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Episode cover_Steve Maly_From Freelance Gigs to a Thriving Agency

From Freelance Gigs to a Thriving Agency with Steve Maly, Maly Marketing

May 15, 2024

What happens when a struggling business adopts a structured business system? Such a simple change in management can lead to monumental growth. Join us for a conversation with Steve Maly, the founder of Maly Marketing, who took his marketing agency from chaos to clarity by implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

About Steve Maly

Steve Maly is a seasoned entrepreneur who has guided his agency, Maly Marketing, to win several awards, including the Friend of Tourism award from Nebraska Tourism. He often speaks at conferences throughout the Midwest, teaching other businesses how to make their marketing efforts successful and measurable. 

Outside of work, Steve enjoys playing golf and is committed to learning more every day, both in his field and beyond. He’s also very involved in his community, serving on the board of the Nebraska Travel Association and the Lincoln Chamber’s policy advisory committee, among other roles.

How EOS enhances business systems for strategic growth

EOS, or the Entrepreneurial Operating System, is a powerful tool designed to enhance business systems and drive strategic growth. It works by providing a clear structure for businesses to align their goals, processes, and people. For entrepreneurs, this means a more organized approach to running your company.

Here’s how EOS boosts business systems for better growth:

  1. Vision clarity: EOS helps clarify your business vision among all team members, ensuring everyone is working toward the same objectives. This alignment is critical for effective decision-making and moving the business forward cohesively.
  2. Data-driven management: By focusing on key performance indicators (KPIs), EOS allows entrepreneurs to make informed decisions based on data rather than guesses. This leads to better resource allocation and more strategic planning.
  3. Process simplification: EOS streamlines processes, eliminating unnecessary activities. This makes your operations more efficient and your business more scalable, allowing you to grow without increasing complexity.
  4. Issue resolution: It provides a systematic way to identify, discuss, and solve problems within the business. This proactive approach prevents small issues from becoming major roadblocks.
  5. Leadership development: EOS fosters strong leadership by defining clear roles and responsibilities, enhancing accountability, and improving team dynamics.

Overall, EOS equips entrepreneurs with the tools and disciplines needed to scale their businesses effectively and achieve lasting growth.

Key insights for your business:

  • Leverage your background. Your life experiences are a great source of unique perspectives and strengths that can drive your business vision and strategy. No matter the challenges you face, it can guide your decision-making, giving you an advantage in the competitive market.
  • Adapt and evolve through systems. Structured business systems like EOS help entrepreneurs clarify business operations, align teams, and facilitate scalable growth. Adding more structure can help you address challenges systematically and ensure consistency in business practices.
  • Embrace strategic networking. Actively seek out and participate in networking groups, masterminds, and industry associations that align with your business goals. These connections will provide critical insights, opportunities for collaboration, and access to new markets.
  • Prioritize learning from every experience. Encourage your team to experiment, learn from outcomes, and iteratively refine approaches, even if these experiments fail.
  • Invest in people and delegation. Investing in capable team members not only enhances business capacity but also allows you to focus on strategic growth and client engagement. Why waste time on the tasks others can handle for you?

Steve’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“I knew if we continue to do the same things we’ve been doing, we’re gonna continue to get the same results. And so I kind of had to take the leap of faith.” (10:46)

Connect with Steve Maly:

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Transcript

So, you know, kind of talking about like a lot of us kind of repeat entrepreneur until we find something that works or move on to the next until something. Hearing the story of how someone has adapted and evolved, especially as they’ve grown their company and dealt with increasing complexity, I think will be really interesting because I tend to learn by just failing and then redoing a little bit better the next time. So someone who’s actually not had a big failure in that process will be great to learn from. But then also, one of the things that I find really interesting is they implemented EOS into their agency structure. And I talk a lot about with other guests about having that kind of cadence structure, what works, what doesn’t, and where to bring it in. So we may get a little bit inside baseball around agency life and building an agency, but I think it’ll really all come together when we get to it. Really more important, let’s welcome Steve Maly.

Steve Maly:
There you go.

A.J. Lawrence:
Even though I asked you. Steve Maly of Maly Marketing. Steve, thank you so much for coming on the show. This is really cool to have you here.

Steve Maly:
I appreciate it, A.J. I’m definitely looking forward to this.

A.J. Lawrence:
I find it fascinating because like a lot of entrepreneurs, you started something out of university. I did too, and I actually did sell that one, but that was kind of a crazy. It didn’t do anything. Yours is still going 20 years, as you said, 20 years this past January. Congratulations.

Steve Maly:
Thank you.

A.J. Lawrence:
First, where are you as an entrepreneur? And sort of how has your entrepreneurism evolved from those early days?

Steve Maly:
Yeah, it’s a good place to start. So I didn’t realize this until I was a little bit older. I didn’t fully put two-two together. So my entire family, out of mom, dad, grandpa, grandpa, grandma, uncle, and all that, there was about ten of us. Eight out of the ten were entrepreneurs growing up. And so around the dinner table, around holidays, around just regular conversations, that’s all I ever heard about was owning your own business. And I literally remember being a junior in high school and talking with somebody, one of my classmates, her name is Haley. Haley was talking about where she wanted to go to college and she wanted to get a degree in business or something and go work for a Fortune 500 company.

I’m like, that’s weird. It was the very first time in my life that I realized not everybody wanted to be an entrepreneur. I’m like, this is what your path is. This is what everybody wants to do. Everybody wants to be the boss. And so, in hindsight, it was just that path. And actually, I always wanted to be on, I was this influence to be on. And so when I went into the University of Nebraska, my original goal was to graduate, work for an agency for 5, 6, 7, 8 years, whatever, to gain experience and then break off on my own. Well, the degree in marketing, my opportunities initially were largely like sales-based and very like cubicle-based. And I didn’t want to be in a cube. And I didn’t want to be in sales, which is ironic, because that’s what I’ve been doing literally for 20 years at this point in time. And I was doing some freelance stuff on the sides and video production, virtual tours on the side.

And I’m like, you know, the most money I ever made in college was 12,000. If I make more money next year, it’s more money I’ve ever made in my life. And so the very first year I started the agency, top line revenue was 15,000. First year on an agency, I couldn’t even tell you what top line revenue meant. Horrific.

But, you know, again, it’s where I kind of jumped off on and my expenses were super low. And like you said at the very beginning, you kind of learn through failures and learn a lot of stuff kind of through failures. But it was one of those things I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I’ve been able to sustain that, like I said, for 20 years as of this past January. So it’s been a hell of a ride.

A.J. Lawrence:
Hell of a ride. I mean, it’s funny because I looked back and when I talk to it, I think sometimes it’s more of just, yes, some of us have these big goals and there are people who are planning to take over the country, world, whatever. I speak English, but some of us are just like, oh, I just want to keep doing this. Yes, I would like to be super successful but my first thing is how do I get to the end of the month? How do I make sure I pay everyone or how do I pay my own rent, depending on where you are in your journey there. But, yeah, I remember a lot of the early part was just, okay, I got to rub these sticks faster and faster and faster so I can get to x, and then at some point it changes. So for you, about how long did it take before all of a sudden it went from ramen to like, oh, there’s a business here.

Steve Maly:
It was probably about four years in because largely it was surviving gig to gig to gig, and there was no reoccurring gigs at that point in time. Everything was just a one off and hoping they might kind of come back down the line. I remember about four years in, I was struggling with the whole time balance with everything and just working on crazy hours. I was debating and thinking about getting an intern to help out. I remember driving one day, I’m like, you know what? You deserve to have an intern to come in. And this puts in perspective. So she was an intern for me during the summer that year. And the deal was, at the end of that internship, I paid her $500. And I was nervous and like, how the heck am I gonna do this? Save up the 500 bucks to pay her at the end?

A.J. Lawrence:
How many couches do I have to-

Steve Maly:
Yeah, exactly. And she was a godsend because she allowed me to really kind of focus that much more on just what I do best, which is, meet up with prospects and account management and truly sales and that type of stuff. And ironically, she left us. She went to go work for BBDO up in New York. And so I always made the joke, we have 100% placement in one of the world’s largest agencies if you intern for us first. She also taught me a lot going through that. And then from that experience, I’m like, okay, I can afford part time people. And eventually, that kind of built into full time people and stuff we got today.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right, so I’m going to push into this because I know my kind of journey was like, oh, yeah, I’ll throw my time and then it’ll be like, all right, a little bit of this and a little bit of freelancers and this. But there were jumps a lot of times on sort of the type of client I would bring in, or more importantly, my ability to understand how to position work that clients wanted. I always joke, we used to do the same thing at the beginning as we did at the end, but we were able to position in such a way that we got deeper into the client environments and we got into better type of clients over the years as we were able to do that. You had this intern, you could survive with paying someone 500 for a summer. And then like, all right, some freelancers. And then eventually, when did it kind of become, from lack of a better term, an agency where you had full time people, you had this presence, this capability.

Steve Maly:
Yeah. So I would say there’s kind of two parts to it. One is that I realized that I was getting into the right rooms, if you will. You know, we’re a mastermind together. I’ve seen some smaller masterminds and I’m kind of back in the day, if you will, and just having those conversations and truth be told, I’m like, oh yeah, I think I can do this. And you’re in the right room, like, all right, cool. I’ll hire you, prove it.

And so I’d spend literally 48 hours over a weekend trying to figure out how the hell they do what I just told them that I could do. But I also realized because in college they would talk about all the time, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s networking, networking, networking, networking. It drove me nuts. Like, whatever, sure. And then I know pretty quick, it truly is. So that was one of the turning points is when I fully realized I needed to get into higher level rooms to a certain extent, to have these type of conversations with people that are just better client fits. The other component, big turning point for us too, was just hiring on full time talent.

So I had a good friend who I actually worked for when I was in college. He owned a software company and he sold out for eight figures. Did really well for himself. And I was at that tipping point where I had three part time people that were talented but wanted to have full time work. And I don’t know if I can fully afford you guys. And so I chat with them, and he made an investment in the company early on to allow us to basically bring them on full time. And that truly was that turning point. Once we’re able to turn them on full time, now things became much more of a must, if you will. Became a lot more serious, because it’s not just me and the ebbs and flows of me or an intern or part time people. You really sort of have payroll and responsibilities that go along with it.

And that was kind of really the turning point as well. Because then once we were able to get some more talent on the team, then it wasn’t so much like, crap, I just sold this, how the hell am I gonna deal with it? It’s like, no. Like, I can sell this, I know. They know how to do it and kind of remove that worry from my shoulders. Allowed us to really kind of move a lot more freely through the market.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right, so you kind of took that step up. Let’s just jump because I talked about you using EOS. When did you think the company was either complex enough or too complex? How did you come to the point of bringing EOS into your agency?

Steve Maly:
It was in 2017, is that we were always blessed with double digit growth. Obviously, these are small double digits, it’s easy to hit and then you just grow story.

A.J. Lawrence:
But it feels great anyway.

Steve Maly:
It does. It sounds sexy at times. So we were doing 60%, 40%, 20% growth year over year, and all of a sudden, one year, we were like 5%. And like, this is strange. This is weird. We’re definitely not like leveling out. And I was in Vistage at the time and most people I knew in Vistage were on EOS.

And honestly, I’m sitting there in the room at the beginning, and I’m like, these people are drinking the Kool-Aid. It’s a cult. Like, I don’t need this. I’m a special angel, if you will. I don’t need to be a part of it. But everything they talked about with EOS, I’m like, yep, I’m facing that. Yep, I’m facing that. Yep, I’m facing that.

And a good friend of mine owns a leadership company here at Lincoln, and they implement EOS for their customers. And he’s like, hey, just bring in my director. Dan will talk to you for about 90 minutes, talking about the whole process, what this really looks like. And at the end of 90 minutes, like, the whole time, I’m nodding my head, yes, yes, yes. And then he kind of gives me the price point of it. Like, holy cow, especially at that point in time.

A.J. Lawrence:
50K a year, what? For four days, what?

Steve Maly:
No. Yeah. And it’s like I can hire an employee. But at the same time I knew if we continue to do the same things we’ve been doing, we’re gonna continue to get the same results. And so I kind of had to take the leap of faith. And so we started it basically the very first day of working day of 2018. So we’ve been in it, I guess six years now. And at first, I remember when first getting into it, writing those checks on a regular basis, like what are we getting back? I don’t really know.

But my implementer did a really good job. He’s like, all right, take a look past month, past three months, past six months. What have you noticed different? What do you notice that’s missing to a certain extent? Looking back on it, in a good positive way, we’ve really gained. It was kind of from that moment forward and I became a full believer in it. This is a really good solution to have because it forces you to put issues on the table, forces you to have conversations, forces you to really have a strategic focus on stuff. And like said we’ve been really running with it ever since.

A.J. Lawrence:
How long do you feel like it took? Because I think, just to kind of touch base, I heard it back in the day and it really did, like you said, sound like Kool-Aid until there was some point around 17, 18 where all of a sudden I started hearing a lot of different people using it, small or whatever. And it was like, oh. And then once again I have to say people who I was like, okay, you’re the most, you know, and I think I’m bad. My nickname was always squirrel with my team, like squirrel. And there was someone who made me seem like very organized and put together and he talked about putting it together and I was just like, how did that happen? One of the things I heard is, it takes a while. So you’re getting some benefit, like the old saw about SEO, you get some benefit off the bat. But the reality, it’s long term that you’re building up sort of that better search foundation. Let’s see where Google’s like, and I won’t touch the algorithm fun that’s going on out there right now. But how long do you feel it took before you were like, oh, yeah, this is actually getting us something big.

Steve Maly:
Getting us something big, twelve months. Looking back after three months or six months, I’m like, yeah, I can see some pieces. I can see some things coming together. Would’ve this have happened without EOS? I don’t know. Probably not, but I don’t know. And I would say because again, we started very beginning of the year so you’re taking a look at the end of the year financial, end of year goals, end of the year everything.

That’s when I really kind of painted that picture. Like now, like this was a driving force that allowed us to accomplish these goals, allowed us to get back to about, that year was about 30% growth. It allowed us to really overcome a bunch of struggles that we were having. So I would say for us it was probably about twelve months or so.

A.J. Lawrence:
Okay, so in bringing this in, was it because it kept a highlight on issues that maybe would have been pushed to the side or some are not fully dealt with? Like I do know, a lot of times we had issues and if I didn’t put my full attention, a lot of times if I delegated without the right support, which is one big right, there was probably the indication it would be partially done. Oh, look, we got it done. And then a few months later, look what’s back from the dead. What do you think really kind of brought that biggest value for you twelve months in what was happening?

Steve Maly:
I would say the weekly cadence and those meetings because just like we were talking about, there would be issues that would pop up that maybe I didn’t find that serious. It was to other people. But from my level, I don’t need to deal with it. I don’t think about it. So it just kind of pushed off and pushed off. Well, obviously that’s not good for the employees, it’s not good for morale. They want to be heard with it. And it gave us that natural opportunity for them to be heard and to have these conversations at times, even if they didn’t want to have it.

It’s like, nope, we’re meeting up. Like we have actually our L-10 meeting here about an hour and a half from now. He’s like, let’s put it on the agenda. And they have it, they’ve sent it to my project manager, like make sure this is on the agenda. And again, sometimes I’d forget about it. And then I’ll show up to the L-10 meetings there and the agenda is the reminder, like, yep, that’s right, we gotta deal with this here now.

So that was a big component. And the other side of it just simply rocks, what are those big things to really move us forward and having weekly focus on metrics tied to that to see where we’re going. Probably took us a solid twelve months to truly develop good rocks on a quarterly basis. I remember at the very beginning, we do this with new employees at times. New employees will come in and be like, all right, well, I got seven rocks for this quarter. I’m like, Okay, I’m glad that you’re anxious that you want to be able to hit the ground running to do this, but let’s start with two or three major things first, like the seven. And so we kind of learned a lot through that. But I would say it’s honestly just the weekly focus and data that’s in front of us and just those conversations that have to be had.

A.J. Lawrence:
And one of the things I think a lot of entrepreneurs find two things happen as your company grows, but also as time goes along, you get both. As your company grows, there’s more moving parts. Things become more complex, and definitely depending upon your business model and your resource structure, what happens is complexity grows faster than your free cash flow ability to higher into an environment. So you’re always, up until a certain point, you’re kind of always pushing towards the edge of your capability of doing that. And then another, as longer you are, the more this is the way we do it, kind of comes in the bureaucracy structure. So in bringing EOS in, what has kind of happened with that ability? Do you feel one to do more with less and then also to be adaptable to the environment, to the issue, not the organization?

Steve Maly:
Yeah, so the adaptability is interesting. Did a big deep dive probably a year ago on what makes employees and companies as a whole really successful. It was not always skillset, it wasn’t always soft skills and all these things. It truly is like adaptability. You know, they can adapt to the situation in front of them. So became really kind of aware of that. The other component that helps is naturally we have two people down on our team, but one that’s been with me for eleven years that naturally plays what’s called the 10th man. And so long story short with the 10th man is the Israeli government implemented this back in 1950s, I believe.

It was just making sure if everybody is thinking the same thing and heading the same direction. This 10th man is dedicated to like, nope, this poke holes, let’s say differently. Is this the right thing to do? It just naturally, that’s who he is. And so I think that really helped us instead of being a status quo because it’s easy, it’s comfortable to always be challenged on. Is this really the right direction we want to go? And let’s think through this. And sometimes the answer is yes, absolutely it is. But since we have somebody else in that room that’s poking at it on a consistent basis, it just makes that much stronger, that decision that much stronger because it truly is kind of thought through.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. Having a devil’s advocate is a big thing, especially if you have structure to it, not just argumentative, which I’ve had too.

Steve Maly:
There’s definitely a big difference to that of somebody that’s very strategic, that knows how to do it or somebody that’s just really a pain in the ass that just wants to poke holes in anything.

A.J. Lawrence:
Okay. Well, talking about the adaptability, things are changing really quickly right now. I mean, right now it almost seems like it’s so good. If you’re even half good with using AI tools, you can get so much more done. You can do things for clients so much more, but it’s also so much of what we do and bill, and you and I were joking about talking about agencies putting themselves up for sale. So much of what I’ve seen agencies billables, as I’ve now reviewed a few hundred over the past year, is stuff that’s going to be gone from AI, at least from a billable point. Yes, they’ll still need it, but it’s going to be a 10th or less. It’ll be the thought process of how to use it in my mind.

How is it helping you kind of look at one, take advantage of what’s there now, but then prepare as things continue moving?

Steve Maly:
That is always question of the moment, if you will.

A.J. Lawrence:
Just a little.

Steve Maly:
Yeah, exactly. So a lot of it for us, we’re continuing internally. So we got internal, external. Internally we’re continuing to take a look at just efficiencies. How can we use the different tools to brainstorm? How can we use different tools to storyboard out of concept that is maybe a unique concept. You can’t just grab a stock image or do a quick little sketch over the top of it. How do we develop some initial kind of content to be able to think things through overall? You know, I’ve used it before AI to take a look at financials. It helped me paint a picture from a different perspective on the financials, which again, some of it was great. Someone was like, eh, that’s a little off. But it’s still a different perspective. It makes you think things through.

I’m actually talking at a class tomorrow at the university. And what this professor does is that he allows the students to use ChatGPT for one of their main homework assignments. And I think it’s like a two or three week long process. And what he does is he has them put all the stuff into ChatGPT. It’ll pump stuff out. He’ll copy, they’ll have the students to copy and paste it, put it on word document, and then he’ll have them turn on changes so it can monitor all the updates and stuff. And what he wants them to do is go back through and think through each line, each rationale, each whatever. Make notes in regards to like, yep, this is great.

We can leverage this. We can think through this. This isn’t fully accurate. Well, actually, according to this source, this work out better because he wants to teach them how not just to copy paste and take it, but take it and okay, cool. This is a good place. Let’s start thinking things through. And I think that is extremely valuable. It helps speed up that process, but it’s a really good tool to help you really do that and just hone your thinking muscle, for lack of better term, to a certain extent.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, no, keep going. Sorry, sorry. I was agreeing.

Steve Maly:
No worries. And along the external side of it, like at times we’ll have clients that will send us over AI driven copy or images or whatever. And sometimes you can tell pretty quick, like it comes down to the prompts that you put in. You put in, they’ll kind of grab your prompts. That’s where you’re going to get back out of it. But again, it’s a starting point. And it gives us a basis to have kind of that conversation, help explain our strategies and the reason why we do things a certain way really as well. And sometimes we can use it and like massage it and put some stuff over top and it works out fine. Other times it’s like, all right, cool.

And we’ve done this before. We’ll have everybody in the office put in kind of similar type of prompts to try to get to the same thing that they’re getting at. And it’s interesting because they do tend to get kind of the similar results. It’s like, awesome client. Do you want to have the exact same results as your competitors who do the exact same thing as you right now? Or do you want to have something that really is a lot more distinctive and kind of thought through as a true strategy, not just articulate mismatch?

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. And it’s funny, throwing back to what this professor is doing. I’ve been pushing my son because he’s at university, and they’re not supposed to generate their essays because they’re in the scottish system so it’s a slightly different way of how they get graded. But I’m like, dude, you need to be using it for structure, for resource, for thought process, to give you ideas. And, yeah, you have to write it, but just saying, I can’t use chat. Play with the different tools.

It seems almost every week, someone leapfrogs in one way or the other a different. I mean, falling in love with perplexity, if only from the guided, Do you mean x in a response to it? Which you can build into a prompt structure and you can do that within chat. But it’s like, great. Claude, all of a sudden, really just jumped in the ability from a non-complex prompt being able to create pretty complex material in a lot of areas, not across the board, but it’s still like, okay, this is you gotta be playing. All right, so trying not to keep it like this is now, but more moving towards. As you see these things adapt and there are more and more sora, et cetera. And it’s not going to be the tools themselves, but just the capabilities across the board.

How are you looking to start planning to surf it, for lack of better term, to surf what’s capable? Are you looking at changing your business model? Are you looking at different services? Are you just looking to allocate time to spend more? How are you looking at this?

Steve Maly:
We are looking at different services to a certain extent. It’s kind of twofold. One is the AI environment, the other part is the economy and where we’re at right now in the economy really as well. A lot of times, if there’s pullbacks in the economy, one of the first thing the companies do is they try to axe the marketing part of it or pull back on budgets there, obviously, we’re biased. We could talk all day long and they go, that’s one of the dumbest things you can really fully deal with. But it’s reality, it’s what happens. So what we’re looking at with this is really kind of changing up, not completely changing another service offering, more just consulting one day, two day workshops. Let’s do a deep dive, let’s do segmentation, target positioning, and let’s put together a full guide, playbook, really, for these people to take and really kind of implement on their own.

And if they want to be able to use, then AI resources in order to visually pull it together and some copying content. Awesome. But we’ll also kind of talk through what does this look like? What are the right type of prompts to be able to play? How do you really truly pull this all together knowing that if they’re not going to do the full retainer agency side of it, we still have that opportunity to consult at the top, just to make sure that the marketing is still on point and they’re being served the way they really should be served.

A.J. Lawrence:
No, that’s really cool because I think that is really nice, because now is the time to play around with business models. In 2008, I got very lucky. I just was trying to land a deal and I said, look, if you don’t trust us, we’ll do it on performance but we want X above your existing baseline. And what was crazy was because we were willing to do it, I only had a few clients that even ended up by the time we went through took it. But the ability to offer, that got us so much further into the biz dev cycle. Sometimes that willingness to be adapted to the clients financial situation, their fear, whatever it may be because a lot of times it’s more fear than financial. You end up becoming more trusted so you get further into the environment and they need the same, if not more. They were scared of it at the beginning. They say, I can’t do that.

And then, you go through, oh, well, we could do that. Oh, you can. And then you do twice as much. Not always, but I like those bite size. I’ve seen some interesting people doing more sprints, variations of like the Google design sprints, or a development cycle sprint doing those. I like the one day, two day training people, seeing hybrid, marketing ops, automation structure, coming to a point where it’s just like, what can you do to make the client better, as you said. Get them in a better position.

Sadly, in our industry, not all agencies really do that. But I think more as we start getting, sorry, I’m pointing to my head and pointing gray as there’s more gray. Even though you’re pretty, you’re not showing much gray. I guess you’re doing quite well.

Steve Maly:
I got some patches in the beard. Yeah.

A.J. Lawrence:
Alright. Well, you’re behind, you’re ten years younger. But I do think as you get older, this idea of the client gets and the ability of the client to be in a good position is such a great way of guiding what you do from a service point of view. If you can figure that out, they recognize you do that.

Steve Maly:
They see that you’re in it for them, not just for the paycheck that you’re getting, which then opens up those opportunities for word of mouth recommendations and referrals just that much more. Really over top of it because they see it much, and I don’t want to sound too cheesy, but they really do see much more of a partnership than necessarily, I’m on this other table, you’re on that side of the table. I’m trying to give you the least amount of money as possible, you’re trying to get as much money as possible. It really can align us both on the same side of the table moving forward. And sometimes we’d be able to go through this process and then decide like, no, we need a full agency like you guys. Awesome. Other times is they take it, they run with it. I always check in to be able to see how things are going really overall.

I had a conversation with a client yesterday then we did a check in on it. And I still have access into a bunch of their Meta and Google and dashboards to be able to see how everything ties together. And I saw the lead costs were cut down by I guess about 60%. And I always get super paranoid when I see really good numbers. I’m like, is this legit? Bad numbers, kind of the same story. And they’re like, no, we actually took this. We ran it. We just became that much more dedicated. And partly, honestly, is because we charge them a fair amount. And since we charge them a fair amount, like we got to take this serious and we have to implement.

Kind of going back to the conversation with EOS. I know a lot of people that try to self-implement EOS and it failed. Or you pay somebody a high ticket fee, and you are damn sure that you’ve tried to follow it and become dedicated to it and really see it through because of this.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, it’s funny when you say that. Yeah, most of marketing is just repetitive tasks done consistently with the idea of trying to evaluate what the impact of those tasks are and trying to then figure out how much more effort or less or change of it. But that’s kind of fun because of the complexity.I’m gonna ask you something before I even move on just because I know you’re so in there. And I’m so curious cause I’m trying to buy my way back into the game, trying to buy an agency. Looking three years out, just this past year, I think, has been a whirlwind, but internally into what we’re capable of doing.

I think a lot of agencies have had a whirlwind, but still just a little bit on the edges of like, well, why do we need that? But three years from now, the tools are getting so much faster, so much better, so much more interesting, and the ability to chain them together through automations or workflows and etcetera are just beginning. Where do you see what you do? How different? You don’t have to say what difference, but how different do you think your structure of delivering is going to be with your clients?

Steve Maly:
Yeah, that’s a good question. So this goes back to, actually a conversation I had with Mike Rhodes. He was in Baby Bathwater for a while. Great guy. And so he’s talking about Google machine learning six years ago probably. It was pre-COVID. So probably five, six years ago. And he was talking about it. I think it aligns really well with the environment we’re in right now. And he’s like, with Google’s machine learning, it can do some amazing stuff, some really, really cool stuff.

He’s like, with that being said though, it’s still kind of like that infant, if you will, or even like a toddler. You give it some guidelines and he could stick within the guidelines. But a toddler, it’s always curious and get out of the guidelines here, it’ll kind of move over here. But even as it ages, matures, and becomes a teenager, exact same thing. It might not be doing these little things that toddlers would do. Maybe it’s bigger, dumber things that they’ll do because they’re teenagers, and that’s what teenagers really kind of do. Because you always need responsible adults in the room to help guide them, help set that structure, to help realize too, is I think the most important part.

No, we’re off the beaten path. We shouldn’t be going this way. We need to get back onto this path. It takes really a structured adult, somebody that’s been through this that understands strategy, understands the outcomes, understands where we need to go, to recognize that we’re off the wrong path, and to kind of guide that system back on again to make sure we’re all really kind of pointing the same wayAnd I really kind of see that. It becomes a lot more again, of just over the top consulting. We’ve been in this world long enough, we recognize patterns enough. This pattern is showing us that we’re going to go this way where we should be going this way, and help kind of redirect some of those strategies because of it.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right, so more strategic in doing so. I do want to actually follow up but let’s not do it on the podcast because I think other than outside agency, I’m curious to see more of how you’re thinking. But let’s get in the back. You’ve built this. You started this kind of right out of school because, one, this is what you saw as your life being an entrepreneur. Two, it just made sense compared to getting a job somewhere else. It was like, okay. And you had a nice progression from like, all right, let me add a little bit of resources.

Let me add this, and then keep going. You’ve built it into a nice structure. You’re award winning. You got a puppet out there. You have an established company off of your blood, sweat, and tears here. That’s a pretty unique and pretty rare thing, especially now going on 20 years, that makes it even more rare. How do you go about defining what your personal entrepreneurial success is going to be? Not what happens with the agency. Not that, but you, Steve, what’s success going to be?

Steve Maly:
It’s a good question. It’s been a question in my mind for almost three years, a little over three years. And the reason why three years, I hit 40, so I’ll be 43 here next week. And I remember being, what’s that?

A.J. Lawrence:
You baby, you.

Steve Maly:
I remember being in a marketing pitch when I was in my probably mid-20’s, 26, 27, something like that. It was the agency here in town, here Lincoln, and these guys were coming out of that pitch and were ready to go in. And they were like 40, what appeared to be for my naive eyes, 40 year old guys in suits that are two sizes too big. I’m like, that looks miserable. I can’t imagine doing this when I’m 40. That’s terrible. And then as I got closer and hit that number, it’s like, holy cow, look at that.

A lot of it for me at this point in time is like, all right, I understand marketing. We’ve been deep in this for 20 years. How can I use that skill set in other businesses, other revenue streams, other income streams? Me really kind of personally, in really building some of that up a lot more. So that way on the marketing side for the agencies, if there’s a pullback, there’s a shift then it doesn’t become as painful, if you will, because I have some other marketing streams or revenue streams bringing money in that helps kind of close that door.There was a mastermind we were at a few years back and most of the people, so it was part of this, is everybody had to get up on the hot seat for about 30 minutes. And most of their issues was marketing. I was like, I can solve that. I can solve that. I can solve that.

Mine is like, well I know marketing, but I don’t know what the heck else I wanted to do, if you will. So for me, success, like, all right, building it. I have a plan for this now that I put together back last December. Over the next three years, how can I build on three additional revenue streams using my knowledge and expertise to do it, to give us a bit more just flexibility, not only professionally but really kind of personally as well. I’ve heard this from somebody years ago, and it really kind of resonated for me.

He’s like, if you have an income stream, it just pays for your mortgage. So if something happens to you, you release your mortgage to take care of it. Then you take a look at your next highest bill or a collection of highest bills and get a revenue stream that takes care of that. Because again, if you start small with it and build it from there, you’d be amazed on how much freedom it feels that you have because you have that proverbial monkey off of your back. So that’s where my big focus is. Really over the next three years, I’m getting pulled up that success.

A.J. Lawrence:
Very, very cool. And we’ve both mentioned Baby Bathwater, we’re both members of the Baby Bathwater business group and that’s sort of how we had met. So I want to hear more about this if you go to the event in June? Yeah, June. If not, Hilton Head does sound cool. So they’re having an event in the Finger Lakes, which is pretty cool. And I know the resort’s probably gonna be nice, but I grew up in New York, so the Finger Lakes are like, eh, okay. But it is beautiful.

But no, love to hear about how you’re doing that and just a little more. So maybe if we can’t meet up there, maybe bring you back and talk about that next step as you look. Yes, some of us have these great exit plans and sell it wonderful multiples and do all those things. Some of us just keep doing what we love about these things and then find ways to add a little bit to the side for curiosity, financial, whatever it may be around it. So I think it would be great to kind of continue that conversation down the road on that. What’s a good way, besides malymarketing.com, for people to find out more about what you’re doing, what the agency is doing, to look you up and maybe if they need some help on their marketing to talk to someone like you?

Steve Maly:
I would say the biggest one is that malymarketing.com. We’re pretty active on Meta, Facebook and Instagram really as well. So both of that is just Facebook or Instagram slash MalyMarketing. And we do have a ton of different videos that we’ve put together and we do have a YouTube channel as well. We’re literally in the process of getting more of these videos edited and kind of put up there. Some of that is purely just educational. Part of that is truly these podcasts will chop up into little sound bites and you kind of put that out there really as well.

So at least that way you can kind of have a better understanding of like who we are, how we operate our ethos, if you will. But obviously if they want more information on the nuts and bolts and what you actually do type of thing, malymarketing.com would be the kind of the best resource there.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right, we’ll have that. Obviously we’ll have the website and the YouTube channel in the show notes and in the newsletter when we announce this episode and of course, our socials.All right, Steve. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. This is a lot of fun. I’m glad we got to catch up.

Steve Maly:
Yeah, for sure. Thanks, A.J. Definitely appreciate the opportunity.

A.J. Lawrence:
Cool. I mean, I learned a lot because one, I got to pick your brain since I’m looking into this space. But no, I think there was a lot of listening here in the audience of what to take out of the EOS, what to expect in that timeframe, your own journey. So thank you for sharing so much. That was really cool.

Steve Maly:
You betcha. Take care.

A.J. Lawrence:
Hey everyone. Thank you again for listening today. If you enjoyed my conversation with Steve, if you know someone who’s thinking about EOS or you think get some insight from listening to this episode, please share it with them and convince them to subscribe on their podcast listening, video watching platform of choice. Just helps us bring on really great guests that we can kind of dive into how they were able to grow their business through all the fun that we have to face as entrepreneurs. All right, everyone. Thank you again, and I’ll talk with you soon. Goodbye.

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