Behind every great CEO is an equally amazing COO. They are the very people who help the CEO turn ideas into reality. In this episode, Cameron Herold is joined by the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Billy Gene Is Marketing Inc., Daniel Flores. Leading digital marketing specialists through multiple milestones, Daniel is here to share with us how he grew the company from $3 million to $8 million and works with Billy, the CEO, through it all. He talks about what attracted him to working with the company, keeping the communication lines open, and hiring and building a management team. Daniel also reveals some of the mistakes and lessons he learned while growing the company, how they got into video content, and why it is key from a marketing perspective.
Daniel Flores is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Billy Gene Is Marketing. Daniel has led digital marketing specialists through multiple milestones. In 2018, he grew the company to $8 million in sales up from $3 million in 2016. He also revamped its internal financial metric system. The same year, he oversaw the building of a new studio for Billy Gene Is Marketing brand and that isn’t all, despite having a full workload, Flores led the company-sponsored book club initiative within the firm to foster a culture of learning. He has an open-door policy and makes it a priority to continually check in with employees to ensure contentment and as a result, productivity. Daniel was also one of the key members of the COO Alliance. Welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me, Cameron. I appreciate it.
I am looking forward to this. You have got an amazing business. I’ve been lucky enough to visit you once when we were doing some coaching together and then once, I was in town and I got to drop in and see the studio. Tell us a little bit about Billy Gene Is Marketing. What was the idea for building such an amazing studio?
In Billy Gene Is Marketing, we teach entrepreneurs, business owners how to get more customers online through paid ads, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. We have a couple of different avenues and platforms for that. We’ve got our The School Of GENEIUS and our The GENEIUS Ad-vantage, different tickets on pricing, but we are about building the community and changing the education system. What was the whole drive behind the live audience and the live in the big build-out? It was from Billy. One day, me and he went to The Rock Church and he got exposed. The Rock down here in San Diego is grandiose. They have live bands. They have a lot of people in there. They’re crying, laughing, and hugging. He had the thought, “Why can’t we do this type of experience within the business?”
Next thing you know, we had a meeting and he laid out this whole game plan, how he wanted to build out this whole studio. We took it from there. That’s our thought process on it. You saw it when you were here, but it was these custom-designed seats with 25 people can come to visit. We broadcast it to our audience over a webinar, but then we also are doing it in-house. We do that, not every single Tuesday, but we shoot for once a month or we bring in live audience, a live component. We feel that by having people in-house, a lot of people learn differently. I could learn and I can receive the information online, the same as somebody who could learn it a different way of being in-house.
Some of these people that you’re inviting in are paid seats as well, and some are free seats.
Sometimes we’ll do live events where it’s behind the scenes pull the curtain back on Billy Gene Is Marketing business. That would be paid events are examples of it. Other times, we’ll open it up to all of our community and we’ll fill it up with 30 entrepreneurs, business owners, and marketers with an audience and they’ll be there to learn the session that day.
You have gone through some rapid growth. When did you get involved in Billy Gene Is Marketing?
We’re growing every single year. It’s been crazy. I started when we were about $3.6 million and we’ve gone ups and downs and employee count. When I started, we had eighteen employees. We went all the way up to the highest which is 29 or 28 employees. Now, we’re at 22 in-house with three virtual or VAs. That’s where we’re at now. We’re in the process of building a little bit more, especially on our leadership side.
You’re at the cusp where you’re going to build up the leadership management team and that’ll take you to the next level. Billy is a classic entrepreneur. He has a vision, big ideas of start now, plan later. He also has a dominant personality. I’m a 98 D, he’s got to be a 99 or 100 D. He’s got that huge, larger than life personality. Your job is to play the COO to that. To play cleanup, to help organize it, to help coordinate it, to help make him iconic, and to free him up. How do you deal with the personality? How do you deal with that role difference? How do you guys work together because you work amazingly well?
A lot of people know it from working with me, but I’ve known Billy since we were kids. I’ve known him since I was five years old and he was four years old. We’ve gone to school since kindergarten all the way through graduate school. I got to see him progress not only in business but as a human being. We have that great friendship already and flipping it. When you’re working together, it’s a different relationship. Billy is the owner. He is the CEO. He is flip of a dime, comes up with a new idea and we have to act on it. For me, it’s a lot of having communication. We check in with each other all the time. We use a communication tool called WhatsApp. That’s how all of the team communicates, but I and Billy are chatting back and forth, whether it’s ideas or it’s, “We should do this or that.” We’re having good communication. It has been the key, especially with being friends outside of the office and then having the working relationship as well.
What systems do you have in place to help facilitate that communication with each other?
What process we’ve done, as far as communication and pulse on the company is we do this executive report every single day. That’s where individual team leads will provide me numbers or certain metrics that we’re looking at to see how we are doing in customer service, sales, and marketing. They provide me all that data and I review and compile it. I then shoot it over to Billy. We discuss it or talk about it the next day if it’s the end of the day, whatever the case might be. That’s our main way of continually seeing the pulse of the organization.
What does your management team look like? How have you got that structured? You’re one of 25% or 30% of COOs have finance reports to them. Maybe 50% do and 50% don’t, but you also have a finance background as well.
My whole background originally before pre-Billy Gene Is Marketing was finance operational accounting. I’m a CPA. I went that whole route post-schooling and then came into this new role. The operations side and overseeing a sales department or our customer service department, that was all new to me. The biggest team I’d managed pre-Billy Gene Is Marketing was about four people. Now, I jumped into managing twenty plus employees. It was a different skillset to have to learn, which was one of the main reasons why we did coaching with you for over a year. A lot of learning going on within the organization, but specifically around our team has organized. We’ve got a CMO. We have a bunch of leads within the rest of the organization. We’re working on building out that next-generation of the team, which is our true management team to help us. One of the biggest things we’re looking at has been there before to take us to that next level.
What do you think the key roles are going to be that you’re going to start hiring to build out the management team?
We placed one, which is a customer service manager. She came from an organization where she was managing seventeen individuals on a customer service floor. We have a lot smaller of an organization on the customer service side. We only have seven people. Someone who has that skillset will need a strong sales manager and a couple of other key employees on our marketing side to take us to that next level.
You have been focused on a couple of core products and services, but then every once in a while, you go off and splinter and do something random to bring in cash. Can you give us an example of something that you’ve done that’s worked well?
We have a touch on our main products. That’s The School Of GENEIUS and The GENEIUS Ad-vantage. One of the big ones this 2020 that we hadn’t done in the past. It spurred up from a marketing meeting with our team. We have all these legacy courses. Over the years, Billy has filmed a lot of content and courses out there on marketing and sales. You name it, we had it. In the past, we’ve sold those for $1,000 individual products. Billy and the team in one of our marketing meetings decided, “Let’s take all of these courses and create this legacy bundle.” Within a span of one week, we did $1 million in sales. In one day, we did over $350,000 in sales.
That was for selling stuff that you’d already created years ago that was sitting on the shelf effectively.
We had it on the shelf and we weren’t doing anything with it. We were like, “Fuck it. Let’s combine it all together and push it.” We still use that as an offer. That’s continually turning and bringing in cash.
The first time I ever saw that done was years ago. A friend of mine from the San Diego area, from Orange County, a guy named Jack Daly. He took all of his old stuff, his books, his cassette tapes, his DVDs, whatever. He called it Jack In A Box. Everything that Jack ever produced was in Jack In A Box, with a special price and people bought it all. It’s like the more the merrier. I wrote about it in Double Double many years ago. I said, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” The idea was if you take all the other stuff and sometimes rebrand it, repackage it, or combine it, it gives you something else to talk about too. What big mistakes have you learned from over the years?
I would say planning and communication are huge. When I first came on board, we didn’t have any of those tools in place. We didn’t use Slack. We didn’t use Asana. We weren’t using any real-time communication with the team to make sure that we’re getting things done and staying on task. I don’t know how it even came about, but it was one of those times where we’re communicating via email. Things are getting missed. I have to pick up the phone if I needed to talk to John or Sally. That was a major breakthrough for us on the communication front. In the planning stuff, one of the big things was meeting rhythms. We didn’t have that. It was non-existent. We’ve started implementing that. We’re not the best in the world at meeting rhythms, but we have them in place. Our team is doing them and taking notes and learning from them. That’s been one of the huge things for us.
How about in terms of yourself and your own growth? Where have you had to grow the most over the years?
I would say the biggest part was the management of teams and a lot of the operations staff. Accounting and finance came easily to me. I had a lot of practice at that before Billy Gene Is Marketing. That wasn’t a huge concern, but the management of multiple teams, multiple communication styles. We did DISC Assessment and learning how to communicate and how people are receptive to certain types of communication. If I’m a D and somebody is IS, they communicate drastically different than somebody who is an ID or ICS.
Do you know what your style is and what Billy’s style is? How do you differ and what have you guys done to work on that?
When we did it, because what we use is WhatsApp, we had everybody changed within their phones. Everybody’s communication style was next to their names. If I ping Billy, his communication style will pop up. He is an ISD/ID and I was DSDI. I had a little bit more of the dominant side, and Billy had a lot of the creativity side, but also dominant as well. For us, from a communication perspective is someone who is super creative, shutting down that creativity is never going to work. You’re going to have to accept the creativity and accept that from a communication standpoint as well.
We talked about this at one of our COO Alliance events that when the CEO comes to you with an idea, the COO tends to have a lot of questions to figure out the idea. What ends up happening is we say, “What about this? What do you think about that? How are we going to do this?” The CEO often can feel like we’re debating them when all we’re doing is trying to understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how of this idea, whether it’s good or not. We’re trying to catch up to them.
What I’ve started to try to get people to do is to say, “I love that idea. Can I ask you a few more questions so I can catch up to you?” They’re like, “Let me give you all of it.” You can ask questions away and it is that simple phrasing, “I’m not debating you. I love that idea. Tell me more. Let me ask you a question so I get it more.” They’re then engaged in giving it to you. In your role of split CFO, COO does one take precedence over the other? How do you manage your time between both roles and how do you split that focus?
It’s a lot of time management on my side. I am making sure I’m paying attention to the budget and the numbers as much as I’m paying attention to operations and how we are doing with customer service and customer-facing issues. I have to split my time a lot and it keeps me busy. From a finance perspective and the CFO side, we’re lucky enough as an organization where nothing is overly complex. We don’t have this twenty deep equity table where we have 100 VC funding and all this other type of stuff. We’re fortunate enough where it’s one founder and owner and we haven’t had to have any VC funding. We’ve been able to do it all from that perspective. It doesn’t make that side overly complex. I just have to manage it timely.
If you were to go back into when you were getting involved in Billy Gene Is Marketing, with your background coming in a different industry than I imagine you would’ve thought you were getting yourself into, what attracted you to the business and what attracted Billy to you?
The most that impact me is what they were doing now. We have customers in over 75 countries and it’s amazing to see how we’re changing people’s lives from our testimonials. People have gone through our programs and seen an impact financially. All you would need is a laptop, a phone, and connection to the internet. That was big for me. Jumping into this was seeing that from an impact perspective and seeing how much you were changing a lot of people’s lives off the jump. It was a lot different. I’d never seen myself working for a marketing company. Pre-Billy Gene Is Marketing, I was doing a lot of consulting work for biotechnology companies, life science companies. It was drastically different, but I saw the vision. The culture here was awesome. A lot of young professionals are driven to get things done and that’s what has kept me here.
Have there been any hiccups along the way with dealing with clients in all those countries? You mentioned 75 countries, has that proven difficult at all?
Communication from timeliness, which is one of the main reasons why we have VAs now. A customer in Australia is in a different time zone. A customer in the Middle East is in a different time zone. We are making sure that we have someone around, especially on weekends and all that type of jazz, where our main core company isn’t in the office. We have somebody at least addressing those concerns.
What about growth? How did you make the growth happen? You have rapid growth in the last few years. What do you think were some of the key factors in the growth?
We are always being receptive to the changing environment within the digital world. Our products are whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, in 2021 maybe it’s Moodle, whatever the digital platform is, we’re constantly learning and staying ahead of the curve so that we can teach our customers the newest and the latest and the best ways to do it. We are being a student in the game. None of us are going to sit here and say, “We’re the smartest people in the room.” It’s honestly advantageous for you to be the dumbest person in the room so that you can learn from somebody who’s been there and done that before. That’s been one of the biggest helpers for us is continually learning and improving so that we can grow.
You’re taking a bit of the long game as well by not being the expert in a certain niche, recognizing that you don’t want to be the expert in my space. Is that a cognizant decision? Did you start with Facebook or YouTube?
That’s what helped us over the years. Originally, we started out heavy on Facebook, and then one day, we test it out on YouTube. What we were getting for a cost per lead on Facebook versus what we were getting on YouTube was a 10 to 1 difference. It was insane. From a cost perspective, it was drastically cheaper to go the video route. That’s one of the biggest things that’s differentiated Billy Gene Is Marketing is our video content. Billy being willing and able to get behind the video and push that as hard as possible.
Is that an area that he’s figured out or do you have the DNA internally to go figure that stuff out? Do you hire for that?
We have a full media team. We have six people on staff that is fully dedicated to creating and pushing content. Billy is the face of the organization from that perspective, but we have the means and the will to do it outside of needing Billy’s face on camera. We’ve got thousands of videos that we can repurpose and compile into micro-content. Our video team is super talented at doing so.
If we were to link a couple because I love your video creations, I’m not going to tell you which one I think is the best, but what are your top two favorites, all-time crazy videos that you have produced?
I would say the two for me is The Wolf of Wall Street video. I wasn’t there. I like to film it with a team, but that’s one of my favorites. My second favorite is the James Bond video. That was another great one.
We’ve got the James Bond and the Wolf of Advertising. The Wolf of Advertising was the one that was how I first found out about you guys.
I remember you played that in the first COO Alliance event I came to. We were talking about marketing and you pulled it up and played it for everybody that was there.
We miss you. We should get you back here. If you were starting out in the COO role, if you’re a new COO coming into a business, what do you think is going to make you successful coming in? What advice would you give them?
The process is one of the biggest things. Be detailed on the process and having strong individuals within your direct reports from the next tier, from a leadership perspective. Being able to rely on somebody below you, that will drive and move the needle, and having those conduct communications continually is huge within the COO role, in my opinion.
In some of your learning over the years, you were in a bunch of the COO Alliance events over the last couple of years, what do you think your big takeaways have been from that?
There’s a lot. I’d take away many different notes from each event, but strategy, one of the big things for us is tax strategy and planning from a business perspective. That is huge. That was what was taken away from the Alliance events, communication, and also improve your process, whether that’s Asana, WhatsApp, Slack, whatever the case might be, and continually learning. Our team, we put out there for them to go to a quarterly event, whether that’s something like COO Alliance or a small mastermind within San Diego or outside of San Diego, where they can be surrounded by their peers and learn, whether it’s a sales bootcamp, but always learning.
It’s something that I’ve noticed is that the more we grow our people, the more they grow our company. It’s one of the things that Gen Y wants that more than ever is that skill development. People who care about their development and always hungry for that growth, which is interesting. The first cohort that’s been proactively giving about their own learning and growth. The more we focused on that as a team, the better. If you were to give people advice on what you’ve learned from being in the marketing space for so long, what advice would you give us based on what you’ve seen, what you’ve learned? Stuff to stay away from or stuff to dive into, how to approach it?
The biggest thing for me from a marketing perspective is video is key. If you’re not on video or you’re not having content continually filming what you’re doing from an organization’s perspective, your company is going to die. The content needs to be there. It doesn’t have to be something insane. You don’t have to hire six videographers for your organization. It can be as small as having somebody with a little handheld phone. As long as you’re producing the content to show the value and show what your company is doing, people want to see that. As much as everybody has the stigma of, “My customer is not online. My customer is not on YouTube. They’re not on Facebook.” They are. Think about anybody who is buying anything. They’re online, regardless of what you think.
They may not be online to look shopping for your product or service, but they’re online if you can somehow segment them or target them, or be marketing to them. Are there any tactics or tools that you would say, “Walk away, run away, or don’t bother?”
Not necessarily. If you’re advertising, I wouldn’t say there’s something now that comes to the top of mind that I would say, “Do not do this no matter what.” My biggest thing is to advertise versus don’t advertise.
From a numbers perspective, something I saw you get good at with Billy was you’re always looking at the ROI of everything of the spend. He does that innately as well or that’s one of his skills, but he understands the ROI, the dollar-in and the dollar-out, what your COC is versus lifetime value. Are you training companies on that as well? Is that something you stay focused on?
We stay focused on it for sure, but within our programs, we have a slew of different sheets to that old track, how to see your ROI on your campaign. Whether that’s, “Here’s the simple formula. My ad spends versus my revenue versus my leads and how many is my conversion rate?” We are always having polls on that. It is huge for us. Specifically, our marketing team is constantly pulling stats and checking the pulse of a campaign every single day. What pumps blood into our organization is our advertising.
You have to understand the numbers because you can go deep into an ad spend if you don’t get the ROI, then you’ve got cashflow issues as well. Is The School Of GENEIUS the starting point that people should get into first?
The School Of GENEIUS is a more advanced high ticket program. The initial program that we have is The GENEIUS Ad-vantage. That is the actual membership. That’s the platform. That’s the templates. That’s the copy and paste this into your ad, your campaign manager. The GENEIUS Ad-vantage is the starting point.
For any company, what would be the ideal client size for you? It’s not only getting the entrepreneur involved but getting their director of marketing or marketing team to sign up for this. The company paying for them to be involved.
We specialize in local businesses, whether that’s from $0 to their first $5 million. It doesn’t matter if you’re the marketing manager of John’s Bakery. If that is your role, this program in this product would help you with that.
If somebody wants to come into the actual studio and watch one of the live events, do they sign up for something? Do they sign up for The GENEIUS Ad-vantage or an email list? How do they get on that list to be invited into the studio?
Typically, on the invite from the studio perspective, that’s a member of The GENEIUS Ad-vantage, unless we’re doing one-off events like behind The GENEIUS.
They’ve got to subscribe to your email list at least. What is the website?
It is BillyGeneIsMarketing.com.
The guy walks around wearing team t-shirts too. If we were to go back to the 21-year-old Daniel starting out in his career, post-college, what advice do you wish you’d known back then that now you know to be true? What do you wish you’d known at 21 or 22?
I would tell young Daniel to be extremely focused on personal development. I’m a big input into personal development. I have always been a stew throughout my career and I continually will always be learning. As a young person, I would have said, “Stay more focused in that lane because it’s going to pay dividends much later in life.”
Daniel Flores, the CFO and COO for Billy Gene Is Marketing, thanks for being on the show.
I appreciate it. Thank you, Cameron, for having me.
That was great. We’ll see you in the next COO Alliance event too.
Have a good one.
- Billy Gene Is Marketing
- The School Of GENEIUS
- The GENEIUS Ad-vantage
- Jack Daly
- Double Double
- Facebook – Billy Gene Is Marketing
- YouTube – Billy Gene Is Marketing
- The Wolf of Wall Street – YouTube video
- James Bond – YouTube video
About Daniel Flores
Daniel is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Billy Gene Is Marketing Inc., Daniel has led the digital marketing specialist through multiple milestones. In 2018, he grew the company to $8 million in sales, up from $3 million in 2016. He also revamped its internal financial metric system.
The same year, he supervised the building of a new studio for the Billy Gene Is Marketing brand. And that isn’t all. Despite having a full workload, Flores led a company-sponsored book club initiative within the firm to foster a culture of learning. He has an open-door policy and makes it a priority to continually check in with employees to ensure contentment and, as a result, productivity.