Track Your Marketing Efforts. Marketing is often the hardest part of owning a business for an entrepreneur. They are passionate about what they do, and if they can find a potential client, their passion does a lot of the selling for them. But finding potential clients eludes them. Track every activity you do, and find out how each potential client found you so you can understand what works and what doesn’t.
As a 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 Brooke Lively.
Brooke Lively is the CEO and Founder of Cathedral Capital, a team of CFO’s and Profitability Strategists who help entrepreneurs turn their companies into profitable businesses. After earning her MBA in Investments and Corporate Finance, Brooke built a seven-figure company in under two years. As a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), she and her team work with Hall of Famers, INC 5000 businesses, CEO’s, and Small Business Owners.
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?
Where I am is a total accident. I was running my family business and hired a consultant to help with sales and marketing. His clients starting coming to me asking if I could do for them what I did for my family. And that is how my company was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I was staying in a hotel in Utah, and a maintenance man came to my room to fix something. I was worried about being late for a group meeting, I told him that, and he replied, “They will wait for you…they know who you are.” I asked him who I was. He was quick to reply, “You are Brooke Lively, president of Cathedral Capital.” Turns out his last company had considered hiring me as their CFO.
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?
I started my company because a consultant’s clients were coming to me and asking whether I could help them with my specialty. I didn’t think it was fair to get business from the consultant without asking his permission or cutting him in. He loved what I wanted to do so much that he asked me to develop the program within his company. Without him taking care of marketing and the back end of the business and letting me worry about nothing but client delivery (and a little bit of sales), I never would have gotten off the ground as quickly as I did.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My high school’s unofficial motto, “Function in disaster, finish in style”. Like all my alumnae, I live this to the fullest extent possible.
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?
CathCap helps entrepreneurs with the fear and isolation they feel around the numbers in their business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We work with companies that need the strategic vision and skill set that comes with a CFO but can’t afford the burden of their salary. As a result, we often spend our time translating from finance to plain English for our clients. A great example of this is a client in Washignton state who went to the bank to ask for a line of credit to fund his explosive growth. I had prepped the loan package, and he showed up for his interview. They looked at him and said, “We need to see some pro formas before we can move forward.” He left that meeting completely dejected. He called me in a panic when he got back to his office. “I am never going to get this loan. My whole company is going down in flames.” When I asked why, he shared the story about the pro formas. I told him all they wanted was his budget for next year. He paused for a beat, and then let out a string of expletives before asking why they couldn’t just ask for what they wanted.
In that moment, I realized that sometimes the greatest thing we can do for our clients is stand beside them and translate.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
I was working for my family running a professional services company that could never own because of licensing limits. Still, I knew I wanted to be able to build something that I owned, that I controlled, and where I could execute, or not, on any advice or ideas.
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
As I mentioned, I originally started this for me, to give me the freedom to own the company, execute the strategy I wanted, and through it, live the life that I wanted. Over time, I realized that this is the same thing that my clients seek to do. Now that I have created the business and lifestyle for myself, I find fullfillment when I help other entrepreneurs achieve the same success and freedom that I have.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have a series of books titled, From Panic to Profit, and the next edition, which is aimed at professional service companies, is with my editor being prepped for a spring release. My book gives entrepreneurs a list of reports they should monitor — along with an education about how to use them — to increase profits in their company. As this year has shown, having a good grasp on the financial health of your company and being able to project what is going to happen, financially, given the business environment are more important than ever.
This is an easy-to-read series that debunks much of the jargon usually found in financial tomes and instead uses real-life examples in kitchen-table English to make even the most complex financial concepts accessible to everybody.
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?
I am a numbers girl. That part came easily to me. Understanding how to market to reach my ideal client did not. I spent years on activities that wasted time and money before finally figuring out how to effectively get my message out to the world. Now that I learned how to fill my prospect pipeline, I need to figure out how to control that flow to even out the feast and famine cycle of client onboarding in which we entrepreneurs often find ourselves.
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
There is nothing better than that moment when a lightbulb goes off over somebody’s head and you know that you have just taught them something that they can implement, that very day, to improve their company and/or life. I love these moments — they’re why I do what I do.
I’ve learned that I can do that one on one or in a room with 100 people. I can connect through these moments, and that is how I get my sense of fulfillment. Speaking from a stage and running small workshops allow me to impact more people in a shorter amount of time.
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?
I had a ghostwriter help me with my second book. As my sister and I were proofing it at the kitchen table (while on a family vacation), we started to giggle. My mother asked what was so funny. My sister and I both turned red, look at each other, and finally I said, “The book has this sentence, and apparently I serviced Mr. Smith.” My mother started laughing harder than we were. Yup, poor choice of words. I think most of our funny mistakes are also the easiest to correct and prevent with a little proofreading. Throughout the years, my team and I have caught all kinds of hysterical and unintended phrases, misspellings, and autocorrects. I wonder what we haven’t caught…
Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
I am a sales team of one. As we start bringing more people on, we will start sharng the responsibility, but at the moment, it’s just me.
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.
- Listen to Your Clients. They will tell you what they like and don’t like, and more importantly, where they find value. One client consistently complained about the ineptitude of his bookkeepers. And as we looked at their books, we realized the bookkeepers weren’t using technology to lighten their workload. As a result, we started a new service about 18 months ago integrating technology and bookkeeping software. Within six months, it was 20% of our business. Today it is close to 40%.
- Listen to Your Gut — But Back It Up With Data. I am perpetually amazed at the incredible instincts entrepreneurs possess. Making decisions without using data to back them up, however, increases the risk that you keep making the same decision over and over again. You second guess yourself at 3am, or at 10am while working with a client, or at 7pm during dinner with your family, and/or numerous other times during the day, which distracts you and makes you less present and less productive. When you use data to confirm you are making the right decision, you only make the decision once. Then you can move on to other decisions that need to be made to move your company forward.
- Track Your Marketing Efforts. Marketing is often the hardest part of owning a business for an entrepreneur. They are passionate about what they do, and if they can find a potential client, their passion does a lot of the selling for them. But finding potential clients eludes them. Track every activity you do, and find out how each potential client found you so you can understand what works and what doesn’t.
- Gather Good Advisors. As you grow, you need help learning what you don’t know and a sounding board for your ideas. You should always buy expertise before you hire it. By this I mean not to hesitate to hire outside consultants to help you with specific aspects of growth — both personal and professional. In the same vein, entrepreneurs often feel isolated, and finding a group of peers who can share their experiences offsets those feelings. Entrepreneur’s Organization Accelerator Program helped me (and thousands of other business owners) break the seven-figure barrier by teaching skills pertaining to people, strategy, cash, and execution, while also providing a group of business owners going through the same growing pains you are having.
- Plan for Profit. Mike Michalowicz wrote a book a few years ago where he turned the Profit and Loss equation on its head. He said Sales — Profit = Expenses. This is genius. Instead of creating a budget that limits, create a profit plan that uses this formula and shows you how you get to spend your money to make more. Knowing how much you should be spending in each of the key areas of your business — People, Marketing, Overhead and Profit — allows you to run a thriving business. I explain this in more detail in my books.
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”?
What got you here won’t get you there. Look at all the different parts of your company and your people and processes to see who or what the company might have outgrown that has now become a constriction point. What do you need to do to alleviate this impediment and restart your growth? Going forward, make sure you are doing this even when growing so you can remove stumbling blocks before you get to them.
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?
We try very hard to meet our clients where they are. During the pandemic, entrepreneurs spent a lot of time on Facebook and other social media. We pivoted our marketing, too, and spent a lot of time in the same places as a resource to our clients. We spent hours answering questions, explaining all the new rules around coronavirus, the PPP Loans, and the CARES Act, along with general business questions. By being present, visible, and giving, we experienced incredible growth. We continue to do this in other areas — we are present, we are visible, and we give freely of our knowledge and expertise.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Communication is key, especially when bringing on new clients. We tell them that we are going to build a customized team that is right for them, we develop goals for the first year, and we set expectations about how things will go. And we tell them about the emotional roller coaster they will experience during onboarding. By being transparent, both in what to expect and what we are doing to make their lives easier, we win raving fans.
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?
There is a great book called The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stainer that uses seven questions to drive all conversations. The last one is the best, “What was most useful to you?” We close every client conversation with this question. If they didn’t get value, we know it and have the opportunity to dig deeper to find a better way to meet their expectations. Because we measure each conversation, we are usually able to change the client experience before it comes to a point where we either lose or must salvage a client.
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. 🙂
Transparency in entrepreneurship. Owning your own company is scary, rewarding, terrifying, and exhilarating — often all in the same day. The problem is that we are only encouraged to share the rewarding and exhilarating parts, and we feel judged if we are honest enough to say, I messed up, or I don’t know something. This leads to a deep sense of isolation since you feel you can’t fully share, and that means you often can’t get the help you need. The freedom to be able to ask questions, solicit opinions, and get help without the fear of being judged or having it negatively affect your business would result in a much higher success rate and would mean that more than 5% of all companies could break the seven-figure barrier.
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 have read a number of books from incredible businesspeople that have had a big impact on how we do what we do. Mike Michalowicz and Profit First, Michael Bungay Stinger in The Coaching Habit, Gino Wickman who wrote Traction, Marshall Goldsmith’s insightful read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Kevin Harrington and Mentor to Millions, Simon Sinek’s classic It Starts With Why, and Gary V’s great books including my favorite, Crushing It. Some of these icons I have met — some even wrote quotes for my books, but to share a meal and be able to be part of such an incredible brain trust would be a life-changing event.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!