Building a Web Development BUSINESS the Right Way

Laser focus and building a business with passion in a niche you love; listen as Patrick Steil from shares his heart, then think about how you might apply these lessons to become a specialist, not a generalist:

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My wife and I have spent the past 17 years owning our own business.

For the first 15 years we survived, made some money, enjoyed the freedom that it offered. But at the end of 15 years, I looked back and realized that we had very little to show for all our long hours at the grindstone.

And then a friend of mine told me to read “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. As I started in chapter one I began to see the reason we were still struggling to “make it”. By the end of the book I was both disappointed that I had never read this book before, but excited because Mr. Gerber had taught me THE #1 most valuable lesson about being in business.

In my own words, if you want to be a business owner, then you are not in the business of building widgets or providing services - you are in the business of “building a business”! A business is not simply a place where provide a service and get paid - that is called a JOB! At the end of the day, a business is a standalone entity that produces cash. It is a system of many sub-systems - marketing, sales, product development, product fulfillment, finance, HR and management. MANAGEMENT is the most important system - this is where YOU live... this is where you are designing, planning, documenting THE SYSTEM that is your business. You are in the business of BUILDING a business - the system.

This book truly changed our lives. It has transformed us from simply having jobs that made enough money for us to survive to giving us a pattern and plan for how to transform our business into a scalable system that grows every day towards allowing us to manage the business instead of just “building websites”. And more importantly we are fulfilling our life purpose and will some day be able to look back and be proud about the people and churches that we have helped along the way.

Version 1 of our business was a custom web application development shop. We were proud to boast that “if you can’t find something off the shelf, we can build it”. We found our customers by random networking. If you talk to enough people, you can find someone that needs the work you want to do. We had no solid direction - each client we took on was in a different industry, with different needs - very different projects. We could never gain any traction - we never got REALLY good at ONE thing. We were the “jack of all trades, master of none”. We did good quality work for our clients, but I now realize that if we had decided to specialize in ONE solid area, we could have done so much more for them and our “system” would have developed into an awesome business.

Anyway, fast forward to Version 2.0 which we call ChurchBuzz. We are laser focused - we provide website design and management for Churches. In fact, not just any church, but we are focused specifically on helping Methodist Churches. Why so small a niche?

  1. We don’t have to learn how each type of Church “does business”... we learn it once and then all of them are the same in terms of their desires, needs, approval processes, budgeting, etc.
  2. We become experts at providing exactly what they need and can develop documented processes and systems for delivering high quality work for every client, every time. We can deliver a “better” service.
  3. We can do the work faster than other firms because we know exactly what we need to produce and how to produce it. We can deliver a “faster” service.
  4. We can hire lower skilled people to do the work because we can train them on exactly what, where and how to do the work. We can deliver a “cheaper” service.

I used to tell our clients - you want it “better”, “faster” and “cheaper”? Well you can’t have all three - you have to pick two! I have a theory that if you can figure out how to deliver it better, faster AND cheaper, you may just have a business plan that works.

My tips on how to BUILD a successful business:

1. Read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber - an easy read and so powerful.

2. Read Built to Sell by John Warillow - another easy read with more specifics on how to grow from one person to a true business.

3. Find a business mentor - someone who has built a business in this way, who you can see has a quality operation and acts like a business “owner”. Contact me!

4. Invest six months to a year in planning your business. Figure out and design each of the sub-systems of the business. Start networking and talking to people about what you want to do and figure out where the real need is. You can’t be successful if you aren’t fulfilling a need. Find your NICHE market - don’t try to be all things to all people - find a niche that has a need that you are passionate about serving.

5. Network like crazy in your niche market... make sure everyone knows you and make sure you only take on projects that you can deliver on 110%. Word of mouth and trust in your “network” will keep you getting new clients all the time. Your goal is to build your marketing engine and reputation such that your business gets leads every month without you having to knock on doors or pick up the phone each month.

6. Figure out exactly how to do all of the above and do it without debt. Debt will kill you. Take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class before you begin and get your own personal finances straight before you make it worse by trying to start your own business. Then read Dave Ramsey’s “EntreLeadership” book - great stuff on practical ways to hire, fire, build your team, build your company culture and how to be a great leader.

7. Find one client and do a fantastic job for them. Use that as a stepping stone to your next client. Rinse and repeat until the clients are calling you!

8. Always under promise and OVER deliver - most people do the opposite. This is your best selling tool! Train your team to do the same!

To my last point - find a great team. I consider Adobe and the Business Catalyst (BC) team part of my “team” that is helping us “win” in our business. We searched high and low for the best Web Management / CMS solution out there. We think that as it stands today Business Catalyst is a great product - gives us flexibility when designing and producing websites to do ANYTHING we need to do, and also is friendly enough for our content managers and power user clients to use. The plans that BC has for the future - we believe will put it head to head with Wordpress and every other CMS out there.

We love BC! It is a solid product to build a business if you are looking to do:

  • website design
  • website production
  • website seo
  • website management

And for those of you who love Wordpress or other “free open source” CMS products - do you want to be in the business of managing technology, dealing with installs, server upgrades, redundancy, making a world class hosting setup?

Or do you want to leverage a world-class team that

  • manages the servers and provides great performance and up-time
  • updates the CMS and Online Business Tools, CRM, eMail Marketing and eCommerce constantly
  • charges you a very minimal monthly fee you can scale your business as you need with one small up front investment
  • allows you to focus on designing and documenting your business so that you can get out there and sell!

In my mind, this is the way to build a web development business. Little up front investment, they manage it all. This allows you to focus on delivering a quality product to your clients. This is a great foundation for building a true business as I have described in this article.

Have more questions on building a true business or are considering using BC for your website business? Please feel free to contact me!

Patrick Steil
Church Website Design

In Adam's last Blog Post:

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