I think bringing ideas to life is the hardest problem entrepreneurs are faced with; because there is no shortage of ideas, but there is a shortage of time to execute on all the ideas that we have.
Chris started his first business when he was 14, and throughout his entrepreneurial journey, developed a passion for technology, efficiency, and making business easier. He spent a decade growing a video production company which sold over $3 million in youth sporting event videos and sold that business before turning 25 to start a consulting agency.
Passionate about making business better, Chris has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs and businesses rediscover clarity amongst the chaos, build efficiency into their operations, and transform the way they work. At the heart of it all is a desire to help others find the time to focus on doing the things they love.
With that in mind, Chris recently repositioned his efforts to a new software venture, a tool called Trainual, that helps build a higher-performing, more scalable business, by way of better systems and training documentation.
Where did the idea for Trainual come from?
The initial idea for Trainual came when we were doing consulting. I had an operations consulting firm that worked one-on-one with small businesses as they were growing. What I saw was that most businesses tried to write down the how-tos of their company, but they would end up doing it in Google Docs or Word Docs that were scattered across Dropbox folders. The more they grew, the more documents they had — and it got out of control quickly. So, we built Trainual for ourselves as a consulting firm, because we wanted an easy, central place for everyone to be able to document the processes in their company. When the software started getting more referrals than our consulting work, I knew that we were on to something.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My normal day starts between 4:30 and 5:00 am. I wake up, meditate to clear my thoughts and then I spend a couple of minutes journaling or writing down what’s on my mind. After that, I will work out — I usually go for a run or something and listen to a podcast. I intentionally start the day very focused on myself personally and just getting myself charged up to be productive for the rest of the day. So once I get through all of that, then I’m ready to work and focus. I try to structure my day so that all of my important work goes in the morning when I have the most energy, and then the afternoons are for interviews or meetings or grabbing coffee (since the afternoon is when I need the most coffee anyway!).
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think bringing ideas to life is the hardest problem entrepreneurs are faced with; because there is no shortage of ideas, but there is a shortage of time to execute on all the ideas that we have. So for me, its about making sure that I write down all of the ideas that I have, and then let the ones that have the most potential bubble to the surface as they keep popping up in my head. Bringing them to life is about actually creating next steps and enrolling other people on the team to help make progress. So for us, we’ll prioritize our list of projects and things we want to do in our project management system, do quarterly meetings to pick out priorities and then divide those into a series of steps with exactly who is going to work on what.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am really excited about where artificial intelligence and chatbots are going. Our consulting business was so effective in part due to the conversations that we had with employees. Speaking with them directly helped us to extract problems and ideas from their heads that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to uncover.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think the habit of listening to podcasts has definitely made me more productive. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to read or scan blog posts, so podcasts are something I can do while I’m working out or driving, to make sure that I’m constantly learning new things and applying them to whatever projects that I’m working on at the time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could go back, I would tell my younger self to meet the most important people I could get in a room with. I think your network is so important when it comes to building a business. With Trainual, business leaders in our community became early adopters of the system and have played such a big role in introducing our software to people around the world. If I could go back, I would start that process of building real relationships earlier than I did.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Well, my Kolbe score says I’m an influencer so pretty much everyone agrees with the things I say 😉
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One thing I try to do every day is entirely empty my inbox. I think one of the struggles we have is the volume of information that comes at us, and it’s easy to get buried if you’re not in the habit of processing everything and deciding what to do with it. Clearing your inbox is a practice of being a good decision maker and knowing what things are important, what things should go on your to do list and what things you should intentionally ignore — but you can’t just let them pile them up, you have to do something.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy we’e use to grow Trainual quickly has been utilizing partners and affiliates. The best Trainual customer already understands the importance that systems can make in scaling their business. Its not our job to necessarily educate everyone to get them to the point where they’re ready to purchase. Partners and other coaches or consultants that work intimately with business owners on this problem can easily suggest Trainual as the simplest way to document what they do and delegate it to their team as they grow. Working through channels and relationships like this has helped us sign up more accounts in volume than one here and one there through individual demos.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
For a while, I let my business dictate my schedule. I would do anything I could to put in extra hours, and work harder and longer to get everything done. As a younger entrepreneur with a finance and then a new wife, managing my schedule with that kind of intensity was not good for balance at home. In building this business, I made it a point to set clear boundaries on when I would work on the company. It really influenced how I organize my daily schedule as I mentioned earlier with the morning routine, but also how I prioritize work throughout the day when I know that working at night is no longer an option 🙂
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There’s a health club that I work from occasionally and sit outside on the balcony overlooking the landscape and trying to get some focused work done, like writing a blog post. Without fail, the landscapers always turn on their grass cutters and mowers and other obnoxiously loud equipment. If someone could invent quiet landscaping equipment, I think they’d be a billionaire.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently starting going to a float spa, which is basically a place that you lay in a huge clamshell filled with salt water and float in silence to create a meditative state of relaxation. It sounds insane, but it really helps to calm my mind and it’s something I want to start doing more regularly.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I love the tool Loom for recording screencasts and quickly sharing a video of something that I want to demo. We do this all the time for customer support and for documenting our own processes since you can easily embed those videos in Trainual.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The first book that comes to mind is “Rework” by the founders of 37 Signals. I read it before I sold my first company and I think it is an easy read that everyone should do to understand the future of having simplicity in business.
What is your favorite quote?
“But that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Anytime that quote shows up, you know there’s tons of room for improvement.
- Make yourself a priority when you start the day, otherwise you may never get to it.
- Don’t underestimate the power of networking when it comes to growing your business. Who you know matters!
- Set clear boundaries on when you will work, and your schedule with naturally follow.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.