Mikael Dia_Simplifying Business Operations for Sustainable Growth

Simplifying Business Operations for Sustainable Growth with Mikael Dia, Funnelytics

November 29, 2023

As your business grows, chaos and confusion often sneak in, threatening to disrupt your business operations. The solution? Simplify your business. Mikael Dia from Funnelytics sits down with A.J. to discuss the importance of simplicity in business, how to position your business effectively for a successful scale-up, and how simplified processes can help you achieve sustainable growth for your business.

About Mikael Dia:

Mikael Dia is the Founder of Funnelytics, a software company dedicated to helping marketers and agencies visually map and analyze their customer journeys. He is an experienced and savvy growth advisor who helps companies turn strangers into customers.

Aside from being a digital marketing expert passionate about simplifying marketing, Mikael is also a dedicated serial entrepreneur. He has successfully launched and scaled multiple online businesses to 7-figure and beyond. He is passionate about public speaking and sharing knowledge to make a positive impact.

Simplify business operations for a successful scale-up

Business growth brings a lot of chaos, confusion, and uncertainty. It’s particularly challenging for you as the business owner because you’re responsible for overseeing the smooth functioning of all aspects of your company. But when chaos strikes, you know it’s time to simplify your business operations and streamline internal processes.

Since entrepreneurs are always thinking of new ways to spark growth and reach new levels, they may unintentionally contribute to the overarching mess. In these instances, it’s vital to have a ‘simplicity’ mindset. How can you keep your business as simple as possible? Continuously simplifying everything from marketing and pricing to operations and team structure will allow you to focus on one strategy at a time, ultimately leading to improved organizational efficiency, increased productivity, and sustainable business growth.

An efficient and streamlined business is a successful business – your team is productive, your operations are smooth, and you can focus on growing your business and providing top-notch service for your customers.

Key Insights:

  • Shift your focus to positive aspects. Entrepreneurs are often prone to dwell on their losses and lose sleep over bad reviews. But this attitude can inflict greater harm to your business than the actual failures. A simple mindset shift can help. Start perceiving these mistakes as opportunities for growth and use them as lessons to build new sustainable strategies. (07:03)
  • Working with a mentor is empowering. Building a business can be lonely, so it’s always good to have support and guidance along the way. Working with a trusted mentor can help you put things into perspective when you’re deep into day-to-day business operations. It can help you to take a step back and see the bigger picture, ultimately opening your mind to fresh ideas and opportunities. (18:17)
  • Journaling is a good way to relieve stress. Trying to avoid stress as an entrepreneur is a losing game. Instead, find ways to relieve stress and transform it into your strength. Mikael suggests journaling as a simple yet powerful tool to channel stress into productivity and self-improvement. Try it out to take those dark thoughts out on paper and decompress since it’s highly important for your health. (21:00)
  • Strike the right balance in business. According to Mikael, there are four pillars of modern entrepreneurship: profit, impact, freedom, and fulfillment. Many people focus on the financial aspect of business, but each of these pillars is significant for your journey. Striking the right balance between these four pillars will help you navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and keep a clear vision and a resilient mindset. (24:46)
  • Simplify to amplify. As an entrepreneur, you’ll inevitably get caught up in the chase for growth and scale. But that inevitably leads to complexity, chaos, and confusion in your business, which directly hinders growth. The key is to continuously simplify your business operations. This will allow you to focus on your core goals while your business runs like a well-oiled machine. (41:58)

Mikael’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“Entrepreneurs are always trying to solve problems. We’re always trying to iterate and make things better. […] So for me, I think the one thing that I find is key is just that constant mindset of, can I keep this as simple as possible?”

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Mikael Dia: Oh, I’m excited too. Thank you for having me, A.J. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

A.J. Lawrence: I was really looking forward to it. Like I said, I played around with this way back in the day, and I helped a couple of people build some sites off of this. And I’m now really kind of sad I didn’t spend more time and kept going because from what I’ve been looking and going through, you’ve gone so much deeper into the possibility of the customer journey. First off, before I go too much into the product because I have so many questions about what you’re doing, let’s talk a little bit about where you are as an entrepreneur. Because you started this, this really has taken off. You’ve had some great partnerships. We were just talking about the stuff you did with Clickfunnel. You’ve kind of become a default player, definitely in the funnel space, when you talk to people about building funnels and stuff. You’re one of the main providers of tools to understand this. Where are you on your own entrepreneurial journey these days?

Mikael Dia: Oh, man. It’s been a journey for sure. Entrepreneurship is not easy by any means. It’s a roller coaster of ups and downs and sideways and spinning and all that stuff all combined into one, to be honest. Well, first, let me take it back. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over a decade now, and I’ve been building my own businesses from Mandarin schools to language apps to digital marketing agencies and all sorts of stuff. And we can talk about that if you’d like. But when I started Funnelytics, what was interesting is it took off very, very, rapidly and it was very unexpected. I had no idea.

I really built Funnelytics for myself as an agency owner, and it was a tool that I wanted a way to visualize. I called it Funnelytics because literally, funnel analytics. I put the two words together and that’s Funnelytics, right? And when we launched, it really kind of started taking off because of how I marketed the tool. I did it through a community. I built a really big Facebook group around the tool. I used a lot of the kind of funnel tactics that you would learn from the Russell Brunson’s of the world or the Ryan Deiss’s in terms of how do you acquire customers, etc. But as I started evolving the business and we started looking at how do you really turn this into a software company, not just a product that people talk about that can make a lot of one time sales, but a real, true software company that has recurring revenue that is sticky. It went from this really kind of growth stage of everything’s rosy, we’re making a lot of money to wait, now we’ve got to figure out how to keep customers and how to make sure that these customers so then the roller coaster started going downwards and started looking at, okay, well, how do we combat this churn issue? From there, I ended up raising capital from VCs. So I went from being bootstrapped for the first two years of Funnelytics to going down the VC road and raising capital, which that in its own right is a journey. And there’s pros and cons to raising capital and to kind of going down that path. But because I raised capital, you go from being bootstrapped and running based off of profits and having a little bit of money, let’s go and invest a little bit of that money, to now having three and a half million dollars in a bank account. It’s like, okay, well, now you got to spend that money and you got to spend it wisely and quickly, but you also have to be growing at a fast rate, and you got to figure out how to create stickiness. And truthfully, that has been actually the biggest challenge with Funnelytics. We have an incredible product.

However, figuring out that stickiness aspect in a software, especially in an analytics software, has been a huge challenge. So entrepreneurship is a journey and it’s a roller coaster ride. You get past a certain point. And like you said before we started our conversation, you hit a monetary target and you think that it’s all roses and snow. You’re going to get slapped in the face a couple more times, but from a different problem that you didn’t know about or expect. And then you solve that problem and you think it’s all roses and no, you get slapped again with a different type of problem, and it’s just this constant up, down, up, down. The nice thing is, even though it’s this up, down, up, down, is when you look at it over the time span, it’s gradually going up, right? Which is the key. So, yeah, it’s a journey for sure.

A.J. Lawrence: I was looking at something recently where I was looking at some of my daily journaling from an effort I was doing, and I was like, God, I was so angry. Not angry, but upset, worried, just all the negative. Like, 8 out of 10 days of like, we didn’t do this. It didn’t hit this. We didn’t have this number. But then I look at sort of the overall trajectory of the effort, I’m like, oh, we were positive, and we were decently positive. So it’s like the entrepreneur is cursed. Everything that goes wrong is horrible.

Everything that’s good. It’s like, okay, it worked.

Mikael Dia: Totally. It’s funny, right? It’s almost that whole that weird feeling of like you get a review online about your product or your service or whatever it is, and 8 out of 10 will be positive or even 9 out of 10 will be positive. And you’ll read through the positive ones, but the one negative one is the one that just hits you and you’re like, oh, and that’s the one that you least sleep over. And I feel like as entrepreneurs, we’re very, very good at skimming through the wins, but dwelling on the losses or dwelling on the kind of challenges. And those are the ones we write about in our journal. I’m the same, I have my journal and every day I open it up. And if I were to look back on my last five years, 8 out of the 10 entries would be like, this went wrong or this went wrong, or I lost sleep over this.

But the 2 out of the 10 entries that are good, those outweigh the other ones significantly. So it’s interesting that we dwell on those challenges a lot more.

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, and I would love to get back into that. But first, I love the phrase slap because I have other phrases. All I know is that Apple has a really great podcast filter that if you curse, I don’t even have to mention they just automate. Like, there’s a curse. Okay, there’s going to be a little thing like that’s hilarious adult, so we can use some of them. Let’s talk about where you are now and where you’re going and some of the transitions. Maybe not right now you face, but just in the past couple of years, because taking on VC money and kind of doing that transition. It’s funny. I’ve worked with it.

I’ve advised, and I’m an LP in a couple of funds. It’s like you go from having that, yes, bootstrapped is you feel it so hard and it’s like you have to kill what you eat. And if we don’t do this, we don’t survive. You think getting the money from the VC would make the world so much better, but as you just said, you have to go fast. You have to speed up and you have to get bigger numbers. So what are some of the things, the transitions, the slaps that you’ve been dealing with the past few years?

Mikael Dia: I’ll be I’ll be very honest and transparent. So when we raised a couple of things that happened when we raised so when I launched Funnelytics 1.0, I’ll call it 1.0, that was the 2018-2019-2020 version that we built. Like I said, I didn’t know what it was. I just had this idea that I wanted for myself and for my agency and just my own operations. So I built it and I hired a developer, really smart guy, young but very smart, who kind of built it in a prototype style fashion. Not really scalable on tech, that wasn’t really adaptable and kind of created a lot of limitations. So I raised two rounds. I raised basically a seed round and then I raised a seed extension round. And what was interesting is that first round we raised, we said, you know what, we’re going to use that money to rebuild the platform so that the platform can be more scalable.

So we basically used that first round of funding to hire more developers and kind of go down that path of replatforming and building Funnelytics 2.0, which in its own right, was the right move, however, was also a mistake. Because the problem is when you raise money, your investors expect growth and they expect the valuation to go up and they expect to see the numbers go up. So it’s this weird kind of dynamic of, okay, well, let’s invest all this money over here off of a future product which is going to be built and launched maybe in a year or whatever it takes to build 2.0 while still trying to figure out how to maintain 1.0 and grow 1.0 so that we could show growth in those numbers, even though we know that if we don’t do this, this, and this, churn is going to stay high, we’re going to hit a flatline, etc. So that was the first kind of pivotal moment when we raised our first round. This was about April 2020. And then a few things happened. We lost our head engineer.

So the person who is leading the transition to 2.0 decided to leave the company. It created this big void. I’m not a tech guy. I never had a co-founder for Funnelytics. So not having a co-founder when you’re not technical is a huge challenge because you don’t have somebody who ultimately owns the product aspect of things. And what ended up happening is it created about an eight month delay of us not being able to really iterate or improve build Funnelytics 2.0. So what that meant was we started to run out of cash, right? Because we spent all this, we were growing, but now we’re no longer profitable. We were burning money from this big pool of money that we raised by hiring more engineers and doing all this stuff.

So we ended up getting to a stage in near the end of 2021 where we were running out of money from basically growing and all that. So even though we were growing and we were seeing the MRR grow, we’d still had issues on our churn side because we were growing 1.0, knowing what the problems were with 1.0 while building 2.0 over here. And then what we ended up doing is we were like, okay, well, because we were so close to launching 2.0, we raised a seed extension round from our existing VCs and we launched Funnelytics 2.0 in May of last year, in May of 2022. So now we went from, okay, great, we’ve grown 1.0, churn has caught up, so basically 1.0 was kind of flatlined. Now we were spending too much money on growth, and growth versus churn was basically even, so we had flatlined in 1.0. We’d finally built 2.0, which was a much more robust analytics platform, much more centered around performance.

Basically all the challenges, all the issues that we thought we had in 1.0, we built it in 2.0, we improved it, so we went and launched 2.0. So then what ended up happening was we had this money, but as we grew 2.0 in terms of our MRR, of course we’re no longer trying to grow 1.0. So the 1.0 MRR, all the Churn that was happening in 1.0 started to go down and basically created this weird balance of 2.0 MRR going up, 1.0 MRR going down, overall flat, right? Overall not growing, even though our 2.0 was growing pretty rapidly, we were churning pretty quickly on 1.0. And what that basically meant was by the end of this past year, by the end of 2022, we used the money, the seed extension round that we raised and we were still burning. But because we were kind of flatlined where our churn with 1.0 was growing or going at the same pace as our growth for 2.0, even though we’d improve our churn in 2.0 overall, our MRR numbers weren’t in a kind of stage where we could raise kind of that next route where VCs would look at it and say, we kind of want to see more on 2.0 to understand if it’s really sticky or if you’re going to have the same problems that you had in 1.0. So what that meant is layoffs, and it meant having to cut back costs and having to make sure that we aren’t burning at the same pace that we’re burning. So we’ve had a lot of challenges just growing in general, both from an operations standpoint and from a platform standpoint. I think the biggest challenge when it comes to software, at least the biggest challenge we’ve faced when it comes to software, is churn.

Churn is one of the hardest things to nail and to basically figure out how can you create a product that is sticky enough? Because we’re not selling high ticket $20,000, $40,000 packages where you get this nice big lump sum of money, you’re getting $200 a month payments, $99 a month payments. So how do you create this stickiness where people don’t churn and that MRR keeps stacking? So yeah, ultimately that’s kind of been a huge challenge. How do you go from having a big team, you see your MRR is kind of growing but when you look at your MRR for one product, the other product is so net, you’re kind of at a loss and you end up hitting a wall where we’re running out of cash. What do we do? Right. So now going back to mindset of switching from VC mindset of growth at all costs to how do you create a sustainable, profitable business. It’s a mindset shift for sure. You go from bootstrapped to VC fundraising growth to wait, now we didn’t hit our metrics in order to keep this VC fundraising growth that all costs earned money so therefore we need to go back to being bootstrapped or the mindset of profitability, which as an entrepreneur is a roller coaster ride for sure.

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, the market has changed, the environment changed, and the expectations changing around that is kind of crazy. What’s helping you the most in this? You talked about journaling, but like working with coaches, is it peers to help you deal with this type of transition here? I have to say, the times I’ve had to let go people because from an agency background I’ve had issues like, okay, we lost a whale. Or yes, we had to transition in 2008 from being sort of more of a strategic to more of a performance based agency. But that just meant like a lot of the talking people I had had to change to a lot of the math people. It was like worst experiences. Like letting people who work hard go. They didn’t do anything wrong. It was just I misgauged where we should be going or I misallocated resources.

So yeah, that to me was the worst experience. I use coaches and a lot of peer grouping. But what’s helped you?

Mikael Dia: Definitely just a lot of mentors and I have a lot of advisors that I speak to on a regular basis. At the end of the day, you have to, right? When you’re in charge and you’re the person who’s basically putting up the points on the board but also responsible for everything. You’re responsible for people’s wages, you’re responsible for investors and the investor relations, you’re responsible for whether or not the company succeeds or doesn’t succeed. You have to have some form of outlet, not necessarily one that is alcohol or whatever, but you need some form of-

A.J. Lawrence: Craft cocktails were mine.

Mikael Dia: Yeah, exactly. Some old fashioned every night. But you definitely need somebody that you can talk to and that you can bounce ideas off of, of how do we solve this? Right. The challenge with mentors, as great as mentors are, is that they’re not in your business. They’re not even working on your business. They are looking at it from above. And a lot of the times when somebody looks at it from above, they miss some key points.

But some of the times, too, it’s the opposite. It’s like when somebody’s looking at it from above, they can see something clearly that you internally just can’t wrap your head around how to either implement or work on or whatever it is. So what I found that is extremely powerful or useful is having a long term advisor. So one of my, I would say quite a good friend, but he’s been an advisor for a good 3-4 years now where we kind of chat every single Friday. And I help him with his business, he helps me with mine. I help him from my standpoint of marketing and all of that stuff, he helps me from an operational standpoint. And I know his business in and out, and he knows my business in and out. But he knows it from an outside person looking in versus that high level coach that you can kind of hire. So for me, that has been extremely helpful. You could say board of directors is helpful, but even then, it depends. You could see OpenAI and them firing Sam Altman, so board of directors isn’t always the smartest people in the room. Journaling for sure, I do every morning. I have a morning routine that I kind of go through that helps me release a lot of the internal pressure that you face as an entrepreneur. Because a lot of times people don’t talk about how many sleepless nights you have when you’re going through these roller coasters and these challenges and where you’re just literally laying awake on your bed, on your pillow looking up and you’re like, how the hell am I going to get out of this? What am I going to do? Just journaling and taking those thoughts out is extremely important as well.

A.J. Lawrence: That’s good. Yeah, because I found I’ll fall asleep fine when something’s happening, but something in a dream will trigger something like, oh, I forgot to follow up on X or oh, this deal, they’re taking extra time, they’re not getting back. Or, oh, this person complained about Y, and then all of a sudden it’s like that 30 minutes of churn until yes, I can finally get my breathing down. I hate that.

Mikael Dia: I agree. I think the one thing that I appreciate about your podcast and the audience that are listening is that because we’re all kind of at that 7 figure, 8 figure mark, we can cut the bullshit of like, hey, let’s just flash the fact that building a business makes you money and makes you a whole lot of stuff. Like yeah, there’s the nice aspect of you create freedom and you are able to dictate your time and all that stuff and you’re able to create your own path in a sense. Of course we should never take that for granted. But you also have to realize that it is war when you build a business and it can get into your mental. And a lot of times you don’t realize how that affects you internally, how that affects your health. The stress that you face when you’re struggling with cash flow or where you’re struggling with operations or with people or whatever it may be, internalizing that stress can really cause some damage that we just don’t talk about enough as entrepreneurs.

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, I think one of the things I learned from my own experience when, I always joke, I sold on the way down so I have a very small violin I get to play. I still sold but I had way, way higher expectations. So much of the talk about entrepreneurship is about the money or like the actualization, when in reality I feel a lot of times it’s short. Successful working of the process of entrepreneurism does create money but it’s that it allows me to do things that I can then build a life around. For me, it’s always been my children, living abroad, giving them this life that they can go do crazy things. Being an entrepreneur itself doesn’t make you happy. It’s not like that, at least to me. It’s that idea that it gives me a better platform to then go do other things that I think are worthwhile in my life. But yeah, it’s very hard to find a discussion where it’s not like money. You’re cool. No, most of the time I’m the least cool person in the room.

Mikael Dia: It’s interesting. One day I’ll maybe write a book about this, but I believe that modern entrepreneurship has four core components to it and we talk too much about one of the components and not sometimes about the second component, not enough about the other two. So I think that when it comes to modern entrepreneurship, there’s four core pillars. There’s profit, make money and lots of it. Right? And that’s the one that we all talk about. It’s like, who’s the richest person in the world? And of course they’re all entrepreneurs and the way to riches is entrepreneurship. So there’s the profit aspect which 100% we build a business because we want to be able to not have a ceiling as to how much income we can potentially generate.

What most people don’t realize is more doesn’t mean less challenges. More means more challenges. Biggie said it. More money, more problems. Right? That’s just the reality of the situation. The second is a lot of people are motivated by impact, right? So how much impact can I have? Can I impact with my product, my service, a lot of people, right? So if you look at Elon Musk and his thought process about impacting all of humanity, he sure is right. He’s certainly more driven by impact than he is about profit per se. Then the third, which is the one you kind of alluded to, which is the freedom aspect.

So we now want to sit there and say, how do we create our own lifestyle where I’m not restrained or restricted by time or in time? Basically, I can do what it is that I want with my time, or I can be where I want, or I can travel with who I want or etc. And the final aspect, which I think is the one that we don’t touch on quite a lot, is fulfillment. Because impact is external. Profit is a tool. Freedom is well, what are you going to do with your time? But when you ask yourself truly what actually gets me out of bed and gets me super excited that regardless, I want to do this. Even if I didn’t have a choice, even if this is all I could do and I didn’t get paid. What actually fulfills you? And a lot of times people don’t know what that is, right? They don’t know what really fulfills them about their business. So what they end up doing is they start a business with the mindset of, I just want to make money. It’s like, okay, but more money, more problems. So at some point, you’re going to either give up because money is not going to be worth it anymore.

You’re going to sit there and say, this isn’t worth the money. So what actually fulfills you on a day to day basis is a big pillar in terms of entrepreneurship, I find.

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, I agree. Having sold a few businesses, I find a lot of times now when I talk about the employees. Some of my favorite stories are like, a couple of people have worked for me [on] my first business. We started getting clients and we were dev shop. And I knew the coffee shop guy, barista now, I think is the term. But he was like, oh yeah, so you’re doing that. I read a book. I’m like, do you want to come work with me? He’s now a professor at UCLA on user experience and digital.

I love that stuff. I followed guys who’ve created their own company. I have this woman who she now has one of the largest LGBT agency. This is really cool what your people go on to do that, but that’s different. I love that the four quadrant, four pillars, not quadrants four pillars, because they do impact it’s, because you can kind of direct it better than through an organization where you have to be within a structure. You have to be within other people’s structure. You get more freedom to sort of direct it. There’s some good stuff there to kind of pull out.

And here I was, I really wanted to get into Funnelytics, but you really gave us some good stuff to think about. Here, let’s talk a little bit about Funnelytics and then come back to these, because I really do think because I’ve been kind of coming back, I did drift off. I churned. I was one of your customers that churned back in ’19, and I knew you were doing stuff, but it was like, okay, most of my things were small. But now as I look back to acquire a business and I’m looking at different things, looking at a lot of stuff you’re doing, you’ve kind of yes. With the difficulties of raising the fund, and financially, this is really interesting, what you’re doing. Let’s talk a little bit about how an entrepreneur can kind of look at Funnelytics as a better understanding of the flow of their customers through their business. Because I think there’s a lot of value in the product you’ve created here.

Mikael Dia: I appreciate that. Thank you. And it’s been a journey and a team effort. At the end of the day, it’s evolved into much more than what I ever imagined when I first conceptualized what Funnelytics was. To some degree, it’s still very much in line with the vision, but in terms of its capabilities and what it can do is on another level than what I ever anticipated. The idea was always very simple. Most of us are visual. Most of us are visual learners.

Most of us, I think 65% of the population are visual thinkers, visual learners. And yet when we’re trying to understand performance of something, when we’re trying to understand whether something is working or not, we don’t have a choice but to look at numbers. And numbers are not visual, especially when we think about Google Analytics or charts and graphs and spreadsheets. It’s very much linear, and it’s very much for everybody who’s very left brain. And I come from an engineering background, so I’m quite left brain in my thinking. But I am also very, very visual. I love whiteboards. I love diagramming things out in it and trying to paint a picture of what something is. And the thought and the idea of Funnelytics was always, wouldn’t it be just really cool if I could use whiteboarding technology to visualize the customer journey, visualize the strategy, but then be able to overlay all of those numbers and overlay in again a visual way how are people moving through this? Where are the bottlenecks? Can I see it? Instead of just having to sit there and analyze spreadsheets and try to figure out what’s working, what’s not. And that was always the concept, and that was always the vision for Funnelytics. And I’m very glad to say that we’re still working, always, every day, improving it, adding more features, and making it better. But I’m very glad to say that that is fundamentally what Funnelytics is. It is a way for you to visualize your customer journeys in a way that you just normally can’t. So when you do have enough traffic to make decisions, you can make those decisions without the need of an analyst, without the need of somebody who likes to build spreadsheets and sit there and try to crunch numbers and stitch data from 15 different platforms together. You can literally just visually see, this is how people are flowing. This is where the bottlenecks are.

This is where I need to fix. This is where the dropoffs are. So that is what Funnelytics fundamentally is and was designed for. Now, when it comes to churn and all that stuff, when it comes to finding product market fit, that in its own right, is a huge, huge challenge. Because the biggest challenge we faced when it comes to finding product market fit was also the biggest call it I would say maybe one of the better moves that we had during our journey over the last five years, which is we basically said, okay, well, you know what? Anybody can use this tool to map their customer journeys. So now you have this mapping tool that can be used by anyone, right? That can be used by the solo entrepreneur who’s trying to figure out how to map their shopify store, or the one who just bought Russell Brunson’s new book on how to map funnels, to the VP of growth at Microsoft who’s trying to visualize what’s happening with their crazy website that has thousands of pages.

And that is what this canvas enables you to do. Now, the question is, who actually cares about overlaying data on top of that canvas? Well, now, that changes significantly. And that was one of our biggest challenges because what was our paid product, which is our analytics suite and being able to overlay data, did not match this wide net that spoke to the mapping canvas, right? The mapping tool.

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

Mikael Dia: So over the years, what we’ve had to do is refine and figure out, well, how do we position what people are actually paying for and what Funnelytics is fundamentally trying to achieve to the right audience? So a good example of that was transforming our positioning from funnels to customer journeys. Even though we still use obviously our name is Funnelytics, a lot of the stuff that we started talking about was a lot less about funnels and a lot more about customer journeys. Because what we found is these bigger companies who do have traffic, they think a lot more in the sense of customers and customer journeys, a lot less in the sense of funnels and clickfunnels and that world, right?

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah.

Mikael Dia: So thinking about our positioning really has helped us kind of refine who is our ideal audience and who is our ideal customer profile. But yeah, Funnelytics fundamentally is a way to visualize those customer journeys.

A.J. Lawrence: In looking at this as it’s developed and the work I do a lot of times, I work a lot at what I would call the foundation when I work with clients. Like, do you have the right marketing sales structure in place, the right people, the right goals, the right measurement tools, the right feedback loops to see if things and then also are your channels even structured correctly? Like, the amount of times you go into Google Analytics and things are tagged wrong, or even just an AdWords account where people are blowing money through. It’s like, okay, let’s just clean things up. But when we work a lot of times in looking at churn, and especially when you talk about that customer journey, so much time and so many experiments have to be done to kind of figure out where in the path do you have the leaks? It’s like, are we leaking here? Is this here? Yes, we see this thing but this may not be the real thing. It probably is something further down. So I love this, where you can get that better insight because, yes, Google Analytics went from something I pretty much lived in to whatever now this new version is just like, oh, my God. Let’s not go there.

Mikael Dia: That’s going to last another podcast.

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. Oh, God. But where you’ve taken this, it really can reduce the amount of time, effort, and thought to start figuring out what you need to focus on. And that’s what I like so much about how you’ve evolved it, just from even looking at it. I have a good friend, we work a lot of times like we’re looking at his churn and all this stuff, and it’s like, is it this? Is it that? How can we start playing with the different variables of where to even experiment? Yeah, we’re going to do a bunch of things in this, but you reduce the focus, the ability to like, hey, you really probably need to focus here and then learn from what’s possible here before you start doing these. I always love when people have these big, intricate plans and testing and it’s like, dude, just start smaller. And you allow that, which I find so interesting.

Mikael Dia: Yeah. And I think the biggest reason why we enable that is because fundamentally, we look at a very small set of numbers that represent people. We don’t look at every single number that you can pull from all these different platforms, where my cost per click is this and my click through rate is this and my earnings per click is this, and I’ve got this bounce rate over here on this page of this. All of that stuff is noise. At the end of the day, what fundamentally matters is who is coming to your site, what are they doing, and are they going and doing the thing that you want them to do, which is typically either purchase or fill out some sort of form, right? Those are the two key conversion actions that you look at. Maybe you can throw in schedule a call in a calendar as well as a key conversion action. So fundamentally, what we look at, and this is where Google Analytics Universal was wrong and Google Analytics 4 is correct, they just messed it up from a UI standpoint significantly. But Google Analytics Universal didn’t track users. They tracked sessions and they tracked clicks.

Google Analytics 4 tracks users and fundamentally, that’s how you need to make decisions. Because it’s not about the click, it’s not even about your business. It’s not about your pages and the bounce rates. It’s about the people who come in and what do they do? Well, there’s three core categories of things that they do. They come from a traffic source, whether that be organic source or that be a referral URL or email, whatever, right? They come from a source to your website then they visit various pages on your website, which is the second category, the pages. And then on those pages, they do specific actions. Now there’s different types of actions.

There’s engagement actions, like a video view, a scroll button, click, etc. There’s conversion actions, which is like I’ve now converted from a visitor to a lead or to scheduled a call or purchase. And then at some point, the relationship goes offline, right? And there’s offline actions that occur, a recurring purchase, they move through a deal or stages in a pipeline. So if you eliminate all of the noise and you basically say, okay, I only really want to understand how are people making the purchase. So I only care about the people who have made a purchase, and I want to understand all the steps that they’ve done, or did they go from this page to this page, and what was the drop off? Did it work? Did it actually contribute to this? I don’t care about bounce rate, I don’t care about click through rates, I don’t care about my earnings per click. Do the people who did this thing that I care about, do these other things? Or do the people who click on this ad actually do the things that I’m hoping that they did? And when you surface that data and put it into a visual format where you can just basically see it, now you can actually make some decisions and some insights, and you’re not inundated with random data where you’re like, well, what am I supposed to do with all of this stuff? Right?

A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. Is this useful or not?

Mikael Dia: We just try to extrapolate only the data that matters.

A.J. Lawrence: Very cool. As you look at what’s going on and building this and helping entrepreneurs really get a better understanding of what’s possible, helping businesses what’s possible to know how their users are going through, how do you look to define what success is going to be for you as the entrepreneur, not just Funnelytics?

Mikael Dia: I think the biggest thing is it’s funny, I analyze a lot of businesses because obviously we have an analytics tool and we capture a lot of data. And I look into what the successful businesses do versus the ones who aren’t successful. And it goes back to something you said a few minutes back, which is simplicity, continuously simplifying and being so disciplined to being focused. That is what I notice over and over and over again is the ones who scale and the ones who grow not only simplify their marketing, they simplify their offering, they simplify their pricing, they simplify their positioning, they simplify their operations, they simplify their team. Everything is about this constant need to continuously simplify. And as entrepreneurs, what got us to the first level, let’s say the first level is getting to that first million, a lot of that is hustle. A lot of that is just doing, do, do, do whatever you can. Figure it out, make things happen. Sell to this person, give a discount over here. Whatever happens, just go. Right?

But what you realize is once you’ve built this thing, it becomes chaotic. Now you don’t know what’s really doing what. So now you’ve got to figure out, okay, can I take this and can I simplify it? Can I bring it down to the key operational procedures that we need to do every day? And can I put it on a map so I know exactly how our customers flowing through this? And can I simplify my funnel so that we don’t have 15 million different strategies that we’re trying to do at the same time, we’re only focusing on one. And then you get to the next level and the same thing happens because you’ve simplified, you’ve ramped up, but because entrepreneurs are always trying to solve problems, we’re always trying to iterate and make things better, we’re like, oh, well, what if we add this? Maybe we should try this to see if we can spark more growth. And then you create more growth.

You reach another level, but you’ve created another mess. So now you’ve got to go back to simplifying. So for me, I think the one thing that I find is key is just that constant mindset of can I keep this as simple as possible? I think a big reason why we did not succeed after we’ve raised money, and I’ll admit that to me it was a failure because we weren’t able to kind of keep staying on this VC train of raise more hidden next milestone, raise more hidden next milestone. I think a big reason why we did not succeed is because we created too much complexity. We took all this money and we hired and we did this, and we tried this strategy and we tried that, and we stopped keeping track of what’s actually working, what’s not working, where are we versus like we were building 2.0 over here trying to grow 1.0 over here, realizing there’s churn, trying to figure you know. It just created this complexity, versus looking back, if we would just stay very, very focused and kept things simple, a) the money would have lasted a lot longer, and b) we probably would have solved the right problem at the right time, as opposed to trying to tackle different problems simultaneously.

A.J. Lawrence: But now that you’re being more focused sort of on this like, okay, back to profitability just broadly and kind of that what can we solve directly versus chasing, are you finding it more fulfilling? Just to bring it back to your fulfillers.

Mikael Dia: To bring it back to the fulfillment? No, I’ll be honest.

A.J. Lawrence: Okay.

Mikael Dia: I understand from myself that I am more of a visionary than I am an operator. So the truth is, if you want to scale, you have to be an operator and you have to be much more disciplined at just wanting to optimize the machine that exists, not build a new machine. I conceptualized Funnelytics and I love building new machines. That’s what fulfills me. That’s what gets me excited.

A.J. Lawrence: Possible.

Mikael Dia: So part of realizing that about myself means that I also need to realize, when do I hire the right person at the right time to continue to optimize the machine that works? And then that person can go and say, Mikael, go play in that little sandbox over there and have fun. Here’s your own little play place where you can go and experiment and do what fulfills you while I focus on optimizing the machine that is there, that is currently operating. And that is the kind of challenge that you end up facing as you kind of go through these various levels. So simplicity fulfills me to the degree that I love trying to solve the challenge, but is that refinement the stuff that fulfills me personally? No. I love to experiment. I love to play with things. I love to innovate. I love to come up with new ideas. I’m the type of person who’s like, you know, it would be cool to put into Funnelytics, and then my engineers are like, oh no. Mikael’s got an idea, that’s not good. Because it just means we’re going to create more stuff, right? So that’s understanding yourself as an entrepreneur as well.

A.J. Lawrence: Well, you are very, very charismatic. I’ve seen a lot of your videos, and you’re even better than you were, but you’ve been good from the very beginning in your positioning and sort of the come hither to check out Funnelytics. I’ve seen the pitches from six years now, so you really do have that sort of ability to fill it. But I could see yes, I am very much, my team used to call it squirrel. A.J. going squirrel out of the movie Up. It would be like, hey, look over there. It’s possible to do X, and they just, no. And yeah, our best growth happened when I kept I used to call it my sidebar. And God, that sidebar got so filled. But the more I just put stuff into it and then occasionally brought things into existence but it wasn’t fun. I mean, it was not fun.

Mikael Dia: No, and it’s funny because like I said, my team always gets very because I would say maybe one in five of my ideas are like home runs, and then the other four are terrible, right? But because I come up with probably ten ideas every month, my team’s like, okay, well, we got to listen because two of those are probably really good ideas and then the other eight are terrible. The problem is, I personally think that all ten are great, right? I’m sitting there, I’m like, these are all amazing ideas. What are you guys talking about? Let’s build all of them. And that’s where you have to have the right partners and the right team to basically say, okay, we know what you like to do. We know how you operate so you can go and play and do these things over here, play in that box that fulfills you because that’s where you’re most creative, that’s where you’re most impactful to the business. But we got to be smart about how to take that and implement that, right? I learned over the years, when I first started Funnelytics, I used to have that one engineer so those ten ideas would go to that one engineer and I’d be like, build all of them, right? And he would be like, okay. So all of them would be built pretty crappily because we’d build them really quickly, and hence why 1.0 didn’t scale.

But now I’ve come to realize that, okay, before I even say anything, I’m going to put my ideas to the side. I’m going to put them on the board, and then I’m going to take one person on my team that is not an engineer, who’s not part of the machine or in the operations of the day-to-day, and I’m going to take and bounce those ideas off of that one. Typically, it’s my product manager. We’re going to sit down, brainstorm a whole bunch of stuff, and then he’ll decide which ones, when, if we even tackle them, and before I even go to the rest of the team because otherwise it just creates chaos. So, yeah, it’s a lot about learning who you are and balancing what fulfills you versus what is necessary for the company.

A.J. Lawrence: Look, I really do hope you find that operational support. I hope you do it because I’ve loved your product. Yes, I didn’t wander off into the data, but you really have a great and it’s not just from a marketing point of view. As someone who likes to kind of build with the idea of how to do things, it’s fun. It’s fun to use because it just makes sense when you think about things from like, oh, we want to build, but we want to build in such a way that we move people to do the things we want. It just is so much logic. I’ve used inflow and a gazillion other flowcharting things to take it that extra step and add the data just was like, this is right. So I am so happy this product exists that I do hope you do figure out how to build it more because too often it’s products that are gazillion, products that are just basically a ChatGPT API with a couple of prompt structures underneath it.

It’s like this is really useful and beneficial, especially to us in the audience where we are looking at how can we improve our businesses. How can we have better relationships with our customers. This gets to it. This is one of the tools I talk about. Yes, I have music because right now I’m more just talking head. But I tell a lot of people about you and I really hope that this becomes something that is worthwhile because you do create value for other entrepreneurs through this. This is product that really is worth being proud about.

Mikael Dia: I appreciate that. I appreciate those words. And don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you that you churned. I totally understand the process and again, one of those things it is very, very challenging. You can’t build for everybody, right? You’ve got to build based on a vision. But you also have to listen to a core set of customers and build for them to make sure that it suits their needs. And I think it’s taken us a few years, but getting to that spot where, okay, you know what? This actually delivers on what it is that the vision has said is where we’re at now, which is what makes it really, really exciting. So I appreciate that.

A.J. Lawrence: Well, hey, I am fanboying a little much. What’s the best way for someone to learn more about Funnelytics, to play around with it, and to also learn more about your own journey as an entrepreneur?

Mikael Dia: Yeah, for me personally, LinkedIn is kind of my social media of choice. I don’t like social media very much, but hey, you know what? Got to have one of them, I guess. So LinkedIn is the one that I use, so you can kind of check me out there. And as for Funnelytics, just head over to Funnelytics.io. By the time this podcast is released, there’s probably going to be a really cool feature where people can actually play with it without even putting in their name or email and it will be an open canvas where they can kind of go through the product and really see the visual aspect of Funnelytics. So hopefully. If not, then it’ll be very, very soon afterwards so that will be really, really cool. And go ahead, Funnelytics.io.

A.J. Lawrence: Okay, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Like I said, I’ve been a fan for a long time and I’ve used this. This is really cool to have you on the show today. I think we’re going to have to, especially if you do think about this book, I love your pillars. I think they are very spot on. Love to maybe even have a deeper conversation down the road into the pillars because, yeah, it is so much of what resonates as the entrepreneurial journey. It’s so much more. Money is important. It’s why we do this.

But where we go past that is really what makes the entrepreneurial journey worthwhile. I love the way you’re thinking about it and love to talk about it more.

Mikael Dia: I appreciate your time and thank you for having me. This has been a great conversation.

A.J. Lawrence: Hey, everyone, thank you so much for listening. Please go check out Funnelytics, especially if you’re trying to figure out ways to improve and get closer aligned with your customers. It’s a great tool. It’s a lot of fun. Like I said, it is a lot of fun to play and I’ve spent in the past a lot of time building flows of potential clients and all that. So you’ll enjoy it. But if you found today’s episode worthwhile, please give us a review on your favorite listening platform of choice. It really helps us to understand how we can improve, how I can get really cool entrepreneurs like Mikael to come on the show, and how we can create content that helps you grow on your own entrepreneurial journey.

So please give us a review and I hope you have a wonderful day and can’t wait to talk to you again. Bye-bye, everyone.

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