In this episode, I talk to Mandi Ellefson about scaling consulting services. She is one of the experts on how to grow a service business with done-for-you services. We talk about the big mistakes CEOs make when trying to scale their service businesses. She shares her process on productization and scale.
Mandi is the creator of the Scale to Freedom Scalable Service growth model. She leads consulting agency owners to have lives with greater freedom and success. Mandi has consulted with over 100 consulting agency CEO. And helps them immediately free up to 20-50% of their work week to focus on accelerating profits.
Her clients have added 5 figures of net profit every month, added millions of dollars in sales, and have exited the day-to-day so they can scale growth. Some have even sold their business.
Mandi is a published author and host of The Hands-Off CEO Podcast. As a committed Freedom Fighter, a percentage of business profits go to rescuing enslaved victims of child sex trafficking. Mandi is a mother of 2. And enjoys mountain biking and exploring the outdoors with her husband.
Frank Bria (00:00):
The 6 to 7 Figures Show. Episode 74, let’s hit it.
Broadcasting from the Valley of the Sun outside Phoenix, Arizona. This is the 6 to 7 Figures Show. Tired of working so hard and having no time? Take your six figure practice and turn it to a thriving seven figure enterprise. And now your host, author, speaker, mentor, and strategist Frank Bria.
Frank Bria (00:29):
Hey everyone. Welcome to the 6 to 7 Figures Show. I’m your host, Frank Bria and today I am absolutely thrilled to be joined by my good friend, the lovely Mandi Ellefson, the creator of the Scale to Freedom scalable service growth model. She leads consulting agency owners to have lives with greater freedom and success. Mandi’s consulted with over a hundred consulting agency CEOs and helps them immediately free up between 20 and 50% of their work week to focus on accelerating profits. Her clients added five figures of net profit, every month. Adding millions of dollars in sales. Yeah, you can’t stumble over this stuff, this is the good stuff, Mandi. A millions of dollars in sales and exited the day to day so they can scale growth. And some have even sold their businesses. Mandi’s a published author, host of the Hands Off CEO podcast. And as a committed freedom fighter, a percentage of business profits actually go to rescuing enslaved victims of child sex trafficking. Mandi’s a mother of two and enjoys mountain biking and exploring the outdoors with her husband. Mandi, welcome to the show.
Mandi Ellefson (01:42):
Thanks so much for having me, Frank.
Frank Bria (01:43):
Yeah, my pleasure. You know, it’s really funny when I first read the bio and you said freedom fighter and you’re talking about the profits going to sex trafficking victims. I was like, that’s a really good double name for you because what you do in your work with your CEOs is fight for their freedom too essentially. Right?
Mandi Ellefson (02:09):
Right and I think what we’ve actually encouraged our CEOs to do is to find a cause that is actually aligned with the visions and the values of their company. And in doing that, you can really call in and attract the perfect types of staff and employees to your company because it’s, it’s part of what…They want their work to be meaningful and not just with the work that you do with your clients, but also how you’re changing the community and the world at large. So that’s one of those ways that you can compete for really good staff against the bigger corporations. Like it’s one of these super powers that we can have as the small companies.
Frank Bria (02:50):
Yeah. I mean, there’s really good examples of that. You know, Lulu Lemon started that way and now they’re huge. You know, they started by donating some of the revenues to charity and it’s a great thing for you. And I know you personally, so I know it’s not a tactic. Like this is something that’s meaningful to you. So it’s great that you’re encouraging your clients to do the same thing. I think that’s amazing.
Mandi Ellefson (03:16):
Well, and you know what, it’s been really cool to see that. And maybe I’ll just kind of jump into story for Philip, one of our clients and he’s gone from like 600,000 to 2.1 million in a year. Now he’s beyond 3 million and that’s just one of his companies. He started another one, but you know, he had hit a point of where they kind of stalled out and I could see what was happening. It was like they were looking for a deeper meaning, a deeper course for significance of their employees. But they didn’t quite have that language to really ask for that. But what transpired though, was that they were able to take some of the profits and start donating it to this charity in Africa that actually trains other fishermen, which is aligned with what the service that they have. And the result of it is that the engagement of their team went way up. They’ve had employees that have gotten job offers, really very lucrative job offers, who’ve turned them down to stay there. Because of the vision and the values that the company has. And they want to be part of that.
Frank Bria (04:26):
Yeah, that’s amazing. And it seems to be, in our industry, there’s a lot of people who are now talking about the mission that they have behind their business. You know, you see posts on Facebook, you know, my mission is to dah, dah, dah, dah. But it’s a totally different thing when you back that up with dollars actually flowing to that mission. That’s pretty cool.
Mandi Ellefson (04:48):
Well, yeah. And I think that when you can really weave it into your sales message, and it’s not just this lame value statement on your website just nobody really wants our about page, but really your about page should be about the prospect that’s actually there to visit it. It’s all about them. So anyway, I’ve kind of digressed here a little bit, I’ll let you lead the interview.
Frank Bria (05:17):
No, that’s great. Actually, this is a really important part.We’ll move on to scaling and saving time because I do think that’s pretty important. You and I have had lots of great conversation about that anyway, but just as a last note on this, I think it is a great, it’s not a tactic, it’s a really good strategy. It’s a really good underlying differentiation point. So that’s awesome that you include that in. So a lot of the CEOs that come to you, Mandi, this is about getting tied back. They’ve hit a wall. I know that you have talked before about how there’s low hanging fruit when you usually just jump in there and you can start really I guess, carving away at that schedule. What are some of the things you see CEOs do that drain their schedule away from them?
Mandi Ellefson (06:13):
I think that it really comes down to the mindset and really knowing exactly what they’re focusing on and being able to prioritize based on that. And that’s one of the biggest things. A lot of that is, so much time is wasted in sales, actually is in talking to prospects that are never going to buy in the first place. Just having a better qualification process, actually knowing, you know? I think you might have a very similar process to me on this one too, but the one client you work with, what is the one painful 6 or 7 figure problem, and what is the outcome you deliver for them? Like the guaranteed outcome. So when you know so clearly, exactly who that is that you’re serving and what they can get from working with you. Now your sales process just becomes qualify, quantify. So you qualify if you can help them. You quantify how much pain that they’re in and if it’s really in a good place to have you help them solve that problem.
Frank Bria (07:18):
That’s great. It will. This is why you and I get along cause we talk the same language. Right? But that’s so critical. It’s so easy to get sucked back into that stuff again because even those of us who know this, you know, we’ll have moments where we just, for whatever reason, we forget. We forget who we’re really trying to focus on and someone will come along and they’re not a good fit and we know deep down it’s not a good fit. But you kind of get sucked into that. “I Don’t know, should I try to close this deal”? It’s so true. Just stop wasting time with that. Stop doing that.
Mandi Ellefson (07:59):
Well, and it really comes from a scarcity mindset and understanding. Instead of that hour you’re spending and an enormous amount of time and energy, actually trying to like to hold space for the sales conversation and to see it through. If you invested that in actually just doing prospecting, you’d have a whole lot more opportunities and then you can really pick and choose exactly who you want to work with. Butthose are uncomfortable things and really knowing your vision and knowing why you are actually building this. This kinda comes back to what we were talking about with having bigger causes because what really happens, like you might see this too with clients you work with, is I see them, they hit a certain point where they’ve grown, the business has gotten to some level of success, but what’s next? And really feeling a drive to keep moving it forward. And I hit this mark pretty early in my business too, actually, because, I don’t financially need to work. I don’t have to, I don’t have to work. So I really had to come up with “Why am I really so invested in this business? Why”? And it’s been about how we impact these families that we’re helping and being able to give them back their dad or their mombeing able to make their work so effective that they help thousands of people, being able to free them up to work on other projects. Like Peter, this one client who just graduated our program, he was able to get his wife to work to quit her job and come stay on with the business. He’s working 15 to 20 hours per week and he makes more than he did even when his wife was working. And has all this time for him to be spending working on these parenting classes and marriage classes. And that’s really where his passion is. Being able to have this company that is hands off without him. He’s provided jobs for people, for him that something was real. He’s really passionate about good quality jobs and in doing this, he just focuses on the fun stuff in the business and his team does the rest. But meanwhile he has this really good solid foundation, all this really solid income so that he can focus on his passion projects, and that’s really what it is to be a hands off CEO in my book.
Frank Bria (10:33):
Yeah, it’s interesting because there’s so much talk. I mean you and I are in this space, so we do this a lot, but there’s so much talk in the industry, overall about trading time for money and getting your time back and all this stuff. It sounds really all kitschy and markety, but at the end of the day, these are real people with real lives and families and friends and priorities that get pushed off to the side. There’s real lives impacted by making these changes. It’s sometimes we forget that, that’s what’s really, at the end of the day, what’s going on here.
Mandi Ellefson (11:09):
Yeah. And can I say something on the time for money thing? Maybe a little bit of a rant here because time for money, like, yes, it’s bad. We don’t want to sell our time for money, but the reality is we are selling our time for money and it’s just a matter of how much money are we selling our time for. And the coaching industry, it’s all about “Well I don’t want to to sell my time so I’m going to sell this piece of crap product that isn’t going to do anything, any good and I’m going to build up this whole lame structure of” I don’t even need to continue on, but you know where I’m going with this, but it’s this BS that doesn’t actually deliver any results. They’re just so terrified of actually standing by a true outcome, being responsible and being responsible for the results and that starts with your client selection. Who are you actually allowing into your business? Can you guarantee results for them? If you can’t, maybe you shouldn’t be working with them. In doing that, I know that you do the same kind of work, but you’re able to double, triple, quadruple 10 X fees. Is trading your time so bad now? Just to give you an example, Madeline, one of our clients, she was really in this space where she has a consulting agency and she’s like, “Well I don’t want to sell”. She didn’t say sell my time for money, but it was something along those lines of like, I want to make this scalable, dot, dot, dot, dot. Right. She was charging $30,000 for services. Not too bad right? But it was very intensive. Cause it’s a done for you service and that’s what we specialize in, done for you services, which is a little different than yours. You do more coaching. It’s really intensive. But here’s the thing is that we put together this client success map, got really clear and focused on exactly what they would get, the outcome, had a really strong guarantee, turn it into a “shut up and take my money” type of offer. She went from 30,000 to 300,000. Once the program is done with the payouts surgery(?), it’s going to be a $300,000 offer. I don’t mind selling my time for that, you know?
Frank Bria (13:32):
Well, you know that that’s a really good point that you bring up because again, there’s so much garbage out around internet marketing and digital marketing and entrepreneurship these days. And you have to kind of filter this stuff out. And it’s true. This whole don’t sell your time for money trope has resulted in a lot of garbage. You’re absolutely right about that. I was having a conversation with someone just yesterday about this and that and in order to worry about, they literally were making no money at that moment, and they were worried about getting into a place where they had no time. Because of that, they didn’t even want to do any kind of a service that would be transformative at all, worried that that was going to take their time. I’m like, “You’re not even gonna sell this stuff if it’s garbage, trust me, you’ll have time, that’s not gonna be your problem”.
Mandi Ellefson (14:31):
I would call all of that head trash and that’s just them making up excuses for why they really can’t be successful. I think that the industry is littered with folks that don’t want to sell their time. They believe this BS from, unfortunately, books like Four Hour Work Week, which actually has a lot of good information in the book itself, but…
Frank Bria (14:59):
It’s classic clickbait title.
Mandi Ellefson (15:01):
Oh, I know. But here’s the thing, is I think that a lot of people just read the title and just said, “Hey, that’s what I want”.
Frank Bria (15:07):
That’s right. That’s the only thing they remember is that they’re only going to be working four hours a week.
Mandi Ellefson (15:11):
But here’s the thing, you can get to that point, but it comes after you do some hard work and really understand how to add value, really add bigger value. So, I kind of went off on a tangent there.
Frank Bria (15:27):
No, no, no, no, that’s fine. I do want to pivot a little bit though, so that people can get a sense of the work that you do. Do you mind if we chat a little bit about how you get done, what you get done? What’s that process like as you’re taking CEOs through this process of taking the service and moving stuff off their calendar? Are there steps you kind of take them through?
Mandi Ellefson (15:57):
Yeah, definitely. So we have our Scale to Freedom system. It’s five key profit drivers that makes your service sellable. So kind of some of the things we talked about, you know, the $300,000, so sellable. It makes it scalable, which we haven’t talked about at all, and then it makes it more profitable to deliver. So we have the five steps. We talked a little bit about finding time, so we tend to find them 10 extra hours per week in the first week. The first session we work with them actually, and it’s just a few tweaks, but for companies that are at capacity and they’re looking at, “I can’t scale past myself, I’m stuck in the middle of it”. This is really valuable for them and it really gets them focused on what they actually need to be doing to actually grow the company. That leads into the second step where we put together this predictable, scalable growth map. So this growth map that helps them know “What do I need to be doing every single day this year to be able to grow the company to hit our growth targets and to be able to do it in a way where you can step back more and more in your company”? Then the third step is this irresistible service product. We talked about it with those three ones. Like you know, the one client, the one really painful problem and then the one outcome. So looking at putting together a compelling guaranteeable offer. And in doing so it’s going to increase in conversions and it allows you to command higher fees. Commanding higher fees, that’s key in order to have a much more profitable business. This is where I see so many businesses totally trip up here, is that they don’t have enough profit to scale. They are trying to scale the company and their products and services they’re not scalable. They think it’s not scalable because they’re stuck in the middle of it, and that’s part of it, but the real reason why they’re stuck in the middle of it is because it’s not sustainable. There’s not enough profit in it to step outside of it. So looking at how do we add more value and actually first doing what’s not scalable. First you start with what’s not scalable and then that gives you sustainable. Sustainable, then you can hire the people and then you can do all the magic to really scale up the company, but you can’t do that if you don’t flipping have money.
Frank Bria (18:26):
Mandi Ellefson (18:26):
So stop, like, I see all these companies try to scale up, we work with consulting agencies, and we see them trying to scale up and they’re hiring these crappy employees and they’re just like this frazzle, having to do too much of the work themselves and not even having the time and space to train people because it’s this endless cycle. There’s not enough money in the business and if there’s not enough money in the business, it’s not because they’re not charging high in the fees. It is actually because they’re not charging high enough fees, they can’t command higher fees because they’re not actually delivering enough value. They’re not overcoming the resistance their prospective clients have to actually getting results for them. They haven’t overcome the risk. So as a result, what’s happening is they’re just throwing spaghetti against the wall and that’s what their new clients are doing, but they’re never getting big enough budgets to actually do the most impactful work. So that’s step three.
Frank Bria (19:30):
I’m glad you have a focus on that. That’s so important. I think you’ve made a point that I don’t think a lot of people grasp that’s so critical. There’s a time and place for the investment. So many people ask me “well, how am I supposed to put this automation and hire this person? I hired this person when I don’t have any money”. And I always tell them the answer is, if you don’t have the money, it’s probably too early for you to be doing that. There’s probably other things you should be doing first, but bootstrapping should work if you have the right business model in place. You shouldn’t have to go into debt, you shouldn’t have to not be paying yourself a salary, you shouldn’t have to be doing that kind of stuff if you’ve got the business model right. That’s a really critical point.
Mandi Ellefson (20:17):
Yeah, absolutely. The answer to all of this is more sales, but more of the right sales, right? And that’s what, in that step three, the irresistible service product, we’re looking at “what are the right sales that are going to actually become scalable”. So, and that’s in step four, looking at the scalable delivery system. So how do we streamline this service and deliver the promise with these? One of our examples of our clientsJamie, they do affiliate marketing, they have an affiliate marketing agency and some of their client results were over here and some of them were way over here. Some would be high millions and some of them would be 500,000 these kind of results that they would get. So how it happened is it kind of priced somewhere in the middle. They were just really reluctant to have any kind of promise. So anyway, they put together a promise around “We add $10 million in three years to your beauty and skincare brand”. So $10 million in three years to beauty and skin care brands. They do that through their affiliate marketing channels. That’s completely revolutionized their selling, and now getting their foot in the door with a number of these really big brands that they’re household names, they have meetings with them, right? They’re closing these really great deals, but that came from really being willing to put together this big promise that’s kind of terrifying at first. The real key then is to take that, reverse engineer with your team and say, “What’s it gonna take for us to get that”? Now this wasn’t something that they’d never done before. They had done this before. I’m not just saying pie in the sky. “Oh Yeah, that’d be nice to add $10 million to a company, maybe we could do that”. No, they’ve done that before. It’s looking at your best case studies and how do we replicate those? And then that’s how you and the scalable delivery system is looking at “What is it going to take to get your team to do this”? And your team actually builds out what we call a service management blueprint and that’s actually what we use to train up their operations manager. So you can hire a project manager and then use that to train them and develop them into operations manager, maybe they become a COO at some point as you continue to grow. So that’s step four and what that does is it helps you put the pieces in place to get the business to profitably run without you. Step five is really where it starts to run without you, and actually throughout the process, your company starts to run without you more and more. So this is a progression, right? Sounds very linear. We do our best to make it linear, but the reality is, “I’m going to hire somebody and we’re only in step two, but that’s cool. We’re gonna hire somebody, right”? Or I just landed this big client, so how do we…” So we do our best to keep it linear, so anyway, this step five is enhance off growth. It’s like looking at I talked about the operations manager, it’s really developing this person and getting them to shelter you from the noise so that you can keep on growing the company and so that they manage your whole team for you. What’s different about this is that this is designed for companies in the six to seven figures, six and seven figures, so multiple seven figures. So the ideal is about 500,000 to 5 million. We take clients in the lower six figures, if they have a strong sales engine and we can see a clear path, and if they don’t have too much head trash.
Frank Bria (24:09):
You’ve identified your ideal client really well there.
Mandi Ellefson (24:18):
Yeah. You know what though, we’ve had Madeline, where she was at was a little earlier than some of our other clients, but the thing is that she had another company before, that she had already sold. So it was someone that we could help generate income really fast. So anyway, we train them and we actually have an operations academy that’s like a kind of sidecar to our scale to freedom program, which our teams will participate in. Jennifer, our lovely program director she runs that program and that’s just a bonus that we have as part of our scale to freedom program.
Frank Bria (25:00):
That’s nice. Yeah, that’s really critical. That’s a huge value right there. People underestimate the time and energy and effort it takes to train up an operations person. So the fact that you’ve got that right there as a support mechanism. That goes back to what we’ve been talking about the whole time and the way I put it, slightly different than the way you’ve put it, but talking about the same thing and that’s wrapping your arms around the whole problem, so that you can guarantee the success. So you’ve done everything necessary to get the outcome and having that training that’s so critical because that is one of the important steps along the way to success. If their operations people can’t take over, if they’re not trained, then all this stuff falls apart. So that’s great you’ve put that in there.
Mandi Ellefson (25:47):
Yeah. I think this is also an example of how there’s this really botched belief that when you scale, quality declines, but we’ve actually found that to be the opposite for our company. We find that to be the opposite for our client’s companies too. What happens is as you scale, you have more resources and you have more, I have a lot more bandwidth to be thinking about ways to improve client results. Because I’m not doing all the little mundane things that used to just drive me insane. We see our clients get better and better results because, you know, I have an idea and I just sent him over a quick email, “Hey, have you thought about doing this”? It’s like that one thing maybe they needed, but if I, as the CEO, totally overwhelmed with all the details, there’s no space for that. The other example is, Jennifer, coming in and being able to provide a different resource. I mean, she’s been a fractional COO for 10 years and a hundred different companies, right? I don’t have that experience. That’s a different expertise that she brings to the table. As you scale your company, you have more opportunity to bring this in and it allows you to step back and really allow the business to grow instead of it just being you growing the number of hours so you can grow your income.
Frank Bria (27:10):
Well, you’ve got the benefit trifecta there. So you’re helping your clients essentially grow their income so they have the resources to scale you get more time back in their schedule because you’ve proceduralized things, and quality goes up because everyone’s working on the right things at the right time with the right headspace. That’s, the trifecta right there, money, time and quality.
Mandi Ellefson (27:35):
Yeah. I didn’t think about it that way. That triangle. Yes. Thanks for pointing that out Frank.
Frank Bria (27:39):
You got it. That’s what I’m here for Mandi! We’re so totally out of time. I’ve totally overstayed my welcome with you. I really appreciate it though it’s an absolute blast talking to you. Before we go though, one quick question. So people who are listening, they want to connect with you. They want to learn more about what you guys are doing, what’s the best way they can get with you?
Mandi Ellefson (28:04):
The best way to do that is to go to www.handsoffceo.com/roadmap and you can download our Ultimate Roadmap to scaling your consulting agency. That that will help you be able to find all sorts of money in your business, which we like, and dig a lot deeper into what are these three hidden roadmap blocks that are really holding you back from scaling? Yeah, so go to that link, www.handsoffceo.com/roadmap and there’s lots of goods there for you.
Frank Bria (28:36):
Good deal. That link’s below the video. It’s on the show notes page. If you’re out and about listening to this, c’mon back to the show notes page and click on through or you can just type it in and get there directly. I can tell you, one of the things that Mandi is incredible at is in communicating this information in a way you’re going to get, and be able to implement. This is like one of her superpowers. So go download that. That’s a great resource. Mandi, thanks so much for taking the time, really appreciate it. This is terrific.
Mandi Ellefson (29:06):
It’s been my pleasure, Frank. Thanks so much for having me.
Frank Bria (29:09):
Yeah absolutely. And thank you so much for being here with us on this episode of the 6 to 7 Figures Show. I’ve been your host, Frank Bria, and like I said, go grab Mandi’s roadmap. That’s seriously a great resource. She’s one of the people I go to to bounce ideas off of and get my head straight around process. She knows this stuff really, really well, so I couldn’t endorse it more. Thanks again for being here and we’ll catch you on the next episode. Take care. Bye bye.