How to Turn Shit into Sugar | Ep. #511

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In episode #511, Eric and Neil discuss how it’s possible to turn a failing company around. Tune in to hear their advice for turning shit into sugar.

Time-Stamped Show Notes: 

  • [00:27] Today’s Topic: How to Turn Shit into Sugar
  • [00:32] Before Eric worked for Single Grain, they were an SEO agency. When Google made adjustments, Single Grain turned to shit, because what they were doing no longer worked.
  • [01:00] When Eric took over, the balance was negative.
  • [01:31] In the first year, his podcast was only getting nine downloads per day, but he kept going because he knew something great was beginning to happen.
  • [01:49] He knew he would make things happen if he stuck to his goals.
  • [02:04] Eric was afraid to lay people off, but when things are shitty, you have to make quick decisions in order to turn things around.
  • [02:22] Getting help from his peers was extremely helpful.
  • [02:39] Neil has learned that anytime you think you can turn shit into sugar, it doesn’t happen overnight.
  • [03:02] Analyze your business and its problems. Set goals to attack the issues.
  • [03:32] It typically takes well over a year to turn a company around.
  • [03:49] When things are really bad, you can fix it if you don’t give up and have a good team around you.
  • [04:11] The numbers should start improving once you have goals and people in place.
  • [04:21] When Eric was leading the marketing team at another company, they only had funding for another five months.
  • [04:42] He decided to cut everything on the marketing side and focus on the one thing that had the potential to be effective.
  • [04:54] He bet the entire company on one marketing channel.
  • [05:03] Sometimes, you have to have to the guts and focus to bet it all on one channel. Once it works, you can expand your approach.
  • [05:24] Eric recommends learning how to play poker; it may help you learn how to deal with ups and downs.
  • [05:40] Neil recommends you read Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, because it will help you turn your shit into sugar; it will help you organize your plan of attack.
  • [06:15] That’s it for today!
  • [06:17] Eric and Neil recommend the Problem Solvers podcast, because there is a great episode about the Hello Fresh CEO. To listen go to

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The post How to Turn Shit into Sugar | Ep. #511 appeared first on Marketing School Podcast.

Full Transcript of The Episode

Speaker 1: Get ready for your daily dose of marketing strategies and tactics from entrepreneurs with the guile and experience to help you find success in any marketing capacity. You're listening to Marketing School with your instructors Neil Patel and Eric Siu.

Eric Siu: Welcome to another episode of Marketing School. I'm Eric Siu.

Neil Patel: And I'm Neil Patel.

Eric Siu: And today we are going to talk about how to turn shit into sugar. So I'll start first. This is a really good example of the agency that I run right now called a Single Grain. Now, just so people know, this is a company that basically we were an SEO agency before I joined. And Google started to make adjustments. Things started to become difficult for the company. And in many cases the company started to become shit because what we were doing before no longer worked. It's not the people that are shit, it's what we were doing just no longer worked. But at the end of the day, the financials were not working out anymore.
So when I took over the business a couple years ago, about four years ago I think, going on four, maybe five years or so, basically the company was negative. It was negative. So the question is how do you go and take something that is not that good and make it into something that, well, is humming like a machine. So for me, I can tell you that I went through a really tough slog. And what I can say is ... we've been talking about this in a couple other episodes, is just being consistent. Even with the first podcast that I did, I was only getting nine downloads a day after the first year. I was spending six hours a week on it, and that was all I had to show for it. But I kept going because I knew something great was happening because from time to time people would send me a email telling me how great it was.
Now, with the agency itself, I knew that for me I'd be able to make it happen as long as I set very specific goals and I stuck with it. It didn't work out the first year, it didn't work out the second year, but I just stuck with it and then made sure that I continued to make adjustments really quickly. What I found out in the very beginning was I was too afraid to let people go quickly, to lay people off. And the thing is, when things are really shitty, you gotta make changes quickly, you gotta make decisions really fast. Otherwise, at the same time, people at your company, morale's going to drop, but they are going to respect you at the same time.
So that's what I learned to do from a business perspective, but also what I can also say is getting a lot of help from my peers ... at the same time I joined Entrepreneurs' Organization, and that helped me a lot. I can say definitively, without the processes and procedures that they had, because they all went through really shitty times, I wouldn't have been able to save my business. So just make sure that you have peers around you all the time that can help you.

Neil Patel: I've dealt with turning shit into sugar many times, and I've seen other people do it. I have a buddy who just does this with hundreds and millions of dollars, and the one thing I've ended up learning from him is that every time you think you can turn shit into sugar, it never happens overnight. When you solve one problem, there's always another one that's going to pop up. The question is just when.
And what he ends up doing, and I ended up learning this process from him is, you go look at the business, you do analysis, and you break down, all right, here's the things that are the worst in the business that could be improved upon, and then you organize them based on how easy they are to fix, and you just go through it. Every week you need to accomplish more and more of these, and then when you look back after a year forward, you're going to be like oh my god, we accomplished all this stuff. And not did you accomplish that, you'll start seeing the revenue numbers change. They still not may be where you want them to be, but they'll get better. And turning shit into sugar doesn't happen overnight. It typically takes well over a year. If it was that easy to do it, you got lucky, because that means you didn't really have that big of a problem or what you were turning shit into sugar really wasn't shit in the first place.
But when things are really bad, yes, you can fix it as long as you don't give it up, you adapt fast, and you put in the right people. Because if you have the wrong people or people who are there, I don't care how much you like them, if it's shit, that means they weren't really doing a good job. So you need to put in people who can actually solve it, execute fast, and are focusing on the stuff that will have the biggest impact and are easy to fix first. And once you start adding a lot of them up, the numbers should start improving. But don't expect it to turn to sugar within the first 30, 60, or even 90 days.

Eric Siu: Yeah. And the other thing I'll say is when I was leading marketing at this one startup, we only had five months of cash left in the bank and there were about 48 people. And the CEO pulls me aside and says, "Eric, we've got to his numbers this month because 48 people, their families, they're lying on your shoulders." And so what I did at that time was basically looked at okay, we need to cut everything we're doing on the marketing side and just focus on one thing that has the most potential to help us hit numbers. Because before that, for the last two years we were not hitting any numbers at all. The company was stagnant. So it was a pretty shitty situation.
So I basically bet the entire company on this one marketing channel that had potential. It had potential. It wasn't even performing well, it's just the numbers were trending in the right direction. So sometimes yes, you have to have the guts to pull off something like that, but at the same time you have to focus, too. We focused in on that channel for months and months and months, and then we expanded into other channels and started to really grow everything else. So that's really important, I think, when times are really shitty, you gotta really lock in. And if you don't think you can deal with shitty situations ... this is a much more general piece of advice ... I'd recommend learning how to play poker. Play for 30, 60, 90 days or so and go through really shitty times. Because that's what life is. Poker helps you expedite that feeling so you know how to deal with really shitty situations, and it teaches you how to deal through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and life.

Neil Patel: Read a book called Traction. Eric and I both follow it. It will help you turn your shit into sugar. It helps you with things like scorecards and rocks, and I know I'm getting into vocabulary that's discussed in the book. But just check it out, buy the book. It will help you organize everything so you're getting more things accomplished each and every single week, and the whole team as well, so that way everyone's aligned. And what you'll notice, quarter after quarter you'll see really good improvements as long as you're following that book.

Eric Siu: Yeah, and that book, by the way, it's Traction, the Entrepreneur's Operating System. We're not talking about the ... there's some other books called Traction. So just FYI, definitely pick it up, highly recommended. And before we go, we have a episode on the Entrepreneurs Podcast Network called Problem Solvers, and this is with HelloFresh. And HelloFresh, they just recently filed to go public. And they are talking about marketing, cohorts and customer retention, which is stuff I think you all care about, right? So just go to And we'll see you tomorrow.

Speaker 1: This session of Marketing School has come to a close. Be sure to subscribe for more daily marketing strategies and tactics to help you find the success you've always dreamed of. And don't forget to rate and review so we can continue to bring you the best daily content possible. We'll see you in class tomorrow right here on Marketing School.

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