Basecamp, Spreadsheets And HPD Systems

Today's post is more of an update than anything else. With HPD evolving more and more into an agency/standalone service business and less of a “make money online” blog, I think it's prudent to give some updates and insights into our systems.

Scaling A Business Is Hard

It's hard, but infinitely rewarding at the same time.

What I've found to be the hardest isn't the actual customer acquisition part (at least not in 2015), but more the ability to keep up with demand.

Every day we get dozens of new people signing up for the early-bird notification list, and rarely a day goes by that somebody doesn't email me asking about a site.

This is great! The business is growing, people are digging what we're doing, and most importantly, we have a constant flow of income coming in that allows us to re-invest in the business.

Sounds like a 24/hour party right?

Well, it sure is a 24/hour business, but it's a long way from being a party. The hardest part about scaling is that you naturally create your own problems as well.

Things like:

  • Not being able to meet demand/increased turnaround times.
  • Hiring more staff = more time spent training.
  • More staff = higher chance of ‘poor work' being created.
  • The more customers you have, the less time to get more customers you have (oh the irony!).

Gael Breton said it best in this post:

How to Make Money Blogging: Learn From 23 Top Bloggers 2015-08-13 22-55-37

Well, we have managed to scale pretty well, but Gael was totally correct (he's always been an insightful guy). It's hard, and when you find yourself spending time working with the clients and not on the business, it can get frustrating.

As such, it's been an interesting few months as I've literally learned from scratch how to build a team, create systems, and make things happen.

Communication With Buyers Has Suffered

One of the things that I am least proud of is that communication to buyers has suffered. Inititally I thought the most important thing was to get sites finished as soon as possible, but I've learned over the last couple of months that this is wrong.

Generally, customers are happy to wait as long as two things happen:

  1. They know in advance how long it will take
  2. They get regular updates.

If I was saying in the past that a site would take two weeks, only for it to take three, that was a major problem. From now on, I'll say three to four weeks. At least this gives us leeway for things like writers getting held up or other site construction delays.

On top of that, starting from tomorrow (Friday 14th), we'll be giving weekly updates to customers whose sites are in the works. If this applies to you, you can expect an email from me tomorrow.

Taking the initiative and updating people is very important I've learned. It's much better for a customer to see a message in their inbox than to have to send one to me asking for an update.

Managing Things Better On Our Own End

For this part, I thought I'd give you guys some insights into how we manage our systems.

For most of the year, it's just been a simple spreadsheet with Google Drive. Yep, that simple!

The spreadsheet has a lot of data in there, such as the customer name, the domain, the process of construction, the name of the writer doing the content, and a bunch of other tabs.

This worked fine when it was just me and a couple of others involved, and a handful of customers a month. Right now though, we're building anywhere from 20-40 sites a month, and spreadsheets are proving not to be the most efficient systems.

Despite the fact that they work fine for all intensive purposes, there are some issues with using them, and not only that, it's cumbersome to set yourself reminders, and you can end up forgetting to notify customers or follow-up with writers.

Plus, they just don't look that cool.

The solution: Basecamp

After trying things like Trello, and looking into Zendesk, we decided to go with Basecamp as our project management tool.

The reason I went with Basecamp was because I loved the interface, and the To Do list structure. We could also create templates.

Now, whenever a new site sale is made, we can use a template to create a new project, set ourselves some reminders to update customers and follow-up on writers. Here's a snapshot below:

Project Templates 2015-08-13 23-21-15

This screenshot shows how we've created three templates, one for each of our services.

The shot below is a snippet from our “Custom Site Process” to do list:

Custom Site Process 2015-08-13 23-22-41

What's great about this is that we can track our own progress very easily, but by setting reminders and adding physical dates to them, we also stay on top of customer communication. Dates get added to our calendars and these can sync with our inboxes, to make sure we don't miss any steps.

Pretty cool right? I'm looking forward to putting it to work with the next batch of sites.

Stumbling Along

To conclude, I just wanted to highlight that HPD is definitely going through a process of changing and growing, and sometimes we do find ourselves stumbling along!

What's most important is that while our timing and our communication may have suffered, the quality has always been consistent.

Bear with us while we grow and expand, and hopefully, get smoother!

10 thoughts on “Basecamp, Spreadsheets And HPD Systems”

      1. Hello Bryon,

        Nice post.

        Communication (timely) is very important and having systems in place to efficiently manage the process will only help to improve the customer relationship.

        Thank you.

  1. I have used Basecamp extensively and love the features. Hope it works out for you too Bryon! Looking forward to hear your review in a couple of months to see how progress is going with Basecamp. Cheers!

  2. Solid update Bryon…I really appreciate you taking us behind the curtain here. I mean talk about great problems to have! For sure, scaling service-based companies is definitely a challenge- something I’ve definitely experienced in my off-line tutoring company (we use Basecamp too, by the way!)

    I’ve found that it’s necessary to always be proactively hiring and training new staff, especially if you only employ contractors that you only have to pay direct labor costs to…I’d rather have a surplus of staffers without much work than an excess of customers without enough employees to service them effectively. It’s been really beneficial for us to always have some excess capacity to accommodate sudden spikes in demand.

    Looking forward to hearing how you continue to develop your systems moving forward!

  3. Good points Bryon and I can definitely feel your pain on systematizing a service based business…I have tried the route of Base Camp & Asana but ended up back with the spreadsheet control documents as I just found it easier to on-board new people quickly. However, I am sure if you have a more stable workforce it would be easier to get them on board with a new tool (BaseCamp). Good luck with continuing to grow your business and I am excited to hear how Base Camp works out for you.

  4. Hey again Bryon,
    Just had an idea! Your and Steve’s idea is awesome and very much needed. I see that you have a lot of requests already and am not sure how far you want to go with this? What about incorporating this idea into the Wealthy Affiliate program as an extra income stream possibility for these members, including a link into their websites selling your product and paying them a commission per sale? I am sure that many of the new and older associates would very much appreciate your services. It would make the Wealthy Affiliate opportunity richer for that too!

    1. Well, I very much doubt the powers that be at WA would be interesting in adding this to their service, but anybody who contacts me and wants to add an extra income stream to their sites will get my attention, although I prefer not to let just anybody person promote HPD.

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