Andrea Grassi is our guest on the 328th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Andrea is a serial entrepreneur with 6 businesses, and he shares how he’s able to manage, build, and grow each business. If you’ve ever thought about expanding your sources of income, you’ll want to tune into this episode.
Here’s how the conversation goes:
- How Andrea became a marketer and entrepreneur.
- The reality of growing a business.
- Why he decided to start a second business… and a third business and…
- The most important part about starting a business.
- A breakdown of each of his vastly different businesses.
- Why he doesn’t need to be the expert in every business.
- The ingredients needed to build any business.
- How to create profit in your business and create a successful chain.
- Why your revenue isn’t that important – here’s what is.
- The importance of paying attention to each weak link in your business.
- The 3 pillars to any successful business.
- How to begin making a marketing plan.
- The mindshifts that take place while growing multiple businesses.
- Are you making it harder than it needs to be?
- The 3 positions you hold as a business owner.
- How to calculate your business value in each position.
- Finding out when it’s time to grow a team.
- How to look for the right business partner.
- The balance between multiple businesses, business partners, and employees.
- How Andrea breaks up his time and energy between each business.
- Measuring success through KPI’s.
- Splitting the stakes in business – what’s the first step?
- Are you really working or are you just working?
- Why you need to add in your rest block FIRST.
- The importance of deadlines for you and your team.
- The benefits of compartmentalizing.
- Andrea’s biggest strength and weakness are the same?
- How riding horses has anything to do with business.
Listen to the episode or read the transcript below.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Rob Marsh: There’s a well known and much shared idea that says that the average millionaire has seven different streams of income. They might earn money from serving clients in their business, from selling evergreen products, from a property rental, from stocks and other financial assets and so on. Our guest for today’s episode of The Copywriter Club podcast is Andrea Grassi. He’s a partner in six or seven different businesses that generate income for him and more importantly, he makes a major contribution as the marketing expert in each of the businesses he runs. And because running even a single business is a big challenge for most of us, we wanted to find out how he does it all. How does he find partners? What exactly does he do in each of his businesses? And maybe how more copywriters can create businesses like the ones Andrea has. There’s lots of great business building advice in this episode, so be sure to stick around for all of it.
Kira Hug: This podcast episode is sponsored by New Orleans. This is a city that Rob and I are currently in right now. We’re together in New Orleans. We’re actually here for our think tank Mastermind retreat, which we just wrapped last night. And Rob, did you have a good time?
Rob Marsh: That was amazing. Hanging out with these guys. They’re doing such cool things with their businesses and just talking about the challenges they have, working through some of those solutions and also listening to the presentations, the speakers that we had, talking about all kinds of things from processes to running a minimalist business that works, people who are doing amazing things, running six figure businesses, sometimes working three or four hours a day, four or five days a week. Yeah, it’s been really insightful.
Kira Hug: It was so fun to have everyone in this same room together. It’s in a really intimate space for a couple of days just because we weren’t able to do it for a couple of years, and were finally able to start gathering together in person and doing more than even just learning together, which was fun to hear all the different presenters and learn, but we also had a lot of fun. We went out to dinner, we went on a ghost tour, a cemetery tour. We went out to a comedy show. It was just great to get out, and New Orleans is such a magical city and place to visit. I feel like it was the best place for us all to be. And so it was all part of the Think Tank because that’s what the Think Tank is about. It’s about gathering copywriters together so you can share brilliant ideas with each other and build your own network and meet new friends, build your network of other copywriters and create new experiences.
Get yourself out of your comfort zone. Even traveling here was out of my comfort zone and just putting yourself out there in a new way to continue to grow as a business owner and to continue to grow as a person. And that’s what the Think Tank’s all about. And if that’s something that you would be interested in and being part of a mastermind and being part of a retreat and multiple retreats, then check out the Think Tank and apply. If you’re interested in joining, we can jump on a call and talk through it with you to see if it’s a good fit.
Rob Marsh: And to apply, go to copywriterthinktank.com. And now let’s jump into the interview with Andrea.
Kira Hug: So, we do want to know how you ended up as a marketer and entrepreneur.
Andrea Grassi: Okay. So, long story short, I never had the feeling to have a job. I always wanted to create something, so the first thing is that I never had a job ever. When I was 18, I was just working for a real estate company going around to look for property to be sold, and I was paying on a commission. But then when I was around 19, I started my first company, let’s call it a small business. And then I started to understand that wasn’t enough to be passionate about something. In order to create profits. There were a lot of things that I was missing, how to market my products, how to sell my products, how to make the numbers at the end of the month, mark a positive sign and all that kind of stuff. So, just because I’m very curious to learn things, I started to study this and study that and go deep in these things and I mean try to unveil something that I was missing.
And then suddenly I understood that I was liking that. I mean, I was satisfied and happy. So, I started to grow that business. And then probably just because I’m curious, I started to look around and I realized that there were opportunities around me. I mean, people have needs and nobody was satisfying those needs. And then I said to myself, okay, why don’t I try to do this? And then the second business came out and suddenly I realized that there were two different businesses in two different markets, but the main concept that were at the basis of those businesses were the same things. The marketing rules, the accountant things or the people management or all the other things that were around the business were the same. So, I said to myself, or maybe if I start another one the year was going on and was getting more expert, and then I said, yeah, maybe if I start another one, I can use the experience that I did to have the business work properly.
And then the third business came and then the fourth, and basically I was right. Not that I was right, it’s how things work. The basis, the foundation of the business. I’m sorry for my rotten English. The basis, the foundation of a business are the same, doesn’t matter. Yes, there are little changes, but the main column, the milestones are the same. So, it is probably like when you learn languages, it’s hard to learn the first one, the second one is a little bit easier than the first one. The third one gets easier. And so and so and so. Now I’m 49 with six businesses up and running. One of the past businesses has been closed, another one has been sold. And a few months ago I did things that I never did in my life. I bought a business. And so this is my long story made short, I hope.
Rob Marsh: Just to be clear, because we didn’t say this at the beginning, but you are in Italy.
Andrea Grassi: Yeah, I’m based in Italy. I live in Italy.
Rob Marsh: And the business environment in Italy is a little bit different than here in the States. It’s not always as easy to start a business. There’s a lot of things that go on. And so the fact that you’ve gone through a lot of those challenges is even maybe more impressive than if we were talking to somebody who’s started this many businesses in the States. But just briefly describe what the businesses are that you started. What were you doing in each of those businesses?
Andrea Grassi: Basically I grew up in the training and coaching environment. So, two businesses are about that, a company that does training and coaching services in the personal development area. One of the important things, in all these businesses, I am not alone, I don’t like the model of the solopreneur because I mean I like to bond. I like to create teams. And I think that I don’t know everything and some of my strong points are also some of my weak points. And that’s why I trust and believe that if a business if you have at least two business partners, it’s much better than one. So, in the training and coaching company that does personal development services, I have three business partners and I don’t run a lot of seminars there because most of my time is into another business that does coaching and training programs for small entrepreneurs.
And in that business we have a big revenue stream, the biggest in Italy that does training and coaching services for dental practice owners. Then another business that I just do the CEO for that business. And yes, I own shares. It’s a business for photographers and a photo retoucher. It’s a school of photography and photo retouching. Another business is an advertising company that does it’s a small niche, and creates images for companies that sell clothes for kids. So, basically an advertising company for a fashion brand that does clothes for kids. Another business in buy, remodel and resell properties. And the last one is the most recent one. I opened that one in Holland and it’s a project that lets people that want to invest money to create passive income investing in show jumping horses. I’m passionate about horses. I own horses. I do not do show jumping, I do dressage, but the money business is in the show jumping world.
So, this is why we started this company in Holland. And Rob, you were right. I realized that one more. When we open this business in Holland. In Italy, we are killed with the bureaucracy and everything is overcomplicated. There is this story that a big company head hunts Italian managers that work in Italy because they believe that they can do things, work in Italy, in the rest of the world, they will do much, much, much better and with much less effort. So, yes, it’s much nicer to be in US, I think to do business. And this is why I’m in the past two years, I’m thinking that probably is time for me to move or at least things to do something more international than what I’m doing right now.
Rob Marsh: So, just a really quick follow up. One of the things that’s really interesting to me is how different some of the businesses are and the fact that you aren’t necessarily a photographer or photo retoucher, an image specialist or even necessarily a training specialist, and yet you’ve still been able to launch all of these businesses. Maybe the one thing you have is the horses, which is a passion of yours, but even still the business is very different from your experience. And it’s really interesting to me that you’re starting so many businesses without that technical, that technician role where you are the one that has to be the expert.
Yes. And this is where the power of having business partners to create the magic. Because for example, the first company that I was talking about that doesn’t exist anymore, my business partner Simon, has now moved to the US. So, he started his own business there. It was a little IT company and I didn’t know anything about IT, but Simon was the beast. He was putting that knowledge in the company and I was just selling our services. That’s my part. And this happened, for example, with this business, with the horses, I went to improve and study my horse skill to the best master in Italy. And then when I was at East Stable, I was just between one lesson and the other one I was driving 300 kilometers. Please do the math, because I don’t want to mess up with the miles. But I was driving 300 kilometers to go there and learn because I want to learn from the best.
So, I was going there and then when I was there, I was just looking around and then when we were having lunch together, I was starting to tell him, hey, have you ever thought about doing these things in a different way? And then he said, why? Because I think that it works better. You can make more money, you can make more profit. And then he started to apply that. And then we started to become friends and we started to build trust and respect, mutual respect. And then he was doing his business and then they said, hey, but why don’t you do this in this way? Maybe you can do something much bigger than what you’re doing now. And then he said, this is interesting, and why don’t we do this together? And this is what basically happened to me many, many times. It always started with something similar to this. And I’m not the expert about the products of those businesses. I’m just an expert about how to sell, how to market those products and how to generate profit around those products.
Kira Hug: Okay. So many questions for you. Even though we had time to chat about this in Orlando, I still have so many questions about it. Let’s go back to the basics, especially for anyone listening who may be less interested in creating multiple businesses and they’re just like, I just need to get this one business running because that’s hard enough. What are some of the foundational pieces, the elements or ingredients that we need in our core business to make it work? Something that you’ve learned from all of these businesses, it’s the same thing over and over again.
Andrea Grassi: One important thing and probably is not the answer that people expect, but you need basically the things that you need the most is a strong marketing strategy to acquire the customers. Because a lot of people that started their first business, those people, they love their products or services, and they are passionate about that, but they are not passionate about selling them. I mean, sometimes I use this metaphor just because I live in Italy, I use the metaphor of a pizza place where pizza is sold. If you are passionate about making pizza and then you decide to open your own pizza store, pizzeria, we call them pizzeria, you need to realize that your business is not making pizza. Your business is selling pizzas. So, you need to be an expert for sure to create a wonderful pizza. But also in order to run that business, you need to be able to have clients, to be paid, to sell pizza at high prices in order to create high margins.
So, yeah, you need a marketing strategy. Then you need the ability to make the numbers fit the result. I mean, people love the business idea. Sometimes people love marketing too, but they don’t love numbers. So, they have no idea about how to define the prices in order to create a margin and how to, I mean, have the money to pay taxes and then the taxes arrives. And in Italy, we have much higher taxes than in the rest of the world. So, you need to become good at making those numbers. Otherwise, okay, the tax bill arrived. I don’t have the money in your bank account and then you have to borrow money to pay taxes, and it’s the worst thing that you can do. So, yes, you need this, but the most important thing that I’ve realized, and usually I advise small entrepreneurs about this, is that creating profit is not the result of a single activity, but is the result of different things that are hooked together as a chain.
Let me try to explain this. I went inside something difficult for my English, but let’s imagine that the profit you want to create is a ball of iron. And okay, for sure you want to create a big ball because you want a lot of profits, but this ball is heavy, so you need a chain to hold this ball. So, the chain is the system that you use to create the profit. The ball represents the profit, so the bigger the ball, the stronger the chain needs to be. Otherwise, it cannot hold that weight and you can only hold a smaller ball. But we know that the strength of the chain is defined by the weakest link of the chain. So, in order to run your company and be able to create profit, I don’t care about revenues.
It’s not the measure that defines a business is the profit that defines the quality of a business. I don’t like to have a five millions euro business with 100,000 profit. I prefer to have a 500 Euros business with 100,000 profit. I have less risk on my shoulders. So, the strength of the chain defines the size of the profit that you are able to create. It’s the weakest link that makes a difference. But usually people when things about their business, they want to reinforce what is already working, what is already powerful because they like it. And usually, the weakest link is the one that is weak, because those people don’t like that area.
Proposal generation, client acquisitions, yes, servicing and product delivery, cashing in, cost management, are the links of the chain. And usually when a small entrepreneur runs his business like something and tends to make that ring very powerful, very strong, but he doesn’t realize that if he puts more energy into that ring, the result of the profit will not change, because the result of the profit is stopped by the weakest link. So, in order to efficiently run a business, a small business owner should focus on the weakest link, and make it stronger, then he will see that his profit will grow, then another ring will become the weakest, and then you have to focus on that one and so on. And this is what basically is running a business. Have I been able to explain myself with this strange language?
Rob Marsh: Totally makes sense to me. Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I love the metaphor of the chain holding the profit ball because that weak link breaks and now you’re in trouble. And so fixing the weakest link next really works for me. And maybe we can come back to that in just a minute because you’re saying the three things, marketing strategy, the ability to generate a profit, make some money, and then these systems that support it. I want to go back to marketing strategy. When you are thinking about a business that you’re either starting or you’re running and you start to come up with the marketing strategy, what is it that you are thinking about? What are the things that you’re considering so that what you put together has a really good chance of working?
Andrea Grassi: Probably it starts even before creating the business because the most obvious things, and maybe stupid things that I can say is that if you want somebody to buy your products or services that this person has a need. So, usually what I do when I just scan the world just because I’m curious, I look for opportunities about what just people need, what they are missing, what they would like to do better, or is there a better way to solve a problem that they have. So, this lets me identify a spot where a new business can grow. Yes, it’s a matter of the size of the market and if that market has money to pay, otherwise there’s no market.
Basically everything starts from there. When it’s time to create the marketing strategy, basically everything starts from there. I see a lot of people, a lot of small entrepreneurs that just because they love their product, they tend to explain their product to the world, but nobody gives a shit about the product. They just want what that product can do for them. So, the most important thing I believe that has to be done is that you need to start and to market your product, starting from the needs and then from the benefits and then showing the proof about how your product is able to create those benefits.
Rob Marsh: I think that answers the purpose. And then from there, you’ve got to figure out, okay, how do we do this tactically? How do we go out into the world? Are we running ads? Are we talking to affiliates? And so that really just gets you to that next step of how do you execute on that?
Kira Hug: I’m curious to hear more about your mindset shifts, your mindset changes along your entrepreneurial path from 19 until now. Because I think that listening to you, I’m like, oh, this is amazing. I would love to run multiple businesses, but that’s impossible. And then I start to list all the reasons why it’s impossible, even though I know that’s not a true statement. So, I’m wondering what has helped you along the way start to shift the way you think about what’s possible for you? I know it’s not an overnight change, but what has helped you?
Andrea Grassi: I believe one thing that the profit of your company represents your inner value. So, basically if you make 100,000 euro a year, it means your value as a business owner is just that 100,000 euro. So, if you want to increase the number, you need to increase your inner value, you need to study, you need to make experiences, you need to learn new things. When I started my entrepreneurial value, I just created a new word right now, I didn’t know that it could exist, was around zero. And the company was just paying his bills. But then you learn new things. You teach, you study things, you make experiences, and your value grows and the company grows. When I was just running my first company, I mean, I wasn’t even thinking about opening a new one. There wasn’t space in my life for that. I was busy as hell to make things work, so I wasn’t even thinking about that.
But then as you create results, you increase your entrepreneurial value and then you are more strong, your mind changes. So, little by little, making experience and having references, okay, I can do it. I don’t have to be there if I change this and that I can simplify things. I can find people to delegate low-value activities in order to have more time for me to focus on high-value activities. That’s my main thing right now. I think that when you are on this route, on this path, you just make the experience that lets you increase your entrepreneurial value. And then little by little you start to understand that you can do more than you’d think because you can. It’s just seeing the world with different eyes because you just have different experiences and you are a different person.
Kira Hug: Do you have any examples you can share, especially for someone who maybe feels like they have plateaued so that they have increased gradually and then they’re at a plateau? Their profit has not increased for maybe a couple of years, so they’re starting to say, ah, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Do you have any examples of what’s helped you or what’s helped any of your clients?
Andrea Grassi: Yes. I learned a concept many many years ago that opened my mind. I was facing a strange situation. I was working and working and working and working and working probably, I mean, I don’t know. I’m a hard worker and I only do things that I like. So, it was easy to work a lot, sacrificing all different areas of my life. But I was working and working and working, but I was, as you said, stuck there. Things weren’t improving? And then I don’t even remember where I was in the US following training, a seminar because I signed up for that training just because I wanted to learn a solution for this problem. And that person said something like, there are three different things that you need to do in your company: operation, managing and be the entrepreneur. When you do activities or you manage things, you are working inside the business.
When you become an entrepreneur, you work on the business. And I realize that 99,99, okay, we use the comma. 99% of my time was in doing operations, a lot of operations because I was the product and the operational guy and some managing things, but I wasn’t working on the business. And that person said, okay, let’s think this way. When you do operations, every hour that you put in your business is worth it, 10 euros. When you do manage things, it’s worth it, 100 when you are an entrepreneur, it’s worth it, 1000. Try to do the maths and calculate the value of your time inside your business. If you want to increase the profit of that business, you need to increase this value. So, the only solution you have is not working more, just because I was working almost 18 hours a day.
The only solution that you have is to move your time from these little valuable things to the most valuable things and that are working on the business. So, the bigger advice I can give to somebody that is stuck in the situation you were mentioning is that think what can you delegate in order to free more time and move your focus and your energy working on the business, how to scale and how to increase that business, what you can automate in order to do things easier, what you can cut, because probably, I don’t know, Pareto principle would say that the 80% of the things that you’re doing is not really needed to your big dream. So, what can you cut? What can you simplify? And because you just need to increase the value of the time that you give to your business, and the only solution that you have is doing what you want to do, the entrepreneur.
And it means working on the business. A lot of people are scared that if I don’t do it won’t be done well. Yeah, I understand. Probably it is true, but the question is, these people want to be right or want to be rich. There are two different things. You need to understand that you have to delegate to somebody. You need to create a team. Otherwise, I mean, you cannot scale the time that the company has in order to produce the profit. If you are alone, you just have those hours per day. So, you need a team. When you create a team, things start to complicate because you are not alone anymore. But if you want to do that step and go out, that limit that you are facing, you need to break this barrier, this wall with this approach.
Kira Hug: All right, let’s break in here. Rob, what resonated with you the most?
Rob Marsh: Okay, so there’s a couple of things that really stood out to me. I love his analogy, Andrea’s analogy about pizza. So, just the idea that you are making pizza or you are writing copy or you’re doing marketing, but that’s actually not the business. That’s the craft that you do. And if you want to run a business, you have to get good at selling the thing that you are creating. And really a business is all about selling. And that’s something that I think most of us start to understand after a little while. If we struggle to find clients, obviously you need clients to make a business work, and so you start to understand how important selling is. But most of the time when we jump into a business, we jump into it because we’re really good at things like copy or making pizza, and we’re not always thinking about all of the other things that have to happen. So, again, I love that analogy.
Kira Hug: So, it’s really not, our job isn’t writing copy, it’s selling copy. There’s another part of the conversation that resonated with me, and I didn’t even realize it came from this conversation with Andrea until re-listening to the episode, but it stuck with me. He said, the profit of your company represents your inner value. And this is something if you have struggled and you kind of have hit a plateau and your profit has not increased recently, it can be very frustrating. And so I thought about this and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I can do to increase my own inner value. And it’s like, well, what does that even mean? What can I do to do that? Where do I start?
He mentioned education, learning more, developing your skill set. I think you can start to step out of your comfort zone to increase your inner value. You can help more people. The more people you help, the more you increase your inner value. There are so many different ways you can do that. And that’s something that I’m experimenting with just even personally to figure out how to play with that inner value. Because I do believe like he said, and he has the experience to back it up, that there’s a direct correlation to the profit of your company. And so it’s kind of a fun way to play around with it and take control over your business.
Rob Marsh: And I think when we talk about inner value, obviously we’re not talking about intrinsic value. Just if you have a business that has no profit, that does not mean that you don’t have value. But it is important to think about the value you bring to the table for your clients. And if you have a business that’s not making profit, you might need to look a little bit more deeply into what you’re doing so that you’re creating value for them. So, it’s all about how are you solving problems for your clients, what does that look like? And attached to that idea, Andrea talked about the value chain, all these things in your business that are hooked together from beginning to end and wherever that weakest thing is that you do is oftentimes where that profit breaks down.
And sometimes it’s not a single thing. Your business is obviously not a single thing. There’s all kinds of things that have to happen. But if there’s a breakdown in your pitching or your attraction ability or if there’s a breakdown in how you deliver what it is to your clients, or there’s a breakdown in offboarding or in invoicing, there’s so many places where you can have a weak link that impacts your profit. So, it’s worth looking at your business sort of start to finish like Andrea described in that chain and figuring out where the weakest link and how can you strengthen that now.
Kira Hug: Yeah, and I love his approach to building multiple businesses because it’s really about curiosity and observation, which sounds easy, but it’s not. Even slowing down enough to ask big questions or ask difficult questions. You can’t even form the question unless you’re paying attention to what’s happening around you and you’re looking for opportunities and you’re thinking differently about the world. And that is something that he’s really great at and maybe he’s cultivated over the years. I like the question that Andrea has asked his business partners that’s led to working with many of them. And the question is, have you ever thought about doing this in a different way? And that’s such a powerful question that we can use in our own work, in our own businesses. What could we do in a different way that we just take for granted, well, this is how you do it, this is how I have to do it, but what could we think about differently if we bring a beginner’s eye or just a different eye to the situation and the problem we’re solving?
Rob Marsh: And going along with that. He asked that question, but then he’s really free with the advice that he gives. There are lots of ideas. I think a lot of times we think if we’re sharing the ideas that we have, the client’s just going to run with them and do them himself, herself. And the reality is usually they’re not thinking of the ideas and they also don’t have the ability to execute on the ideas that we share. And so I love how freely he gives his advice, even before he forms a partnership with a potential business, he’s there saying, hey, you could do this differently. You could do this differently. He’s proving his value upfront. And then when a client comes back and says, Hey, maybe you can come and help me with this. He can have that conversation about partnership and what does that look like next? So, thinking about the needs that his potential partners have and just giving away as many ideas as they need until they see how valuable he is. Another idea worth stealing.
Kira Hug: And then we wrapped up the conversation talking about the different hats we wear as business owners and how often he kind of hit a plateau in his own business when he was focusing and working 18-hour days and focusing on the operations of his business and more of the management of his business, and then wondered why he wasn’t growing. And I think that’s relatable because oftentimes we do get stuck working in the business, and then we get frustrated because we’re not growing, but we’re not actually working on the business and wearing the entrepreneur hat. And so he broke it down beautifully. Just if you’re working on the operations of your business, that’s 10 euro an hour. If it’s the management of your business, it’s 100. If it’s the entrepreneur role, that’s worth a thousand euro an hour. And I think it’s a very simplified way of understanding that we need to wear the entrepreneur hat more frequently if we really do want to grow. And I need that reminder. So, maybe if you’re listening, you need that reminder too.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, it’s a really good reminder. I think a lot of us get stuck with a 10 euro, $10, 10 pound job because it makes us feel busy. It makes us feel like we’re doing stuff. And oftentimes when you’re wearing the thousand euro hat as the entrepreneur, you’re thinking, you’re sitting, you’re actually not delivering anything. But the value that Andrea breaks out makes a really clear point that one is far more important than the other. Obviously, the $10 stuff’s got to get done, the 10 Euro stuff has to happen, but you don’t always have to be the one that’s making that happen. All right, let’s go back to the interview with Andrea and find out how he finds the right people to be his business partners.
So, Andrea, as I listen to you talking about the business, the businesses that you’ve created, it occurs to me that there may be people who are listening to copywriters, marketers who are listening and thinking, okay, I’d actually like to do this. We oftentimes think about, oh, we want to add multiple streams of revenue to our business, but usually, it’s streams within the same business as opposed to creating a second business. So, I’m curious, let’s say somebody is ready to go out and maybe be that strategic partner, be that copywriting and marketing arm. How do you find somebody to partner up with in order to be the other side of the business, the person that brings that expertise area to the business so that you can help them sell it and do all the things that you do?
Andrea Grassi: Do you want a truth or a lie?
Rob Marsh: I want the truth, unless the lie is such a great story that … no, we definitely want the truth.
Andrea Grassi: I don’t have a strategy. It always happened. The advertising company, I was living in Milano because we decided to place our offices there in order to be much closer to the market. But then when we didn’t need to be there anymore, we moved back to my native town that is Reggio Emilia in the north of Italy. And then I went to a bar for a coffee, obviously an espresso. And then I met this Simon, it was a guy, I was in the Boy Scout. We were in the boy scout together for many years. And then we started to talk and chat, what are you doing? What are you doing? And then he said, okay, I have this little design company that does logos, brochures and this kind of stuff, and we just moved in the town and we needed to create a lot of material.
So, I said to him, hey, I’m looking for somebody that will do something like this. I mean, I prefer to give you my money than to a perfect stranger. So, we started to work together and then he was explaining things to me about his business. I started to give him advice. I think there’s a pattern here. And then one day we were out for dinner with him and his business partner and I said, hey guys, I have an idea. I think that if we do this, this and this and this, we can create a business about these things. And they said, nice. Okay, would you like to do this together? And because I put, maybe this is one of my limits, but I tend to put the person that I will partner in front of everything. We need to be aligned, not about the business, but about the deep values that we have.
I cannot do business with somebody that has different values that I have and can be a totally different person than me, but the deep value, the value that moves our lives needs to be aligned, otherwise there’s sooner or later I want to go this way, you want to go that way. And the result is that things break up. So, Rob, I don’t have a strategy. I mean, I just meet people, sometimes see opportunities, make proposals, and sometimes things happen. I mean, it’s not a strategy, it’s a matter of luck or being in the right place at the right. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Rob Marsh: It seems like you put yourself in places where you can add ideas, add value, and then things start to happen.
Andrea Grassi: Yes, and I do it completely naturally. It’s not something that I think because the mission of my life is to be a valuable resource and add value in people’s lives, I feel these things really strongly. This is why I do what I do. So, it’s very natural for me to, I mean, just look at things and things. How can I improve and share that idea? Okay, this idea; if you like it, use it. If you don’t like it, I mean I don’t care, but I like to add value to your business or ward or whatever. And then I don’t know, this moves energies and this energy sometimes align and then the magic happens.
Kira Hug: I am not sure how this question is going to come out, but just bear with me. So, Rob is my business partner. I can’t imagine having eight Robs.
Rob Marsh: Are you kidding me? How awesome would your life be if you had eight of me?
Kira Hug: Yeah, my life would be very … yes, but it would be a lot to handle and manage. How do you manage your time and your energy around, I forget how many, but six to eight different business partners? How do you know where to focus with these businesses? I feel like that would be tricky for me to know where to go and to focus this week versus next month. How do you figure that out?
Andrea Grassi: It didn’t happen everything at the same time. It happened step by step. So, every time I just only had to find some more time to deal with this thing. In one business, I just make two meetings a year and I mean complete trust on the people that are running that business. You can be anywhere. You cannot control everything. You cannot do that. I’m inside the training business, especially the one with a small entrepreneur and dentist. So, that is a day-by-day activity with the advertising company is running, this is up and running, and there is this approach of the red line. If something happens, we need an idea, we have these issues. What do you think can be done? Just add us some ideas. So, basically, I’m making a consultant job for them with the business of photography. Me and Simon are not the one that I was talking to that moved us. That is another Simon.
The one that I met at the bar is just, we make every three months meetings just to align and define the strategy. In every company, this is very important I think, everything is run through KPI. I’m pronouncing that correctly. So, we measure the performance. We have a dashboard. This is one of the things that I love to create, a dashboard that makes measurable the activities and the results and can highlight the root of a problem that can be inside the company. So, having those dashboards lets us analyze the business very quickly, define very quickly where the weakest link is, define the strategy, and then have the team that executes the strategy.
This is why I have all these businesses as employees, and I have business partners otherwise I think is not possible. I think that otherwise is much, much better. I’m not saying that having multiple businesses is a nice idea. Maybe if we follow the simplification rule, it’s much better to put the effort in one place and scale that one. Is much easier to go away from the break even point and leverage the profit. Yes, for sure. But I tend to be annoyed if I’m doing the same thing forever. Plus I don’t like to put all my eggs in the same basket. So, basically Kira, it’s a matter of delegate, is a matter of trust and is a matter of having a system to measure the performance and identify the weakest link.
Rob Marsh: I’m curious, Andrea, with the different businesses, what does the ownership stake look like? Because again, it’s got to work for both of the partners or all of the partners in a business. Do you own a majority of each of the businesses? Do you have smaller stakes? What does that look like?
Andrea Grassi: No, I don’t like that. This is another limit probably in my approach, but as I said to you, I put people before money. So, for example, with Francesco, my business partner in Holland, we did probably the most stupid thing that two business partners can do. And we just created a BV that’s probably the equivalent of the LTD in us and we created that 50% and 50%. I know it’s stupid because if we have any problem, but I’m romantic and I believe that people can find a solution if they want to stay together. If they don’t want to stay together, there’s no reason to stay together. So, who cares? I prefer to be balanced and fair instead of arguing for having the 1% more. In the other companies, we just have, I mean three business partners, 33, 33, 33 in another business, I don’t have the majority because I mean, I think it wasn’t fair.
I mean it was just added some money. I’m doing basically nothing. If you have what you like and you have what you need and you have what you think is right, and I think is right, is the best approach in order to create a long-term relationship. So, this is my approach. I know that it’s a little bit unconventional, but I believe more in good relations than in having control of the business and being the boss that can, I mean do things in the way he thinks. I prefer to convince my business partner about an idea instead of using the 51% of the majority to apply that idea.
Kira Hug: I want to make sure we have time to talk about burnout. I don’t know why, but it feels really important to talk about it. You mentioned working 18-hour days at one point and that you love your businesses, so you want to work on your businesses. How have you figured out the right way to maintain your workload so that you don’t get burnt out, especially with multiple businesses? Do you have any tips for us? Because this is such a big struggle for copywriters.
Andrea Grassi: I’m a maniac about time management and productivity. But once again, long story short, the things that I do, the first thing that I put in my agenda is my free time. So, I usually say that the horses save my life, because they need care, they need attention, they need training, so they need time. When I do my planning, I don’t want to go into details, it’s too long. But when I do my planning, the first thing that I do is I put the amount of free time, for example, with horses that I want. And really something, I mean, incredible needs to happen in order to change that time for working time. And I’ve realized that doing that it’s not the amount of time that you do work that creates the result, it’s the focus and the energy that you put there. And I realized that working 18 hours a day, I mean it pays for your sense of being, I don’t know how to say that in English.
You feel that you’re doing something so you feel okay, but then you’re not producing a result, an outstanding result. So, I realized that if you take your time, recharge your batteries, and put the stress out, when you focus, you are much quicker. You are much more productive and you can do more in less time. So, my bigger advice is to start from your free time, but as a parental advisor, if you need to be ready to work hard when it’s time to work hard, I mean, it doesn’t matter what you have to do, you need to do what you have to do.
You don’t have to do what you want to do. But this can be something that can happen in a period. It cannot be forever. So, just start by taking some time for yourself and do the things that really charge your batteries and you will see it. And when you go back to work, you can do the same amount of things. With the people that work in the team. I usually give them less time to do things and I force them to do those things in less time because when you have less time, you find smarter solutions to do things. When you know that you can’t put any amount of time into something, it’ll take you much more than you really need.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I think that’s really good advice. So, if that’s the approach to burnout then, when you show up ready to work and working hard, how do you make sure that you’re as sharp as possible from a skills and knowledge expertise standpoint that what you’re bringing to the table, you’re not stagnating and you’re able to bring new ideas and new thinking each time you show up in a different business in order to make a contribution?
Andrea Grassi: Honestly, Rob, I don’t know. I think that I developed an ability, compartmentalize. Is that word that exists in English?
Rob Marsh: Yep. Compartmentalize.
Andrea Grassi: Okay. And when I’m there. It’s like, I mean, I am there. I’m not thinking about anything else except that thing. When I’m horse riding, I’m thinking about the horse. I’m focusing only on the present, not on what happened, what will happen after or what happened before. And that continues to have an effect on me. But I don’t know how to do that. It happens to me and I think it’s been the result of this evolution in the years about being forced to take care about different things in different environments.
Kira Hug: You mentioned earlier in the conversation you said your strong points are also your weak points. I’d like to hear more. What do you mean exactly? Because I think this is part of what we all need to do is be reflective and know our strengths and weaknesses. So, can you talk a little bit more about that?
Andrea Grassi: Okay. One time a man from us told me that I’m kind of anal retentive. Is that a word that exists?
Kira Hug: Oh it is, yes it is.
Andrea Grassi: Okay. So, I will give you an example about this. I think that details can make a huge difference, especially when you want to create something outstanding. So, one of my strong points is that I’m very able to find little details that can make things better, but that is also one of my weak points, because that approach, if you don’t control that approach, you will be much slower than probably you need to be. Because focusing on details, you want to fix this, you want to fix that, make this better, make this in a different way so it’ll be better. You will never start, because you will be stuck in the improvement of the details. So, sometimes you need to learn how to let go of those details and understand that done is better than perfect, for example. So, this has been something that I had to work a lot on, because I wasn’t able to deliver the things in time because my passion for details was slowing me down too much. So, this is a small, but I hope it is a clear example of that.
Kira Hug: Yeah, it was nice of your friend to tell you that, right? To share that with you.
Andrea Grassi: Yeah, I don’t know the meaning of that word, but I think that is something that-
Rob Marsh: Yeah, we probably don’t need to go into that any deeper. Yeah. So, Andrea, we’ve mentioned your horses a couple of times. I’m curious, what lessons have you learned from working with riding horses that apply to your businesses?
Andrea Grassi: Man, this will be long, this question opens my … there are a lot of things. The most important thing is that when you deal with a creature that has 10 times your weight and you try to do something forcing that creature, you suddenly realize that if you put on the strength, it’s a matter of strength. You will lose that battle. You need to understand how he thinks, how he communicates, in order to create a dialogue that lets the horse do the things that you ask. I know if people that love horse riding are listening, what I’m saying, I know that there is much more than this, but let me simplify this, otherwise it’ll be very hard to explain what I’m saying. But you need to create a communication and to create that communication, you need to understand how the horse thinks, how the horse acts.
You need to understand the signal that the horse gives to you. So, the point with the business is that in a business you deal with people and the most important thing that you need to be good at is to communicate. Because if it’s your business partner, you need to understand him. You need to understand what he wants, his desire, his way to communicate. For example, one thing that he does for you can have a completely different meaning. To judge those things you need to apply his system, not your system. In order to motivate, you need to understand what is really important for you or for your employees.
You need to understand your people in order to put them in the best place to amplify their opportunities. And yeah, it’s probably, this is the edge of the iceberg. There is much more under this, but probably it’s the most important thing that I’ve learned from dealing with horses and communicating with horses and creating relationships with horses. Because these are, if you want to put it, I don’t know the word in English, those metal things that you put on the boots to kick the horse or strong things in the mouth, strong leveraging the mouth to force the horse to do what you want. But that is not how you can produce the result in life. So, it’s much better to use the smartest way to ride and the smartest way to deal with people.
Kira Hug: As we wrap up the conversation, we’ve talked a lot about what you’ve done well in your business and you’ve shared so much great advice. I would love to know what is a struggle for you right now. At this stage in your business and your journey, what is something that is like the number one struggle right now in business that you’re trying to figure out or maybe you’re partly through it?
Andrea Grassi: Finding people. I’m struggling with it. I also share that in our mastermind in Orlando, it’s hard to find them, because sometimes I have much more ideas than the resources on the ground. And the main reason is that I miss the right people to be placed in the right place. I’m struggling with that. I haven’t found a solution yet. I feel that, okay, I would like to do this, but then I walk back and nobody’s there and I cannot do that. I mean, I don’t know if you have an idea about how to solve this, but this is what I’m looking for now, a solution for finding the right people, especially in the structure of the company, the middle managers, those people that are your direct connection, the right people to delegate responsibility. It’s not a matter of delegating tasks, it’s a matter of delegating responsibility.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, it’s a challenge. I mean, Kira and I have talked many times about having way too many ideas and not enough people or robots or whatever to put them into action. So, we feel that. So, Andrea, usually we end by asking if people want to find out more about you, where should they go? I’m not sure that you’re all that interested in having copywriters follow you, but if they want to check out some of your businesses or some of the things that you’re up to, where would they go?
Andrea Grassi: My website is just www.andreagrassi.it. That’s the app where you can go around and check around. I know that copywriters are not, copywriters are not my basic public, but I mean, I will be more than happy and if just somebody wants to write a question, maybe I will not be that quick to answer, but I will answer. If somebody asks me something, I will send an answer. So, maybe if you want somebody to dig deeper into what I said, I will be happy to answer if they shoot me a question.
Rob Marsh: That’s fantastic. Thanks, Andrea, for taking the time to chat with us. It’s been enlightening learning about your businesses, but also I think insightful in maybe ways that all of us can expand the ways that we make money or explore our other business interests outside of what we do on a daily basis. So, thanks for that.
Kira Hug: Yeah, thank you, Andrea. Just you’ve helped me think bigger about what we’re doing here and what else I could be doing beyond that too. So, thank you.
Andrea Grassi: I’m very happy about that. You’re welcome. And it’s been a pleasure to be here. A really, really big pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.
Kira Hug: That’s the end of our interview with Andrea Grassi, but let’s go over a couple more ideas before we jump. Rob, what stood out to you from this part of the conversation?
Rob Marsh: Okay. Well, we led into this part of the conversation by saying, hey, let’s find out what Andre does to find a business partner. And I really like that he didn’t say, well, I look for somebody with a growing business, or I look for somebody who’s already making money, or I look for somebody who has built businesses before. He focuses instead on, I’m looking for a business partner that has the same values as me. And of course, the other things are important too. Opportunities, being able to have a place where you can offer value and give that advice, like that’s important to have. But having a partner with the same values is critical because if values are the baseline for everything that we do, and if you don’t agree on that stuff, it’s only a matter of time before you’re going to disagree on a whole lot of other stuff.
Kira Hug: Yeah, and he said, you can always find a solution if you want to stay together as partners. And I think that goes for partnership in many, many areas of life. And I just really respect his approach, the 50/50 in businesses or just being really fair to the partners that he’s working with and putting people first. I think it’s just a really great approach to building businesses with partners with that type of respect. We also talked about KPIs and the importance of KPIs. I mean, that’s something that we’re working on in our business just because if you can’t measure it and track the growth and maybe what’s happening in the business, it’s hard to build those businesses and work with multiple partners if you can’t see those metrics easily to understand what’s happening in the business at all times. And even if you’re not running eight or nine businesses, you can still develop and create your own KPIs so that you can quickly take a look and understand what’s happening in the business at all times. And then maybe you could add a new project or add a new business eventually.
Rob Marsh: KPIs, that stands for Key Performance Indicators in case there’s one or two people who haven’t heard that term. And it is important, but it’s sometimes really hard in a solopreneur business where you’re the only person to spend the time and figure that stuff out. What are the Key Performance Indicators in your business? Is it the number of pitches that you have each month in order to get enough clients into your business? Is it a pricing indicator so you’re bringing on more expensive or more valuable projects? Is it the number of projects that you’re able to do a month? Is it a profit level so that your time accounts for say, 40% of the cost of every project?
There’s lots of different ways to look at it and measure it and just make sure that those things are staying positive, that they’re growing and not going down. The more complex a business is, the easier it is in some ways to find what those performance indicators should be. But with our simple businesses, sometimes we just think, well, I’ve got a client. I’m working right now, everything’s okay. And it’s smart to take a little bit more of a business focus when you look at things like all of these metrics that should be happening in your business.
Kira Hug: We also talked about productivity and how to take care of yourself, how to avoid burnout, and Andrea offered some good tips that I’m already using. One of them was to start with your free time. Put your free time in your calendar first, which is, again, very hard to do, especially when you’re just getting started and you feel like you don’t deserve it or you need to always put clients first. But that’s a great reminder too. Even as I was listening to that, I was thinking, okay, I have some kid vacations coming up, or the kids are home from school. I need to put that in the calendar so that it is time off and I’m prioritizing that and not just falling into it without a plan and then trying to work through my kids’ spring break. And so I think that’s a really great tip. But also he reminded us that you have to be ready to work hard when you need to work hard.
And so take care of yourself, but know when it’s time to really just dig in and do the work that’s needed. And then the last tip that resonated with me was, and I actually would like to hear more about it, which is forcing your team members to do things in less time, which you would think is the opposite of what you should do to take care of your team members. But he said it helps create new solutions and creative thinking. When you have less time to do something, there are new solutions that present themselves to you. So, that’s something that’s really interesting and I want to dig deeper into it.
Rob Marsh: Oftentimes constraints make us more creative and force us to think of different ways of doing things. So, asking people to do things faster or on a lower budget or in other ways that put constraints on them can actually make them better. The last idea that really resonated with me was when Andrea is talking about horse riding and the idea that you need to understand the horse. And of course, I think that that’s an idea that applies to all kinds of things, including business. You need to understand the business, the horse, the business that we’re riding, and sometimes it has a mind of its own. Sometimes contractors will do their own things or clients will do their own things, and you have to understand exactly what the horse is going to do, what it needs to hear in order to be effectively controlling this enormous thing that we’re all riding. I just think it’s a great metaphor for so many things in life, not just business, family, all kinds of stuff.
Kira Hug: And my biggest takeaway was just this change in mindset. Listening to Andrea and his journey from the time he was 19 to where he is today, it’s really easy to think, well, I couldn’t possibly do that. I couldn’t be Andrea. I couldn’t have eight businesses or more. But he really changed my mindset in thinking about, you never know, you could build the first one and get it running, and there could be another opportunity. And because you understand the foundation of what it takes to build a profitable business, whether it took you a year to figure that out or a decade to figure it out, you could find the right partner or jump into the next business. And that opportunity exists for all of us. So, at least for me, I need to remind myself that it is possible and not close that off and just say, oh, well, that’s for someone else, not for me.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I think I really like Andrea’s approach. He knows what he’s good at. He’s really good at marketing. He doesn’t do anything else in all of these businesses, but what he brings to the table is really valuable. What we bring to the table is really valuable, and it goes well beyond just writing the words. We can show up for multiple partners in the same way. I just loved the advice that Andrea gave as he shared all the things that he does. And it got me thinking too, how can I show up for different clients in different ways? Are there some of those partnership opportunities where I can invest more into their businesses and make some money coming out because I’m helping them grow it in different ways as a partner as opposed to a vendor? I think it’s just a really good way to think through how we approach problem-solving for our clients.
Kira Hug: We want to thank Andrea Grassi for joining us in the podcast today. If you want to connect with him, you can find him at andreagrassi.it. We’ll link to it in the show notes. He’s also on LinkedIn if you want to reach out and shoot him a question. He did say he would respond. It just may take a little bit of time.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, he’s a fun guy. Definitely worth connecting with. And if you want to listen to other conversations a lot like this one, check out episode 95 with Julia Reinisch, and she talked about staying curious and seeking new opportunities. So, a similar theme. And also episode 204 with Jereshia Hawk about high ticket sales and building a team. That’s one of my all-time favorite episodes that we’ve recorded. Jereshia’s amazingly smart, and definitely worth listening to that one too.
Kira Hug: And that’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter Addison Rice. The outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter David Muntner. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please visit Apple Podcast to leave your review of the show. We actually did get a review of the show.
Rob Marsh: This week. We’ll-
Kira Hug: This week.
Rob Marsh: We’ll share it next week.
Kira Hug: And we were so excited.
Rob Marsh: Make us happy. Leave a review.
Kira Hug: Yes. And again, if you want to be part of a mastermind, Andrea, we met him through a mastermind that Rob and I are a part of, and it’s been so grateful or so wonderful to get to know him and learn from him. If you want to be part of a mastermind of your own and attend retreats like the one we just hosted in New Orleans, check out the Copywriter Think Tank, and fill out an application. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.