Craig Higdon, Founder at BetterPlan
As a strategic digital leader with over 15 years of experience in design and technology, Craig Higdon helps clients get better clarity around their biggest business challenges, then organize and leads teams of strategists, researchers, designers, and developers to accomplish the amazing.
Connect with Craig on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Business Strategy
- Design and technology
- Customer Experience
- Digital Product
- Project/program management
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for high velocity radio.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:14] Lee Kantor here another episode of High Velocity Radio, and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show we have Craig Higdon and Shane Hunter with Better Plan Work. Welcome, gentlemen.
Craig Higdon: [00:00:28] Hey, Lee. Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having us.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:30] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about better planned work. How are you serving folks?
Craig Higdon: [00:00:36] Oh, sure. So better plan at work is how small business owners and entrepreneurs develop long term plans and the planning skills while they’re still trying to focus on keeping the lights on their business. You know, we all know that the tyranny of the urgent is is a beast for small business owners everywhere. Making sure that you’re growing your business long term is is what better planned out work is really focused on doing.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:03] Now, do you find that folks just don’t plan? They’re just kind of winging it every day and they have maybe a dream that they’re kind of vaguely going towards, but they don’t have taken the time to compose a plan that might be a better roadmap for their success.
Shane Hunter: [00:01:21] Right. So that’s that’s that’s a big portion of it. There are definitely a lot of people who who like to wing it and go with their gut feeling and and that can work for for a while. But when you’re when you’re really trying to be focused and and hit a specific place in the market, it can it can be really tough to to to keep that focus and not sort of chase the next shiny thing.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:50] So what are some of the symptoms that having a better plan would be a better strategy? What are some of the things that are going wrong in an existing business right now where having a plan or even a kind of this kind of roadmap would be more effective way to manage their business?
Craig Higdon: [00:02:10] So I think that there’s there’s one big word that is for us kind of kind of endemic to a problem. And it’s scale. Can you scale your business or if so, like, great. And you’re probably pulling the right threads. But so many people, they find themselves wanting to grow, but they don’t understand that they only have a certain number of hours a day. They keep investing and keep they keep working harder and harder instead of trying to figure out the fundamental parts of their business and really find a way to allow those to scale. So if you are a business owner and you find that like you’re just you’re kind of in that race and you’re on that treadmill, but you’re not getting you’re not seeing the growth of the scale that you want. That’s one of our first indicators.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:59] So if you’re frustrated, if maybe you had success previously and it’s not coming as easily, those are kind of breadcrumbs that maybe that you should be thinking about a better plan.
Craig Higdon: [00:03:12] Sure. And one of the things that one of the things that initially that I noticed early on in my career was we were working with some contractors who were software developers, brilliant guys, incredibly effective at the software development task. We asked for them. They were running their own shop and halfway through the project one of them has a nervous breakdown. I’m like, Man, this project wasn’t that hard. Like what’s going on? And his partner was like, Hey, listen, it’s not about this project. This project is great as well manage. We’re working together. We love what we’re working on. The problem is that we’ve got three or four people that previously that haven’t been able to tie things up. We haven’t been able to get the money we need out of them. And it was really kind of the business systems side of running the business that these very intelligent, very capable people were just not ready to handle.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:07] So when you have a situation like that where maybe kind of the work is being done at the appropriate level, but the infrastructure is kind of lacking. And maybe that’s not the superpower of the founders or the management team. How do you kind of insert yourself in to help them? Is this something that they hire you as a consultant and you roll up your sleeves and you’re doing the work? Or is it something that you’re teaching them how to be better managers or how to attract the right folks that are the players they need to grow the business?
Shane Hunter: [00:04:38] Right. It’s more about teaching them how to attract those folks and and delegate and and think about their business instead of at a higher level. Instead of working in the business, they’re working on the business. And if you take like a tradesman, a plumber, an amazing plumber, he wants to start his own business, maybe doesn’t necessarily know the best way to go about that. When when push comes to shove, he really knows how to do good plumbing work. So that’s what he works on all the time because that’s just what he knows and what he’s comfortable with. When when a business isn’t growing, isn’t scaling, isn’t getting where the owner wants it to be, that’s when they need to sort of step back, bring in those other people, bring in that that outside help through through planning, through tools to help them think about what they want to do with their business and then help delegate. Now, is this.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:41] No, go ahead. No, you go ahead.
Craig Higdon: [00:05:44] You know, I was going to say that and it’s that combination, that exact question you asked that really got us thinking about the features that better planned our work offers. Really, we focus on creating letting business owners create a focused area of of activity inside of their business while kind of training them, giving them options to build out those depending on what things they care about first. We give them almost scrips of sort that gives them the steps to walk through like, okay, if you want to increase or improve your reach, more people reach more customers. There’s a lot of steps to that. And first, understanding who your customers are, understanding who your best customers are, I should say making sure that you have the right way to reach out to them and stay in touch with them, that you’re offering the right things. So we take those goals and break them apart into really actionable steps, and then the tool helps them move through those steps. In a way, we help them track what they’ve been working on, what they need to be working on, who they’ve delegated this work to in a way that is is unique. And that’s one of the things we really want to focus on was it’s not just an education platform and it’s definitely not a blank slate like project management platform. What it does is it actually understands and helps people understand their goals and give them the steps that they need to take one after the other to actually start seeing these the progress that they’re looking for.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:21] Now, you mentioned that like this plumber example, does it work best in those kind of service oriented businesses where, you know, in some cases that plumber just wants to be left alone to do plumbing and they don’t want to be the marketing guy, the sales guy, the customer service guy. They want to be the plumbing guy. And then when you’re saying, hey, here’s a roadmap or here’s a plan, that all you have to do is, you know, kind of engage with the plan, it’s going to tell you what to do. It’ll teach you how to do this. What if the plumber doesn’t want to do this? They just want to be a plumber.
Craig Higdon: [00:08:00] Yeah. And so our our focus is really on people that are plumbers that want to grow a full business around them. And we all know as as business owners and founders and CEOs, that if we’re a craftsperson, that’s an important part of our business. But if you want to get out of that that treadmill of just kind of the tyranny of the urgent that so many business owners feel, that’s really who we’re trying to help. You know, if you if you’re if you’re having a great time working through just you’re working as solely a craftsperson. Fantastic. You know, and we we want to help the craftspeople that are that are amazing at what they do. Also start to becoming become amazing at running and managing and growing a business.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:49] That might be built on those same tenets that make them successful?
Craig Higdon: [00:08:53] Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think it absolutely is. It’s it’s centered around their craft, centered around the things that they care about in the way that they do their business. And I think that’s where we tried to create a lot of flexibility so that people can come in and choose the goals that they want to focus on. It could be that that even if that person just wants to be a plumber, they’ve got to get their accounting in order. You know, like everybody’s got to figure that out at some point. They’ve got to they’ve got to have a clear path towards making sure that even if they’re working with subcontractors or that they understand how expensive some of their parts are. So the flexibility of the platform allows people to grow and improve their business in all sorts of different ways.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:38] Now, is it helping the person kind of glean opportunities that maybe aren’t obvious? Because a lot of business sometimes you’re so heads down doing the work, you there could be a great opportunity around the corner. But you’re your head’s down, so you’re not even looking up to see it.
Shane Hunter: [00:09:57] Right. Exactly. And and with this with this plan that that the owner would make. They would theoretically be looking at it often and and it would be sort of top of mind their sort of goals that they have for their business. So when they see those opportunities, they recognize them because they realize it’s in alignment with their goals. If something comes along that isn’t in alignment with their goals, maybe it’s best to sort of push that off and stop chasing the next shiny thing.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:25] And it is a kind of fine line between wanting to be an empire builder and then kind of getting outside of your lane or your expertise. So that helps them to manage that because there is a lot of gray in that area.
Craig Higdon: [00:10:42] Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And we want to make sure that people are making informed decisions about that gray area. We’re all living through that gray area in large portions of our business, in our business management journeys and our business journeys. So making sure that we are cognizant of when we’re drifting, you know, you might need to drift, you might need to change a goal. But we want you we want to make sure that those decisions are happening in a way that’s better informed.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:10] Now, what’s your back story? What’s the back story of both of you? How did you get together to kind of create this?
Craig Higdon: [00:11:19] So. Yeah, Shane and I have known each other for years. Actually, we’ve. We’ve had similar journeys going through business. Business schools. And this was really an opportunity we’ve been we’ve been working on. We’ve talked about a number of different things. And this was the one that really caught our attention. This is the one that really allowed us to go like, hey, we can we can take steps right now today to start helping other business owners. You know, my background is in professional services. I come out of a consulting background, formerly big four, now working for for kind of a more boutique agency. And I’ve I’ve seen I’ve seen these people trying to grow their business, whether they were clients or whether they were vendors. So I had a lot of access to to the challenges that both of them face.
Shane Hunter: [00:12:08] I came up through a sort of accounting background and. Consulting along with that. And I just just through all of the different businesses that I’ve touched that I’ve worked with, either being a part time CFO or or helping them with a thousand other potential issues that they have to deal with. There’s just a lot of similar threads came about and realizing that all of these businesses are dealing with all of these sort of similar issues and and figuring out how to help them best was something that that this sort of clicked in our heads.
Craig Higdon: [00:12:51] Yeah. And we realized also that not, you know, hiring consultants is a luxury for a lot of small business owners like to to pay a seasoned professional the hourly rate that they need is is an expense not many people can afford. And we really wanted to create a tool that allowed us to serve far more people at a much lower at a much more reasonable rate. And so that’s what got us starting to think about a software solution and or a software platform like the site better planned out work. And so that’s really what, what, what crystallized it is we can offer so much more help, but there are a lot of people that wouldn’t be able to hire us either through our businesses or through our employers, and in a way that that can really help them grow a business. So we wanted to focus on a way that in a platform that allowed them to do that.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:48] So walk me through what it’s like to experience better plans at work. So I go to this website. So, so walk me through what happens. Like, what am I being asked questions? Am I like, how does the software learn what my problems are and how do I input that data so they can help me make more informed decisions?
Shane Hunter: [00:14:10] Right. Right. Well, you would you’d go to the sites and and start start your plan, essentially. And excuse me, in in that plan, in the sort of first screen, there’s there’s some tutorials on how to to move through the tool, just, just to familiarize yourself with that. But then there are also examples, examples of of areas of goals that most businesses would have. And, and you get a sort of pick and choose which, which examples, which goals that that sort of apply to your business at this point in time. It could change, obviously, in the future, and you can create a new plan to deal with that. But when you go into the tool, you select these goals that that you sort of want to have for your business at the moment and and then just start working on them. It sort of populates a default set of steps that that you that you could take to to move closer toward reaching that goal. And you can modify those those steps as you see fit as might be more applicable to your business and then delegate them. If you have that ability to delegate those steps to other people and then you get to track them. There’s, there’s a section that tracks within the plan what has been done, what is the current focus, and what you should really be doing sort of next to to sort of help in those in those areas and. And the sort of the tool that you look up that you pull up every day would keep track of of who’s doing what and what needs to be done next. And if you want to add more things or recycle a goal because it you finished it and it was really good and you want to do it again, you can absolutely do that. And then yeah, I mean.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:09] So is it is it tying in with my accounting software? So if I say I want to increase my revenue or I want to grow, is there a kind of a metric that I can keep track of that’s going to give me a dashboard to see that? Am I making progress or am I not making progress? Or is this tactic working or not working?
Shane Hunter: [00:16:30] It doesn’t necessarily tie into an accounting system at the moment. It that would definitely be more informed by by your accounting system if if you’re doing what you need to be doing to to sort of reach those goals. But it gives you steps and says, all right, so now measure this or check this to see if you’re doing better than than you were a month ago.
Craig Higdon: [00:16:56] Yeah. And the activity is really, really what we’re trying to focus is focusing on the behavior that where you start seeing the outcomes in your in your accounting software. But the integrating deeper with with the infrastructure that people have set up is absolutely something that we care about. But because we really want to focus on people that are just kind of getting started or people that are that might not. Have the maturity yet, business maturity to have other deeper integrations set up. We wanted to get to really like the most basic steps, like how can we help you today start taking steps that will grow your business?
Lee Kantor: [00:17:36] And then, is this industry agnostic? I mean, you mentioned the background in professional services. Is this something that is better suited for that or is it can be a manufacturer? It could be any business because business challenges tend to be business challenges.
Craig Higdon: [00:17:52] Right. Exactly. It can be sort of any sort of industry. Definitely help with with that.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:58] And then really, the only prerequisite is that that their mindset is that of of a empire builder, that somebody wants to leave a mark and wants to grow.
Craig Higdon: [00:18:09] Absolutely. We want we want people that want to grow their business. And that’s that’s important. Whether or not you just got the idea and you want to start planting that seed and getting that seed to grow, or if you’ve already got a successful practice, whether or not you you’re running a bakery or you’re a bakery, that’s a caterer that’s working and selling, selling your services that way. We want to be able to help those people grow. If you’re if you don’t want to grow, I guess I guess it’s probably not for you, although we could probably help there. But really, we want to help the people that are looking to learn more about their business, learn more about what they need to get done and want to take action.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:49] So now how about sharing some advice for our listeners if they are thinking about this and this is something that they are considering doing and they want to be better and they want to have a better plan. What are some things they can do? What are some actions that would be recommended through going through the process? That’s kind of the low hanging fruit. Where are some moves they can make today, whether they have the plan or not, that’ll just give them a better sense of, Hey, I can do this and there is a better way to do things.
Craig Higdon: [00:19:22] So I come from a background in customer success in digital product. For me, it’s all about learning from the people who are using your tool or your service. My suggestion to everyone right now is go out, talk to your best customers, ask them why they like using you. What are the things that you’re doing well and what are the things that would help you grow? What what how can how can you make changes to your business in a way that makes them grow? This is valuable for a couple of reasons. One, these are exactly your best customers. You want more of them. You want more people that think and act the way they do. So learning more about them gives you a chance to go find other people like them and and target them. You know, I think a lot of people spend a lot of time in the abstract trying to grow their business. This is this this suggestion. If I could say anything to any small business owner, talk to your best customers. Thank them for working with you and start asking them questions about why they choose you. If you’re feeling bold, ask for ask for a new customer, ask for a recommendation, or ask them if they know anybody else that would like your service. That’s on the ground, boots on the ground. Kind of suggestion. Do that today. And you will you will start getting the hints and the clues to start growing your business.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:42] Now, does that strategy kind of go? It’s kind of contrary to a lot of people’s first move. They think that it’s easier to get a brand new customer or they want to invest money and resources in a stranger than it is, is to nurture and develop and serve at a deeper level. Their existing clientele.
Craig Higdon: [00:21:05] Yeah. And I. Of course you need a balance. But until you really know your your core customers and your core clientele and you have that, you know, we were talking earlier about making those conscious decisions. If you are making a conscious decision to go after someone new because you’ve really sown up your existing customer base, like great, you should grow. And there’s all sorts of different ways to grow, but you should have such a confidence that you know exactly what your customers need and want. And, you know, having worked in sales myself, I know it’s always easier to to get either an existing or previous customer to buy again or get them to recommend a warm intro to somebody that could also use your services than it is to go out and get a completely blank slate. Get someone you’ve never heard of that’s never heard of you, that’s never talked to you.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:57] All right. But that seems logical and that makes perfect sense. They already know you and like you, you’re already almost there from the new sales standpoint. But it just seems that business people, I mean, I see it over and over again, they would rather pursue some strategy that involves strangers coming into a funnel than it is to nurture and develop and work with and learn from their existing clients.
Craig Higdon: [00:22:24] Yeah, you know, I think that’s I think it’s easy to it’s easy to sell that, you know, it’s easy to sell, sell that kind of nebulous growth. It’s just not as effective if you if you need to start scaling. Absolutely. Building the systems that that that track your outreach, that start working people through the top of a funnel and building the steps down, that move people deeper into the funnel is what you need to do. But each of those steps should be informed by real world success. And you’ve had real world success. You have people that will tell you like, Oh yeah, when I first heard about you, I didn’t know you actually did. One, two, three. Because on your website, you say you don’t you don’t phrase it that way. Like, Oh, being that tells me what I can take to start moving somebody that a customer that just visits my site and starts moving them down the funnel, it’s that insight and that real world experience that lets that scale happen and lets other people that are like your best customers, new people that are like your best customers, move down that funnel faster, move down it more effectively, and that saves you time, that saves you money. But it all has to come from a real world insight and a real world action that is based on the success you’ve already had.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:37] Right. And less about how creative you are in front of a whiteboard. Just imagining some future world.
Craig Higdon: [00:23:43] Correct? Yeah. Base, base. You base your decisions in the success you’ve already had.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:48] So now if somebody wants to learn more about better plan that work, what is the way to engage with you and Shane and what’s the best way to get a hold of the plan or to learn more about the plan?
Shane Hunter: [00:24:03] Sure. Just head to our website. Better plan, work and sign up and get get on our email list and we’ll we’ll tell you all the information that you need to know.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:14] And this is software as a service. So this is kind of a monthly subscription. Is this how it works?
Craig Higdon: [00:24:20] Yep. We’re currently pulling people into our beta and that’s what that’s what we’re most excited about, is that we’ve actually got people in there starting to use this, starting to grow their businesses. And so that’s yeah, our it absolutely is software as a service, but we want to make it make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:41] Well, Craig and Shane, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Craig Higdon: [00:24:47] Oh, brilliantly. So are you. Yeah. Thanks for thanks for giving us a chance. And thanks for the service that you provide to all these small business owners and these empire builders.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:55] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on High Velocity Radio.