Quick—what can be as horrifying as going to The Upside Down dimension? As satisfying as annihilating a pack of Demodogs? An adventure with more twists and turns than Stranger Things?
Yup, it’s the road to business success.
As an entrepreneur, you must take great big leaps into parts unknown, parts unnerving, and parts uncertain.
At Mirasee, we certainly didn’t know what to expect when, in October 2016, we piloted the ACES Club, the most ambitious business-building program in the company’s history.
Ambitious because we promised to deliver bold outcomes for participants: They will accomplish more for their business during the program than they ever have before.
Ambitious because we endeavoured to scale what had previously only been possible through personal, one-to-one coaching with Danny (which is great, but cost-prohibitive for most people).
And ambitious because we demanded substantial commitment from participants: 12 months of their time, a relentless zeal for action, a significant investment of money, and tenacious trust that we would lead them to success.
ACES was so audacious that it could have made us fall flat on our faces. Maybe nobody would take us up on our cheeky offer. As bad as that would’ve been, it wasn’t the worst-case scenario. The worst thing that could’ve happened was for people to join the program… and not achieve what we promised.
As you’re reading this, the first group of ACES participants has completed the year, and neither of those bad scenarios has happened.
We’ve sold more seats than we expected, and participants have been achieving the goals they were aiming for.
In this post, you’re going to see behind the scenes of ACES, so you can learn from our experience and take giant leaps in your business, too.
This Post at a Glance
- A Million-Dollar Walk in the Woods
- The 5 Essential Ingredients to Grow Your Business
- The Good, The Bad, and Lessons Learned
- Lessons for the Reader
A Million-Dollar Walk in the Woods
Danny Iny, Mirasee’s founder and CEO, first came up with the idea for the ACES Club by looking for gaps in the industry.
He thought of the entrepreneurs he met who spent tens of thousands of dollars on high-end business coaching programs but didn’t see any results. They just kept right on spinning their wheels.
“They’re high-caliber people, but often they’re nowhere in their business,” he recalls. “They have achieved nothing, they’re unclear about what they’re doing, they’re going in circles, sometimes even on the most basic things.”
And so Danny endeavored to close that gap with “real business coaching that is not specific to one or the other guru’s blueprint system.”
It had to offer the high-level, strategic guidance his private coaching clients were already enjoying, but at a more affordable price range. And it had to be scalable—not one-to-one coaching—with the potential to help hundreds of participants. After all, there’s only one Danny and, as talented as he is, even he has only 24 hours in his day.
Most of all, it had to deliver tangible results—which meant it had to have a daredevil of a guarantee, “partially because everyone should stand behind their promises,” he says, “and partially because that guarantee was the barometer that held us accountable to design a solid, robust program.”
And here’s the guarantee that meets those requirements:
If you are starting out with no consistent online revenue, we guarantee that at the end of the year, you will at least make your investment back. If your business has been consistently generating revenue, we guarantee that you will make 5X your investment. If not, we will renew you for another year for free.
The next question was, “What do we need to provide to make someone successful in business?”
Danny and Andy Thompson, Mirasee coach, went for a walk in the woods during our 2016 retreat to ponder that question. And what they came up with became the ACES Club, which has so far brought in $1 million in revenue….Want to grow your business? Here are the 5 essential ingredients:Click To Tweet
The 5 Essential Ingredients to Grow Your Business
Danny and Andy identified the key elements of business growth and captured them in the acronym, ACES:
The problem with being your own boss is it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. You procrastinate and renege on your lofty plans.
That’s why the first element of ACES is accountability. Each ACES participant has a dedicated coach who gets to know them, their businesses, their goals, and their challenges.
You’ve heard of “enablers.” Well, an ACES coach is an “obliger.” They remind participants of their goals and compel them to take action.
Taking action is baked into the program. Throughout the year, three 90-day sprints take place, with a brief respite in between. A sprint is a period of concentrated effort focused on achieving the participant’s specific goal.
Because ACES participants are in different businesses and different stages of growth, each sprint is different as well. One participant may aim to launch their website, another may aim to get 1,000 new email subscribers, while another may aim to do an entire product launch. ACES is no cookie-cutter program!
To track progress, participants have a weekly check-in with their coach…which brings us to the second ingredient.
ACES coaches don’t just keep participants accountable. They also help them set goals, making sure they’re achievable. They help break down goals into smaller objectives. They help participants identify the appropriate strategies to accomplish those goals.
They help when participants get stuck, bringing another perspective, spotting bottlenecks, and pinpointing ways to clear them. And, when necessary, coaches dish out tough love.
Currently, the ACES coaches are Andy and Ari Iny (yes, he’s Danny’s brother—coaching talent must run in the family!). Andy says he strives to help participants “reach beyond their comfort zone and accomplish more in each 90-day sprint than they would ever accomplish on their own.”
For his part, Ari says his role is to “guide my students towards their overall business goals while giving them feedback, direction, and strategies to achieve them.”
But the overall coach is Danny, who gives direction to the entire program. He also reviews and signs off on each participant’s sprint strategies before they go into implementation mode.
Having the Mirasee coaches to draw on for encouragement, guidance and support has been awesome. They are truly invested in your success and doing the ACES program is like having everyone on your team. – Ingrid Awerbuch
Entrepreneurship can get lonely. Sometimes entrepreneurs are the only ones in their circles who are running a business. They don’t have anyone to share experiences and commiserate with. Their closest family and friends quite possibly don’t support their business dreams, wondering why they couldn’t get a job like everyone else.
That’s why another component of ACES is community (the “C” in ACES does double duty and stands for both coaching and community). Through an online community on Slack, ACES participants can interact with other entrepreneurs who are also committed to taking their businesses to the next level. This is invigorating and motivating. Participants can also end up coaching each other within their areas of expertise.
The ACES team truly cares about our success and we are so grateful to be a part of the ACES community. We loved the idea of the ‘one stop shopping’ for access to support services for our business, and we wanted to belong to a small community of like-minded business owners helping one another succeed. – Mara and Dori Zabari
Now accountability, coaching, and community only go so far, especially if you don’t actually know what to do next or if you lack the information or skills to move forward. Which brings us to…
Another element that helps an entrepreneur succeed by leaps and bounds is access to expertise. You may know what you need to do but you won’t always know how to do it. That’s when you need an expert, someone with the knowledge and experience necessary to solve your problem.
“Accessing those experts is a big stumbling block for most businesses,” Danny says, “because you don’t know who to trust. Everyone has an agenda, you’ve got to do a lot of vetting.” Not to mention hiring experts can get expensive.
And so the next component of ACES is expertise.
If members need input or access to expertise, they’ll get it from the most qualified person in our organization to help—and Danny pays over $2 million a year in payroll to keep a lot of really smart people on staff (not to toot my own horn, ahem). We have experts in finance, project management, technology, course building, education, customer support, partner relations, copywriting, content marketing, online marketing, and more. And each of us is on hand, ready to pitch in whenever an ACES coach tells us that a member needs help in any of these areas.
And if we don’t have the expertise in-house, Danny reaches out to his extended network of partners, colleagues, and private clients to get it.
I had no choice but to kick it into gear. With the feedback and resources I was given, I did not feel like I was going at it alone anymore. I have achieved more in my first 90-day sprint than I have for years prior to ACES! – Christina Ellis
The last component of ACES is implementation services. When you’re starting out in business, you tend to bootstrap and do everything yourself. But you have only so many hours in the day and so much energy to expend. Soon, the bottleneck in your business is you!
That’s why the sooner you can mobilize other people to implement for you, the faster your business will grow. But, again, it takes time and money to find and hire the right people.
And so, ACES provides 40 hours per year of implementation services from top-tier services providers we’ve vetted and worked with. Participants can use these hours to complete tasks they don’t have the bandwidth, interest, or expertise to do themselves. Examples include writing promotional copy, designing web pages, generating leads from cold traffic, and setting up marketing funnels.
Participants also get 40 hours per year of virtual assistant services to use for research, customer support, database management, and social networking, among others.
As you can see, the ACES Club is a comprehensive, customized business coaching program that covers both strategy and implementation, both learning and doing. It spans one year and guarantees results.
As I said, ambitious.
And you’ll be surprised how tiny the main force behind this program is:
The Good, The Bad, and Lessons Learned
Looking back, a lot of things went surprisingly well, while other things were unexpectedly difficult. Either way, they yielded valuable lessons.
The making and keeping of happy customers is an ongoing process.
If you’ve taken any of our courses, you’ve learned the importance of piloting your product. Pilot testing is good, not only to validate that there’s a demand for the product/service you want to offer but also to find out if you can, in fact, deliver on your promises.
With ACES being so ambitious, we ran two pilots. For the first pilot, we focused on the participants’ experiences: Were they doing the work, Were they happy with the process? And most, importantly, were they seeing results?
Satisfied that ACES was successful on that front, we ran a second pilot. This time, we put processes and systems in place, so we could provide a better experience to even more participants, even as we streamlined our operations. Only then did we finally launch the ACES Club, which we did at LIFT.
There was a learning curve for delivering a program that works for both the participants and for us.
Tree Branch, ACES Project Coordinator, says her biggest challenge has been ensuring smooth coordination between coaches, students, and outside service providers. “It’s a lot of herding cats,” she says, “I cope by using oh-so-many spreadsheets to track each student’s journey. It’s a manual process but it’s worth it.”
We’ve also observed patterns in students’ needs, which have been informing our negotiations with service providers who can meet those needs. “So the amount of services and support available to participants keeps growing,” Danny says.
And even now, we continue to iterate and improve the program. In fact, Bhoomi Pathak, Mirasee CFO and ACES Club Program Administrator, says “we have so many ideas but we need to be patient and disciplined with implementing them. We have an internal weekly meeting where we keep track of these ideas and take them one by one, assign them to people, and execute them.”
Expect to put in a lot of work upfront and, possibly, even sacrifice profitability in the short term.
Piloting also helps you figure out how to make your product fulfillment more sustainable in the long term.
“Part of the reason that piloting is so important is that the first time you run something, you have to pour your heart and soul into it, in a way that is necessary, but often unsustainable,” Danny explains.
And that was certainly true of our experience.
“Staying on top of such a large group of very active members, I worked full-out 5 days a week and sometimes on weekends just to keep up,” Andy remembers.
It was definitely a situation that could not be sustained for 12 months or more. We’ve had to figure out ways to better organize and systematize our processes to make everything as efficient as possible, for both the members and the coaches. We’re even recruiting another ACES coach, although finding great coaches has been a challenge.
For this reason, we’ve had to throttle the number of ACES participants. “We only take as many people as we can support, because we’re not going to let a student work with someone who’s not a fantastic coach,” says Danny. We’re also keeping the member-to-coach ratio low.
“We’ve learned that when you, out of the gate, set the bar very high, if you’re willing to invest appropriately to make it happen, then it’s achievable. But in the early days your margins are going to be thin, because something that works in the long run won’t be as efficient in the short run,” Danny explains. “We didn’t build this program to be a quick shot of money and then forget the students. We built it with the intention that it might take a year to get it to the scale we want, and it did, but it’s something we can build and grow in the long term.”
Go for the right fit, not the immediate sale.Go for the right fit, not the immediate sale.Click To Tweet
Because of the massive commitment required in the ACES Club, we were very selective in offering it only to those who were a good fit. Admittedly, when we first piloted ACES, the image of the perfect participant for it was fuzzier than it is today. And we ended up accepting a few people who weren’t a good fit for the program.
Today, we know exactly who we’re looking for and will turn away people who don’t fit “the profile.”
The perfect ACES member could be either just starting out in business or already have an established and profitable business, or anywhere in between. What’s more important is that they’re dedicated to growing their business and willing to lean into the discomfort of doing new and scary things.
Most of all, they have to be coachable. This means someone who’s less attached to their ideas and opinions, and more attached to learning, growing, and doing better. It’s someone who’s willing to listen. They don’t get defensive or upset when you challenge their ideas.
In short, we went for what Tree calls “the dream students.”
And when the fit is there, the results are spectacular. “ACES Club members are getting results far beyond what they thought was possible or achievable in the timeframe they’ve been in the program,” says Ari.
Andy says, during the 90-day sprints, “entire launches were strategized and executed… thousands of new prospects have been added to subscriber lists and tens of thousands in sales … complete lead generation funnels were built from scratch, with impressive lead magnets and persuasive follow-up email sequences leading to paid offers… courses were designed, developed, and launched (to the tune of $17,500 for one member)… new revenue streams were created… and books were drafted, edited, and published.”
Here are more examples:
I’ve had very good experiences with everyone I’ve worked with at Mirasee. Andy Thompson… took the time to learn my business and to know what might work and what might not for my customers. He helped me take years of knowledge and craft it into a story for which my course is the ‘punchline.’ – John Austin
My experience in the ACES Sprint has gotten me totally unstuck. I now have a strategic plan in place to create a brand new 6-week Parenting Class. Andy’s marketing smarts helped me see it’s not just a Parenting Class, it could be a whole movement! – Joan Norton
In less than three months I have launched a new website, revised materials I had developed in the past to create my strongest lead magnet ever, [and set up] sales funnels that are converting into sales. Because of ACES I am moving forward with confidence. – Susan Poole
The ACES Club may not be for everyone, but the vast majority of members are achieving substantial results in their business. “It’s not the same outcome for everyone,” says Danny, “because this is about individualized goals. The real key is that people are reaching their goals, they’re doing better in their businesses, their businesses are growing, and their quality of life is improving as a result. Not only are they making more money, but they’re doing it better and smarter.”
Lessons for the Reader
And what about you, dear reader? What can you learn from our experience of making a giant leap to launch and implement our most ambitious program ever?Do your customers really want a money-back guarantee? Click To Tweet
- Don’t be afraid to set the bar high for yourself and your customers. In fact, we highly recommend it! It’s the only way you can earn more dollars for your hours. Truly listen to your ideal customers to identify ways you can serve them on a higher level—and charge more for it to make that level of support sustainable.
- Be creative with your guarantees. The default is to give a money-back guarantee. But is it really what your customers want? When I buy something, I want That Thing I Bought, along with the benefits I was hoping to get from it. So instead of giving money-back guarantees, think of other ways you can give your customers the outcome they really wanted in the first place.
- Bring in help to delight to your customers. If you’re scared to promise big, bold outcomes to your customers, it’s probably because you’re assuming that you will do everything yourself. While ideally, you would hire employees to deliver better products and services, you don’t have to. You can outsource tasks to freelancers and enlist experts as you need them. Charging your customers a premium will empower you to do this.
- Don’t be formulaic with your product launch. We didn’t send potential ACES participants through a typical product launch made up of a series of emails, videos, and a sales page. Instead, we engaged in conversations with them, including one-on-one emails, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations. Even if you have an online business, don’t dismiss higher-touch forms of communicating with your ideal customers.
- Embrace the strange unknown. You’re courageous. I know, because you’ve plunged into this great adventure called entrepreneurship. You’ve already shown more guts than the average Joe and Jane. Don’t stop now; keep making leaps of faith until you’re closer to your goals.
And now, you’ve reached the end of a 3340-word blog post. It’s time to stop reading and start making your own big, hairy, and bold moves for your business.
This is your adventure and you get to choose what happens next:
If you decide to make a giant leap, go to the comments below and tell us all (or a little) about it.
If you decide to put off said leap, go to the comments below and tell us what’s stopping you.