What to do when you need to clone yourself

by Peter Shallard

How to Clone Yourself even if you have to put out business fires constantly

Each week, dozens of entrepreneurs tell me their biggest struggles via my Clarity Couch free consulting test drive. Again and again, I hear people crying out for a clone of themselves.

There is never enough time to work on the business, because everyone is too busy working in their business. Sound familiar?

You can’t outsource the big picture genius that’ll push your business to the next level – you have to make that happen yourself. If you’re constantly run off your feet putting out fires and keeping customers or staff happy, you have a problem.

So here’s my guide to cloning yourself. 

Step 1 – Delegate learning how to delegate

The problem with the cliched advice “You should delegate more!” is that, frankly, no one has the time.

If your business makes you feel like you’re running around with your head on fire, this tired tip doesn’t feel very helpful. To be able to effectively delegate, not only would you have to find good help, you’d have to stop what you’re doing long enough to figure out how to actually delegate stuff. Impossible!

The answer is to just delegate doing that.

The secret is to hire some ninja young millennial who’s hungry to be a part of something and learn. You know, one of those kids who can type several thousand words a second (since they grew up instant messaging all their friends) and who has never known a world without the internet. They know things, these kids.

Then, all you do is pay that kid for one day. Think of it as an extended job interview. Pay them to follow you around, silently, observing the things you do and noting down things they think they can take off your plate. Tell them that the more they think they can help with, the more likely they’ll get a permanent job.

At the end of the day, let them debrief and pitch you on what their job should be – what they’ll take over from you.

This works because it forces you to look at your day’s workflow through new eyes. This is something you should do even if you don’t intend to hire an assistant.

Instead of buying into the BS excuses you have for your inefficiencies, this kid will look at your  fluffing around and cut through the nonsense. Where you see hours of email culling or other mindless drudgery, their eyes will see dollar signs. You inefficiencies are their opportunities – they’ll not hesitate in uncovering them.

Setting this up is as easy as running a short job ad, then bringing the kid in. The day shadowing you IS the interview. It tests for initiative and will not fail you. If it works, you automatically learn to delegate. If it fails, you just worked a regular day with a sidekick. No big deal, try again.

Step 2 – Make a dollar while you sleep 

This is the big obstacle to most entrepreneurs scaling their businesses. Freelancers get stuck here because they’re always trading their time for money.

You can’t effectively clone yourself unless you first make a buck while napping. Note that I didn’t say “Make $100k while sleeping!” – we just want to increase your revenue by a teensy little bit. There are very few scalability problems that can’t be solved by a gradual and sustainable 10-20% increase in revenue. That’s our goal here.

The first thing to look at is a metric the retailer industry nicknamed “average basket size” – referring to the bag of loot customers arrive at your checkout with.

Increasing the average basket size in your business is the easiest single boost in revenue you can make. Grocery stores do it by simply putting gum and chocolate at the counter area to inspire last minute impulse purchases. Internet marketers do it with up-sells. Amazon pioneered the famous “People who bought this also bought…”

Having freed up a little of your time with your new helper, it’s time to start strategizing on how you can increase the average spend of each customer by 10-20%. Ask yourself how you can effortlessly add value without increasing a permanent time/energy spend on your part.

The answer will be dependent on your industry, but the principals are always the same.

Step 3 – Fire half your customers, double your prices

Here we get to the radical and crazy advice where you’ll want to shake your head and walk away. That’s okay, but let me ask you something:

How is not doing this working out for you?

The thing about people who are always wishing for a clone is that they’re, without fail, always servicing an underpriced demographic who doesn’t value their product/services enough. Always.

If this is you, you need to make a study of the art and science of marketing to the affluent. This isn’t so you can simply sell things to billionaires (it’s never that black or white), but rather so that you can understand just how much space there is in the market between where you’re at now and the ultra-ultra affluent.

Keep things in perspective by realizing two things: First, that doubling your prices will only lift you into a “slightly more affluent” demographic. Second, the place your prices are currently set is already alienating a few billion people who could never afford that.

I recently pulled some stats for a talk I gave on the psychology of marketing to the ultra affluent. Did you know that there are sixteen thousand people in the USA with a net-worth of $100 million or more? Think how many folks with slightly less than $10 million there must be.

So why are you stuck selling things to people who can barely afford to pay for them?

If we boil down the psychology of the “Clone me!” business owner, we’re almost always left with someone who doesn’t value themselves or their product enough to truly escape the cycle of being overworked. They feel like they have to constantly do things to compensate for not being worth enough.

So the last step, if you need to clone yourself, is to take a good hard look at what your business offers the world. Ask yourself if it’s intrinsically worth a lot and if it isn’t, ask How can I make it worth more?

If you’re the only asset of value, you’re going to have to wait a few hundred years for cloning technology to go mainstream. In the meantime, why not create something that’s worth more than your time.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin Buck July 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Love your advice to hire a young person to point out inefficiencies. How counter-intuitive for almost everyone! But young people are eager not only to make “easy money” as some quasi-consultant, they want to be mentored and they crave the opportunity to contribute. Love the post!

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Peter Shallard July 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hey Justin,

Thanks for the comment – this is a great point on what the reciprocal value would be if someone follows step 1.

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Mike Turco July 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Speaking of just the “fire half your customers” thing. I do that every few years and should probably do it ever six months. I try to be objective about it, though. I have a chart that I put together. How much money I made from the customer, how much of my time I spent working for them. Whether I like working with them personally. Whether I enjoy doing the actual work that I do, etc. The chart tends to pan out such that it reflects my gut feeling going into the process, but not always.

“Fire half your customers” is perhaps the corollary to the working man’s “If you can’t be fired, you can’t be promoted.”

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Peter Shallard July 8, 2013 at 3:23 pm

This is a great point Mike – really cool to see how you’re looking at the holistic value of who you work with, beyond the financial net gains. I dig it.

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John M. Fulwider July 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm

All three are helpful tips, and they’re on my list for discussing with my business partner.

Question on #1: I’m a business coach, and my work day—which the young person could help optimize—involves frequent use of confidential client data. How would you suggest adapting your suggestion to fit? I can see other small-shop professionals in service industries like accounting and the law having similar concerns.

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Peter Shallard July 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm

For the 1 day trial, I think it’s possible to do this in such a way that client confidentiality isn’t compromised – your would-be assistant doesn’t necessarily need to pour over the details to find out what they can help you with. Long term, you can protect yourself as any company that deals with sensitive data would (mine included) – have your staff all sign NDA’s .

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Frank July 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Thanks. Great post as usual. “In the meantime, why not create something that’s worth more than your time.” Can you suggest where I might start to learn how to do this? Are you thinking a course, a book, a members only site, or what? I like the idea but for some reason my mind isn’t processing an answer for me.

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Peter Shallard July 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Hey Frank,

It’d help to know what industry you’re in (or your skillset is in) but in lieu of that I would probably take a look at The Lean Startup (for a book) or http://www.TheFoundation.com (for a course – although that’s uber niche specific).

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Frank July 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Thanks for that Peter, very helpful.
I was an independent Executive Recruiter, working out of my home office, for 25 years and then I started building websites for friends which grew into building websites for companies which led to learning Internet marketing, copy writing, etc. I love helping small companies in either niche but I can’t work with large companies because the bureaucracy drives me crazy. Thanks again for your answer!

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Mike Turco July 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Frank, maybe this will be helpful to you. First, take a look at ittybiz.com. The owner of the site started consulting and then transitioned into ebooks and so forth. I’ve never done business with her, but I do stumble onto her site once a year or so. Therefore, I’ve been able to watch her progress over the years. So take a look at what she’s doing. It seems to work for her.

Second, I’m in the midst of “rediscovering my entrepreneurial self.” In other words, I’m moving from my old business model to a new one after twenty years. It will take time, but, my plan is as follows. First to establish some income. Second, have others perform the services I perform and make money from that. Basically, I plan to hire these people as contractors and provide them with some training. (Look at Morte Leofke’s business model – recreateyourlife.com – for a good example. Note that I’ve never done business with Morty.)

From there, perhaps I’ll get into ebooks, maybe online seminars, etc. Someone who’s been successful with this is Derek Halpern (same/same, not a client/supplier/partner of mine).

One thing at a time, of course — and I’m an neither married to these ideas (better ones may come along), dependent on them (fail fast/fail often).

Anyway, my aspirations/concerns aren’t so far off of yours and these are some of the thoughts I’ve had. Hope this is of help to you.

Mike

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Mike Turco July 8, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Oh.. I left off the last link, which is socialtriggers.com

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Peter Shallard July 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Thanks so much for adding to the dialogue Mike. I appreciate it!

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Frank July 9, 2013 at 11:46 am

Mike, thanks for your input. Much appreciated. I know several of the people you mentioned, especially Naomi from Ittybiz. I love her style of writing because she cuts to the point and makes you laugh while she’s doing it. Anyhow, thanks again Mike.

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taquantis December 9, 2015 at 1:21 pm

shut the fuck up bitch you dont know shit

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taquantis December 9, 2015 at 1:21 pm

DEAD DEAD DEAD

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James Chartrand - Men with Pens July 9, 2013 at 6:50 am

Love this article, for a million reasons – and I’d like to add a caveat to your number 3 of firing half your clients and raising rates:

Make sure that what you do is WORTH raising rates.

There’s long been a mantra running around the internet in the freelancer ring and it gets spouted off as a big red headline that reads: Charge what you’re worth!

Since freelancers sell their time (most often), meaning themselves, they take that literally. They believe it means charge what YOU are worth.

And you’re priceless, right? So up go the rates… but no one bothers to see if those rates actually match the value of the quality, skill levels or deliverables produced.

I’ve seen some terribly bad work sold at a small pot of gold, all because the person took “charge what you’re worth” to heart.

So all that rambling to say yes, absolutely, raise your rates… with integrity and honesty.

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Peter Shallard July 9, 2013 at 9:42 am

You’re so right about this. Maybe a better way to say it is “Fire half your clients, double the value of what you do and then increase prices”.

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James Chartrand - Men with Pens July 9, 2013 at 6:53 am

By the way, any ideas how to make number 1, the shadow-delegation solution, can be done when your job is mostly online? Would love to try that out, but can’t see how to get someone to follow me around 🙂

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Peter Shallard July 9, 2013 at 9:45 am

Hmm… see, in your case (and I only say this because we’re friends and I’ve visited your house and seen your office etc) I think it would actually be SUPER valuable for you to hire some young go-getter from your local area (they’ll be cheaper than my NYC based assistant for SURE)… and then actually have them come observe the way you work for the day. Literally looking over your shoulder.

As an online-only entrepreneur, that’ll push you so far outside your comfort zone you’ll probably have already written off this comment as not-doable… but I guarantee if you did this and honestly showed that person a typical work day, they’d find multiple amazing opportunities to streamline your workflow.

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