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How To Grow Your Service Firm - With Ryan Frederick

Sep 01, 2021

Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Ryan Frederick.

Ryan Frederick is a founder and product person at heart. He has had the privilege of being part of starting and growing several software and service companies over the years. Currently, he leads an elite team of 70 product designers and data problem solvers at AWH. Ryan has also authored two books, Sell Naked: And Other Advice for Growing and Managing Services Firms and The Founder’s Manual: A Guidebook for Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur.

Why you've got to check out Ryan's episode:

- Discover how Ryan works with services firms who want to increase the value of their business, as well as mid-market companies who want to leverage digital technologies to fuel their growth.

- Why people centric services firms are typically very easy to start and how difficult they can be to scale and grow. And the importance of leveraging digital technologies for e-commerce and digital customer journeys.

- How critical growth is for businesses and why Ryan believes if you are not growing, you're regressing.

- Why Ryan recommends you look into Ryan Holiday and how his book has inspired some of Ryan's key decisions in life and in business.

- Finally, learn how Ego can sometimes lead to business failure.

Resources / Links


Tom Bailey: Hello and welcome to Succeed Through Speaking the place for experts and entrepreneurs who want high value ideas to boost business results. 

Hello, I'm Tom Bailey. And in today's episode, I'll be getting to know Ryan Fredrick, who is a founder and product person at heart. He's a two times author and has been part of starting and growing several software and service companies over the years. So, Ryan, hello, and a very warm welcome to today's session. 

Ryan Frederick: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it very much.  

Tom Bailey: Great. And just out of interest. Whereabouts in the world are you right now?  

Ryan Frederick: I'm in Columbus, Ohio.  

Tom Bailey: Awesome, thankyou so much. And I'll try to share a little bit more about you before we do get started. So, Ryan currently leads an elite team of 70 product designers and data problem-solvers at AWH and the two books that he has authored are called Sell Naked and the Founder's Manual. The title for today's episode is How To Grow Your Service Firms. And Ryan's going to show us how to do that in just seven minutes. It's a question number one today is who are your ideal clients?  

Ryan Frederick: Yeah. Our ideal clients really fall into two categories. One is services firms that want to increase the value of their business and generate recurring revenue by building a software product. And then mid-market companies who want to grow and to leverage technology and becoming digitally more capable to feel that.  

Tom Bailey: Got it. Absolutely. And, and when you think of these ideal clients, what would you say is that the number one reason or the biggest challenge that they face?  

Ryan Frederick: Yeah, I think for services firms, it's services firms that are very easy to start, but very hard to, to scale and to grow. And because they're very people-centric and they're cashflow monsters, et cetera. So, building a software product for services firms sometimes is the only way to sort of get any predictability and. Inside the firm and for mid-market companies they often plateau at a certain level because they can't grow beyond a certain, certain level because they're so you know, people in sort of labor dependent, so becoming more digitally capable and getting more e-commerce capability and you know, doing things like fostering. Digital platform and customers to, you know, order them, you know, without involvement from people on the team, et cetera. So, I think in both of those, both of those roll up to digital capability and becoming more digitally exceptional is really, you know, what, what services firms and mid-market companies both do, right. Typically to fuel their growth and to sort of go to the next.  

Tom Bailey: Yeah, great. And I guess if they don't make that decision, then they, they don't do that. What impact would that have on their business?  

Ryan Frederick: It probably means, cause I think I do think I used to fight the premise that if you're not growing, you're shrinking. But I've now bought into that because I do think that if you have a business that isn't growing, then it's probably regressing, even though you might not see the outward signs yet. So, growth is critical to having a thriving, successful company.  

Tom Bailey: And I guess if you're not doing it, your competitors might be, and which ultimately will help drive them forward and not you. So, what is one valuable piece of advice that you might give to somebody to help them get started in this space?  

Ryan Frederick: Yeah, typically where the client's struggle is. They know they're not growing at the rate that they want to, but they don't necessarily, no, they don't have the digital expertise and know how to leverage a software product or to be more digitally capable. And where they get hung up often is they feel like they've got to come up with the answer themselves when the reality is their customer. And their clients probably already have the answer. And, and if they went to their customers and their clients and said, how could we serve you better with more digital horsepower and more digital capability, their clients and customers would tell them and be sort of their compass to say, oh, okay, now I have a direction to head in, but for whatever reason, business owners and leaders are often shy about it, actually having those kinds of conversations with their customers. 

Tom Bailey: Yeah, completely understand. And to help people then in this space or to give them some guidance, what resource or where would you point people to help them get started? 

Ryan Frederick: Yeah, I'm really a big fan of another Ryan, Ryan Holliday. Some of his books are, are two of his books are two of my all-time favorites. One is the obstacle is the way. And the other one is ego is the enemy, because I, I do think that one of the reasons that. Company leaders don't go and, and have these very sort of authentic frank conversations with their clients and customers about how they could grow and become more digitally capable is because their ego prevents them from doing that and being vulnerable. Right. And Ryan has. I mean, those books are basically for sale because Ryan is trying to make money as an author, but he's got lots of other content on his site that weekly I'm inspired by and, and feel and feel like I get smarter by consuming some of the stuff that he puts out.  

Tom Bailey: Yeah, of course. Then what I'll do is I'll share links in the show notes to his books and also his website as well. So people can just click on those and dive right in. So, the next question from me is really aimed at yourself in this case. And that is what is one of the greatest either mistakes or failures that you've made either in life or in business. And what did you learn?  

Ryan Frederick: Yeah, and this is one of the reasons that I recommend Ryan Holliday's book ego is the enemy because after being part of, of a couple of companies, that and products that were successful, we then started a company and launched a product that we couldn't have gotten more wrong with it. And part of the reason we got most of it wrong, I'm now convinced in retrospect is because coming off of some success, some success. We thought we knew what to do. We thought we had the answers and we didn't follow the same blueprint of make sure that we're working with customers early and make sure we're iterating with them often. What's make sure we're staying close to them. So, in our own ego-driven right. Mode of operation. Executed in a way that, that we did so many things wrong, that by the time we realized what we were doing wrong, we had not enough time to sort of course correct. And figure it out. And it was entirely ego driven. 

Tom Bailey: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Completely makes sense. And, and a great lesson to learn also going forward for any new projects and also people listening to this episode right now. And the last question from me today is what is the one question that I should have asked you that will also bring some great value to our audience? 

Ryan Frederick: Yeah, I think it's easy to say, getting, stay close to your customers and to help them drive right. Your evolution as a company. But it's, it's harder in practice and that's why people, you know, shy away from it. It's people are complicated. People are messy, so customers are complicated and customers can be messy. And I think one of the things that people. Should really think about is how do they structure a formal customer advisory board so that they can execute consistently getting and staying close to their customers without having it be random and having it actually be very intentional and an important part of the DNA of the organism. 

Tom Bailey: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this applies to scale-ups as much as it does to startups in that, you know, even if you're an entrepreneur, solo entrepreneur, the opportunity to speak with your real customers and get valuable feedback from them is so important to every stage of the business. So, Ryan, thanks again so much for your time today and for coming along, I really appreciate you sharing great expertise and value with our audience.  

Ryan Frederick: Tom. Thank you.