We talk with Trent Dyrsmid, CEO of Flowster, about managing repetitive processes and workflow software for digital marketers and eCommerce.
Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to the LA Business Podcast, a form for business owners and senior executives to share the experiences about the elements that drive their success. Your host is Robert Brill, CEO of Brillmedia.co, an Inc 500 company delivering the power of hyperlocal advertising.
Robert writes for Forbes Inc and Ad trade publications, our goal is to bring you the stories about successes and failures of people who are making big things happen in marketing, entrepreneurship, and management.
Rober Brill: [00:00:42] Everyone. Welcome to another episode of the LA Business Podcast. Today we are talking to Trent Dyrsmid, who is the Founder of Flowster. Trent, thanks for being on the show. Tell us about you and about Flowster.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:01:00] So thank you very much for having me. And hello everybody. I have been an entrepreneur for a couple of decades now.
I’ve had a one seven figure exit under my belt, and now I run three, well, I don’t run them directly, but I own three different companies. And the reason that I’m able to do that, is because of a relentless focus on creating documented business systems or standard operating procedures as they are commonly referred to.
So as the leader of a company, I believe that my job is to set the vision and the direction and make sure the right people are on the bus. But to roll up my sleeves and do to work in the business every single day. That’s not particularly appealing to me, nor do I think it’s actually the CEO’s job to do.
So. How do you solve that problem? You’ve need to document and you need to delegate. So the Inc 5,000 picture that you see there, we got onto the Inc 5,000 in spot number 254 this year, largely because of our e-commerce division. It’s one of the three companies that are that are under the holding company that ranked, and I haven’t had a day to day operational role in that business since it was six months old.
I am the Founder. I started it. I was responsible for all the initial growth and most importantly, I was responsible for creating all the documented processes that allowed us to then delegate. All sorts of work to, other people around the world. And the success of that combined with some folks that I know thanks to my podcast, led to an invitation to speak at a conference, two years ago, I think two years ago, and there was about 500 or so people in the room who are Amazon sellers.
And they were looking at me on stage and I was explaining to them, you know, how I made my company grow so quickly? And at the beginning of that talk, I said, Hey, everybody, you know, I don’t have anything for sale. I’m just here out of Goodwill, so you need to take good notes or watch the recording or whatever.
So I proceeded to, you know, dump a lot of information on the audience in a short period of time on how we accomplished what we did. And it all boiled down to having all these SLPs and much to my surprise. At the end of that talk, I was approached by a large number of people, you know, they came up to the mics and the aisles task questions.
They approached me at the bar afterwards, they would send me emails and more or less everybody was saying the same thing. Could we buy a copy of your SLPs? And that thought had never occurred to me I did not own the software company at the time. It hadn’t been started. It wasn’t even an idea in my head.
And so we agreed to offer them for sale. And the first time we released them. We sold about $400,000 worth in the very first week, which shocked the heck out of me to say the least. And cause that was wildly ahead of my best case expectations of how many we’d sell. And so I very quickly realized that this was going to be a thing on an ongoing basis.
And because we didn’t own the software layer at that point in time, because you know, we weren’t, we weren’t selling a product. We just put our content in somebody else’s software. Once we realized that it was going to become a product, I then realized, well, I want a software company. And so myself and my Co Founder created Flowster and Flowster is a tool, that really anyone, especially like Trello, anyone in any industry could use Trello.
To help them to manage their, to do lists, so to speak. So what Flowster is ideal for are managing, documenting and managing and delegating known processes that happen over and over and over again in a given organization. So anyone in any industry can come to Flowster and they can, they can start building their SOP.
From a marketing perspective, what we have chosen to do is focus on the eCommerce niche because obviously my background is there. I know a lot of people in that industry. I know a lot of companies, and so we’ve started to create a, an ever increasing number of pre-made SOP templates, because one of the big challenges, and this is why the audience when I gave that talk, wanted to buy mine, is people don’t want to start from zero.
Creating SLPs is a lot of work. they’d much rather, you know, find something that’s maybe a 70 or 80% of what they need and then just hit the edit button and make any changes that they would like. So within Flowster, there’s what we call a marketplace. And there’s a bunch of free and some paid, SLPs that where you can just go and say, Hey, well, I don’t want to make it from scratch.
So you can go and download them into your account. And then if they’re not exactly suited to how you want, maybe you, that you want to make some changes, there’s an edit button and you can make changes and you’re off to the races.
Rober Brill: [00:05:47] I’m on Ahrefs, which is a tool that allows me to look at which pages get organic traffic and your Amazon sellers forhas an estimate of 443 organic traffic is 443 it looks like, I don’t know what period of time that is, but. You’re getting, like you must be seeing it in your Google analytics or your, your system there that you’re seeing, you’re getting a lot of organic reach for people looking for this information for your Amazon sellers, for them.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:06:18] Yeah. I mean, it’s funny that you mentioned that. So the reason that that post exists is in our early, early, early stages of our content marketing and SEO strategy. We were looked at like, well, what’s the low hanging fruit? And our research indicated that that phrase would be a good one to go after. And we do have a forum on Flowster.
It’s at forum.fluster.app. And we created that forum because we do have a lot of people. Who use the application and they are Amazon sellers. So we knew that there would be a lot of discussion and we thought, well, let’s just give them a place to have that discussion so they don’t have to go somewhere else.
and at the same time we wrote that blog post and the goal of course, is to rank organically and attract more traffic. Now with that said. If you ask me, we just hired a full time content manager and now we’re producing, three new free SLPs a week that’s going to scale up to five. We’re going to launching a podcast.
We’re writing blog posts on an ongoing basis. I mean, there’s a lot more stuff that we’re now doing. So if you ask me, you know, six months from now that I don’t know that that will be our top performing post. But as it stands now without having done barely any content marketing, that is one of the posts that generates the most traffic.
Rober Brill: [00:07:26] Amazing. And so when you say SOP is, I have, I have my idea, like I’ll tell you that, you know, one of the big radical shifts in my business, so I hired our Chief Operating Officer. His name is Tony Price. I’ve known him for 20 years. Great. Really fantastic dude. And we sit down in Vegas. And he was like, tell me every single step of the process because up until that point, the challenge we were facing was, basically, the process for running a campaign lived in my head and I was like, why isn’t the team doing exactly what I need them to do?
It’s because I didn’t document every single step of the way. So now our, our version of a standard operating procedure lives in SharePoint in a series of pages that goes from step one to like step 10 or whatever it is. So what is what exactly like when the Amazon sellers came up to you and you sold them this SOP, what exactly were they getting?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:08:22] So they’re getting a collection of somewhere, nor, I don’t know the exact number anymore. I think it’s 75 or 80 different SLPs for every aspect of running a business that sells on Amazon. So we have a, for example, a folder called product sourcing. So if you use the same model we do, which is called the wholesale model, there’s a lot of things that you need to do.
To source products, and as the owner of the business, there’s no way you should be doing all that stuff yourself. A lot of it is easily delegated to a virtual assistant who will work for three or $4 an hour because they’re based in the Philippines, and that’s a fair wage over there. So there are the detailed checklists, but that’s basically what an SOP is.
It’s a checklist. But here’s the thing, and we have that. So in the Amazon SLPs, there’s ones for product listing optimization, pay per click marketing campaigns, shipping, receiving, reconciliation, Amazon account health, purchasing products, handling returns, handling customers. I mean, like everything that you do to run an Amazon business on a day to day basis is basically whats a known repeatable procedure. So we’ve documented all of them. So the magic of fluster is a couple of things. Think about this. So I’m the boss and let’s say that I’ve got, I don’t know how many VA’s we have right now, cause my wife runs that division, but I don’t know, maybe it’s a half a dozen. It’s on at any point in time.
And then we have employees as well. So at any point in time, we have all these workflows running. Somebody do this and do this and do this and do this, and yours is due Wednesday and yours is due Friday and yours is due two weeks from now and whatever. There’s all this stuff happening. Well, you need a way as the manager, when you assign a task or a workflow, as we call it.
To someone, you need an accountability system, you need to know that it’s got a due date and you and or them are going to get alerted when that due date is approaching on the day of the due date. And also when the due dates passed. Because if you don’t have that, that ability to manage all of these workflows, well what happens?
Well, the wheels fall off a bus. Cause the more people you have in, the more workflows you have, you can’t remember it all. And if you have people missing deadlines as a pretty big deal. So Flowster is the, is the application that, allows that management to be easy. That’s one of the, the really important things that I like about Flowster.
The other thing is your ability to easily acquire new knowledge, which you can then deploy into your company culture. So let’s say for example, I’m the CEO, I’m going to conferences, I’m on podcasts, I’m reading books, whatever. I’m getting these new ideas, right? And if I don’t have standard operating procedures how do I actually implement those ideas in my business? It’s really challenging because if I have eight or 10 employees or 20 employees, I’ve got to, you know, somehow communicate that information, number one, and number two, make sure that it gets remembered and ingrained in people’s habits. What was the hardest thing in the world to change? People’s habits. I mean, it’s nearly impossible.
So how Flowster solves that promise. Super easy. So for, for every procedure, there’s what we call an SOP template, which is like the master set of instructions. And then you have all these workflows, which are just instances of that template assigned to Bob and Mary and Jennifer and whoever.
So I, acquire this new piece of knowledge, I think, Oh my gosh, I want this new piece of knowledge to be part of our ongoing procedure. So as the boss. I just hit the edit button in Flowster and I make whatever changes to our procedure that I would like to integrate that new piece of knowledge. And when I click save, Flowster says, Hey, do you want me to update all the active workflows that are based upon this template?
And of course the answer would be yes. So now I’ve just taken that piece of knowledge and I’ve pushed it out to my entire team with a few clicks of the mouse. I don’t have to have a conversation with anybody. I’m not dealing with changing human habits. Because now it’s just another check on their checklist and they can’t finish the checklist unless they check all the check boxes.
I mean, it’s really silly super simple.
Rober Brill: [00:12:24] That’s fascinating. Let me ask you a question here. So then with the Amazon situation, did you, give them like sourcing a product, right? Like I don’t know how to source a product for sale on Amazon, right? Like I know there’s systems there, but did you actually have that knowledge ahead of time and did you hand them something that like.
Like a bunch of them could actually use to like source their products or was it like. Insert, insert language here.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:12:53] No they’re turnkey. So anyone who buys my product in this regard is called webs. It stands for wholesale eCommerce business systems, and it’s the collection of these SLPs for Amazon sellers.
The promise that I make to potential customers is this is a literal plug and play system. And I say that because it’s the exact system that my team and my VA’s used on a day in, day out basis. It’s just a copy of it. So when you hire a new person to do product sourcing, there’s no training videos to watch.
There’s no orientation period. There’s none of that. You literally create a user for them and Flowster and you take the step one of sourcing checklist and you just assign it to them. It has so much detail in it that the checklist is the training program because all they have to do is just follow it.
That’s it. There’s, there’s like, it’s not any more complicated than that. It’s like a recipe in a book. If you said, Hey, I want you to bake the cake that’s on page 63 of this recipe book, would the person say, well, can I have a training video? Well, no. That’d be like a silly question. Of course, there’s no training video because the instructions are on page 63 in the recipe book.
Rober Brill: [00:14:02] Yeah. So that’s, that’s really interesting. So, and how long ago, did you start Flowster?
So we started writing code two years ago. we wrote code and, and I, our company was the alpha tester for the first year, so we were a year in development. And then we released it in October of last year to the first batch of customers.
and of course, you know, we found a couple of bugs like every software company does. And then we’ve, obviously got rid of all the bugs and then we’ve continued to iterate and improve and add features. And now there are thousands and thousands of users that use it.
So this is interesting, right? So I’m looking at your LinkedIn and it says there’s one that you posted a week ago. How to properly set up a Google ads account.
And so basically, everything inside this SOP is like. How to set up an account. It’s kept very straight forward. So, that’s amazing.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:14:57] So let’s say you’re an agency and you’ve got clients, you’re going to be doing that thing over and over again, right?
Rober Brill: [00:15:02] Yeah.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:15:02] So we’re saying to the agencies, have this SOP for free.
We built it. You use it, just sign up for Flowster and Flowsters for the first five SLPs up clusters also free so people can take it for a test drive for nothing. Now when they get to six SOPs, yeah, they got to start paying a whopping $15 a month, but that’s not terribly expensive.
Rober Brill: [00:15:21] Sure, absolutely. And so how have you scaled this business?
Is it, is it literally like. This applies to so many different businesses. I just got to get in front of the right types of businesses, like what are the secrets there?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:15:35] Yeah, so honestly, thanks to my business. So we’ve talked to what I have, this business that sells on Amazon. That’s company number one. Flowster is company number two.
What’s the third one? The third one is my Bright Ideas Podcast, and there I have a fairly sizable audience. I’ve been podcasting for, excuse me, for a long time. And so I have, you know, plenty of people on my email list and follow me on social and in my Facebook groups and whatever. And so for the last year, we’ve really used Bright Ideas as a Lead Generator for Flowster.
And it’s grown on the back of the existing success of Bright Ideas as well as some affiliate relationships. Well, now what we’re doing to scale is, as I mentioned to you, content marketing, we hired, we just hired a full time content marketing manager, and her job is to work with a team of contract writers to literally pump out as much content, relevant, high quality content as we can, as quickly as we can so that the site.
The organic traffic to the site continues to increase and as you might guess, leads, trial users and so forth they’re all just the byproduct of, sending quality traffic to the site. And that’s what the content words do. We have lots of other ideas that we are executing on at the same time, but the biggest one is just content marketing and SEO.
Rober Brill: [00:16:57] Can we drill into that a little bit? Cause that’s really interesting. We’re on a big push right now for marketing and I’ve been manning the guns or whatever you call it, like posting and Reddit and Quora and Twitter and doing all that stuff. So let me ask you a question here, right? So the person who’s running your content marketing, is this person in the United States or are they international?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:17:18] Nope, US employee with 10 years of content marketing experience.
Rober Brill: [00:17:22] Got it. And so then that person is working with writers. Are there writers international? Are they in the US?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:17:28] US-based.
Rober Brill: [00:17:29] Got it. And I think the biggest challenge I’ve, found with content marketing in the past is it’s hard for our business.
It’s hard to get people who are experts about our business to write about our business because if they’re experts about our business, they work at an agency or whatever, right? Like how do you, how do you find someone who’s good at writing about the stuff you need them to write about or is, does it become a little easier because you’re servicing a functional thing, not an industry. I don’t know.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:18:03] It’s a good question. And the magic is in the process. So let me give you an example.
Rober Brill: [00:18:09] That’s a surprise.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:18:10] What a surprise. Right? So you went to college? Yeah.
Rober Brill: [00:18:13] Yeah.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:18:14] Okay. So you probably had to write a couple of papers during your years in college.
Rober Brill: [00:18:17] I’m sure, I did.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:18:18] And were you an expert on every single topic that you wrote about.
Rober Brill: [00:18:21] Inherently, no.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:18:22] No. So you had to go research and do enough research to come up with an outline and ultimately write your paper and you passed or failed as a result of that. Do you think that in hindsight, if you looked at the formula that you followed to write your most successful papers, there was kind of a repeatable process there.
Rober Brill: [00:18:43] Yeah, I’m sure there was.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:18:44] Correct. So right. Working with writers is no different. What you need to do is break things down into clear and repeatable processes. So we have a very long SOP for publishing a blog post. I’m actually gonna pull it up on my screen right now so I can look at it and talk at the same time.
So in our case, okay, so our right now, there’s 43 steps in our SLP for publishing a blog posts and that, and that doesn’t include the keyword research. That’s a whole separate SOP, which has another 40 or 50 odd steps in it. So there’s a step called topic brainstorming. Then there’s a step called perform primary keyword research, which references another SOP that has all the instructions for keyword research.
Then there’s a step called find relevant keywords and subtopics, and then assess content gap, and then come up with a title and come up with an outline. So step key thing number one, before you ever ask a writer to write anything, you’ve already got an outline because coming up with the outline is the strategic part of creating a post keyword research and the outline, you know, that’s like, what tree should I chop down?
Rober Brill: [00:19:52] Right?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:19:53] Cause that’s the strategy. So we don’t rely on the writer to do that part. We’re going to take it that far. And our content manager would be responsible for those steps. Then there’s the actual writing, and then we use a tool called clear scope, which is a fairly expensive tool. It’s 350 bucks a month.
But it’s a really awesome tool because it makes it kind of like paint by numbers. And, and again, all of this is explained in excruciating detail in the SOP. So. You know, you’ve got your title, which is largely based upon your keyword. You’ve got your subheadings. Which kind of makes sense from an overview perspective.
Well, then now I’ve just got to fill in all the blanks, which is going to be just a whole bunch of words. So those words, the writer would obviously, like you did in school, they’re going to go do some research. Ideally, yeah, you’d like to have a writer who’s got experience in a particular niche, and over time you’ll find writers that have, and that will make this easier.
But let’s assume the writer knew absolutely nothing about the niche. If they are a good writer, that means they’re also a good researcher. And you basically come up with a list of questions that the blog post must answer and all of those questions, you can use keyword research tools to even see what those questions are and that’s covered in our SOP.
And then as they’re writing it in clear scope, clear scope is giving them a real time score. That’s showing them well relevant to the other articles that already rank on page one, up to the top 20 positions for this particular keyword. The average word count is this and all of the keywords that are used frequently or all of these, and so as the writer is writing, it’s giving you a score and it’s showing you what keywords you need to use and how many times you need to use them.
So between all of those things, you’ll end up with a pretty decent post. And then in our SOP, there’s steps in the editing section called editing the draft, assessing the readability, assessed for problem solving effectiveness, ask for honest feedback and create a final draft. And then once that happens, the next section in the SOP is create the draft in the WordPress.
So create a post, insert content into the post at the title and the images at the featured image. Choose the right categories, make sure comments are turned on, and test all the links. Okay, great. Now on page SEO, make sure you create a permalink that has the right slugging and make sure you’ve got the title and meta description done properly and make sure you’ve got any relevant internal and external links. In other words, what should we be linking to? Cause in every firm on page SEO, you need to be linking both internally and externally. Then there’s are final review, then there’s publishing and it gets shared on social and embedded here and done there and all this other stuff.
And then we also have a yet another SOP for external link building.
Rober Brill: [00:22:28] So, okay, so I, signed up to Flowster a while we’ve been talking and there’s one called improve your sites on page SEO. Is that. That’s probably something different. Do you have an SOP, the SOP that you just went into detail on, is that in one of these?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:22:45] Yeah, it is. There’s, it’s one of the premium ones. So in the marketplace, there is a package called the, if you’ve run a search for ‘Blogger Content Production Pack’ for 199 bucks, so you click on that one. Well. It includes five SOPs and SOP for creating podcasts, of which I’ve created hundreds. So that’s a highly detailed SOP for people that podcast for videos, for webinars, for blog posts, and for email broadcasts. So like for 200 bucks, you’ve got all these SOPs. Well, how long would it take you to sit and make them all forever? Like hours, hours, and hours and hours and hours. So unless you had places, zero value on your time, 200 bucks is pretty cheap.
Rober Brill: [00:23:31] And I can just, and this is, these are word documents, right? Like I can export?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:23:35] No, they, they live in Flowster because, let me go back to what I said earlier. As you scale up your business, you’re not like blog posts, for example. So we have four or five writers, we want to produce multiple posts per week, so on any given week, there’s multiple workflows with different deadlines and different people happening all the time.
If you, if you have all your SOPs in a word doc, how do you manage that? Yeah. I have no idea. It’d be, it’d be very, very difficult. Whereas in Flowster, I can assign the SOP to whomever, I can give it a deadline. The individual steps of the SOP can be assigned to different people. They can have individual deadlines.
I’ve got a calendar that shows me everything that was due today, yesterday, tomorrow, next week, whatever you need a project management tool, which is what Flowster is to be able to manage the process. The difference between us and Assata and base camp and all those other things is that our tool is built specifically for known repeatable projects.
So blog posts, pretty highly repeatable. if you’re an agency, all sorts of things are repeatable. Setting up Google analytics, setting up a new site, cause you’re doing them for client after client, after client, after client.
Rober Brill: [00:24:45] Sure. That’s really interesting. I’ve, it’s like, it’s really interesting to me that you and I don’t have this thoughtfully formulated, but like, it feels like it goes so much farther than just like setting up standard operating procedures is incredibly important. And I understand, I understand the value of that. Right? Cause that’s been very important for my business. And I imagine for a lot of business it is. But like it goes a step further. It actually gives you, like for this $199 like I can, I can get all your knowledge on how to develop the right keyword, appropriate blog posts, which I don’t know if I could get elsewhere. I don’t know how I would get that. I’d have to just spend time researching and come up and discern the fact from the fiction on the free lab.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:25:28] Yeah, you could go, I mean, there’s lots of credible sources you could, you could Google how to write a blog post and you’ll find, you know, on Copyblogger and here, there and everywhere.
You’ll find all sorts of blog posts about how to write a blog post. The difference here is the content is already turned into an SOP. It’s turned into a checklist. A blog post isn’t a checklist. It’s just a piece of content. So you wouldn’t very be, I guess, I mean, maybe you could find somebody blog posts that was detailed enough and covered absolutely everything and it happened to just be coincidentally exactly the way you wanted it done. And you could say to your writers, just follow that blog post, but that’s not terribly realistic. And there’s no, there’s no edit button on somebody else’s blog posts.
Like if you decide you’re going to change step seven, well you could. It’s not like you can contact Copyblogger and say, Hey, listen, I’m using your post as an SOP, but I need you to make a change in it. They’re not going to do that.
Rober Brill: [00:26:22] So what is, what does 2020 look like for you? Is it, like a lot more work on scaling the business?
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:26:28] Oh yeah. I am more than now that I’ve really. Come to understand the size of the opportunity for my software company. I’ve pretty much kicked everything else off of my desk and I, and that’s why we’ve hired the content manager as well as I am solely focused on, growing fluster, as quickly as possible because, you know, the company has an unlimited opportunity and there are competitors, but there’s not a ton of them right now. And so there’s just a huge opportunity to go and grab as much market share as we can.
Rober Brill: [00:27:06] And you’re betting your content marketing strategy on blogging there. Are you in any other social platforms? Like I find Reddit and Quora are really interesting.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:27:15] You know, all of those. So it’s blogging and podcasting and partnerships. I would say those are the three pillars for now. And if you ask me again in 90 days, the maybe we’ll have got enough progress there that we might want to add a fourth pillar. But if you’re trying to do everything from day one, you’re just not, unless you’re, you know, venture backed and have an unlimited pile of cash, which I’m choosing to fund this out of my own cashflow instead of raising money for investors, at least for now, there’s only so much you can do.
Rober Brill: [00:27:42] so turning, turning the tables a little bit. I’m a, I’m a big foodie. I have an Instagram called, Dude Lets Eat what’s really great to eat in Boise, Idaho, or wherever you might travel.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:27:54] And I am not a foodie at all. Now you’d have to ask my wife. For me, eye food is a utilitarian experience. although if you liked, I do like steak.
Chandler’s steak house in Boise is pretty spectacular. Barbacoa is pretty spectacular. Barbacoa, they’ve got this, what they call steak on the rocks, so they’ll bring this heated rock. To your table and the stake that they bring with you is like rare at that point in time. And then you cut the slice you want to eat and you cook that one little mouthful and you put it in your mouth. It’s awesome.
Rober Brill: [00:28:28] Well, that sounds lovely.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:28:29] It is great.
Rober Brill: [00:28:31] Cool Trent how do people find you.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:28:36] Well you can look me up on LinkedIn. That’s probably the easiest way. You can put a link to my LinkedIn profile in your show notes if you’d like, or you just Google, Google my name Trent Dyrsmid on LinkedIn, or go to LinkedIn and type in my name.
I’m the only Trent Dyrsmid on planet earth, so I’m not that hard to find.
Rober Brill: [00:28:48] Cool. And the URL for Floester is Flowster.app
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:28:54] like workflow. F L O W S T E R.app.
Rober Brill: [00:28:58] Cool. Thank you appreciate your time today.
Trent Dyrsmid: [00:29:01] No problem. Thanks for having me.