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Purpose Driven Growth: Navigating the Evolution of Marketing Agencies

In Conversation with Travis McAshan

For this episode of E-COFFEE with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Travis McAshan, the founder and CEO of GLIDE. A B Corp web design and development agency, located in Austin, Texas. Travis shares insights into his background, the founding of GLIDE, key turning points in his entrepreneurial journey, and strategies for managing change within the company. They discuss topics such as aligning business goals with mission-driven values, tracking success beyond financial indicators, and the importance of frameworks like the B Corp certification and the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). This episode provides valuable insights into entrepreneurship, leadership, and aligning business practices with purpose-driven values.

Making websites for people is not just about design and development it’s about tangibly helping the bottom line of an organization.

Travis McAshan
The founder and CEO of GLIDE

Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of E-Coffee with Expert. This is your host, Ranmay here. Today we have Travis, who is the founder and CEO at GLIDE with us. Hey, Travis.

Hey, it’s good to be here.

Travis, before we dive into understanding more about GLIDE and your journey, why don’t you take us through how you started GLIDE what made you start GLIDE how are things now, and how you landed in the web development industry marketing space? How has been your journey? What does it look like?

I started the company in the year 2000. I got my degree in architecture from Texas A&M and honestly just loved all things digital. I’ve been on a computer since I was seven years old and just always enjoyed being on the cutting edge of digital in all shapes and forms. So GLIDE was a natural outcropping that. Also, I think I just have a high level of autonomy. Out of college, got a degree in architecture, but decided to go into graphic design. I was a graphic designer at an internet startup, the dot-com bubble burst, and I found a job at a tech startup that was thankfully hiring at the time. It wasn’t a couple of years before I realized I just wanted to go off on my own. Started a company briefly that was something similar to Vimeo, a video for the web, a real-time video transcription for the web, but then starting wide. Been doing that for a long time. And so GLIDE burst out of just being on my own and doing things the way that I wanted to do. When we started GLIDE, it was all about building amazing websites, creating raving fan clients, and ultimately delivering bottom-line results.

So I think early on, I remember reading a book called Webdesign for ROI, and it opened my eyes to this concept that making websites for people is not just, Oh, I get to do this thing that I enjoy, which is design and development in the web and digital. This will tangibly help the bottom line of an organization. And so pretty early on, just using that form and function, the architectural brain of left and right in balance, which is, Okay, beauty and science, right? It looks great, but it also performs well. And is part of this question, the turning points that shaped me over time, is that what you’re alluding to?

Lovely. And then what were the turning points for you, Travis, as an agency owner that shaped your agency into what it is today?

That’s something I’ve thought a lot about over the years and had some time to think about. I think that me, starting the agency in 2003, 2015, I felt like I was in a rut. I think at one point, I was ready to just do something different. I was like, You know what? I think I might go and be a coach for high school football or something like that. Just shut it down. I felt like I was going through the motions, just really the same thing over and over. At the time, we were a very small agency. I had just a handful of folks. I was doing all of the project management, all of the sales, and all of the administration and management of the company. I had maybe a designer or two and a couple of developers. But in 2015, I saw a TED Talk by Simon Sennet called Start with Why. He wrote this Book, but the TED Talk is 10 minutes a week when we’re volatile. I think the concept of that talk was people don’t care what you do or how you do it. They care why you do it.

He had that golden circle. It was just this concept of understanding why I do what I do. It was just an interesting question because I always thought it was to make amazing websites to create raving fan clients and to deliver bottom-line results. Then I realized that’s not why I get up in the morning. I just went through this whole process over a period of two years where I was just asking that question constantly. The answer I finally came to was my personal why. When I came to that, it changed everything for me. It helped clarify a lot. My personal why is to work with great people, to work for great people, to do meaningful work, and to make a difference on my terms. When I came to that statement, someone was ringing a bell, and I was like, You know what? I’m not going to be able to improve that. I just want to make that statement more true every day until the day I die. It’s not so much about what company I work at or do I sell this company, or do I build, or whatever.

It’s just, Can I make that more true over time? I think that was a really big turning point. It allowed me to reinvest into the business and really look at what I was doing and how I was doing it and just use my business as a force of good. Also, it just helped me through a period of time where I was reevaluating why I did what I did. One of those was the purpose of the company. So just thinking about it, Gosh, my life purpose is to help people. I’ve always felt this way. So why don’t I just make the company’s purpose an extension of my life purpose? And so that also re-invigorated me. Again, the purpose is being birthed out of your why. Then I think later, about four years later in 2019, I joined EO, an entrepreneurial organization, and that was a big change for me. I’ve been striving to achieve more than a million dollars in revenue to join EO, which was the mark at the time for EO to join. You had to be a founder or more than 50% business owner, and your business has to make more than $1 million in the calendar year.

I finally achieved that metric in 2019, and joined EO. Through EO, I was introduced to something called EOS, which is different. It just happens to be similar letters, but it’s the entrepreneurial operating system. It was a book called Traction, written by a guy named Gino Whitman. Just this whole concept of a methodology or practice or an approach with the framework. This framework with six components, vision, data, people, issues, process, and then traction, helped me form a structure to run my business. I always just tell people, that EUS is just one way to do things. If you want to get in shape, there might be a hundred ways to do that, but you just have to pick one and stick with it. That’s what just happens to be used by lots of other small business owners. There’s just a lot of information available for it. There was one more big turning point, but I’d be curious. Yeah, just keep me going. I don’t want to deal with talking.

No, it’s okay. I’d like Travis. In fact, for an agency owner, you and I know how it’s difficult it is, right? To initially keep the lights on and then grow on the conscious decision that you have made right now to expand and also do optimization and not just drop at building websites. Have that a change in terms of how you would have envisioned when you started versus now making that change? What do you feel about the processes or the structures that you have created at GLIDE to ensure that even if that is a change, you pivot towards something, the base is not going to shake, it’s going to stand on hold when the foot is still strong to ensure that the regular deliverables are in place while you cry something which is not something because of which you started initially.

I think if I’m hearing your question, it’s really about how you create a plan that when you execute it, won’t fall apart on you.

Change management for that matter.

Yeah, change management. I think a lot of this is about what is your appetite for risk and taking calculator-related risks and things like that. Gosh, there’s so much to say about this. I ascribe to the concept of the 20 20-mile march. The 20 Mile March is something that was created by Jim Collins, and it uses the analogy or the story that he uses as two teams trying to reach the South Pole. Both teams prepared well, but one team had one approach, and the other team had another. The first approach was every 20 miles, as they were tracking their way to the South Pole, they would stop and camp. Regardless of how good the weather was or bad, they would stop, and they would camp. Then as they went along in these 20-mile days, they would set up resources and supplies and things like that as they went so that on their way back, they would have access to these caches. The other team, on the other hand, if it was a If it was a good day, they’d go 100 miles. If it was a bad day, they wouldn’t leave their tent for seven days.

They didn’t set up caches along the way. There’s more to the story, but the concept is that it’s just a stark example because the one team that did the 20 Mile March Daily, they were immortalized, achieved the solid pool, and became a legend. In the other team, everyone died. It’s tragic. And so he applies this to the business context that there are companies that want to grow 147% in one year, but the next year, they’ve blown everything up. And half their team has burned out and left. There’s who knows what shenanigans could be going on. And so his suggestion is you look at Stryker, a pharmaceutical company, or Southwest Airlines, an airline, the only airline to not furlough any employees, or Stryker having 20% growth year over year for 50 years straight. For me, it’s always been about healthy growth and maintainable growth, also a work-life balance. I’m a husband and father of four, and just making sure that not only am I trying to achieve being a visionary leader and successful entrepreneur, but also being a great dad and a great husband. Finding that work-life balance with that 20-mile march. We typically set our goals around 25% growth year over year.

That’s context. But then back to change me I think that the beautiful thing about EUS is it uses time horizons. You get to look at the world through these different lenses. You start by getting your leadership team on the same page. Pat Lanciani talks about this in his pyramid where trust is at the bottom. But the concept of EUS is, Okay, let’s envision what we want as a company, and let’s get clear on it. Then let’s think out 10, 15 years and say, What’s the big vision? What are we trying to accomplish? What’s the big, hairy, audacious goal? Then you work backward from that to a three-year picture and you just say, Okay, if we’re to close our eyes and reach into the future, what does the company look like three years from now? And with each horizon, the fidelity gets clearer and clearer until it becomes concrete. So it’s abstract at the 10-year mark, and it’s crystal clear at next quarter. And so when it comes to change management, using these time horizons, you don’t have to try to get it all done next week, next month, next year. It could be over three years or more.

So a good example is casting the vision to the team that we want to be a B Corp. I can put that in the three-year picture. Everybody knows it’s coming. Then we can start preparing in baby steps. One good example from a change management perspective was our 4 Day Work Week journey. Changing as a professional services company from a five-day work week to a four-day work week is insane if you think about it. If you live and die by professional services, by billable hours, and you’re taking an entire day off a week or eight hours from billable time, how can that not be detrimental to your success, profitability, revenue, growth, and things like You just can’t do that? You can’t just make a change from one day to the next. For the four-day Work Week, just using that as a microcosmic example, even though that was a pretty fundamental change for our company, I had a four-year roadmap for that. I was working towards it. I cast the vision in the team. We didn’t officially adopt the 4-day Work Week until we started the pilot with the 4 Day Work Week organization, a six-month pilot in April of 2022, completed the six-month pilot in September, and then codified the four-day work week as an official benefit applied moving forward.

So 2023 was our first full year of having this benefit. So that’s the idea of change management. It’s just having the foresight to look into the future through time horizons. One example related to this major change of services was just looking at our business and saying, Okay, in 2019, we had an eight to one ratio of projects to services revenue. And so for us, Because that means that If you think about it, that’s 90% of our revenue drops off a cliff after we’re done with a project from just a tangible financial perspective, it’s like a person just running and jumping off a cliff. Lifetime customer value essentially plummets after the project is complete. We wanted to fix this, and you and I were talking about this earlier, that it wasn’t just about how do we extract more money from our clients. The most important thing, going back to your vision, mission, values, purpose, all that stuff, was I was like, okay, if our purpose is to help people who help others, which is our codified purpose, and our vision is to scale impact for purpose-led organizations. And one of our core values is building meaningful relationships.

Why in the world would we not offer our clients ongoing services that allow us to support them ongoing. And yeah, we were doing some things like that. And so I had a three-year roadmap for rolling out inbound marketing, starting with organic search and then rolling out paid advertising, because I just felt like the top of the funnel of all the ways that you can drive additional traffic to your digital marketing, to me, inbound marketing is the most authentic. Inbound marketing is when people are looking for you versus you interrupting them. So it’s the difference between a megaphone and a magnet. I always loved organic search, and we already had the skillset. When you redesign a marketing website, you’re doing a lot of the things that SEO requires in terms of one-page technical and understanding the organic search engines. You’re not doing link building, but there’s content strategy and all that stuff as well. The point is, by having these time horizons, we broke down what was a pretty monumental goal into bite-sized pieces as we worked our way backward through those plans until it’s, Okay, we don’t have to build a thriving SEM service offering.

We just need to hire one SEO person, or we need to reevaluate how we propose and sell SEO service. And so each quarter is built on the quarter before in a sequential fashion over a period of multiple years. Here we are now, In 2019, we were at an eight-to-one ratio, and now we’re at a one-to-one ratio from projects to services over four years. That’s a huge change. It didn’t happen by accident. Each year, it was like, Okay, eight to one. Okay, this year, it’s four to one. Okay, this year, it’s two to one. Okay, this year, it’s one-to-one. That revenue stability is great because we’re a small agency. I still do a lot of the sales, if not all the sales. For the project, which is something I hope I want. Taking the burden off me to essentially have to pay for all of our salaries through projects is great because it creates income stability. I hope that answered your question.

It did. Wonderful. You also made it an IRB Corp 35 company. You also made it Clientee 5,000 recently. Congratulations on that to you and the entire team, Travis. Lastly, Travis, as an agency, or as someone who is running the show, at times it gets difficult to track and measure the success beyond those traditional financial indicators. How do you work about ensuring that everything is on track and, you know what’s happening, and what’s not? How do you ensure that alignment between business goals? You are a very driven person when it comes to your mission and your vision. How do you ensure that alignment between business goals and your mission-driven values are in place?

That’s an awesome question. It’s ever-evolving. I would say our pursuit of becoming a certified B Corp in 2023, which was a multi-year process we started in 2022 and finished in 2020, was, I would say, It was almost like a quantum leap, the answer to that question. If the question is, how do we ensure alignment between business goals in our mission, vision, values, and purpose, in measurement beyond just financial indicators? The B Corp, it’s like it forces you to have a framework for accountability for everything that isn’t financial, almost. There’s a financial component to B Corp where you’re looking at things like making sure that your employees are being paid a living wage and understanding other things like that. But for example, when we became a B Corp, you have just a thousand little areas where you get points for stuff. You get a point, you have to score 80 or above, at least in the methodology that they’re using. I think they’re changing the scoring model. It’s okay, this one policy that you have will get you 0.5 points. Okay, good. Now you have 75.5 points left to get.

It’s a monumental amount of work because you can’t just adopt a policy. You have to enact it and you have to live it and you have to prove that you’re living it. It’s a multi-step process. First, you have to identify across all these different dimensions, whether it’s governance or customers or vendors and partners and things like that or environmental, social. It is a little bit overwhelming. One of the ways that you can overcome this is by focusing. You don’t have to do all the things, but you have to do some of the things well. Two area where we decided to Excel is Saying you’re a purpose-led organization is one thing. Anyone literally can just put a headline on their website that says, We’re purpose-led. That will take, I don’t know, 15 seconds to change your website or maybe 15 hours if you don’t know how to do it. But the point is, it’s not a complicated thing. But to elect an impact business model that’s codified through a framework that is then certified by external validators you’re going to give away 5% of your top-line revenue. So that’s crazy.

Then to codify that and to write it into your bylaws of your articles of incorporation is, wow, that’s crazy accountability. That’s one of our impact business models through the B Corp. We had committed to giving away 5% of our top-line revenue to vetted nonprofits and purpose-led organizations. Then we have to track. Yeah, and then we have to track that. That’s done through direct donations, but also pro bono work. It’s funny when we adopted this policy, you never thought it would be so much work to give away money, but it’s just as much work as anything else. The second impact business model is a part of our BHAG, which is within the next 10 years, we want to derive 75% of our total revenue from purpose etherization. This is holding ourselves accountable to our purpose statement. We have a codified purpose to help people who help others. Our BHAG is in direct alignment with our purpose statement. If our purpose statement is to help people who help others, then our BHAG, which is, Okay, we’re making money from the people that are helping other people, and we’re quantifying it. That is a perfect example of a metric.

While that happens to be a financial metric, it has nothing to do with the growth of the company or profitability. It has everything to do with what percentage of people that you’re working with can help other people. It better be 75% in 10 years. By setting that financial metric, it forces me, even in sales, to say, if I just sit around waiting for people to show up at our door and be interested in our products and services, and they’re not purpose-led. We’re never going to get to that goal. We have to be proactive and intentional and go out and find those people. Yes, I think that there is a body recomposition, just like when you exercise and your body gets more healthy, where our client, our body of clients is improving. When you profess to the world, here’s all the purpose-led organizations we’re working with, then more purpose leads will come to you. Because I’ve always heard in marketing, the best thing you can do is see yourself in someone’s marketing. If you’ve purpose-led organizations, they resonate with our work. Then there are some other intangibles related to what we measure.

The beauty of EOS, again, is that in these time horizons, there are also metrics that are attached to each horizon. For example, we have a weekly meeting as a leadership team, and we have a weekly scorecard. It has essentially four dimensions to it. The four dimensions, I pulled it up so I could reference them, but we have revenue operations, which includes sales and marketing. We have people operations, which include the health of our teams. We have client operations, which is the health of our projects and services and client satisfaction, and we have financial metrics. We look at those every week. We can see, that all of those should be mostly leading indicators. For example, for revenue operations, we’re looking at things like, how many sales calls we have. How filled is the sales pipeline? Closed deals are on there as well. Then at the quarterly level, we have key measurables, which is a component of the US, where we’re looking at the bigger picture. Those core measurables might be gross revenue or net profit or maybe some other bigger numbers that don’t change and fluctuate every week, which would be net promoter score, which is almost like a biannual type number, which is customer sentiment.

You take all of these and then you look at your three-year picture and you can extrapolate out. So one of the things we track is the number of reviews collected across a couple of key platforms like Clutch and Google and other places like that. And so it’s making sure that the reputation of GLIDE is growing in the marketplace. And so I think these are the ways that we calculate the health of the company. And then other intangibles in our quarterlies and our annuals, we track the number of shoutouts that are given. So the number of posts in our channel in Slack called shout shoutouts. Our goal is we have a goal for it. A weekly goal for shoutouts is around five per person. I think we had about five per person active on the team. We would want to see 20 or 30 of those per week, maybe more, if we have about 20 people or 15 people, I guess maybe 40 potentially. But the point is trying to live out some of these core values of building meaningful relationships. Yeah, a lot of stuff. It’s come a long way since I first started the company.

Lovely, journey, I must say, Travis. Great, Travis. It was lovely speaking with you. But before I let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it. All right, your favorite spot?

I’m going to say Football.

Football. Okay. Then, in that case, what favorite football team? Can be a club, can be a country.

It was the Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys until they lost their first playoff game. And then I was devastated. My heart was ripped out of my chest. Now I’m going to say that Houston, Texas.

What did you do with your first paycheck, Travis?

My very first paycheck?

Yeah, the first paycheck of your life.

Of my life? Oh, my goodness. I was 14. I worked at a marina. Man, Back in those days, you liked redded VHS movies and then Nintendo, Super Nintendo video games to play on the weekend. I probably I’ve rented a movie in a video game and bought some Dr. Pepper.

All right. Okay, the last one will not go any further. Oh, my goodness.

What was my last Google search? I don’t remember. Maybe you could add to that now with the advent of ChatGPT because I use ChatGPT a lot these days instead of searching. My last search with ChatGPT or conversation with ChatGPT was about creating a quotes calendar for my team so that I can share inspirational quotes.

Lovely. Great, Travis. It has been a pleasure speaking with you, and I’m sure our audience would benefit a lot from the insights that you shared today. Thank you for doing this with us. Appreciate it, man.

Thank you, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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