Taking a Project from Start to Finish with Roland Frasier and Ryan Deiss

Business Lunch Podcast

Starting a new project is easy; finishing what you start is crucial.

If you want your business to grow and scale, you can’t just do one thing. But you also can’t just have a bunch of great ideas, start a bunch of projects, and never finish them. 80% done is zero.

In today’s episode of Business Lunch, co-hosts Roland Frasier and Ryan Deiss take an honest look at some of the struggles they’ve had lately in their multiple businesses. They talk through some challenges at DigitalMarketer in particular. Things haven’t been getting completed at the speed, frequency, and level of excellence they want them to.

The good news? They’ve had some hard discussions with their leadership team, and they’ve finally solved this challenge. But it has involved relearning lessons they’d already learned from past mistakes. If this happens to you too, you’re not alone.

One Team Takes One Thing at a Time from Beginning to End

It’s a classic mistake—trying to do too much with just one person or one team, stretching people too thin. This temptation is always present, but it never works out.

Roland and Ryan’s longtime friend, Carl White, talks about half-built bridges. Instead of building a whole bridge, you keep starting bridges. You put in tons of labor, and it’s worth nothing, because nothing is finished. It’s not that, if you get it to 80%, you’ll get 80% of the results. Nope. You’ll get zero results.

They’re not saying your business can’t do more than one thing at once. In fact, you have to, if you want to grow and scale. The iPhone doesn’t go away while Apple is developing the iWatch. But you have to acknowledge that one team can only take one thing from beginning to end at a time. When you have a team working hard on something, you can’t ask, “Hey, can you do this thing too?” Whatever gains you get on the new thing, you’re going to lose on the first thing.

What Roland and Ryan did to solve this was very simple. Each team stopped doing everything but this one thing. They tackled until it was done and it was great. Every piece of it. Then they moved on to the next thing.

So how do they solve for the long term? How do you start something new and keep the other things running?

Don’t Ask a 0 to 1 Person to Do a 1 to 10 Job

You have to know the difference between a “0 to 1” person and a “1 to 10” person. These are two totally different personality types. A 0 to 1 person takes a project from start to finish, but then they’re done, and a 1 to 10 person takes it from there. They run it, manage it, optimize it. And the 0 to 1 person starts something new.

One mistake they’ve made in the past: asking a 0 to 1 person to do 1 to 10 job in their spare time. A second mistake: giving the 0 to 1 person a team and hoping they can do both the launching of new projects and the maintenance of old projects. You wind up building a team of people who aren’t as talented as the 0 to 1 person. And, even more importantly, you’re asking a 0 to 1 person to be a manager. That’s not in their wheelhouse. They want to get things done quickly and correctly, not take the time to teach other people how to do it.

The bottom line: if you want to do multiple things at the same time, you need multiple 0 to 1 people.

What This Looks Like in Real Life

At DigitalMarketer, one of their portfolio companies, they’ve had marketing and products centralized for the longest time at the holding company level. Now that they’ve hired a general manager, they can begin to build a marketing team made up of “1 to 10” people.

They’ve also identified this at Scalable as something they need to fix. Entrepreneur founders are often 0 to 1 people who burn out or don’t have the skillset to go to the next place or continue at a subscale level. The whole idea behind Scalable is that the tools you need to be the 1 to 10 entrepreneur are available, and growth is the 0 to 1. Scalable has all the tools, the operating systems, but they need the right people to optimize those tools.

They’ve been good about implementing systems, but they have either handed over systems to people who were too low-level to run them, or they’ve handed them over to 0 to 1 people instead of 1 to 10 people. They often tried to hire internally, but it’s not worth it if they’re not truly a fit for the job. Put an F16 pilot in an F16, not a helicopter.

A big part of the Scalable operating system is quarterly planning. Part of that quarterly planning process is figuring out which projects they’re going to greenlight to help them close the gap between where they are and their growth goals.

Just about anything they want to do—launching a product, rolling out a new marketing campaign, a new sales funnel—takes one, two, or three weeks. When things have taken longer, it’s because they did a start/stop. In each given quarter, a 0 to 1 team can do 3-5 new things. Make sure those things you pick are great, not just good.

In your quarterly planning meeting, decide on the scope of the project. Determine what “done 100%” looks like and map out each little component part. Then everybody works on their individual tasks, comes back, and reviews.

Finish your half-built bridges. Increase both actual completion of each project from 80% to done AND the quality from good to great. And make sure you have the right people for each phase of the job. This will make a huge difference in your business.

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