Listen to your customers. Ask for feedback regularly. This feedback should act as a compass to guide you in the right direction.”
Sumit Bansal is an online entrepreneur from New Delhi, India. He is the founder of Trump Excel, an online platform that trains people in using Excel spreadsheets efficiently.
He is an MBA in finance and started his career with consulting firms in 2009. For six years, he worked in different roles as a data analyst and marketing manager. His work involved working with a lot of data in spreadsheets. He started Trump Excel in 2013 to share what he has learned about Excel spreadsheets in all his years of employment.
While the website was started as an experiment to help people learn Excel, it quickly started getting traffic from all over the world. For his commitment to helping people in using Excel the right way, he was also recognized by Microsoft as the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for Excel (since 2014).
In early 2015, he decided to quit his comfortable job and focus on his website full time. Since then, he has launched three online Excel courses, and currently, helps thousands of Excel enthusiasts through his free tutorials and videos.
Sumit is a teacher at heart and considers ‘converting difficult concepts into easy to understand language’ as one of his superpowers. When not geeking out in front of spreadsheets, you can find him binge-watching on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
Where did the idea for Trump Excel come from?
As a data analyst in my full-time job, I was working extensively with Excel spreadsheets. At the same time, I also invested my time in learning advance Excel by going through Excel resources, videos, and books.
During this time, a lot of my team members used to ask for my help in getting stuff done in Excel. I decided to start a website and write tutorials about common queries that I was frequently getting. I did this to save time as I could simply direct them towards the tutorial instead of answering it one-on-one.
So, in 2013, I decided on the domain name and got my site registered and hosted. While I was a complete novice in WordPress, I somehow managed to set it up.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am an extremely organized person and relies heavily on my to-do lists. Over the years, I have realized that I can only complete three major tasks in a day. These could be creating a tutorial, recording a video, writing emails, answering queries, etc.
So, I decide on the three main tasks every night and only focus on these three tasks the next day. This usually takes the first half of my day. Once I am done with the three major tasks, I don’t take up any additional major task. The remaining time is spent on secondary tasks such as responding to comments, posting on social media, responding to emails, reading through relevant blogs, etc.
One thing that I have recently started is Yoga. I spend 1 hour every morning with my trainer, and it keeps me going for the entire day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
In my work, I need ideas for the new tutorials that I need to create. Since I already have an email subscriber base of 25K+ people, a lot of my tutorial ideas are derivatives of the queries I get from my readers. If I get a similar query multiple times, I create a tutorial about it.
I also have to make sure that I cover the topic in detail so that all my subscribers and visitors can benefit from it. This also involves doing a lot of research on what is already available online.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The advancement in automation is really exciting for me, especially email automation. This helps me in serving my audience in the best possible way.
For example, I can easily segment my readers based on their current expertise (basic, intermediate, advanced). Once I have the segments, I can send them relevant tutorials, instead of bombarding everyone with everything.
Email automation has been advancing every day, and now I can apply tags to subscribers based on what they do on my website. This is really exciting as I can now further personalize my communication with my readers.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Since the past six months, I have started using a standing desk. This has had a tremendous impact on my work-life as well as on my health. I was plagued with back pain when I was using a chair, but now it’s completely gone.
I also find myself a lot more productive when I stand and work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise my younger self not to wait and reach out for help as soon as possible.
When I started my website, I had no idea about WordPress, or hosting, or email marketing, CSS, or themes/plugins, etc. I learned everything from scratch and this delayed my progress (and also cost me a lot of money). I wish I had reached out to other experts and entrepreneurs early in my journey.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A lot of bloggers and entrepreneurs advise people not to think about money as a motivation. Recently, one of my friends advised new entrepreneurs that if they’re doing something for money, they shouldn’t do it at all.
According to me, money is a really good motivator and should always be one. I am not saying that it should be the ONLY motivator. Only when you make enough money that you can sustain yourself and your family, can you continue to help others. If today, I start giving away my video courses for free, I would not be able to pay for the hosting and tools I use. If I have to shut down my business, I can’t continue to add value to my audience/customers.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I keep asking my audience for feedback. This helps me in serving them better. In my mind, I may think that a certain course or tutorial would be helpful, but the reality could be completely different.
Only when you ask for feedback you would know about the real pain points of the customer. Feedback acts as a compass that guides me in the right direction.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Segmenting my customers has really helped me in growing my business. For example, if someone joins my subscriber list from a tutorial that talks about automation, I know that he/she is interested in that topic (interested enough that they gave their email to get a freebie about that topic). Once I have it, I can nurture them differently. Finally, when the nurturing is done, I can pitch my course which is relevant for Excel automation.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of my biggest failure as an entrepreneur has been to manage my finances. I tend to invest in every new shiny tool that catches my attention. That led to a huge monthly bill, and I was barely able to cover it. Now, I have cut down my subscription costs by keeping only the mission-critical tools and getting rid of the rest.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Online entrepreneurs are always in need of Virtual Assistants (VAs). One of the major issues while hiring a VA is that you need to train him/her in various areas of your business. This can take up a lot of time.
It would be a good idea to have a portal where I can enroll my VA and select the skills I need them to acquire. For example, if I am hiring a VA for social media management, I can pick courses on automation tools, image designing, headline/post writing, FB ads, etc. This will give me a VA that has good baseline skills.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a Logitech M570 ergonomic mouse. It works really well with my standing desk. Also, it has a roller which doesn’t require you to move the mouse. The design makes sure there is a minimal strain on my wrist and arm.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I am a huge fan of Google Sheets. It helps me manage my data as well as collaborate with other people efficiently. It also integrates with Zapier that makes it extremely useful. To give you an example, whenever someone leaves a comment on my tutorials, it automatically gets entered into Google Sheets. Now, I can simply to my Google Sheets document and respond to that comment by using the post link in it. This helps me in making sure that I am not missing out on responding to comments.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One of my favorite books is ‘Rework‘ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. It shares tons of golden nuggets on what a business should and should not do to grow. It doesn’t dwell on a concept for pages, rather covers it in one or two pages. It’s a ready manual for startups and can even be used by established tech businesses. The book doesn’t talk about any ground-breaking concepts, but emphasizes on simple stuff and explains why it matters
What is your favorite quote?
“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.” – Coco Chanel
• Don’t overburden yourself with a huge daily to-do list. Identify three major tasks for any given day and only work towards getting these done. It will help you in getting the important work done faster and leave you feeling more accomplished.
• Listen to your customers. Ask for feedback regularly. This feedback should act as a compass to guide you in the right direction.
• Do not hesitate in investing in your business, but don’t lock your money in tools that are not mission critical. Invest only when you see a positive RoI.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.