Get Your Fizz On!
Today we’ve got lots of good takeaways about how to start, grow and scale a business. We talk with Jessica Rhodes of Interview Connections, a company that helps people find guests for their podcasts or get booked as a guest on other podcasts.
At the time we recorded this in February, Jessica had just moved into a new and bigger office. As she was in the middle of the move, running her business, raising her kids, and taking care of her family, we saw her at Podfest where she was both selling and speaking and still making time to get to the hotel gym.
So basically we wanted to know how the heck she does it. Turns out it’s about hard work, commitment and being smart about how you imagine and grow your business. It’s also about making time for yourself and taking care of yourself, which is something we all know yet so rarely do.
Competition Gets Real
Jessica refers to her company as a “premier guest booking service”. When she started her company, she was the only booking service. But now a bunch of imitators have sprung up to do what she does. And we wonder how that’s affected her business.
Jessica says that it’s the challenge of every entrepreneur to channel a mindset of abundance. It’s not always easy but you have to believe that there is a place for everyone. What she’s come to realize is that the market is big enough to hold her and her competitors. And since each of them is slightly different in their approach, style, and the types of clients they work with, she’s found a way to not only keep going but to grow.
Jessica Is A Bitch
And that’s a good thing. While she doesn’t recall anyone actually calling her a bitch to her face, she has been called abrasive and intimidating. And that’s because she doesn’t put up with any BS.
Case in point: at a recent staff meeting, she called everyone to task for dropping the ball on some things. Everyone got a little nervous as Jessica laid it out. She said, “I’m not your friend. This is a business.” And she’s right!
We ask her if she thinks people have called her abrasive, blunt and other similar things because she’s a woman, and she says she does. She speaks directly and doesn’t use phrases and manners of speaking typically associated with women. In other words, she isn’t going to coddle or nurture or tell you that if you mess up it’s ok. Because it’s not ok.
She says men speak the same way, but people don’t question it.
Growing A Seven Figure Business
Jessica thinks she can get there in the next few years, but recognizes that to do that she needs higher ticket services to sell. So she plans to expand her product offerings not just to provide more services, but to provide higher value services. The key for her is not necessarily to get more clients but to get higher paying clients.
But it’s more than just the numbers. You can make a lot of money on paper but if you’re not profitable, it doesn’t matter.
Jessica says that it’s important to hire the staff you need and no more. She says the work you give someone will expand to fill the time you give them. But that’s not necessarily efficient. So she makes sure that someone has plenty to keep them busy, so they’re not just “filling time”. And only when that person can’t take on any more work does she hire new staff.
She also says it’s important to price your services correctly. She realized at some point that her prices were not high enough to be able to pay herself and hire people to help her. It took some time to figure out, but eventually she got there.
When Money Is Tight
It’s one thing to decide not to pay yourself but if you’ve got people working for you, you still have to pay them. So when things are not as profitable as you’d like, what do you do?
Jessica says she had other work she was doing at an hourly rate, so that helped subsidize the lack of income from her business. And she racked up a lot of credit card debt. There are always “experts” out there who will tell you not to use your credit card or go into debt, but there’s a perfect world and there’s the real world.
It comes down to this: you do what you have to do.
Jessica wasn’t spending frivolously. She was spending money that the business needed. So was it ideal? No, but it gave her the flexibility she needed to grow and to get to a point where she’s now paying down large chunks of that debt because she’s profitable.
We want to know when and how Jessica decides to raise her prices. She had to do it at least once, when she realized her prices were not high enough to sustain her. And she’s done it since.
For Jessica it’s pretty simple. She knows that she’s profitable right now. But she also knows that she could charge more. She says that she raises her prices until she starts to get pushback. If nobody is complaining about your prices, she says, then you’re not charging enough.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
One of Jessica’s most recent changes was to rebrand from what has essentially been “Jessica Rhodes” to Interview Connections. Jessica spent time building a personal brand, which has helped her get recognized in the industry and get invited to speak at industry events, but she doesn’t want to be her business. She wants the business to stand on its own, so she can do other things.
So rather than be the face of the business, she’s giving it its own identity. Like having a child then sending it off into the world to make its own way. She’s still working in – and on – the business, but she has a team, and those people are the faces behind the business.
Bigger Space, Bigger Vision
Jessica recently moved into a much larger office space when she realized that her current space was a bit small. At the same time, her husband, who works at home, was talking about possibly getting his own office space. It was perfect timing, and the price was right on a local office space even though it was a lot more space than Jessica needed.
But she says that being in a large space has actually helped her expand her vision and see how her company can grow even more. She says her vision was literally held back by the four walls she saw it in every day.
And now she has all that extra space in her house to actually have a house!
Leading By Example
In light of how much time and energy Jessica puts into her business, we wonder how she manages the rest of her life.
She has a philosophy that it’s important for her to demonstrate to her kids that she takes care of herself (hence her gym trips) and that she is committed to her business. She says nothing sends a message to kids about independence and work ethic like being an example. And nothing contributes to gender equality like demonstrating that she is a strong, independent and powerful career woman. Now that’s a philosophy we can get behind.
Want to find a guest for your podcast or be a guest on one? Interview Connections can help.
Listen to Jessica’s podcast, formerly Rhodes to Success, now Interview Connections.