Quick Observations on Services Businesses (Part 1): Scaling is Completely Different

I’m writing a short series of posts about observations I’ve made after transitioning from running a more direct-to-consumer focused business to running a B2B services business.

For a long time now I’ve been working to build out world class data-driven marketing infrastructure and teams, and most recently I’ve assembled a team that helps other companies do the same. It’s a services business called Yield Group that helps companies collect and use the data that will help them grow.

It’s been a fascinating experience coming off the heels of running a company that was primarily direct-to-consumer with a focused set of products. One of the most interesting differences to contemplate has been how services businesses scale.

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From Maker To Manager: Making Yourself Unnecessary

This is the fourth post in an ongoing series about the transition from maker to manager.

I still remember the one of the first descriptions of leadership I heard from a successful business person that I instinctively felt was wrong. I was young, early in my career, and the CEO who ran the company I worked at had joined a meeting about a project assigned to my boss’ team.

I can’t remember the specifics of the project, but I do know that it had encountered some sort of difficulty and the CEO was stepping in to help get things back on track. Seeing the primary leader of the business ’get their hands dirty’ with the team, especially alongside a young, inexperienced person like me was encouraging and felt right somehow—a salve for the notion that executives use hierarchy to shield themselves from the actual work being done.

Towards the end of the meeting, though, the CEO said this:

It’s not good that I’m in this meeting. My goal is to make myself unnecessary, so you need to figure this out on your own next time.

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The End of an Incredible Adventure with The Iron Yard

I was recently invited to an event about digital marketing. At the beginning of the talk, I mentioned that the material included lessons learned from The Iron Yard, a company I co-founded and helped to run for over five years. (The Iron Yard was at one time the world’s largest in-person code school.)

After the talk, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “I’d like to have a word with you.” Not sure whether to expect praise or reprimand, I said, “I’d love to talk,” and stepped aside with him. As he pulled out his phone, he told me that during the talk, he’d sent a message to his grandson letting him know that he was at a talk being given by on of the founders of The Iron Yard.

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Why So Many Businesses Don’t Have a Marketing/Sales Funnel

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with a variety of people about the marketing/sales funnel, which I wrote about recently. Even though many would a consider clear understanding of where you’re customers are coming from—and how to scale those channels—an essential part of business (which it is), many companies simply haven’t defined their marketing/sales funnel.

For those who have an intimate understanding of their funnel, the temptation is to be critical of businesses who don’t. When you step back, though, the context for most companies without a funnel is understandable and, in some cases, even justifiable.

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The Amazing Marketing/Sales Funnel

A few weeks ago I gave a talk explaining some of the lessons I’d learned about marketing as I helped grow The Iron Yard. As I reviewed my presentation with the conference organizer, one slide towards the beginning caught his attention. Here it is:


His advice on that slide was, “you should explain what the marketing funnel is. Not everyone will know what that term means.” His observation was a great reminder that, when you are fully steeped in a discipline, concepts that are second-nature to you probably aren’t to people outside of that discipline.

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Writing Keeps Me Sharp

286 days have passed between the last post I published and this one, which is quite a long while as far as I’m concerned. In reality, though, 3/4 of a year of dormancy probably isn’t that bad relative to the general entropy facing long-form blogs, though I don’t have the statics to prove it. Either way, I’d like to think that I’m back in action.

I have many reasons to resurrect this inert writing project: I truly enjoy writing. I’ve made fascinating connections through sharing my thoughts on the web. But the most important reason surprised me: I could feel the effects of not writing.

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Is Google Making File Organization Irrelevant?

Recently, while working through a list of agenda items with several people on my team, I noticed a new feature in Google Docs: recognition of what is likely an action time and a suggestion to create a task for the person mentioned.


This has been a common theme for Google products over the last few years. From consolidating travel information into easily-actionable bundles via Inbox to offering suggested analyses of data in Google Sheets, their ability to turn raw data sources into semantic, proactive features for users is impressive to say the least. (If you’re unfamiliar with these features, click on the “Explore” icon in the bottom right of your screen next time you open a document in Google Drive.)

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Productivity Hacking: The Source of Distractedness

This is the seventeenth post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.

It seems there are an increasing number of people raising concerns about the mental consequences that digital devices have on us, specifically our attention spans and ability to maintain focus. I’ve written about this before:

Whether it’s an email notification or a habit of checking Twitter in the middle of a hard task that taxes your mind, each time we entertain a distraction it guts our productivity in a way that’s hard to perceive experientially. Quite literally, hours of focused work can slip away from us and we don’t notice (except for not feeling productive or wishing we’d accomplished more).

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History Repeats Itself

2016 has certainly been a surprising political year for many people. Many words have been written from every perspective about the how and why of campaigns and elections happening the way they did (and what it means for the future). In my admittedly limited study of coverage, though, I’ve been surprised that many people view what has transpired as novel, unprecedented, even.

The political events of the past year certainly have new characteristics, but a review of history reveals that, while perhaps not common, shocking governmental upsets, defamation and fake news are anything but neoteric.

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Is an Online Presence Mandatory? Part 3: Societal Consequences

Since writing about varying opinions on social media and ownership of online content, I’ve been musing about ‘online presence’ as a concept in general. Last night I mentioned to a friend that in 10 years (or less), it’s very likely that some of the basic web development skills we teach at The Iron Yard to help people launch careers in software development will be either an expectation for most knowledge workers’ jobs, automated in some way, or, more likely, a combination of both.

This topic is a complex one without singular answers, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind as of late. You can see a list of the posts in the series on this page. Here’s Part 3:

Societal consequences

In the first two posts of this series, I discussed the social and professional consequences of not having an online presence. Beyond our personal and work lives, though, many signs point to an online presence being a part of the way people function in modern society.

This topic is way above my pay grade, so I’ll lean heavily on people who have carefully studied the impact of technology on society.

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