In this episode of the ROI Online Podcast, host Steve Brown interviews entrepreneur Amy Foley, co-founder of Inbound Back Office. Amy wears many hats as a wife and mother, business woman, and host of a marketing podcast. One of the most unique things about Amy’s work is that her company is entirely remote; she believes strongly in the value of remote work, having seen its positive impact in her own life after being forced to work from home for a month to care for her child after an injury. Amy slowly worked her way into fully remote positions, saw a need in the marketing field for trained freelance workers, built a team to help her meet this need, and eventually partnered with Michal Reynolds to create a fully remote company to come alongside other organizations.
This company, Inbound Back Office, has been growing and expanding its influence since its founding. This growth has forced Amy to adopt careful hiring practices, as she has had to balance the need for more employees with the need for workers who can navigate remote positions well and who possess requisite specialized skills for their positions. Amy tells Steve about the team structures, avenues of work, and specific positions that now mark Inbound Back Office, and about what would characterize an ideal client for her.
Steve and Amy discuss Inbound Back Office’s hourly rate model, the unexpected value of direct relationships between Amy’s employees and the companies they assist, and the heavy demand for content services, among other topics. Amy is excited to share the goal she and Michael share to double their business in 2020; this equates to more companies helped and more people hired into remote positions that will prove beneficial in their own lives! Finally, she is excited to share with the podcast audience the lesson she learned through her own family and business life: you can do hard things.
Amy is the co-founder of Inbound Back Office:
Link to Steve's episode on their podcast:
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Amy Foley: 0:02
And I also think that a lot of times companies get tied to this hour thing like, "You must be working for this many hours or else you didn't put in the work." Well, time doesn't necessarily equate to hard work.
Steve Brown: 0:17
Amy Foley: 0:18
I could maybe work in three hours what somebody else could do in eight hours, but I might be delivering a whole lot more work quantity-wise, but also more valuable work.
Steve Brown: 0:32
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the ROI Online Podcast, where we believe you, the courageous entrepreneurs of our day, are the invisible heroes of our economy. You not only improve our world with your ideas, your grit, and your passion, but you make our world better. I'm Steve Brown, and this is a place where we have great conversations with winners just like you while we laugh and learn together. Amy, welcome to the ROI online podcast.
Amy Foley: 1:05
Thank you, Steve. I'm super excited to be here.
Steve Brown: 1:08
So usually you are the one that's conducting all these interviews. Amy, tell us a little bit about your podcast and how long you've been doing it.
Amy Foley: 1:16
Yeah. So our podcast, we have been doing it for, I would say probably a little over a year. I don't know the exact day that we started, but that it's my best guess. And I interview marketing agency owners. A lot of them were HubSpot partners. Some of them are StoryBrand guides. Some of them are day-to-day marketing consultants. Some of them were just, you know, their own digital marketing agencies, and I kind of think of it like a big kind of mastermind group, where everybody is just, you know, sharing these great things that they've learned along the way, whether it's, you know, how to run the agency, being an entrepreneur or, you know, specific marketing tactics that they helped their clients with. It's super fun. I get to meet a lot of agency owners. Everybody is so interesting, and we have it every week, once a week, one episode a week.
Steve Brown: 2:06
So how many episodes do you think you have?
Amy Foley: 2:10
So I think that we just launched like 114 but I have. I think we're up to our 143 recorded.
Steve Brown: 2:23
Amy Foley: 2:23
Yes, we are scheduled out to July 31st currently,
Steve Brown: 2:27
so that's a bit of a labor of love. You do that on the side while you run your business. What inspired you to start your podcast?
Amy Foley: 2:35
That would be my business partner, Michael Reynolds. He was like, "You have to a podcast. We have to. A podcast." He's like, "I think you should do it and just, you know, interview these people." And I was like, "Nobody wants to hear me, like, I don't think this is a good idea. I think you should do it if you want to do it." And he pushed and pushed and pushed. And he's like, "Just do a couple and we'll see how it goes." And of course, after the first couple, I was like, "This is actually not so bad. I think I could do this on a regular basis." So I just kept it going.
Steve Brown: 3:07
You know, one of the things that we kind of coach our folks that we work with, our clients, is that they should consider doing a podcast. What do you... What would you say to them that's been something that was unexpected that came out of producing these podcasts or interviewing folks for the podcast?
Amy Foley: 3:26
I would say probably, well, I was pretty shocked at how simple it has been. I mean, it's really easy. Just a, you know, just to hop on the Zoom and have them could pick a topic and just kind of let them talk about their topic. And the other thing is, I'm actually surprised at how many different topics we can actually clever and that actually exists, because I was assuming from the beginning that we would exhaust everything pretty quickly. But I'm still, you know, we're almost 150 episodes recorded, and I'm still finding all of these super cool topics and people were coming up with. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, it's great. I never would have thought of that".
Steve Brown: 4:13
I had this position one time with this nonprofit and my job was introducing folks. And so I started having lunch with them the week before that I would do the introduction for them to speak to the club, and I found it really fulfilling, and I made some really good friendships. Has that been your experience?
Amy Foley: 4:32
Absolutely, everybody has been so wonderful to work with, you know? I mean, I ask a lot of people if they want to be on it. And you know, a lot of people just don't respond. When we reach out on LinkedIn mostly. But the ones who do—I mean, obviously have a lot who do because I have a lot of episode—but everybody is so nice. And then, you know, they keep in touch after that and we're then networking on LinkedIn. And then, maybe months down the road, they would be like, "Oh, hey, we actually could use your services." So it's kind of like that relationship type of marketing.
Steve Brown: 5:11
Excellent. So let's talk a little bit about your backstory. You're now running the successful agency that supports agencies. But how did you get there? Tell me a little bit of... Help us understand your backstory and your journey to where you are now.
Amy Foley: 5:29
So it has been a long road, not always fun. So I had my youngest child in 2006. I was getting my master's degree online. I was working full time. My husband worked second shifts, so we never saw each other, so I basically felt like a single parent all the time. So, you know, I went through that for a long time. And when my youngest was 3, she broke her femur. I didn't know this when this happened, but when a child breaks their femur, they put them in half-body cast. So she was literally casted from the waist down. And for a 3-year-old who was just recently potty trained, that is quite trying. And you can't lift her by yourself because the cast weighs a ton, so literally she's sitting in this beanbag chair for all of her waking hours, and you have to have two people lift her to take her anywhere.
Steve Brown: 6:29
Oh my gosh.
Amy Foley: 6:29
So, yeah, my husband and I both had to take off work for the whole month that she was in that cast. So I convinced my job to let me work from home, and they were very, very reluctant to let me. They finally did. I found I was so much more productive. I loved it because I could work early in the morning when I'm at my most energetic and my brain's working really well and nobody's around me to bother me. And so when I went back, I asked if there was any way, that I could work from home some days or just work anything out where that could be part of the equation. And they were adamant that that was not a possibility.
Steve Brown: 7:07
Amy Foley: 7:08
So that's what started me thinking, "I have to find a way to be able to do work, make a full-time living, but do it from home." I was just networking online and, you know, I took this part-time job, and I was doing at nights and weekends, but it was remote, so I was just doing that for them. And then all of a sudden they had a full-time job open up and they were like, "Do you want it? It's fully remote." And I took it and I left my job, and that was when my youngest turned 5 and started kindergarten. So that was like the start of that.
Amy Foley: 7:41
And when I got really good and efficient at that job, I started doing some freelance virtual assistant work on the side because I was like, "Well, I've got all this extra time. I might as well make more money. Right?"
Steve Brown: 7:53
Amy Foley: 7:53
So I started doing that. And my very first client was my now co-founder Michael Reynolds.
Steve Brown: 8:02
Amy Foley: 8:03
Yes. And he owned a marketing agency. He was the owner of a marketing agency for 25 years and it was a HubSpot partner. That is where I first heard about inbound marketing, where I learned of HubSpot, and they just had me working on all these different things and were willing to let me learn while I went. And so I just was like, "Yes, I'm gonna niche myself and only work with marketing agencies because now I know this really well." And what I had found was I was trying to find people to help me because I was getting so busy, and nobody knew anything about HubSpot. It was so hard to find anybody who had this knowledge already as far as in the assistant world. And so I was like, "Wow! I feel like I could be on to something here."
Steve Brown: 8:49
How long ago was this?
Amy Foley: 8:50
That was... I want to say 2012, 2013?
Steve Brown: 9:00
So you're at the beginning curve of remote working and you're at the beginning curve of HubSpot becoming more of a household name, at least in the marketing agency world.
Amy Foley: 9:15
Yes, so we're just like at that beginning, and I'm trying to find people to help me. And so I found a couple of people that I end up having to train. But that's kind of where my gear started turning, thinking, "I'll bet there are other agencies who are looking for help in this area and can't find it because I'm trying to find people to help me help these agencies and I can't." So I started, you know, just building my team and training them while we were doing it. I was still doing a lot of the assistant work, and I got to a point where I could quit my full-time job and just focus on this.
Steve Brown: 9:50
So your team that you build, are they remote? Or were they working in the office with you?
Amy Foley: 9:55
They were fully remote.
Steve Brown: 9:57
So in the year, one of the radical first movers in building up a full remote team, am I wrong?
Amy Foley: 10:05
Well, yeah, I would say probably, I mean, I know where I live. I live in freaking very small town in Pennsylvania, and it is just unheard of to even be able to work from home. I mean, still. And so a fully remote team is just like nobody can even fathom it. Like we always hear... We make a joke about it at Inbound Backoffice like, "Well, how do we know that anybody is working?"
Steve Brown: 10:31
Right? That does go through people's mind. But...
Amy Foley: 10:35
When they deliver the work, that's how you know!
Steve Brown: 10:37
Yeah. I mean, when you went to school, you would get these assignments. But you didn't have to do your homework in your assignments from 8 to 5. You did it when you were at your best, and you turned it in on time and you're held accountable. You got a great on that work that you turned in.
Amy Foley: 10:55
Exactly. It seems so simple and logical, but it's very much lost on these traditional types of companies.
Steve Brown: 11:04
Why is that?
Amy Foley: 11:06
I really don't know. I think a lot of it is because, you know, they're in this mindset of, "This is how it's always been done," and they're not really willing to change, which is interesting, because... For example, when I worked from home for that month, I got so much more done and I proved that I could do it and proved that I was still working. And I also think that a lot of times companies get tied to this hour like, "You must be working for this many hours or else you didn't put in the work." Well, time doesn't necessarily equate to hard work.
Steve Brown: 11:42
Amy Foley: 11:44
I could maybe work in 3 hours what somebody else could do in 8 hours. But I might be delivering a whole lot more work quantity-wise, but also more valuable work.
Steve Brown: 11:54
Amy Foley: 11:56
So but I think that's just hard for some people to kind of wrap their heads around who have been ingrained in this thinking of, you know, you have to be in the office for 8 hours a day or I don't know what you're doing and I don't know that you're getting your work done.
Steve Brown: 12:14
Did you miss the social aspect of that?
Amy Foley: 12:17
I personally did not. I am a huge introvert and working in an office was... It was very hard for me because I'm just the kind of person who I just want to like, put my headphones in, listen to my music, and just work and crank and get the job done. And in an office, that's not very easy. For me, it was fine. And I also had my I mean, when I first started, my daughter was home half-days from kindergarten, so I had her around.
Steve Brown: 12:48
Did you find... You know, in the office you have these distractions where your coworkers maybe interrupt you, but at home, sometimes I think about and look over at the dishwasher and I go, "I could turn that on." And then I walked by and there's some laundry that could be done. And it seems that I'm trying to get some other tasks done while I'm working. Do you have that distraction?
Amy Foley: 13:09
So I think in the beginning I did struggle with that, but I'm a pretty regimented and schedule-oriented kind of person. So what I did it was an evolution, but I kind of created this schedule where I had certain times where I'm gonna take a break, that's when I'm gonna throw a little laundry and because I mean, it takes, like, minutes through a load of laundry in. And then I'll, you know, turn on the dishwasher depending on how long of a break I'm gonna take. But it's all very intentional and scheduled so that all of my household duties get done and all of my work duties get down on the given day. Now, it's not always perfect. Sometimes things happen that throw off the whole schedule. But you just adapt and now I have a very supportive husband who helps with anything I need. He also works from home,
Steve Brown: 13:58
Amy Foley: 13:58
Yeah, yeah, so and my kids are older now and can help out a little more. So it's gotten much easier over the years, for sure.
Steve Brown: 14:08
So you come to this realization that, "Hey, this could be a growing concern, that's a dispersed team, that you're can remotely," so talk to me about the thought process that went into creating Inbound Back Office.
Amy Foley: 14:24
So I have been working with Michael, and he had suggested that... We kind of worked out this deal where I was doing some direct work for his agency and also then in the meantime, he and I were going to start evolving this into a company because he has experience running a team and doing payroll and thinks like that. And I was not very good at that. So I mean, I was gonna doing the work and getting the clients, but the other stuff I was like paying everybody through Paypal and I just kept track of everything on a spreadsheet, very archaic. And so he was like, "This is a really great idea." And he knows from the agency side, he's like, "I know this is a pain point," he said, "because I have a lot of agency contacts and I know this is a need." So that's kind of why we decided to go together and try to evolve this thing into a company. And then by 2018, we were ready to pull it out from the kind of little incubator that we created, and it was on its own. And that's when I left the agency completely, and I stopped doing any of the actual work of the business and was then one of the leaders of the business, and working on sales and that sort of thing. It was quite an evolution.
Steve Brown: 15:45
So Michael brought this stack of talents that maybe you weren't so confident that... I mean, you could handle those responsibilities if you want it.
Amy Foley: 15:55
Steve Brown: 15:55
But you had some synergy, you had this history together. And so when you started off, you probably had in your mind a certain way that you thought this was going to go. And you thought there would be these particular clients that would really value this. And now, at this stage where you are now, what did you learn that maybe you didn't know? And talk to me about the kind of clients that you have now, as opposed to the ones you thought you would have.
Amy Foley: 16:25
I didn't realize how hard it would be to grow fast because we have grown at such an alarming speed that to me, I was just like, "Oh, if we get so many clients that we can handle, we'll just add more people, just add more people!" And it just seems so simple to me, but, I mean, hiring is the worst. Which is why a lot of agencies love our company because they know how hard hiring can be. I was very quick to hire in the beginning. I would hire anybody with a resume and that could talk about the position and what was needed. I just let them sell me on it and they were hired. But especially when it's remote and even in the office, there's just other things that you need to look for as far as being able to be professional and having an actual home office. We hired someone once who we were convinced was living in their car. So, you know, you learn different things to look for and so tightening up that hiring process was definitely a learning experience, though we seem to be pretty good at it now. But it was definitely crazy in the beginning.
Steve Brown: 17:46
Yeah, you're talking about some of the fears that people have when they maybe start to consider hiring remote help or remote contractors. And so it seems like there's maybe you could write a book on what to consider when hiring folks and how to manage them. What's the secret to finding and discerning if someone is a great remote employee?
Amy Foley: 18:12
Well, I think that people who have at least a little bit of experience working remotely before is a pretty good indicator of whether they can or can't because we had people who, you know, they were coming from the corporate environment, and this was the first time they were going to be working remote. And then they find out that they're really not cut out for it, cause it definitely is not for everybody or they just are not good time managers. So we've learned to ask specific questions. I mean, obviously we can see if they worked remote from their resume and, you know, from asking about their previous jobs. But then also kind of asking questions about like we have a pre-screening document before we will even get on a call with anybody, and a lot of times that will just rule people out right away. And, you know, some of it is, "How do you manage your time?" And you know you can kind of tell based on how they word it, how the answer it if they're just BSing and you or if they really know what they're talking about and they really know how to manage time. Or like, "How do you keep multiple clients organized and make sure that you're staying on top of everything?" Like we asked, like really specific questions because these are the things that we've had trouble with before with other employees.
Steve Brown: 19:26
So what's the most fulfilling aspect of what you do? When you think about it, is it the systems that you've designed? Is it the way that you connect entrepreneurs with good help? What is it that you find really fulfilling, or that you're one of the best at?
Amy Foley: 19:45
So I would say there are two things that pop out in my head when I hear that question. The first is that we get to help agency owners. The agency niche was selected purely based on: I see a need, and I'm gonna fill a need. So I didn't really have any real time to it, except for Michael, who I just loved him and his team that's been web just from the very beginning. They're amazing. But my whole thing with freelancing even before that was: I just want to help people. I didn't know what I had to offer to help people, but here are the things I know how to do. Is that helpful to you? And were people like, "Yes, this is great." And that just feels so good to have a skill or talent that is helpful to someone else. That to me is very fulfilling.
Amy Foley: 20:37
And then also on the flip side, is being able to offer an employment opportunity to other people who are, you know, either stay at home parents or they have freelance gigs on the side but they also would like to have something where they don't have to go, chase down clients and chase money and that sort of things, something that's a little more secure. Being able to offer that to other people is huge to me because that's what I could have used back when. Back when my kids were little, that's what I was looking for, and I would have totally tried to get into a company like Inbound Back Office back when I started, so because I didn't find it, I was like, "Well, let's try to start it."
Steve Brown: 21:22
That's interesting, cause I'm relating a little bit. I know when I started this company, I wanted to set up an environment where people could grow and develop professionally. That was coming from some experiences that I had before that I didn't want to go through again or want people to go through. And so it sounds like that part of your why is helping people find a way to more fulfilling work but do it remotely? Would that be correct?
Amy Foley: 21:52
Absolutely. And also, you know, within that also comes being able to have both a personal life and work life that don't necessarily need to be separate. You get to dictate how you're going to live that life, what part of it's going to be work, and what part of it's going to be family instead of a company dictating that to you.
Steve Brown: 22:17
That's cool. So talk to me... outsourcing of something or what term would you put on this remote working outsourcing... As the agency owner, I'm relating because there's this demand that I... My clients bring in work, and then it creates a demand for folks that I can trust and help me do the good work that we need to deliver. This is something that they're all wrestling with and thinking about. How do you describe it? Or what terms do you use for the light bulb to go off with your clients?
Amy Foley: 22:54
So I do consider it outsourcing, although I do recognize that the term outsourcing, I feel like, has gotten a bad name, just probably from the beginning origins of outsourcing because a lot of... In the beginning, it was outsourcing overseas, and I think that's a struggle for a lot of agency owners who have tried outsourcing before. But because it was overseas, they encountered lots of problems with communication and time zones and unreliability and that sort of thing. So I think a lot of people are a little shy about trying, outsourcing or even hearing it called outsourcing, which is kind of one of the reasons why we only hire U.S. based people. And then you get into, "Well, if I were to go overseas, I would pay a lot less money." Well, OK. But you get what you pay for. Yeah, I still consider it outsourcing, but the way that I kind of word it is I say that we're virtual assistance for marketing agencies so the agencies can scale.
Steve Brown: 24:03
We're gonna take a moment here so I can tell you about a book I believe you need to read. Most every day for the last 10 years, I've worked with business leaders such as you. And there's this common conversation that I've had over and over. And it goes a little like this, "Steve. I see other brands excelling online, and I feel we need to do the same because my customers are expecting it of us. I'm not sure where to start, but I think we need to redo our website. What's the best way to approach this?" And this is why I wrote my book "The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your Business". It's a book designed to empower my business leaders so that they have the words and the proper expectations to communicate what it is they really need and get what they really need instead of something that's sold to them. It puts them in a position of confidence and clarity. And so to get this book, it's a great read, you can go to Amazon, get it there, or you can go to thegoldentoilet.com and click on "Get Your Copy." Now back to our conversation.
Steve Brown: 25:27
So talk about these folks that you hire. Obviously, they need to be experts in HubSpot or certified in HubSpot or understand marketing agencies. They're bringing more value than just low cost or, you know... and I think the term overseas conveys. I can get folks to work on a task. But when you're talking about a virtual assistant, it sounds like more that you're bringing someone with some horsepower and some understanding and some expertise. Talk to me about that.
Amy Foley: 26:04
Absolutely, yes. So I am the first point of contact in the vetting process of anybody who gets to be on this team, and they have to... I don't know a better way to say this, but they have to have a brain that is capable of critical thinking.
Steve Brown: 26:22
Yeah, why that it?
Amy Foley: 26:24
Well, because we have such high-quality standards because marketing agencies are... I mean, we do have people on the team who are very good at doing things like you said. They can do data entry really well, they can just perform tasks that don't require a whole lot of brainpower. But then they can also do those higher-level thinking type of things. And I would say most of our services fall in that higher-level thinking category. You've gotta know are SEO specialists have to have a background in SEO and they have to be smart enough to stay up on the new things that are happening and the new tools and you know, the new rules of Google and that sort of thing. I can't stay up on top of that and share that with everybody all the time. They have to be going out and getting that, and so we make sure that that is something that they're thinking about before we're telling them they have to do that.
Amy Foley: 27:22
It's so funny how many applicants we get. I have a thing in the job description that specifically says, "In your cover letter, tell me X." and it's something related to the job. Tell me about your experience with HubSpot. And the amount of people who don't do a cover letter... They clearly didn't read the job description. So you can't be on my team if you can't even read a job description, if you're gonna send in a resume based on the title. Same thing if they do the cover letter, but they still don't answer the question. Like, no. So we weed out a whole lot of people based on that alone. But, I mean, I think a cover letter even submitting that without being asked, I think that that's at least a level there of you at least thought to address me and to talk about your experience and why you'd be good at this job and why you'd be a good fit here. And you know what you're gonna bring to Inbound Back Office and our agency clients. So just that, like higher-level thinking, that taking initiative.
Amy Foley: 28:29
And that's something else that we kind of look for on that pre-screening document. I'll ask a question like, "What was the last thing you did for professional development?" And some of the answers I get are just, like, you can tell they don't even know what I'm talking about or what professional development is. We need somebody who's a little above your level, who knows what that is and who takes it upon themselves to go, you know, improve themselves because, you know, we're kind of like a growth mindset type of company where you know, always be learning is something new. And, you know, if you don't know something, you can go out and learn it. I mean...
Steve Brown: 29:04
Amy Foley: 29:05
There's nothing stopping you. And because all of our specialists have to be so specialized in their areas, they definitely have to have some experience behind the belt, because the agencies asked me that like they want to know. "Like, OK, how much how much sales experience does your sales specialist have? Because we don't want somebody who just started selling yesterday. " That's not gonna help them. So I mean, definitely have to have that experience and that higher-level brain power, for sure.
Steve Brown: 29:35
Yeah, I find that we need several types of team members. I need the ones that are forward facing with the client. That are strategic. Maybe they ran some business in the past. They can relate with what our clients are struggling with. They have an expectation that what we deliver is gonna help them run their business better, grow their business, solve some challenge. And so the person that works with them needs to be able to relate with them or bond with them in a way. It's not that we need to do everything perfect. We just need them to connect with them and let them know we do care and that we are engaged and we're working to overcome this challenge. Then there's these folks that you need that are like specialists that can take assignments, quickly do them, put the flavor of the brand, the essence of what that client's wanting to deliver, and do it on time. And maybe they're not the right person to manage the project. So I imagine you have these types of positions, and to me, the project manager is probably the most important position. Talk to me about your bench. I'm interested in that.
Amy Foley: 30:58
Yeah. Yeah. So, like you said, the project managers, they are directly dealing with the agencies and a lot of times with the agency's clients as well. So they've got to be real professional. They have to be very well-spoken. They have to be super organized because they're managing everything, basically, keeping all the balls in the air for the agency. So they're like your definitely client-facing people who aren't just pushing buttons on the computer. And then we've got people like general administrative specialists who are more like a traditional virtual assistant that you think of, who can do things like booking travel and things like that where they don't necessarily... Sometimes they talk to the clients but it's usually done all the email, and it's purely task-based. So, you know, you don't necessarily have to have as well of a polished person for that position. They just have to be able to, you know, quickly get stuff done and be smart about it. And then, you've got people in between.
Amy Foley: 32:02
So some of our teams are set up with managers and then kind of a team behind them. The managers are really gonna be client-facing and getting all of the information from the clients and making sure they're asking the right questions of the clients in order to be able to perform the task and then either themselves or someone on the team in the background is going to execute on that task. So it's kind of like the three of the main ways that we work. Now, our development team can't really function like that with the manager and then the team behind them because, you know, things like development are so customized, and no two projects are gonna be the same. And it also, I think, requires certain personality matches kind of like the project manager. We've had project managers who have worked with clients and they've been very good project managers. But there was like a personality clash there, and we had to switch him out. Nothing wrong with either side, it just wasn't a good fit. So then, like the developers, you know, we have the developers work directly with the agency clients. And I mean, I don't know about your experience with developers, but not all developers are very good at talking to clients or even want to do that.
Steve Brown: 33:18
No, I mention that in my book. Yes. That's funny.
Amy Foley: 33:20
Yes, exactly. So like they just want to be sitting behind the computer and doing their thing. So, you know, we do have to make sure that we're hiring special types of developers who can actually talk to clients, who is not going to make them run away and quit.
Steve Brown: 33:40
So how much of your portfolio of clients utilize HubSpot?
Amy Foley: 33:46
I would say at this point... I would say it's probably 50%. In the beginning, that's really where we focus. We have since kind of broadened to down to people who have never used HubSpot and don't plan to use HubSpot who might be like individual marketing consultants or like a lot of the StoryBrand guides and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultants, a lot of them use other types of programs, which is fine. We have specialists on our team who... We have HubSpot developers, and we also have HubSpot production specialists who know HubSpot real well. So if we've gotta have spot client, they can help.
Steve Brown: 34:31
How many StoryBrand guides are you working with?
Amy Foley: 34:33
They're fairly new. I would say we probably have maybe like ten at this point.
Steve Brown: 34:44
Yeah, for those of you that don't know, StoryBrand is this great marketing framework. It's the creation of Donald Miller, andhe's written a book called "Building a StoryBrand," and from this little movement there's all these companies that read the book and want to get their messaging clear on their websites. And what Donald Miller and his team of done is create this great clearinghouse of committed folks that learned the StoryBrand framework. They call them guides, and there's a great place that you can go and learn about a guide that can help you get your all your content really tightened up, and then obviously that content needs to be put onto some sort of CMS or marketing automation. And that's where they would approach Amy's team to help them perform. Yeah, more than all that content is gonna live and be published from.
Amy Foley: 35:44
Steve Brown: 35:46
So let's draw a picture of a perfect client for you. Describe to us what you're perfect... Someone that really loves what you do, is just amazed by what you do... Describe that person because what you do is not for everybody,
Amy Foley: 36:05
Steve Brown: 36:05
So, yeah, what is that agency look like? Or what is that guide look like?
Amy Foley: 36:10
I love this question. So our ideal client is someone who is not a control freak who has some experience with outsourcing or at least is open to kind of letting go of some of the things. Because some of the independent marketing consultants like they want to let go of it but they just are too scared to and that can be challenging.
Steve Brown: 36:36
Is it a fear that you might steal their client or is the fear that you might run their customer off?
Amy Foley: 36:43
They're afraid that they just don't know what the work's gonna be like. They don't know what the... how the process is gonna work. I mean, we can explain it as much as you want, but until you get in and do it, you don't know what that's actually going to look like. And so they're just really afraid of what I think in just in my experience, in starting to outsource because I went through this, too, like, "Well, what if it's not like... My name is on this company and what is the quality of the work is not up to my level? And then what if I get it at the last minute and then I'm sitting there and I have to pull an all-nighter to fix it or to completely redo it because it's terrible?" Like, I think that's a big fear for a lot of people who have never outsourced before. And it's really hard to get over that. I mean, you just start small and build up from there. It's about building trust, really.
Amy Foley: 37:33
And so being able to outsource and having some sort of, and this is gonna be super tactical, but having some sort of process already where you at least have some kind of tool that you're managing everything from, or at least keeping everything organized everything that needs to be done. Now, our project managers can set that up and create a process for you. But we've had that happen, and then the agency or the guide or whoever it is is like... They don't follow the process then and it and it makes it really hard. Or like, for example, if our internal contact with agency is the owner is a single guy or girl and we have questions on tasks but they never respond us, we can't get stuff down. Or we can try but it's not gonna make you happy. I would say that those are kind of the areas where as long as we have things honed up in those areas, they're gonna be your favorite clients.
Amy Foley: 38:34
And also, you know, clients that give us feedback. That was a big thing for us. We have had clients in the past who will work with somebody on our team and, from our team's perspective everything went fine, and they completely ghost us after that. We have no idea what went wrong, what happened. We have this tool that we use called Delighted. Basically, every so often it will send out like a little survey to our clients. And I mean, it's super short. It asked you to rate your experience with us from 1 to 10. And then there's a spot to type out free-hands about your experience. If you want. It's optional. We have somebody literally who worked with one person for like, I don't know, it was like three hours or something. He gave us a zero and didn't type anything. And, you know, we talked to the person that he worked with on our team, and they were like, "Everything seemed fine to me." And won't respond to us. And we have no idea what could've gone wrong. Like, we're the kind of people that if something went wrong, we want to fix it. We want to make it right. Like even if you don't want to work with us after that, OK? Please tell us so that we can fix it for other clients. We can't fix it if we don't know about it, and we've got 50 people on our team. We're not gonna be able to know at our level like mine and Michae and our operations manager, we're not gonna know what our level every little thing that's happening. So we need to know. And so that's huge for us, is feedback. Good and bad.
Steve Brown: 40:11
So someone ad has a system, understands the value of communication through that system like Basecamp or some sort of project management, and then that is available and gives you feedback. Is there anything else that makes someone a really perfect client that would love what you do?
Amy Foley: 40:32
I think really that's it. We're super simple. I mean, we adapt to your process, so it's really easy. Just work with our people. We're very easy to work with.
Steve Brown: 40:43
You know, hearing you talk in my head, I'm like... You know, one of the things that's the big villain in delivering a good job for clients is this thing called scope creep. It's this big, scary monster. It's dark and has fangs and these red glowing eyes. And hearing you talk about all the different things that you do, how do you wrestle with that villain?
Amy Foley: 41:07
So it doesn't usually become an issue because our services are all based on hourly rates. So generally what happens is, if a client has a project or a test that they want, they'll generally ask for a time estimate upfront. And we've gotten pretty good at making these pretty accurate. And so they know upfront like how much this should cost. So if they add something in, we're happy to do it. But we're going to say, "Well, okay, that wasn't factored in the original time estimate. So it's gonna be more." So it's really on the client to determine whether that's in their budget or not. That's one of the main reasons why we went with the hourly rate model because then it's pretty much all in the client's hands, and they make the decision and we don't have to be the bad guy saying, "Oh, well, that's really outside of the scope." Instead, we can say, "Hey, you know this is gonna cost you this much more. Do you want do it or not?"
Steve Brown: 42:07
So what's like some unexpected value that your clients learn or are surprised to find out about the relationship with you guys that they didn't expect?
Amy Foley: 42:22
I think a lot of clients do not expect it to be so easy to work with the individual service is on our team, because a lot of companies like us or even general virtual assistant companies, they have some complicated request system, ticket requests system, to get things done, and it takes time and you're not getting the same person every time. And, you know, you never know how the quality is gonna be from time to time. And you never know if the person you're getting has an expertise in that area. And a lot of them are just generalists, whereas with us they think they're very pleasantly surprised that they're just dealing directly with their person. So, for example, if it's the content, they're dealing directly with our content manager, and that's their contact forever for content. Until she leaves us, which I hope never happens, that's gonna be their contact. And they don't have to worry about going to some website and submitting a ticket and waiting on that. They can just add her to their project management tool and assign things there just like she's a part of their team. So I think they're very pleasantly surprised at how actually easy it is to work with our team and just to get stuff done.
Steve Brown: 43:43
That's cool. So of the services you have... virtual assistant, you've got development, marketing, creative, content writing... What else do you have?
Amy Foley: 43:56
Oh, my gosh. So we have website developments with HubSpot and other platforms. We have sales assistance. We have SEO. We have graphic design, video editing, podcast setup and maintenance. We have HubSpot production, email marketing on other platforms as well. We have backend web site maintenance type of things like in WordPress and Squarespace, like uploading blood posts and managing plugins and things like that. We also do a little bit of strategy. So we have got some marketing strategists, we also have digital advertising like the PPC and social media ads and social media, some business consulting. And we're also putting together a new service that will pretty much replicate the HubSpot onboarding process that you know, it's a service that HubSpot offers. We're gonna offer it where you can have the technical set up. You can have the strategic pieces of it if you want, kind of like a pick and choose which pieces you need of the HubSpot onboarding process. So that could be duplicated for any new clients you bring on into HubSpot. I've gotten a ton of requests for that. It seems to be a huge pain point for HubSpot partners, so that is something we're currently developing as well.
Steve Brown: 45:16
So what you most excited about... All right, so two questions: Of all the service is which one has a lot of demand that you didn't expect?
Amy Foley: 45:28
Content. 100%. Hands down
Steve Brown: 45:32
In which way?
Amy Foley: 45:33
Well, I am actually very surprised at how many agency owners want to outsource content, also very surprised that I mean, I say I'm surprised. I think the writers are the only area where I actually don't do the hiring because our operations manager used to be our content manager, so I let her handle all of that hiring. And just based on what I've seen, everybody thinks they can write. So I am actually surprised that of the writers that we have hired, everybody has been so good. I mean, we get compliments all the time on the quality of our content team. It's just amazing, like it's surprising because, I mean, there's all kinds of content farms and things out there and you get the block post back and it's crap. That doesn't happen with us according to the feedback I'm getting.
Steve Brown: 46:29
You know, going back in the day, that was the main reason that value I'm brought to our clients was that, yeah, you're supposed to produce content on a regular basis, but the last thing that you can expect of a client is to sit down and write when they're trying to run their business. And so we developed a really strong content team, and that's what led us to the StoryBrand framework. That's interesting that you're saying that because this content... Good content is great, but when you honor the rules of story through the StoryBrand framework, it really makes the investment in that content pay off a lot more. That really speaks to why there's such a demand for the book and the training and the workshops of StoryBrand. So, by the way, we were the original agency certified by story brand. And we're going on our fourth year, a sort of agency, not just a guide, but yeah, so cool. That's cool. I got two more questions. So what are you most excited about as far as the future?
Amy Foley: 47:34
So I am very excited that we... Our goal is to double in size and 2020. I'm super excited about that. That means that we get the opportunity to help a lot more agencies and help a lot more people who want more flexibility in their work. That is something I'm super excited about. And also the fact that, you know, I was on a podcast once before and they asked me about, "Do you have an exit strategy?" And things like that. And quite frankly, Michael and I have talked about that as kind of like, you know, if we ever wanted to do it. But to be honest, I love our team so much and it kind of feels like my baby, and I just don't think that I could ever leave it and I just get... I mean, they're just my motivation. Those team members, they need Inbound Back Office to survive so that they can keep working and keep making money for their families and not have to go back into corporate America. That's just my whole reason for every day, just we've got to grow this company and we've got to make it bigger and we've got to keep it alive.
Steve Brown: 48:38
You're right in the sweet spot where you have folks that are wanting to be more independent and work from home or be a part of a remote team. And then you have more and more companies that are actually conceiving or starting to consider or test remote help, right? And so you right at this perfect crossroads.
Amy Foley: 49:03
Exactly. Yeah, and a lot of agencies want to scale, and they don't know how to do it. They don't want to hire people in house. It's so expensive. And you know, they don't know that they're always gonna have the work available for staff. So I mean, this is just like the perfect option for them to add to their team as needed.
Steve Brown: 49:22
All right, well, awesome. This has been a great conversation, and I've learned so much. And I think that it's something that a lot of agencies need to know about because we we wrestle with expanding and contracting demand. Right? So we'll have these... You know, it'd be so nice if we can sign up a new client every 14 days. But the reality is, they all signed up on the same day.
Amy Foley: 49:51
Steve Brown: 49:51
Or then, when you're least expecting it, something changes with them, and they leave for whatever reason. And so we have to wrestle with these cycles of high demand and then reduction in work. And so, you know, being the same as you, concerned about your team. You want to try to keep a certain amount of work on him because you don't want to let your great people go. You want them to be able to provide for them their families and pay their bills and invest in their future as well. What's the one question that you didn't get the answer, that I didn't ask that you wished I would have asked?
Amy Foley: 50:32
That's a great question. One thing that I do love to talk about that is not exactly work-related, but a little bit is... I mentioned to you before we started that I got married in July, and so through all of this, you know, becoming Inbound Back Office, I actually went through a divorce. That process plus then meeting my now husband has really... It's been like this whole confidence booster for me. And I mean, I think that if I hadn't gone through both of those things and met my husband and, you know, have him as an influence, I don't know that I would have Inbound Back Office where it is today. Obviously, Michael is a huge influence. He's on point. He's doing everything to help us well, but I think like me personally and my part of Inbound Back Office, I don't think that I would be even close to where I am today with regards to it without those things happening. One was like a not great thing, and one was like a really great thing. So I think like a lot of people who try to start their own businesses, they think, "Oh, I can't do it now because I've got this terrible thing going on in the background." But actually, I found it to be a great distraction. It also like, kind of... I've got this mantra that I always tell my kids: "You can do hard things. You can. "And I just kept telling myself that the whole time I was doing it. And then it came out of the other side, and I was like, "Look at what I just freaking did."
Steve Brown: 51:58
Amy Foley: 51:58
So that's something I always like to share just for, you know, people who might be thinking of starting a business.
Steve Brown: 52:04
I love that. So you just discussed what's called the transformation, you know, on the hero's journey. Part of what you went through there was you went through some really tough times, but you had to kind of pick yourself up and get determined and focused. And here you are talking about the transformation you made. What is this husband's name?
Amy Foley: 52:25
His name is Sean. Yes, we got married this past July. Ach
Steve Brown: 52:32
Amy Foley: 52:39
Thank you. Yes. We'll be taking a honeymoon in October to Hawaii. I'm excited about that. too
Steve Brown: 52:41
Well, Amy, this has been excellent. I've really learned a lot. I've enjoyed this conversation. I think that the agencies that learn about this or other companies that... StoryBrand guides are the companies that might want to consider this, or this has been eating on them. I think that having a conversation with you would be an excellent start for them. So thank you for coming on as our guest, and we really enjoyed it.
Amy Foley: 53:09
Yeah, thank you so much for having me!
Steve Brown: 53:13
Thanks for listening to another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast. For more, be sure to check out to show notes of this episode and feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where we can chat and I can help direct you to the resource is you're searching for. To learn more about how you can grow your business better, be sure to pick up your copy of my book, "The Golden Toilet" at, surprise, thegoldentoilet.com I'm Steve Brown and we'll see you next week on another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast