Laura Roeder is the owner of Meet Edgar, a social media content scheduler that saves time and makes sure you’re getting the most out of your posts. Laura walks us through why content matters, the how to get outside of yourself and hire your first employees, and why recurring revenue should be every small business owner’s dream.
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Laura Roeder: I really need someone to help me manage all my PayPal stuff, but, oh. The way I do PayPal is so unique, you know? No one would be able to understand my PayPal process.
Clate Mask: That's Laura Roeder, sharing the ludicrous thought process we all go through that keeps us from letting go. To hear more, tune in for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast.
Scott Martineau: Welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. This is Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask. We're co-founders of Infusionsoft. And today we've got Laura Roeder with us. Laura, great to have ya. How're you doing?
Laura Roeder: Thank you. I'm really happy to be here.
Scott Martineau:Start out and give our listeners just a brief overview of who you are, and tell us a little bit more about your business.
Laura Roeder: Yeah. So I'm the CEO and founder of MeetEdgar. We're a social media scheduling and automation tool for small businesses.
Clate Mask: Awesome. That's really cool.
Tell us a little bit about how you got into that. Give a little background.
Laura Roeder: Yeah. So I've been self-employed for about 10 years now. I went form being a freelance web designer to doing social media consulting to social media training and information products, and then I launched MeetEdgar, which is a social media software business in 2014.
Clate Mask: Okay. That is awesome. And how many employees do you have today?
Laura Roeder: We have 30 now.
Clate Mask: Wow. That is really cool 'cause I remember you spoke in an event at Infusionsoft, I don't know, five years ago or so and I think you had just a few employees at the time, right?
Laura Roeder: I probably didn't have any full-time at that time. I was probably just working with a few freelancers. Yeah. So it's been a journey, you know.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Laura Roeder: Slowly, but surely. We haven't raised any money so it's all been bootstrapped getting to this point.
Clate Mask: Oh, wow. That is very cool. Congratulations.
Scott Martineau: Wow. I can't -- I'm excited to dig in and understand a little bit more. that's a lot of -- a lot of employees to bring on in the last -- what is that -- about an employee, maybe, per month since -- on average.
Laura Roeder: Yeah, yeah. We launched July 2014. It's been pretty fast growth.
Scott Martineau: That's fantastic. So -- and I have some other general questions, too, just about your experience with small business owners and their anxiety around social media too. We had a five-way for that.
Clate Mask: I would love to do one on that. That would be fun. So --
Laura Roeder: There is so much anxiety around social media. It causes a lot of mental turmoil for people, I think.
Scott Martineau: It does. And it's, like, everybody has probably -- I shouldn't say everybody, but it feels like most business owners have felt burned -- maybe that's too harsh of a word, but burned by some experience they've had in the past. So there's this anxiety and frustration and timidness about it, and how do I go tackle this beast, which I assume is pretty core to your story, right?
Laura Roeder: Yeah. I mean, so what we do differently at MeetEdgar is we store a library of content that then repeats over and over again.
So the trend that we saw in social media that we jumped on is that most small businesses are still creating new pieces of content, you know, several new pieces of content social media updates everyday for the rest of time, is sorta how people handle social. It was social media version one.
E-mail marketing without autoresponders or without tagging or any of that good stuff. So looking at the stats, only about 5 percent of your audience sees any given update that you send out. So we thought why are people creating new content every time for only 5 percent of people to see? Shouldn't you be repurposing that content so that you can get it out to your broader audience? So that's exactly what Edgar does.
Clate Mask: Okay. I'm in love. [Laughs] Because this is moment of true confession here. Last year I got so upset with myself that I wasn't blogging that I decided, you know what? I'm going to frickin' start blogging.
And I blogged every day for about four months and then it went to about once a week -- [laughs] -- and then it turned into about once a month for the last six months of the year or something like that. And I was -- literally last night, I was going to bed, I'm, like, "Clate, you suck." [Laughs] Why are you not blogging? Why are you not doing more?
It is exactly what you said. Whatever your content creation medium is, whether it's a blog, whether it's tweet, whether it's an e-mail, whatever it is, it's that -- it's that burden of having to do it everyday all the time that I think causes people to stop. And so I love what you guys are doing. I think that's a -- I just think it's awesome. You're making it possible for people to engage in social media by creating content in a much less burdensome way.
Laura Roeder: Yeah. I mean a small business owner just does not have time to keep up with creating all that content and the good news is you really don't have to. I advise you get to a point where you're at about a three-month block of content that you're cycling through over and over.
So if you have three month's worth of content, that's only four times a year that you're repeating. And people get so worried about am I going to repeat things too much? Am I going to bother people? I'm sure this is something that you guys preach in teaching businesses how to use Infusionsoft. You have to get in front of people so much more than you think you do. You see this with e-mail marketing, too. People are, like, "Well, I already e-mailed my list last month," you know, "I don't want to bother them."
Clate Mask: [Laughs] And four people saw it. [Laughs] Right. You have a list of 1,000 and 4 actually read it and did what you wanted to. So how about you send that again? [Laughs]
Laura Roeder: Exactly. So, yeah. It's the same sort of idea. You really need to get _____ people frequently with your content and you have to remember you see all the stuff for your business, you know?
Scott Martineau: You get sick of it.
Laura Roeder: You see all your product and your e-mails and your blog posts. Your audience does not see everything. They see a tiny percentage.
Clate Mask: Totally.
Scott Martineau: Love it. Okay. Well, let's shift gears. I want to go back to your -- you've been doing consulting for a while. I know you're doing social media training.
You have this idea: I'm going to start a software company. What was that like for you? What was the --s I mean, that's a bold move, right? That's different. A whole new ballgame.
Laura Roeder: Yeah. You know, I had been interested in doing software for a long time because I really liked that the business model, that I could have a business that wasn't so centered around me as the trainer, the way that my information product business was. And basically the way I ended up starting a software company is that I married a Ruby on Rails developer --
Clate Mask: Nice.
Laura Roeder: who had some advice.
Scott Martineau: That's your advice.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: All right, listeners. That's the key.
Laura Roeder: So looking for a technical co-founder, just marry one.
Clate Mask: Just marry one. [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: So much cheaper. I mean, you could -- he actually has a value on his head. That's amazing.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] I love that. The reason I'm laughing is because -- Scott and I -- I mean, how many times have we got the question from entrepreneurs, "Okay. So I've decided I'm ready to start the software business. And it's always -- I mean, where do I get the development talent?"
And the challenge of getting someone that's invested the way you are, or believes in it, that's excited about it, I mean it's so, so difficult that marrying -- I'm going to start saying just go marry one. [Laughs] That's the answer.
Scott Martineau: Go marry a Ruby on Rails developer. I love it.
Laura Roeder: I do have some real advice, actually, for this problem because this is a huge problem for entrepreneurs.
Clate Mask: Totally.
Laura Roeder: And I think what you have to remember if you are not a programmer, if you're not technical, those business and marketing skills in particular are just as important as the programming skills.
Scott Martineau: The technical. Right.
Clate Mask: Yes.
Laura Roeder: And I think we tend to underestimate our own skills. If you're good at marketing, you think, "Oh. Marketing's really easy." Well, that's how developers feel about code. They feel like it's really easy and that marketing is really hard. And every developer that you meet has built a product that no one has used because they don't know how to do marketing and they're scared of it. so those are your skills to bring to the table and I think that's much more important than your idea. A lot of people get so focused on finding a technical founder to build their idea.
No one really cares about your idea, but if you say, "Hey. I can turn this into a business that makes money," that's very interesting for people.
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Clate Mask: Totally.
Scott Martineau: Clate's smirking at me over here because my wife also married a developer who didn't have a clue how to market a product.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] And then --
Scott Martineau: And spent a year of my life building a software program that we sold to a grand total of three customers. One of them was my father.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] That's exactly -- I'm laughing also because when I joined the company there were three software developers and my job was --
Scott Martineau: And no business.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] No business. My job was to do everything except write software and their job was to only write software. And that's how we made it work. But then overtime, Scott got really good at the marketing side of things. We have -- and there are three co-founders of Infusionsoft. We ended up buying out that early partner who was one of the other software developers. So it's Scott, Eric and me. And Scott's very -- very much into the sales and marketing side of things now, more so on marketing and customer success. Eric is still our chief software architect. And then I am, sort of, general management. I'm not quite sure what I do, actually. [Laughs]
Scott's laughing, like, well, yeah, what is that?
Scott Martineau: You blog, Clate.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: Sporadically.
Laura Roeder: Blog once a year.
Clate Mask: That's right.
Scott Martineau: So I'm curious. For many business owners who have found themselves in a situation like you did, or maybe you were the center of the stage, the show revolved around you. What was it like to have a -- I assume your model includes a recurring revenue. What did that feel like? It's slow growing, but what did that feel like?
Laura Roeder: Yeah. I mean I love -- we're what's called SaaS, software as a service.
Clate Mask: Software as a service. Yep.
Laura Roeder: So it's a subscription model and I love that business model. I will say it's not -- it's not that passive income dream, right? Build software one, and you just sit back and let the money roll in. I mean, software, you have to maintain, especially -- as you guys know the larger it grows, the more customers, the more bugs, the more infrastructure, the more maintenance.
So it's certainly not passive, but it is really a great business model because once you have a customer, if you're delivering value to that customer, obviously, they're going to want to stick around. So it is, in that way, easier than something like information products where it's often a one-time customer and you're having to come up with a new product line in order to generate more revenue from them.
Clate Mask: Well, I think it's not just an information product. You know, the way that Scott and I experienced the evolution -- you talk about going from a product to a soft -- recurring software program, software as a service, as it's called in our industry, and yes, you're right. The service part of software as a service is pretty heavy, isn't it? [Laughs] You think it's not going to be, but it just is. But we went from trading hours for dollars in your service to then having a product, to then having a recurring revenue product. And I think in each of those jumps from a service to a product, it's a whole new world and it's really cool 'cause you get to sell the same thing again and again.
But then when you go to a recurring revenue product, now you're talking about selling the same thing to the same person again and again. And so that's what -- that's why there's leverage in the model. That's why there's a lot of -- you know, the business model is a very -- it's a very scalable and exciting model because of that. And I think the reason I take a second to unpack that is that a lot of times business owners, you know -- you made the comparison. You said, "Well, it's not like information marketing." Well, at least that's a product, right? You went from first to having service to then realizing, gosh, I can't keep doing hourly stuff here. So I'm going to turn that into a productized service and then you turn that into software. And I -- you know, when I talk to entrepreneurs all the time, I encourage them to think about that. Get out of the hours for dollars game and get into the product game. And get out o the product game and get into the recurring product game. And you don't have to do service. You just have to think about what you do and the value you offer a little differently. And for listeners who aren't putting some time and energy into that thought process, learn from what Laura did 'cause she went from service to product to a recurring product.
And that's a beautiful business change. It'll change your life.
Laura Roeder: Yeah. Yeah, it will.
Scott Martineau: Laura, tell us the hardest thing you've dealt with as you've grown. There's been a lot of change: model change, growth in employees, growth in customer base. What's the -- and we like to say what's the darkest moment, but you can just, you know.
Laura Roeder: That sounds so grand.
Scott Martineau: Is it?
Laura Roeder: I think the hardest thing has bene -- this is the first company. So I've run different businesses over the years. And this is the first company that's grown to anywhere near the size of 30 employees. Basically when you have 30 employees, you have to build a real company with things like HR, and profits, and figuring out your taxes when you're a distributed team like we are. And I see a lot of companies that just --
Scott Martineau: So you go marry an HR expert -- oh, no. You're already married.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Laura Roeder: [Laughs] They bury their head in the sand and they don't want to deal with it.
And they think, "Oh, you don't need HR. And you don't need infrastructure. And those are -- those are boring bureaucratic things," or, "those are things for bigger companies." But I think thinking about those issues early on -- I mean, at our company we have a two-person operation / HR team and we use Justworks that manages a lot of that. So two people is actually a fairly large team for 30 people. I think a lot of people at 30 -- the founder, CEO is still just doing all the HR function they don't have time for. And if you're in a knowledge-worker industry as most of us are now, your team is your business. I mean, your team is what creates everything. So you really need to make sure that your team is really happy at their job and things that seem sort of boring to you, like, are we offering a good 401K package -- eh -- I don't want to spend time thinking about that -- can be really important to retaining good talent.
Clate Mask: Yep. So well said. That's a great point for us. I think we always looked at stock options as being a really important part of that to help people feel the ownership and the excitement and the benefit of what we're doing.
But as you get bigger, you can't have it just be that. You gotta look at all the different aspects. You'll get to that point where you start to realize, man, they're -- I mean, the simple thig is that there's a whole bunch of expenses that build up that you don't realize are going to build up. You think, "Oh, yeah. We don't need that. We'll get away without it." But you end up having to build that infrastructure in a bunch of different ways and the cost structure grows, which is why it's nice to have a recurring revenue business.
Laura Roeder: Yes. Yeah. I mean, it took us such a long time. So we're a distributed team. A lot of distributed teams buy people laptops when they join. And it took us such a long time to do that because we're afraid of the expense. Like, we don't want to spend $2,000.00 right off the bat, every new employee with a new laptop. But then we just saw people working -- like, we would get together -- we get together twice a year in person and we would see people working on these old laptops that could barely function.
And really, what are we thinking, you know? The productivity from this $2,000.00 is going to be well worth it. And it was just something silly that we were being cheap about. But it's taken us time to be, like, "Okay. Yes. You really have to buy everyone a laptop."
Clate Mask: Yes. I don't know -- are you smirking about the copy machine? Is that?
Scott Martineau: No. I'm smirking about -- I just remember when there was a time when a new employee would show up and we're, like, "Oh, crap. You're starting today." We hadn't actually thought about a computer.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: That's good productivity. You're like, "Just got chill for over there for a few days."
Clate Mask: There was probably more than once where we're, like, "We don't have a chair for you, but can you bring one?" [Laughs] Yes. Well, _____ challenges. Those are great things.
Scott Martineau: So what's been -- let's talk about the most rewarding thing. What's -- what are you -- when you sit back and think about what just really makes you feel proud, excited.
Laura Roeder: It's actually a flipside of what I just said. It's the team stuff.
So for me, personally, even more than our -- the success we're able to enable for the customers, the success that we create in the life of our employees is what really inspires me. And when you own a business, your funding people's kids, their livelihoods, their families and that's just crazy to think that you can have that kind of impact and that kind of responsibility. And --
Clate Mask: Isn't it amazing?
Laura Roeder: Mm-hmm.
Clate Mask: I'm sorry. I said isn't it amazing? It's just --
Laura Roeder: It's incredible. And our companies work from home and that allows just even more flexibility. And things, like, we have a few employees that at 3:00 go pick up their kid from school and take them back home. The kids are a little older, they can entertain themselves, and the person can go back to work in their home office. And that problem of picking up your kid from school during the workday is such a huge problem for a working parent. You have to hire someone to pick up your kid and watch them for a few hours until you're done with work. And so just that we offer that freedom, to offer that little treat that's going to make someone's quality of life so much better. It really motivates me.
Scott Martineau: Plus they can work on those shiny new laptops while they're driving.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Laura Roeder: [Laughs] Exactly. One hand on the wheel, and one on the laptop.
Scott Martineau: Of course you can go as long as --
Clate Mask: No. That's really cool. That's awesome to hear.
Scott Martineau: I'm curious what that -- what is it when you think about the culture you've created there and you think about the wins of the employees. What do you -- how do you put your time and focus into that? What do you do and how do you grow the culture? What are your keys and philosophies about that?
Laura Roeder: Yeah. It's an interesting question because I think culture can feel so vague and how do you really do it, and what does it really mean, and we're believers in having just a few core values. So we have three core values, which are choose kindness, ownership, and value for value, meaning everything is an even exchange for value.
So I think having just three helps them be memorable and top of mind. And our recent team retreat, we did lightning talks where everyone at the company could give these little ten-minute talks. And Megan from our customer service team, part of her talk -- and it's just one talk at the end, it was about how she makes sure to apply the three company core values in every e-mail that's sent. She talked about how the idea of value for value. If someone's taking their time to write an e-mail, we want to make sure that we're really respecting that time that they're taking out of their busy day, and solving their problem as much as we can. And I have never thought of that lens before for value for value, applying it to every e-mail we send. So that was just so incredible seeing that people are really able to think about those values and how they apply to every level of the company.
Clate Mask: So cool. That is awesome.
Scott Martineau: So what are lightning talks? Any topic? It's like TED Talks?
Laura Roeder: Exactly. So, yeah. We kept it really -- this was the first year we'd done it and it was really interesting because some people gave very, very practical, like, this is what I do in my day.
This is how we refactor code. And then some people -- like, Zachery gave a presentation on the intimacy gradient, which is this concept from interior planning about how you go from these common spaces to private spaces and how that may or may not apply to the internet, you know? [Laughs] Just really abstract concepts. So it was really fun and interesting to see.
Clate Mask: That's cool. That's cool.
Scott Martineau: I love it.
Clate Mask: We started doing, just not too long ago, this concept called a knowledge drop where we have an employee that comes in and teaches something for -- it's a half-an-hour thing. And I liked that a lot. I really loved the lightning talk. They do it in 10 minutes -- TED Talk style and we've had a lot of good experience in doing that, doing the employee talks here, but I'm interested in maybe a little tweak where it's even quicker and people can come in and just get that quick lightning. That's cool.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. So, Laura, we're coming up on our time here, but we'd love for you to leave -- we've asked the general question --
Clate Mask: I got one question for you before we get that.
So I've been dying to ask this because you've gone through it, and you've gone through it pretty quickly. When we talk to entrepreneurs a lot of times they don't want to have 30 employees. They're, like, "You know what? That's great for Laura, but I don't want that." Did you ever have -- I imagine being a solo-preneur for a long time, you probably had to get over a certain mentality. I love it. I love it, Laura, when we see people build a company and catch a vision, and say, hey, we're going to do something bigger. It's not to say that we don't love our customers that re under 10 employees. That's what most of our customers are. But I gotta say, there's just something about when an entrepreneur catches a bigger vison and wants to go after it. But in order to do it, they have to get over some insecurities, frustrations, perceptions, pre-conceived notions about having a bunch of employees. Did you go through that and if so, or if not, what would say to an entrepreneur out there who's like, "Gosh. I have this exciting thing I want to do, but do I really want to have to take on a bunch of employees?"
Laura Roeder: Yeah. I mean, I think the realization that I had around that topic that helped me. So I had the classic problem of I'm the only one who could do this. I'm the best at this. No one else can do it how I can.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] You're the only one that thinks that, of course, right? [Laughs]
Laura Roeder: Yeah. Only me.
Clate Mask: You and every other entrepreneur out there.
Laura Roeder: So realizing that when I say -- because especially when you're a solo-preneur, you do it about the silliest stuff. You're, like, "I really need someone to help me manage all my PayPal stuff, but, oh, the way I do PayPal is so unique. No one will ever be able to understand my PayPal process." [Laughs] I just had this realizing, you know, whenever I say I'm not going to be able to teach someone else to do it, no one else can do it, I'm literally saying, "Out of the 6 billion people on this planet, I am the most special, the most talented. Not another soul out of these 6 billion people that can process these PayPal invoices as well as I can."
Scott Martineau: [Laughs] I love that.
Laura Roeder: Just saying it that way makes you realize how ludicrous that is.
Clate Mask: Totally.
Laura Roeder: I mean, I'm 32 right now, right? I've been in my 20s for most of my business. Just that alone -- the fact that I'm 25 when I'm saying this -- so I have no experience -- just at least someone has done it for a year or longer than me if nothing else.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: [Laughs] That is so hilarious. I love it.
Laura Roeder: [Inaudible comment]
Clate Mask: That is a great mindset to adopt.
Laura Roeder: So that helps put things in perspective for me.
Clate Mask: So great. Thanks for sharing that. That was really cool.
Scott Martineau: I'm thinking of the time when Brian -- Brian said, "I have to tell myself can my employee do this at least 60 percent as well as me?" And he's, like, "No, I don't think so." "How about 50 percent?" Yeah. So I'm applying that to your PayPal. Like, who could do PayPal 50 percent as well as I do? Okay. We'll give them a shot. That's fantastic. The things we tell ourselves.
Clate Mask: All right. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate and I know a bunch of our listeners do as well.
Scott you want to go into the last question we always love to ask?
Scott Martineau: Yeah. What are the -- what's the most important characteristic for entrepreneurial success in your mind?
Laura Roeder: I think the most important characteristic is being able to keep going, I guess, persistence, determination. You can't predict how things are going to turn out, and in order to keep growing, you just have to do a lot of experiments. You're going to hire someone to help you with your PayPal that's going to be a huge fail. They're going to e horrible at working with PayPal, and so many people have that experience. And they're like, "Well, I tried that. I guess I have to do everything by myself."
Scott Martineau: Guess I can't delegate. Guess I can't delegate.
Laura Roeder: Right. I cant' delegate anymore. And just taking those experiences and saying, "Okay. Where did I mess up? What can I learn from this? Where did I have a bad process and just carrying on over and over again." I think that's the most important quality for success.
Scott Martineau: Love it.
Clate Mask: Great. That's awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Thanks for the lessons that you've learned as you've -- we talk about the stages of business. You've crossed over stage four and into stage five. And those lessons you've learned in the last couple of years are so valuable. We appreciate you coming on and talking about it with our listeners. And when you talk about that continuing and pressing forward, I think -- we hear almost in every interview, something about the grit and the persistence and the tenacity of just keep charging forward. And you just ooze that. It's obvious as we talk, so thank you for sharing it.
Scott Martineau: Laura, you're a pleasure to talk to. You're so articulate and kind and it's great to be with you.
Clate Mask: And I got value for value today. [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: Yes.
Laura Roeder: Good.
Clate Mask: Thanks.
Laura Roeder: All right. Well, thanks listeners for tuning in. We're going to call it a wrap for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast.
Clate Mask: Don't forget to rate on iTunes and share and subscribe. And if you're looking for more ways to grow your business, check out our knowledge center at learn.infusionsoft.com.
[End of Audio]
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