Chris Ronzio of Trainual: “Write down what you do; It’s not just for your employer, it’s for you”

Write down what you do. It’s not just for your employer, it’s for you. It helps you recognize where you stand and where you want to get to. You’ll see things you want to delegate and internalize those goals. You’ll be free to take on other opportunities, and not be stuck in your job because […]

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Write down what you do. It’s not just for your employer, it’s for you. It helps you recognize where you stand and where you want to get to. You’ll see things you want to delegate and internalize those goals. You’ll be free to take on other opportunities, and not be stuck in your job because you don’t want to let down your boss or your friend.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewingChris Ronzio. In 2013 he founded an Operations Consulting firm that helps other entrepreneurs create scalable systems and processes. Over the last 5 years, the firm, Organize Chaos, has worked with hundreds of companies in dozens of industries. Now, Chris’ third business, Trainual, is an online platform for business owners and employees to document what they do in simple step-by-step processes. Chris and his team are on a mission to systematize 25,000 small businesses through their technology.

Thank you so much for joining us Chris. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I started my first company, a video production company, I was doing every role in the business. I was the camera operator, the sales rep, the editor, the fulfilment manager, customer support — all of it. I was in high school at the time and loved getting to learn every new job. I was growing a lot. When I went to college, I couldn’t miss class to go out on every shoot, so I had to start building a network of crew. I would take the train into the city to meet with students at the film school, and I’d scour Craigslist to find freelancers. Each time, I was training people over several hours of hands on experience, and when that got too burdensome, I started writing a manual for the basics that each crew member needed to know.

As my company grew, we eventually trained over 300 videographers and built a nationwide network of camera operators to shoot events around the US. Training, systems and processes have always been important to my success, and now with Trainual, I get to help thousands of companies experience the same benefit that I did.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Starting Trainual was a huge risk. I had two kids, a mortgage, 6 employees, overhead, and hardest of all, a profitable business. But I knew I couldn’t start split my focus and still make Trainual succeed. So, we shut down all of the consulting, turned away new clients, and went from having a 7 figure consulting business to having over $300k in personal debt, trying to fund our growth. But I believed in the product and the mission, and I knew that if I kept focusing on that, the money would catch up.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I was sourcing my drive from everywhere. I actually keep a little Evernote note called “motivation”, and every time someone doubts me, they go onto my little motivation list, because I want to prove them wrong. Every time someone believes in me, they go on my motivation list, because I want to prove them right.

I started running last year, and went from not being in shape at all to running a half marathon, and then competing in a Triathlon. With your body, it’s easy to see a finish line and push yourself toward it, so I think doing that helped me build my mental readiness for the effort it takes to build a SaaS company.

So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

Today, we have over 1200 companies using Trainual in 70+ countries around the world, and we’re approaching $2M ARR after only 14 months. It’s been a wild ride, but we are pushing every month to tackle new projects and ideas and not get comfortable.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We built a whole marketing campaign around sheep, because we liked the idea of “cloning yourself” in business. We printed up sheep themed T Shirts, sponsored and event and handed out Sheep postcards, and in the end, it was not the image that made people think about successful training. Another time, we broke the whole app on mobile and didn’t realize it, and sales stopped for almost a week and we couldn’t figure out why.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We stand out because we’re entrepreneurs. We have run businesses ourselves, and we consulted for over 150 companies while building Trainual, so we know firsthand the problems that growing companies are facing. In fact, we ARE our customer because we’re growing and trying to document our systems too. So, its cliche, but we built this for us.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Invest hard in your personal life. Most days, I spend the first 5–6 hours of the day focused on me. I work out, I meditate, I read books and listen to podcasts, I journal, I take my son to school, I cook breakfast for my wife. It’s like filling my tank with fuel each day so that when I get to work, I have the energy to crush whatever I’m working on.

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?

Too many to mention! My best friend is the owner of Design Pickle, a very successful graphic design SaaS company. I helped him grow his business in the early days and marveled at his success. In 2017, I offered to sell him Trainual, because “he was the marketer”. He pushed me to become a SaaS CEO, and stop consulting, and it’s changed my life.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My story is just getting started, but one thing I did along the way was starting a project for children entrepreneurs called “One Small Business”. We taught a class of 3rd graders about entrepreneurship over a semester, and it culminated with launching lemonade stands at a big school event. I want to foster more entrepreneurs like this.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

Launch something in 24 hours — I once started a business with a friend overnight. We booked a hotel room and committed to launching the business and getting a sale before we left the hotel. It really shows you how to stop wasting time and just get it done.

Announce your goals — One of my goals is to own a private plane by 2025. Back in 2018, I ran a Facebook ad promoting my goal to 10,000 people and had a fun dialog with all the strangers that wanted to fly in my plane. But I had pilots messaging me wanting jobs, and entrepreneurs messaging me that they would race me. It really motivated me and made the goal seem real.

Go into debt — If you believe in your idea, put your money where your mouth is. Don’t hedge your bet with investor money. I went $300k in debt to push off raising money until I was covering my costs, and I saved giving away a major percentage of the business.

Compete in physical events — I registered for a spartan race, then a half marathon, then a triathlon, and now I’m signed up for a half Ironman, and a marathon in Antarctica. If you have something on the calendar, and you know you’d be in physical danger if you don’t train, you tend to stick to the training plan. Same goes for business. Set revenue targets and don’t allow yourself the chance to miss them.

Help other people with their problems — I did this for years consulting, and it was like I was shouldering the burden of so many other people’s problems, I thought focusing just on mine would be a relief.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Write down what you do. It’s not just for your employer, it’s for you. It helps you recognize where you stand and where you want to get to. You’ll see things you want to delegate and internalize those goals. You’ll be free to take on other opportunities, and not be stuck in your job because you don’t want to let down your boss or your friend.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @chrisronzio

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