2020 was quite the year. It presented no shortage of challenges globally in personal and professional settings. The pandemic did something very interesting for Ross. COVID-19 brought Ross closer to the important people in his life. Nothing can be truer than the Tricycle Creative mantra during these interesting times; keep pedaling through the tough times.
Ross sought out his friends, clients, and other creative business owners to have them talk about the good, the bad, and the lessons they can share with his listeners. Rewind is a miniseries, bringing marketing stories you need to know every end of the month, but this time we will bring to you stories from this challenging year of 2020.
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To conclude this year’s 2020 Rewind, Ross has put together what he has learned in this year of 2020. There are often times you learn how to do something or hear someone’s piece of advice, and you just wish you had heard it earlier! Today Ross explains Delta Plus, managing your energy, “letting go to grow”, and how to just say “no”.
Ross Herosian 0:00
Whether this is your first or your 50th Tripod podcast, you should know. I am insatiably curious, right? This is why I’ve been doing my 2020 Rewind episodes, you should go back and listen to them if you haven’t, because I like to bring the stories of fellow creative entrepreneurs to you. Because that way, as a community, we can learn. I can’t tell you how often, you know, I wish that I knew something a year earlier, or knew something six months earlier heard someone’s piece of advice, you know, three months before I started down a road. That’s what I aim to do with many of our episodes and with many of our interviews. So in that spirit, I have also put together in this episode, my particular learnings, what I have learned in the year 2020,
Ross Herosian 1:26
The first thing I learned in 2020 is relatively fresh in my brain, right? That’s the easiest place for me to start. And this was actually featured in the 2020 Rewind episode I did with David J. Neff, you can check that out. Right here, obviously, duh Tripod, it’s a couple of episodes back, it might even be the last episode, you can go back and listen to it in its entirety. It’s a great episode. But one thing we really zoned in on or discussed was a process that David introduced to me. And I want to share it by extension with you because I think it is tremendous. It is called Plus Delta (+ / Δ). It’s only two words. So it must be simple, right? Yes, it is. I believe it to be, you know, one of probably the easiest, simplest ways to evaluate projects, campaigns, efforts you’re doing for your business, and make substantive, meaningful changes.
So what is Plus Delta? Okay, let’s break it down. Plus: you make a list of everything that went well, or what worked. Right, all the positives, all the things that you’re like, yes, this went well with this project, campaign. Service, what have you. That’s the plus column, then you have delta. Delta is simply what you would change. Now listen to me very carefully. This is not what failed maybe. Right. It’s what you would change. And I think it’s important that you frame it that way. Yes, the things you would change are probably the things that failed. But this is not about pointing blame or harping on the failure. It’s looking at the failure and constructively coming up with what you would change. So many people, they’ll just sit there and they’ll just do the “This didn’t work.” Or they’ll say, “oh, this will… whatever.” Okay, great. But what are you going to do about it? That’s where the Delta category comes in. Okay. Yeah, that didn’t work. Well, that could be better. Okay. But now be proactive. What would you change about it? I did a ton of events marketing. I’m not. I’m not an events marketer. Right. But I am organized. I’m a man of vision. I feel like I mean, most recently, a couple of years back, you know, I did two massive SXSW events. One was unofficial and one was an official tied to SXSW gaming, massive. I mean, literally six months of planning went into it. All that work, all that time, all that energy, all those resources, planning it. And then when it’s over what happens? On to the next thing. “Whoo, that was a relief. All right, let’s take one breath and move on.” And that’s a problem, right? Because you put so much time into doing something, in time and effort and money and resources. And then you don’t take the time to step back and say, what worked and what would we change. Plus Delta solves that problem. And if you’re sitting there saying, “I don’t, I don’t have anything to measure.” You should change that. That should be something for you to aspire to in 2021 have a campaign, have a new service, have something, do something for the first time, try something new. Test it, and then run it through that Plus Delta.
The second thing I learned in 2020, was that I had to manage my energy. COVID or no COVID, you as a creative business owner, who really just as a human, only have so much energy every day to give to your business. And it’s important to remember that no, not all energy is created equal. Right? For me, I do my best creative work, specifically writing in the morning, early. I get up around 6:30, every single day, my computer turns on, I slow roll into work, maybe I’ll do some reading for 20-30 minutes. But the thing that I do in the morning, is any sort of writing, for blogs, for podcasts, for services, pages, for my website, any sort of creative work, I do it in the morning because for whatever reason, that’s when my creative energies are the strongest. Before the day gets a hold of me, right? I think you can relate to this before, you know, you have all these grand plans to go out, get things done in the day. And then you have a client email and emergency and, you know, your cousin calls you and they have a flat tire. Before the day gets away from you. Right, understanding where your energy is best spent. I’m super creative. Like I said in the morning, maybe for you. You’re super creative late at night, a lot of my contractors, logo designers, my marketing assistant, they’re like, I don’t know, they’re like nocturnal. Okay, they are sending me updates. You know it like one in the morning, I’m asleep. I’m long into my REM cycles by that point. But you need to kind of do some work in to figure that out, right. Because if you’re constantly working against your body and your brain, it’s going to be harder for you to get things done. And one good example is a lot of people subscribe to not checking email in the morning. So a lot of people and there are books on this, I think this is a Tim Ferriss thing. There’s also a whole book that I think it’s called “Don’t Check Email in the Morning”, about not checking email until like noon. And using that morning time to do what you want to do. Which I think is important, because when you start to dive into email, and maybe it’s a little less when you’re a creative entrepreneur than when you’re working in a corporate environment, which I’ve done also is when you are working out of your inbox, you are 100% being reactive, right? Someone has a question and inquiry, you are now there, you’re working for them. Right? If you are specifically spending your energy and time doing things to move your business forward, you are working for yourself. And it’s not always going to be an even split. But I think you need to spend the time if you haven’t in 2021 I’m thinking about how you get some control over that. How you spend just as much time on your business as you do with your clients is important. That’s how you can move and grow and come up with new ideas, new services, new products, new, whatever, anything new improvements for your business. You’re not going to get that done if all you’re doing is responding to email all day. That’s reactive time. I encourage you to try and chisel out every day, or maybe even every week. I know some people say “okay, Friday’s my creative time”, you know, or “half a day”, whatever, find something, try to find a system that works for you. And this is about experimentation. It’s about the journey. It’s not going to work right off the bat. But it’s never going to work if you don’t commit to trying to manage your own energy to help grow your business.
The third thing I learned this year: that I had to let go to grow. This year, the Tricycle Creative team. We grew. I added a marketing assistant and SEO manager and digital ads manager. These were all tasks that I was doing for the first couple of years of Tricycle Creative. I was doing all of that stuff. The One-Stop-Shop. The spinning all the plates if you will. But this year I had to learn to delegate. Delegation, I guess isn’t so much my problem. I think the challenge I have is extending and conveying my expectations of excellence, right? Because I obviously want people to do the work the way I would do it, I think you probably do too, with your employees. And that’s hard because that’s not always going to be the case. I think people, you know, they can take different paths to get to the same destination. And this is where it’s the management give and take, right? That expectations are set, but that you’re not micromanaging and in the weeds with them. And listen, if my, if my own contractors and employees are listening to this, they know this has been a struggle for me. But it’s a give and take between all of us. Now, by hiring these people, does it mean that I got less money in my pocket? Well, yeah, but it afforded me peace of mind. It afforded me time. And it afforded me energy. There was this great article I came across recently, and I will put it in the show notes at TripodPodcast.com. But it was someone talking about what an executive does. And he broke it out into six things. One, convinced smart people to work with me. Two, allocate scarce resources. Three, craft vision. Four, break ties, otherwise known as a kind of like unblocking, right, so if someone’s stuck on something, a client stuck on something, yeah, you’re gonna be the crowbar to get it unstuck. Five, curate culture. And six, advocate, explain, and be held accountable. This is such a good list. And the article is fantastic. And like I said, I will share it TripodPodcast.com in the show notes for this episode. But these are the things these are the areas where I had to spend my time. And to do that I had to let go of certain things. I know as a creative business owner, you want to do it all? Or maybe, honestly, you want to do it all because oh, it means, if I do it all, then I get the most take home money, right? I don’t have to pay someone to do some of these things. You have to start to decide when you want to be the executive. And, creative business owners, you guys struggle with this all the time? I do. I struggled with it this year, you struggle with when you need to step out of essentially being the producer and being the executive. So this year was really a turning point for me. I don’t have it perfected. I may never have it perfected. In fact, I probably won’t ever have it perfected. But I made the steps. You start the voyage. You start down the path, to learn to make adjustments, and to figure out what works for you and your business.
And the fourth and final thing I learned in 2020 was to just say no, not to drugs. Well yes to drugs, I don’t do drugs, let me be very clear. But to ascribe that just say no to my business. When I started Tricycle Creative, I said yes to everything I was able to do. And you will hear this advice a lot about focusing in on, you know, the singular services or specific audiences. And I know it is scary, and maybe even impossible for you to consider doing that in your first couple years. That’s okay. But what you need to do is assess your business on a regular basis and evaluate what you want to work on and who you want to work with. I mean, the theme here from everything is that none of this shit happens overnight. But it sure as hell doesn’t happen if you don’t start to take those first steps. Like I said, When I started, I was doing web design, web development, SEO, content, social media, you name it. Anything I was able to do, which I have a very wide portfolio of skills. I was doing it. But I turned the quarter this year. I said, Okay, I’m not going to do these things. Maybe because they weren’t particularly profitable, maybe because honestly, they were so much more level of effort. Then return on investment. It took me so much more time to execute them. And it wasn’t making you know, the money equivalent to it or wasn’t sellable. Now the easiest way to do this, sit down or do right now think about it. Is there a project that you dread doing when a client purchases it? If one just popped into your mind, or if one pops into your mind immediately, that’s the one. That’s it. Listen to your gut. “I hate doing logo design. I hate website,” whatever it might be. And is there a project that maybe results in a lot of negative feedback from clients, or even stress? Is there a project that really stresses you out? Something you offer a service and whatever that you offer? That really stresses you out? Well, it might be time to think about cutting it loose, making a change to it. There’s a great book on this topic. It’s called “Pumpkin Plan”. And I did a book report on it on our blog, so you can go to Tricycle-Creative.com and search book report. I will also put the link to my book report in the show notes for this episode at TripodPodcast.com. It’s a tremendous read on this subject of watering. The concept is these prize-winning giant pumpkins, the way they win is by just focusing on one pumpkin, all the energy time water, fertilizer, manure testing, whatever. They put it all into one pumpkin. And that’s how they get prize pumpkins. They don’t do it by hedging their bets and doing it, NO, they focus on one, and the author Mike Michalowicz, also, the author of Profit First, does a really good job of comparing that to how you can grow your business by focusing in on singular audiences and even by extension, potentially singular or narrowing down your services. So if you’re interested in doing this, go to our show notes. Go to our website, TripodPodcast.com get that book today.