Who Do You Use for That?

I love helping leaders.

Sometimes, that help is in depth and spans months.  This is my favorite way to work with clients because we can get so much done. But sometimes, help comes in the form of a quick answer to a quick question.

One of the quick questions I get from leaders around the world is “Who do you use for ________?”  Every time I get this question, I’m reminded that a personal recommendation from a trusted source is more important than any kind of marketing.

So in the spirit of helpfulness, here’s my current list of who I use for various services.


Email Marketing: At Church Fuel, we use InfusionSoft to handle all of our email marketing.  It also handles our order forms, shopping cart and several other vital services.  On my personal site, I still use MailChimp.

Landing Pages: We use LeadPages to generate sign up pages for giveaways, webinars, and eBooks. I’ve been really happy with them.

Web Hosting: We recently switched the Church Fuel site to WP Engine and that’s been a great decision.  On my personal sites, I still use BlueHost.

Website Management: I absolutely love WP Curve.  At least twice a week, I sent them an email with something to update or fix on the site, and they do it within a few hours.  It’s like having a website guy for a fraction of the cost.

Membership Site: We deliver our courses and resources through a WordPress plugin called WishList Member.  I like that it works with WordPress which means I can

Design:  For websites, there’s nobody better than FoType.  I’ve worked with Chad for nearly a decade now.  For graphic design, I often use Canvas Agency.  I also use tasks at 99 Designs to make quick changes and get fast projects done.  I absolutely love that service.

Webinars: We’ve been really happy using Google Hangouts, but we recently upgraded to Webinar Jam.  They use Google hangouts but add a bunch of features on the top.

Recorded Webinars: I use ScreenFlow for Mac to pre-record a lot of teaching content or webinars.  I’ve been very happy with this tool throughout the years.

eBook Creation: Believe it or not, I create a lot of free eBooks in Keynote.  Even though it’s presentation software, it’s really easy to use and exporting to a PDF is a snap.  For more detailed designs, I use Adobe InDesign.

Merchant Processing: We actually have two credit card processors in case something happens with one.  On my personal site, I use Stripe.

File Storage: I use Dropbox to share files with the team.  In fact, ALL of my files are stored on Dropbox so I can access them anywhere.  But when we need to share a link with customers to access something they purchased, we put those files on Amazon S3.  If we’re giving people links to download videos, we actually just use Vimeo (we have a PRO account).

Accounting: Quickbooks is still the standard and that’s what we use.

Communication:  Our team is remote, so to stay connected we use Basecamp, work chat in Evernote (also keep feedback and ideas in a shared folder), Google Hangouts, and Dropbox.

If I left anything out, leave a comment and I’ll let you know what we do.  And if you’ve got a good recommendation, be sure to share.

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Your Business is Not For Everybody

Several months ago, I signed up for an online course.

I pulled the trigger for a couple of reasons.

First, I knew our startup was getting ready to release several courses of our own.  So going through another one would give me some fresh ideas. I don’t want to be like the guy who writes books but never reads them.  Always keep learning.

Secondly, I wanted to learn what this course promised to teach.  It was a business course full of product creation, marketing and list-building ideas.

The course is called Zero to Launch and it’s from a guy named Ramit Sethi.  I’d read Ramit’s book several years ago and liked his style.  It looks like he’s got a good thing going so I wanted to learn from him.

As I was debating about signing up (the course is expensive), I saw this tweet interaction.

@ramit: Who joined Zero to Launch this week?

@divinetechygirl: @ramit busy working mother, FT job, learning to code, more craziness. Will ZTL work for me? 

@ramit: @divietechygirl Not if you describe yourself that way. My best students are not frantic/frazzled.  They are calm, deliberate, and methodical.

In several other tweets, I saw Ramit encourage potential customers NOT to sign up. Now this is actually a great marketing tactic, but it also helped me realize something.

Everybody is not your potential customer.

No matter what you create or what you do or how you market, not everybody is going to like you.  Not everybody is going to buy from you.  Not everybody is going to listen to you.

Not only is this okay, it’s good.

When you know who is NOT your ideal customer, that frees you up to go after the best ones.  The people most likely to buy from you are also the people your product or service is most likely to help.

Trying to be all things to all people means you’ll be nothing to all people.  Trying to offer something for everyone puts you in the position to offer everything to no one.

You’ll end up like this guy.


A bagpipe playing, unicycle riding Darth Vader.  An interesting side show people might notice without any lasting impact.  Someone trying to be all things to all people in order to get attention.

A better strategy is to focus on the people you’re most likely to help. Your riches are going to be found in the niches. Your maximum impact is going to be made because of your 1,000 true fans.

In our business, we are zeroing in on our target customer.  We’ve created a few products and some have been great hits and others have not worked so well. But with each release comes new data and new feedback.  Every time we launch something, we learn more about the niche we’re trying to serve.

We’re saying no to good ideas in order to pursue things that will help some people.  We’re okay if we offer something that doesn’t apply to everyone.  We’re okay if we leave out a specific feature someone really wants.

With each step in the right direction, our market gets a little smaller but our effectiveness takes a giant leap forward.

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I’m Scared of My Startup

Several years ago, I heard Ben Arment say something.

He may have been quoting Dhirubha Ambani. Or Tom Gaskins. Or an inspirational image from Pinterest.  But it stuck with me.

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.”

16612e999248981c0464cca135542512Over the last ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to start a non-profit, help grow a business substantially, and start something on my own.  But that quote is one of the reasons I’m excited about our new business.

Startup life is exciting, but truth be told, it’s scary.  I’ve written about how tough it is, but it’s more than tough.

When I look at the factors that led me into the start up life, the business landscape in my industry, and the road ahead, there’s a lot of concerns.  So in the spirit of confronting my fears, here’s some of them.

I’m scared it’s not different enough.  

Product differentiation is a business  term that describes the process of distinguishing a product or service from others in order to make it stand out in a particular market.

The answers to those questions are differentiation.

When I look around the church consulting world, there are a lot of players. You’d be hard pressed to find a better consultant than Tony Morgan. There are pastors like Bob Franquiz, Nelson Searcy and Rich Birch who offer digital resources. The Rocket Company helps churches with preaching and giving, and does a fantastic job.

So why are we needed?  How are we different?  What makes us stand out?  When I set out to answer those questions, I think of a few things

  • We serve senior pastors.  This is actually the first shift we made in our young company.
  • We focused on pastoral leadership and church growth.  Those are  the two key things we’re addressing.  And they are related in a big way.
  • We are insanely practical. Lots of people say this, but we’re fighting for it the best way we know how.
  • We put content before marketing.  We’re not a marketing company who has content.  We’re a content company who does marketing.
  • We work with churches one-on-one. We do coaching and personalized consulting because we want to stay grounded in the local church and we want to help a few people in a big way.


I see differentiation in my mind, but I’m scared I won’t be able to communicate them well. I’m scared it’s not different enough and people will just think of us as another resource company.

I’m scared it won’t work.

I’ve invested about $40,000 of my own money and six months (and counting) of my time into this startup. In startup world, that pretty small. Peanuts, really.

But for me and my family, it’s a pretty big deal.  We’re betting on this company to work.

So naturally, I’m scared it won’t.

I know we’re going to encounter bumps and forks in the road. And I don’t have this rosy belief that it’s all going to work right out of the box.  Heck, we’ve already had a few failures.

We spent $4,000 on an email marketing campaign that didn’t work at all.  Even after factoring in the long tail, that particular ad campaign is running at a negative 95% return on investment.

Negative 95%!

When those kind of failures happen, I’ve started calling it tuition.  I can’t get fixated on wasting money, because it’s not really wasted if we learned something. Calling these marketing experiments tuition helps me think of it like education.  I’ve never expected that to pay off.

So I’m fine with losing money and taking risks, but I really want the entire business to work.  I am prepared for some things to not work, but I can’t string too many of them together.  Truth be told, I’m afraid of it failing.

I’m scared we won’t get traction.

Church Fuel could easily be a side project – a blog I write for pastors with some helpful stuff.  A hub for a few online courses I could create and produce all by myself.  There’s no doubt in my mind it will work at at that level.

But I don’t want this to be Michael’s side project. I don’t want it to be a blog or a podcast with a few resources.  I don’t want it to be a side business; I want it to be a full time business and the joint effort of a mid-sized team.  There are lots of pastors who have blogs and businesses on the side.  And that’s fine.  But that’s not what I want.

I’m scared Church Fuel will be mildly successful, big enough for me and maybe a few freelancers. Successful enough to be a thing, but not big enough to get traction.

I’ve got big plans for this company, and I’m scared it will get stuck on the ground floor.

I’m scared I won’t be able to support other employees. 

Church Fuel is a joint venture. There are three other partners involved in the business, and one who has made a significant sacrifice to get this thing off the ground.  Rob is our COO – the guy running all the details of the company.

He stepped out of a successful commercial real estate business in order to run this company.  He and his wife have three kids.  And they are living the startup life.

It’s one thing to worry about providing for your family.  But it’s another thing entirely to bear the weight of providing for other people’s families.

When I look at the next 12 months, I worry that we’ll be successful enough to provide for our small team.

I’m scared people will think I’m a failure.

I know I’m supposed to punch fear in the face, create a culture where risks are rewarded, and be a brave leader. And sometimes, leaders have to put on the brave faces.

I shouldn’t do it, but I worry too much about what people think about me.  I take things personally, when I should just focus on doing meaningful work.

When it comes down to it, I don’t want people to think of me as a failure.

Put Fear in it’s Place

Leading a startup requires calculated risk, big bets, and a lot of courage.  Most of the things I wrote about in this article are out of my control.  I could focus on them and worry about them, but it will change little.

Instead, I’m going to go to work today.  I’m going to work on our next course.  I’m going to keep pushing for clarity, accountability and focus.  And I’m going to keep focusing on our mission and vision.

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The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran

Here are my notes from The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington.

Annual goals and plans are often a barrier to high performance. They come with an unspoken belief there is plenty of time in the eyar to make things happen.  In January, December looks a long way off.

Why do people behave differently in November and December than they do in July and August?

Long term results are created by the actions you take every day.  Plan for the future, but act in the day.  In the end, you have greater control over your actions than you do your results.

The only way to know if you are achieving is through measurement – that is, keeping score. More than 60% of the time the breakdown occurs in the execution process, but usually people assume the plan is at fault and change it.  You don’t know if the plan doesn’t work if you’re not working the plan.  Too often, people want to change the plan before they have really executed it.

If you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, then you leave your results to chance.

Four Keys to Successful Commitments

  1. Strong desire.
  2. Keystone actions.  Identify the core actions that will produce the result you’re after.
  3. Count the costs.
  4. Act on commitments, not feelings

Results are not the attainment of greatness, but simply confirmation of it.  The difference between greatness and mediocrity on a daily and weekly basis is slim, yet the difference in results down the road is tremendous.

One of the biggest pitfalls of leadership is failure to connect your vision to your daily actions.

Planning enables you to allocate your time and resources to your highest-value opportunities, it increases your odds of successful hitting your goals, it helps you to coordinate your team, and it creates a competitive advantage.  If you take time to plan before engaging with a complex task, you reduce the overall time required to complete the task by as much as 20%.

In 12 weeks, focus on the minimum number of actions that are most important to hit your goal. “Every day is a week.”

Implementing more tactics than necessary is a hinderance. You’ve got to leave good footage on the cutting room floor. Brainstorm all tactics; implement the best ones.  If you feel like it’s getting too complicated, it probably is.  The benefits of planning diminish rapidly, if not altogether, if you pursue and plan with more than one goal.

Execute your 12 week plan with a weekly routine.  Score you week. Plan your week. Participate in a weekly accountability meeting.

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Top Quotes from Leadercast Live 2015


I had the opportunity to attend Leadercast in Atlanta on May 8, 2015.  I served as an official note-taker for the first time, capturing notes during each session and pushing summaries to the Leadercast app.

Here are my favorite quotes from each of the speakers.

  • It’s not that brave leaders never fail; it’s that they never quit. – Mayor Aja Brown, the youngest elected mayor of Compton
  • Bold leadership is clarity around an unreasonable commitment to what should be.  It’s a middle school girl in pursuit of an iPhone.
  • Do the thing your competition can’t or won’t do. – Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP
  • Failure is a necessary consequence of trying something new. Make it safe for people to operate in the messy middle.  – Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Always believe in the happy ending. – Malala Yousafzai, youngest winner of the Zobel Prize
  • I want a coach to treat me like I’m a rookie in college.  – Peyton Manning.  Bonus: Due to some recent law changes in Colorado, the pizza business is doing pretty good.
  • Limit your field of view and you’ll see more. – Rorke Denver, author of Damn Few: The Making of a Modern Seal Warrior
  • Nobody want to follow an pessimist.  Great leaders have to be optimists. – Judy Giuliani
  • Most of us carry around a bowl of front and we spend all our time trying to get them to stay in the bowl. Growth happens when he frogs jump out of the bowl – Seth Godin
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