Oct 12th, 2021
The Mass Business Podcast
Season 2, Episode 7 – Reevaluating Your SOP’s, with Renee Sullivan
Renee is an enthusiastic wife, a mother of two, a consultant, and an entrepreneur. She’s the owner of ALA services. She consults with small business owners to find and hire the professionals they need to fill in the gaps of their business. And after working for a small insulation company as an administrative assistant, she realized that there was a need for someone to help business owners grow by hiring the right people. She does that by handling the entire process for them and finding the best fit employees without spending hours of time and money. In this episode, we talk about rebranding and knowing when and how to pivot when something in your business is not working the way it should. Are you ready? Let’s go!!
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Matt Ward 00:00
Hey, welcome back to the Mass Business Podcast. My name is Matt Ward, and I am your host. I’ve got a great guest for you today, my good friend, Renee Sullivan. Renee is an enthusiastic wife, a mother of two, a consultant, and an entrepreneur. She’s the owner of ALA services. She consults with small business owners to find and hire the professionals they need to fill in the gaps of their business. And after working for a small insulation company as an administrative assistant, she realized that there was a need for someone to help business owners grow by hiring the right people. She does that by handling the entire process for them, and finding the best fit employees without spending hours of time and money. It’s a fantastic business model. And I’m going to love sharing her model and her business growth with you including her recent rebranding, what prompted that, and we’re going to dig into her running her business, and getting things all lined up. I’m excited to share my good friend Renee Sullivan with you today on the podcast. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Matt Ward 01:32
Welcome to the Mass Business Podcast where small business owners, also known as risk takers, share their stories about the growth of their business and themselves. Our interviews, and our content is focused on growing a small business, and understanding networking and referrals. I say it all the time. And I’ll say it again today. You never know where your next referral will come from.
Matt Ward 02:04
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome to the show on now with Rene Sullivan. Renee, please take a moment and just share with everybody what your business is all about and say maybe 30 seconds or less.
Renee Sullivan 02:17
All right, well, first of all, thank you for having me on here, Matt. I feel very excited to be on here. So my business basically I’m helping to the trade businesses and their ownership to hire with ease, I take a lot out of their plate because of the experiences I’ve had helped make it make things right, and do it more efficiently.
Matt Ward 02:41
And what I love about that is, we’ve talked about this, Renee and I have known each other now and probably for a year or so. And we’ve talked a lot about the way in which, the words in which she’s using because what’s clear is she has a target market, which many, many small business owners don’t have. Listen, I’m not I’m not here to browbeat you listeners over not having a target market. For 15 or 16 years, I didn’t have one of my web agency. But in my new book I wrote about the importance of that. And the reason, the reason we want to have a target market is because it’s easier to get referrals, it’s easier to be found. So Renee just doesn’t help people hire, she helps people in the trades hire. And so there’s a clear distinct difference between that. It doesn’t mean she won’t help someone find a new hire, that’s not in the trades. What it means, is she has the ability to then refuse the work if it’s not in the trades, right? And if it’s not a good fit, and that’s just one qualifier, right? How long did it take you to get to that point where you’re like, yeah, I’m going into the trades with this?
Renee Sullivan 03:54
Um, I probably about a year into my business, and I’m on my, I’m coming on my third year. So it took me about a year to figure that niche part of things. So yeah,
Matt Ward 04:08
Yeah. And so it’s interesting, because we could have a whole podcast about hiring, right, because we’ve talked with people in season One, and even already in season Two about having teams and leadership and, managing people and outsourcing and all these different things. And a lot of that falls around help and additional help. And at the time, we’re recording this, there are businesses who are going out of business because they can’t get help. And so I imagine that your business is challenging, because there are people that don’t want to work or don’t want to work in certain industries or certain jobs. How are you dealing with your business growth, when we have the climate, the employment climate we have right now?
Renee Sullivan 05:01
That’s a great question. Um, how I’m dealing with it is I’m being 100% upfront with every client that I take on. And, you know, I’m pretty straightforward to say, you know, what might have taken maybe a month and a half, two months, is now taking four months, potentially. Again, strange things have happened. And things can happen quicker than that. But I have to be 100% upfront with all my clients from the get go. And I have to, I have to know exactly who, who they want, why they want them. And we need to figure that out together. And that takes a little bit of time in the beginning to start that process.
Matt Ward 05:49
So let’s go back a little bit because I know you just did a big rebrand, right? You were probably faced with some sense of a challenge, right? In your business, which is what forced you into this mode that you were thinking about a rebound? What was the challenge you were faced with?
Renee Sullivan 06:08
The challenge I was faced with was business owners not thinking that they had enough time to actually give me the information that I needed to help them find who they need.
Matt Ward 06:22
You know, that I ran into that with the web agency, right? We built a website, but nobody would ever give us the content, eventually, we started building the content for them. So that’s the problem is that either they don’t give you the information, or they think they don’t have the time to give you the information?
Renee Sullivan 06:39
Correct. Some of them really don’t have the time. And that’s where my, my change in my initial process with that came about. So we have to talk about those things, initially.
Matt Ward 06:55
So tell me, so tell me about it. What? So what was the change? What do you mean? So So now you spend more time in the initial prospecting call to talk about how much time is involved in working with you when you first start?
Renee Sullivan 07:09
Correct. So the way I’ve structured it now is in order to actually, if a client actually wants to go through and use my services, my recruiting services, they have to go through what I call a higher plan first. There’s strategy involved in that first now, I did that, but I’ve lengthened the time in that, higher plan strategy?
Matt Ward 07:38
So in what way, what way? Did you lengthen it? Where did it go from and to?
Renee Sullivan 07:43
So I used to spend around an hour with a client. Now it’s, it’s about two hours.
Matt Ward 07:50
Got it. And so this is an evolution from what was happening before that you saw a hole in the process. And so now you’re fixing the process?
Renee Sullivan 07:59
Matt Ward 08:01
So over time, you’ve been in business now three or so years? You said, almost three years?
Renee Sullivan 08:07
Matt Ward 08:08
And so what, what has been the biggest challenge for you in small business?
Renee Sullivan 08:14
The biggest challenge number one is clients not necessarily knowing exactly what they need. And they’re assuming timelines that they don’t necessarily know and they don’t necessarily know that, first of all, there’s a strategy involved and second of all, there is some time involved in finding the right fit, because the difference between myself and them doing it is I actually take my time to go through a thorough process. They don’t necessarily know all the work that’s involved.
Matt Ward 08:57
don’t know for sure, I mean, everyone, I hire somebody, I just make a job description.
Renee Sullivan 09:01
Matt Ward 09:02
I google something and I’m like, give me that. Give me that. Give me that I make this job description. I put it out. And then I’m just like, No, no, no. Okay. Yeah, no, no, no, yeah. And then I do an interview. But like, I don’t know what questions to ask. I don’t know. And, uh, granted, it’s different in my case, because I’m hiring subcontractors versus employees in which is a different world completely. But yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. How are you out there gaining clients in the world to actually get the hiring process? How have you gone to market with your business as a whole? What’s worked for you?
Renee Sullivan 09:39
Well, what’s working now?
Matt Ward 09:42
Renee Sullivan 09:44
What I’ve done in the past has literally mostly been word of mouth, referrals of referrals, having referral partners. What I’m doing now, since I’ve rebranded is I’m doing Slightly more marketing. I will get better as more time as my rebranding starts to really take shape. In that whole process, there’s going to be a lot more social media involved. But yes, there will be more marketing outside of word of mouth.
Matt Ward 10:21
Well, so I think and I think touchpoints create word of mouth, right, we’ve talked about that before in the build your referral engine, group coaching program that you’re a part of. And I think this is a perfect opportunity. And I want to stop and pause just for a second that, folks, if you’re watching this on YouTube, or you’re listening on your podcast app, or whatever it is you listen to on, think about this, if you’re doing a rebrand, you now have a reason to reach out to every contact you have in a one on one environment and share with them the rebrand in an authentic way, not trying to sell them anything, just letting them know. And the messaging is very simple. Hey, I’ve had some big changes, I’d love to chat and see what you’re up to and share with you what I’m up to. And if you take that approach and use LinkedIn for that, you will find probably a 45 out of 50 hit rate conversation. That’s amazing, right? That’s 90% out of 100 people 90% 90 people are gonna have a conversation with you. And it’s a great opportunity to talk about the new branding. And what it also does, is if you’ve rebranded yourself, it really allows you to hone your talking points. Because you need those 100 conversations, to get the repetitive nature of the words coming out of your mouth so that they just flow off the tongue. When I first created my slogan, I had trouble saying, don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot, and high fiving everybody around you, I did not roll off the tongue. It literally took me an entire week of repeating it about 50 times a day, I’d repeat it when I’m driving down the road. And I would repeat it and repeat, because I didn’t want to get the words wrong, and I loved what I created. And so repetition is gold when it comes to getting referrals in the future. So are you ready to go to do it? Are you doing a strategy like that with the new branding?
Renee Sullivan 12:23
I am I literally have an appointment this evening. With someone using that, again, I’m just starting this proccess right. So But yeah, I have an appointment this evening with someone who, you know says like, okay, I want to know what you’re doing. And I have an appointment today.
Matt Ward 12:38
That’s great. Yeah, that’s great. And so, um, when you said stuff didn’t work before, you said, I want to tell you what I’m doing now. But I want to go back, I want to go back a second and talk about what you did before, that didn’t work. So share, share with the audience a story about something that didn’t work so that maybe they can learn and try to avoid that mistake in the future for themselves.
Renee Sullivan 13:03
So what I really attempted to do in part of my in my past process is I would do that initial consultation and also send them supporting questionnaire, checklist type stuff. They wouldn’t do the checklist stuff to give me the extra information that I needed. I needed that information, there was obviously more information that I needed to help them. And what ended up happening is I was chasing them down, you know, one or two minutes at a time. Okay, can you? Okay, so can you tell me how much you’re going to actually pay this person? Can you share some of the benefits? You know, I say that laughingly
Matt Ward 13:53
Because we don’t think about that right, Renee? We just need the person.
Renee Sullivan 13:56
You just need the person. Yep.
Matt Ward 13:59
Wait benefits? I didn’t even think about that.
Renee Sullivan 14:00
Yep, yep. Hmm.
Matt Ward 14:03
So, so that’s what so you had multiple touch points before? And now you’ve consolidated them into one?
Renee Sullivan 14:11
Yes, that’s, you know, I’m just starting.
Matt Ward 14:13
Yeah, see how it works.
Renee Sullivan 14:14
To see how it works. But they have to go through this process, if they actually want to use my recruiting services, which is, which is now an additional service. So I used to combine some of that stuff to a point. Um, I’ve separated things more.
Matt Ward 14:34
Yeah. Now I know, I know you’re very involved in BNI we’ve talked about that before. And I and you know, I was in it for 15 years. Networking as a whole, I believe works great. How has it worked for your business?
Renee Sullivan 14:47
It’s been amazing. Literally, most of my referrals come from there. And from and not just current BNI members, but former BNI members, literally word of mouth is how my business has stayed afloat. Yeah, past three years.
Matt Ward 15:05
And I think, too, that a lot of people don’t realize that the relationships you build, whether they’re in a BNI group or any other networking group, if you’re not going to that group anymore, those relationships will generally stand the test of time, as long as you stay in touch. Yep. What’s the biggest tip you have for somebody when it comes to networking?
Renee Sullivan 15:24
Be curious about the other person,
Matt Ward 15:27
I love that
Renee Sullivan 15:27
Be naturally, like authentically curious about that other person. And that’s going to take you a lot further, and learn more about them and learn why they’re doing what they’re doing, learn about their family, what they love, what their passion is, if you lead that way, things just conversations just naturally happen.
Matt Ward 15:48
Yeah. So what do you think as a business owner, what do you think your biggest strengths are?
Renee Sullivan 15:58
I genuinely care about business owners and grow, and I’m growing, I’m very much into helping the community stay afloat. You know, that local economy, I really want that to thrive. Even before I really got involved in this particular business, I was very, very much interested in what business owners in the community were doing. You know, I would be interviewing people, you know, around town and their businesses just naturally curious about what they were doing. Yeah. Yeah.
Matt Ward 16:39
So you bring that sort of curiosity into the relationship building that you have with others. When you bring in that curiosity. And by the way, folks, that’s something I firmly believe in, and I’ve talked about is that you spend 29 minutes out of a 30 minute one to one talking about the other person. My question to you is, Renee, don’t you ever feel like, Huh, but what about me?
Renee Sullivan 17:05
Rarely, you know.
Matt Ward 17:08
And that’s because you’ve done it for so long.
Renee Sullivan 17:10
I’ve done it for so long. I would say maybe 10 years ago, or so? I’d be like, well, when do I get a chance to talk? You know I don’t even think about that. Yeah, like when you asked me that. I’m like, do I? okay, yeah, no.
Matt Ward 17:26
So this is a thing I get asked that a lot. And that’s why I asked you that question is because I tell them, I tell people as you start this process, it’s very natural to think that. The goal is just not to act on it. It’s not unnatural to think it, because we’re humans, right? The reciprocity effect is always in effect in our heads. The question is, we often ask ourselves, when’s My turn? with whatever it is, I’m giving five referrals to somebody, when’s My turn? Right? It will pop up in your head, the biggest challenge is actually acting on it, and what I love is that you’re proof, right? I’ve been talking about this for years, in the work that I do. And I think people stare at me and like, think I’m an idiot when I talk about this. But what I love about you coming on this podcast, is it’s proof that this is a muscle. This is something you work on over time. And over time, less and less of what we think about will be about ourselves, and more and more of what we think about will be about other people.
Renee Sullivan 18:34
Yep, no, I agree.
Matt Ward 18:36
I think one of the things I talk about, and you have this level of care, you mentioned the word care. You know, I talk all the time about know, like, trust, and care about other people. That when we care about other people, we raise our own internal level of joy. And that makes us happier. When we write thank you cards to other people, that makes us happier. And we bring that space to the world, we are going to get more referrals, more business, our business is going to thrive more consistently. And on an increased slope over time, by just bringing more joy and care to the world. And I love it. I’ve known you now for a year. So but you bring that all the time. You know, I love your laugh. Like it makes me happy. It makes me laugh. And we have good times all the time when we’re having conversations. And you know, it’s just about what can we learn from other people, you know, and so that inquisitive mind is so important. Does that lead you I see all those books on your bookshelf. Does that lead you to read a lot?
Renee Sullivan 19:51
Yes, I read a lot. And, you know, I’m a nerd in some ways when it comes to that because literally the only books I’m reading are success books, business books and I read the same ones over and over again and they’re all pretty much the classics although you know I interweave new books and you know
Matt Ward 20:12
let’s have a conversation about your books normally I save this for the end of the show but I want to ask since we’re on the topic now I want to talk about the multiple books that you’re talking about because you’re definitely mentioned a few here what are some of the classics you’re referencing when you use the word classics
Renee Sullivan 20:27
well things like thinking Grow Rich things like the magic of thinking big ask it is it is forgiven or asking it is given the richest man in Babylon you know, things like that, you know, even the thick ones like the Napoleon Hill the lessons 16 lessons for success. I can’t remember the exact title now. I’m drawing a blank at the moment but you know, things about money.
Matt Ward 20:58
Profit first Have you read that one?
Renee Sullivan 21:00
I did not. But it’s literally on my list. Someone else just about a week ago mentioned that book.
Matt Ward 21:06
Yeah, Mike Michalowicz’s books are good. Have you read any of his books?
Renee Sullivan 21:10
That is on my list. I actually watched a seminar of his Oh, yeah. Yes.
Matt Ward 21:16
Yeah. His stuff has been pretty good. I’ve had struck up a friendship with Mike and in he you know his The thing about his content and this I mentioned this on other podcast too, is that I learned from Larry Winget, who calls himself an irritational speaker. He’s a Hall of Fame speakers, motivational speaker, but he calls himself an irritational speaker and he said, the goal of reading a book is to take one small tidbit out of it, you don’t want to take the entire process out, because that clouds the head and makes it hard to implement. But if you can take one tidbit out, and then at some point, go back, read the book again and get another tidbit. It’s kind of like watching a movie right? You pick up another scene or something that you like me watching Die Hard. 45 times.
Renee Sullivan 22:01
Matt Ward 22:04
So um, how do you find time to read Rene?
Renee Sullivan 22:09
It’s literally part of my routine. is reading is like, if I read at least a page. Sometimes it’s a couple paragraphs a day. It’s usually at the end of the day. It’s part of my winding down routine.
Matt Ward 22:26
Oh, interesting. So you wind down with reading and your goal is to read just one page. Yep, see where it goes?
Renee Sullivan 22:35
Yep. Usually it’s more than that. But yeah, my goal is to read a page. Yep.
Matt Ward 22:41
Oh, that’s intriguing. I never thought of it like that. I’ve heard of people that read for 10 minutes a day or they read in the morning or and, and I’ve tried a couple different things. I haven’t found anything for me that stuck yet. I’ve tried multiple different angles of reading stuff. And sometimes I actually get the book and then get the audio book and I’ll listen to the audiobook while I read the book at the same time with it physically in my hands. So it’s, it’s all different. Um, do you like the hard covers or the paperbacks or the ebooks?
Renee Sullivan 23:13
Um, well, I prefer an actual physical book, rather than any book. I doesn’t really matter to me, whether it’s paperback or hardcover, I tend to ruin paperbacks. And
Matt Ward 23:27
you know what, I read them so often. But yeah, and I’m with you, I feel like this, there’s a sturdiness to the hardcover that holds up and holds up over time and, and doesn’t weather and you can have a hard cover out in a human weather day. But a paperback will just curl on you or something. If you leave it outside by accident or something, and on a human day, it’s going to curl up. So I don’t see that happened as much with the, with the hard covers. And, and to me, I feel like if I’m spending money on a book, the substantial-ness of a hardcover book feels more solid. So I love to read, as you can see all the books behind me. I like to read them, and then I buy multiple copies of the ones I believe in and send them to people. You’ve been a lucky recipient of a few of those. Yeah, so that’s cool. What would you say you said, so I think you said your greatest strength was sort of that curiosity, right? How would you encourage others? who might be interested in developing their strength of curiosity? How would you encourage others to do that?
Renee Sullivan 24:35
Practice. Just keep doing it. Honestly, if you know practice asking someone you know, like, and trust questions about them. And just keep doing it over and over again, and then move on to people you don’t know as well. And stuff like that. Just keep doing it. That’s how I’ve done it.
Matt Ward 25:00
That’s great. So what’s the future like for your business coming up Renee, and the end of 2021, and going into 2022, what is the future of our services?
Renee Sullivan 25:11
Oh my goodness, I think more marketing more clarity, not just for myself, but more clarity for the ideal clients that I want to work with, and what more clarity for the clients that I have in them understanding how important it is to know who they want, why they want, you know, all the ins and outs of their company, before hiring, because sometimes it’s a great time to hire, and sometimes it’s not. And for them to know that they need to think about these things, and not just rush into something, that my goal is for the education for, you know, business owners to understand that there’s a right way of doing things and there’s a, you know, a way that’s going to take you a longer time, and yeah, you’re gonna end up having to do it more often than you really want to. So yeah, I love
Matt Ward 26:11
that I love the fact that like, like, if there’s more education upfront, then there’s a more educated choice and decision and they’re more prepared. And as such, they’re a much more ideal client. Yep. And in that process of getting to the point where they make the decision, you develop the relationship with them, if they’re transactional, you’re going to immediately realize it, and is not going to be a good fit, because they’re not going to want to do all that work. That’s prior to you actually signing the contract or the hiring contract. And, you know, I talked about that, in the high five effect, which is transactional people often aren’t our ideal clients, because they’re just not interested in the relationship. And what often happens in that is they missed the boat on what’s needed in, in the industry that we’re providing the services, right. And so if they’re just like, Hey, I’m here, I’m here to get the widget, you know, there’s amazon for that, right? There’s, retail stores like Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods and target and Walmart for all of that. That’s not what who, that’s not who we are as service based businesses. And so I think the work done throughout that plan process that you’re talking about, develops that relationship skill set, which brings them into that ideal client zone. Those of you interested in the ideal client zone, you can find that in the ideal client matrix that I created inside the book, the high five, in fact, that comes out October 26. So check that out. It’s definitely I love seeing that, because that’s the vision that you’re seeing is funneling all of these people write into the ideal client zone is so good, so great. One question I like to ask the guests that come on the podcast is not considering software in your industry, industry specific software. Other than that, what piece of software? Could you not live without that maybe you think another person listening or watching on YouTube should check out and see if it could change their business?
Renee Sullivan 28:28
I could not do without zoom. Because a lot of my initial calls are on zoom, and I record them because I need that information. Zoom or anything similar to that. Any record, you know, video recording, software has been a game changer.
Matt Ward 28:45
So you go back and rewatch the recordings then. I do you know that? I too, would agree. I used zoom to record the interviews that I had for the book with all the small business owners. And then I was able to go back and look through all the stuff and see what they said get the transcripts, right, the audio transcripts in zoom, if you have that plan for that. It’ll give you the transcripts. And then you can look at what people said and kind of pull that information out. And so I used it for the book, but you’re using it for for the client briefing, which is fantastic. Yep. That’s great. That’s great. Um, so yeah, so thanks for joining us it so first of all, let me just tell the world out there listening. Renee is a huge networker. So you she’s, she’s very, very well connected. And if you’re so show her some love, you’ll build a friendship with her. And she’s gonna get you referrals because she’s always looking out for people in our network and how she can help. As she said earlier, she cares and I’ve seen that happen firsthand. So I see it all the time with her. So I encourage you to reach out to her and continue and network with her, and perhaps maybe even consider using her services if you’re in the home, you know, services and or trades industry. Rene, if people want to reach out and connect with you, how do they get ahold of you? What’s the best way to reach you? What are all the ways to reach you?
Renee Sullivan 30:16
So I’m a mixture of old school. You can actually call me I will pick up if I’m available. My phone number is 508-320-2566. You can also email me at Renee at Ala services hiring.com. You can go to my website, which is Ala services hiring.com. Really, those are the best ways to get in touch with me. Honestly, I like talking to people on the phone. I really like the energy of a phone conversation or like a zoom, or Yeah, honestly, an in person conversation there you go to right, yeah, I’m very, very much in the best of both worlds.
Matt Ward 30:59
That’s awesome. Um, and again, we’ll have all those links, email, phone number, all that listed in the contact information in the show notes. So make sure you check that out, and reach out to Renee. And for those of you and listen on your favorite podcast app, make sure you subscribe so that you get notifications of our podcast, which are every single business day, we’re super excited to be bringing their mass business podcast to you, and helping you grow your small business. If you’re watching on YouTube, make sure you smash that subscribe button, so that you get notified of all the new episodes that come out and engage with us in the comments myself. And Renee will be in there chatting it up with you in the comments. As always, you can like our Facebook page as well, mass business podcast. Rene has been so great to have you on I love it. I can see your friend, yes, you’re a client, but I still consider you a friend and I love your energy. You brighten up a room every time you walk into it. And I think that’s a trait that so many people in this world are trying to find in themselves. And maybe people can reach out to you and talk to you about how you do that. Because it’s your energy that in the way you bring yourself to the world that I think makes it so fun to be around you. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. Folks. As always like to say Don’t forget to live happy smile a lot. And high five. everyone around you.
Renee Sullivan 32:24
Thank you so much, Matt.
Matt Ward 32:38
This small grandma. Thank you for listening to the mass business podcast where we focus on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. Don’t forget to like on your favorite platform and share out this podcast. This show has been produced by Heather Grant music by Cailte Kelley. All rights reserved. I’m your host, professional speaker, author, and word of mouth referral consultant, Matt Ward. Don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot, and high five everyone around you.