How an executive assistant grew her practice by following a clear playbook

The Vik Duggal Workshop aka The Workshop is an offering that is part of DuggalConsulting. Two years ago I started helping friends who wanted to live the consulting lifestyle I had created. I do this through a 2-day offsite specifically dedicated to refining the offer to be sellable immediately after leaving. Some friends take advantage of the ongoing support I provide for six months afterward.

This is my way of taking what I’ve learned creating DuggalConsulting – a business that serves companies ranging from VC-backed technology startups to large companies doing $12B in annual revenue – and by serving my clients to help friends unlock their full potential.

In this case study, I interviewed Ferren Warner from ACE – an executive assistant service that is building a larger business after The Workshop.

Ferren Warner, Founder/CEO, Ace

1. What made you sign up for the workshop?

I knew that my business had a cash flow problem. Honestly, I started the company with my first client being my mom. Yes she was my mom, but as the Chief Medical Officer of the largest public health plan in Southern California transitioning into a consultant traveling 80% of the time.

I thought she was the perfect person for phase one. I think I took for granted that I didn’t have to raise money or bootstrap. I just started doing what I knew best and trusted the rest would go from there.

I quickly realized 15 clients and 10 team members later that I was really in business. Year 1 “proof of concept” was done. And I was headed into Year 2 attempting to up-level everything (team, service, client coverage). I quickly realized to do it well meant a shift in the entire business model…but I didn’t know how to get there.

I was also intrigued. I knew what Vik had done for himself and I saw first hand the success of his hard work (full disclosure he’s a client). I envied the model he was living and breathing. I wanted to learn how to manifest that for myself and my family.

2. What was the most impactful part of the program?

There were so many wonderful parts of the workshop!

(1) I loved the opening and how we were asked to explore answers to a series of prompted questions. My favorite “why are you here?” and “who are you doing this for”. I revisit those questions every, single day. It motivates me beyond words.

(2) crafting our target audience. I can’t believe I had never done this before. I think I was stuck in this “thank god anyone wants this service” mode that I didn’t take time to think through whether I thought they were the ideal client or not. I now have it firmly in my mind who the ideal client is.

(3) Crafting my sales proposition. This was a light bulb shattering moment. When I was finally able to have the words to describe what ACE is meant to be. Not just an on-demand VA service. It’s so much more than that. The value of the service, the ambitious but attainable goal…my mission felt very clear and I am now able to easily identify where my growth opportunities are.

3. What kind of results did you get from the program?

In 30 days I was able to:

– identify my current client base and identify who my ideal clients are, 

– I was able to speak comfortably about the future of the company with existing and new clients, 

– I was able to convert existing clients to the new model, 

– I onboarded new clients, 

– I have made improvements to internal operations with the team and how we function, 

– I brought in $72,000 in the first 45 days and am set up to bring in another $600,000 in the next year.

4. Anything surprise you about the program?

-I was surprised by how emotional I got. What I experienced in that workshop really changed my life. We were talking about everything in the construct of what to do with my business, but the potential it unlocked changed the way I think about my life (and that of my husband and kids). I’m so grateful. Yes, I actually cried at times (outside of the meeting of course).

5. What did you think of the facilitator?

He’s alright 🙂 KIDDING. Vik is incredible! He’s the reason I even came. It was not an insignificant amount of money for me to come, but I didn’t think twice about it. I jumped two feet in because again I’ve seen the outcome of what he’s done for himself and others. I’ve seen his magic. It’s pretty infectious.

6. Who do you think this program is for? 

This program is applicable for almost anyone at any stage of their business journey. I believe it’s for those who are just starting and looking for positioning and value prop support, I believe it’s for those whose businesses grew so quick and organically that they haven’t had time to pause and roadmap (that was me!), I think its for those who are struggling to figure out how to pivot / save their company when they’ve think all options are exhausted… but mostly I think it’s for those who know that life can be exactly what they dream it to be, but need a bit of support putting that into fruition. I feel like I’ve been fortunate to be put in the right place, with the right “support”, at the right time. I’m ready to help others live the richest, most enjoyable, stress-free life they can live. Ace is ready to take off. Let’s do this! 

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How a UX leader thoughtfully grew his consulting practice

How a UX leader thoughtfully grew his consulting practice 

It has always been a goal of mine to share my learnings and expertise and the stories of companies and entrepreneurs I have helped – from seasoned veterans to those just starting up. It’s part of the reason I created The Vik Duggal Workshop two years ago as I built my own consulting practice. I have received incredible results; I want to share them. In this event, I take attendees through an incredible experience over two days to analyze what they do better than most and MAXIMIZE all aspects of their consulting practice. When done, they have all all the tools to increase their income and deliver amazing value. 

Today’s interview is with Prakash Chandran. Prakash is the former head of UX for Google Enterprise. He attended The Workshop and used what he learned to increase the value he delivers to his clients. He answers six questions for you today:

1. What made you sign up for the workshop?

After getting to know you, It was clear that you had more experience than me and were at a level in your consulting practice that I aspired to. After you sent me the initial workshop offer, the email spoke to the problems I was having, but sounded a little bit like so many things i’ve heard pitched to me before. The difference for me was the fact that you were willing to be fully transparent about the practice you had built and that you took the time to address my concerns when we met for coffee. You gave me a little hint of what was to come by telling me my revenue model might be wrong. I like that I got some value before even taking the workshop.  

I’d say I was also at a time where I was looking for a breakthrough. My wife had me read a chapter in the book YOU are a Bad Ass and it was around the limiting beliefs we put on ourselves. It just so happened that I met you shortly after that happened.

2. What was the most impactful part of the program?

* Hearing about your values (aligned with mine). We spoke about this briefly yesterday. “Figure out what you do REALLY well, figure out how to sell it so you have more free time to do things you love”

* Putting structure around how I talk about what I do

* Putting together an offer email. Empathizing with the customer first, saying I can help and then being very clear and structured about how I will help them. Finally ending with what the investment is 

* Being asked to reach out to people in my network immediately

* Seeing other people go through the exercise with you of figuring out how to talk about what they do

3. What kind of results did you get from the program?

Before the program even began, I signed my first retainer customer. In total my monthly revenue has gone from $15k (the most I had ever done in a month) to $60k per month (consistently) and should hopefully grow if I can figure out how to systematize even more.

4. Anything surprise you about the program?

I don’t think anything surprised me per se. I didn’t really know what to expect, but taking the time to be with like minded people and having a mentor to really provide structure to our thinking was just what I needed.

5. What did you think of the facilitator?

I love that you love when people unlock things for themselves. You’ve clearly spent a lot of time thinking through what’s important and how to get the life you want, and you can articulate it in a way that inspires people to get moving and create better circumstances for themselves. It’s a true gift!

6. Who do you think this program is for?

I think this program is best suited for consultants/contracts who have already taken the leap to get out of the W2 world but aren’t making the kind of money they want to be making. Secondly, someone who is STUCK at a W2 job who has spent a career crafting their abilities and thinks they are capable of more but doesn’t know where to start

Anything I missed asking about?

I think there’s a certain mindset that people need to be in to get the MOST value out of the program. They have to be ready to change and to make an investment in themselves. I think it’s hard to really figure out who sits in that bucket, but I think the price (cost of investing in themselves) is a good start.

If you think of any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

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Before you Learn, Learn How to Learn

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Background

There aren’t a lot of long-form readers today in my network. If you are, hit me up on Twitter. You may be someone who does in fact read magazines and longer fiction, or non-fiction books; but, most are reading micro-content around the Internet. Where and how you put your attention has transformed over the last decade and I’m no different. I had just stopped reading long form content the way I used to.

Last year I had the good fortune of watching the Warren Buffett – HBO Documentary and after a few conversations with friends learned that the best advice he has for people (which he acknowledges most people will never follow) is to “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

 

A number of things culminated toward the end of last year that caused me to sit down and create a plan for increasing my power of knowledge in key areas of importance in my life. Then, last October my good friend Nate Ver Berg dropped Gary Hoover’s The Lifetime Learner’s Guide to Reading and Learning on my desk. I want to share what I learned.

The objective is simple: Increase my power of knowledge in key areas of importance in my life.

The purpose is absolutely clear:

  • I believe it will help me get smarter, faster
  • I can incorporate upgraded beliefs through my practice of reading
  • It is another fast way for me to obtain knowledge
  • Provides mental stimulation
  • Will reduce stress
  • Keep brain sharp
  • Slower memory decline
  • Improve sleep
  • Expand vocabulary
  • Improve memory
  • Improve analytical skills
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Improve writing skill

My Key Takeaways for reading non-fiction books

  1. It was important to me to have a very specific objective around why I wanted to read.
  2. I now spend less than five minutes gathering key data from the cover flaps, bio, charts/graphs, publisher, edition. I am surprised as how much context I build before I read the first page. Additionally, I will flow through the Table of Contents and ask questions like: what do they mean? is this surprising? does this resonate? If I’m intrigued I’ll even dive into a chapter that stands out to me. I’ll then read the first several pages to get the gist of the book.
  3. Within the first 15-60 minutes I have a good sense of the author’s POV, background and basic take. I’ll also understand the author’s message, key points for me to understand, subject areas within the broader topi area s/he focuses on.
  4. Now it’s time to head to the index (this part is much easier in physical books, but doable on Kindle books as well). I’ll peruse through the index and flip to pages to understand how certain topics relate to the book flipping around the the specific pages the topic leads me to. I’m often surprised to see people, places, words in the index which I didn’t/couldn’t appreciate were related to a subject matter. This expands the knowledge tree.

The Five Ways We Learn

Hoover’s take some time in the book the outline the five ways we learn: study (making notes, asking questions, arguing), conversation (talk to everyone, ask deep questions, probe, LISTEN), observation (pay attention, watch people), experimentation (learn by doing, creative tests) and thinking (make time for thinking – draw, make outlines, sketch, play with ideas, dream up opposite ideas and assumptions, ask “why” about everything, put myself in their shoes).

The biggest takeaway from it all is that we are strongest when we do the combination of reading and learning AND allow information to flow. The latter involved emailing insights and discoveries to friends; explore with others. For me, the writing started almost immediately (in a notebook). I’m not using this blog to allow for the flow of information.

The biggest takeaway from it all is that we are strongest when we do the combination of reading and learning AND allow information to flow.

Conclusion

The most important part of reading is selection. How actively you read matters, but what you choose in the first place matters more. Two people in my network who are voracious readers are Kesav Mohan and Sutha Kamal. They will also openly admit that they are currently going through more books than they should be. I believe they have a good pulse on great books in particular categories and I’m grateful for their support on my journey to increase knowledge.

There are two ways I see to approaching reading: to try to understand the author’s intent, or to attempt to gleam what’s important to to me. I choose the latter.

I’ve now built a solid list of books in the areas of biography, love relationship, parenting, and finance. That’s what important right now and I’m excited to share what I read.

This time of year I often hear people sharing how much they will read in the coming year. Whether you are, or are not someone will read a lot in 2018 I hope you will take some time to think about how you will learn. Wishing you all the best in your quest for knowledge!

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Gratitude 2.0: Going deeper in 2018

I’m looking forward to sharing thoughts on this blog related to personal growth, self development and general growth mindset.

Background

Gratitude to me is my being thankful and showing appreciation. I’ve found through my practice of gratitude has slightly shifted the way I see the world for the better. It’s allowed me to slowly remove expectation and replace it with appreciation. In 2017, I spent time on creating and maintaining a daily gratitude practice. With the amount of momentum that has now been built there’s no going back, only going deeper!

There were a handful of activities that comprised most of my effort and energy to build a foundational gratitude practice in 2017. In no order they were:

  • First activity upon waking: Write 3 things am I grateful for this morning
  • Write for two minutes about a joyful moment that occurred within the last 24 hours
  • Shared my gratitude with people in my life (some times to people from my past that I no longer engage with)
  • Specifically show gratitude for the “nothingness” from which everything is born*

These were often documented in a journal, on my Evernote/Notes app in my phone, or said out loud.

*this one is a big deal for me

The net results of my Gratitude 2017 practice

Since I can remember, I’ve been extremely optimistic and positive about my life and the world. That being said, I’ve always lived with a growth mindset, and know there is room for improvement.

What I witnessed through the year were slight shifts in belief for the positive: I believe no one has wronged, or can wrong me; I’m 100% grateful to be alive – what a miracle, I already made it.

Going deeper in 2018

I will continue to practice what I started in 2017 and find ways in 2018 to share with those around me. In general I will deploy gratitude to a greater degree this year: sharing specific things I’m grateful for publicly will likely be part of the plan.

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Commission plans, incentive and getting desires sales results

The behavior of sales professionals is easy to shift despite the challenges CEOs face about the lack of revenue coming from the sales organization.

Sometimes I see sales incentive plans that simply outline how much commission a rep will get based on goal. That can work – in mature businesses – especially if the numbers are being met and exceeded consistently. But what about for smaller businesses when the the same type of plan(s) across reps aren’t getting the job done?

Incentive-based sales teams are the second easiest team of any in the organization (first being the leadership/executive team) to shift behavior.

It all comes down the incentive plan. If you, as the CEO aren’t getting the desired results from your sales organization then add to, or change the commission plan.

You may want more top line dollars each month/quarter, you may want a certain amount of booked profit on each transaction, you may want your team to show certain behavior – calls, emails, social activity, face-to-face meetings.

The data that comes back from this is incredible. The fact that other elements below the sales booking number are being measured can provide guidance around what is happening.

Whatever you are looking to have your team do, provide an incentive. You cannot assume that everyone will know what to do.

The incentive will drive behavior.

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