A conversation with Adam Fairhead about his experiences.

Transcript Below:

Alzay Calhoun: You feel good today, Adam? Today's Monday.

Adam Fairhead: It is Monday, happy Monday. I feel okay, yeah. I have a few challenges that I'm trying to find my way through, which were happening on my weekend. I had the opposite weekend to you.

Alzay Calhoun: Oh.

Adam Fairhead: Last weekend, so there's that. Other than that, okay. Other than that, okay. There's been ... excuse me. There's been progress send last time we chatted.

Alzay Calhoun: Good, good.

Adam Fairhead: Which is good.

Alzay Calhoun: Well, let's start right there. Do you remember when we talked first? That was roughly a year ago wasn't it?

Adam Fairhead: Was it that long ago?

Alzay Calhoun: I think [crosstalk 00:00:48]

Adam Fairhead: It must have been I suppose.

Alzay Calhoun: I think it was, I can go back and look at the email for us, but it was about a year ago.

Adam Fairhead: About.

Alzay Calhoun: You run an agency, right. What's the official title of your agency?

Adam Fairhead: The official title is still [Fair Head Creative 00:01:07]. That's the agency name.

Alzay Calhoun: Okay. Go ahead.

Adam Fairhead: We've moved from all bespoke to productized.

Alzay Calhoun: Okay.

Adam Fairhead: We have those two products now.

Alzay Calhoun: You used a phrase, "Bespoke," what do you mean by that? What does that mean?

Adam Fairhead: Bespoke means, you have a very unique need, a very strange shaped hole that you need a very strange shaped peg for. We need to build a spoke in that, we need to create a proposal for a very specific type of project, so that it fits into that hole. Rather than saying, "That strange shaped hole there," actually what you're looking for is a square, you're just describing it as this hot mess. How about we use this, that goes in wonderfully. See that? That's the premise.

Alzay Calhoun: I'm laughing because it took a while to get that language out of you, so I appreciate how quickly you nailed that down. When we started talking, do you remember what your core challenge was? The main reason why you reached out, do you remember?

Adam Fairhead: I don't remember the language that I used then. The language that I use now in retrospect, now that it makes sense in the way that it does is that we need to have systems, talent, and the leadership in order to make something flow in the way that we want it to. We had the talent in that we did good work. We had leadership in that we knew where we wanted it to go, and that where we were all going collectively with a shared vision. System-wise, we knew how to do what we do, and take scraps here and scraps there if we need to build one of these. This is how we do that and if we need to build one of these this is how we do that. But what we weren't offering was a straight line. Our other system, the Critical Path, that's not what we were using. We were using a, tell us what you need, we have an array of means of doing this that and all the magic lovelies.

Adam Fairhead: Now we are able to say, "28 days, 10 steps, 80 tasks, this price, would you like one?" For instance, and we're able to look at that as a critical path and say, "That part there is amazing. How can we have more of that there? That part there, sucks. Everybody falls apart when they get to that part there, all the questions come out. Why? How can we stop that from happening?" Yeah.

Alzay Calhoun: Now, here's what I find funny about that. That is the after language. That's the after language. What I remember very specifically before was, you had an empty pipeline. I remember the first email you sent to me and you said, "I need to find a way of getting clients. We have an empty pipeline." Do you recall that conversation?

Adam Fairhead: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alzay Calhoun: Do you remember that?

Adam Fairhead: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alzay Calhoun: Okay. It's interesting when you see your business differently, you see the problems differently and you describe your problem differently.

Adam Fairhead: Right.

Alzay Calhoun: But the connection, the reason why we're having this conversation is because most folks begin with the narrative, the language of, I have a client problem. I have trouble getting clients. What they may not appreciate is the reason why you have trouble getting clients is because these other things aren't working the way that they should. Rewind again, now lets think back to the conversations you were having a year ago, whatever it was ago, about getting clients. Tell me more about that problem as it existed then.

Adam Fairhead: I think that the problem was that, guys doing stuff. The guys doing stuff model is the prevailing model in agency work in freelancing and so and so forth. Most of the work is average. Most of the success rates you shall see on various work is, you scout or whatever, 70% or so. A lot of hand holding needed ... What am I trying to say? It's difficult to get somebody in to do work for you and it go well every single time. You're buying a different set of problems, in some ways. Rather than being able to effectively say, "This problem plus this solution equals more problem." It changes the language, it changes the conversation from, "I promise you I'm good." Promised, I'm good. "How much is it gonna cost?" "Well, it takes as long as it takes." To, "This is how much it costs, this is how long it takes, this it going to be the solution that we have. We've done it before, would you like to do it for you?" From that increases the strength of your brand, if a brand is a promise, it goes to your promise is stronger.

Alzay Calhoun: Guys doing stuff, right, is the what that most agencies present themselves so you were navigating that, okay. That's actually really good, that's very true. Sometimes, the stuff those guys do is very, very good. The stuff you guys make, is very, very good. It doesn't take but a second to appreciate that even the stuff you were making then was great. Its quality wasn't the issue, describing the value of it and-

Adam Fairhead: That's right.

Alzay Calhoun: Getting the value from it was the issue. Even if you go back and look at a link right now you go, "They make good stuff," because y'all do. But, it was that translation and getting someone to pay for it. Okay, all right. Then, we started having a series of conversations, can you summarize those? Do you remember how those conversations unfolded, where we began, how we moved, your best summary of that, can you remember?

Adam Fairhead: The summary of what we did together?

Alzay Calhoun: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Adam Fairhead: How would I summarize what we did together? I'd say that you take a very no-nonsense, clinical incision approach into system related issues. You can have the right picture of what a system looks like and now pull that, that's wrong we don't need that. Here, we've got a big issue, this needs to be more succinct. This needs to be clear, this needs to be more complete. This section here has a problem and so on. You can put language to it, then operate on it. You remove the distractions and the haphazard-ry in systems. You shake it up so that it's instead more of your critical path model. That straight line again, you turn things into straight lines. I think that's the big takeaway from your work is that you takeaway the distractions, you takeaway the haphazard-ry, you make those straight lines happen.

Alzay Calhoun: Now here's what's interesting about that approach that you just described in Fair Head's business. Because, and I'ma use my words, Fair Head operates in a very touchy feely kind of world. There are agencies that specialize in a very specific thing or industry. They work with Architects or Doctors or Lawyers or Chemists or Government Agencies or Non-Profits or whatever but, the Fair Head approach is more, working with change agents. Tell us more about that.

Adam Fairhead: Yeah. It's we're working with people who have a comparing product offering. They don't necessarily communicate it in a way which is something that a prospect can digest and relate to in the form of a story or the form of a narrative. They don't fully harness the premise of having this heart, this mission, this vision behind what it is that they do. They have a unique challenge in that they need to enroll people around why they're in business as well as what they're doing. Approach this as an expression of shared belief as well as the product being a good fit for them. They have more opportunity than, I think, than a traditional business. But they just seem to struggle to communicate that effectively. Often there's a greater sense of responsibility with how they are stewards of their money. Your ability to say, "This is how much it costs. This is the exact model that we used to communicate your vision to your prospects as a social enterprise. This is when you're going to have it by. Do you have any questions?"

Alzay Calhoun: For those folks who could be watching this or viewing this, you do that so clearly now but, we had to practice that. It's clear that even after, you've continued to practice that because it's so important to be able to say, "Here's your problem that you wanted fixed." The thing, uniquely in your world, it's not the way if you're a guy doing stuff, you're waiting for the client to tell you what the problem is, so you can wiggle yourself around their problem. Your message always changes because your clients problem always changes, and it's hard to be clear, it's hard to be powerful, its hard to be [inaudible 00:12:59]. Okay, all right.

Alzay Calhoun: You told me, or you sent me an email about some of the current successes that Fair Head is now having. We've got this productized service, we now have a service, it does what it does, and they're people who are buying it and they're buying it at a price point that feels good to you as a company and to them as the client, so we're no longer under-charging ourselves. Let's take that one step at a time, tell us about the productized service. What do you call it? How many steps? How do you frame it? Walk us through that.

Adam Fairhead: The productized service it called [Built for Impact 00:13:36]. We wanted to communicate very succinctly, very clearly, very viscerally, so we built up builtforimpact.net to lay it out, what the steps are in it. What you get for it, the model that we use to ... The blueprint that we use to build things, giving that away. This is literally how we do it. You can do it yourself if you'd like or we can do it for you if that seems like a bit much.

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: And so on. We have a 10 step process going through from research, strategy, planning, copyrighting, design, development, testing, deployment, and hosting. Because we're doing them all the same way, we get to add extra things on the back then such as, until the end of the internet guarantee.

Alzay Calhoun: What does that mean by the way, until the end of the internet? What does that mean?

Adam Fairhead: Well, we are hosting all of these sites on a single platform, they're all built in similar way, so they're able to share certain key pieces of infrastructure. As such, we get to refine the infrastructure over time. It's workplace based, if something in the workplace changes, we're going to be updating it because it powers the entire system. When plugins need updating or if a module that we've created ourselves needs to be updated or whatever it might be, we are actively doing that anyway. As a result, once you've bought a site, a Built for Impact site, you're not buying something that's going to in 12 month start to have little warning lights and things in your control panel saying, "This needs updating. This has rattled out of place and so on." It's just going to keep on working.

Alzay Calhoun: Like it's supposed to [crosstalk 00:15:58]

Adam Fairhead: Like it's supposed to [crosstalk 00:15:59]

Alzay Calhoun: Like it's supposed to, right. In the spirit of shaping things in a line, right. You've got these organizations, your potential clients where profit is important, but also so is the impact that they make. They could be profit or for-profit, but there's a thing that they do and a reason why they do it. For that organization, that's important. They're problem is that they're having trouble communicating that using a website they're having trouble communicating. The challenge that I made to Adam and Fair Head, to you was, how would you resolve that? Right now, how would you fix that, what are the steps involved in resolving it? Don't let that be unclear. You put together a 10 step process to resolve it. Starting at the very beginning, goes all the way to the very end. What they have, not only is the research that they need, but an actual website, a produced website as a result of that process. How long does that process take for Fair Head?

Adam Fairhead: At the moment it takes us 28 days soup to nuts.

Alzay Calhoun: 30 days for a website. Now, for many companies a website is how long? If you were to approach a guys doing stuff, and they say, "We're gonna make a website." How long would they tell you it would take?

Adam Fairhead: Gosh, between now and judgment day I suppose, somewhere in there.

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: You've got-

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: Things like copyrighting of the not included. There's different people doing different things, they aren't used to working together to hand off something consistent. "Oh I need this. Can you send a follow up email for this?" All this nonsense. It's usually not a focus on that particular demographic, that particular corner of the market so this is a-

Alzay Calhoun: [crosstalk 00:17:58] how long?

Adam Fairhead: You guys need to ... I'm sorry?

Alzay Calhoun: How long? How long does it stall? Given all of those, because this is all classic guys who do stuff.

Adam Fairhead: Yeah.

Alzay Calhoun: That summarizes normally down to how long?

Adam Fairhead: I would say, probably a quarter.

Alzay Calhoun: Okay, that's 90 days, right?

Adam Fairhead: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alzay Calhoun: 90 days with all the bumps and bruises along the way, right?

Adam Fairhead: Right.

Alzay Calhoun: You guys are at 30 days, and we don't have the bumps and bruises. Is that fair?

Adam Fairhead: It's fair.

Alzay Calhoun: It's streamline for you and for the client, okay. Let's talk about cost because there's two things I remember specifically about us working together that just highlights this for us. There was a screenshot you sent me of client acquisition strategies. It was from your personal notebook and there were six of them, and they were all cleanly laid out. They were all very clear on the page and I-

Adam Fairhead: Was there only six?

Alzay Calhoun: Right, was there only six, right. My question to you is, "How many of those are you doing?," and you said, "None of them." I was like, "None of them?" You're not, wait, wait. It's this beautiful documented ... the webinar strategy, the blogging strategy, all these different strategies, right. Well understood, but they weren't happening, okay. Right now were talking about your service. Then I said, "Okay well show me the service package. Tell me what you're selling and you showed me another document." Actually, it had nine options and they had sub-tiers. Do you remember this?

Adam Fairhead: Yeah, definitely.

Alzay Calhoun: It was a Google Share document and you sent it to me and I said, "Okay, so how many of these are you selling?" You told me, "Well, none of them." I was like, "None of them? None of them, so why are they all so cleanly spelled out if we're not selling them?" Okay, so-

Adam Fairhead: The difference there was that the systems part of those three parts that feel like critically important, the talent, the leadership, the systems. The systems part was for me intellectual entertainment at the time. It made sense academically, it sounded good, but in reality when somebody comes along with a problem that is this sort of shape, then that's exactly what we would be talking about. The square never entered into it. The scope of systems and options and stuff in things, we then distilled into a single coherent plan, critical path, and that's become something that we've really leaned into.

Alzay Calhoun: Excellent. How much does, and then well just wrap it up and give it total concept, you guys have a purpose driven organizations, right. They've got a thing they do and why they do it. They've got trouble expressing their messaging. Fair Head says, "We can get that done." It's kind of like name that tune. I don't know if you know that show, there's a show in the US where you can guess how many notes you needed to name a song.

Adam Fairhead: Okay.

Alzay Calhoun: Then they will give you some clues and you say, "I can name that tune in 10 notes. I can name it in six notes. I can name it in three notes."

Adam Fairhead: Okay.

Alzay Calhoun: It's like, "How quickly can you get that done?" "We can do it in 90 days. We can do it in 30 days. We can do it in 15 days." They're having trouble explaining their messaging. You guys, in 30 days can nail that down. You can nail it down, then present it cleanly on a website that's appropriately built. That appropriately built. By the way you have a whole philosophy about that, that we'll skip for now. But how much does that cost? How are you guys pricing these arrangements?

Adam Fairhead: The Built for Impact sites are $9985.

Alzay Calhoun: Okay. Okay.

Adam Fairhead: Yeah.

Alzay Calhoun: Is there one price?

Adam Fairhead: It's one price.

Alzay Calhoun: Make that make sense Adam.

Adam Fairhead: [crosstalk 00:22:00]

Alzay Calhoun: [crosstalk 00:22:00] yes because there is somebody else who's running an agency right now who says they do one thing at one price. I thought we had to have tiers and gold, silver, platinum, bronze, and titanium. I thought we had to offer 400 different things just in case a client needed something. Now you're saying, "We do one thing at one price." How do you justify that for your agency? How does that make sense for your agency?

Adam Fairhead: I think that we are not selling websites or marketing, we're selling a particular outcome that somebody has in mind that they'd like. They have blessed their cotton socks trying to articulate as best and fully as they can into the social enterprise or social entrepreneurial, or cause driven, whatever you might call it this week. There is a prevailing problem, which is how can I get more people who are visiting my site to understand the heart of why we exist. Precisely how we solve that problem for the prospect and to get them to take action in a way which is memorable, engaging, and so on. That's a problem and the outcome of which is under the side of a Built for Impact site. If we were to do a smaller version we would be cutting out things that would need to be there. If they didn't need to be there, they wouldn't be there so we can't go smaller. We've measured in the system, we don't measure each step in hours, we measure each step in minutes now.

Alzay Calhoun: Look at that.

Adam Fairhead: It's like, "Where is the time going? That section there, we're consistently, call it 18 minutes over. That part there, we need more time there." I can't find a way of bringing the price below that given the scope that we're doing. That is a challenge, and that's and new intellectual entertainment. How can we get more bang for buck out of this? How can it be a more efficient running machine? We don't sell larger than that because that's gonna get you to where you want to go. If there are other things that you want on top then, that's lovely but, this is where you want to go so why don't we just go right ahead and give ... If you went to buy a ticket from Atlanta to London, being able to get all the way through to Zagreb Croatia, that's further, that's cool but, London would have done.

Alzay Calhoun: Excellent. Then translate, how are clients receiving this, right. It's working for you, it's working for the agency, it feels good, but we've gotta sell this thing to people, right. Someone's got to buy it. As you are having these problem solution conversations, as you are talking about solving this problem for them, how are clients receiving it? Do they get it or are you being met with these huge objections, what's that general flow like?

Adam Fairhead: I think that the biggest difference in flow is that you are, in the conversation you're separate. Well, two things, you're separating yourself from everybody else who is guys doing stuff. "I'll build you a website, of the awesome promise. I'll build you a website of the awesome promise. I'll build you a website of the awesome promise." Various different prices, various different scopes and 10 page proposals. We'll make you one of these, but this is what it costs and we can start tomorrow. We have one of these, it's a product and it's in stark contrast to all of this.

Adam Fairhead: The other part that's different about it, I think is that we can, I like to say, "We can stop the search." If you're coming along with a particular challenge, a particular problem, a particular pain, and we can say, "We'll solve that in its entirety. We have documented it thoroughly." We aren't just talking about what the web design trends 2017 are, we're talking about how to tell compelling story as a social enterprise, social entrepreneur online. We get the opportunity to serve them more fully and completely to add all manner of risk reversal and different things and lovelies and niceties that we couldn't do if we're just scrambling for projects with 10 page proposals.

Alzay Calhoun: Now I'ma ask an even more direct question, you're talking to this potential client right, and we realize, you say, "We can make you one of these things that solves this problem, and it costs $10,000." Are clients jumping out the window in fear? Are they running to you with their arms open in love? What happens at that moment? Intellectually, this is a very scary moment but, you're having these conversations, what actually happens when you tell them how much it costs to get it done?

Adam Fairhead: I think some people will look at it and think, "I didn't even know a website could cost that much money." It's like, "Well, then I recommend you hit up Wix.com and build your own. If that's the space that you're in then, I don't want you to buy one because it's gonna hurt you to spend more than is conceivable for your organization. I think that because I know that the price is a steal for what you get for it, that helps deliver it in a way which can articulate that. If I tell you that I can sell you a car today and it costs $30,000. You might think, "I can get one for 11." I was like, "Yet, it's a Ferrari." "Oh snap!"

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: "That's what you've got, really? What's wrong with this?" You know?

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: The value proposition moved from, I like to think from price to value.

Alzay Calhoun: Last thought on that. Are you finding them hard to sell? Bottom line, are you finding them hard to sell?

Adam Fairhead: No. When we have the right prospect, then no. If we're talking to a network marketer, they aren't a target market for a 10K Built for Impact site. If you're talking to a social enterprise then the conversation seems to be relatively easy. The value proposition is strong. The opt-ins the sales process is less of a coercing sort of, "You should buy this because ..., You don't want to buy it? You want to buy it today, it's 15% off if you buy it today. You should buy it today. You should buy it today." And more of a, "Here's exactly how we do it, check it out if that sounds compelling to you. Look at the ones that we've done before that are exactly the same for exactly the same price, done in exactly the same time." It changes the conversation.

Alzay Calhoun: You said there were a couple of things, so you guys have done that. You guys have done that, that's now a system that's working, right. You said there's some challenges you're working on now. What's in your mind now? What kind of problems are you solving now? What's the next step now that you've built what you've built inside of Fair Head?

Adam Fairhead: The next challenges that we've got. The system is solid now, so the challenges that we have now are in the area of having more conversations with the right people, finding more social entrepreneurs to position this in front of. The other side is having enough people on the team who have been trained to fulfill on this system with the level of quality that I've defined for it. That's one of the challenges now is because we've got this system, because we've done it and the results can be really, really good. I don't want to lessen the quality for the sake of scale. Rolls Royce wouldn't say, "Oh, we've got a lot of order today, let's just put three wheels on them instead."

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: It won't fly.

Alzay Calhoun: Right.

Adam Fairhead: That's a challenge now. That's the next thing that I need to work on.

Alzay Calhoun: Right, so quality as you grow, right?

Adam Fairhead: Quality as we grow.

Alzay Calhoun: Right, right, in every way. Excellent, excellent. All right, for someone else who's watching this or reading the transcript, and this was interesting to them, warn them about what happens next. If they want to make a decision to actually shape their agency in a way that you've shaped yours. They want to develop a critical path, they want to actually make a strong promise to clients and they want to keep that promise. What should they be thinking about Adam? What are they being confronted with that they may not know they're being confronted with? Does that make sense?

Adam Fairhead: It does. I think what they are gonna be confronted with is that they're going to need to have great talent, great systems, great leadership. Without all three of those things, there's going to be trouble. I completely believe that those are all essential. For the systems part, this gentleman here.

Alzay Calhoun: I appreciate that. [crosstalk 00:33:24]

Adam Fairhead: [crosstalk 00:33:24]

Alzay Calhoun: Oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead, go ahead.

Adam Fairhead: No just, 100%. [crosstalk 00:33:29]

Alzay Calhoun: Adam, you and your team brought good bones to the table. Again, I looked at what you guys were creating, and it was already good. There were things that you guys were making in your world that were good. The question was, "Can we turn it into a straight line? Can we give it a critical path? Can we make an awesome promise out of those things or do you want to just keep offering these things in one of?" You can, they're places that do that, it's just hard to manage. You guys brought stuff to the table and we were able to get it refined. Kudos to you sir, and I really respect the fact that you guys did the work to make it happen. There's a lot of invisible things that we didn't have time to talk about today, that are necessary to pull this together. Gosh I wish we could cover it but [crosstalk 00:34:18]

Adam Fairhead: From this ... Probably about that much of this notebook is all you. This one that I've got out at the moment, that's my Alzay book.

Alzay Calhoun: Yeah. There are a lot of details that fold in but, you have to make a decision that you want a better agency and Adam made that decision. You made that decision and from there we get to do the work. Kudos to you sir. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck.

Adam Fairhead: Thank you. The pleasure is all mine.