we still use that now.
Um, and you know, so we know we might have estimates on, on projects that we might say, okay, we will, we’ve estimated 10 hours to do this, our hourly rate. So we know that we need to kind of keep as close as possible to those 10 hours. Uh, so we brought that in and then the learning from that was okay, well, the estimating needs to get a lot better because we need to have.
You know, if we get ended up going into 11 hours or 12 hours out of those 10 hours, we get moving into the realms of losing money. Um, so that kind of led to me realising, okay, well, I need to be documenting the processes and I need to be, um, making sure that everybody’s. Is aware of what’s involved and bringing in the expertise of all the different team members so that they’re all quoting.
There are independent parts, so that the specification from the outset is 100% clear so that we can hit the nail on the head and get within the estimated timeframes.
Well, let me ask you this, because I think, um, cause you, you are a creative person. All right. We’ve done collaborations over the years and things like that now, but what you’re talking about, I mean, what I’m saying is you’re very right-hand side of the brain naturally on you as a creative, what you’re talking about here, systems and processes, very left-hand side of the brain. How I mean, and I’ve had to learn this as well as a fellow creative has to learn when to be creative and learn when I have to be processed, driven. How have you managed that balance? And has it been a challenge for you and how have you overcome it?
Wow. Uh, that’s a good, that’s a good one because I was thinking this just the other day.
I was thinking I haven’t done anything really creative for quite a while because my role within the business it’s very much. Um, you know, running the systems, general administration, wanting finances. I do a lot of business development and do a lots of the strategy overview of make sure all the pieces tied together.
I am involved in creative, but when I say creative, I’m not kind of sewing it from the bottom and pulling it out. There’s different team members are responsible for that part of it. How that transition took place. That’s a good question. Um, it was, it was quite difficult if I’m honest, because it’s hard not to kind of be involved in the thing that you really love doing.
And I feel for me, that was probably a barrier to my growth because a very natural thing from what I’ve observed in how many years we’ve been doing this is, you know, the big. Blockage and a business growth is the business owner. And when you’re not letting go of functions, I’m not trusting the people around you to actually take over and do things.
Then you’re only one person you’ve only got so many hours in the day. You can’t do everything yourself. Um, so the letting go part. Very difficult. Um, but I think, again, it comes down to getting the right people in, you know, in terms of hiring the right people and seeing their kind of natural competencies and skill sets.
And recognising that actually, if I hadn’t this old to, um, assignment who was our operations manager, there’s things that he, I mean, he and I are like you, and yet he’s very good at the things that I’m not, not that good at. And we compliment each other in that way. He’s very. Systematic a very organised and, uh, you know, the things that I might have to work a bit harder to kind of do that he can do just like that means why not just give that stuff to him.
And then I focus on the stuff that I’m good at. It comes, I think it comes down to just making sure you’ve got the right people in place and trusting that they will do something and mistakes happen in the way that you kind of handled the phobic. But that’s all part of the evolution of business. There’s always a learning curve every day is school day.
Sounds like a, like a work marriage, doesn’t it? We kind of compliment each other and you got trust each other very much. I think we’ll probably get it right in our workplaces rather than at home. Probably best sometimes. Um, so you went around, let’s talk about this, hiring the right people that, because I have learned in my career as well, having the right person can save you so much headache, and this is why I’m really glad. You know, when you got the wrong person in the wrong place, it just is a killer. How do you go about finding the right people?
So I think it’s very important to have to know yourself that know your business and know your wrong values ahead of anything else to know what your core values and beliefs are.
Values are kind of your core behaviours. If you’re hiring someone, yes, you want to hire them on their skillset and their competencies, but then also obviously attitudes. Crucial values. If you can hire someone that demonstrates similar values to you, um, or aspires towards those values, you’ve got yourself a good alignment of, of a matchup of people.
And if everyone in the organisation. Shares very similar values. You’ve got a good natural kind of, you don’t have to work that hard to kind of get on with each other and when that’s happening straight away and that’s the foundation laid and it takes away a lot of the potential challenge of, you know, internal, um, um, heads locking and, you know, people disagree, which happens.
It can, I think it’s healthy for that to happen. And that’s where change comes in as well. Uh, but I think it all comes down to employing best on. And people’s competent core competencies. You know, you, you, you’re not always going to find a 100% match for exactly everything you need. There might even be that, that little, few percent, two or 3% that they don’t match.
Exactly. But as long as they have that core competency in the right attitudes, And those values aligned with your organisation’s values, then it’s, that’s where the perfect fit comes in. And again, you know, I think I’ve learned that through trial and error, there’s been times when I didn’t fully understand the depth of what I’ve just said about values and how hard, the great people in the business who have been brilliant at what they do, but there’s been this alignment in our values.
And that’s what. We are that we’ve developed. Um, so I really do believe it just comes back to the people element of it, hiring people that align with your own values and just knowing what your own beliefs actually are. The key things that are so important to you. And as a business owner, that’s often the thing that will spread straight into the business values cause it’s, you know, comes from there and if you get into.
Um, alignment of people involved. That’s where the growth really happens.
I could not agree more. What you’re talking about there, uh, really is about clarity. And as you probably know anybody who’s listened to the podcast for any length of time, we have the phrase. Clarity is king simplicity is queen. How have you ensured clarity throughout the organization? Then when you talk about values, because we all know that, you know, just to kind of put it on a website or send it to them in a document and expect them to read it, it’s not really going to embed it or get people aligned. How do you ensure the clarity, um, with the values, uh, with your, with this?
So we’ve got them. We’ve got four key values. They are on the, on the, uh, in frames, on the walls. When we induct our stuff, obviously we look for these values in them. We don’t tell them what our values are. We look for demonstration kind of things that they’re seeing for these values. Um, In our initial induction, we’ll have a short presentation, a bit about the business, our history, and so on and so on and where we go in objectives and an outline of our values.
Um, so, and you know, so that’s kind of saying like, this is kind of the reason you jumped on board. Kind of offered you the role is because you’ve demonstrated the values amongst whatever other competencies that demonstrate is. Um, after that we have, uh, regular reviews, uh, in which, uh, we actually kind of discussed the values and talk about, um, how the, uh, team member, if they feel that they have.
Demonstrate in any kind of way, the values, uh, that are outlined. Yeah, it’s not proof of such, you know, it, isn’t telling me how you’ve done this. I know that happens very much in the corporate world. There’s all kinds of ways means that is, um, but you know, there are challenges with doing that as well. Uh, but it tends to be just an open discussion.
It isn’t kind of a, you know, you have got this out of 10 and naughty boy, you haven’t, you know, you haven’t, you haven’t, why did you not get an, a. Um, I think that can be really counterproductive. It’s just more about discussing, um, you know, and I think within reviews, I think it’s important rather than the manager doing the reviews.
It’s almost like letting be employee the team. Self-review what do you think you’ve worked well on? What would you like to focus on forward? Um, in terms of our values, um, you know, do you feel aligned with them? Um, do you feel that you’ve met them or not met them or exceeded them in any kind of way? And it’s just a great opportunity to have an open discussion.
Um, and I think, again, in my opinion, I think a lot. Reviews should be a lot about the employee doing the, doing the talking rarely. Um, and then I suppose the only action that needs to be taken kind of from a management point of view is kind of, well, if there’s anything that they need to be kind of moved towards, they’re just constructed, we’re feeding back. Um, How to get them on track.
How do you go about getting, uh, sales in that? Because you bought some really cool, uh, clients like Lindt chocolate, which I love by the way as my belly would testify. Uh, how, how would you go about getting all these great clients and how do you do the sales process?
So, I mean the starting point, a big part of it is brand awareness.
So we are a digital agency, so yes, we generate inquiries. We get them online. We’re found, you know, we rank well on Google for certain key terms. People find us and they can quiet. In that circumstance, it’s often what I would call a cold inquiry. They’re probably not really met me or heard of any, you know, had any kind of engagement.
They’ll have founders on Google. They’re probably going to be speaking to a couple of other companies, at least. And then it all comes down to the process of, you know, how would that first discussion with them? Uh, did they, like what you’re saying then maybe have a face to face meeting with them off the back of that, put a proposal together and then present that to them.
And then they either engage or they don’t, I’ll have to think about it, but rarely where the real meat of the really powerful, strong strongest clients and best clients have come in have come in through our networks. So personal brand. Huge. It’s something that we are massive advocate solve, uh, and moving forward, even now with lockdown and, uh, you know, how we were all separated from each other.
I feel like a lockdown, the positive lockdown has had within the marketing and digital sector is it’s just emphasised the need for kind of business brand aware. And personal brand awareness. And you know, we talk about B2B and B2C, but really it’s human to human, people buy from people the classic saying.
Um, so a big part of it comes down to, you know, just making sure you are speaking to the right people, not to go in there and sell. Just be present, be known as a person that knows what they’re talking about, uh, that specialises in whatever area of, uh, business, uh, whatever it is that they specialise in. Um, and yeah, off the back of that, when the person is.
To make the inquiry will come to you. Um, you know, there’s a statistic that says we see between 3020 5,000 marketing messages in a day. You know, we’re pounded by branding left-right and sense that you have to have seven touch point. Uh, on a brand, have a need or a want for the service or product, and then you’ll make an inquiry.
So if you’re present in as many places as possible relevant to your target audience, when they’re ready, they’ll come to you. They’ll follow through the awareness and consideration engagement stage and move to the purchase stage when they’re ready to do that. And I’ve always been a big believer in that, you know, rather than.
Going in for the cold hard sale and try to out, reach out to people and, you know, Ram something down their throats. Um, I feel, you know, basically just make yourself available. And when people come to you off their own back, uh, they’ll come to you. If you’re there, see that you’ve got the right kind of credibility and trust and the right kind of content out there and the right portfolio of work.
Um, and that’s kind of how we’ve always worked. Um, and you know, when we’re in a position, uh, which, which happens with all businesses, you know, sometimes you have a great pipeline. Sometimes you don’t, you know, uh, sometimes it slows down from that point. You know, what we would do is we talk, we pull up the marketing, we tell the marketing and we really kind of just put a push out there and people will come to you when they’re ready to come see you. It’s all about just getting the right message in front of the right people.
Love that. And one of the things I wanted to ask you and I’ve, I’ve, you know, I’ve always wanted to ask you this. Um, as a marketing agency, I think a lot of marketing agencies struggle with this is their own marketing. Um, so you’d so busy doing marketing for your clients, and then you think, oh my gosh, as a marketing company, we, we aren’t doing our own marketing. You know, has that been a struggle for you guys is the peaks and troughs were there, uh, I mean, you’ve just mentioned that, that when there’s a push that you need to do to get sales and you’ll do that, but generally, how, how do you find it and how do you manage that challenge?
Ah, yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s a huge challenge, you know, as an agency. We are obviously busy doing client work and we try to allocate an amount of time per month to focus on the things that we want to do to keep ourselves going out there. But the reality is when we get busy, sometimes. It’s so easy to drop our own stuff. And we’re always battling internally on whether we should or shouldn’t.
Um, you know, obviously you’ve got to satisfy the customer and you can’t say to the customer, I’m not sorry, you can’t have this. You want this next week or you want this in three weeks time. Nope. Sorry. You can have it in six weeks times. Cause we got to do our own marketing. That’s not really a great thing to be able to say to our clients.
Sometimes we have to kind of move things around a little bit, but it does require a fair bit of discipline. Um, and it’s something, you know, last year was a great opportunity for us. Uh, we did a lot of webinars during lockdown. Well, the whole world did. Um, but it really created a solid foundation for us just to kind of demonstrate our knowledge and experience.
And we still use them, you know, they’re on our website, it’s free recordings and they’re all written up and we use them as part of our sales process to say, right, you want to learn more about LinkedIn or you want to know more about converting website customers, even if you don’t want to engage with us, watch this video for 45 minutes or have a read of this blog.
It’ll give you a lot of information. Um, But in terms of, uh, this year is a great example. We started off really well. We got really busy and then the marketing takes a bit of a backseat, but the way I, I kind of see it, we always keep a level of, uh, of, uh, kind of communication going out. And the big, most important one is probably our own personal brand communication.
Uh, through myself and other team members, you know what, communicating out buyer, um, LinkedIn and just putting stuff out there in terms of kind of regular posting and commenting strategy and all that kind of stuff. Um, but it is, it’s very easy to, to, to, to just drop it sometimes. And now that we’re almost into 2022, We’re now in the process of putting our plan together for next year.
Uh, and you know, there’s all kinds of optimism and all kinds of big ideas or coming up with, but from how many years of learning, we, we’ve kind of learned that actually. All right, we’re not going to do all these crazy things. We’re just going to do the key critical things that we know will kind of really get the message across in terms of what we need to do.
It’s a very fine balancing act. You’re talking about having, uh, being true to yourself, knowing you value. Hiring the right people, systematising processes. What’s been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned, uh, when you’ve been building Xpand marketing.
Um, I think for me, probably the most pro the one that really stands out in my mind now is collaboration. I. I don’t I’m I’m not shy. I’m not too proud to admit that I got it very wrong to start with. I set up a full service digital agency and I used to have this thing of it must all be in-house it must remain in-house that’s a selling point. People want to know if they’re calling. They can speak to any one of the team, um, depending on what it is.
Cause we’re not often just dealing with one thing, we’re dealing with a whole series of components, brand and website, web design, and SEO and social media and PR and all of those kinds of things. When we went into lockdown, um, there was a lot of demand for what we were doing. You know, a lot of people.
Suddenly who weren’t switched on to digital marketing had to go and get into digital market because it was the only way that you could really get yourself out there. So I reached out to my wider network and started collaborating with, uh, with other specialists in our sector. And what I found by doing that was I was bringing in people.
You know, very, you know, 20 odd years behind them or 15 years behind them and specialists in certain areas. And by working together, we were actually able to really strengthen the offering that expand was able to put, put in front of the client and the client, the clients or prospects were coming to us expand off the back of the trust that they had been our brand and our credibility.
And quite frankly, they don’t care who we use to do the job. They just know that their trust is. The project. Uh, so I think the biggest learning curve for me was kind of, you know, I’m a very, collaboration is one of our core values. I really do firmly believe in that anyway, but I always look, I used to look at it from an internal point of view.
I love collaborating. I love sharing across the office, you know, Simon, what do you think about this? And we’ll throw some ideas around and I’m a very out loud thinker. Um, but doing it kind of with external people was something that I never really fully, fully considered until lockdown kicked off. And that has changed the whole shape of the way that we do things now on the sway, whether the business is swayed, we’ve got so much more of expertise that we’re quite hands-on and the way that we’re now delivering to, to clients and the kind of results that we’re achieving are just so much stronger readily.
So I think for me, it was, it was, you know, don’t be too headstrong or proud. Um, you know, there’s people out there work with them. They’re not against you work with them and you can just be so much stronger when you work in school.
This is a really tough question, but I’ve got to ask it. So apart from everything that we’ve talked about so far, let’s say that there is somebody who’s kind of on the open that building, the building momentum, the building, the business, they’re hiring people, they’re growing. What is the one thing, if they’re listening to this podcast right now, what’s the one thing you want them to take away from today’s episode?
Ooh. Just started on business. Did you say?
Let’s say they’ve been in business for a couple of years or whatever. They’ve started to build momentum. Maybe they’ve got one or two people under there. Uh, you know, in that company that, you know, starting to grow, but what, what, what would you tell them?
I think if you’re just starting to grow, I think the fundamental part of it, like I was saying at the beginning, I think systems is really with the right systems in place and the right procedures, written procedures.
I learned the hard way. I would say that getting that in, without that in place, your growth is so much slower with the right systems in place and the right kind of, everyone’s got their own job title. And everyone is absolutely clear on what their role is in a small business. You’re always going to have handoff and everyone kind of helps each other out and there’s crossover.
But as you grow, obviously the idea is that those roles become more defined. And I think having. Those systems in place as quickly as possible is probably the foundation of, of good growth. There’s a million. And one of the things I could say on top of that, but I think systems are definitely for me, something that, like I said, I learned the hard way not having the right systems in place.
And then if you think about it, The next five years and where you want your business to be and what you want the hierarchy to look like and the turnover and the profit and all those things. What you also need to consider is right. What systems do I need in place for that in five years? What does it look like in four years, three years, two years, one years, once you’ve got that in place, then it’s just.
Roadmap that you just kind of continue working through and just kind of building out from that .