My Reward For Working Like Crazy? A Poverty-Level $15,000 A Year
As the COO at IntermixIT, I want to share the story of how we turned a $40K family loan in 2007 into a business that generated $2.5M in 2018. My journey in building IntermixIT has been full of emotions, stress, fear, joy, happiness and all of the other feels that are possible. Everyone goes into business hoping for an upward trajectory of continuous growth. That wasn’t us. Instead, it’s been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs over the span of 12 years now.
To get started, we needed capital. So we went to the best bank in town – our families – to secure two $20K loans. Our first few years, we were 100% break-fix with residential and very small business clients and nearly zero monthly recurring revenue (MRR). The hours were excruciatingly long. The margins were razor thin. And we STRUGGLED to bring in more than $250K in revenue.
Not that long ago, my actual take-home pay was only $15,000 after taxes. In fact, when my first son was born just six years ago, our business rewarded my efforts with a salary that put me into poverty level. I even qualified for Medicaid to support my newborn son. At the time, I recall sending my business partner a picture of my bank balance with less than $10. Right then I told him, “I want to get the HELL out of this business!”
Should We Sell Or Should We Step The F Up?
I wanted out of the business so bad. With my first child on the way, selling simply to get rid of that debt felt very attractive. We actually had a buyer lined up, but the offer was not in our favor. So instead of selling, we both decided to step the F up and make some serious changes.
To us, stepping up was wrapped in a nice little package called Robin Robins’ Producers Club. We scraped together the little bit of credit we had left and made it happen. Of course, the monthly fee plus all of the travel expenses was a “WTF am I doing?” moment. But we HAD to do something. Besides, if it didn’t work, we could say we gave it our all.
Doubling Our Revenue In A Year… And Almost Doing It AGAIN!
Here’s the part where I tell you how easy it was. Just like pushing a button and having money rain down in our laps. Yeah, it’s NEVER like that! To finally crawl out of that hole we were in, it took grit, patience, hard work and dedication. Without a doubt, I can say those years of hustle defined us and our organization. It made us HUNGRY to get to the next level and the next and the next.
But it’s those years of perseverance through the tough, no-frills, no-pay lifestyle that are a constant reflection point to my current lifestyle. With those years top of mind, I have a far greater appreciation for my team, my business and my future.
Jason Abel, our CEO and in charge of our business development, placed SECOND in Robin’s 2016 Better Your Best competition. While his good looks and charm may have helped, it’s the fact that we grew from a revenue of $650K in 2014 to $1.3M in 2015 that sealed this accomplishment! While those years were INCREDIBLE, both personally and professionally, I’ll focus more on 2016 through 2018, where we jumped from $1.5M to $2.5M!
Massive Marketing For Massive Results Throughout 2018
Once we put the pedal to the marketing metal, growth accelerated like never before. For two years, our aggressive marketing actions were paying off in spades. Jason and I both gained confidence in our offering. Our prospects noticed our swell of confidence and had no hesitation in buying our IT services at higher prices than our competition.
We continued our massive marketing approach throughout 2018, which included:
- Hiring A Relationship Builder – An opportunity arose to hire a well-connected individual who excels in network- and relationship-building throughout our market, including canvassing businesses, networking events, local networking groups and more. To date, they have secured us multiple appointments and $2,500 MRR.
- Cyber Security Seminar – At our local Chamber of Commerce, we ran a joint venture seminar with a local insurance group that focuses on cyber-insurance. We had 25 attendees, and we are currently working to close one lead with a large project in excess of $15K.
- Trade Shows – We attended two trade shows within our niche and received a lot of traffic, but no ROI to date.
- Printed Newsletter – Every month we deliver a well-written and engaging printed newsletter to about 200 customers and prospects.
- Postcards – Every month we also mail roughly 200 postcards to our customers and prospects.
- Shock-And-Awe Box – We created a custom-built Shock-And-Awe box that contains a lot of marketing material that promotes our credibility and establishes trust. Before an initial appointment, we mail this box to help close the sale.
- E-mail Drip Campaigns – We continuously send out e-mail drip campaigns to all prospects, including new and unresponsive prospects.
Watch Out For Whales!
It’s what we all wish for, right? To land a whale of a client that immediately grows your MRR by 20%, 30% or even more! Well, be careful what you wish for. We landed a whale at the end of 2017 that appeared to be a next-level type of opportunity. The client started at $15K MRR and came with lots of hardware, software and VoIP sales. Our team was excited. The enthusiasm was REAL. Then our whale turned out to be a whale-sized pain in the ass!
This customer took ALL of our attention because they were running far faster than we could keep up with. Because our pricing model for this customer was an all-inclusive contract including ALL project work, we were losing over $2K every month. The constant attention this client demanded over 10 months caused us to lose client MRR to the tune of about $20K each month. We actually SHRANK from $155K in MRR to $120K in a matter of months!
We finally threw a grenade and asked the client to renegotiate this “Oh shit” monthly contract to stop the bleeding. This caused a major stir, and they ultimately wanted out of the contract. While we negotiated a $75K fee to break the contract, their damage cost our business far more than $75K!
Ready To Crush Our Goal Of $5M, $10M And Beyond!
We are still in the rebuilding phase from the massive hit from this whale client. Our serious focus on marketing in the last four months has produced a sizable pipeline of leads. In fact, we anticipate securing $20K in new MRR in Q1. While these leads are critical for our growth, we all know the best customer is a current customer.
I never again want to live paycheck to paycheck or have to apply for Medicaid to provide for my children. Those initial years of struggle have proven to be a massive source of motivation to continue forward, to never look back but also to never forget.
We have received tremendous instruction, direction and motivation from Robin’s marketing strategies and materials, her events and the top-notch motivational speakers she brings. But most importantly, our peer group, the F5, has been instrumental in keeping our heads in the right space. The group we have is 100% on our side and we are 100% on their side. With that bond, we KNOW we have the knowledge, tools and enthusiasm to continue forward and crush through the walls that get in the way of our long-term success.
Our team, my business partner, the F5 and trusted vendors/programs like Robin Robins have instilled the confidence I personally need to grow the business, to ultimately provide a winning culture for my team, for my clients and for my family.
I’ll admit that the processes we are building today are a by-product of yesterday’s failures. But through our sales, marketing and operational success, we are ready to crush our goal of $5M and then $10M and net 20%-25%!