From Services to Scale:

Starting a software business isn't the only way to achieve profits at scale. There's 5 steps that can build your reputation as an expert in any market.

  • Stephen Pratley

Strong businesses all do 2 things well:

  1. They solve a problem
  2. They apply leverage – the art of growing their income without adding costs at the same rate.

Digital products are the ultimate step in this process. They allow you to serve more people with no extra cost for each individual customer

But if you’re currently wondering how to make the leap from your service business into creating a more scalable business, the answers are probably sat on your laptop right now.

Here’s 5 steps that I’ve taken to scale up some of the skills I sell at my agency, and into digital courses, products, and software.

Skill

I thought I should start this list off with “spotting a problem” but the reality of most of our careers is that we start off trying to solve very broad problems.

“Websites look ugly” so you become a web designer

“People are too fat” so you become a personal trainer

“Noone likes being poor” so you learn finance

Large chunks of our education system exist to give us these broad skills that we take out into the market and shout “I can design pretty websites. Who needs me?”

Usually enough people hear this vague cry and you can put food on the table for another day.

Many many businesses get stuck at this level though. Excited at the novelty of each new client they never go beyond being a generalist, or refining their process over and over to achieve real mastery.

Productized Service

Once you spot that the same problem is happening again and again, the first step to achieving a scalable business is focusing on that one problem and solving it better than anyone else.

“Practice makes perfect” goes the saying, but too many otherwise intelligent people never get to true mastery of their craft as the flit between different solutions to the same problem, or applying it in different markets.

Productized businesses have a number of advantages over their generalist partners:

  • They have fewer failures, so profits are higher and clients refer them more often
  • They are easy to refer and each referral comes from people in the same industry
  • As they refine their processes, they can train more junior staff to get the same results, giving both profits and scale.

As the business learns to teach others in the same process, the next move is to charge for training clients rather than taking on the overhead of more staff.

Done with you

The “done with you” service is a solid response to the argument that productized services become commodities.

In this model, you break off the lower value activities and get the client to do it themselves, reserving your energy for the higher value work of strategy and customising your work to the individual client.

Some businesses, like personal training, lend themselves to a done-with-you model because, quite simply, you can’t do the work for your client and get them the result they want.

Once you’ve mastered the information that needs to be passed on, starting to document it so you don’t need to be there for every moment is the next step.

Templates & Instructions

This is how I made my first steps into online courses for my clients.

Creating templates and instructional text and video gives your client a lot more flexibility in how and when they apply your methods.

If you’ve ever struggled to make the time with a client for a training call you’ll see how needing to be there in person isn’t always ideal.

The first time I ever delivered a client training session by video, the client was so pleased that he’d had tome to absorb the information before we spoke about his particular project, that I was sold on this method forever.

Handing over the tools

As you go through your work, there are probably a mass of tools you use to do the job.

Some of them will be software you’ve bought in.

Some will be simpler tools like templates and spreadsheets that you’ve used to fill the gaps, and to bring structure to your own purposes.

With a little tidying up, these can be extremely valuable for your clients to use as well.

We started out with a design template to discuss with SaaS clients, and used it so often that we built Prelaunch.page to quickly build out ideas for new products.

We built it for ourselves, then with a bit more work we made it into a free tool that gives us a steady flow of new people trying out new ideas – right at the start of their info product journey.

Solve it. Sell It. Scale It.

There’s a constant cycle of finding problems to be fixed, finding people to buy the solutions, and finding out how to serve more people at scale.

The pinnacle of this is solving the problem completely hands-off, but if the idea of stepping away from your service business seems a world away, there’s plenty of steps before that that are highly profitable and will win you a reputation as a valued specialist.


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