Startup Journey #4 with Steve Brown author of The Golden Toilet

This is episode 4 of my series “Startup Journey” and features Steve Brown, the author of The Golden Toilet – available on Amazon. We talk about the challenges and advantages to being an entrepreneur or business owner.

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Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!

Jason Sherman

In today’s episode of startup journey. I have entrepreneur Steve Brown, the author of the Golden toilet. Stop flushing your marketing budget into your website and build the system that grows your business. He also has a podcast called ROI online. First of all, thanks for coming to the podcast in the first place.

Steve Brown

Thank you for having me

Jason Sherman

and tell me when you first came up with the idea for your business and your book like what you know what started it all.

Steve Brown

So, first Jason I had this little bit of a journey where I was working for others but I kept having this nagging feeling that I should. If I was so smart and felt that I could do things better that was going on in the back of my mind that I needed to put my money where my mouth was. And so, with a little bit of encouragement and, and a lot of trepidation I started ROI online. And I wanted the name to convey that we understand that you expect this investment to move the needle to grow the value of your business and so that that’s the essence of why I wanted to start ROI online.

Jason Sherman

Awesome. And when did you realize that you could actually start doing it full time. And when you were able to take it to the next level.

Steve Brown

Yeah, so I think that when we got our first client, that was a, like a real big relief, but in a way they were you know they were basically like investors in my company in a way, if you look at it that way they. I knew I wasn’t going to get rich and be able to retire, but they were helped funding my startup and so we were able to provide what they needed and create a really good relationship which brought other opportunities to us referrals, people starting to figure it out and so and then we start getting out of the woods and relaxing a little bit. Nice.

Jason Sherman

I’m sure up until that point you had some challenges that you faced. What were some of the more notable ones?

Steve Brown

Well the first one that was really, really important to me was I mean, I needed to pay my first employee, and obviously I wasn’t paying myself it for a while and so I think that getting to the point where I could actually justify paying myself too was like a big win but it was, it was six months before I was able to start doing that.

Jason Sherman

That’s pretty typical. I mean six months isn’t that bad actually because a lot of people go through, up to five years as they say businesses fail in the first five years so you did it in six months, not so bad. If you, if there was a mistake you made that you wish you could have avoided, what was it and how could you have avoided it.

Steve Brown

You know, I think the biggest mistake that I made, and would want to avoid is is not you know you want to, you’re attracting people that are going to come on and help you grow your business but not clearly communicating the direction that we were heading in so people come on and they think they’re helping and they think that they’re going the direction you want to go but if you weren’t clear, then you’d set up a time that a conversation is going to happen in the future where they’re going like,

Steve Brown

You’re,

Steve Brown

you’re not doing this, like you you know like I understood and sort of let someone go was really hard. But, so I wouldn’t really get clear on my culture, and where my vision is that I’m going in. In, write it down and actually talk about it in the first conversation that you’re having considering that new team member, potentially joining.

Jason Sherman

That’s great. And if you could go back to the beginning. Right, when you first started the business I mean we all wish we could go back in time. If there was one thing you could have done differently or if there was an important piece of information that you wish you had when you first started your business, what would that important piece of information be.

Steve Brown

I think my journey was you know I was doing that. I envisioned a better way to do what I had experienced before and both on both sides of the coin, as a customer and then as a, an employee to similar customers. And so I was doing what I thought was a better way. But what I wasn’t doing was creating a system, a template to follow so that people that come on and start to fill in your shoes could see where you do so we’re good at what we do and we just naturally wing it and do it. But if you don’t sit down and identify and codify a system or process, both for your employees that will adopt it and run with it, but also for your customers to understand exactly what you’re doing, it’s assumed they know, I thought we kind of talked about it. And in my book is a result of that part too.

Jason Sherman

I know exactly how you feel. That’s why I have my book. So it’s the same exact thing is like repeating the same process over and over again, using your methodologies, the things that work for you and you start repeating them over and over again you realize, I better put it all down on paper. Well, other people should do the same thing before they start their business. And it goes without saying, too. I’m sure there were some frustrating days where you wanted to just throw in the towel and you wanted to give up. But you didn’t. What got you through those dates,

Steve Brown

hearing, so one time I was thinking it was a Christmas party we had just a little company Christmas party for the employees in for customers. And I heard a conversation in the corner that I wasn’t a part of but I heard them talking, and they were talking as if ROI online had been around for a long time and was going to be around for a long time, and it really convicted me because you know how it is you know all your uglies and you know how how close to the cliff that you’ve been swerving. And I thought I got convinced that I needed to start seeing it in the same way. And so, just accepting that we’re going to be okay but it for a little bit. It was like, do you give yourself permission to do that, yes, yes you should. That’s great.

Jason Sherman

And, um, if you have employees I mean what is it like managing them like what do you find difficult or easy to manage different employees in your organization.

Steve Brown

There’s not a one size fits all management process or philosophy and no, there’s not it in the military an army is like here’s your rifle getting mine, whether you’re a plumber or a doctor right and it’s not that way in business and you need to understand the motivations internal motivations are different for each employee. And so that means you need to be a little insightful and you need to management in life, just like in a family, you know this brother reacts a certain way under stress and this sister she that situation is different so you would have a different conversation need to recognize that and culture you need to really again just like defining that template or that process, you need to be deliberate, in what you stand for and why we do what we do, who’s who would succeed here. And who would struggle here.

Jason Sherman

That’s great. Yeah. Every company has to have, you know, follow the same vision, be on the same page. If not, it’ll fall apart. And that’s very important so it’s a good one. Um, so, a lot of people say to me, I’m sure they say to you too that we’re lucky right we get to do what we love every day as our job. And they don’t understand how hard we work to get to where we are right but there are a lot of perks and advantages to running your own business, what are some of the ones that you find in your life.

Steve Brown

Well, for me, it’s fulfilling there. I was successful in a lot of jobs but at times. Then, the job would change, and it became unfulfilling. It became frustrating. And I was pulled out in my best area where I really sore. And so in my business. I fulfill because I’m getting to overcome challenges, and I’m getting to be in my best area of expertise. I love solving problems. I love seeing connections and relationships and patterns, and some jobs don’t don’t fulfill that for me so that’s the fun part or the fulfilling part of this job isn’t easy. No, but it’s fulfilling meaning that you know as humans were designed to to see ahead Our eyes are not our eyes are like binoculars not they’re not on the sides. And that means that we’re aiming at something we’re going towards something and to be able to continue to move. There’s just this feeling of fulfillment that we don’t realize but that’s what’s going on.

Jason Sherman

Perfect. And when it comes to the person’s advantage. There’s also something on the other end, what was the most difficult thing you had to do when you first started your business.

Steve Brown

Well, letting a friend go is one of them. But, you know, realizing that bottom line. The buck stops with you and you’re accountable for money owed money collected testing products you need to step up and be able to to figure something out even though it’s not your job to do it. But developing people. And then here’s, here’s the thing that really gave me at ease with managing employees or letting an employee go, or seeing an employee depart, is that I see it like even trains and there’s trains that are like express trains from one point to the end, no stops they just go fast, but local trains they stop at different stations. And so if you can see employees that some are going to get on at different times, and some are going on, will get off at different times and it’s okay it’s just a part of their journey on your, your train.

Jason Sherman

Awesome. So, running a business being an entrepreneur, I’ve been in the situation where I’ve worked 16 hour days, seven days a week. When you’re raising money and you have a lot of employees, and you burn yourself out. Thankfully I don’t do that anymore. And I’ve had to learn how to balance my work life schedule. What are some of the things you’ve done to detach yourself from work and balance work and life a lot a lot easier.

Steve Brown

I don’t know if it’s balanced for me. I really enjoy working but I, you know, I’ve always been able when I take off and go meet my, you know my spouse, or I go and hang out with a couple folks have some dinner and he gets my mind off of it. But I think that the day that I realized that I was kind of in the way when I was trying to do everything. So, it’s my, my client I would bring them on and I’ve been developing this team that’s going to take them from here, but I thought it had to be in all the meetings as an agency you know need sit there and make sure that client was happy but one day it just wouldn’t give me was I was slowing things down thinking I needed to be there. And so I started to not attend the meetings I felt guilty. But, it’s like getting over that guilt because I’m supposed to be working on the things that other people can’t right, not doing the things that other people could.

Jason Sherman

I was a smart thing, too, I learned a long time ago from a mentor to delegate, as much as possible. Stop trying to do everything myself and to just trust that people will do their best, even if they don’t, and you have to fix it. It’s still, it’s still better to delegate so it’s kind of one of the things I learned early on. It took me a while to do that but once I did my business grew, so it was definitely a smart move. Which brings me to my last topic, if you could tell any entrepreneur who’s about to start a business, some words of wisdom, you know, what do you wish someone told you when you first started your business that they should do.

Steve Brown

I think you need to see systems. People who will set goals but they don’t, they don’t have these repetitive activities behind it. To walk that long there. And so when you, when you start a business, actually you know you want to have a service or you’re going to have a product or whatever it is you have to design systems or. I had an English professor, this is the only thing I remember in class but he said craftsmanship patterning is assigning craftsmanship. And, you know, I worked with my grandfather in a woodshop and he had these jigs. And what that meant was, it had a thing that he had already measured and worked out on the detail you just had to use the J. And then your quality went up every single time. And I think that’s what you can start to think of systems and processes. It’s huge. It’s amazing how a lot of people don’t use them naturally. And to do that, like that reduces a lot of your potential hiccups. And, and failures.

Jason Sherman

And again, you say a lot of people don’t do it and I think that shows that it’s a lack of knowledge. There’s people like you and I out there who are consistently trying to tell people look there’s a way that works that we’ve been used to using for so many years. That’s almost guaranteed because it’s worked for us so many times, try to implement it, at least you’ll get better results, and if you don’t iterate and tweak and keep changing until it works for you because every system isn’t perfect every system isn’t going to work for you, but the building blocks are there the foundation is there. And so by following those steps I mean you’re at least guaranteed some, some type of results that you can then get some data and analyze it and figure out what happened, where it didn’t go well or where it went really well and you can double down on that or remove that from your process so that’s, that’s a great that’s a great way to look at it. So, um, you have any words of inspiration or encouragement for people out there.

Steve Brown

Yeah, so there’s this story in my book The Golden toilet and in part of my book’s intent is to encourage you that entrepreneurs are people that want to do something different, instead of just, just show up and and clock out you know show clock in and clock out entrepreneurs are wanting to take a risk. So, but you have to see yourself differently, you have to understand so there’s a great little story, and it’s about this Tiger going through the forest, and looking for something neat, it’s on a hunt. It comes up on this pocket sheet, and you see the little tiger cub in that flock of sheep. So he gets up and he walks over and the sheep run. And the little, little tiger cubs there and you grab things and what are you doing here, you’re a tiger not a sheep and that look Tigers come says, man. No boy you’re, you’re not a sheep your Tiger walks over to the stream and he shows in his reflection even though he’s got low grass, they cannot eat grass, and he says you’re not supposed to eat grass. You look like you you’re supposed to eat meat and then the tiger cub said Matt, Quezon City down there he said you wait so he ran and, in, in completed the hunt, he came back with some meat in that little tiger cub never eaten meat before anyone who’s refusing and trying to move his head away and finally the tiger force that downloads for humanity, and the little tiger cub swallowed it, but he felt this surge of energy, come up. Come, and all of a sudden just he couldn’t help it. But this little mini Tiger roar came out. And so the moral of the story is, we’re tigers, and we can’t eat food and that we have to eat Tiger food so you need to hang out with tigers, so that you can get ideas, and energy, just like this podcast, let’s see, Tiger food. So, that’s my inspiration. Awesome.

Jason Sherman

And that’s in your book The Golden toilet available on Amazon and ROI online as well so I appreciate you coming on to giving some entrepreneurs some great insight into the world of business and marketing, and I appreciate it man thanks again for coming.

Steve Brown

Thank you so much.

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