Image courtesy of SpaceX via Unsplash

I read Walter Isaacson’s Musk bio several months ago. It was one of those books that changed my thinking in a big way — and continues to do so.

What I found most interesting about Musk is his ability to question just about everything. Going from memory, Isaacson recounts stories of Musk asking Tesla engineers questions such as, “Why do we need four bolts? Won’t three suffice?”

Engineers: “Uhhh, that’s the way it’s always been done?” or “Because . . . reasons.”

Musk: “Wrong answer.”

One of Musk’s objectives is to create entirely new solutions that were thought impossible — including developing rocket ships that can reenter Earth’s orbit and land. I find that simply amazing.

Musk’s algorithm

According to Isaacson, “at any given production meeting, whether at Tesla or SpaceX, there is a nontrivial chance that Musk will intone, like a mantra, what he calls ‘the algorithm'” that he developed over the years. It has five commandments:

  1. Question every requirement
  2. Delete any part or process you can
  3. Simplify and optimize
  4. Accelerate cycle time
  5. Automate (this comes last)

It’s the “Question every requirement” commandment that’s helped me address several challenges in my own business — because it’s the most detailed.

“Question every requirement. Each should come with the name of the person who made it. You should never accept a requirement that came from a department, such as legal. . . . you need to know the name of the real person who made the requirement.

“Then, you should question it, no matter how smart that person is. Requirements from smart people are the most dangerous, because people are less likely to question them. Always do so, even if the requirement comes from me [Musk]. Then make the requirements less dumb.”

I took this advice to heart and began looking at my business (and my life in general).

A few of the requirements I’ve questioned and changed

Eliminated monthly PPT reports; switched to Matomo custom dashboards

One thing I had done for years is create marketing reports for clients. I’m not even sure where this requirement came from — I think because I saw other agencies doing it, so I did it, too.

I’d put these together from scratch each month using PowerPoint. I’d take screenshots from Google Analytics, LinkedIn, Google Ads, etc., and I’d include my own charts showing conversion data x channel.

Each report would take me an hour or more to create — so multiplied by six, seven or eight clients, and that became a ton of work each month.

Late last year, I hired our new programmer – data analytics expert, James Alavosus, and had him set up monthly dashboards in Matomo (which everyone loves).

Because Matomo is so data rich, he easily created a customized dashboard for each client — and they can view them on their time or on a one-on-one with me. After the first month, I ditched the PPTs. Win-win.

Eliminated redundancies; improved decision making

I first began sending conversion data by email several years ago. I started this practice because I wanted to demonstrate to clients the marketing they were paying for was delivering good leads.

This data was good, but I spent a lot of time rolling it up each month into the monthly PPT report. Plus, it got lost, as each week I’d send a new email.

Thanks to James’ adept programming, we now export data from Matomo into an Excel spreadsheet for each client — which made things so much easier. At first, I was creating a new Excel report for each month; I changed that when I realized it was easier to create a tab for each new month.

The current Conversion Report has all the preceding months’ data — plus the roll up charts I used to include with the PPT. Clients now see the following:

  • Ad spend month-to-date and year-to-date
  • Average cost per click; number of conversions; cost per conversion
  • RFQ or other lead goals — current year and previous year
  • Conversions by type and channel — e.g. RFQ, Contact, Email, e-comm, etc.

I knew I had scored a huge win when one client said, “Oh, if we’re spending that much and getting that many leads, then we can increase spend by X — which should translate into X more leads. Let’s test it.” YES!!

My own marketing

Do you know how much marketing advice exists? A ton. I realized a long time ago I couldn’t compete or even rank.

Plus, I kept asking myself, “Why do I need to tell people how to market their businesses? Don’t I want them to hire us to do it for them?”

I kept coming back to, “I want a certain type of manufacturing client — one who wants to grow and who is willing to put in the time and effort with regard to marketing. I want long-term relationships with my clients based on mutual trust and respect.”

I spent a lot of time thinking through these ideas and finally made the bold move to kill my Resources section. I realized I didn’t need it or even want it. So freeing!

In its place, I created the new Our Work section to show how I and my team think and the types of challenges we solve. My goal is to build trust versus making a quick sale.

Filed under: Behind the Scenes

Rocky Update

Rocky enjoying playtime with Cooper and Harley

“Never let your dog play with or even greet another dog.”

That was the advice I received from the trainer I worked with when Rocky was a puppy. The trainer came with the breeder; thus, the class was full of German Shepherd puppies of various sizes and ages.

I assumed that since the trainer and breeder were the experts, I needed to listen to them.

But on several occasions, I’d ask, “Why? Why can’t Rocky play with another dog if I know the person and the dog?”

Answer: “Because you don’t know how the other dog will react — and may attack your dog. Plus, your dog will form an attachment with the dog instead of you.” What?

I understood the reasoning about meeting / greeting unknown dogs. When I had my Shelties, a Golden Lab attacked my Sasha dog, severely injuring him. He was never the same after.

So, I followed the trainer’s advice. The result: I became terrified of other dogs even coming near us. Despite my caution, we were attacked several times — and Rocky became reactive.

But then we met Cooper, a Black Lab, who we’d see on our morning walk. Cooper’s “mom” and I began talking, and one morning, we took a chance and put our two dogs together.

Despite both being intact males (another one of those pieces of advice you hear constantly), they took an instant liking to each other. I almost started crying seeing Rocky run around with such joy and happiness.

We now have play sessions a couple of times a week. Cooper’s mom and I have become friends; she’s a gardener and has been giving me tips — and even cuttings! — for my yard.

In the photo, you can see Rocky playing with Cooper and Harley, a two-year old female Great Dane.

Since then, I’ve changed my perspective and my own reactions. I’m no longer afraid of other dogs, and now do our walks with confidence.

I’ve worked with Rocky to be less reactive, and I signed us up for pack walks to help with socialization and being neutral around other dogs.

We haven’t had one incident many weeks — and I have a much happier dog.

What I’ve learned: Advice is good, but you know your dog better than any “expert.” Don’t be afraid to question what you’re told. Most important, listen to your dog and your heart. You’ll never go wrong.