What are the Top Priorities for Building a Strong Agency Foundation?
If you’re in the early stages of your agency, what should you prioritize in order to grow? With so many things to track and so many hats to wear, how do you know what’s most important? What deserves your time and attention? As a solopreneur with a startup, building relationships and establishing values for your are crucial for growth. Yet, some owners are not equipped to maintain these parts of the business. So, how can you prioritize these factors when growing your agency?
Today’s guest, Christy Pretzinger, understands that solopreneurs are not in a position to oversee relationships consistently. That’s why she hires compatible talent to help her develop and sustain team-building programs and workshops. These initiatives cultivate a supportive culture and ensure her team embodies their values. Christy talks about maintaining a positive company culture and explains the importance of relationship building, how she attracts like-minded people and her strategies for maintaining client and employee relationships.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- Why it’s important to build relationships when seeking opportunities.
- Strategies for maintaining client and employee relationships.
- Growing an agency during uncertain and challenging economic times.
Christy Pretzinger is the President and CEO of WriterGirl, an agency that helps hospitals and healthcare organizations create patient-friendly website content to grow their brand and strengthen their position in the marketplace. Since 2005, Christy has grown WriterGirl from a freelance writing business into a nationally recognized healthcare content consultancy. She is passionate about building environments where people can thrive and strives to reinvent how we view the work world. As an experienced entrepreneur, Christy shares her experiences with younger agency owners to help them grow.
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Sponsors and Resources
E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.
Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: John Corcoran is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.
John Corcoran 0:00
Hey, I’m John Corcoran taking over for Jason Swenk in this episode of The Smart Agency Masterclass, and I run Rise25 and Rise25. We are an easy button to help businesses get more clients and referrals with done-for-you podcast and content marketing. And for over a decade, we’ve been helping companies to give to their best relationships and partnerships through a podcast. I also am a longtime podcaster and have done Smart Business Revolution Podcast since about 2010. And I got to know Jason by listening to his podcast, and then we joined his Digital Agency Elite Mastermind, we’ve attended his events. And we wanted to learn from someone who grew in multimillion dollar operation with over 100 staff and then sold it. So if you are an agency that wants to grow, contact Jason and his team because they can help go to digitalagencyelite.com. But you can also email [email protected].
And so I was also honored when he asked me to take over the show as a guest host. So check out today’s episode with an amazing agency owner. Today we’ve got Christy Pretzinger, and Christy is the owner and CEO of WriterGirl. It’s a fast-growing organization that creates content and provides strategy for hospitals, and healthcare organizations across the United States. Christy went from being a freelancer to an agency owner. So we’re going to talk about that journey. And she uncovered her passion for creating an environment where people can thrive writing a book on sharing your experience around doing that, just that. And one of the things that she talks about, and we’ll talk about this interview is about viewing culture through the lens of a balance sheet, and helping fellow business owners and others who have a direct impact on the culture.
So Christy, I’m excited to hop into those topics. And first, let’s start at your origin story, how you got into the agency world into becoming an agency owner, you’d been a freelancer, and you actually ended up, you knew a woman who a former client of yours, who’d started your company, WriterGirl, and you ended up partnering up with her. So talk a little bit about how that came about.
Christy Pretzinger 1:55
Okay, thanks for having me, I’m happy to talk to you. That’s, I guess, an interesting story. She was a client, and she brought me on as a partner, and really kind of to sell, you know, stuff that it was a company at the time that did advertising copy. So it did like headlines and naming and things like that. And a year later, her largest client, she really kind of had one client. And he was indicted and imprisoned actually for tax fraud. So she was expecting a baby and was obviously made her very nervous. And she wanted out. And so I bought her out for a pittance. And basically got the name of the company which is WriterGirl. But I had to pivot pretty quickly because there was no client anymore. And started seeking out more long-form content, because that was the kind of writer that I was. And you know, as the Queen, Oprah says, luck is preparation meeting opportunity. And so what happened is that through a series of events, a hospital group was redoing, they were merging and renaming actually. And they needed three websites done for each one of their three hospitals. And they had to be done pretty much simultaneously, the marketing director of that hospital group had been a former client of mine when I was a freelancer. So she reached out to me and thought that most of the content was done. And I came to find out like a week in that literally nothing was done. And I had like 35 writers on it, you know, within like 20 minutes. And then once we finished that it was a huge learning curve. But fortunately, it was going so quickly, that we could make mistakes, and then fix them without really causing any issue. And so by the end of that, I thought, well, I’ll bring teams of writers to hospitals.
John Corcoran 3:42
And so it just seemed right? Yeah. Before we get to that, I want to ask you about how you brought in that first big project. You know, was it it was a kind of a case of fake it till you make it, you know, you saw the opportunity? There must have been part of you that was saying, oh my gosh, wow, this is like a massive project for me something bigger than I’ve ever handled. So, you know, I’m wondering how you set yourself up, for lack of a better term to take on that big project?
Christy Pretzinger 4:14
Well, I’ll talk about I won’t talk about the one that made me decide to go into hospitals really was kind of an accident. So I’ll talk about how I actually deliberately went out and got one because that’s more interesting. And what happened? There were two things. One of them was I went to, I’m in Cincinnati, I went to The Ohio State University and ended up landing their business for a small project, just like a just a brochure at the time. But she was saying they had a whole bunch of work to do. And if we could do this well, but she was warning me that the medical director had an undergrad in English and then, you know, had gone on to get his MD and she said he hates everybody’s writing. And when we did this, he made two changes and it was like commas, and she couldn’t believe that. And so then she gave us a very large project to do the website content for their heart hospital, and that was probably the time the biggest single project we’d ever had. And I honestly wasn’t sure if we could do it that I’ve thought, well, I done that other hospital project, I did have some writers, I had done some learning. And I knew how to project manage that kind of thing. And I had a really good relationship with the client at Ohio State. And for me, I’ve always found, especially when I was building the business, that having that really, really working to build that relationship with the client was key to being able to not only produce excellent work, but get the grace if you made a mistake. Because I would always say nobody will work harder than me to find something about you to like, because, you know, clients can be challenging, right and personally, and what I think and there’s gotta be, there’s gotta be a point, like, I had to work with one of her employees, and this woman was very challenging. But over time, we finally did build a relationship, and then it just made it so much better. So that then you feel like you can, if you make a mistake, you can acknowledge that and they’ll give you the grace to fix it. So me relationship building has always been key. But then this was an interesting one to the next really big one. This was when I landed $150,000 from one client, and we’d never ever, ever had that kind of money. It was Indiana University. And I went through I’m a WeBank, a woman-owned business, which has never gotten me anything except this one time. I called the diversity person, who in this instance, was a man, which usually isn’t that it was. And for whatever reason, he’s like, Okay, I’ll connect you with our marketing director, which was like, Oh, wait, why? And he got me on the phone with them. And that hospital system at the time, had to use it or lose it budgetary thing. And they had like foreign $20,000 That was going to go away had been earmarked for something. And it didn’t fit in, or I think it had been earmarked. And the work didn’t get done in that calendar year, or whatever their year was academic year. And so they said, Can we give you a check for $450,000? And then work it off? And I was like, Well, yes, you can.
John Corcoran 7:06
That was not a hard Yes.
Christy Pretzinger 7:10
I can complete again, luck is preparation, meeting opportunity that was just me calling and thinking, Well, why don’t we try getting in this way? And
John Corcoran 7:20
that’s great. That’s great. How did you make that transition from being a freelancer to managing teams of writers? And all the different challenges that come from moving from one to the other? Can you talk about that?
Christy Pretzinger 7:37
Yeah, it’s interesting. In retrospect, now, I have a few different experience shares, I guess, around that. One of them is that when I became a freelance writer, a long, long, long time ago, I did it because I was a competent writer. I never wanted, I didn’t have a passion to be a writer, you know, I was a good writer, I made a good living as a writer. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t my passion. So when I started building WriterGirl, I wasn’t feeling like I had to hold on to being a writer and wasn’t like, oh my gosh, this is who I am. This is my talent. So as it started growing, I used to write project manager. And so the first thing I let go of was the writing. Because it wasn’t my passion anyway. And I was okay at project managing, I’m really, especially now, I’m not a detail-oriented person, I would really have to really put on that hat and do that. And then sales came more naturally to me, but at that time, as it is for most people building a business as a solopreneur, you know, at that time, you’re like, Okay, sell, sell, sell, sell, project, manage product, manage, and, you know, farm out the work to writers, and then oh, crap, there’s nothing in the pipeline, sell, sell, sell. You know, I mean, most people know that drill. So that was how I mean, like, a lot of people I was doing that the difference for me was unlike people who maybe are engineers and, and do something in an engineering field, or a doctor or like a dentist or something like that. I’m not the only one with the skill set. So I was able to move out of those roles. And because I had done all the roles, I knew what was required. And I could hire people that were better at it than I had been. And that was really key. I don’t think I knew that at the time. But I also never had a lot of ego around that. And I know sometimes that that’s again, an experience share that I see, especially with younger businesses where they think well, I’m the one who’s the best at that. I’m like, well, that’s great if you want to have a job for the rest of your life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t want a job for the rest of my life. So I was always really happy to hire people that were you know, better, faster, stronger than me in whatever capacity that was.
Strategies for Maintaining Client and Employee Relationships
John Corcoran 9:41
Yeah. Now I know one of your passions now is building maintaining a culture within your company. And you were telling me beforehand that one of the things that you’ve always believed is if I couldn’t build a business based on kindness, I would go back to being a free Freelancer so that was important to you. Was there a point Lean was our breaking point, like sometimes I talk to business owners and they realized that their culture is off. They don’t like their own culture. Sometimes they have to fire a bunch of people to change the culture. Was there anything like that? Or what was the realization that culture was really important to you as you built your business?
Christy Pretzinger 10:17
Well, I think because when I started freelancing, I had left a job because I felt completely unappreciated and taken advantage of, it had been a really good situation for a period of time. And then it just stopped being a good situation. And largely because the woman who had been my boss left, and I think she had shielded me from a lot of things and had promoted me and champion me. And that was wonderful. Then she was gone. And I was like, wow, this is a mess. And I didn’t like that at all. And I had had a lot of jobs, I’d moved around a lot before I only worked in the workforce for I don’t know, what, seven years before I started freelancing. And so and I think I’d had like four or five different jobs, I stayed about a year and a half the last one I was there for, I think, for years. So I’d seen a lot of different things that workplaces that weren’t necessarily that appreciative or kind to their people. So for me, it was always from the outset that I wanted to do that that was a core belief of mine. And I think, again, looking back on it, at the time, I have grown and changed but at the time, because of my own insecurities. I wanted to be everyone’s favorite client, meaning all the 1090 nines, the contractors that I would hire, I wanted to be their favorite client. And I wanted to be every client’s favorite vendor, I wanted everyone to like me. And so I thought that maybe I guess maybe kindness was a core thing. It’s always been a core thing for me. And then once I never had to fire anybody, because of culture until many years later. And that was just a situation we knew was going awry anyway. But really, the people that are drawn to this organization seem to be of like mind. And that has been I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know what that magic is. Because that’s actually been true in most aspects of my life, too. I haven’t had a lot of negative people around me, generally speaking.
John Corcoran 12:10
There isn’t, is there anything that you do deliberately in the hiring process, or in your own content marketing, that you put out on your own website that would attract people like that? Yes,
Christy Pretzinger 12:22
very much. So I mean, I think that there’s a lot of people when people look at our website, especially if they’re women, because it is a woman in business, and it’s called WriterGirl. And they’re like, oh, I want to work there, I think it would be fun. And we are very, pretty loud and proud about our values, which are we are empowered, curious, kind and fun. And so we do that in our own content marketing, we talk about that we talked about, we have a program called kindness counts, and we use that the organization to go out and do things in the community, you know, whether it’s, you know, volunteer someplace, or go clean up, you know, something that’s a mess, things like that. We also do something called moment makers that we do for our clients. So we try and mark a moment for them if they get married, if they have a baby if something happens, and so we do something. And we actually have a file within our SharePoint called moment makers, where we can put all that stuff so everybody can see it, and drawn it and build on it. So all of those things we do talk about quite a bit. And then the people that work for WriterGirl talk about it a lot. And they tend to have their friends want to come work and their friends tend to be project managers and writers or content strategists and things like that. So we get a lot, a lot, a lot of people that way.
Growing an Agency During Uncertain Economic Times
John Corcoran 13:29
And did you know many companies when COVID hit in 2020 film that they had to make deliberate changes to their culture, because all of a sudden, everyone’s dispersed? They’re not under the same roof? I don’t know if they were before. But did you have to make any deliberate changes in order to maintain that culture that you wanted when COVID hit?
Christy Pretzinger 13:48
Well, what’s interesting is when I was building the business, as I started hiring people, I never wanted an office because I would have to go there. And I didn’t want to have to do that. I didn’t like that whole environment. And, again, I think I’ve shared with you, John, that my goal was always to work as little as possible make as much money as possible. So I didn’t want anybody to see that I wasn’t going to the office. And so I mean, I was hoping that would happen at the time, it didn’t you know how it is, when you’re building a business, it’s like working 24/7. But I was hoping to get to the point where I am now where I don’t, don’t work as much. So we’ve been virtual from day one. So we did not miss a beat when COVID hit. And in fact, what we were able to do was help a lot of our clients who you know, largely work in hospitals and healthcare and some agencies that serve you know, like big agencies that are full service agencies that also are clients of ours that serve hospitals and health care and help them figure out how to do that virtually. You know, are there different tools that you use? How do you collaborate? How do you make sure that you still feel like you have a culture going on? And so much of it has been ingrained in us that we never had really pulled it apart before. And looked at it doesn’t like well, why does this work? You know what, what is the magic that makes it a an environment where people do truly feel like they can thrive.
John Corcoran 15:03
Yeah, some companies like Zappos, for example, developed a whole b2b culture consulting division, I interviewed the head of it a bunch of years ago. Were you were you it? Was this something that you just kind of did as, as an add-on without charging for it? Or did you ever think like, you know, we have built a really good culture, we should turn this into its own business initiative?
Why It’s Important to Build Relationships When Seeking Opportunities
Christy Pretzinger 15:26
You know, we never really did. It was just, it was really more ad hoc. And again, it was building those relationships with our clients. I mean, our mission is we build relationships, one word at a time. And then our values are, we’re empowered, curious, kind and fun. So that kind of underpins everything that we do. So if we had a client who’s like, Oh, my God, I’m working from home, my kids are homeschooling? I’m not really sure. And we were always like, Okay, first of all, just don’t worry about it. It’s fine. I got kids here, too. It’s okay. Let’s just make this work. And then they’d be like, Well, how do you? I don’t even know how to use Zoom. What is this? Like? You know, so just helping people with things like that? Yeah. Now, with the, with the book that I’m writing and things like that, that’s that really, it’s not so much about being a revenue generator, fine. If it is, it’s really more about having an impact on other business owners, you know, like us, that have a direct impact on culture, probably more smaller business owners, although within an organization, I’ve never worked in huge fortune 500 companies, but you know, the smaller groups within organizations have their own cultures, right, within a huge organization. So, my mission, personally, is to sort of reinvent the way people look at the world of work by making it someplace where it is literally life, work, balance, not work life balance. Hmm.
John Corcoran 16:38
I want to ask you also about you niche down and decided that you wanted to work with hospitals. Talk a little bit about that. thought process behind that, and how you did that. And were there bumps along the road. I mean, there’s been major health care legislation that has come down in the last 15 years, I don’t know if that ever, you know, changed the way that you had to operate.
Christy Pretzinger 17:03
Well, you know, what’s interesting is chaos creates opportunity, right. And if, if nothing else, you can say that healthcare in the US is chaotic. When we started working in healthcare, only trying to think like, even I know, 11 years ago, I think that the Affordable Care Act had just passed a little bit before that. So there were all sorts of things and hospitals, it was really just chaotic. They didn’t even know how to price anything. And that was one of the requirements at the time. Because they would just build it all into the, you know, the CAT scan that you had, or whatever, they have no idea how much surgery costs, how much anything costs, I still don’t think they do. But that was a general idea of trying to control costs by at first understanding them. So we had a lot of communication, there was a lot of opportunity for communication there. In terms of getting into it. As I said, After that one client hired me, it just I looked around, I was like, there are hospitals everywhere. And they must be doing things like this one is doing like, you know, doing entirely new websites where they have so much content that has to be written, who’s going to do that? It just seems like a really, it seems simple, you know, you tell yourself the necessary lie, right? It’ll be easy. That’ll be easy. And that looking at hospitals, and at the time, strictly content, not even content strategy was like we write words on the page. And the reason I did that was because that’s what I understood. I didn’t want to try and sell at the time search wasn’t even a big deal. But I didn’t want to do web development or design or any kind of that because I didn’t understand it. And I didn’t want to look stupid trying to sell something that I really didn’t understand. So we ended up probably inadvertently, narrow, narrowly niching in a way that worked really well it ended up being a very narrow and very deep niche. We’ve never had any problem having growth numbers within just that narrow niche.
John Corcoran 18:53
I want to ask you also about you mentioned earlier about the importance of relationships. And you said it’s always been about the relationship with the client. But you’re at a size now where I’m sure all the relationships don’t go through you. So as you as you grew to a larger point, and you had to step away, step back and let others manage those relationships. How did you you know, oversee that process to ensure that other members of the team were building that relationship in the way that you really wanted it to be built.
Christy Pretzinger 19:26
You know, it’s so interesting, because so much of things around culture and relationships is fair. It’s very esoteric, isn’t it? And it’s kind of hard to quantify it, which is exactly what I’m trying to do by looking at culture through the lens of a balance sheet. So one of the things that because first of all, I was bootstrapping it, it grew slowly. So I would still be involved at some level and I could see how someone was working. I did once have a project manager who was working with me and she started behaving very passive-aggressive manner to me. What the time I didn’t realize she was treating the client that way. I thought she was just doing that to me. Well, then we went to a client meeting. And I saw how angry the client was with her. And I was like, Oh my gosh. So that was a big learning. For me. It’s like, oh, however they treat me is how they’re treating the client. So I started sorting for that, and watching the kind of people who would be more interested in a, what’s the word, not a transactional relationship, but solicitous relationship and appreciative relationship. And then what because I was still, like I said, I was still involved, at some level for quite a long time, I could observe that and see, you know, what’s happening here. And also, another thing that I did very early on is we use the Enneagram as a tool. And even when we were much smaller, we have an Enneagram, coach, who types everyone. And then, when we were much smaller, we had full company groups, when they were like, I don’t know, seven or eight of us. And we would have workshops, full day workshops. So we really understood and dove into that. And I don’t know if anybody, any of you or the audience are familiar with Enneagram work. But if you have an excellent coach in the Enneagram, it’s more about your motivation, and really understanding why someone does what they do. And so when you know that about your coworkers, it, it builds empathy for them. So like when I was still managing more people, like, say, for example, I had an employee who was a three and I had to kind of, I can’t remember what I had, it was gonna be a challenging conversation. And so I was able to call the Enneagram coach and go, What should I, okay, this is what I have to do, which I do. And she was able to coach me through and say, Well, remember, as a three, she needs to feel like, she looks good, and that she’s winning. And so I could communicate to her in that way. And so we did that a lot. And so there’s this core group that has a real solid understanding of that. And we are continuing to build that out, we’ve grown, you know, we added, I don’t know, 15 people all at once we doubled in size, like within a six month period. And those people don’t have as much core knowledge about that as the rest of us. But we are actually bringing everyone in town for a retreat, and a big part of that is some Enneagram work to let people know how to use that. Did that answer your question?
John Corcoran 22:10
Yeah, nothing I want to ask about, which I think is fascinating. I can’t tell you how many businesses, I’ve talked to business owners I’ve talked to where, you know, they’ve experienced these big downturns and they’re predictable after nine eleven.com, meltdown, 2008, COVID, that sort of thing. And you say that you’ve actually you actually grew through these time periods. So I’m wondering if you could unpack that a little bit kind of reflect back on you know, the years with WriterGirl and why you think that was the case?
Christy Pretzinger 22:43
Again, some of it, I’m so not a, well, here’s your technique, kind of business owner, I’m much more esoteric than that. So for me, when we grew in, oh, eight and nine, I had a coach say to me, that WriterGirl is you and it won’t grow until you do. And so I’ve very deliberately spent time every day on personal development. For me, some of that was kind of some sort of some spiritual kind of reading. I didn’t read a lot of business books, I’ve never been a big business book reader, I don’t, they just don’t interest me that much, generally speaking, unless they talk a lot about culture and things like that. So I did a lot of a lot of that kind of work. And that was when we actually hit a million for the first time when I did all this work on myself. So I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think that that correlates, especially when you are a sole owner of a business. And I think even if you’re a partnership, you know, being able to grow yourself, and recognizing your blind spots, your weaknesses and embracing those, you know, and like I hire for my time I would hire for my weaknesses, I knew that this was not a strength of mine, I’m going to find someone who’s got that as a strength. So through it just coincided that spiritual work that happened to coincide with the big Oh, eight, nine, downturn, and our business just grew phenomenally now. I’m trying to think I didn’t hire my first salesperson until this is 22. And she’s been here 11 years today. So until 11. And that was a big deal. Hiring a salesperson was huge, because that took me out of the day-to-day sales. And I actually hired her and said, go build it
John Corcoran 24:18
Relate to the relationship piece as well, because the salesperson is building the relationship. And so she was when you hired her 11 years ago, and you have the same salesperson level, you have more but still have her she was 27.
Christy Pretzinger 24:29
She’s 38 She had just gotten married, and now she has five kids still works full time. So I’ve literally watched her, you know, grow up. And it’s, you know, really,
John Corcoran 24:41
what do you think that relationship work? Well, because again, another one that I’ve heard a lot from business owners is they go through different sales reps.
Christy Pretzinger 24:48
Yeah, I’ve had the same sales rep and the next sales rep has been there, eight or nine years. So, you know, I think part of it is that and I would really love to ask Reba that’s Her name this question. But I think what she would say is that I always knew that you had my back. You know, when I hired her, I had just gotten that big $450,000 piece of work from IU, I handed that over to her and paid her commission on it. And she worked it very hard and earned it because I knew from watching some of the businesses, I didn’t want to compete with her, I didn’t want to be out selling against my salesperson. So everything I did was to set her up for success. And so when I first was hiring people in those roles like that, I tried to do everything I could to, to make sure they were going to win. And she always knew that and saw that. And, and in fact, has said many times, you know, we have we very much appreciate each other that, that she’s always felt taken care of, for lack of a better word by me. And she said a lot. You know, we’ve been through a lot in 11 years, a lot of family things have happened on both sides. And, you know, she’s always had a very supportive environment for when these things happen.
John Corcoran 25:57
I mentioned, I touched on COVID briefly, but can you talk a little bit about how that downturn starting in March 2020 affected your business?
Christy Pretzinger 26:07
Yeah, when it happened. I told everybody because we were already all virtual. I said that anybody who wants a job with WriterGirl through all of this will have a job. We are not letting anybody go during COVID. There’s not gonna be any reductions in staff or anything like that. You said that early on. I said it right away. I said, Yeah, guess what, because because of our model, you know, we work with so many contractors, we could just shrink the contractor pool and bring the work into the people and keep them busy. If we needed to. That did not happen at all. Partially, largely because we worked in health care, and talk about chaos, right? I mean, that was completely chaotic. And they still needed to communicate to people and communicate differently. They might not even more. Yeah, yeah, differently, and more. And so we were able to help meet that need for them.
John Corcoran 26:54
Yeah. So but you did have to pivot though, to different types of communications. Right. Okay. Yeah. So like, communication. Okay. Okay. And did that feel like, well, we got to do what I gotta do? Or did it feel like, okay, here’s what we’re gonna, you know, an opportunity for us. I mean, sometimes companies resist thinking, okay, maybe this moment shall pass. But then as it goes on, they realize, oh, you know, we really do need to meet this demand in the marketplace, we can’t build that big website project, because they put it on hold, we’ve got to help with the crisis communications, when we could do that.
Christy Pretzinger 27:26
Because again, we have, you know, we have 29 or 30 employees. And then we have upwards of 80 to 99 writers that have been trained through the WriterGirl Academy. So they’ve been, you know, they’ve been vetted and trained. And we have, like a database of areas of expertise. So some of them might be marketing writer, some of them might be highly skilled medical writers, some of them might have crisis communication and PR experience. So we could pull from that, as well as recruit for that, if we needed it. I think we did a few if I’m recalling correctly, a few kind of crisis management. Like, you know, binder kind of things for people that could then be adapted for whatever crisis they’re facing. COVID was the one that let’s make it as kind of like, put crisis here. And then these are the things that you have to do. And we were able to do that. And I think we might have leveraged that, and done that for a few different clients at the time and said, Hey, we know how to do this, we can help you do this, because it could talk about their communication plan and the different kinds of things that they needed to do. You know, we’ve always had a big group of people that we were always willing to pivot and do something new. And again, I never once saw there’s someone who’s like, well, I don’t know if we know how to do that. But the person who does our recruiting is like, Well, we’ll find somebody that does, it all figured out and done that, you know, and I’m sure it was during COVID, that we started working with some consultants on various things. And one of the things that they helped us do was guide us through developing an ideal client, and then red, yellow green projects with those clients. And so then that helped us to kind of narrow down so we weren’t, again, niching even further, to make sure that we know these are things that we do, we do not do a lot of medical content writing, it’s very expensive to find those people. It lowers our margins. It’s challenging, because we don’t do a lot of it, it’s hard to source it. So that becomes a red product project that we probably wouldn’t take on unless it was with an ideal client, and they really, really needed it. And then we would do that.
John Corcoran 29:27
You mentioned WriterGirl Academy, that sounds like not a small endeavor to build that out. Talk a little about what that looked like and why you decided to create that sounds like a training program for your writers.
Christy Pretzinger 29:39
Yes. And that was many years ago, I kept wanting to do it. And we probably gosh, we probably had six or seven employees. And I kept saying I really want to WriterGirl Academy. And then I realized absolutely no one is scared of me because nobody was doing it. But I also wasn’t forcing it to you know, be done. So then the person who is now one of my EVPs of operations, I really want it for Gonna be an employee. And I think she’s been here eight or nine years now. And she had contracted with us before, and I reeled her in and didn’t have actual work for her. So I said, Here, just go build out this, you know, right URL Academy. And so with absolutely no training or instructional design background, she did. So she didn’t even know what a learning management system was. And I forgot to tell her because that is not my strong suit details. And so, but she did, she built it out, and over time, has adapted it and changed it and added to it. And at one point, my intention was to build that up as a separate business. And I did kind of try that. And I wanted to fail fast if it wasn’t going to work. And I think it was, I had the idea so many years ago, that if I would have done it, then but I didn’t have the time, the money or the resources. By the time I had the time, money and resources, the moment had passed. And it was going to take way more money and a lot more of my time that I was willing to invest. So I did it and was like, nope, not doing that. It was gonna be called wonder writer. And then we just I scrapped that, but we have all the content we developed for that, and brought that into the writer girl Academy. But it’s still it’s, you know, it’s still a challenge to keep it updated. Because unless you have a full time, you know, learning management, I mean, you know, person who’s an HR instructional designer, it’s challenging to keep that up to date, but we do a fairly good job of it, and everybody does is run through that.
John Corcoran 31:23
Right, right. And you see that that helps get people prepared to hit the ground running and to do the job.
Christy Pretzinger 31:29
Yeah, yeah, a lot of it is training them on the right or go away. And now we’ll be training them because we’re making a big investment in Salesforce. We’ve been using Salesforce, but we’re vastly upgrading it so that it will be good for the next five years at least. And there’s a portal that our 1090 nines can now access, they have not been able to access Salesforce prior to now. So now they will and we’re getting rid of all these other things like base camp and you know, harvest time tracking all these different kinds of things. So we’ll do a formalized training for them on this. So and that will be part of the academy as well.
John Corcoran 31:59
Got it. Got it. Well, this has been great. Christy, thanks so much for your time, where can people go to learn more about you connect with you learn more about WriterGirl?
Christy Pretzinger 32:07
Well, they can find me on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, somehow, again, I’ve hit my limit in technology, somehow I have two profiles on LinkedIn. And I’ve never bothered to get rid of the one that’s wrong. But the one that has more than 500. You know, connect is me. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also find us at writergirl.com. And you can email me directly. I’m [email protected]. I’m happy to talk with younger businesses that would like experience share. I also do offer coaching. And I’m happy to talk with people about that. And I really, as I said earlier, I think that it is so invaluable when you are a young growing business to find places like you know, Jason Swenk mastermind, like Entrepreneurs’ Organization because they’re like-minded people who can help you scale so much more quickly than I did. So I would highly recommend that.
John Corcoran 32:58
Yeah, absolutely. I second that. Christy, thank you so much for your time.
Christy Pretzinger 33:02
Thank you, John. Appreciate it.
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