The focus on making more profit isn’t always about being able to buy bigger and better. It’s about feeling confident that no matter what crisis hits, you are prepared to take care of your family.
Such is the case with Technology Marketing Toolkit’s 2020 Better Your Best contest winner, and founder of Preactive IT Solutions, Charles Swihart.
In 2005, Charles’s six-year-old daughter, Caroline, was in a lot of pain. Caroline was subjected to a number of tests and doctor visits before it was finally discovered that she was suffering from a rare disease called Chiari malformation and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
“She was having lots of headaches because, basically, her brain was falling out of the back of her head,” Charles explains. After two failed surgeries and lots of research, they found success with a world-renowned specialist in New York.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Charles and his wife, Laurie, discovered that all four of their children suffer from this chronic condition. One of their twins, Charlie, is also special needs.
The continuing treatments require Laurie to frequently leave their home in Houston, Texas, to accompany the children to their doctor’s appointments and procedures in New York. Gone weeks at a time, Laurie spent six months in New York last year, preventing her from working. Their educational expenses are also high because public schools won’t work with children who miss weeks of school at a time. “For a long time, we’ve been paying $40,000 to $50,000 a year for private schools,” Charles says, “to get them into the best schools that would be flexible and work with them when they come back from treatments.”
Which is why Charles found himself needing more money. It’s not that he was doing badly. He always made over $100K in his IT business; however, between the ongoing extensive travel costs, medical bills, and private school tuition, he needed to make more. “There’s always been motivation for me to make a bunch of money,” Charles says. “And we’ve got to figure that Charlie will live with us or a sibling, and the kids may need a little help here and there as they struggle with their medical stuff even though they are getting to be adults now.” (Caroline is 20; Isabelle and Charlie, 18; Nicholas, 16.)
He knew that to increase his income, he had to start outside selling. “You need to get in front of people you’ve never met, and that’s going to take marketing,” Charles says. “And I never had a marketing and sales department. It was just me, willy-nilly doing a billboard here, a bandit sign there, a flyer or advertisement in some magazine. There was no planned marketing effort.”
In 2014, despite doubts, Charles invested in Technology Marketing Toolkit. “I thought, ‘Is this going to be a waste of money?’” he recalls. Charles confesses he didn’t do much until 2015, when he attended the Roadshow in Dallas and joined the Producers Club.
“That’s when the real fear came,” he says. “I remember pacing back and forth and asking all these questions… It’s like getting on top of a cliff to jump into the water, and when you get to the edge, you just can’t make your feet jump off. I took that plunge, and it’s been a wild ride. It’s been fun… From that point forward, we started growing.”
Since joining Technology Marketing Toolkit, Charles’s revenue has grown from $928,000 to $1.76 million in 2019. Even more impressive is that his profit and salary is 3.5 times higher than when he started. “The surprising part of joining Technology Marketing Toolkit is how much financial success I’ve had,” he says. “Last year’s profit and salary were $650K. This year my family is going to benefit $700,000.”
Other than what he owes on the new home he purchased in 2018, which sits on seven acres, Charles is now living debt-free. “We pay cash for things,” Charles says. “Company cars, paid for; company line of credit, paid off. Personal cars, paid for. My daughter Caroline is going to a private university in Alabama and Isabelle is going to Sanford University in Birmingham. We might not have been able to afford that before. Now we’re going to cash-flow that. It won’t be a big deal to write those checks.” The list goes on… His four cows, 17 chickens, John Deere tractor, new metal roof, new driveway…all paid for in cash. Plus, he’s invested, building up substantial savings should his family need it.
He also has more time freedom. “I have really backed out of the technical side,” Charles says. “Now I’m doing a little bit in the way of project management, but I’m not dealing in the day-to-day tech stuff.”
Here are 10 strategies Charles has used to more than triple his profit:
1. Develop A Managed Services Model
When Charles first purchased the Toolkit in 2014, nearly all of his income came from break-fix work. Today his business model has shifted significantly, with most of his revenue coming from managed services.
“If I had not found Technology Marketing Toolkit, we’d still be doing break-fix work,” Charles says. “Our work would have dried up; we’d be going without revenue, or almost none, for four to six weeks now (during the Covid-19 crisis). Whereas in our managed services model, we’ve maintained revenue , and our income is actually up a little bit.”
2. Focus On Marketing
Backing out of the day-to-day operations, Charles spends most of his energy on marketing: “The most successful IT companies are the ones where the CEO is focused on the marketing and gets out of doing the technical side of the business.”
When he first started implementing Technology Marketing Toolkit, he “Robinized” his website, got his newsletter together and focused on having the back-end marketing in place. Next, he got systems in place to track leads and results, test and send out campaigns on autopilot. This year he is focused on doing more marketing than he’s ever done before.
3. Follow The Proven Marketing Campaigns EXACTLY
When Charles first started implementing marketing campaigns, he didn’t implement them fully. It wasn’t until 2018, when he followed the Technology Marketing Toolkit proven campaigns EXACTLY, that he began to see growth. “I was frustrated,” Charles recalls. “I didn’t do the follow-up, so that didn’t work.” In 2018, he implemented Infusionsoft MAP, had a system in place and personally did all the follow-up. “I sat down with Infusionsoft and I ran down my entire list. I got good results. I found some of my biggest clients out of that… We grew $400,000 in a year from that. And last year we did more campaigns, and we grew again.” The increase in sending marketing letters this year has already tripled his list.
4. Don’t Blaze A New Trail
Charles credits much of his success to the Producers Club. “Producers Club appealed to me because I was seeing the success of others who had already gone before me,” he says. “You’re following the bread crumbs of others. You don’t have to machete the jungle. You can go where others have gone and pick up a phone and talk to others who have already solved your specific problem.”
5. Replace Bad Clients With Good Ones
After joining the Producers Club, Charles started implementing the Pumpkin Plan. “We started figuring out who our best customers are and started cleaning up and getting rid of the bad ones,” Charles explains. “As you bring in a new customer, you get rid of an old bad one.” Charles did this in phases, eventually replacing his break-fix residential customers with good commercial customers willing to sign a contract.
6. Invest In A REAL Salesperson
After seeing success with the follow-up calls, Charles knew he needed help. He hired two young women, a woman he knew from church and her friend. “When I go back and look now at the data in Infusionsoft, they weren’t really making all the calls,” he says. “So, the only reason we didn’t grow more in 2019, the big difference, is I quit making the calls myself. Now in 2020, I hired a legitimate inside salesperson who has lots of experience. His whole job is getting those letters out the door and making the phone calls.” Charles reveals that his salesperson is getting traction and setting appointments, despite COVID-19.
7. Become More Efficient
Charles won the Better Your Best competition because he focused on efficiency. He had worthy opponents bringing in a lot more than $1.76 million. Of the five finalists facing off for the title, Charles had the fewest customers, the smallest revenue and the fewest employees. But he won because he was more efficient and is knocking it out of the park in profit, with the highest average contract with customers (monthly revenue by customer) and the highest net profit.
8. Narrow Your Target Market
Charles also narrowed his vertical market. Making himself stand out as the go-to guy, he wins contracts often, despite being higher-priced than his competitors. “We’ve raised prices and narrowed our market,” he says. “When I go meet with an engineering firm, I’m handing him a bunch of testimonials from guys he knows and works with on projects. It’s a heck of a lot better than a testimonial from somebody in a completely different industry that he has no idea who that is. He knows them and can pick up the phone and talk to them, which gives me a way better shot than my competitor.”
9. Be Persistent
Also a Better Your Best finalist in 2019, Charles didn’t win then. “It was extremely disappointing,” he recalls. After the celebration party last year, he caught a late flight and went home early. “I wallowed in my misery awhile and then I thought, ‘What a waste to do all that work if I never win the car. So, let’s get back to the marketing. Let’s get this done and get back in there again.’”
Charles dug in harder, focusing on profit, which won him a seat as a finalist a second year in a row. (Worth noting: five of the last six winners of the Better Your Best contest did not win their first time entering.)
10. Shut Down The Voices Of Doubt
One of the things Charles learned from entering the contest is to shut down the voices that hold you back. Worth more than winning the Aston Martin car was the confidence booster he received from his peers voting for him, something he wouldn’t have experienced had he let the voices of doubt win.
“It was like Christmas morning,” Charles says about the moment he heard he’d won. “I’m a car guy and I’ve been putting off getting myself a hot rod… I had the cash, but I’ve been doing the mature thing and putting it to use other places… And to be a spokesperson, for me personally, it’s recognition by your peers. Look at these guys who are at the Boot Camps…there are probably more people making a million a year or more in that room than you’ve ever been around in your life. There is a lot of money in that room that Robin Robins has helped people to make. That’s why they love Robin – she is worth her weight in gold. So, I was one of those new guys questioning, ‘Do I belong? Those guys are fancy businesspeople, right? I’m not that. I’m this guy who runs a computer repair shop.’ Winning is validation that you are a business guy. You are a marketing genius. You are a salesman of the year. You’re a badass. Not that I was when I came in the door, but I became one quickly because of Technology Marketing Toolkit. If you are questioning, ‘Do I really deserve this? Do I have what it takes?’ just shut the voices down and keep moving on.”
Follow Charles’s bread crumbs to make more money, grow your company’s profits and gain more time freedom. When you do, you’ll feel confident you can provide, even in times of crisis. Plus, who knows? You might just find yourself onstage accepting the keys to a new car as the next Better Your Best contest winner.
Join Robin Robins and Charles Swihart at the event that inspired Charles and led to his tremendous success…the Double Your Revenue Roadshow, coming your way this fall. You’ll discover how to double your IT sales and profits WITHOUT needing new clients, doubling your prospecting efforts or overloading your technical team. Visit https://www.doubleyourrevenueroadshow.com/ to learn more or reserve your spot.