Oct 13th, 2021
The Mass Business Podcast
Season 2, Episode 8 – Planning To Allow For More Freedom, with Jenny Belanger
Our guest today is Jenny Belanger from Reading, MA. Jenny is the CEO of Jenny B designs, a web design studio for coaches and service providers who want to uplevel their online presence. She uses a mix of marketing strategies and conversion design to create beautiful websites that book more clients and make more sales. She’s a mom of two kids ages five and six and loves the Peloton. In this episode we talk about how Jenny has achieved the “freedom” part of more money, more time, & more, freedom….the 3 things that most small business owners leave the corporate world to find. Are you ready? Let’s go!!
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Matt Ward 00:00
Welcome back to the next episode of the Mass Business Podcast. My name is Matt Ward. I am your host, and I’m so happy to be bringing you Our guest today, Jenny Belanger. Jenny is the CEO of Jenny B designs a web design studio for coaches and service providers who want to uplevel their online presence. She uses a mix of marketing strategies and conversion design to create beautiful websites that book more clients and make more sales. She’s a mom of two kids ages five and six and loves the Peloton. She’s got 400 plus rides. Jenny is joining us from reading mass to dig in to how she built her web design business. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Matt Ward 01:00
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 for your next referral will come from.
Matt Ward 01:32
All right, there you go. We’re high fiving the world with Jenny B from Jenny B Designs everybody. Welcome to the show, Jenny.
Jenny Belanger 01:40
Thanks so much, man. I’m excited to be here.
Matt Ward 01:42
Yeah, it’s awesome. We’re happy to have you. So tell the audience who’s listening on their favorite, you know, podcast platform, or maybe even watching here on YouTube. What it is you do a gente B designs.
Jenny Belanger 01:54
I love working with entrepreneurs as one myself, I know what they need. And I’m a web designer, and I love to design, beautiful, but more importantly, strategic designs, so that you can book more clients and make more sales.
Matt Ward 02:09
Right? So you know, having come from the web agency world, myself having successfully exited as I like to tell people, I always knew that people came to us for SEO, they came to us for more clients. But the reality was that at the end of the day, it wasn’t ranking high that they needed it was just more clients. And so conversion was a big part of that. And I think too often, as small business owners, we get stuck in what we think we need, rather than what we really need. Right? Tell me a little bit about your journey. How long have you been in business?
Jenny Belanger 02:47
I’ve been a business of almost a year and a half from now.
Matt Ward 02:50
Okay, so you started pretty much right during the pandemic, shortly after?
Jenny Belanger 02:54
Yeah. Oh, wow, that
Matt Ward 02:55
was a risk. Hmm. Okay. So I guess my first question is, what do you know, now that you didn’t know, then?
Jenny Belanger 03:04
What do I know now? I know now that I need to dedicate a lot of time to making relationships, relationships are what moves my business forward. And I had no idea. When I started, I came from a business background, marketing, finance, and I knew everything that it took to run the business, but I didn’t know about the relationship building and the networking and how big
Matt Ward 03:30
that is, isn’t that something like, I had no concept of it either when I started my business back in 2002, and really started digging into it in like 2005. And then throughout the late 2000s. And to be honest with you, like the networking, the relationship building as a whole is what saved my business and the downturn of the economy in 2008. I got an idea from somebody in a business peer group that I was in that basically saved my company. And when I implemented it had I not implement I probably would have been in business. And so like, I’ll never forget when I was like 18 My grandfather was a judge for the Social Security Administration in DC. He said, it’s all about who you know, and I was like, No, that’s kind of what you know, because if you meet somebody and you sound stupid, it’s dumb. Like it’s not gonna work. And he’s like, boy, let me tell you, it’s who you know. Yeah, and I wish I would have doubled down earlier in life on those relationships, just in friendships, life, friendships and relationships. And once you get into business, you meet all these great people. And they teach you so much, right? I mean What would you say some of the takeaways are from the relationships that you’ve built with others.
Jenny Belanger 04:45
Well, just relationships I build with other designers and people you know, similar to myself, you know, all the tools of the trade, you know, things that kind of helped me run my business and then just how to manage life and business. That’s what I’ve learned a lot. from others, because when you start business for yourself, you don’t think it’s going to be what it is. And you find yourself like trying to juggle everything. And I’ve learned a lot from others about how to maintain balance. So trying to maintain balance, which is super important.
Matt Ward 05:15
So that’s so interesting, you bring that up. My latest book, The High Five effect was written because I feel like people left the corporate world because they wanted three things, more money, more time, and more freedom. And they don’t get them early on in the business. Right. And so, now for me, I’ve achieved those things. And the most important thing for me personally and professionally, is the freedom part, doing what I want, when I want, where I want, how I want. And so I’m very strategic about the clients that I bring on with, for me,. In the book I interviewed 50 small business owners talking about, they were picking all these, you know, their clients were coming to them, but they weren’t pushing any of them away. And the primary reason was they needed the money in startup mode to get through what’s called survival stage and into security stage, which is this predictable amount of recurring revenue. And so we often don’t think about, you know, that adverse effect of some of those relationships that we take on, and the stuff that you’re learning in the first year and a half. I didn’t I didn’t learn that for 10 years, Jenny. Yeah. Yeah. Like you’re an accelerated mode right now, which is awesome. Like, you’re in lightspeed mode when it comes to relationship building and learning. Because I think, when those people are teaching you, you know, they’re sharing these things, a work life balance, I was like, what was that the first 10 years I was in business? I was like, What is that? But sounds like you have that, right?
Jenny Belanger 06:54
I do. I’ve worked hard. And I’ve only learned about it through my relationship with others. And and, and, and I’m in a lot of groups where women entrepreneurs talk about this, because it is so hard. And I hear you because I feel like it wasn’t talked about, or I wasn’t in the world, but I feel like it wasn’t as talked about as it is today. And it’s so important. And it’s such a such a big part
Matt Ward 07:17
is it that you think maybe that’s a spotlight on mental health, and also working for employers that overwork you, and things like that people are not looking for that life anymore. And you know, work life balance, I think is, to a degree, it’s a buzzword, because it can mean many, many different things to many people. But I think it also it just to me, the definition of work life balance is choice. It’s decision. It’s, is it deliberate, right. And so I had a conversation with somebody just yesterday about this, it was like through Facebook Messenger. And they were asking me about this idea of doing more fun activities than just working. And they have like two jobs or three jobs. And I said, well, freedom, and personal time, is a very deliberate choice. It’s a very deliberate decision. And you must protect it with your life like you, you have to not allow other people to steal your time. How do you how do you do that?
Jenny Belanger 08:21
I was gonna say, so I’m organized, right? Yeah. And I organize my free time that I find that planning allows me to have more freedom as odd as it sounds, but I need to look at my week and say I want to do something for me, in this block, I put it in, and I have to stick to that. And that gives me more freedom.
Matt Ward 08:40
So that’s interesting, you say that because I’m a member of the freedom Boat Club, which is like this rental like you, you join the club. And then you can take boats out and you just pay for gas, you don’t have to maintain them. You don’t have to clean them. It’s super cool, right? I don’t have to trailer the boat. I don’t have to have insurance. And so it’s super nice. And I can take them out pretty much anywhere in the country with as a club, and they have reciprocal privileges. What I found over the years of having that was that if I actually didn’t schedule boat days into my calendar, I wouldn’t use the service. And so I love the fact that you’re saying look, look planning makes way more sense. When you want to actually have more time. It allows for much more freedom. And I think that that’s such a huge nugget for people because I’m completely disorganized like I the secret here Jenny is that I just took my arm and pushed everything off this desk and on to the floor, but I’ll tell you this little quick story I hired a professional organizer once she came into my office and I wanted like filing and a system bill like what’s the system where does stuff go and and she was doing the initial intake and she was asking me questions. Which is what a great service provider will always do. And she said, Okay, let me ask you, do you ever, like you put things over here? I see and everything, do you ever put them on the floor? And I looked at her and you can do that. So I started building piles on the floor. That was not what was supposed to happen. But I have learned when it comes to like, my personal time in the freedom that you talk about that if we don’t schedule those days off, that we get calendar creep, and things will go into other days.
Jenny Belanger 10:39
Yeah, yeah. You said you schedule your boat rides. This summer, I wanted to go to the beach with the kids. And if I didn’t schedule those days, we would think about going to the beach, but never do it. So put it in going to the beach on these days.
Matt Ward 10:52
And how do you not have work guilt?
Jenny Belanger 10:58
Well, I, I tell myself, I don’t work full time. I take Friday’s today, it’s actually Friday, but it’s my family day. So it’s not my working day. So I rearrange my schedule so that I can work those four days. And Friday is usually my fun day.
Matt Ward 11:13
You know what same thing. Fridays are my fun day because I go ATVing in my side by side. And I do it on a three day weekend type thing last weekend was Labor Day. And we’re recording this right after Labor Day. And so I did 410 miles through the woods in New England. It was awesome. And so I try not to work any Friday. I try not to work Mondays, but that hasn’t been working lately. So what happens with me is I get the project, I’ll get a project, it’s like a big project, like the book, and then I’ll work on the days I really shouldn’t work. But I have, to me it’s a choice. Right? So it’s, it’s not just a I have to, it’s a I get to. And so I’m saying I get to produce this great book. And so if I want to get it out in October of 2021, I’m going to need to work on this on a couple extra days. And so I buckled down and do it. And that’s how I do it. So I’m excited to hear that you may not have conquered it. But you’ve got a system in place all within 18 months. And that is so powerful, because that’s going to allow you to tweak that, as I wrote in the book shitter rate it, you’re right, you get the shitter rate you’re processing your system, to as you grow.What does the future hold for Jenny B designs, this is gonna be a boutique agency with one or two people or is it going to be more like a big bigger agency? What’s your growth plans?
Jenny Belanger 12:49
I want to just stay myself. It’s funny you say that because I do feel like I’ve just had this like massive change over the last 18 months. And now I’m in a good place. And now I just want to take on clients that I love to work with, and just do the projects that I love to do. And that’s that. And so I don’t I’m not looking to grow, maybe have a junior designer help me a little bit. But I want to just have the business myself and work with clients that I love. That’s my goal.
Matt Ward 13:19
Where does that where does that come from? This guy? I mean, the whole the whole, the subtitle of my book is how to do business with people who bring you joy. That’s what you basically just said I did. So it took me 20 years to get there. Where does that come from in 18 months for you.
Jenny Belanger 13:36
I don’t know I left a couple of months ago, I felt like it was an a transition point where I could you know, grow, grow, grow and keep busy. But that’s not why I decided to do this I decided to do this because I really loved designing and I just want to be content with what I have and enjoy my every day. And so I made that decision. And that’s how I’m going to move forward.
Matt Ward 14:00
That’s great. That’s great. What has been one of the bigger challenges as you’ve grown in the first 18 months?
Jenny Belanger 14:09
I’m perfecting my processes, making sure that you know I work with a lot of, with clients on projects, making sure that I have everything streamlined and making sure that you know everything was organized. And then just juggling, juggling everything that I have going on and finding a rhythm. And I think I finally have found that and then just you know moving forward from there.
Matt Ward 14:33
Now are you are you would you consider yourself to be one of those lifelong learners do you do you read a lot I mean, I mentioned earlier before we started recording that you ckinda love my book shelf.
Jenny Belanger 14:44
I do. I love reading I love watching YouTube’s like tutorials, especially with web design. Like I love learning new platforms and I probably shouldn’t be you know devoting. I’m a WordPress designer so I stay in my lane, but I love learning about everything. So yeah, I devour information .
Matt Ward 15:02
So talk to me about these business books that you’ve read. What are some of the great business books that you can share with others who are listening on their podcast platforms or watching on YouTube, what business books have you read that you like?
Jenny Belanger 15:15
Well Donald Miller you know Story Brand that’s how I do a lot of my designs and when I work with writers and things like that, and then probably my other one is profit first I read that early on in my journey and when I wasn’t paying myself and you know, wasn’t putting any money aside for profit and I implemented that pretty quick and so that’s how I read my my book. So those are those are my two books
Matt Ward 15:41
shameless plug Mike Michalowicz, the author of profit first has endorsed my book on the cover. And profit first is a fantastic book. It changed the game of business ownership for me years ago. And it’s just one of those things, folks, that if you want that first thing I talked about the more money more time more freedom if you want, the more money, pick up a copy of profit first and start implementing it. You don’t have to even implement it to the exact tee that Mike recommends. I don’t. But every single month, I swipe my profit to a profit account. And when people hear that I literally have 19 or 20 bank accounts. They’re like what? That’s crazy. I’m like, Are you kidding me? I take Mike Michalowicz’s, profit first mix it with Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. And I implement them both in my business and in my personal life. And ever since I started doing those things, everything has gone right. with finances in my life, my credit score skyrocketed. I was paying bills on….. I used to not pay bills on time, not because I didn’t have the money. But because I wasn’t organized. Right now I automate everything. So that bills just get paid. Like literally, the the mortgage gets automatically paid, the car payments are automatically paid. Like, once you can figure out how to do that. And it’s a small step process, then everything else starts to align. And, you know, it’s, that’s the beauty of this whole thing is that, once you get you know, the book I wrote talks about doing business with people that bring you joy and it raises your own joy. But think about what it does, when you actually have the funds to pay your own bills, how you feel now versus when you don’t have the funds, right? And you start being, I started using this term, fiscally responsible. And I would say to myself, is that the fiscally responsible thing to do? Sometimes, Jenny, I would still cave and still do it. Right? But you know, I mean, it wasn’t at the time I bought my peloton, it wasn’t the fiscally responsible thing to do. It might have been the physically responsible thing to do, but it wasn’t the fiscally because those things aren’t cheap, but you know, and so like, I just continue even like, so like, on the first or second of every month, I swiped my profit, right? Like they talked about in the book. And this month, I was out riding the trails, and I didn’t do it. And so by the I think it was on the eighth of the month I swiped it. And I was like, Okay, I gotta say it but I get all excited. And then on the quarters, you get to take your distribution from the profit account and it’s like cha ching and when he says in the book, you’re not allowed to spend it back on your business. Like that’s awesome. I’m gonna spend it on my ATV like that’s, it just feels good you know? Yeah, tell me how how has that stuff changed your life how has business books and business education changed your business life and your personal life?
Jenny Belanger 18:59
Um, well I mean working for yourself it’s different than work you know running a business that has that’s full of employees so I had to learn like everything that goes into running running my business so that like just learning everything from the ground up and just reading you know, not just business books but self help like like the whole balancing things and maintaining you know, your your, your mental capacity and just just understanding how to have that balance that’s that’s done a lot for both my business and my and my personal life managing the kids.
Matt Ward 19:35
It sounds like organization and planning are a big strength of yours. They’re not mine. You know, I have to work really hard at planning something I’m usually you’re much more like, let’s just go Who cares? Like what’s, what’s the planning, all about? You You know, I literally I’ve had speaking gigs where I’m supposed to fly somewhere, and I’m not buying the ticket in enough time and stuff like that, right? What What, what would you say? I mean, obviously, those are some unique strengths. But what would you say your unique strengths are as a whole?
Jenny Belanger 20:20
I would say, obviously, my organization, but my ability to get along with others, I’m an enneagram. Nine, if anyone is,
Matt Ward 20:31
before we go any further tell everybody what enneagram is,
Jenny Belanger 20:35
oh, wow, I I can’t do it justice. But it is a system where you are defined by nine numbers, and your personality fits into one of those nine categories on it. So for me, I’m a nine, and the nine is called the peacemaker. And we have the ability to get along with anyone and see both sides of the story. So I find myself able to, you know, be in a conversation and understand where they’re coming from, and also share where I’m coming from. And there’s, we don’t like to have conflict. So I
Matt Ward 21:09
guess you’re like a business therapist, almost.
Jenny Belanger 21:13
You could you could say that. Yeah, I do have clients who tell me a lot of things. Yeah.
Matt Ward 21:19
Oh, that’s great. I mean, I never taken the enneagram test. So I don’t know if I’m a nine, I can tend to see both sides of the story. I definitely don’t like conflict, kind of run from that. But I don’t know that I’m necessarily a peacemaker either, right? I’m not gonna sometimes I’ll try to bring two parties together and kind of make peace. But other times, I’m just like, there’s conflict there. So I’ll just go the other way. You know, and that’s tough. Like when I had my agency had eight employees. So you know, when you have eight employees, there’s, there’s always conflict, it might be between workload or time schedules, or what, you know, whose cubicles were all, you know, I can’t think of the conflicts we actually had on the team, because it was so long ago, but I’m sure that they were, I usually just delegated them. My GM mark, or my HR person, Carol, or something, I’m like, Can you handle this? Because it’s not my thing? Would you say that others recognize your strengths in you?
Jenny Belanger 22:26
Yeah, I would say so. For sure. You know, I think that people recognize that I’m easy going and, you know, easy to work with. And kind, I get that a lot too. And I try to incorporate kindness and everything that I do.
Matt Ward 22:43
I think, Jenny, you know, we had one conversation a long time ago is like a one to one. But there’s something that I recognize with you is you have this really calming effect to you, right. And so it’s confidence mixed with this calm, the calmness that makes people who might be freaking out about their web design, or their marketing or their growth or whatever, that when you talk to them, they just feel the confidence coming out of you, because you can calm them down from that, you know, and you have a very calming presence, which I think is is a great attribute, you know, it, I can see what you say about people recognize that you’re nice or whatever, because you’re super easy to get along with. But you’re said that any enneagram thing, you know, and that’s, that’s noticeable immediately. That’s a huge attribute when it comes to networking, and especially referrals, right, is because people that, you know, people refer who they know, like, trust and care about, right? If you’re nice, that they’re gonna be nice to you. Right. It’s the reciprocity effect. And that’s a super valuable personality trait to have. I think that’s, that’s fantastic that you’ve been able to tap into that for sure. You know, has it been hard for you?
Jenny Belanger 24:04
No, I I’ve always just had this way. And it’s just combining my organization with this kindness and this easygoing, that actually has been really wonderful with my clients. I just really enjoy it. Yeah.
Matt Ward 24:19
So um, talk to me in the growth of your business overall, not including industry specific software. What software would you recommend other people listening or watching on YouTube checkout that could help their business grow. So not WordPress, but something else?
Jenny Belanger 24:38
So I’m all about the integration. So you can automate and put in place in the backend. So a scheduler, like scheduler is main thing which one do you use? I actually use honey book so I have okay CRM. But I just use calendly there are so many good ones. That’s like something super simple. That will save you so much. time and effort. That’s a big one.
Matt Ward 25:02
So I love that I want to talk about the scheduler for a second because I send my scheduler out to everybody. It’s how we book the podcast. It’s how I book one to one calls, I find it super, super easy to use. My mentor, on the other hand, says he refuses to use them and finds men personal. I find that challenging because I feel like the back and forth is, is much more challenging. I will sometimes if I know that my calendar is pretty booked up, because I have freedom days or whatever. I will ask for someone else’s calendar link so that I can find the spot. What is your feeling on that? Is it? Do you ever find pushback on using the calendar link?
Jenny Belanger 25:47
No. And when someone doesn’t have it for me, I always get a little bit frustrated, because I know I’m going to have to go back and forth. Or also makes me think about their business systems. And I’m like, Oh, they don’t have a calendar like what else don’t they have to help automate their lives and make their business work a little bit better. So it stops, it stops me that thing when someone doesn’t have it? Yeah,
Matt Ward 26:11
I have always tried to automate my business in some form or fashion every single week with a small piece of of something. It may not be as dramatic as a new piece of software that is the calendar scheduling tool, and might be just a small thing inside of Zapier. that improves my life just a little bit. So recently, I connected. I recently connected the book purchase if somebody pre buys the book in the pre sale timeframe to a zoom registration, to talk about the book and the launch party. Right. And so like, that’s all done in Zapier, right? Otherwise, that would be super manual, right? There’s a number of Zapier things and automation thing that we use with podcasts, and promotion of the podcast and things like that, so that we don’t have to have manual involvement. And for those of you that don’t know what Zapier is, we’ll make sure we we listen in the show notes z API er.com. And what it does is it basically connects two pieces of software, they weren’t really originally meant to connect together. It’s like this connector tool. And you can get a free account. And you can also have a paid account. But a free account can can make your life very easy. It can take a calendar, booking, for example, and somehow connected in zoom, or, or send you an email or put it in Trello or maybe in honey book or whatever your CRM is. So there’s a lot that it can do that way. So that’s cool. That’s a great share. And we always like to share those types of things like the book, Donald Miller story brand book, right? We want to make sure that the audience is seeing and hearing from you what it was that it took for you to grow your business. Right. And so I asked you before what the biggest challenge was what you didn’t know then that you know now, right? But what do you think the biggest? What do you what do you think the biggest impact has been in the first 18 months of growing your business that has helped you get to this point now. What one thing has has impacted you in a way that’s helped you get clients or become as successful or even as specific as you are now?
Jenny Belanger 28:31
I would say a lot of it came from a group that I’m in. I’m in pepper lane. Oh yeah, a moms or moms adjacent and through that group. I have met wonderful connections who had become clients or who I had become client of clients who helped me with the I took an enneagram course and I learned so much about that and I took a an overwhelm course and I’ve learned so much from every single one of the members in that group. I would say that that group has pretty much changed my business.
Matt Ward 29:02
So folks, if you’re listening, if you qualify for Pepperdine, might be something to check out. And if you don’t then maybe check out a similar type of group, CEO peer advisory group there’s one called the alternative board called also called tab is a number of those in Massachusetts. I was a member of them for 10 years when I had my web agency. Electric avani runs tab Boston Northwest that’s a great organization. You know, different you know, if you’re involved in networking groups, some of the people the networking group can help you as well. You can create your own little mastermind. I think there’s a lot of value in that. I mean I was in tab when I got the idea that saved my business. It came from a tab member. And so even if you have to pay to be in these groups, this is not a payment, this is an investment and it pays off long term. You can Jenny’s talking about it right now about the value that it’s had on her business and that’s that’s great to hear surround yourself with great people Jim Rohn said you are the equal the five people you surround yourself with. So just keep leveling that up. And that’s that you know, if you want to have a joyful business surround yourself with joyful people, not Debbie downers right, the people that are always complaining that they’re having a business or where they’re going to get it from, then you give them a referral and they don’t make the calls that they need to make you know, things like that. So that’s super awesome. Yeah, so Jenny, if people want to reach out I know you’re big into networking is the relationships that matter we did a one to one that’s how we first connected. So if somebody wants to reach out and schedule a one to one with you, or they want to learn more about what enneagram nine is, or they want to learn about pepper lane and come visit with you, or they want to hire you at Jenny B designs to help up level their website and get some more conversions, how would they reach out to you what would that look like?
Jenny Belanger 31:01
You can follow me on Instagram at the Jenny B design or you can come visit my website Jenny B design Jenny B dash designs calm or you can send me an email Jenny at Jenny design comm
Matt Ward 31:15
great we’re gonna have all those links in the show notes so you guys can check them out on our social media links on the YouTube channel. And on the website, mass business podcast calm really enjoyed having you on the show. Jenny, thank you so much for joining us and I I’ve learned a lot just talking to you. And I love the success that you’re having in the first 18 months. I can’t wait to see where the next 18 months is gonna go. Be careful that you’re gonna double because maybe you double in revenue, but not doubling client size. How about that, because that sounds good. That’ll steal your freedom. You don’t want that to happen. Folks, make sure that you subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and smash that subscribe button on YouTube. We would love to have you be a subscriber over there. We’re trying to get our subscriber links up so make sure you check us out over there. Carry on in the comments as well both on YouTube and on social media Jenny I’ll be monitoring those to make sure that she can answer all your questions about anything you might have, even if you want to connect. And until next time, folks. Don’t forget to live happy smile a lot and high five. everyone around
Matt Ward 32:37
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 Celtic Kelly. All rights reserved. I’m your host, professional speaker, author and word of mouth referral consultant, Matt Ward. Don’t forget the live happy smile A lot and hi five everyone around you.