Pia Silva on How to Badass Your Brand

Podcast-70---Pia-Silva

Background

Today, on Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, I’m talking with Pia Silva of Worstofall Design. We’re talking about how to “Badass Your Brand“—which is also the title of her new book.

Pia and her partner work one to two weeks a month, bring home around $250,000 a year, don’t have to spend all of their remaining time networking, and have no employees. But things weren’t always so great.

In our chat, Pia shares how she went from $40k in debt to $500k in profits in 12 months.

She did it without spending a dime on advertising. She did it by completely rethinking her business. In today’s podcast, Pia breaks down the process to help other service businesses make similar transformations.

Pia has really been through it all. And she doesn’t hold back when talking about her successes or her failures.

If having a steady stream of qualified clients coming to you without spending all your time on the phone or networking sounds like a dream, then this is the episode for you.

So, without further ado, here’s Pia Silva, author of Badass Your Brand. Hit play above and listen to the episode now!

Want to download the transcript? Click here and we’ll email it to you.

Key Takeaways

Refocusing the business

Pia’s success actually started out of what felt like a failure.

At her lowest point, Pia had two employees and $40K in credit card debt. Every month, she was putting herself deeper in the hole trying to keep her employees paid.

That’s when her husband and business partner said they needed to let the employees go.

Pia felt defeated. She had initially dreamed of creating a more traditional agency that grows and grows according to the expected model.

Pia’s husband, however, asked her to think of it as a new opportunity to critically evaluate their business. And, at the same time, to keep themselves from going any deeper into debt.

The money saved from letting the employees go gave Pia and her husband a little room to breathe. Now they could step back and take a big-picture look at what they actually enjoyed about their business.

They loved branding projects and working with clients, but they did not like project management. That was where the fun got sucked out of it for them, and it was also costing them money because of client delays and the general slog of a long-term project.

By stepping back from the more traditional agency model, Pia saw that the thing they as a company really enjoyed was a smaller product they had created basically as a favor to their networking clients who had gotten priced out when Pia’s company increased their going rate.

This product was called a Brandup. Instead of a long, drawn-out design process, in the Brandup, Pia and her husband sit down with a company and basically do everything in a day.

After a brief discovery process, they nail down the client’s graphic design elements, business cards, website, everything.

Clients walk away with serious value. And Pia and her husband get to do what they love without the parts they hate.

Closing stalled deals

When Pia decided to revamp her business, she, like most agency owners, had a bunch of stalled client deals to take care of. She was waiting for responses to see if any of her clients were interested in her initial proposal.

At this point, obviously, the clients were not getting the proposals she’d initially pitched. Her company’s offerings had changed.

Instead, Pia contacted the clients and offered them the Brandup process. By offering a more focused, unique service for a fraction of the price, she closed four out of those five deals.

Aligning your agency with your goals

The other part of Pia’s agency redesign was looking at what she actually wanted to do with the profits from her company.

Pia and her husband, like a lot of agency owners and self-employed business owners, were drawn to running their own business because it offered them a lot of freedom, both creatively and in terms of work-life balance.

With that in mind, they took a look at the profit from their Brandups and dug into what they wanted that money to allow them to do.

Now Pia and her husband do two to three Brandups per month. The price point ranges from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the chosen service. They use their free time to focus on brand building.

For example, Pia writes for Forbes. She’s also recently finished her first book, focusing on how her process has really helped her clients and what others can learn from her experiences.

This way, Pia and her husband can continue to build their brand and maintain client relationships. And, at the same time, give themselves the freedom to experiment and find new ways to expand their business.

How you can get started

Pia’s advice for agency owners looking to pivot starts with looking inward. Really ask yourself what you love and what you don’t like about your work now.

Give yourself the freedom to let go of what you think a small business is supposed to look like or how your trade is supposed to work. Then think about how you would handle yourself in an ideal world. Forget about what you think will sell.

If you find a way to put passion into everything you do, clients will respond.

Transcript:

Andy Baldacci:That is good. Okay. Pia, thanks so much for coming on the show.

 

Pia Silva:Thanks so much for having me, Andy. Great to be here.

 

Andy Baldacci:So, you and your partner have been running Worstofall Design for over nine years and while things have been going really well recently it hasn’t always been a smooth ride to say the least. So, what were the early days like of your studio?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:00:30]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:01:00]

Sure. Well, I’m sure a lot of people can relate. We started in our house. He was a freelance graphic designer. I have a background in business and we just said let’s just get clients and work for ourselves and that’s the dream, and over the first couple of years we had some successes and we essentially started to build an agency, much like the agencies we saw in the world. So, I credit E-Myth, if you know The E-myth. It’s a big business book. When I read that book and it said, I worked, I owned my own job I said, oh that’s not going to do. So, I went out and hired two people and tried to start building this agency and essentially I was copying what I saw in the world and it was very very difficult. I was networking all the time, always looking for clients, writing very long thoughtful proposals. I didn’t really know how to get clients and we got them here and there but it was constant pitching, lots of free work. Overworked and underpaid is how I felt all the time.

 

Andy Baldacci:

[00:01:30]

What were your services in the very beginning? What actually were you working on clients with?

 

Pia Silva:Well, at first we were doing whatever we could get but as we built it into an agency we really tried to only pitch for full branding projects. So, we were doing the logo, the design of the website, all of the collateral and these were you know, three to eight month projects depending on the client.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

[00:02:00]

So, in, when that happened, when you were working with these clients, when you’ve gone out on your own and you’re like all right, this is how I’m going to make it our own way. We’re going to not have the typical nine to five job. This is going to be wonderful. This is a dream. What actually happened? What was that like a few years in? How long was it kind of a slog?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

[00:02:30]

Well, I would say the first year when we were just working out of our house that was a certain kind of slog, right, because we were, I mean we’re in Brooklyn, New York. So, our apartment’s not that big. My husband and I are working together. Sometimes we would never leave the apartment and so, I mean, we just kind of rolling out of bed into the chair with the computer. That was really intense but even just being able to make money that we could, that could support ourselves without having a boss was such an exhilarating feeling. We got the office, our studio.

 

 

 

 

[00:03:00]

We hired our two employees so that we could start to get bigger projects and become more legit and that was a different kind of slog because in that I was responsible for two people’s salaries, and so what I did was basically whenever I was not working on a client I was out networking, because that was the only way I knew how to look for clients. So, that is exhausting. If you have ever used networking as your main source of marketing it is the most exhausting thing you can do and I, you know, I felt like I had to wear high heels in New York City, running around on the subway, going from Starbucks to Starbucks. Super caffeinated all day.

 

Andy Baldacci:What kind of stuff are you doing? Is it just going to typical networking events or how are you making networking work?

 

[00:03:30]

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

 

 

 

[00:04:00]

 

Well, I wouldn’t say I was making it work, because I, because it didn’t end up working but I was part of a networking group in the morning. I would have coffee dates with people from my networking group. Everyone I was introduced to, I would go to people’s offices. I mean, it was whoever, whoever would sit down with me for an hour I would sit down with them. So, you know, insurance salesmen and financial advisors because the theory in networking is they, you don’t know who they know but it’s such a spaghetti at the wall strategy and that’s why it’s so exhausting and doesn’t bear as much fruit as I now have learned so many other things do.

 

Andy Baldacci:So, as you’re going through this you have people who you’re responsible for paying you. Their livelihood is in your hands. At what point did you sort of look up and realize this isn’t what you had wanted, this wasn’t the dream you thought it was?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:04:30]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[00:05:00]

Well, I wish I could say that I had that realization on my own but I didn’t. I was forced into the realization. About three years after we start, I mean almost exactly three years after we started our business we, we had been raising our prices very quickly because every time we did one of these big branding projects we realized we were giving so much more and it was taking so much more time than we were getting paid for. So, I kept increasing the price. So, at one point I just doubled the price. I went from 16 thousand to 32 thousand, because I, I was looking at again, at our competitors. That’s what they were charging. Our work was just as good. I, I could see that it was just as good. I said, you know, I’m just going to go for it and then like, I could not close a client and I think there’s a couple reasons for that.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:05:30]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:06:00]

At that price there’s a lot more competition. I’m competing with agencies who have been around a lot longer. We came in second on a lot of projects and that was, you know, a lot of, many clients would tell us we loved your work. We just kind of almost had to go with this other agency because they’ve just been you know, they’re just rock stars and they’ve been doing this for 30 years, you know. So, that was the one reason and, and so we didn’t close any clients and we ended up in debt. That’s what happened. We maxed out our credit cards. We were in 40 thousand dollars debt. I was paying the employees but obviously we weren’t paying ourselves and you know, I was borrowing from the little savings I had. I basically depleted it to pay our employees who were not working on projects. We really didn’t have that much work. So, there was a pivotal moment where we said, we have to do something different because we literally don’t have anymore credit, and that’s when we had this perceptual shift.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:06:30]

Actually my husband, my partner, he said it’s time to let the employees go and I just felt completely defeated at that. I was like, we’re building an agency. That’s admitting defeat. That’s admitting failure. I don’t want to do that. You know, it feels like we’re going backward and he said, it’s not, it’s not that we’re not good at what we do. It’s that we’re not doing it right and maybe this is the next phase of our business. It’s not that we failed. It’s that we need to shift how we’re looking at this and believe me, the second we actually decided to let them go, I mean that was eight thousand dollars a month of overhead. I felt like I just made eight thousand dollars because I didn’t owe it in a couple of weeks and that was the beginning of the shift.

 

[00:07:00]

Andy Baldacci:

 

So, at that point you have this weight lifted off your shoulders but you still don’t necessarily have work coming in. So, what is the plan at the point?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

 

[00:07:30]

Well, first you know, lowering our overhead, we basically cut it in half. That gave us a little room to breath and with that room we started to reanalyze how were operating and one of the big things that we did was we actually put ourselves through our own process. So, this is the process we put our clients through and we said, wait a second. We haven’t really done this for ourselves and one of the things that I ask clients and we asked ourselves was you know, what do we really like about this? What’s our favorite part of this and it turned out we loved the work. We really do love branding projects and working with clients. We didn’t so much like the long drawn out projects.

 

 

 

[00:08:00]

We didn’t like the project management. It was, the design by committee. So, we, we actually looked at a product that we had already, this small service that we use to offer called a Brandup and we said, we love those. Those are really fun. Essentially we built this product the year before, clients came in for the day and we did what, as much as we possibly could for them. We charged them three thousand dollars and at the end of the day It was over, and so that was a really fun way to work because there wasn’t the ongoing part and it was also, as we started to realize much more profitable than these huge projects.

 

Andy Baldacci:Why was it that much more profitable? Like, what is it about the bigger projects that just lends themselves in not having great margins?

 

[00:08:30]

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

 

[00:09:00]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[00:09:30]

 

You know, I, it’s a combination of just the way that they’re set up. I find that there’s so much project management and, and it adds up very quickly. So, here and there, emails with clients, check-ins with the clients, feedback, waiting for feedback, we personally found that websites would take twice as long because we were waiting on copy from the client, you know, collateral. Just relying on a client for a part of the project made these projects go on much longer and all of that time and project management just sucked the profit out of the projects. Now, that’s also my fault. You know, I don’t think at the time I was very good at project management. I’m sure some people can manage projects to maintain profit, obviously. Huge agencies are able to do that somehow but I wasn’t doing that well. So, these Brandups were so much more profitable because that was completely eliminated. They got all the work and there was no ongoing project management to suck out the profits.

 

Andy Baldacci:How did those Brandups fit into your, your process for working with clients prior to making this shift? Was this just something? How did it come up? Why would they take that option rather than the full branding experience through you guys?

 

Pia Silva:

 

[00:10:00]

Right. Well, we actually didn’t advertise it and they didn’t know it existed. I built the Brandup the year before because basically when we raised the price to 30 thousand dollars we priced ourselves out of all these people that I had met networking.

 

Andy Baldacci:Uh-huh (affirmative).

 

Pia Silva:So, I had all of these fans who wanted to work with us and I would get a lot of inquiries but they just didn’t have the budget.

 

Andy Baldacci:Uh-huh (affirmative).

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

 

[00:10:30]

So, my business coach at the time said, well you know, don’t just leave that on the table. What, what could you sell them? What would you be willing to do? So, that’s how we built the Brandup. We said, you know, we’re pretty fast. We could actually do a lot of damage in one day. So, let’s just put a price on that and I kind of kept it in my back pocket. So, anytime some approached me and asked me about what we do I, and if I found out that their budget was substantially lower I’d say, oh we have this other thing. It’s called A Brandup. Maybe we can do that. So, that’s how it started but it was very hush hush because I really had this vision of this big agency that I had glorified that we were working towards.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

[00:11:00]

Right, and it’s very hard to build a big thing on the back of a single day engagement and so once, but once you do step back and realize that that’s where the profit is, how do you change things going forward? Is this like all your, you’re pushing this now everywhere you can go or how do you actually take this and really run with it?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

[00:11:30]

Well, we, there was definitely a day where we said, it’s time to completely pivot and obviously we design and build websites. So, we, within a day or two we completely changed the messaging on our website and said this is all we do. So, that was one thing. We, we doubled down on this concise clear focused message and then the other things was I had all these proposals out. You know the drill. You know, you have all these proposals out, you don’t hear back, you call them up, and hey, just checking in on that proposal. Uh, such an awful call to make.

 

Andy Baldacci:It’s a pain isn’t it?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:12:00]

Hey, just checking in. So, so, actually what we did was I called all of the people who, for whom I had proposals out and I had that same kind of awkward hey, and you know, the client on the other end oh so sorry I haven’t got back to you. Yeah, uh, you know they get all awkward and I said oh no, no, no. I’m calling to tell you that that proposal no longer stands. We’re not doing that anymore but we, we’re actually doing this other thing and it’s for a fraction of the price and we’ll do it in two days instead of six months.

 

Andy Baldacci:What was the reaction?

 

Pia Silva:I closed four out of five of those.

 

Andy Baldacci:Wow.

 

Pia Silva:So, so, that really jump started the you know, the new focus and positioning.

 

Andy Baldacci:

[00:12:30]

All right. So, that immediately is bringing some money and I’m sure it took some time to get everything scheduled but you have work coming in the door. You have cash coming in. Your overhead is less. So, already things seem to be on the up and up and once you have this first taste of success what are you guys thinking to yourselves, all right, do you immediately know we’re onto something?

 

Pia Silva:

 

[00:13:00]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:13:30]

You know, I, I don’t know if I was thinking that big picture. It was just such a relief to be, I mean it was, you know within a couple of months we went from debt to having paid off that debt and having profit and we were just relieved, excited. I mean, you know, it just, our, the space just opened up. I wasn’t working on the weekends anymore. I wasn’t networking anymore, because what happened was this was such a unique way to work that all I had to do was tell the people I knew how we now worked and it, and I started getting referrals like crazy, because we already had this reputation of this really high quality work out there. So, it was almost like we went on sale. You know? Like, a lot of people, oh we can know work with Worst of All for a lower price and they were, I was surprised how okay they were with the idea that they were going to come in and make decisions and leave you know at the end of the day with their work. I think a lot of designers can’t imagine that being possible.

 

Andy Baldacci:Right.

 

Pia Silva:

[00:14:00]

I can tell you, I’ve done this hundreds of times now. It’s, it’s not only possible. They love it. They love. It’s, it’s almost like it gives them permission to not agonize over this stuff.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

 

 

 

[00:14:30]

That’s the thing is that I get what you’re saying is that people see you as now being on sale. They’re like, oh wow we can now afford this but in technical terms they’re not buying the same thing they would’ve before. So, what, what is it about it that you think made it so that they were okay with that, like because, did they ever get any pushback about saying well, I do want something a bit more thorough than this or was it just packaged up in a way that this was exactly what they were looking for?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

[00:15:00]

 

 

 

 

[00:15:30]

Yeah. You know, it’s funny because I love the space that we live in and I try to do this for clients too. We’re both very expensive and very end, and the less expensive option. So, even though it seem, it sounds like they wouldn’t get the same thing actually nowadays, I mean we charge ten thousand dollars for a day now, to me they’re getting the same level of work. The only difference is that we’re not doing it over six months and they don’t have the time to think about it and ask their friends what they think and all of that, but in terms of the amount of work and the cohesiveness of the project and the quality of work, it’s the same. So, we’re, we’re cutting out a piece that doesn’t need to be there and our price is lower than agencies that you might compare us to but it’s much more expensive than freelancers. So, so we’re both a premium, premiumly priced product and something that is like a less expensive option.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

 

 

[00:16:00]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:16:30]

Right and that seems like a good place to be in, because I like how you said that you’re basically cramming in everything that would take months and months into a day because all of us have experienced, whether it’s with a project or whether it’s just going back to the college days of waiting until the last minute to do work. It’s like the amount of time you give to a project is basically how long it’s going to take. The, the project will expand to fill up whatever time you give it and through your experience of doing these over and over again, I’m sure you’ve been able to understand what matters, what doesn’t, cull things down so that they get 80% of what they were getting before but it’s, it’s what actually matters and you’re able to deliver it in a way that is way more efficient because so many agency owners that I talk to whether it’s designers or inbound marketers, whatever, it’s when you have to wait for the client to give something back to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[00:17:00]

When you’re waiting for a copy, anything like that, you’re going to be waiting for a while and that just blows through your deadlines. So, when you force it to be like all right this is one day, you’re going to come in and we’re going to be working really hard but at the end of the day we’re going to walk out with something that is tangible, that is concrete, that will get you where you need to go. I can see why that resonates so much and so, at the end of the day, at the end of a Brandup what is the client actually walking away with?

 

Pia Silva:They are walking away with their business strategy, their brand messaging strategy, their logo, their fully designed and built website, all of the copy, their identity materials, business cards, letter heads, stationary, social media design, and often marketing strategy.

 

Andy Baldacci:Wow, and is this something where literally when they walk out of your studio that day they have this?

 

Pia Silva:Yes.

 

[00:17:30]

Andy Baldacci:

 

Or is it like a one day discovery and then they get it?

 

Pia Silva:Nope. So, we actually put the website live at six, I always tell them six p.m. your website will be live, your business cards will be ordered and you will have a zip file with all of your files in it.

 

Andy Baldacci:Wow.

 

Pia Silva:

 

[00:18:00]

Yeah it’s, and, and part of that is for us too because if, if we didn’t have that hard stop it could start to become a different kind of project. So, we wrap it up with a really neat bow at the end and that’s what the client, you know, that’s what we prepare them for in the beginning and yeah it’s great and that’s part of the selling part, that’s part of the sales message too is, you know, we’re saving you from yourself.

 

Andy Baldacci:Right.

 

Pia Silva:Our work is great. You’re coming to us because you trust us and we know what we’re doing and you shouldn’t be thinking too much about this after.

 

Andy Baldacci:I see.

 

Pia Silva:

[00:18:30]

You need to start working on marketing and getting it out there. Don’t waste six months and agonizing over the shade of the blue and start marketing and I think some people use that excuse to not go out and market, because people are scared to put themselves out there. So, that’s part of the messaging when I’m talking to clients that I’m trying to impart on them. You know? You need to start selling this as quickly as possible. That’s what I want for you.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

[00:19:00]

It’s like with the traditional process that take months and months and months it’s almost as though the client sees it as their job to give feedback and to make tweaks and to make suggestions and do this and that because you’re, basically when you send over early designs you’re asking for feedback. You’re asking for approval. You’re asking for whatever it is and they’re going to give it you even if they’re really not qualified to give it and that’s why they came to you. So, it’s, it’s an interesting dynamic that a lot of people don’t think about but in these Brandups, like at the end of it do you ever get like some of that micromanaging from the clients who are like, well I really wish we would’ve done this or that instead?

 

[00:19:30]

Pia Silva:

 

That’s a great question. So, the reason the Brandup process worked and I’m going to go back a second and tell you that there’s a really critical step that happens before the Brandup. They don’t come in at ten a.m. and we’re like, okay let’s start. You know? We’ve done a lot of prep work before they come in.

 

Andy Baldacci:Okay.

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:20:00]

The first step is something called a brand shrink and this is its own thing. No matter how, what your project is you always do a brand shrink with us first. It’s an hour and a half interview where we get to the bottom of the client’s needs, where they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re trying to go and I write them a brief that essentially outlines our opinion on what they’re brand needs to be about, all the things they need to start doing and stop doing and the brief …

 

Andy Baldacci:So, that’s like the discovery in the road mapping session.

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:20:30]

It’s like the creative brief. Exactly and I tell them, you know, we can make any edits you need but once this is set, once you sign off on this, this is the brand we’re building. So, you know, we’re all on the same page and what does is it sets their expectations up, because now they’re coming in at ten a.m. understanding that they are there to make decisions. I tell them, I guarantee, people have told me not to guarantee, I said I guarantee we will make everything on this list. I will, you will have a fully functioning website, all this stuff, if you stick to our schedule and once, and I have a schedule that I you know for the day and I tell them, you know, we can move around a little bit but we need to stick to the schedule and once they start to go off the reservation a little bit I always just stop them and I say, we can keep exploring this.

 

[00:21:00]You know if you want to keep tweaking this color we can do that but I no longer can guarantee that we’ll have all this stuff and you bet, but at the same time if we finish all of this before the end of the day we can make you more stuff, and you better believe clients become amazing decision makers, because we love to add bells and whistles at the end. Steve will whip up some cool marketing postcards and he’ll just make them all, he’ll like put it on a shirt and stuff. He’ll make some fun stuff at the end to reward people who make decisions quickly, because we love doing that.

 

Andy Baldacci:Right.

 

Pia Silva:We love giving them this huge comprehensive package of stuff.

 

[00:21:30]

Andy Baldacci:

 

That dynamic is something that doesn’t seem to come naturally to the agency client relationship. Did that come naturally to you where you are able to set those boundaries and enforce them?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:22:00]

I, well definitely not. I wasn’t doing that in the beginning. Actually I wrote an article about this, the idea of a service provider versus an expert. So, a service provider asks you what you want and tries to do it and that’s what you were talking about, sending work out and asking for feedback. You’re asking them to tell you what to do and that can be a really dangerous game. An expert is somebody who asks, what are you trying to accomplish and then tells them how to do it. So, when you create that expert dynamic with your client they are looking to you and asking your opinion and your opinion carries weight and all of that is based on, it’s based on the entire relationship from the very first second you interact with them.

 

[00:22:30]You know, it’s creating that dynamic where you’re telling them you know, you’re coming to me because I know what I’m doing. Not because you like my work and it looks like something you want and now you want me to make your vision. I tell people if you know what, if you think you know what your website looks like and you want to hire us to make it we’re not the right company for you. Like, I will tell you what your website needs to be and you can pay a lot less money for someone else to do that. It’s not worth it. That’s why you’re paying us more because you’re asking us to tell you what it should be. So, it’s the whole dynamic that we set up.

 

[00:23:00]

Andy Baldacci:

 

How do you cultivate that confidence in the early days when you are in debt and when you don’t have a full pipeline?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:23:30]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[00:24:00]

Hmm. That’s a good, how did I do it? I don’t think I was as confident when we first started. I think in the beginning, in the beginning there was some, there was definitely a learning curve but I was willing to do that. We still, we still had the one and two day process but I think Steve and I probably did a lot more work on the front end, a little bit on the back end. You know, we, we tightened it up. With every brand of client we learned something and tightened it up and also, I mean, we couldn’t have charged ten thousand dollars for a day when we first started. We got to ten thousand dollars because we got that process tighter and tighter and tighter. I got more and more confident. I can now unequivocally say to somebody, don’t do that. That will not be good for your business. I, that’s worth more money than before when I could’ve said like, I don’t think that would be a good idea.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

 

 

 

 

[00:24:30]

Right, and I think that’s where a lot of agency owners get tripped up is because while they hear advise on value pricing, on positioning themselves as a true expert, as an authority, of any of those things they might get it but they say yeah, but in my case I need to pay my employees. I need to pay bills. I need to do this. I need to take whoever can come through the door and I liked how you talked about it was that in the beginning you didn’t have all that confident. You didn’t have the process figured out exactly and you weren’t charging as nearly as much as you are now. So, it really is a work in progress and I want to emphasize that for listeners because it’s not like day one, credit card debt. All this, you’re like all right, like I’m just going to be a stickler or I’m going to be the expert and I’m going to follow these scripts and it’s been great. Yeah.

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:25:00]

No not all. Well, actually you know, I’d like to speak to that because what I do find very valuable and this is something I highly recommend, I’m able to also have that confidence and I was able to build that expertise rather quickly because we focused on one to three person service businesses. That’s who we work with. One to three person service businesses. I don’t want more than three opinions involved in the project. I know that more opinions cause problems. Service businesses. I’m a service business. I understand marketing and building service businesses and with every client I learn more and I become more expert. If I were in an agency who was kind of in that mode that I had been in before.

 

[00:25:30]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:26:00]

You know, I don’t think you focus just arbitrarily but just imagine, if you only do you know, artisanal food product packaging you will just become that expert in that space much more quickly if every single client is that and you will be able to speak with that kind of authority, and then, and with that authority comes increasing the price and that comes with increasing the profit and as you fanaggle your process you tighter. I mean, all of these things work in tandem obviously but that’s the road that I think it has exponential potential in a way that if you don’t go down that road you’ll always be in the slog and that sucks.

 

Andy Baldacci:Yeah and so, I know you kind of went over the, the high level deliverables of what people get at the end of a Brandup but like, are these types of discussions, these types of decisions that you’re talking about right now, this general framework of how you think about building a successful agency, are these things that you work with your clients on during the Brandup?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:26:30]

Oh yeah. I mean, these are recommendations that I’ll often make in the brand shrink. So, if I see a client, it’s not. Obviously every client’s different some clients it makes more sense to for example create a very specific productized service. You know?

 

Andy Baldacci:Uh-huh (affirmative).

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:27:00]

That, for some clients that’s great. So, in the brand shrink I’ll figure that out and make that recommendation and in the Brandup I’ll actually build it with them. So, I will price it. I will help them price it. I’ll write all the copy for it. I’ll build their process for them. There’s a lot of business development in this “branding project” but to me, small service businesses your business is your brand. Your brand is your business. If you do one without the other you’re not doing yourself any favors.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

 

[00:27:30]

Yeah, and I’ll be honest. Before we were introduced by our mutual friend Jake Jorgovan and when he mentioned the branding thing it is, as an outsider to that field I thought this would be more like design assets and that type of thing but after talking to you it’s clear that one you think more holistically about a brand and two, that what the client ultimately gets is much more than just some nice graphics and business cards. They really are getting a true audit of the way they operate their business.

 

Pia Silva:

 

[00:28:00]

Yeah, well that’s, that is something that also evolved. You know I, I mean the death of the business strategy part has grown over time but it, that all evolved pretty naturally because we started as a graphic design company. We evolved into a branding company. It’s so funny. What actually happened was, we started doing this brand shrink unofficially just so we could get our mind right about what the client wanted so that we could, so that we knew that the work we were showing them made sense and we could speak to something that they said before and we weren’t charging for it. We were just doing it because it made our job easier, and then there was a certain point where we said, oh my God, that’s like the strategic and that’s really valuable.

 

[00:28:30]Maybe we should be charging for that instead and then and it actually completely flipped. I mean, you know, my partner Steve is an amazing designer. I tell clients, I’m like don’t worry about the design. The design is amazing. You know? This is, it’s all this other stuff that’s going to determine what the design looks like and how successful you are because in the end people aren’t coming to you because they want like something that looks nice. They’re coming to you because they need clients. They need sales. So, I want to address that in this project so I can solve their problem.

 

[00:29:00]

Andy Baldacci:

 

Yeah, I mean that, that makes perfect sense and I love hearing you talk about how it was a process, it was a journey for your yourselves to get to this point where it is a just to again emphasize that this wasn’t some over night switch where you had it all figured out from day one but fast-forwarding to where things are today, roughly how many of these do you typically try to do or want to do in a given month?

 

[00:29:30]

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

 

 

[00:30:00]

 

So, about a year a half ago we really looked at what our goals were and that was when we, or maybe it was two years ago we decided that ten thousand dollars for a one day and 15 for a two day, that was a good price point for us because of the income that we wanted to make and the amount of time that we wanted free. So, my, what I like to do is to do two Brandups a month. If we get, if we get a third and it’s the kind that we want, we’ll take it but essentially I like to have two weeks a month free to do other stuff. Now, a lot of the stuff that I do is writing and you know, I contribute to Forbes, I’ve wrote my book recently. All of those things are brand building and value building so that I can continue to increase the price and those Brandups will go up to 15 and 20 thousand. You know, but I like to price things so that about 50% of my time is spent on client work and the other 50 is free to brand build.

 

[00:30:30]

Andy Baldacci:

 

Interesting. So, do you see that balance? Like, obviously the 50/50 balance is where you want to keep things but is the growth for you and your partner, is it through increasing prices, because it doesn’t seem like it’s going to grow by doing more of these or are you just happy with where things are at right now?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:31:00]

 

 

 

 

[00:31:30]

Yeah, I mean a lot of business colleagues of mine have really tried to push me to hire people, train them. You know, you could be doing lots of these at once and maybe. You know? Probably. I, It’s not what I want to do. You know, my, I prefer this kind of lifestyle business. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to grow. In fact, I’m kind of now building a consulting wing that is using this model and trying to you know, do higher level strategy for people and building my own personal brand. I mean, I think for me that’s, that’s an awesome future prospect and growth, I think there’s exponential growth there that doesn’t require employees because I still really value the freedom of not having salaries. I have a lot of contractors, a lot of companies that I hire for different things but I like that, I like that at any point we can shut down and, and like shut down overhead.

 

Andy Baldacci:Right.

 

Pia Silva:I like having levers for the overhead I guess.

 

Andy Baldacci:So what does that, in this early stages of thinking about it and of working towards it, what is your vision for what that consulting wing would look like?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:32:00]

 

 

 

 

[00:32:30]

Well, I built an online course, we built an online course last year called The Brandup Bootcamp. It was a, It’s a DIY course where we essentially took our whole process and made all these really fun and entertaining videos where you go through our process yourself and that was cool and that’s bene online selling and I’ve had a bunch of people go through it. I think the next stage for me is to take that but to add in support, like personal support either through group support or one on one consulting where I can teach these principles to other service providers in kind of an ongoing manner. I don’t want to say coaching. More like consulting but there’s probably an element of coaching in it too, but I think that, you know, I’m, I’m interested. I mean, I’m somebody who always wants to try new things and learn and so, I don’t know.

 

Andy Baldacci:How are people finding out about this bootcamp right now?

 

Pia Silva:Facebook ads. I’ve got a whole funnel I built, you know, Facebook ad to webinar to the bootcamp.

 

[00:33:00]

Andy Baldacci:

 

 

 

 

[00:33:30]

 

Interesting and because it makes me think that you’ve built what seems like a mini product ladder in that you have something, a smaller engagement that’s much more hands off, or almost entirely hands off to you for people who aren’t prepared for the full brand shrink and Brandup experience, but just like your business coach said way back when that aren’t you leaving money on the table by, by not serving the other market that can’t necessarily afford the 30 thousand dollar engagement? By limiting yourself right now to the ten K and 15K engagements aren’t you also limiting yourself to people who are willing to spend more for your time?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:34:00]

I think that’s, that’s partially why I’m building this kind of consulting wing, because I think the only way to leverage my time better is to one to many. So, kind of coaching a whole group of people through this process. So there is high touch but it’s still not one on one. At least that’s my hunch. You know, we’ll see. I’m always just testing and trying. I thought that the bootcamp would be and it is. It took me months to learn Facebook and all, I don’t know if you’ve dabbled in Facebook ads.

 

Andy Baldacci:A bit. A bit. Not, not as seriously as it’s clear that you are about it though.

 

Pia Silva:

[00:34:30]

Yeah, I mean it, from the outside it seems like it’s a lot easier than it is. I, I spent almost two full months learning it, courses, coaches, like all of that and, and I cracked the code. I still haven’t completely cracked it but I got it to a pretty profitable place but you know, that’s what the, the beauty of our model is that I had the time to do that.

 

Andy Baldacci:Uh-huh (affirmative).

 

Pia Silva:So, that’s what I really wanted it to afford me and you know, obviously we, we do Brandups. We do Brandups every month but I have these weeks to learn. Yeah, sorry.

 

Andy Baldacci:

[00:35:00]

Do you also, do you see the Brandups as being the highest end of that ladder or down the road do you see offering something above that?

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

[00:35:30]

You know, I thought about how we could expand it. I mean, we, we just started offering, we haven’t actually offered it to anybody but we just built a 25 thousand dollar package that’s going to be more comprehensive just for thought leaders that includes photo shoots with my photographer you know that we art direct. I just published my own book. I just did self publishing and I did that so I could lean how to self publish a book so I can advise people on that as well. So, I see our larger package probably moving into this thought leader space where it’s much more comprehensive and I can actually advise them on all aspects of building and marketing their brand and it’s like kind of like right behind me you know, because that’s what I’m doing for myself and I’m kind of doing it so that I can turn around and teach someone else how to do it. Yeah.

 

Andy Baldacci:That’s smart and so what is the book about?

 

[00:36:00]

Pia Silva:

 

The book is …

 

Andy Baldacci:Well first what’s it called?

 

Pia Silva:Yeah. It’s called Badass Your Brand;The Impatient Entrepreneur’s Guide to Turning Expertise into Profit.

 

Andy Baldacci:Nice.

 

Pia Silva:

 

 

[00:36:30]

Thanks and it’s our philosophy. It’s, I feel like it’s my manifesto. It’s our life’s work. It’s detailing out all the things that we did and why they worked with lots of stories and case studies of clients and how they applied, how we applied these principles with them and the kind of outcomes that they experienced. It’s fun. I tried to make it a fun read but that’s also very useful.

 

Andy Baldacci:Right and that’s a tough balance to find but going into it you said you wanted to learn this process for yourself. What did you think would be the hardest part of it and then what actually was?

 

Pia Silva:I thought the hardest part would be writing it, because writing a book sounds intimidating.

 

Andy Baldacci:Uh-huh (affirmative).

 

Pia Silva:

[00:37:00]

That was like the easiest part of it. I wrote it pretty quickly because I, you know, I talk about this stuff and think about it all the time. The hardest part was the editing process. I edited it for like six months.

 

Andy Baldacci:Wow.

 

Pia Silva:Wrote it in like a month or two, I edited it for six months and I mean I’m talking high level editing and micro editing. You know, I can’t believe how many revisions this thing has gone through. It’s so much better.

 

Andy Baldacci:Why did it take so much time?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:37:30]

Well, I guess I’d never written a book before so I didn’t even really understand how important it would be to structure it well but going through an entire book over and over again and tweaking the structure and putting things in the right places, that was a much longer process than I expected and then once I had it in a great place, then just the editing process. I mean, I have, I hired multiple editors to do different levels of editing. That wasn’t as bad but it was really the big picture editing that I don’t know, I just didn’t expect that to be so difficult.

 

[00:38:00]

Andy Baldacci:

 

Then, at this point, with the book out there how do you see it fitting into the rest of what you offer? Obviously it’s a much lower price point for people to see what you’re all about, understand your manifesto and see what it’s like to work with you on a micro scale but how do you see that fitting into the rest of what you offer?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:38:30]

I think it’s a great, it’s a great touch point for new people. It’s a very personal book. It’s full of business advice but it’s all through the lens of our story and our business and our client’s businesses. So, I mean If you read my book I feel like you, you’re going to feel like you know me pretty well and you’ll kind of get what we’re all about and I’ve had, I’ve already had a lot of people read it and some people who know me said wow, I’m completely rethinking my business because of this book and that is what I wanted obviously.

 

[00:39:00]So, first of all I’m just so excited that people are reading it and having that experience. I mean, that, I couldn’t ask for more than that, because when I first set out to do it I thought oh, you know because everyone needs a book. It’s like the new business card but it became so much more than that to me. In terms of my business I think it’s, I think it’s just a great marketing tool. I mean, I think it’ll, I don’t have a clear, I don’t have a clear plan. I just want to, I just want to get these ideas out there and I think my tribe will find me because of it.

 

[00:39:30]

Andy Baldacci:

 

Yeah. No, I think that’s a great way to approach and honestly you gave us a ton today and we obviously can’t condense it down as just a few little soundbites, but so, if listeners are looking for like one actionable step they can take, one thing they can do to try to be more deliberate about how they’re cultivating their brand and everything that goes along with that, what would you recommend that they do?

 

[00:40:00]

Pia Silva:

 

I would recommend looking inside yourself and looking at your previous work, your previous clients and figuring out what you love about it and what you don’t like and try to explore how your business, you know, just let go of the shackles of what it should look like and explore what it could be if it was ideal for you and I think that’s a good starting point for people. That’s where I start with clients. Like, forget what you think will sell.

 

Andy Baldacci:Right.

 

[00:40:30]

Pia Silva:

 

In an ideal world you just operating at your best, delivering your best value, what does that look like, and I think you’d be surprised. I think you could build a really amazing business based on what you love to do and only what you love to do and when you do that you put so much more enthusiasm into it and that breed value which breeds profit.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

[00:41:00]

That was awesome and I think the, that breeds value that breeds profit. We can all put that on a little poster for people. It’d be really motivational while we’re at it. Honestly, that was really really good advice and so, before we do wrap up I like to ask all of my guests just a few rapid fire questions and I’ll go through them quickly but your responses don’t need to be so quick and so, the first one is just currently what do you find yourself spending too much time doing?

 

Pia Silva:Working on things I’m really into, late at night.

 

Andy Baldacci:Cutting into your sleep a little bit?

 

[00:41:30]

Pia Silva:

 

When I work too late my, I don’t sleep as well but I really, when I’m really into something I like you know, i just can’t stop but it’s not, it’s not good because then I kind of dream about it.

 

Andy Baldacci:I see. You, okay, what do you find yourself not spending enough time doing?

 

Pia Silva:Like, meditating and writing in my journal. When I put time into doing that it’s, I can tell the difference and I, I haven’t been doing that recently.

 

[00:42:00]

Andy Baldacci:

 

What usually gets in the way?

 

Pia Silva:I just want to get going. I mean, I’ve got all this stuff going on. I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah I’ll do that later, you know, but it’s really important.

 

Andy Baldacci:So, obviously you have the book out now but what is something else that you’re hoping to accomplish coming up in this next quarter?

 

[00:42:30]

Pia Silva:

 

 

 

 

 

[00:43:00]

 

I, I want to launch, well I’m, I’ve launched this consulting business already but I want to take it to a different level. We’re going to go to Europe for a month in early summer and I want to maintain and continue to build that consulting company while in Europe for a month because I know it’s possible but I have this mental block like I have to be here. So, I want to prove to myself that I can do it not from here because I think that will open up a world of possibilities of freedom that I think mentally I know exist but in my gut feels really scary or like not possible.

 

Andy Baldacci:If you were to pinpoint one thing that you see potentially being a roadblock towards achieving that, what would it be?

 

Pia Silva:Wussing out. Not doing it. Not doing it so I can see. I mean, you know, fear of failure. Isn’t that what everyone’s? Is that?

 

Andy Baldacci:Yep.

 

Pia Silva:Maybe it’s not. Fear of failure. That would be my answer.

 

[00:43:30]

Andy Baldacci:

 

No. That’s a good one, but so while we have had a lot of fun chatting today we’ve crammed a ton of information into this, we do have to part ways and goodbye but before we do that, if listeners are interested in learning more about what you are offering and how they can get started taking better control of their brand, what is the best place that they can go?

 

Pia Silva:

[00:44:00]

Well, I have actually a very special gift for you. I’ve never given this away before but I wanted to give your listeners something really special. So, I actually put up a page just for your listeners. It’s badassyourbrand.com/aap and if you go there you can download both the first chapter of my book which I hope is inspiring in and of itself but also our entire brand shrink interview.

 

Andy Baldacci:Wow.

 

Pia Silva:

 

[00:44:30]

So, this is 80 questions that we, I mean, I don’t go through every single question when it’s live with the client because I jump around based on the conversation but these are the questions that I use to figure out what the hell is going on with everybody’s businesses and for your agencies I feel like this will really help them at least understand what our process is and maybe they can add some of this into their, into their process.

 

Andy Baldacci:

 

 

[00:45:00]

That’s awesome. I’ll make sure to get that link up in the show notes and for our listeners again it is badassyourbrand.com/aap. Definitely check that out and Pia is not joking. She hasn’t given this away before. This isn’t some slimy internet marketing tactic to try to get everyone to jump all over this. This really hasn’t been out there before. It is free. Definitely check it out. There’s a lot of good stuff in there about Pia. Thank you so much for you time today. It was a lot of fun chatting.

 

Pia Silva:It was so fun. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Want to learn more?

Pia has a very special offer for Agency Advantage listeners. Go to badassyourbrand.com/aap.

There you can download the first chapter of Pia’s book, Badass Your Brand, as well as the 80 questions she asks her clients during the Brandup process.

Resources mentioned:

The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Jake Jorgovan on How to Build the Agency of Your Dreams

Thanks for listening!