How does a Director of Operations (DOO) productize their business? Is there intellectual property that you have that you are not sure how to put forth into the world?
Subscribe to the podcast here
Today we have a very special guest on the podcast, Audrey Joy Kwan. Her specialty is in the agency space, and we are talking about rethinking the power of processes as intellectual property and high value assets (i.e. a moneymaker).
Meet Audrey Joy Kwan
Audrey Joy Kwan is a business strategist and coach for service entrepreneurs who want to scale a business with a lean team. She has a track record of helping creatives and consultants go from solopreneurs to multiple six and seven-figure agencies and getting their time back. Audrey left a full-time career eight years ago, working in agencies and client-side operationalizing million-dollar projects. She has a Master’s Degree in Communications focused on Organizational Development. She’s supported an agency owner to sell and exit his business; for those who don’t want to sell, she’s helped triple their revenue as a service-based business. As the creator of the Mighty Pod Model, her passion is to show creatives, consultants and agency owners that they can create a simple and sustainable multiple six-figures and beyond businesses. You can find her at the Small But Mighty Agency Podcast or MightyPod Model.com.
The Power of Processes
- [Natalie] As operators we are detailed, meticulous, analytical, organized, productive, and efficient. When we use those assets, one of the greatest deliverables are the processes.
- When I think of processes, I think of them as structure but I also think of that as an expression of my creativity.
- [Audrey Joy] When I think of processes, I think of it as intellectual property. If you are an operator who is coming into a business and looking at how it operates you are naturally pulling out the processes. Those things you pull out have value because they are intellectual property. It means you have a skill set that allows you to look at how things work, and put it into a process which equals an asset.
- Intellectual property is a matter of productizing the processes, meaning you package the processes up so that other people can deliver. It is simply how you structure your service delivery into a system so others can deliver those results, and that makes our service tangible. There is so much value in that.
- [Natalie] The reason I started a completely different business model than I anticipated, because somebody helped me see the gold in that intellectual property, and then to package it up to productize it.
- [Audrey Joy] When your fact finding is high, it’s even harder for you to step back and identify your intellectual property because what you’re doing is questioning everything you do.
“One of the greatest deliverables we give… is really strong processes, guidance and structure.” – Natalie Gingrich
“If you have a service based business, you have intellectual property, period.” – Audrey Joy Kwan
We all have Intellectual Property
- [Natalie] Fact finding can put us in a place of inaction because we are critically overthinking everything.
- When we are talking about intellectual property, the first step is to identify that you have it (and we all have it in some capacity).
- Think about the things you are performing inside of business or that you want to scale from your business and teach other people.
Agencies and Intellectual Property
- [Audrey Joy] It can be hard to identify intellectual property, so I like to break it apart into 2 pillars:
- What is the service quality? (the processes that back this up is intellectual property).
- What is service culture? (the client experience that influences and shapes the relationship… think partner vs. vendor).
- The agencies that survive are the ones that operate as partners.
- Think about intellectual property not only as strategy and implementation but also about the working relationship you establish with the client.
- [Natalie] Operators are actively pursuing new clients, and onboarding clients.
- Onboarding process can be intellectual property.
None of us onboard the same way. What are your thoughts on that?
- [Audrey Joy] On the outside things can look similar but on the inside there are different steps and thought processes that you are having, and they all add up to intellectual property.
How intellectual property can be hidden
- [Audrey Joy] Example: running client meetings
- It’s important that we clearly identify what we are trying to do with our processes so we can use the intellectual property to support it.
- [Natalie] We may not recognize the power because we are spending too much time in the front looking at the obvious
How do operators protect their intellectual property inside of a contract?
- [Audrey Joy] If you are coming in as a contractor, you have to recognize that any processes you create are the property of the organization.
- However, the process you use to create the workflows belong to you.
- My process in building a workflow is 5 step: purpose, milestones, task, resources, quality, and assurance.
- You can replicate the work over and over again and that is what intellectual property is about.
- Processes are not static; if you build a process and bring in a team, they will help you streamline, optimize, revise and it will only make the process better.
- [Natalie] You [the operator] have a different mind that is incredibly powerful and it has the ability to provide you a scalable career.
“What I built for them is theirs, but the process I used to build it is mine.” – Audry Joy Kwan
The Agency Model
- [Natalie] I teach that there are 4 ways a service provider can generate income: retainer, consultancy, agency, and productized services.
- Many of our students have at least 2 going on at one time
- Documenting your processes results in your own intellectual property and will help you when you start expanding your team.
- [Audrey Joy] I am a fan of a productized service agency, which is an agency that focuses on providing one really core service to one really core niche.
- Example: providing email copy to food bloggers
- The actual intellectual property that you create is focused and refined over time.
- All of this makes it easier to build a team behind it.
- Agencies don’t have to be full service, they can be very productized which is dependent on having tight intellectual property and processes.
- An example for a DOO agency:
- DOO for orthodontist
- If you create a bunch of processes for an orthodontist, repeatable for many orthodontist businesses, it is highly scalable .
- If you focus on a very clear niche, what you create is way more sustainable.
- When building a team for an agency model, there are 3 roles that need to be covered:
- Account management
“If you can build out your intellectual property for those 3 areas [implementation, account management, & strategy] it frees you up to be whatever you want to be in the business” – Audrey Joy Kwan
“If 3 of the 4 layers are taken care of, it leaves you to go to the highest one, which is visionary.” – Natalie Gingrich
The Importance of a Good Operator
- [Audrey Joy] Operators have a reputation as being second in command, but that doesn’t mean that you are any less valuable than the leader of the business because it takes both to run a business.
- Without you, there is no business running.
- Marketing and sales tend to be what we think of when talking about building a business but eventually you have to start looking on the inside, otherwise it is going to break.
- [Natalie] You are going to have to disrupt the marketing and sales cycle, because if you don’t look at the back end as a business owner, eventually you will not be able to fulfill (happens around the $250K revenue mark).
- If you are not focusing on the backside of your business, then you will have to be the one asset who is covering the back side… and that is not your gift.
- [Audrey Joy] The courage of the operator lies in their ability to speak up about what could break if you don’t pay attention to it.
- There is a relationship built with the business owner over time, and it is built by meeting them in the middle and communicating clearly about what can and cannot take place unless they take a look at what the DOO is doing.
- There is intellectual property in how you communicate with someone to help them see what they need to see to so that they can grow their business
- [Natalie] In the latest re-record of the DOO certification program, we have really showcased how to have some of these conversations.
- If someone has ever told you how valuable you are, think about the situation you were in and what you were working on when you did that… and it’s a really good start to identifying intellectual property.
“This [creating intellectual property] isn’t an overnight process, it takes time.” – Audrey Joy Kwan
Weekly Ops Activity
What was your biggest takeaway from this conversation? Share it in the Facebook group!
Connect with Audrey Joy Kwan
Small but Mighty Agency Podcast
Subscribe on your favorite podcast app.
Join the Ops Insiders Facebook Community:
Other Ways to Connect with Me:
Private Facebook Community
Share with your biz bestie