My 2014 Recap & 2015 Goals

by Brian Casel  ·  Get free updates of new articles here

In case you’re interested, here’s my personal 2014 recap and 2015 goals. I don’t expect this to be very actionable or helpful to you, except perhaps as a case study.

That’s why I also published a separate article today called What Got Your Here Won’t Get You There. I wrote it to help you do your turn-of-the-year “gut check”. Hopefully the strategies in that post will help you crush your goals in 2015.

But this post here is really for me to look back on a year from now. It’s also a way to add some public pressure on myself, in hopes that I won’t have to write an embarrassing 2015 recap a year from now!

OK I admit… It’s also a lame excuse to share a pic of my lovely newborn daughter.

2014: Life…

Our daughter, Emma, was born on March 2nd, 2014 🙂

“The highlight of the year” would be an understatement. Emma completely lit up our world this year and it’s been an absolute thrill being a new Dad.

Emma Casel, 10-months old, Dec 2014

Our trip to Acadia National Park, Maine 🙂

We didn’t get to do as much travel as we usually do this year (I wonder why?), but we did manage to pack the baby and the dog in the car and head up to Bar Harbor, Maine to eat some lobster and hike around beautiful Acadia National Park.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.33.26 AM

Big Snow Tiny Conf ’14

January 2014 was our first annual Big Snow Tiny Conf getaway, organized by Brad Tousnard and myself. It’s a 4-day trip to Sugarbush, VT where a bunch of web business owners get together to hit the slopes and talk shop.

Except for the fact that 3 of our registered attendees couldn’t make it because a winter storm cancelled their flights 🙁 the trip was a success. It was awesome to meet and hang with new friends and have what felt like a 3-day mastermind session. Getting back on the snowboard is always fun, except it was below 0 degrees that week, which put a cold damper on that part of the trip.

This year, we’re all booked up for Big Snow Tiny Conf ’15!  12 registered attendees this year. Bigger house. Let’s hope the weather abides.

Founding group of Big Snow Tiny Conf 2014

Founding group of Big Snow Tiny Conf 2014

Health 🙁

This has been an ongoing struggle, and 2014 was no different. I’ve never been terribly unhealthy or overweight, but I’ve never had consistently healthy eating and exercise habits. 2014 was a year of fits and starts in this area. BUT, starting this December I picked up The Bulletproof Diet book and I feel better than I ever have (and I’m only 1 week in!). So I think I’m onto something…

2014: Business Goals Recap…

Somewhat of a mixed bag, but overall I feel good with where things ended up this year. These are goals quoted straight from my business journal from earlier in the year. Let’s see how I did…

“Hire key people and focus on processes, and removing the “busy work” from my daily schedule. Within 6 months, my role should dramatically change from what it is today.”

  • WIN 🙂
  • The day-to-day load of running Restaurant Engine is dramatically different today as I focused on removing myself from a large portion of the work this year. This has been huge, since it allowed me to focus on other things like growing my audience and releasing a course here on casjam.com, and of course spending lots of time with my family.

“Restaurant Engine on autopilot and growing 3x faster than it is today.”

  • FAIL 🙁
  • RE’s growth rate is not 3x what it was a year ago. It’s about 1.5x.
  • The problem was in the way I worded this goal. I failed to recognize how difficult it would be to both automate/remove myself and dramatically increase growth. I did the automation, but didn’t do much in terms of growth.

“Build a marketing funnel for my first ebook, Design For Conversions.”

  • FAIL 🙁
  • I released Design For Conversions back in 2013, but I made the mistake of not having any kind of marketing funnel in place post-launch. I failed to realize that as soon as I’d get that book out I’d be pulled right into other projects and won’t be able to give much attention to generating ongoing sales for the book. I also shifted my interests and topics as my audience starting resonating with other things.
  • The lesson I took away was to put some kind of ongoing marketing engine in place before launching the product. In 2014, I released the free Productize crash course before even deciding whether or not I’d create the premium course.

“Write & release a 2nd eBook”

  • WIN 🙂
  • It ended up being a course instead of an eBook.
  • Launching Productize was far and away my biggest win of the year. It came as a result of growing my audience, but more critically, getting to know where they’re at and where they’re going. I’m really proud of the material I teach in Productize as I feel I’m truly serving my audience in the best way I know how.
  • In terms of revenue, my target was $10k during the launch week (Oct 21-31, 2014). It did just under $18k in the first 10 days. As of this writing (Dec 21), Productize has done over $39k and counting.

2014: Work Highlights…

  • Went “part-time”
    For most of this year, both my wife and I switched to working “part-time”, splitting our week between going to work and staying home with our newborn. Overall, this has worked out well and I’m so happy that we have the flexibility to do this. It did make “pushing” my business forward more difficult at times because my work schedule is limited, but looking back on the year, I’m pretty happy with the amount that got done.
  • Hired 2 additional teammates 🙂
    Early in the year I brought on Ashley to take over our inbound sales and consultations for Restaurant Engine. Mid-way through the year Kate joined the team as our 2nd customer support rep. My team has been amazing and they’ve enabled Restaurant Engine to grow, even while I was occupied with family stuff.
  • Went to MicroConf Vegas & Gave an Attendee Talk 🙂
    2014 was my first MicroConf and I’m booked to go again in April 2015. What a great conference! I was thrilled to give an attendee talk last year too. Nothing like connecting and re-connecting with “my people” at the best conference of the year.
  • Spoke at WordCamp CT
    My buddy and office-mate Clint Warren organized the first WordCamp CT and I had the opportunity to speak.
  • Published 27 posts on this blog 🙂
    I’m really happy with my output here on casjam.com this year. I managed to consistently publish 2 articles every month, sometimes more. My writing seemed to resonate more this year than ever before, which I attribute to getting to know my audience. Here were some crowd favorites:

  • Published 4 guest articles on other blogs.
  • Appeared as a guest on 10 podcasts.
  • Published a free video course called Content Marketing Automation
    My first stab at creating a video course.
  • Published a free crash course on Productizing Your Service 🙂
    This one resonated big time and led me to…
  • Launched the premium Productize course 🙂
    Get the full launch recap here and see today’s notes below
  • Published 39 episodes of the Bootstrapped Web Podcast & welcomed Jordan Gal as the co-host 🙂
  • Grew my email list from ~500 in January ’14 to 4,200 today 🙂
  • Hosted 3 webinars
    One as a precurser to creating Productize, one for Restaurant Engine (fail, see below), one was presented to Brennan Dunn‘s audience.

2015: Goals

Build a profitable & measurable sales funnel for RE/HP

Up until now, we do profitably acquire customers mainly from organic channels (content, word-of-mouth, search). The problem is this isn’t very measurable, and  I learned I can’t simply double-down on what has worked if we want to significantly grow faster.

So my first big project in 2015 is to build an additional sales funnel that is profitable, measurable, and scalable. This will take my full hands-on attention during the first 3-6 months of 2015. You’ll hear me talk about progress on this front on the podcast and probably in articles here.

Measurable target: Double monthly recurring revenue

Automate said sales funnel for RE

Once we have our new customer acquisition channels dialed in, the next step will be to remove myself (again) from the process. I’ve already removed myself from the service tasks and our content marketing efforts. Now it’s “rinse and repeat” as I work to add new processes.

In 2014 I made RE run on autopilot. In 2015, the goal is for it to grow on autopilot.

Measurable target: Maintain increased growth rate without my direct input.

Meaningful improvements in the businesses’ of my Productize students

I’ve already received plenty of great feedback/testimonials from students who got started with the course material, however too early to see any longterm results. In 2015, I want to see meaningful transformations in my students’ businesses. I’ll be doing everything I can to support this: Dropping into our private community daily, doing coaching calls and check-ins, and updating the course with additional material.

Based on the ongoing feedback I’m getting, I’m already brainstorming a “Productize 2.0” update sometime in 2015. This will likely include a new batch of lessons and a monthly coaching option.

Measurable target: Document 5 detailed case studies

An improved marketing funnel for Productize

My writing and my free Productize crash course already does an OK job of driving ongoing sales. In 2015, I’m aiming to improve the crash course (go video) and develop a routine of live workshops.

I recently did one partnership workshop, which was a big win and I’ll be looking to line up a couple of joint workshops with select folks who have similar audiences to mine.

Measurable target: Avg. monthly revenue: $5k / Total revenue from Productize for 2015: $50k

Shift focus to 75% serving you, 25% RE/HP

Today, approx 75% of my time is spent working on RE/HP. The remaining 25% is spent here, talking to you. It will remain that way during the first half of 2015 while I’m working on marketing and other new initiatives there.

But by the end of the year, I want that balance to reverse. RE/HP should be growing and automated so I can spend most of my time here, serving you 🙂

What I mean by “serving you” is everything I do for this audience (you): Write this blog and my newsletter, record the Bootstrapped Web podcast, create free courses and webinars, teach the Productize course. Whatever I do “next” will be for you. I don’t know when or what that will be, but I do know who it will serve.

Measurable target: Harder to measure, but here’s one indicator: I’d like to move to a consistent weekly newsletter (I currently send mine approx every 2 weeks).

2015: Improvements

There are two basic improvements I want to make in the way I approach work:

Take more risks

As I wrote about in today’s post, I feel I’ve been avoiding that next “entrepreneurial moment”. In 2015, I need to fire this back up and take a leap. Not in terms of launching something new, but in terms of pushing growth hard.

I need to do things that will make me uncomfortable and break me out of business-as-usual habits.

Seek more feedback

I feel I’ve done a good job of seeking feedback from audience, which has paid off really well.

But I can do a better job of asking for and processing private feedback from peers. My mastermind groups serve as a solid support team. But I’d like to reach out to others, especially those who are farther along than I am, and those who have a different business experience than I do.

The hard part is I fully understand how business these people are, which is why I tend to shy away from asking for feedback. I’ll need to navigate this carefully and figure out what works.

This time next year…

So in a nutshell, by this time next year RE/HP should be doubled and growing faster, I’ll continue to teach the grow the Productize course, and I’ll be able to dedicate even more of my focus to serving you, my newsletter subscribers.

See you in January!

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Discuss

  • Emma is just the cutest! March will be here again before we know it, and she’ll be one! Congrats on being a dad. So exciting. 🙂

    • Thanks 🙂 I know, crazy how time is flying by and watching her from month to month.

  • Congrats on a great year! Well done on removing the busy work from your life, this is a huge problem for me and something I need to work towards as much as possible in 2015.

    • Thanks Simon! Somehow, even after removing the busy work I still find more to keep me busy… A never ending battle I guess.

  • Congrats on the great numbers with Productized man! Last I heard was your launch podcast talking about how you surpassed the $10k number.

    • Thanks Justin! Ya I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the post-launch traction for Productize 🙂

      *Brian Casel*
      casjam.com

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  • Hey Brian great post mate. Just a thought about the books. I know in our circles it’s popular to sell your books directly and use the ‘Nathan Barry’ model of having the tiers and the high priced upsells with the videos etc however I think there is another way which is worth considering.

    This is how I did it with The 7 Day Startup and I will also be doing it with my new book. And that is.

    1. Give away everything for the first week. With The 7 Day Startup I gave away the book to 13,000 people on Amazon in the first week. This pushed it high up the Amazon rankings and when it swapped to paid (compulsory after 1 week) it ranked at #2 in Small Business and #2 in Startups. Even now, 3.5 months after the launch it is ranking in #3.
    2. Sell it exclusively on Amazon

    There’s a few reasons why this is worth considering.

    1. You can immediately move on once you write the book onto new projects. This is #1 for me. I’ve noticed with a lot of the guys who sell books directly they are constantly working on the book as a project year after year. But to me a book really isn’t a business and my time is better spent on growing high growth companies with multi-million dollar potential. This is cool if you want to but like in your case it becomes a drag and if you don’t actively work on it, the sales dry up. In my case once I’m finished something creative I’m ready move on and don’t want to touch it again. If you can start ranking in Amazon, it becomes an ongoing funnel naturally with an entirely new audience. My book is still selling 40 copies a day just because of where it ranks in Amazon.
    2. Your book will get out to a lot more people. This is the main reason I did it this way. Again in our circles putting everything on your site and building an email list etc is popular. But to me, there is more to business and authority than email optins. My book has been ordered by 20,000 people and while I haven’t had too many email optins, I know it’s had a huge impact and I know my personal authority has gone up a lot because of that. I’ve had many conference speaking invitations, over 1,000 people join my facebook group, literally hundreds of thank you emails maybe thousands, I know 10s or maybe 100s of people who’ve directly started a business using the content in the book. Loads of backlinks from some amazing places. The list goes on. None of it is quantifyable short term, but I think long term all of this will be worth a lot more than a handful of email optins and maybe a few extra grand in book sales.
    3. If you plan on doing a lot of books you will start to get some personal authority on Amazon. I’ve already noticed a bunch of things that are meaningful including signing up an agent for language translations and selling the book in 2 different languages so far. I don’t know a lot about the author rank in Amazon but I assume if you can rank well there it helps you in ranking future books. Like Google in that if you create more value over the long term then it ends up paying back in a huge way with your rankings. Again I’m only guessing here but I think there would be some benefit for putting yourself on a big platform like Amazon up against the other best business authors in the world.

    For my next book I’m going to take it to a new level where I do the book, a bunch of resources and at least 12 video and audio interviews with experts and give the whole package away for free with no email optin and see how far I can take this strategy.

    Best of luck in 2015 mate and stay in touch.

    • Happy New Year Dan! Thanks for dropping this knowledge bomb sir 🙂

      Great points all around. I guess it depends what your goals are for the project. No doubt that doing what you’ve done with 7 Day Startup on Amazon would be huge for building authority and funneling a lot of that into your main businesses.
      It’s something I’d definitely look at doing if/when I ever decide to write another book.
      Back in 2013 when I decided to write and release Design For Conversions, the whole project was an experiment for me. I wanted to try my hand and writing a longer-form work, and I was looking to offer my first product here on CasJam.com. I didn’t have much of a bigger-picture plan in place at the time. I was still very much in the mode of throwing lots of stuff at the wall to see where things end up.
      In 2014, as my audience grew a bit, I went for creating more than a “book” and instead went with creating a “course”. My goal this time around was less of an experiment. The goal for Productize was to build something that I can continue to improve and evolve as a main part of my business in 2015. The initial sales confirmed that plan for me.
      Down the road though, as I work to focus even more time here on this site, this audience, I could totally see doing a similar ebook project for Amazon.
      Awesome stuff man, thanks for sharing the details!

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