Deliberate Leaders: Improving Profitability for Digital Businesses with Vinnie Fisher

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

About Vinnie Fisher

Vinnie is the founder and CEO of Fully Accountable, an outsourced full service cutting edge accounting firm, that helps eCommerce and digital business owners through fractional CFO and accounting services.

In this interview, Vinnie Fisher shares how to stop overspending on customer acquisition and get back the profits your business is missing out on.

After the Interview

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes.

While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.

0:06 

Deliberate leaders. I am your host Allison Dunn, executive coach and founder of the Deliberate Leaders podcast where we are dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode we feature inspiring interviews. And today’s guest is no different. I have with us today Vinnie Fisher is the Founder and the CEO of Fully Accountable, which is a full service e commerce accounting and fractional CFO providing a provider firm specializing specifically in technology companies. In quickly meeting of any for the first time today, he said, I absolutely would not hire myself to work inside my own company. And that is how I’m going to kick off this podcast because I think, um, you are going to share with us exactly what you mean by that. And I think that sets the platform. So Vinnie, thank you so much for joining us today.

0:55 

Alli, thanks for having me, I, I our pre shows that we just shared a lot of the energy that I’m sure your clients and community benefit from. So I’m delighted to be here today to kind of like share in that and leave it all out on the table, why I wouldn’t hire me. Because I built this of a problem i. So I went out to you know, I build most of my companies with a kind of a problem solution orientation. And most of my ideation usually centers around my problems, I usually have a lot of problems. So I have things I can solve. Well, in my business endeavors, some of my best things have always been problems I’m solving. And so that led to other stuff well, fully accountable. And what it does is no different than any other business enterprise that I’ve successfully built. Because it centered on solving a problem in this case for myself, because I had absolutely no ability to do any of the things that our company can do for other people. And we set out to do this for my own, at the time eight figure company and learned a lot of the things that I was missing a big chunk of our company.

2:06 

And one of I appreciate, I appreciate that, because I think that that’s going to be the legs of our conversation today. In our introduction, you know, I’m based in Boise, you’re based in Ohio, and you check that you are working with a number of very large e commerce companies here in my market. So I understand that you work with our Clickbank and our Click Funnels and a number of other organizations, which I think is fantastic. So you created fully accountable out of challenge that you had for yourself. And so I know the topic that we’re going to tee up is growing beyond your shadow as a business owner. So can you tell us what was the problem? And what were you doing that you change you made that shift from?

2:50 

That’s a great question. And so you know, there’s two parts to growing beyond your shadow, one of the problems might exist in a lot of the community of who you serve, where someone’s the expert, and they provide the service they provide. And then they have to grow beyond their own limitations of being the service provider of what he or she provides. That’s one issue of a shadow where you cast a large footprint over what you do for the end user client, my shadow was a different problem, it was my blind spot of not paying attention to the bottom line, I only had a relationship to gross revenue. And so I would grow couple million dollars a month on the top line. And I had this awful relationship where I’d have all this money coming in and there’d be like pennies, so to speak left at the end of the month. And I’m like where’s all of our money going I just massive leaky bucket. And I had no ability to understand, like why there was thin margins left at the bottom, I started having a very guilty relationship to my own company, almost like shame based relationship, tragically broke one of those companies, and then of writing a best selling book about breaking that company. But I learned that I and by the way alley in full disclosure, I’m a licensed trained lawyer who has a tax specialty, and I even had a diminished capacity to net income to profit margin to what I keep I so addicted still to this day to gross revenue. And I’ve had to learn this enough fluency to protect the bottom line. And so the shadow problem I had in our company was I wasn’t investing and having a profit center mindset in our own company. And once I started doing that, I was able to massively grow beyond this shadow that I had placed on the business.

4:48 

That is a not uncommon story that you hear about being the expert and then you know I too am very growth focused but it how important it is growth doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything to say. to show for it at the end of the day.

5:02 

Right? totally true. You know, I actually literally, you know, I actually have a gift for your people. It’s fully accountable.com forward slash deliberate directions. And I’m sure that’ll show up in the show notes. The research thing that is because that this is free. But I literally is basic as this sounds, I woke up one day in a thriving health supplement company, I had doing multiple million dollars a month, and it hit me I’m like, wait a minute, it’s not my gross revenue. It’s what we keep at the bottom that matters. And that might sound like so basic to somebody listening or watching us. But it was like a third lung to me. I’m like, holy crap. It’s like what we keep. So at that time, we were profiting about 8% in the company. Well, that light bulb kicked in, and I found out the type of company, we were at the time should have been doing about 22 to 25%. Immediately, I’m like, wait a minute, I’m losing 14% a month, where the heck is it going? And all of a sudden, my attitude to the bottom line of our company changed, not someone else’s attitude, mine. And all the sudden I started getting on this journey of like, Where am I losing all these pieces, I didn’t become a QuickBooks expert, I didn’t realize how to suddenly run payroll, but I started becoming the defender of things we can deal with. And if someone could produce me information, I can make better decisions in our company. And so that gift I’m talking about are my two best selling books. One of them is called false prophets. It’s not the top line that pays you. That’s an entire journey of getting a relationship to your bottom line. And the other one, which I think is probably the better starting read is called the CEOs mindset. And it was I needed to wake up and go from an offer creator from a person who create a great product to realizing that once we hit this, like seven figure mark, I’m actually a mature business person that needs to run the company, not just a side hustle, another offer, it was that kind of mindset that got me started, I’m already running multiple eight figure business at this point. And it took that light bulb to go on, I was sick and tired, thankfully of giving it all back. And that’s what changed. And that’s why I’m so massively passionate about it, not because I provide a service that solves one of those problems is because until I got right, with wanting to solve that problem, I was not going to do the things necessary inside of our company to fix those problems.

7:31 

Well, I super appreciate the gift that you’re giving to our listeners. And that will be show notes. That’s phenomenal.

7:39 

It’s there’s just get it you will send it to you. If you live in the US. If you don’t we’ll give you a digital company, but just go get it I double dog dare you to read the first chapter of each book. And if you don’t go any farther, the least you will do that much better for your business. There you go.

7:55 

That’s fantastic. Um, I, I meet with a lot of businesses across the country and understanding their profit margins. Yeah. I mean, they’re how their growth impacts their I don’t either improved profitability or lack thereof. Yep. And what has been in in the experience that you you’ve been through what was a couple of your most eye opening things where you go, like, I can’t believe I didn’t see that.

8:24 

Yeah, so the first thing that I really appreciated was the concept that the accounting and finance world uses called benchmarking. And so it is as simple as taking your profit and loss statement, which is just as monthly running total thing for everyone who’s scared like I was at what that means. One of your financial statements. benchmarking is where you take basically a snapshot of yourself this month, last month, some period of time in the past, like a year ago, if you’re old enough, measure against yourself. And then add another column where there’s an industry standard of the type of business you are. So you can see where you sit on payroll, cost of delivering your service cost acquire the customer, your customer service, your merchant processing fees, everything broken down. As soon as I saw that, I’m like, holy cow. I know right? Where our problems are. The problem for me was I could never read those things. They’re like invisible to me. So I needed someone handing me a very basic email version of that. But once I had that in front of me, I’m like, Well, of course we have six too many people working here or we’re spending too much money on all of these channels, or I became laser focused. And the best thing that came out of that was I was trying to serve too many people. I got laser focused in on my audience. I went after cost of acquisition first. It’s what changed for me but I had this relationship to net revenue that I was not able to have on my own until somebody put it in a neat little package for me.

10:01 

Industry benchmarking. I have I come from architecture engineering, which is very generous and sharing their benchmarking information based on size of firm and revenue and whatnot. Our coaching industry is actually really good about having benchmarking data. Does every industry have benchmarking data?

10:20 

Yeah, you might have to look a little harder. You know, each industry has its own little like watchdogs and things they do, I’ve noticed that if you’re having a harder time, it’s because you’re not sure how to use a thing called the Google and look, or you’re not being creative in it. So each industry, and I’m being loving has a usually an association or some type of like, think tanky group that produce information. And so you just got to go lean into that, you know, what I do? Also, I call people that look like an act like there might be my competitors. Like, I don’t really believe in competitive stuff. It’s competition in my mind. And maybe it’s the athlete in me that does that. And it’s a game against one. But you know, if you look at the Titans in business, they all work and communicate with each other. And so even if they are serving the same customer with the same thing, and so I pick up the phone, maybe I’m just dumb enough to not realize I shouldn’t do that. I just pick up the phone and call people over my industry. And I just, maybe it’s the country bumpkin in me, even though I’m not one who just asked kind loving questions, and I get information back. So even that works. And so I have relationships with people who claim to be competing with me for work. And I asked like, what do you guys spending on this? What do you got for this? And I let them ask me that in return like I can. We’re serving hundreds of people, let’s say we’re massively massively successful. We’re serving thousands of the 200,000 that I’m capable of serving in our category, it’s a mere drop in the bucket. So you can find out information, all you get is just like, what to look for it.

11:55 

And I completely agree, I think it’s awesome that you’re comfortable and picking up the phone to reach out to at least you know, those in your same industry. I will openly admit, I’ve never had anyone turn me down for asking the question of where they are on their, you know, certain margins, or where their profit level or staffing so get over ourselves, right? And be a little bit vulnerable to ask the question, because if you ask it in a way that says, Can I ask for some help the most people are willing to give it which I think is a great message to remind people of?

12:28 

I wish I would have asked sooner Alli like had I had the humility and foresight to ask sooner I the millions that we gave back, maybe I would have given less of those millions back and you know what, maybe that season of my life, I wasn’t mature enough to see it. And maybe the message now is I want to encourage people not to wait that long to do it. But Gosh, darn it, what’s the worst thing that happens? You get to meet a fellow business owner who knows you’re going through struggles and you’re no longer doing it alone, like, and I started out with wanting to acquire him because I just wanted to be bigger. And in the process, I created relationships, and I’m still an outsider, I want to be really clear. I’m not part of the brethren. So I get treated a little differently for that. And so sometimes, maybe they want to pick my marketing brain or other stuff, and sopia we have whatever our relationship is, but Gosh, darn it, I love knowing a little bit more about the industry people that run around near in our stuff. I’m way smarter what we do because of that. I asked my coo and others and our executive team that kind of the same attitude.

13:30 

Yeah. Yeah, that’s fantastic. Um, how big is your team.

13:34 

So we run about just a little under 75 people on the team. And so my job is 90% of my day, if not more honestly, is spent with our clo, I have an executive team. I’m also somebody who’s had the privilege of either acquiring building or having a little bit of depth in my portfolio. So when you add in my other three operating companies, we’re north of 100 people that run around and do their thing and whatever. And so my day is spent on leadership development now. I think it’s important that people see different seasons and be careful of which season you’re emulating. Because I think we need more dedicated leaders focused on what they’re growing, not trying to grow their side hustle. So for me, I’m working through anxiety and boredom, sometimes anxiety of missing out on what other people have and boredom of not being this unruly teenager with too much money in my pocket, getting distracted.

14:32 

That’s great. I love your brutal honesty about yourself. And I will compliment you I absolutely love the name of the business and can’t believe that you got it. How is that available?

14:45 

Oh my gosh, I’ll tell you the story. So it’s 2014. I’m building this inside of our health company at the time consumers choice between the upselling great story around all that. I’m driving over to a fulfillment center to see if we want to switch from one to another Tony. We didn’t switch. I still love you. But we were actually going to look and see about that. And on the way over, as we were, like really close to ready to package up and sell the company. I told Chris, my business partner, Hey, bud, I think we got something here. He’s like, Oh, yeah. And we literally with this little app domainer made up the name in the car. And I bought it for $1 99 and said, I think this is the right name. Now, mind you, six years ago, everyone thought we were nuts. The tech didn’t catch up some of the real time ability to create, we had to build some of that stuff manually. Now, with outsourcing being hot. And all this stuff. We look like overnight successes, but at the time, totally. I like marketing and branding. So it just sounded right. And I jumped on it.

15:47 

Yeah, fully accountable. It is a great name. Thank you very much free way. And so your primary focus or specialty, your niche is e commerce, right? Like technology based companies?

16:02 

We say we speak digital. So if you do high transactions on the internet, whether you sell a product, sell membership services, it’s a back end coaching vibe, you have a what we might call a software, we live in that world of high transactions, and we serve as the comptroller, and or CFO to you guys outsourced on a fractional basis, we say we do all four jobs in the accounting firm for less than you can hire the lowest one.

:27 

That’s awesome. What would you say, based on knowing that that’s kind of the market that you’re serving? What are the profit margin improvements that you are helping most companies focus on for anyone who’s listening today. So they can be thinking about that.

16:45 

42 cents of every dollar is spent overspent trying to acquire the customer in the first time, or even re engaging your existing customer. So the most expensive thing in high transaction business is spending too much money to acquire the customer. It’s the most expensive category. So the cost of acquisition is, by far the number one thing, what we find out with most advertisers who are like me, we have this digital envy across channels. And people are in too many channels burning too much of their money. Now, that’s one of two reasons. Either they have a great offer, and they’re trying to give it to too many people, or they have an offer that needs improved, and there’s got to tighten up their audience. In either scenario, like we The first thing we say is know who you’re marketing to, before you figure out what you’re marketing to how you’re solving their problem. We’re trying to be too broad. Everyone wants to be as broad as they can. And the secret weapon a fully accountable is that I stood for an audience a niche. And everyone’s like, why are you guys so big? Well, I know exactly what I’m talking to seven figure business owners doing high transactions, e commerce or membership, you know exactly who I work with. If you’re not that you’re not the right fit for us. Well, if other businesses could know exactly who they’re talking to, they can massively save a lot of the money they spend to acquire that customer.

18:07 

Excellent advice.

18:11 

I’m, in fact, 42 cents of every dollar spent on average acquiring the customer, here’s the thing, four out of every five businesses closed for lack of cash flow by 82% of the companies. And the number one waste problem is acquisition of the customer in the digital world. what’s so exciting for all of us is that the entry point to get into this type of business is now easier than ever, it’s also the fastest category with where you can lose a bunch of money without knowing what you’re doing. So micro tests cut down on too many channels. That’s the first part. And then the other things, it’s a combination of it, you know, one of the things we give away on our little gift page is this five by five by five formula, we say if you can cut out 5% of your expenses, and you can knock out 5% of your direct costs. And then you can add 5% more revenue after you do those things, you could literally double your profit margin. So we’re not talking about going and do all these crazy things where you and I say we got to three x the business to all this stuff, we have so many micro adjustments we can make to indirect and direct expenses. And if we do those first and then go hammer out, adding just 5% more revenue, you literally will double your profit margin.

19:25 

In in the digital marketplace that you’re working in, what are your favorite channels that people are actually optimizing their dollar ship? Does it totally depend on the product?

19:36 

It depends on the audience, to be honest, I mean, the audience so you know, the there the each audience has its own set of people, like if I’m going if I have a younger crowd, and they respond well to an offer. Well, I have limitations based on the platform. So let’s leave that aside for a second and say, you know, Facebook doesn’t like health supplements. So you got to work a little harder there. But let’s just say For a second, it’s not a platform limitation. Well, young people don’t love Facebook anymore. So if I have a young audience, I’m probably living in Instagram or Twitter or some other places. If I have a little bit longer sales cycle, maybe I mean YouTube, or maybe I’m in a training area, like, I got to know who my audience is like. So one of the health companies that’s in our portfolio has an older age demographic, 45 plus 55, really, and above is our age demographic. So that person we do quite well on Facebook with because they live there. We also do really well in email, we also do well in the affiliate platform or other people email. Now, if I had a younger audience, maybe I would be other places, maybe I actually wouldn’t have an Instagram account. Maybe I would tweet and tick and talk and do some other things. I want to know what my audience is before I look at a channel. Okay.

20:56 

So the takeaway for people to evaluate the channels that they’re currently doing client acquisition in and figuring out how you can shave down that extra cost?

21:07 

Yeah. Okay, fantastic thing I would do is, if you’re in more than two high performing channels, you’re in too many places. To add a third one, when there is depth and growth. What I be honest with you, I did this, I know you’re spread too thin. So the dollars of going deeper don’t exist, because you’ve burning it being everywhere.

21:28 

Yeah. Excellent. And if any, I always like to ask my guests that I have on the show what they’re, you know, number one leadership tip would be for our listeners, and you’ve got lots of tips. But from a leadership standpoint, what would you would you want to share.

21:46 

So I’m a, I’m a quick start a high energy guy, I can get excited about the weather change, I get excited about a lot of things, and I bringing the passion into things is never been my problem. I also have a massive ability to do something faster than most people, I had to learn to give people room to critically think, think and grow at a gap that’s differently different than me. So in that book, CEOs mindset that you get for free, I wrote about a principle we live around here called the 70% rule, I had to get comfortable with somebody doing it as 70% as well as me. And until I got comfortable that I never gave them room to actually critically think and grow. They were so worried about pleasing me. Once I saw that there was a real gap. And it was the journey as part of it. The ability for me to lead dynamic, awesome, amazing people who are far better at certain things than I am exploded in that gap getting relationally comfortable. That was the biggest deal to be honest with you.

22:52 

Yeah.

22:54 

Knowing that people will accelerate at different spots in a different way. And not just out of the gate, you know? Yeah, I think that’s, that’s a that’s a fun. That’s a super fun tip. Thank you for that.

23:04 

I may not ever get the more than 70%. And is that good enough? Well, maybe not for me, but it might be for them? And does that fit within our overall thing? And so that is really super clear, and simple and stupid hard to do?

23:21 

Yeah. Yeah. Um, I am super curious. What do you see on the horizon for this coming year or two from a digital? You know, what are the pains that your customers are having?

23:36 

I’m, I’m very much free spirited, kind of go by the seat of my pants type person, I’ve really come to appreciate how everyone really answers to routine. When it gets disrupted, people get disrupted. And so what we’re watching now in this marketplace, is everyday people are waking up with trying to learn a new routine. If you’re honest, and you look at every the think tank type discussion, I’m a voracious reader, and we’ve accelerated at least three years of digital buying behavior. If that’s true, all we’ve done is accelerate what was going to happen. And so people are trying to figure out a new routine. Well as that new routine sets in, I think we’re gonna have hybrid type work environments. I think the adoption rate of direct to consumer is going to explode if not already. But what used to be a problem where you could break even on direct to consumer because you’re trying to convince someone to buy online, I don’t have to convince him anymore. So now what used to be breakeven, the businesses that are going to survive are going to actually have adequate cash flow. So I think this idea of breaking even is going to be a massive mistake. If the direct to consumer businesses don’t switch to consuming and conserving cash from breakeven to try to adopt people to buy online, you got them now. So now you got to change the habit and really try to be profitable on acquiring those customers,

25:01 

right? And in the digital space that you’re working in, are you is it delivered like to the direct to consumer, for example, like you are like products are being delivered to the door, right?

25:13 

Aare you one of multiple channels, right, you might be really good at using Amazon as your, your vehicle for shopping cart, you might have your own shopping cart, and you have your own fulfillment center using a third party logistics place to ship it. and everything in between, right. And then there’s also the deliverable of the consumer who might be digesting your stuff, info wise, software wise, download are that same mindset exists of acquiring that customer, you just might have the luxury of a little bit better margin that you’re blowing on acquiring the customer. Yeah.

25:48 

And one of the trends that I’m seeing it with my customers is that they are challenged with some of the logistics and the deliveries of FedEx and UPS and not directly, but they’re being kept on what they can get to consumers.

26:03 

That the thing that’s going to happen during this holiday season, I think, I think if I was in charge of the logistics and service for our products company, I would get ready with my cadence to my customer. Because I think when we shut down earlier in the year, because the supply chain slowed down, people were forced to be somewhat tolerant of it. If you pay attention to what FedEx and UPS is saying, right now, they’re anticipating delays, and they’re kind of telling on themselves. So I would be ready to get ahead of that, if I get caught in that. Now, I don’t think most businesses can afford to hit stand on the inventory, and then do some other kind of shipping thing. So I don’t know that I would do that to get through the season, I might just be communicating better with my customer about and maybe warn them now. That’s why everyone’s starting their black friday attitude now to get ahead of it. And if I could communicate with the prospect and consumer like that, I might try to get ahead of it, too.

27:10 

All right. You know what I think that’s all. That’s all they really can do to be able to get them to act and put in the shopping cart and get shipped right now. Yeah. Excellent. Is there anything else I didn’t think to ask you, I know that we’re kind of at the top of our time together.

27:25 

I think the only thing I usually get is how can someone so good looking like you have a business that’s going so well. That’s okay, no, no, no. Hey, I again, I love it. I love your energy, I can see why people follow you. So take advantage of our free gifts. I don’t have much else to say, you know if you’re in the world of the person that you’re not sure where to go we created during this whole pandemic and break down a week carefully accountable comm send us an email, like reach out to us. If we’re not a good fit, we’ll find you the right fit. If you’re not sure. And you want to have a Zappos attitude as to how to get something our people answered the craziest questions all the time.

28:07 

I love that Vinnie. It has been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for both of your gifts that you’re offering. That the just address for that will be in the show notes. I appreciate your time and I look forward to seeing what you’re up to in the future.

28:23 

Thanks, Alli. Really appreciate you having me today. Thank you.

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