80/20 Rule — In most aspects of business, the 80/20 rule applies. 20% of your deliverables represent 80% of the actual impact to the company. 20% of the clients represent 80% of the revenue and long-term value. Keeping this in mind, we implemented an HR policy which allowed for all of our employees to have 20% of their time available to work on whatever they wanted. This ended up uncovering new 6 figure and 7 figure opportunities for the company. This also led to bi-monthly team training calls where one person would train the rest of the team on a specific subject, and then get feedback for any hurdles they were currently facing in their field of work. If you trust your employees and give them the room to grow and succeed, they are more likely to do so.
As part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joaquim Miro, a renowned entrepreneur and advisor in the FinTech space. His work has been featured on BNN amongst many other publications on the subject of Marketing, Growth, Blockchain and Remote Work. In 2018 he was inducted to the MarTech Council of the Canadian Marketing Association, becoming its youngest council member in history, working alongside Fortune 500 CMOs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Adventure is what anchors my entire story; I have always pursued a meaningful life filled with positivity. I wanted to prove to myself and to the world that it is possible to grow your career through travel. After graduating from McGill University, I worked a full year in a major Fortune 500 company where I co-managed a 20 million dollar budget for the launch of a new shampoo brand. Everyday became a learning opportunity for me as I knew that this role in this company wasn’t my true calling. Eventually, I gave my two weeks notice to embark on a world trip.
Throughout that transition period, I started my first travel blog — The Alternative Ways — and looked for alternative ways to make money while traveling. While traveling to dozens of countries — house sitting and bartering my digital marketing and web development skills for places to live — I also started looking into investments. This led me to start investing in cryptocurrency in 2017, which I wrote about on my blog. As an expert SEO, my post became number one for “best cryptocurrency to invest in”. It also got me involved with the Blockchain Education Network, which is where I reconnected with an acquaintance from McGill University and joined his startup — MLG Blockchain — as a Founding Partner and the Chief Marketing Officer. We scaled from four to over 100 people in less than a year, in a fully remote setting. From these major wins in my career, I was invited to speak on Bloomberg’s BNN in Washington, D.C., joined the Canadian Marketing Association as the youngest person to ever be inducted to the council, and became an advisor to many Canadian startup incubators including Form Fintech Cadence, Holt Accelerator and Founders Institute.
This led me on my current career path of helping high innovation emerging tech startups with their foundation and scaling phases. As you can see, it’s been quite a winding road!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
When I first got involved in the blockchain space, never would I have imagined that I would be going to Nairobi, Kenya, to give a keynote speech at the largest blockchain conference in Kenyan history. This happened again in Belgium, Malta, Miami and South Korea. These types of opportunities can only happen when you immerse yourself fully into the role.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents have helped me greatly by offering a steady balance of drive and confidence. My father has never accepted anything less than A+ work while my mother would always cheer me up saying I can make it. This mix of a firm yet loving upbringing coupled with very deep values of integrity and meaning have helped shape me into someone that is not afraid of rolling up his sleeves to tackle life’s obstacles head first.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Grandescunt Octa Labore” — “With Work, All Things Increase and Grow”. I believe that with enough intelligent, well-intentioned and diligent work we can achieve just about anything we set our minds to. The key is to consistently build and maintain high performance habits that allow you to keep developing yourself as a person, be it as a husband, a father, a friend, a son or a colleague.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
MLG Blockchain is a full service blockchain consulting firm based in Toronto. Since scaling it to seven figures in revenue, it has now joint ventured with Secure Digital Markets (SDM) to become Global Digital Assets Capital (GDA), a vertically integrated financial institution that provides merchant banking services between institutions and the blockchain ecosystem. Taking MLG and SDM’s track records into consideration, GDA has already completed over 5 billion dollars of asset placements, 1 billion in Over-The-Counter (OTC) transactions and led multiple million dollar activation campaigns.
The main pain point that GDA solves is in helping provide all the necessary connections, knowledge and capital on/off ramps for traditional institutions that want to get involved in the blockchain space. There is an immense ecosystem to navigate and GDA allows organizations to cut through the noise and get placed in front of the best people.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In the blockchain space, connections are everything. In general, a balanced mix of connections to capital, to networks, to developers, to communities and to projects are what determine the long term success of most companies. It takes years to build these connections and GDA is at the heart of it all in Toronto and New York.
Everyone at the company is willing to go above and beyond for its clients and partners. For example, we once had a company that wanted to become an influencer in the HR space to help recruit executives into the blockchain space. Rather than running simple ads, we came up with a nation-wide competition called Canada’s Next Top Blockchain Exec involving dozens of universities entering a three phase hackathon and business case competition. Rather than simply aiming for numbers, we focused on the needs of the client and finding creative ways to make them stand out.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
To be completely transparent, my primary motivation was to successfully build my first seven figure company. I truly believed that we had the team, knowledge, funds and brand to make it a reality and I dedicated myself to making it come true. As the access to talented individuals who were knowledgeable about the blockchain industry as well as their field of work was still low, we decided to have a remote work policy from the very beginning. This alternative work environment enabled us to recruit international talent. We ended up with employees and contractors from over 60 different countries running a remote-first business!
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
What drives me now has completely changed. I am now convinced that for any sustainable business to persist, the main driver needs to be the people you are serving and the people in your company. I am still motivated to build a large business, however the reasons behind doing so are related to the community rather than to the profits.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am! Over the past year my team members and I have been building the future of Telepresence with our VR application Hoppin’ World. Anyone with an Oculus VR headset can download our application for free and meet with other people in real locations around the world. Any 360 image or 360 video, pre-recorded or live, can be uploaded to our platform for a nominal cost to become the newest location available for people to teleport into and meet in. As a partner in this business, I fully believe this can help people connect on a deeper level, all the while inspiring them to go and experience amazing places around the world.
Over the summer of 2020, as a part-time CGO, I also helped shape TrustSwap by providing the idea behind the primary service of the business and my network in blockchain. In less than 6 months, Trustswap has become a Top 200 token and continues to grow.
The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?
In my experience, what is difficult isn’t getting the revenue per se. What is difficult is cleaning up the idea, bringing it to market, and then sticking with it. You need to invest and dedicate time to your trade which can range from a few months to a few years. Persisting patiently and diligently throughout this desert period is the most difficult part. Once the revenue starts coming in, you quickly see a snowball effect that makes going from the first million to the second million much easier.
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
For my first seven figure company MLG Blockchain, our main focus was on inbound marketing. We employed a particular pricing strategy that was oftentimes a mix of monthly retainer and success-based compensation. I will go into greater details on all this in the main question of the interview!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake we made during a sales process was to omit a dollar sign in front of an amount of tokens. Rather than asking for sX worth of the tokens, the client understood it as X of the token, which was less than one tenth of the total. We worked on their project for nine months, to learn at the end that they didn’t want to pay a dollar more than the X tokens. This was a very costly mistake which goes to show just how important it is to review contracts with a fine-tooth comb.
Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
First and foremost, you need to have the right tech stack and a clear procedural foundation. You must also have a solid automated CRM as well as great onboarding and training processes for both the new sales teams and the new clients. Once you have this in place, you can maximize the potential of each lead and make your sales team’s job much easier. There should be regular systemic training to make everyone more and more comfortable in the role. At MLG, for example, no one sold alone for the first two months in the company. That way, they knew the jargon and the main strategies to discuss depending on the potential clients’ questions. On each weekly call, one person would pitch to the rest of the team to keep everyone fresh on how to elevator pitch the company at any moment.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.
The 5 strategies I used to grow my business to reach over seven figures in revenue were to:
- implement an seo-driven inbound marketing strategy,
- have application-based sales process,
- use options agreements pricing strategy,
- instill a remote-first company culture, and
- incorporate the 80/20 rule into all aspects of the business.
1. SEO-Driven Inbound Marketing Strategy — Our inbound marketing strategy focused primarily on SEO. If you searched “blockchain consulting” on Google between 2017 and 2019, MLG Blockchain was always number one. We accomplished this by implementing a robust cluster-keyword strategy over 2016 and 2017, so that by the time the bull market heated up and people started searching for companies that could help them launch, we were showing up as number one. This took time and dedication to the industry, as for over a year there was no guarantee that the demand for this service would increase.
2. Application-based Sales Process — One of the biggest learnings from scaling this company is that you should never go on a preliminary sales call with the objective to close. This is especially true if most of your clients are fully remote. The first primary objective should be to give as much value as possible, making them realize that there is no way they will be able to do it all alone. The second should be to ask as many questions as possible to both qualify your lead and to make working with you an exclusive process. If you look desperate, you won’t close the client. For example we had 20–30 new leads per week, and would only accept one new client every two or three weeks. This gave a VIP feeling to working with us and allowed us to have a sufficient inflow of clients without affecting the level of quality we offered to our existing clients.
Important note: When working with remote clients, ALWAYS ask for upfront payment. If they aren’t comfortable, then ask for the money to be placed in escrow. A client that isn’t willing to do either is a red flag, especially if they are in a different country than you. We once audited code for a company in Asia and although all the correct agreements were in place, when we sent the audit we never heard from them again. Trying to get money after delivering services can be extremely hard, if not impossible.
3. Options Agreements Pricing Strategy — For the clients we believed would grow the fastest, we offered to lower the monthly retainer in exchange for entering into larger token options agreements. This allowed us to have access to the upside, should a cryptocurrency project’s market cap increase many fold in value. It would also reduce the upfront costs for the clients, as the firm’s compensation was directly related to how much we helped them grow while working together. This pricing model made us very profitable on certain deals. Again, to see the profit took patience as we had to wait for the market to pick up on those specific cryptocurrencies.
4. Remote-First Company Culture — By acknowledging and making it clear that the company was remote first, it helped people treat those who were remote the same way as those in the office. We implemented folder management, operations and communication policies to make it easy for everyone to stay aligned with each other. By having people around the world, it gave us access to more business development conferences as well as having boots on the ground on all major continents.
5. 80/20 Rule — In most aspects of business, the 80/20 rule applies. 20% of your deliverables represent 80% of the actual impact to the company. 20% of the clients represent 80% of the revenue and long-term value. Keeping this in mind, we implemented an HR policy which allowed for all of our employees to have 20% of their time available to work on whatever they wanted. This ended up uncovering new 6 figure and 7 figure opportunities for the company. This also led to bi-monthly team training calls where one person would train the rest of the team on a specific subject, and then get feedback for any hurdles they were currently facing in their field of work. If you trust your employees and give them the room to grow and succeed, they are more likely to do so.
What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
Watch your cash flow VERY carefully. This is the number one reason scale-ups fail. Don’t make the same mistake as thousands of other companies before you and watch your cash flow. This also means take your time with hiring. Letting people go is a lot harder than recruiting them. It will greatly affect the morale of the rest of the team, and will cost you both time and money.
Many young founders mistakenly believe that increasing budget for new projects and endeavours equals scaling. That is ultimately false. This is still testing. Scaling is when you are increasing budget on strategies that are already working well.
If you are currently at a standstill, I would suggest investing in an ‘exploratory budget’ to test new markets, all the while leaning up operations. Also, listen to your employees, as they often know the answer more than you since they are closer to the problem — and to the solution!
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Blockchain is at the middle between emerging tech and finance, but not quite FinTech. Therefore, you need to know everything about both the finance industry and the software development industry. They say a week in blockchain is like a month in most other industries, and I fully believe it. I have yet to see an industry that moves faster than this one, for better or for worse. For example, sometimes I will be on a weekly call with a client, and I will have industry updates on the code best practices, multiple new projects that have launched, new regulations in certain jurisdictions, and all the other regular business operations of the call.
Given this fact, the best way to find and attract the right customers is by following this checklist.
- Do they have the proper management team with at least one person knowledgeable about the industry?
- Do they have enough funds, or access to a community that will show enough interest in their initial liquidity offering to fund their beginnings?
- Are they knowledgeable about and have experience in the FinTech space?
- Do they have a novel idea that actually requires a token?
- Are they compliant in their jurisdiction and all the other jurisdictions they work in?
- Are they ready to move quickly when the right opportunities arise?
If they pass this test, then they may be a good project to work with.
In our case, we act as a liaison between the traditional finance space and the blockchain space, therefore our ideal clients are those that need bespoke fiat-to-crypto liquidity services including brokerage, investment, and lending.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
It’s all about the onboarding. The first two weeks with the client are the most important, and will often determine if there’s a mutual fit and the likelihood of them being a repeat customer.
One of the best ways to set up a proper onboarding process is to keep track and record every part of the onboarding using Asana or other project management software, and then templating the workflow with all the necessary checklists. Some of the onboarding documents should include industry updates, a breakdown of the expected deliverables, tutorials on how to use your products, contact info of the key members of each team, and anything that’s specific to you giving the most value you can. With each onboarding, you can better your process and add to it. This should be the case for all aspects of the business, creating automated processes at the same time as you create the processes in the first place.
Once onboarded via a kickoff call between them and their account manager, as well as any director meetings to make sure both companies are well accustomed to the project, you need to make sure that communication flows without friction. This may mean a direct line via WhatsApp or Telegram between the account manager and the client. This is especially true if the client is remote, which was the case for most of our clients. There should also be two week sprint meetings to go over everything that’s been done, any pending deliverables or obstacles, and the coming two-week sprint.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Retaining customers is most definitely more lucrative than finding new ones. As an agency offering ongoing services, we found that one call CEO to CEO every two weeks helped the teams get along and remain in business together longer. After implementing this, we saw an immediate increase in retention of clients by showing that everyone up to the CEO took pride in having that client..
The most important thing to keep clients is not only to perform, but to properly communicate your performance. An ad that became a good ad campaign may not just be an ad that went well on facebook; it’s most likely setting up pixels and action-based goals, two weeks of ad creation, two weeks of A/B Testing, two weeks OCB, two weeks lookalike audiences, and then budget scaling.
The same goes for partnership development, community growth and engagement, capital raise, smart contract development, tech audits and everything else we did for clients. Therefore, by breaking it down in a Gantt chart and communicating the strict timelines we needed to follow, we saw a major increase in long term retention and the quality of teamwork between their internal teams and our teams.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to inspire others to give more by following the 5% rule. Give a total of 5% of whatever amount of money you profit at the end of the year to all the causes that you really care about. This can and should range from giving to friends and family all the way to giving to complete strangers. Paying it forward will always help you in one way or another, and there are a lot of people out there that need the money.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to speak with Professor Mohammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank. The Grameen Bank was the first bank to offer microloans and microfinancing with little to no collateral. To this date, it remains the bank with the highest loan recovery rate in the world, enabling hundreds of thousands of women to start their own local microbusinesses. His high social impact microfinancing movement represents how new and improved business frameworks can be used to help create longer lasting and higher impact opportunities for the people who need it most.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!