How To Build Standard Operating Procedures Into Your Business | High Speed Low Drag Interviews

How to Build SOPs into your Business High Speed Low DragWelcome to High Speed Low Drag, the podcast for veterans and soldiers transitioning into the civilian world. War veteran John Lee Dumas interviews other veterans who are crushing both business and life, revealing the path they took to achieve outstanding success. Veterans, are you prepared to ignite?

John: Veterans, are you interested in owning your own business? Join me, Antonio Centeno, and Tom Morkes, all successful entrepreneurs and veterans, as we talk about what it takes to build your own business from scratch by leveraging the skills you developed while serving your country and you’ll have the support of a community of veterans that are committed to helping you succeed. Visit That’s

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Tom: Hey, everyone! Welcome back to another episode of the High Speed Low Drag Podcast. I’m Tom Morkes here with Antonio Centeno. Today, we’re going to talk about SOPs. Antonio, how’s it going?

Antonio: I’m excited, man, because most people when they think SOPs, they think checklists. They think systems. They’re like, “Oh man, that’s totally boring,” but I have to admit, I think systems are sexy. I’ve said it right there. Boom!

Tom: This can be [0:01:18] [Indiscernible] to tweet.

Antonio: Actually, I used to own that URL and then somebody else picked it up after I let it drop. We’re not saying it’s — it’s not very manly to say systems are sexy, but I am a big fan of systems.

In fact, I started a business called Business Automation 123. I’ll tell you why really quick, Tom. I’m already diving in this because the reason this is so important is that there is a point in my life when my business just consumed — I only had one business at the time. It was A Tailored Suit that maybe started the idea for Real Men Real Style. It popped in my head, but I was doing guest posting for The Art of Manliness and my business was sucking 100 hours a week out of my life.

I was getting up at 5:00 on Sundays basically not to get ahead of my business, but because I was trapped in my business. I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday just to catch up for the week, and I’ve already worked probably ten hours on a Saturday. Really that’s not a place where you want to be. You don’t want to be trapped in your business. It’s something that not a lot of people talk about. It’s not super exciting for many of us. Everyone wants to talk about how to get the business going, how to make your first $1000, $10,000, how to sell your business for millions of dollars, but no one talks about this prison that can become your business.

I get excited because we’re talking to a military audience, guys that are veterans of the United States, Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force, Coastguard, Navy, and we have a big advantage over a lot of other guys out there or gals out there, and that is that we come from a background of systems thinking.

Maybe a good example is the guys that work on avionics. If you think about a modern-day F-18 or helicopter, one of the great things about aircraft is they oftentimes have redundant systems. Literally we have rounds going through those things whenever you’re coming in and you’re getting small arms fire and you’ve got to evac people out. You’ve got to have a helicopter or an aircraft, a V-22 Osprey, that can in a sense have a part of that system break and then you’ve got a backup.

We think like that and I think that gives us such an advantage in this part, a very critical part of business creation.

Tom: Yeah, so just to iterate that, what’s the business that you’re starting and is that live right now for people to check out if they want to?

Antonio: I’m not going to promote it too hard. I’m wondering when this comes out. It’ll probably come out in December. By then, hopefully we’ve got at least the website up, Business Automation 123. I’m not going to push it hard right now, but if you’re listening to this in 2015, we probably will already have the business.

infusionsoft1I’m partnering with a gentleman; his name’s Kelsi. Kelsi used to work for the company Infusionsoft. I’m a big fan of how Infusionsoft — they don’t take their software and try to wrap it around your business. Instead, they say, “We’ve developed software which you should plug your business into because we found that across industries, this is the best way to do things.”

To be honest, most small business owners are running systems of chaos. That is their system. Their system is, “I try to make money and I just go out there and do as much work as I can in a 12-hour workday,” which if you think about it is not really — that’s not a good business model.

You want to be thinking, “How can I set up my business so that it can scale, that it can grow?” Ideally, I think most of us business owners, we don’t want to be working more and more hours as our business does better. We want to be actually tooling back. For me, the idea of a perfect business is a business that makes money while I sleep and I could take a vacation for a month, come back and wow, my business ran perfectly without me.

Now, as the business owner, I can direct it, but it’s the same thing when thinking about a general or a sergeant major. He doesnít get down to the fire team level. Yeah, he can if he wants to and if he wants to get in there and make a point, but when it comes down to it, his job at the high level is to overall make sure that the ship is pointed in the right direction, not down there rowing the oars trying to make things happen.

Tom: Right. For the listener then and really for me because I’m really curious about the subject and looking at these kinds of systems and processes and systematizing my business right now to scale, so this is definitely on my mind, where do you start with this kind of stuff? Where does it begin?

Obviously, I don’t think necessarily — or do you start right from the beginning? Right from when you get started, should you be thinking about systems and processes and SOPs?

Antonio: You want it in the back of your mind. At the beginning, you want to make money. You’ve got to figure out what is — and I know that sounds harsh. It sounds all super capitalist, but guys, it is important that you find the pain point and you solve that problem and you find customers who are willing to pay for you to solve that problem. That’s where you’ve got to start.

After a while, once you start getting orders in — in a sense, you’re finding what works. Once you have found what works, you want to then systematize it so that you can scale. At this point, at a very early point, you want to be thinking systems even if it’s just you in the business.

One of the first things that you can do is go through — actually, they talk about this in the “E-Myth“; it’s a great book. A terrible e-book is — gosh, there are examples. They’re just outdated and they read it really bad, but the information is still priceless, and that information is create an organization chart even if it’s just you.

You’re going to put down “janitor”, and guess what, because someone is having to clean the office, someone is having to take the trash out and that takes time. That does take a certain amount of resources. At some point, hopefully you’ll be able to have a big enough company that you’re not just the CEO and the janitor, but you want to break it out into who’s running operations, who’s running marketing, who’s running sales. Break out all of these different things and then start creating checklists of what you do in all of them.

Why is this important? Why when it’s just you? Because whenever you look to make your first hire, you want to look at, “Okay. I’m spending 80% of my time doing this, this, and this. If I can hire this person, if they’re going to free me up to focus in on what I only spend 20% of my time doing, but yields me 80% of revenue, that is going to be well.”

functional-business-organizational-chartTom: So talking about that then, the first place you want to start that I understand is one with the organizational chart. You want to map out all these areas that you say if you’re just working alone right now, you’re a solopreneur or whatever, you want to actually look at the stuff that you’re doing and segment it or break it down into, like you said, an organizational chart.

You try to segment it based on what the tasks are and what that person would be if you were to hire somebody. You mentioned operations, sales, marketing, that kind of thing. Then from there, you break down specific checklists and I guess steps that you go through to do what you do in each of the pieces of the puzzle. Does that make sense? I don’t know if I’m clear enough on this yet.

Antonio: It does. That brings the next point, which is checklist. Checklist is incredibly important. There’s a great book out there called “The Checklist Manifesto“. You don’t have to go get the book. You can actually type in and you can go read his article and get the general gist of the point. The point is that checklists are incredibly important.

The Checklist ManifestoI’ve had people tell me, “Oh, I’m too creative to use a checklist. I’m too high up to use a checklist.” That’s complete BS because if you look at astronauts, if you look at surgeons, they use checklists because what a checklist enables you to do — when I was in flight school down in Pensacola or even in Corpus Christi, any pilot that’s been in an airplane, he goes through a checklist.

He does the preflight checklist because if he forgets that he needs to put fuel in the airplane, guess what, he’s coming down pretty darn quick. It’s very unforgiving when you’re 30,000 feet up in the air and you realize they didn’t put a tight cap on that and all of my fuel just got sucked out. We’re making an emergency landing and we’re going to have to hope that we can get back over land.

Checklists allow you to in a sense — McDonald’s is another great example where they take 16-year-olds who have never had a job before and they’re able to in a very short amount of time plug them into a system. What it allows you to do is to hire people. You don’t have to hire super specialized people.

Now, if you’re doing metal fabrication or you’re a nanotechnology molecular engineer, yeah, you’re going to need to hire very specialized people, but for most of us, finding good people is one of the hardest things to do. So if you’ve got a great checklist that you can give to somebody, then that is really going to in a sense enable you to hire people who can be trained up very quickly.

One thing we do in my company is not only checklists, but we’ve got videos that people can watch. When they watch all these videos, it gets them very quickly up to speed on what we’re doing. And because they watch the videos, I don’t have to spend time training up every single person.

In fact, at my company, most of my new hires are not even working with me directly. They’re being trained up by our videos, by our checklists, and my assistants and my technical workers are training them up, showing them how to do things. That just makes it so much easier.

It starts at the very beginning because oftentimes when we’re making our first hire when we’re first growing the company, we want to just train that one person and when you feel it’s just easier, instead of taking time to record the video, to write out the checklist, just to show them what. Oftentimes, if it’s a really smart person, they’ll get it and they’ll go.

My thing is what if that person quits two months in? You didn’t even see it coming and you just spent two months training them and you did not capture any of that training in something that you could then — if you had captured all of that, then you protect yourself from people just unexpectedly quitting. It happens all the time and I’ve seen it happen to people. You do not want to put yourself in that position because that’s wasting your time.

Tom: Okay. So when you’re creating these checklists — and maybe this is actually a different point though — answer this question for me. I’m curious about this.

The checklist, I think that can be very specific and thatís for task-specific stuff. How about the flow of whether it’s product development or within this task list? So I kind of put your task list as — this is obviously a specific task I’m working on, say, podcast editing. How about the flow of stuff? If you’re trying to create a system where something might have to move between hands or ownership between people, how do you work that? How do you create a system around that?

Antonio: That’s a good problem to have and that sounds like something once you’ve got a few people in that you’re trying to coordinate.

Right now, I’ve got a content manager and that is her whole job, is being the glue that connects all of this together. I will admit. Creating checklists and creating flow for that is a bit harder, but here’s the thing. I don’t create checklists anymore. I have people create their own checklists, which are living documents.

In a sense, the checklist for content creation at Real Men Real Style is right now working for 2014, but we’re constantly trying to get better and it’s being created and used by the people actually using it. So one way to do it is to make sure that the people that are creating these are actually the people in that flow, and they should be able to break it down.

Yes, there’s going to be a little bit of impromptu, but the checklist doesn’t have to cover — the checklist serves them. They don’t serve the checklist, but if I start to see error after error after error in what they’re doing, then I go back and I say, “Why are we making these errors? Isn’t that in the checklist?”

The people on my team know that I’m not going to fire them if they make a mistake. Well, as long as it’s not a super serious mistake. Unless they’re directly sabotaging my company, I’m going to try to figure out what happened here, but if they consistently do not follow a checklist, that is a reason for dismissal.

Tom: Interesting. Before, I think we actually hopped on and started recording of this call, and this is about the flowchart thing, I think, a little bit, was that idea that you said, “I like to build things. I can remove myself from the equation. I donít want to be the bottleneck” I think was the word you used. Tell me a bit about that. With that in mind, how do you avoid being the bottleneck when it comes to building up these systems and processes?

Antonio: As entrepreneurs, as people that found companies, we have a lot of pride. We like to think we’re the best in the world at doing what we do. Ask yourself that question now. “Am I the best in the world at writing about men’s style?”

Well, I definitely have a huge amount, kind of over a thousand articles out there. I’ve got now dozens of infographics, hundreds and hundreds of videos, but when it comes down to it, I’m not the best in the world.

I’m good, but there’s a reason why I’ve got over a thousand articles because I didn’t write them all, because I trained somebody else to write better and for me, and they can stay focused on it. Even when it comes to writing my own emails, I wasn’t the best in the world even at writing email. I was good and I could respond to people, but the problem was I had over 2000 emails in my “to get to” folder when I was the only person in charge of my email.

Now, I’ve got an assistant because what I realized is that 80% to 90% of the emails being sent to me were ones that people wanted — they just had a general style question, which I’d probably already written in an article that answer it, at least something close, or they want to do some PR or they want to promote something on my website.

What I’ve discovered is that 95% of the emails that I get, I could actually create a — if it’s this, we do this. If it’s this, we do this. I’ve trained up a number of my assistants and they go through it while I sleep at night and they’re answering and doing a much — and this is why it’s better.

Some people will say, “Antonio, you’re not technically sending the email.” You’re right. I’m not hitting the “Send” button, but I’m sending you to an article that I’ve edited and approved of and sometimes has me in a video. I would rather that you get an answer to your question than me bottleneck it and me feel like I’ve got to be so prideful that I’ve got to click that “Send” button.

Yeah, there’s a little bit of personal — technically, I didn’t see that response go out there, but in spirit, I created the content. I’ve got my name on it and my assistant is following a set guideline of rules that enables her to be able to act on my behalf. When it comes down to it, your problem is being solved and that is the most important thing to your customer.

managing emailTom: Right. Maybe this gets into the tactical point of it or into the nitty-gritty a little bit and to come back to the checklist thing then. I guess from the outside, it can be a little overwhelming, that concept of doing this for everything. If we take that down to the lower level of something like that like email, how do you start building a checklist around the handling of emails and what’s that process like?

Antonio: Well, you can look at what you’re doing, but most likely, the way you’re managing your email is not the most efficient one if you’re having this type of a problem. You want to go out there and you want to look at what are the best ways to be managing email. Try to get yourself to better do that. It may be you don’t need an assistant to help manage your email. This may be something that you can still control.

One thing that we did is I immediately set up barriers for people to reach me. Now, I send out a lot of emails and my email is attached so a lot of people can respond directly to — right before this call, I sent out 80,000 emails to everyone on my general email broadcast list. I’m not going to go check my email right now, but I’ve probably gotten 20 to 40 responses in the last 20 minutes. Now, I don’t have time. I’ve set up filters so that most of those emails will go into my assistant’s email box and she’ll look through them and she’ll respond to a lot of people or would send them to something else or give them an acknowledgement.

We’ve got certain ways that we do that, but for many people, they may just need to set up better barriers. They may just need to unsubscribe from all the spam and all the junk that they’re subscribed to.

One thing I do with my contact form at Real Men Real Style is I do set up barriers because I’m very clear, if you’re spamming me with a general PR blast, please don’t. It’s funny because I tell people straight up. You can go check out my contact form, but that right there will help eliminate half of the junk that you’re getting, but if you still need something at that point and you’ve started looking at best practices, then you go in and you can then start to create a checklist of how somebody would respond.

For me, I leave it a little bit open, the checklist. We’ve got template emails and I found that, again, 80% of the emails could be answered with just a few checklists or a few templates, and that’s what I gave my assistant. I’ve got this in my company. It’s called “The Ten Commandments of Working for Real Men Real Style”. It’s very similar to — if anyone is raised in a Christian household, we’ve got the Ten Commandments. It’s funny how you can create all of these guidelines based off of these ten basic rules, and I’ve got that in my company.

So whenever people are answering emails for me, they know that we never send a negative email. We never say anything bad to anybody. I don’t do negative reviews. I don’t talk bad about anyone. I just don’t have the time. And when it comes down that someone is hateful or they’re sending something that’s not constructive criticism, we delete it immediately or we ban them from our channels.

Most of the stuff is simply following these rules of being kind to people, responding to them quickly within a 24-hour timeframe. Actually, we’ve written content for them to point them to it. So one of the things I’ve had to invest with everyone that works for me is that they had to spend about four months, not all at one time, but over a period of four months. They read through every single one of my articles, all 1300. They watch all of my 360 videos.

The reason they do this is I realized that investing in my people, even though they are contractors and many people may want to just [0:20:43] [Indiscernible] plug in and make things happen, I realized that they need to be able to think like me, and the best way to think like me is to go through my content and build that out.

That’s a long-term play. I don’t recommend it for everybody, but most companies have guidelines that they can simply give somebody so that they can know that if someone says something snarky to us on an email, we’re not going to reply back. It’s something that we just delete it and we get it out of there and we move on.

scale-your-businessTom: Okay. That segues into another question that I had then. For the person just starting out who is looking to scale, where do you look in terms of where to do the stuff first? Where do you put these things in play first? How do you decide that?

Antonio: Well, as an early business owner, you need to be focused on sales. You need to be focused on getting cash flow. I’m assuming that you don’t have venture capital. If you have venture capital, then it’s probably “Let’s substitute getting sales with getting eyeballs or getting users” or things like that.

In any case, you have a very important mission and that is where you need to focus. However, there are things in your business which don’t make you money, but still have to be done. Accounting is one of them. Now, is it productive for you to spend all weekend doing accounting and beating your head up against the table?

The first thing you can simply outsource is work with a bookkeeper. This is someone that is a contractor that will come in and basically can do that. That’s a great place to start for professional services. Start to work with some. I’m not saying you’ve got to find an online accountant. I work with a local accountant, but I had to go through — and that is one of the easiest ways to realize that that is part of your business that you will be doing the accounting, or you can actually say, “It’s worth it to be handling this off.”

It’s going to cost me $200 a month, but my goodness, I’m getting my weekends back and that is well worth it to me, and they’re sending me a report so I can know what things are going on. Look at those things that are important and that are mission-critical, but they’re not mission-critical in a sense of making you money and they’re not the best place you can be spending your time. Those are the first places I try to outsource things to immediately.

Tom: Okay, very cool. You had mentioned accounting. What else would you say are some of those things as you start to grow and scale?

Antonio: Really quick. Let me think. Tech is one of the things. My first contract and the first person I ever brought on basically took me out of spending time in WordPress and dealing with all of the tech issues. When it came down to it, I did not enjoy that. That wasn’t where I wanted to spend my time.

I was able to bring a guy on retainer. You’ve met him. My guy, Yuri, over in Ukraine helps run all of our sites. It also depends on who can you build a relationship with. I’m not going to say get the tech guy before the accountant. It may be the accountant is the easier one to get and can immediately free up four to ten hours a month for you, so go with that one. Those were things that were mission-critical to my business because I have a tech company, so we needed to have a tech person in there.

The next person I brought in after that was a writer because I didn’t want to be spending 12 to 14 hours a week writing. I was spending one day a week just writing out content. Even though I feel I’m a pretty good writer now, I found it was more cost effective to go out there and find a writer. Again, that was more geared towards my business.

If your business doesn’t depend on content like mine does, then you don’t need a writer. I’ll tell you, the people I have now, I’ve got a personal assistant. I’ve got two other general assistants who could fill her role when she goes on vacation, so I’ve got about three assistants. I’ve got two writers. I have one tech guy and I’ve got a tech woman in training under the tech guy. I have two artists. I have one videographer, but then again, I’ve got a YouTube channel, so you need to find specifically — and this is why I did that organization chart. I knew that my wife was doing our videos.

I knew that I was doing a lot with the videos and I knew that video is very important to us, so I was willing to pay what it cost to basically have a contractor who we send 20 videos to every single month and he does a much better job than we ever did of editing, getting them uploaded, and getting them down. The only thing I need to show for is actually filming the video.

Tom: Wow! This is a lot of good stuff. Great! Is there anything else we’re missing? I could probably ask more questions, but I’m looking this over, so it started with — well, I guess you start then with what is your business and understanding what it is that you do because you’ve mentioned, just for example, the YouTube channel. Not everybody is going to have a YouTube channel, but understanding that then you can figure out what are the steps that need to be taken to produce these videos on a consistent basis.

I like the organization chart, too. I think that’s pretty clever. I never really thought about breaking down my own tasks into something like that, but I think that makes a lot of sense. Is there anything else then as we go through this?

Antonio: Go ahead and ask me some questions. Let’s answer your questions. I’m sure that a lot of the people listening have the same questions that you do.

Tom: Well, I guess my next thing would be where do you look then to outsource? You’ve mentioned about Yuri and you obviously want good people. I think it’s one of these things that people get — again, it’s me just speaking out loud really my own fears.

If I start to go out and start to hire people, I want to make sure I’m hiring the right people and I’m actually willing to pay a bit of a premium to get the right people, but at the same time, it’s one of those fine lines there. I want to spend the appropriate amount of money to get the right people, so how do I do that?

Antonio: Okay. Remember the “Hire slowly, fire fast.” The way I do it is I don’t care about resumes. I don’t care about CVs, all that other stuff. Whatever people want to say about themselves, to be honest, I don’t care about any of that. I care about what you can do.

The best way that I have found to hire people is to hire your peers who perhaps aren’t making as much money as you are and in a sense, they’ve already proven and shown that they’re passionate about this industry, that they can do the work.

In my industry, there are a lot of men style bloggers out there that they don’t have the business sense and they’re great people to work with on a contract basis. I’ve gone out there and I’ve hired a contract manager and just did not work well. I realized I need to get her up to speed. It was like wow, I just dropped all this money and nothing actually was accomplished because I was spending the entire time trying to get them up to speed.

If you’re in something that’s very specialized or you feel like you want to pay for a skill set, that’s a great shortcut, is to find someone who’s already doing it that perhaps is open to doing some consulting work and they’ve already shown you through their online work that they’re capable of doing this.

If you put out a general ad, you’re going to have to go through a lot of people’s resumes. It’s a show. They’re trying to get in and get this paid work, but you want someone who would probably be doing this anyway even if they weren’t getting paid for it, so that’s probably one of the best tips.

The other one is to look at hiring a limited time contractor and have a set number of tests and barriers that you run them through to make sure that they’re up to speed. I do this with everyone I hire whether they’d be through Chris Ducker’s service over at Virtual Staff Finder, which is a great way to hire people abroad, or if I’m even hiring people here in the United States. Like with a writer, I don’t care of examples of what you’ve written. I’m going to have you write specifically for me and I want to see what you can do.

Tom: Okay, good stuff. How do you decide on what the tests are for something like that? I’m sure it’s position-dependent, but how do you develop the tests and barriers that’s an appropriate way to test somebody?

Antonio: I look at specifically what I want. Videographers, when I was hiring videographers, I ended up — so I put out a call to my own email list and then I looked at everything that they said that they could do, everything they said they would do, and then I talked with them.

Out of 20, I ended up whittling that down to five after the conversations, and those five, I invited them all to go ahead and edit this video. I gave them a set amount of instruction and I paid. I told them straight up, “I want good work. I’m going to pay you what you would normally charge me for this video.”

It was a way of immediately finding out how much they’re going to be charging. I put money on the line. “I’m going to pay you to do this. Give me your best work.” By doing that, yes, I did end up paying, in some cases, almost $150 to $200 for an interview. They were five selected people and from that, I now have a videographer. Most people agreed to do it and they really appreciated the fact that I was paying them to take this interview.

From it, I got an amazing videographer at a great price. Since then, my video production has tripled. I’ve got probably 40 videos in queue because the way the system — I have it set up with my videographer. I set up a system that kicks me in the butt. Basically, I have him on a retainer every month and whether or not I get him 20 videos, I’m paying him the same.

I’ve lit a fire under my backside that I’m going to get him those videos. Literally the day before they’re all due, I’ve come to my office and shot like 80 videos because I’m like, “Darn it. I’m paying for this. I’ve got to get it done.”

Tom: Awesome! That’s pretty funny. I like that. It’s a good incentive to stay on top of that. I think that’s a segue to a good question. What’s the best way to hire somebody? Is it part-time? Is it full-time? Is it retainer? Is it test-based? What’s the process to think about that question and to figure out what’s the right answer?

Antonio: As a small business, getting an employee, especially in the United States, one thing I don’t like about our country is they make it overly difficult. They call it ObamaCare. I can tell you, having been to other parts of the world, it would be really nice if — I could say I’m scared to bring on people because of all the insurance, the healthcare, all the things which are thrown on me as an employer. I’ve got to watch for this stuff.

I’m very hesitant about bringing somebody on full-time, by giving somebody benefits, which in many cases I don’t even get. There is the attitude. There are all these risks that you could get with someone once they come in to the company.

I’m a big fan of contractors and I’m a bigger fan of contractors that are outside of the United States and are very specialized. I know many people listening to this in the United States are like, “Gosh! Why don’t you hire somebody local?” It’s very difficult to find skilled work at a fair price.

Now, I do have about three Americans that work for me, but all of them are on a contract basis. It works really well, but I’m a big fan of contractors because I don’t have to — basically, I can pay money. They maybe cost more than an employee when you look at how much I’m paying them per hour, but the fact that at any point we can end the relationship — I like it because it’s compartmentalized and I pay a certain amount for a product that is consistently delivered.

Tom: Yes, I really like that. I really appreciate that perspective on it. It makes so much sense to me. Obviously, just from the context of again a small business starting to grow, the last thing you want to do is create too much overhead and then all of a sudden, you can’t sustain it months in. The contractors, at least if your business got hit or something like that, you can cut sling load and keep moving and hopefully not get crippled by it.

Tell me this then. When you look at hiring somebody — I took some notes here — contractors, you said specifically specialized and outside the US in terms of obviously getting a fair price for what you’re paying for. When you hire somebody then, do you look at it — you’ve mentioned retainer. Is that generally the way you go about it? How do you work that?

Antonio: Me personally, I like to bring someone on and I like to invest in them. I really quickly want to say when it comes to very specialized work, I oftentimes do for my writers. The best ones are in the United States because that’s my target market. They speak and they understand the culture and the language. My videographer, he’s over in Georgia and the guy does a great job, and I found that he understands the culture.

I will pay extra if you can provide the value. I think that’s one thing. If there’s anyone listening that is kind of why — we hear all this gloom and doom about Americans not being able to compete. It’s tough. I’ve got a Filipino assistant who literally will not only — I’m paying her less than a thousand dollars a month and she works for a full month. By the way, that’s double to triple what the average pay in our country is.

I’m paying her double of what all her friends are making. She loves what she does and she works while I sleep. It is a huge advantage. So literally, when I end my day, I can send her notes and the next morning, everything is done. That’s another hidden advantage, but there are cultural issues. There are things I’ve got to spend time on training them up. For me, I do like to work where I can project my expenses and I will be paying them a said amount per month.

If it’s a contractor, I’m going to be paying you $1000 per month, $2000 per month, $4000 per month. I just expect this amount of work to be done and boom, I can measure it. It’s very easy for me. I love paying for specialized contractors who in a sense can — my videographer, to be honest, I send him the raw video footage. He inserts all the images. He inserts all the wording. He uploads it to YouTube. It just makes my life easier.

Tom: Yeah, that’s awesome. That makes sense to me. Here’s a question and this is what I’m looking at literally right now. Looking at the things that I think are important to my business but that take up a lot of my time that aren’t necessarily the biggest value add because again, like you said, sales is the most important, so that’s where my focus should be, but there are certain things that have to be handled that supports sales whether it’s content creation or things like that. Podcasting is a good example, so I’m looking for something like that.

When you’re looking at a podcast, for example, or in the context of your video — maybe you did answer it, the videographer — is it common to hire multiple people for the same job? Because one might be specialized, say, in the editing and another person, the writing. You talked about that and especially if you’re looking to hire one or two people. How do you frame that? What’s the best way to approach that in terms of deciding what’s right?

Do you look for a general contractor that can do everything for you? Do you try to get it very specialized and have them work together? Does that question make sense? I know it’s kind of —

Antonio: It sort of does. Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer that, but it does bring up a great point. Whenever I hire people, I usually hire them relatively untrained. The way I look at it is that you can train a monkey to fly a jet.

If I’ve got good enough checklists — and you often pay a lot less for people that are a bit untrained and you’re not also picking up bad habits that they maybe had in other companies. I find most companies don’t use checklists with their people. That’s what I’m looking for.

One thing that I do that I haven’t seen many people do is I’ll hire in groups. So when I’m using Chris’ service, he usually presents three amazing VAs for you. The truth is that usually only one or two of them are amazing, so I’ll make him go back and — and he doesn’t do this. He’s got a whole team set up, but I’ll make them present to me at the end of the day about six to nine Vas of which I will hire three, three of them that just blew me away.

Here’s the thing. They run through a very tough one to two-month training program of which only half survive. It’s kind of like SERE School. I push them and I really want to make sure I’ve got the right person because you could only know that when you — kind of like one of the reasons we run people through boot camp. It’s not that they learn a whole lot in boot camp, but what they learn and what we learn about them is, can they take pressure?

Are they a diamond? Can they be put under that extreme pressure and heat and will they survive? That’s what I look for in my company. At the end of it, not all make it. I hired three and only two made it or only one made it, but that’s what I get at the end of it. I’m happy to say that for me, that type of process works. Once they’ve made it through that process, then I start cross-training them. I make sure other people on my team bring them up to speed.

People love to train other people when you show them why it benefits them. I always tell people on my team, “If you do not have someone in our company that can do your job, you can’t take a vacation. If you do, guess what, I offer two weeks a year. Take a vacation. Get out of here.” The only way you can do that is if you have someone on your team who can do what you do.

Tom: Yeah. One thing that I remember hearing from John actually — and he’s talked about this before when he started his podcasting in Entrepreneur on Fire, he actually frontloaded this stuff a little bit, so it’s one of those things that I think is kind of fascinating, too, is when to look to hire.

I think he said that he hired a couple full-time VAs right from the beginning, right from the get-go to handle the backend stuff for Entrepreneur on Fire. Obviously, we know that for the first six months or whatever that it was live. And however many months before that, as he was developing it, he wasn’t making any cash from it.

Is that a risky bet? Obviously, it paid off for him. What are your thoughts on that in terms of putting money towards something if you haven’t made cash yet or if it’s minimal? How do you go about thinking about that in the context of the business that you want?

Antonio: Tom, how much is your time worth?

Tom: Yeah, that’s a good point. Hundreds? I don’t know.

how much is your time worth?Antonio: You should come up with a number. I’ve got on my website — this is like two years old. Two years ago, I put $500 an hour is what my time is worth. So my VAs and my tech assistants, they know that if it’s a hundred dollar problem, they handle it. If someone needs a $47 refund or a $97 refund, they don’t call me up on the weekend saying, “Antonio, can we do this?”

They are authorized to deal with this because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t happen very often and it’s not worth my time. I focus in on issues that are in the $1000 range or that are in the $500 range. I think that was very smart of John to realize that our time has value.

That’s what money should buy you in a business. Don’t use money to experiment with things. Use money to accelerate. If you know something works — so I’ve got VA. I pay her straight up for social media and this is all she does in my company, is social media manage. She has built my Google+ account, my Google+ channel, my Pinterest account.

I knew Pinterest was important, but I would not have been able to predict — it would be like my number two, consistently number two source for referral traffic. Google+, it’s in the top ten, which most people are always surprised about because most people have written off Google+, but I can tell you from an SEO perspective aspect — go check out SEO Moz. They can tell you the importance of Google+ and how those Google ranking factors all go into there.

The thing is I would not have a business, I would’ve gone into bankruptcy if I would’ve focused on social media, but I realized that paying somebody to make that their — they’re so focused on becoming smarter with it and growing us because our stuff, it catches fire on social media. Those are smart bets. I don’t even go into Facebook or any of this other stuff. It’s cool. I understand it’s got value, but it doesn’t have the type of value — I focus in on the real relationships and I’m spending time with my customers who are in a sense bringing in thousands of dollars to my company.

Tom: Wow! That’s really good. I love that quote there that you said about money. “Use money to accelerate.” I think that’s very interesting, very cool. Honestly, you hit all the main points that I would — I guess I could continue to ask, but I think we’ve pretty comprehensively hit this topic.

Antonio, anything else to add when it comes to this topic, SOPs, setting up systems and processes for your business, stuff like that? Anything else to add?

Antonio: I would say that SOPs, a lot of us think of them — it’s so funny, the SOPs stories. I was the adjutant of an infantry battalion. One of the gunnies, me and him used to butt heads a lot. Besides me being an officer, he also didn’t like the fact that I was an S1 in an infantry battalion and I was in a sense always — we were just butting heads over there.

I remember I was on duty and I was up in my office. He comes up and he’s like, “Hey, sir! According to the orders here, in the SOPs, your tactic line is supposed to be down in the duty office.” The thing is, all the phone is ramped — I mean, I was the guy that designed all the stuff. I’m like, “That’s a great point and I’ll take it in consideration.”

What I did is I rewrote the whole SOP so the adjutant was exempt from everything. They got their CO to sign up. Basically, it didn’t make any logical sense. I think that’s one of the problems in the military that we had with SOPs. Sometimes we would see them and they’re 20 years old, they’re five years old. This stuff does not apply.

Remember, the SOPs you create in your business should be living documents. Ideally, you’ve got your team creating them. The people that are following the SOPs realize that this is for their protection and to make their lives easier, and that they should be able to go in there and create these living Wikis, if you can imagine that. That’s a great way to do SOPs, by the way.

So if you understand that, you can really create ones that are useful to you. You don’t want to follow this and just create something rigid which people ignore. You want them to actually use them, follow them, and then make it a part of their culture and then you’re going to be really able to accelerate with the business.

Tom: Awesome! Great stuff. I have nothing else to add except this has been hugely beneficial for me. I hope the listeners found it beneficial as well. I know, Antonio, you probably want to end it with something that —

Antonio: Of course. I’ve got to throw in my Semper Fi. I felt you’re maybe fishing for that, but I like to just — I always got to throw in a Semper Fi.

In fact, I think at the end of every checklist or SOP, there should be “Semper Fi” written right there with a big picture of Chesty Puller or a bulldog or something really cool. I guess if you’re in the Army, you could put something cool there like, I don’t know, maybe some pink jump wings or something like that.

Tom: I like it. Good stuff. Well, thank you everyone for listening. I hope you guys got a lot of value out of this. I know I personally did. If you’re listening to this though, check us out over at and leave us a review on iTunes. We’d love to hear from you, to hear what your comments are about this and ways we can improve it, too. Leave a comment. Let us know a topic you’d like us to talk on.

Obviously, we pull topics generally not out of thin air, but based on feedback from either High Speed Elite members or from just other veterans out there wondering and asking questions about business, really anything. We’re happy to talk about any subject. Check out iTunes. Check out and please leave us a review and get in touch if you want to. We’d love hearing from you, so thank you so much. Antonio, anything else?

Antonio: No. That’s it, Tom. Good talking with you. We’ll talk later.

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