8/24/2021»»Tuesday

Gareth Pronovost Airtable

8/24/2021
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  1. Gareth Pronovost Air Table Top
  2. Gareth Pronovost Air Tables
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Take our free Airtable Crash Course!Stuck? See how we can help!our Ai. Gareth, who is now an Airtable Consultant, was laid off from his job in 2017. After joining my program, he made over $10,000 in his first month of consulting. He now regularly makes $20,000 per month which is way more than he used to get at his corporate job. Meaning using a v-lookup is not possible with Airtable. There is another type of 'lookup' that is not overly difficult to learn but just takes more time to learn something different based on Airtable's documentation. To help with that, I've provided below a free tutorial titled 'Lookup Function Tutorial' from Gareth Pronovost that breaks it down.

Episode Summary

What’s up everybody! This week I’m joined by Gareth Pronovost, Airtable consultant, founder of GAP Consulting, and creator of Airtable Automation Machine. He’s here to share his course creation story and how Airtable Automation Machine helps businesses build databases and automate their workflows.

Having been a financial analyst in a billion-dollar public company, Gareth knows the burden of spending countless hours doing reports manually on spreadsheets. This slow and inefficient process prevented him from doing the work he should have been focusing on. Then, Airtable came to his rescue.

With Airtable, Gareth was able to automate his workflow, organize data, and eliminate long hours of manual work. Now with GAP Consulting, he’s helped hundreds of business owners do the same. His course, Airtable Automation Machine, helps entrepreneurs optimize their Airtable setup, integrate business process, and train their team on Airtable on their own schedule.

Join us to hear how he turned his high-touch consulting process into a detailed course, and how he’s helping business owners focus on the work they love.

+ Episode Transcript

Gareth Pronovost: Again, let me stress. None of this was built when we started selling and we had a five-figure launch, so that was enough validation at that point for me to say, all right, so we're not going to refund this money and say, sorry, we're not building it after all, we're going to go ahead and build it.

Janelle Allen: Welcome to Level Up Your Course, where we pull back the curtain on what it takes to create learning that transforms lives. You will hear stories from business owners like you who share their success and their struggles. This is not where you come to hear passive income myths, friend. This is where you learn the truth about building a profitable learning platform. I am your host, Janelle Allen, and this is today's episode.

Hey everyone, today I am speaking with Gareth Pronovost, founder of Gap Consulting. Gareth is also the creator of Airtable Automation Machine, which we are going to talk about today. Gareth, welcome to the show.

GP: Thank you so much for having me.

JA: I'm excited to chat with you. We have been getting to know each other for a little while now and so this is fun, and also introducing you to the listeners and talk about all the great stuff that you do. But before I get too far ahead of myself, we have a tradition on the show called the rapid five -- five quick questions to help listeners get to know you. Are you ready?

GP: I'm ready. Let's do it.

JA: All right. Number one, what did you have for breakfast?

GP: A pot of coffee. French press, black.

JA: A whole pot of coffee.

GP: Yeah, that's the breakfast of champions. I'm not a big breakfast person. I'm not. Okay. I get maybe three cups out of it. It's pretty much my morning ritual.

Gareth Pronovost Air Table Top

JA: Okay, gotcha. Number two, what is your favorite movie of all time?

GP: Might be cliche to say it, but The Matrix.

JA: Yeah, I watched that recently again. I was like, oh yeah, this was a thing. Okay. Which one?

GP: Yeah, the first one. Yeah, totally groundbreaking. And I remember watching that in like the late 90s when I think it came out and I was just like what? I'm pretty sure we do live in the matrix, so I think it's, you know, apropos I guess.

JA: All right. Number three. This is a serious one, all jokes aside for the moment. The zombie apocalypse has hit the earth. You have six minutes to grab three essential items to survive. Not family. All your family loved ones are okay. What three items do you pick?

Airtable

GP: Dang, I didn't know. You're going to start with hard questions Janelle. Okay, I need a knife because you can pretty much do everything with a -- so when you say zombie apocalypse, I'm assuming like technology has failed. Like the world is coming to its knees, right? So a knife is going to get me pretty much everything. I'll be able to skin my carnivorous ways, provide my family with some food, maybe build some traps, get some kindling. Okay, so all right, knife. I'm going to grab whatever fire supply I can find. So even if that's just lighters or whatnot, and a baseball bat, I hate to channel Negan, for anybody, you know, Walking Dead fan, but I just feel like that is a good weapon to keep the zombies at arm's length.

JA: Okay. Those are fair. I love that you have two weapons. Most people are like my AirPods, my iPhone and my favorite piece of jewelry. So…

GP: Okay.

JA: I just learned a lot about you and I love it.

GP: Well those, those people are never gonna make it past a day. Come on, guys.

JA: I know, I know, that's why I ask this question.

GP: What are you doing? You're not on my team if that's what you answered. Just saying we're not inviting you to our camp. Sorry guys.

JA: Yep, it's not going to work. Alright. Fill in the blank -- when I was a kid, I wanted to be a blank.

GP: There were a couple things. Farmer is the first one, inventor was the second and then painter.

JA: That's why we get along so well because I love farming. I want to get back to it one day.

GP: Do you really?

JA: Yeah. So, okay. This is not rapid five anymore. This is like Janelle and Gareth just chatting. I volunteered on a farm when I was in grad school and absolutely fell in love with it. It was, so -- it's hard to even describe just the feel of the soil in your hands and just the getting in tune with nature. Oh my gosh, I loved it.

GP: No, I totally empathize with what you're saying. It's a, you know, my daughter and yeah, we're just chatting, we're just like off script already, huh? My eldest daughter, she's 15 and she's one of those and it's probably largely age based, but she's, she's in that like whole like I don't want to leave my room thing. And I'm just, I'm like, girl, if you don't get outside and like experience life, like how are you --

JA: Yeah.

GP: I gel with what you're saying there. There's something about getting, getting your hands dirty, like literally and figuratively. It's without compare. Anyway.

JA: Yeah.

GP: We're five minutes in and we're getting preachy and heartfelt already.

JA: I know, right?

GP: I know people are already tuning out. They're like, yeah no.

Gareth Pronovost Airtable

JA: Warning, warning. All right. Last one. What is hardest lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur so far?

GP: It sounds like it would be an easy lesson, but the hardest thing for me to wrap my mind around is that time and value are not directly correlated. Because if you're born an entrepreneur, good for you, but I had to fight and scrape my way into it, so I had to teach myself a lot of this stuff. And the big rewiring that I had to make happen in my brain was this lesson that I had learned previously that I now think was incorrect. And that's the amount of time that you spend doing something should determine its value. And it absolutely does not, because as an entrepreneur, nobody cares how much time you're investing to solve their problems. They care that the problem gets solved and that has a value to them.

JA: Absolutely. It's what in my group program, I tell my students, even outside of the group program, I've talked about this, of looking for expensive problems. If there's a problem that is just super painful, it's costing me a lot of money or a lot of time, I don't care what it takes, I just want you to fix it. You know? I love that you shared that because I think that it's so true. We do think, oh, you know -- I just had this conversation with my business coach and he's like, okay, so you've learned how to do this a little faster, but that's not a bad thing. You don't get penalized for working more efficiently. That's okay. So I definitely, I empathized with what you just said. So true.

GP: Right? But isn't it so backwards that when we work in, let's say corporate America or even if we're just working for small business, right? But we're working for the, you know, 'the man' and not for ourselves, that we are penalized if we find more efficient ways to do something. So backwards.

JA: It is, and that is a perfect segue into your story, right? Because you know, as I mentioned earlier, Gareth and I, we've been working together for a little while. So I know a little bit about your story, but I don't think you've ever shared the full story with me. But the part that I do know that ties to what you just said is, you know, you had to battle with spreadsheets and you found a more efficient way to get things done. So let's talk about your entrepreneurial journey and how you fought and scrapped your way into it. How did you get here?

GP: How long is your show?

JA: Well, you know what, what was your first foray into entrepreneurship? Let's start there.

GP: I read a book when I was in my early, early twenties. It's a charged book now, but when I read it, I didn't know it to be that. It's Atlas Shrugged and there's a lot of affiliations with that novel now that I didn't have when I read it. So I came from a place of innocence. But what spoke to me was the commitment of these characters to redefine the way the world was, to not accept it as it's been packaged and handed to them and to create their own paths, which in a sense in my mind is largely what entrepreneurship is. So anyways, so read that and I was like, oh, I'm going to be a business owner. I didn't know that was a thing, but now I do. And now that's like my journey, that’s my goal. But I was 20. I had already dropped out of college at that point. And yeah, I wasn't even close to it.

So fast forward some years I went back to school, finished my degree that was almost complete when I dropped out, so it just made sense to finish what I had started. And that was in applied math. And then from there I went straight into an MBA program that focused on entrepreneurship. While I was there, my -- you know, you have to do like the gen ed stuff, even with the graduate program. And my finance professor said, hey, you know, you've got a real knack for this stuff. You should probably double major in finance too, it's only going to cost you like another couple grand and then not to mention the hours of education. I was like yeah, let's do it. Which honestly, it served me well in a lot of ways, because my first business, I actually started while I was in grad school and it was an Amazon reselling business. So, I built some really cool algorithms that calculated basically -- we were buying products, selling them on Amazon and treating them as if they were stocks, right? Except that they were tangible assets.

I had formulas written that would say, okay, well I can buy this for so much and, you know, here's what I project it being worth in this amount of time and what's my return on investment and all of that stuff.

JA: You're a nerd. You're a nerd.

GP: Oh I'm a total geek, total geek. Totally.

Pronovost

JA: I love it.

GP: Yeah that was my first business and it did okay but it was just a hard thing to scale. Because as you know, like the story of my life apparently, finding a business not only that solves a high ticket problem as you mentioned earlier, but also finding one that you can scale in such a way that you don’t necessarily double your work when you double your client load, that is the challenge to me. And I didn’t know that back then. And so these are things you learn. So that business did okay. Eventually though it got to the point where it wasn't enough for me and I wanted to try something else.

JA: How long did you run that business?

GP: Two years, roughly two and a half years. So it went through my final year and a half of grad school and then a little bit of time afterwards. It was nice. I learned a lot and then we get into the dark years of Gareth's entrepreneurship. I was looking for another thing to do following that business and a friend of mine said, hey man, e-cigarettes are the new thing. So, you know, to set the stage, this is like 2009 right? And I was like, hmm, I don't know if I want to have a part of that. I don't know that that like aligns with who I am and all of that stuff. And anyway, long story short, I got into a business that I shouldn't have gotten into and we started making the e-liquid that is vaped and that industry is so the wild, wild West. Like, oh my gosh.

Not to mention the fact that I'm here, I am trying to show up at these vape shops with a tie on, hi, my name is Gareth, I'm a recent MBA graduate and here's the business that I just started and all the guys who are selling stuff are, you know, looking at me like, dude you do not belong here. And I was like, oh, man, this is a mess. So anyway, so that happened and then after that absolute dismal failure, then I decided, well I'm going to go to work for the SBDC, which is the Small Business Development Center. Are you familiar with that at all?

JA: I mean we have them, it's not in Denver, but we have a small business development center here in Chicago too.

GP: Yeah. So same organization. Actually I was in San Diego at the time, but a friend of mine or an alum from my MBA program, he'd graduated before me, was the director or acting director. I'm not sure what his title was, but he said, man you need to come over and help with this. You know we're trying to turn this program around, because they had a location that was getting a bad reputation. And I was like, man, why would you want me to come? I just flopped. My last business was a mess. And he was like, yeah, exactly. I bet you learned a lot. So anyway, so went out and I, that's when I really fell in love with working with entrepreneurs and helping guide them on their journey.

Fast forward to then, you know, many years, or a couple of years in the grand scheme of things and then I fell into what I'm doing now and wow, that's been a whole other ball of wax.

JA: Wow. You gave us the genesis of becoming an entrepreneur. Thank you for that. But talk about where the idea for your current business is and share what your business is, what you do.

GP: Yeah. I didn't know if you wanted to get into it right yet, but yeah, totally happy to. So what we do is we help entrepreneurs and other businesses to organize their data and automate the backend processes. And we do that in two ways. We have a coaching program that is a course with, you know, weekly webinars and very interactive group coaching platform. And then on the other hand, if the business, we have a development team. So sometimes generally larger clients will just say hey, we don't care about the how, we just want it built. But what really fires me up is working with the smaller business who says we need to know how this thing works so that we can constantly make improvements to it, constantly evolve our processes. And those are the folks who are great fits for our coaching program.

JA: Yeah.

GP: So how did we get here? Long story short, and actually it involves a mutual friend of ours, but Serenity and I have been buddies for quite a long time and he's been running his business for years now. And I read an article about Airtable, which is the software that we use to organize all this data. Airtable's a relational database platform in the cloud. If you're not familiar with it, it's a super cool program. I would definitely recommend checking it out. But I read an article and then experimented with the product and was like, oh, this is pretty cool. I mentioned it to Serenity Vass, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Couple months go by, he reaches back out to me in our normal, you know, friend conversation. He brings up, oh, that software you mentioned, it's revolutionized the way we do business. And I was like oh, cool, let me see what you built. And he shows me and I looked at it and I was like, well, you know, I think what you did here is cool, but you're using it like a spreadsheet.

And I understand the inclination to do so because we're all familiar with spreadsheets, but what I realized at that time was not everyone is familiar with how a database works. And Airtable is like a box of Legos, it's a very modular application that allows you to craft your own database. And that is an overwhelming thing for many people. But it's a very powerful thing that I don’t think you can be without. So anyway, long story short, I told Serenity Voss, I said let me take a swing at this. I bet this is capable of doing things that you can't even imagine this time. And let's just say that one thing led to another and his mind was blown. And I said I think I'm going to put up a YouTube video and the rest is history.

JA: Wow, and I want to come back and talk about how you use YouTube in your business. Because, you know, one of the things I love about you and how you do your business is it's very simple. No, I mean that with the highest compliments, there are so many people who think that they have to do all these complex things to build a business and you found a pain point. You put up some YouTube videos, sharing your expertise, delivering value, and then you get clients and you have an application process and, and tada. It's, you know, it's just simple. And the other thing that I love is as the business grows, you know, you make certain decisions but you kind of just allow it to be this very organic process. So I want to come back and talk more about that, but let's take a step back and kind of talk about, so you were just doing consulting, right? Where did the idea for creating a course come from?

Gareth Pronovost Airtable

GP: Yeah, you've played such a massive role in this, so thank you for that. You're absolutely right, let me join you when you took a step back. When we first met, you and I, I think we had started our course or we'd launched it once, but we were looking for more help in improving it and whatnot. The genesis of that was done for you work or consulting work is a very difficult thing to scale. And that's what I had alluded to earlier, right? Yeah. And there are definitely ways to scale a done for you service, but it also requires that you grow your team, which means you're growing your liabilities, you're increasing your risk, you're increasing the level of management. And here's the thing, you know, for most entrepreneurs, we don't want to manage people day in and day out. We want to be awesome in our zone of genius. Right? And so the more and more I was like trying to grow a team and offer these done for you services, the more I realized like I'm doing less of what I love. And this is feeling more like a job that I hate again.

Which that's like a death sentence for an entrepreneur because you have to have the energy to get up and go create stuff, daily, you know?

JA: Yeah. And you start to think, well why don't I just get a job if it's going to be like this, you know?

GP: Yes.

JA: Yeah.

GP: And if you don't grow your team, then you cap out, let's say at $100,000 a year, which I'm not saying that's a small amount of money. I don't mean to make that judgment. But then you pay taxes on it. You factor in all the expenses you have in order to run your business. I mean, it raises the same point you just said, why don't I just go get a job? So anyway, that's where I found myself and I thought there's got to be a better way. And so that's what made me want to build a course before I get to the because. The thing about the course is, and we've evolved at past, just a course, right? It's a coaching program where we have webinars and questions are submitted in Slack and all of this stuff. We want to offer somebody ongoing support in doing the thing that they need to learn how to do.

And I think that's where a lot of, you know, just flat out courses fall short is here's five hours of material that I built and I hosted online and here's your password and go get them.

JA: Yeah.

GP: And I'm not saying that there's not a market for that. I'm not saying that that's a bad approach per se, but we wanted something that was more ongoing and making this transition and it was a hard transition to make. Also, asterisk, we're not entirely out of the development. We just charge more for it. And we do it for enterprise sized clients now largely. But the majority of people that I get to work with on a daily basis are coaching clients who are looking for some ongoing support and building a course and taking people through a journey and then offering them extra support as needed is I feel like at the most honest way that you can do business. Stihl hs81r carburetor.

JA: I like what you said about, you know, you got to this point where you realized if you were going to grow and scale, you had to make some changes to your business model and that's exactly what you did. I wanted to point that out because you know, I've had a few conversations about scaling. We hear that word so often as entrepreneurs and again, coming back to some of the things I love about how you run your business, in my opinion, a lot of entrepreneurs, we talk about scaling before we even should be thinking about it, right? There's so many other things that we should be doing just to get our business to a point to take advantage of the systems and processes so that we can scale.

And that's exactly what you did. You got to this point where it was like, okay, something has to change. The business is supporting itself. There's client, I've got a pipeline, all of this stuff but can't grow in the way that I want to unless I do something. The other thing that you left out that I know, so I'm kind of making that pivot to talk about validation, which is something that anyone listening to the show knows that I go on and on and on and on and on about -- make sure that you have people who are willing to buy your course before you spend a lot of time. And in a very -- again, a very simple, straightforward way where you had clients or you had prospects who weren't in a position to budget your consultant. Can you talk about that and how you turn them into your first customers for your course?

GP: Totally. And you know, I appreciate that you say that everything we do is like simple. It doesn't feel that way when I have the idea, but you know it's important I think to boil things down into as few touch points as possible. Right. This is just like an overarching philosophy, if you will, in terms of business. You know, we know from a lot of research that if you give people too many steps to click through that you're going to lose conversions, you know, or things like that. And so simplifying these processes as much as possible not only serves your business but also serves your client. Right? So thanks for that. I take that as a compliment.

JA: You should.

GP: It's done intentionally. To your point, we were offering a high ticket done for you service and you talk about validating. It's important in all aspects of entrepreneurship, not just course building but everything. And what I call, you know, taking micro bets, I don't think I termed -- I coined the phrase but I use the term and I was just talking with a good friend the other day about this, you know, he's got a new business idea and it's like take small bets and know that you're moving forward in a right direction after you've received validation. And so for us, what we did, to answer your question, we took our email list, which let this serve as validation for anybody who's wondering out there if they can do it with a small list. I had literally 100 people, maybe 102 on my email list at the time. Okay? And I asked them, I said, Hey, I'm thinking about building a course. You're on my email list that I literally only email my list once every week and it's to give some extra information around the YouTube video that we put up. Again, I'm sure we'll get to that later, but I only ping my list once a week and it's always just here's some value, here's some value, here's some value.

And so I felt really uncomfortable doing this, but I asked them, hey, I'm thinking about building a course. Would you be interested in taking a course and learning more about Airtable? And if the answer is yes, can you take a quick survey? And so as a thank you to anybody who does that, I'm going to offer you a discount on our course when we build it. And that was it. I was as simple as it was. I built a very simple form, took in some data. I think we had maybe 20 or 30 responses, which is a great, you know, response rate for a hundred people. But again, largely because all we've been doing at this point was bringing value. Right? So this was the first time that any of them had had the chance to interact. And so I think that they were hungry for that.

And, anyway, long story short, we had a couple of ideas on what we might want to build the course for. I would like to say that my leading idea was in fact not what anybody wanted. So I'm very glad that there was some validation there. Come to find out what people wanted was a much more robust course than what I thought they would want. I mean, my initial thought was, oh, they probably want like Airtable basics or Airtable formulas or something like that. Like a very niche thing within our table. But they wanted to know like, no, we want to know exactly what you do for your done for you clients like the whole journey teach us that. Yeah. It was an obvious answer to the survey like it was, you know, massively weighted responses and so that's what we set out to build.

JA: That's one of the reasons I love sending out surveys. I mean I do it maybe a little too much, but anytime I'm launching something new, I always, always survey my audience because, and I was just tweeting about this the other day. I was doing this for a client going through survey responses that we sent out and it will not only confirm or deny your assumptions, like you said, you thought it was going to be this super niche thing and then you saw, oh this is, but it also reveals what it is you'll look at. You'll find patterns and be able to see what you need to create. So many course creators, they get stuck thinking, what do I create? I need an idea. I need an idea, I need an idea. And it's like you're doing it the hard way as I have started just being very blunt, you're doing it the hard way. Ask your audience and they will tell you and that's exactly what you did.

GP: Yeah, yeah. Maybe I should just even just to get a little more color around this, if I may.

JA: Sure.

GP: You know our process you mentioned earlier, we have a simple straightforward process. Put up a YouTube video every week I spend a little bit of money advertising that and putting it in front of people. There's a call to action that says, hey, if you're interested in learning more and seeing how we can help swing by our website and on our website, everywhere is book now, book now book now. Right? And so then you fill out an application. If you're a good fit, you're then directed to our form to book some time to chat and I am giving away, I don't consider it giving away, but I know that's the way we're supposed to phrase this, I sit down for the first two and a half hours every day and I take calls that are half an hour in length to talk to people about what they're trying to do in Airtable.

And my approach is, and this is 100% legit, my approach is to find out if they're going to butt up against any limitations. And if they are, then my goal is to tell them that upfront so that they don't get invested in something that they didn't know was going to perhaps break down at a certain point. And that approach is what's led to what we have now, which is eventually, you know, 90% of the time people say, okay, that's awesome. Thank you so much for this. Can we work with you? How can we work with you? And you know, I don't consider myself a salesperson because I don't like feeling like we're trying to push anything on anybody. My whole approach to business is just to say, Hey, here's what I know how to do and here's how I can help you. And if you want help, all you have to do is ask. And I'm, here's how I'm able to help. Yeah. Anyway, maybe it's not a workable approach for everybody, but it suits me well.

JA: I think that's what it all comes down to. Again, just had a conversation with someone over email who frankly was just trying to skip, just skip the line, right? Just get right to making money with their course. And it's like, well, what value are you delivering to your audience? You know, you have to give something, you know, and I know that for a lot of people, they look at this idea of, you know, maybe it's putting themselves out there like you do with YouTube as scary. Maybe it's, oh, I don't want to commit the time to writing blog articles if that's what they want to do. But that's not really how it works. There has to be some value that you're delivering. If you want people to then come back and spend money with you, how are you helping them? You know, looking at it from that standpoint of value in generosity, what do you give it? And so I love that you espouse that. I think that that's a foundational value that is in your business that I see, so thank you for sharing that.

GP: Thank you for noticing. It's funny and I respond to about an email a day on average that echoes that sentiment. Just yesterday somebody asked me, hey, how do I book some time to ask you some questions? And I said, well, you know I don't really offer an hourly, you know thing and I don't know that your one question is like you're going to warrant getting on a call with us. Just shoot me an email with a question, I'll see what I can do. And then I filmed her a two minute Loom video and responded and she responded back and saying like, this is perfect, thank you. How is this a viable business model for you? And I'm like, see, you're focusing on the wrong thing because I agree with what you just said. If you provide value, then there is invariably a large number of people out there who will see the value and then say, that's awesome. I don't want to figure it out myself. I'm going to hire him. I'm going to hire her

JA: Before we move on. I would also say, I would argue, and this is something that I've just recently come to realize, I would argue that if the idea of spending time delivering value to your audience grates at you and just makes you, just feels repellent, then that is not the business for you. You know, you're thinking, gosh, I don't want to serve those people, gosh, I don't want to -- what are you doing?

GP: Why are you doing that thing?

JA: Why are you doing it?

GP: Yeah. See, if you'd have told me that when I was making e-liquid, you could have saved me thousands of dollars and years of my life.

JA: Yeah, it's all a journey.

GA: Yeah. For sure.

JA: Let's get back on track and talk about your course, Airtable Automation Machine. What is it and who is it for?

GP: Well, as we found out by polling our audience, it is a journey on how to map the process of your workflow. Then how to build a database to support the data that you'll need to collect and then how to automate that database so that it does 90% of the admin for you so that you don't have to manually generate all the next steps. And that sounds overwhelming. So maybe can I boil that down into an example? Let's say you've got a service-based business. You have whatever the way that you bring leads into your businesses exists or, or you're building it and then you have your qualifying stage, right? Where you're qualifying your leads and then you have your, okay, they've officially become clients. So now or they've indicated they want to, so what's the onboarding process and all of that, right? You can go on forever, really, which is why I love having a course because we're teaching the skills to build it because let's be honest, our businesses are not stagnant things.

Gareth Pronovost Air Tables

They're always improving, they're always changing and pivoting and expanding. So having the skills to adapt to that is critical in my opinion. But let's suppose that we just take parts of that and we say, okay, well you have an onboarding or you have your lead generation. Okay, well how do they come in? Are they requesting a consultation? You, are they filling out a form? Are they just getting on your email list? And then you're going to try to convert them, whatever that looks like. There's a process around it and you're capturing data at every stage. So you need to have a database, well you don't need to, but I would recommend you to have a database that supports that workflow. Historically, I think what we've done is used spreadsheets, Excel or, and/or Google sheets to manage this data. But it's different from a database and it's only been recently that the average small business has access to tools like air table that allow us to relate our data.

And so again, if you're not familiar with Airtable, what a relational database really allows you to do is link points of data to other points of data that are related. And I know that that sounds silly because obviously -- obviously I'm just using the same word. So what that allows us to do though is draw deeper insights. If we take our orders against our clients and combine them or link them so that we can see, oh this many orders have come in from this client and each of those things have its own set of data, but they're related. It's very different than having a copy paste system where you have, you know, a bunch of this data lives in spreadsheet one, this data's in spreadsheet two. Oh gosh, somebody corrupted the formula over here. Now this is broken. So it's just, it's the 2019 way of solving these problems that I would strongly recommend anybody using spreadsheets takes a look at a relational database like Airtable. But anyhow, I'm sorry for rambling there, Janelle, but you know how passionate I am about these things.

JA: That’s okay. Yes, I do. So, Airtable's an amazing tool. We're going to talk about it in the bonus segment, but ultimately if I can jump in, it allows your data, your data points can talk to each other and that is just, it becomes super powerful. So we'll come back. If you haven't heard about Airtable, we are going to talk about Airtable and why it is better than spreadsheets. I can attest to this, the frustration of having a million spreadsheets versus having things in Airtable and I'm an Airtable baby, so we'll come back and talk about that. But back to the course and so it is taking them on the journey that you do with your done for you clients, but it's for, it's a different audience, right? These are solo or service -- who's buying the course.

GP: They are largely, it's not only but largely service based businesses. There are some retail spaces or whatnot as well, but a largely service based businesses and largely smaller teams. And the reason that the course appeals to the smaller team is really from a business model perspective because it's a more affordable solution first and foremost, right? So if you're coming at me and saying, hey, my budget for this is, you know, a couple thousand dollars that's all I can afford to spend on building the system. Well, you know, that really means that we've priced ourselves out on the done for you side because that's very labor intensive for us to build it. And so you know, the course gives the small entrepreneur, the or the solopreneur, the small team, it gives them access to the same information in a way that is a scalable offer, right? Something that I can say, okay, here are the assets the assets are built. Here's the schedule for coaching calls. We're going to hop on our calls twice a week and any questions you have, you can ask live right then and there and I'll answer them right there and help you overcome that stuff.

So it's just a scalable thing that now I can, you know, without necessarily having to double my workload every time I double my number of clients, I'm able to still offer this service to everybody. And so yeah, that is who is appealed or who is buying the course? It is either the startup or the small team that is trying to build these systems themselves and to kind of just add an asterisk to that, it's somebody who wants to know the ins and outs of their own business.

JA: Yeah, because without giving too much away, I don't want to spill the secret sauce of your course, but one of the first things that you do is you have them kind of map out their processes. So it does help them start thinking about how they do things in their business, which should be the first step before you automate anything.

GP: Has to be, my gosh. Oh my gosh.

JA: Has to be, yeah. Wait, that's a rabbit hole. That’s a rabbit hole.

GP: It is.

JA: I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

GP: It is. I'm not going to go there, but I should just turn away. But all I'll say is if you try to build something and you haven't already mapped out the process, your head's going to explode. Bv you don't even know where you're going. Right? So anyway, we'll let it sit. Let it lie.

JA: I know it's so tempting. It looks so over there. I just want to open up that box and just jump into it. But we're going to keep going. So let's talk about this structure, because you know you've made some changes over time. Again, as your business grows, as you start to see different patterns or get insights, you make these changes. So what was the structure of the course the first time you taught it and what changes have you made to now?

GP: Yeah, so anybody who's starting again, I had a 100-person email list and I sent out a, hey, this is what I think, here's a survey, would you fill it out? And you know, 20 or 30 responses came in, which was great.

JA: Yeah.

GP: We had not built the course when I built the sales page for it. So after the survey I knew what people said they wanted and now I had to test, are they really going to pay me for it? So I'm not going to waste -- this is my approach to entrepreneurship in general. I'm not going to waste my time building something before I know that someone's willing to give me money and you listen to any entrepreneurial 'expert' and they'll say the same thing. So I set up a landing page and said, hey, this is what we're going to cover in the course. So I drew up an outline of what I was going to include now that I knew what people wanted and I said, well, let's see if they want to buy it. So we had a close date on the cart and we said the course will be dripped out in a series of six emails, one email per week, and each email is going to consist of approximately an hour worth of content that delivers that week's module. And we'll have the six modules.

And again, let me stress, none of this was built when we started selling and we had a five-figure launch. So that was enough validation at that point for me to say, all right, so we're not going to refund this money and say, sorry, we're not building it after all. We're going to go ahead and build it. So that was enough validation. I set a goal and I said, I need to break this. And we did. And so that meant to me that it was worth my time to build a course. And then we built it and I again, MVP, minimum viable product as far as you can go. We didn't do anything crazy. We didn't sign up for Kajabi up front or host it and Teachable or anything like that. I legitimately filmed screenshot some videos on Loom, emailed them to people, and they just got an email every week for six weeks.

JA: Yeah.

GP: That's all it was.

JA: What did you learn after that first time and what changes did you make for the next iteration?

GP: I learned that of course not everything in that initial course was ideal. Right? So there were some changes that needed to be made, some additional support templates, you know, people ask questions around the same things and so we needed additional clarification. And so all of that was, you know, evolved for our second launch and that's where you came in. That's when you and I started working together. And so for the second launch, we made some slight changes to the course, some slight changes to the copy. And I think, did we even change the price at that point? We increased it.

JA: Yeah.

GP: Yeah. And we saw and we sold it again. It wasn't until many months later that there were just multiple and multiple iterations. My wife laughed there for months. She was like, can you stick to a business model for more than two weeks? I was like, sure, when I find the right one, I happy to say that my current business model is at least two and a half months old, so they were clearly onto something. Now I didn't know how this hybrid looked, and by hybrid I mean the course by itself is one thing, but I don't want to just offer, here's the training materials and then drop it in someone's lap and then walk away. And ongoing coaching, at one point I was packaging a purchase of the course with one-on-one access to me, but I was still running into a scaling problem. And it seems so intuitive now that I look back like how did I miss it? But I didn't see the opportunity saying, hey, we're just going to have group webinars and if you want to join you can join and if you don't want to join, you don't have to and we're going to record it host it on the site so you can see that. But you'll only see it if you've purchased our coaching program.

So I mean, there were a lot of changes. Yeah. Obviously a lot of changes had to happen to get here, but it's really, if I had to give anyone advice, you know, who's in this transition stage of like, I'm building a course, I don't know where it's going. It's overwhelming. I would say, listen, just start small. First, see if somebody wants your course, then see if they'll pay you for it, then built it after they've paid you and then worry about the model later. You know?

JA: Simple, I love it. And that's a perfect segue into the final three questions, which first one's easy. What is next for you, Gareth? Anything exciting coming up?

GP: Yes. I want to offer a smaller course as more of a lead into, you know, our business for that smaller business that's struggling specifically with Airtable formulas. I think there's a lot of space there. It's something that I've already promised to my list and haven't gotten to yet. So that's my next, it's a smaller ticket item. Yeah.

JA: Like a mini course.

GP: Yeah, mini course. Yeah.

JA: Okay, cool. All right. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

GP: Well, if you really want to see what's possible with Airtable, I would suggest when you buy YouTube and just look up pretty much any air table and if you see Garth Pronovost videos pop up, that's me. But if you want to go to our website and see specifically how we work with our clients, it's GarethPronovost.com.

JA: Yeah, we'll be sure to get links to the YouTube channel and the website in the show notes and don't forget in the bonus segment we're going to talk about YouTube as well as why Airtable is better than spreadsheets. Kind of go down those rabbit holes that we set to the side. All right, last question, Gareth, what is your why? Why do you get up and do this work?

GP: I think that the way that we operate, that we work is fundamentally flawed. This idea that I need to sit at a desk for eight hours a day in order to provide value is fundamentally wrong. And it's, I think the leading cause for why so many adults are depressed, unhappy with their lives, all of these things. And it doesn't have to be that way. When we automate processes, we can focus on doing the stuff we love and work less. I want to help people get there. That sounded so preachy, but that was so from the heart. That was so from the heart.

JA: I love it. I love it. Gareth, thank you so much for being here and sharing your story. I think it's inspiring. I love the way that you run your business and serve your audience. So thank you.

GP: Janelle you know, it's always a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks for having me.

JA: Hey family. I hope that you enjoyed my conversation with Garreth. I love talking to Garreth. You know, he's just so sincere in how he runs his business and serves his customers. So if you want to learn more about Gareth and how he uses Airtables since that's his area of expertise, check out the show notes. You'll find them at zencourses.co/115, for episode 115. Once again, that is zencourse.co/115. All right, let's talk about the bonus segment. So, Gareth and I got kind of geeky in the bonus segment because I really wanted to dig into something that he said which is how Airtable is better than spreadsheets. You know, Gareth has some pretty strong feelings about Airtable and spreadsheets and for me, I'm pretty new to Airtable so if you are as well and you want to learn more about it and some best practices, then definitely, definitely check out the bonus.

You can find it two ways. You can either if you're on your phone, just text the words ExtraExtra to the number 44222, once again that is one word E-X-T-R-A-E-X-T-R-A to the number 44222. You'll get a chance to opt in and get that bonus segment. Or if you're on your computer, just head to get.zencourses.co/extra and you can do the same thing, opt in and you will get a link to listen to the bonus segment. All right, that is my time, I will see you next time.

All right, my friends, that is my time. Remember, before you can level up your course, you must first level up your mind. As always, thank you for hanging out with me for another great time, I do not take it for granted. I am Janelle Allen and this has been Level Up Your Course. Peace!

Episode Highlights

00:51 Getting to know Gareth Pronovost, Rapid 5 Questions

07:08 How Gareth got into entrepreneurship

12:05 The Airtable business idea

19:15 Validation process and getting the first customers

25:40 Why value driven courses?

28:13 Airtable Automation Machine - What it is and who it's for?

34:24 Airtable Automation Machine - Course structure

38:50 Exciting things coming up from Gareth

Connect with Gareth

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