Continuing our Partner series, this episode Micheline Christophe joins us from babel-team, a Brazillian agency that has helped countless businesses grow, as well as Jennifer Leslie, a Content Creator at Infusionsoft. Micheline walks us through the three things most small business forget to do that make a huge difference in their bottom line.
Dusey Van Dusen: Hello, listeners, this is Dusey Van Dusen. I am the producer of The Small Business Success podcast, and we're continuing our series, speaking with some of our partners that we work with here Infusionsoft that are experts in small business and helping small business succeed. Today we have a very special guest, Micheline, how is it going?
Micheline: Hi, Dusey, thank [00:00:30] you, I'm fine, I'm very happy to be here.
Dusey Van Dusen: Awesome, fantastic. We are also joined by Jennifer Again. Hello, Jennifer.
Jennifer Leslie: Hello, hello again. It's a pleasure to have you here, Micheline.
Micheline: Thank you.
Dusey Van Dusen: Jennifer is one of our content creators with Infusionsoft. Micheline, could you tell us a little bit about Babel-team, your company, who you are, what you do?
Micheline: Okay, thanks. Babel-team is a small company in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, very far away from here.
Dusey Van Dusen: [00:01:00] Can I come visit you sometime?
Micheline: Of course, you are welcome.
Jennifer Leslie: [crosstalk 00:01:04].
Micheline: We started working ten years ago as a digital agency doing advertise and lot of things. Until we discovered Infusionsoft in 2011, for ourselves, we started as users of Infusionsoft, and we did so many good things that our customers started to ask [00:01:30] us, "oh, how do you do this? How do you do that?," and we sold our first account. After this, from that moment to now, we grew, we are partners of Infusionsoft. We are resellers in Brazil, but we also serve customers. We give courses, we create campaigns, we help them; and, for the moment, we're proud to be the first international partners [00:02:00] for Infusionsoft. We started just me and my husband, Jorge Aldrovandi-
Dusey Van Dusen: And you said that was in 2006 that you guys first started, you and your husband?
Micheline: 2006, we started; 2011 we sold our first account, Infusionsoft. In 2013, we had our first certified partners, who is Fabio; and now we have more two certified ICP's, one is Jorge, my husband, the other is Gianna, [00:02:30] so we are free now in our business, and I'm proud to say that in the last six months we doubled our company, both in revenue and in size with employees. This is hard work with Infusionsoft.
Dusey Van Dusen: How many employees have you two now?
Micheline: Now we have 14.
Dusey Van Dusen: Wow, so just in 2006, just you and your husband, and now you've got 14 employees.
Micheline: Yes, that's it.
Dusey Van Dusen: That's fantastic. I would like ... You guys have so much experience [00:03:00] helping small businesses and their marketing. What your company does sounds like they get in there with a nitty-gritty of setting up campaigns to automate their marketing and figuring out marketing strategies, and all that sort of stuff; but you focus more on how the business is running, is that right?
Micheline: Yes, I used to say I'm the back office. I take care of finance, of human resource, I hire, I train people, then I fire sometimes.
Dusey Van Dusen: [00:03:30] The fun part of the job, I'm sure.
Micheline: But I'm really the back office, what I do is around the office. I would be in a big company, the CEO, that's it.
Dusey Van Dusen: That's what you should still go by then, and see, "oh, I like it."
Micheline: We have been running our company in the country that, you know, Brazil is not passing by a good moment now. We have a huge crisis, both [00:04:00] economic and politic crisis, and in those time you have to be more strict and more "rigorous," you say this in English?
Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah, "rigorous," yeah.
Micheline: I'm sorry because I'm not native in English.
Dusey Van Dusen: Oh, no, you are doing a wonderful job.
Micheline: So that's what I do.
Dusey Van Dusen: Very cool. You mentioned that some things in Brazil have been difficult, I would love to just hear like ... You guys have been managing to grow your business, despite some of those difficulties or crisises that are happening in Brazil. I would [00:04:30] just love to hear your perspective on that, and how you guys push through that.
Micheline: Okay. I would say that to run a business in any scenario, if it's good or bad, you have to have a strong culture, and this doesn't raise from night to day, you have to build it. You have to work your values, why are you here, what are you doing, why [00:05:00] do you wake up each morning, and I think we have this in place. But then we have a huge network ... I think it's huge for a small business, we have 120 partners, [crosstalk 00:05:11] partners that work with us and help us resell Infusionsoft accounts-
Dusey Van Dusen: That is great.
Micheline: And they have been very loyal for the last six years, when we started building this network, and I would say [00:05:30] this is based on trust. You have to be very transparent, [inaudible 00:05:35] transparency. You build trust day by day. They know they can count on us to build their business, and we count on them to build our business. We act together in the same boat, let's say like this, and they really trust us.
This is the same that happens with our employees. How can a small business [00:06:00] like ours hire and retain talent? Because it's hard to train people, then they say goodbye. Really, I'm very happy because the turnover in our company is nearly zero. We have [inaudible 00:06:17] ... The last five years we have just one person that quit because she moved from the town, but ... We are not able to [00:06:30] pay highest salaries for our employees, because we are small, but we try to make a very good ambience space for work, friendly, supportive.
I care for my employees, I care for their lives, what they are doing, their dreams. I help them in the way that I can help, if they want to build a career, if they want to prepare themselves to study, we have a policy [00:07:00] that we share with them the cost of their courses, we pay half of what they need. I think this have been paying off. I think they are happy, they are with us, and we build our company together.
Jennifer Leslie: That's a great way to stablish loyalty too and to have that culture as part of your brand. I think it's really important, I think that can be a big part of success for small businesses like that.
Micheline: Sure, I think [00:07:30] people may see Babel-team as a trustful company, they can trust us, employees can trust, partners can trust, customers can trust us.
Jennifer Leslie: Yeah, absolutely.
Micheline: I think it is a win-win game.
Jennifer Leslie: I love that you ... We're talking about helping grow their career, or helping with their training and things like that. Even if you can't financially supporting them, you can still find ways to help them. I think that just goes to show that finances only go so far. [00:08:00] Just thinking of me personally, as an employee, I would find knowing that somebody's invested in me as a person and in my career trajectory, more valuable than my paycheck. I think that's great.
Micheline: I love this. I love really to help my people, and employees are people, so I love to help them, I care really. You know what, when you say, "this build a strong brand," [00:08:30] but this is a consequence. You don't do this for the result, you do this because it comes from your heart, because you believe in this, in helping people, in being transparent, in being honest, ethics. I think this is the core thing that drives all the rest.
Jennifer Leslie: Absolutely.
Dusey Van Dusen: Right. What's the purpose for you of doing it, right? The purpose is ... If care is not at the center [00:09:00] of what you're doing, then maybe is not really care.
Micheline: [crosstalk 00:09:06].
Dusey Van Dusen: Exactly. You obviously have a ton of experience with how to run a small business, so my next question to you is what are the three most important things that ... Pieces of advice that you would give to a small business, the things that you see that they struggle with that you are just kind of shaking your head saying, "oh, you should be doing this," so what are those three things?
Micheline: Okay. There're [00:09:30] lots of things to do, but let me think about just three. From my point of view, because really I am in the back office, I will not speak about marketing campaigns or all of this. We have been using Infusionsoft in a different way, not only for marketing, for external result, but also internally, automating our business. What I would say, three things; first of all, know your processes, you have to know [00:10:00] them and write down them, because if you don't know, you can not go, you can not attribute this to someone ... I don't know how to say it in English, [crosstalk 00:10:15].
Dusey Van Dusen: That makes sense, yeah.
Micheline: Start small, start by one process. When I started I didn't even knew all my process, when I saw everything written, I said, "oh, how much [inaudible 00:10:27] I do."
Dusey Van Dusen: And [00:10:30] that's a good point ... You write that down and you see, "oh, man, no wonder I feel like it [inaudible 00:10:35] ... So busy all the time, look at all this stuff that I'm doing."
Micheline: Just try to write down what is your average day, "I come to office on Monday, what are my task? What I do?" After this you can describe each task, and then you can link one to another and see that there is a process there. When you have a process, [00:11:00] you can imagine if [inaudible 00:11:01] can think about it, if it is recurrent, if you have to repeat it monthly, or weekly or daily; and if you can repeat it, you have to automate it. If you can automate it, you can save your time, free your time, and you can scale, you can teach this to someone else, but it has to be clear for you first.
Dusey Van Dusen: Would that be your second thing-
Micheline: My first thing is know your process and write them down. Second thing, [00:11:30] automate your process. Internally, anything. When a customer buys your product, who must be aware of this? The finance to charge? The training person? The delivery team? All those processes can be automated too. Start by one and then you will see how much your work you can do in one month, in two months, in one semester-
Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah, just keep knocking each one [00:12:00] out, one at the time, don't get overwhelmed.
Micheline: Yes, it's persistency. And the third thing I would say that I learned by myself is control your finances, because we always complain of lack of money, but sometimes money is there, you just expend it without clarity. You have to note your ... To take records of your expenses [00:12:30] and of your revenues, know where are your expenses, from where come your revenues. If you have information, you can take decisions, informed decisions, you can cut costs and you can plan. You can say, "I want to come to iCon. Can I come to iCon? Where's the money?" So you have to look at your records.
Dusey Van Dusen: It's such a simple advice, [00:13:00] but it's surprising how easy it is to not do that, right? I've seen that in my own life, just with my own personal finances. It can just be so much easier to just be like, "well, okay, yeah, I normally got this, and close enough," or, "I have it on my head," as opposed to like, "no, let's just take the time to figure out the planning," and then you can start to see ... You might find gaps of like, "oh, why is that expending that?," or, "that's the thing that's really killing us," or, "this is [00:13:30] where we're really making our money and I didn't even realize that." There's a lot of insights that come from that.
Micheline: Yes, it's information. You have to know where you are, where you start, and sometimes we don't do this, not because we don't want, it's because we're so small and we do everything. My husband and me, we did everything for this business. We didn't have time, we always say, "oh, I can do it tomorrow," and, "this is not important, the important thing is to deliver [00:14:00] the product, is to please the customer, serve the customer," and you just keep going and one day say, "oh, what can I do now? Where's the money? How can I hire someone? What will he do if I don't have clear my process? What I will teach him to do?"
Dusey Van Dusen: I think a lot people would definitely put priority on, like you said, serving the customer, which is great ... Maybe I think a lot more people actually need to [00:14:30] do that, but we hear that a lot of like ... Make sure that you are actually serving your customer, and then that's a priority in your business, but if you don't have the money to run your business, then there's no way you can serve your customers right. It might inform some decisions like, "you know what? We're gonna make it. It takes an extra two days for us to deliver the product," because that's gonna give us some of the time that we need to make sure that this process is there in place, and maybe you are able to speed it up again later down the line, but it's not ... That's not [00:15:00] a disservice to the customer, if you set the correct expectations, and then that allows you the time to make sure that you've got things straight in your business.
Micheline: That's it. We have learned this by ourselves, but also listening to good advice. Michael Gerber, the coach, he's very well known here in the States and out of the States, he always says that you have to stop a little bit and to work on your business, to think about your business to [00:15:30] be able to go, and not in your business all the time serving, serving, and ... Of course it's important, but you have to stop a little bit and think about your business.
The second turning point for us it was coming last year to the Elite Forum that Infusionsoft organized, and we thought about what we were doing. This was the first step to write down our process, to know where to cut, where to go, and this was really [00:16:00] awesome.
Dusey Van Dusen: That's fantastic. We'll definitely put a link to some of Michael Gerber's materials. We've followed a lot of his advice, we've got that quote of, "don't work in your business, work on your business," we've got that really big upstairs in the Infusionsoft [inaudible 00:16:16] ... Also, I'm very happy to hear that the Elite Forum and the various Elite services that we have, have helped you guys out. We'll put a link to that in the show notes as well. Any final thoughts that you would like to give our listeners before we wrap up?
Micheline: [00:16:30] Don't quit.
Jennifer Leslie: That's a good one.
Micheline: That's it.
Dusey Van Dusen: Fantastic. Thank you very much, Micheline, for joining us-
Micheline: Thank you for this opportunity to join you.
Dusey Van Dusen: Absolutely. If you want to learn more about Micheline's company, Babel-team, just go to babelteam.com, that's B-A-B-E-L-T-E-A-M dot com, and you can find out all about their business there. Is that all in Portuguese? Is there English there?
Micheline: There is an English version.
Dusey Van Dusen: All right, fantastic. So our listeners can go check-
Micheline: And [00:17:00] Spanish.
Dusey Van Dusen: And Spanish, great. English, Spanish, Portuguese, go check out babelteam.com.
Micheline: Thank you.
Dusey Van Dusen: Thank you, Jennifer also, for coming on the podcast again. I always appreciate having you here.
Jennifer Leslie: Absolutely. Thank you both for your time.
Dusey Van Dusen: Yeah. And a quick note for our listeners. If you like free stuff, and I'm guessing you do, if you are trying to bootstrap your own business, then you should get your free trial of Infusionsoft. You can use our CRM, email, marketing and campaign tools, and get coaching for two weeks without spending a dime. If you've been thinking about how to organize yourselves in marketing but aren't [00:17:30] sure you are ready to take the plunge, you'll quickly see the value you can get out of having everything in one place with Infusionsoft. Just go to bit.ly/sbsfreetrial to sign up. That's bit.ly/sbsfreetrial. SBS as in Small Business Success free trial. We will see you all ... Well, you'll hear us all next time on the Small Business Success podcast. Thanks.