Ali Green and Mickey Mellen, GreenMellen Media
Ali Green and Mickey Mellen had a history of outsourcing work to one another. After years of back and forth, they realized it would make sense to start a company together. In 2009, they founded GreenMellen Media, a digital marketing agency based in Marietta, Georgia. Since then, Ali and Mickey have opened a physical office, hired a team of six, adjusted their schedules to meet life’s changing demands, and become stronger partners in the process.
Episode 27 – Ali Green and Mickey Mellen, GreenMellen Media
[00:00:00] Sanjay Parekh: Ali Green and Mickey Mellen had a history of outsourcing work to one another. After years of this back and forth, with work flowing from their individual agencies, Ali and Mickey realized it would make more sense to start a company together. In 2009, they founded GreenMellen, a digital marketing agency dedicated to building a brighter web. Here today to share their story of becoming partners and their lessons learned after 13 years in business, Ali Green and Mickey Mellen. Welcome to the show, y'all.
[00:01:23] Mickey Mellen: Hey, thanks for having us. We appreciate it.
[00:01:25] Ali Green: Thanks, Sanjay.
[00:01:25] Sanjay Parekh: I'm excited to have both of you on. It's not often that we have this kind of story where two founders have been doing work, and then sending work back and forth and then combining. I think it's actually pretty unusual. But first, before we get into that, I'd love to hear your guys' background. And you know, was your firm that you had before GreenMellen your first entrepreneurial thing? Or, was there stuff before then? So, Mickey, you want to start?
[00:01:50] Mickey Mellen: Sure. So it's actually a problem we have is that we didn't have a firm before, neither of us have worked in an agency until the one we're in now. So, over the years, having staff that have come from other agencies has been very helpful. Cause they can tell us; you do this way better. You might want to fix this a little, you know, fix that thing there. We were both actually working in a church together, a huge megachurch with, you know, a hundred staff members and stuff. And so, we were both there and then we kind of split out on our own separately to start our own little individual businesses but needing each other's help all the time. And so that let us eventually here.
[00:02:21] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, so that was, Mickey, that was your first kind of entrepreneurial thing kind of going on, on your own and putting your shoe out?
[00:02:26] Mickey Mellen: Yeah, it was. Yeah. I was starting to build a little web design business on my own and then had an opportunity. I had a buddy that ran the Google Earth blog that got tons of traffic back in the day and lots of ad revenue and I was helping him with a little bit, and he decided to go on a trip around the world on a boat with his wife.
So, he sold his house, sold his cars and he said, I need someone to run the blog. I'll give you 75% of the revenue. And so, it wasn't a ton, but couple grand a month. It was enough for me to take the jump to start trying to do this web design thing on my own with this extra revenue from this blogging coming in on the side.
[00:02:55] Sanjay Parekh: Nice.
[00:02:55] Mickey Mellen: That's what made me make a leap and then, simultaneously, Ali made a separate leap off to hers.
[00:02:59] Ali Green: Yeah, that's right. We were working together for maybe three or four years and when we both went out on our own to pursue our own careers, our own freelance type work, we realized, we are still working together so much.
[00:03:13] Mickey Mellen: Right. Exactly.
[00:03:13] Ali Green: But I, let's see, my background. I went to three different schools: Auburn, Kennesaw State, and SCAD. SCAD was because of the direction I was positioned once I started working at the church.
[00:03:27] Mickey Mellen: In the church, yeah.
[00:03:28] Ali Green: So, I was pursuing marketing and advertising. I had this vision of working at a boutique advertising firm. I had already pinpointed like three or four firms I wanted to work at. I was going to create the next Apple campaign one day at this boutique firm. So I ended up becoming the intern at the church that Mickey worked at, where they needed a lot of graphic design help.
[00:03:49] Mickey Mellen: As churches do.
[00:03:50] Ali Green: As churches do.
[00:03:51] Mickey Mellen: Brochures and pamphlets and...
[00:03:52] Ali Green: The sermon stuff.
[00:03:53] Mickey Mellen: Not exciting stuff.
[00:03:54] Ali Green: But oh, no, no. So, okay, I'll go take some classes at SCAD and see how I can help you guys out. And then found myself in this direction of graphic design, which was not my original intent. But, you know, when Mickey and I began designing and building websites, we had a lot of interest and we used to build those old fashioned HTML websites together.
[00:04:15] Mickey Mellen: Yep. Had my own CMS I built a little while and yeah replaced it with WordPress before long. But, we didn't even mean to start a company at first, it was just, hey, we're both building sites, let's just build sites together for that part of our lives. And well, we need some more help and maybe we need an office and a name and just kind of built it as it arrived.
[00:04:32] Ali Green: An accidental agency, as I like to say.
[00:04:34] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Do either one of you have entrepreneurship in the family? Like, were your parents entrepreneurs or anything like that?
[00:04:40] Mickey Mellen: No.
[00:04:41] Ali Green: I came from a sales background. We are very sales heavy in my family, which is the direction I was heading in my university schooling with sales.
[00:04:48] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, yeah.
[00:04:49] Mickey Mellen: I've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial bent. Like at one point we were going to move to South Georgia to be with the in-laws and I was going to start a computer store down there. And so, I was researching how to build a computer shop and had tried different things before. So, I had kind of that angle to it, but again, didn't realize that's what I was even doing when we, when we started this. So yeah.
[00:05:07] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah.
[00:05:07] Mickey Mellen: It was kinda cool.
[00:05:08] Ali Green: Yeah. I don't know if I mentioned that when, when I was at the church, I actually had a woman approach me while I was there. And she said, I've been seeing a lot of the things come out of, you know, a lot of the, the design things. I'd really love to talk to you. I'm a designer myself. Would you like to come work for me? So, between the church and Mickey, I worked for this lady for...
[00:05:31] Mickey Mellen: Not long.
[00:05:31] Ali Green: Not long.
[00:05:32] Mickey Mellen: Yeah.
[00:05:32] Ali Green: Because it was not a good match.
[00:05:33] Sanjay Parekh: I see.
[00:05:34] Ali Green: I thought I would make a lot more doing freelance than I was able to. So, lesson learned that was not the direction to go.
[00:05:41] Sanjay Parekh: So, Ali for you leaving the church what was your kind of like way that you made the ends meet? Because Mickey had the Google Earth blog, which is such a random sentence to say by the way.
[00:05:51] Mickey Mellen: It is, yes.
[00:05:51] Sanjay Parekh: Did you have anything to make ends meet? Or was it just hustling and, and just figuring it out?
[00:05:56] Ali Green: You know, I was 21.
[00:05:57] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah.
[00:05:57] Ali Green: Still kind of in college. So, I was probably still living on mom and dad's dime to an extent. I was so young.
[00:06:05] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah.
[00:06:05] Ali Green: I mean, no idea what I was going into.
[00:06:08] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah.
[00:06:08] Ali Green: I remember when my husband and I were engaged and Mickey and I were starting to work together a little bit more. There was one February where I think I brought in $50 for the month.
[00:06:23] Sanjay Parekh: (Laughs)
[00:06:24] Ali Green: And thankfully he was, you know, so lucrative doing what he was doing, right out of college. So, we just kind of, you know, we figured it out, I guess. And Mickey and I, we both one day said, Well, how much are you making?
[00:06:40] Mickey Mellen: We looked at our taxes from the previous year and we both made very little. But it was almost identical. It was, I don't know, 42,000. And the other was 42,100. I don't even know what the numbers were. They were like almost identical. So, we said, all right, easy enough. Let's just put it in one pile and split it 50/50 and go from there. So, I know you kind of alluded to Sanjay earlier that most partnerships don't start that way. I think it's often a person starts a business and finds a partner to help them out, right. And that wasn't us at all. And we were 50/50 from literally the first second, you know.
[00:07:06] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. It's either that, or you have a couple of partners that start from scratch. You both had something and then you combined the two things and maintain the 50/50.
[00:07:16] Ali Green: Exactly.
[00:07:16] Sanjay Parekh: So, I’ve got to ask you a name of a, a question about the name. So how did you decide whose last name was going to go first?
[00:07:22] Mickey Mellen: Well, that was interesting because that wasn't even her last name yet. So, we named the company. She was engaged. So it seemed pretty likely. But we were kind of hoping this dude turned out okay. Seems to be alright.
[00:07:32] Sanjay Parekh: But man, that that's a pretty big risk there. Because if that had fallen away, it's like, well who's Green? Nobody.
[00:07:37] Ali Green: Nobody. It's just the color of the melon. But you know, sentence structure we had to have the adjective before the noun. So that's...
[00:07:48] Mickey Mellen: There you go. That's what she says.
[00:07:49] Ali Green: From the grammar.
[00:07:51] Sanjay Parekh: I see. Yeah, I was thinking about that myself. I was like, "MellenGreen" just doesn't have the ring to it.
[00:07:55] Mickey Mellen: That was the whole thing, it just didn't sound right. So yeah.
[00:07:56] Sanjay Parekh: It just doesn't sound right.
[00:07:57] Mickey Mellen: I was okay acquiescing on that. Yeah.
[00:07:59] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So okay, so let's talk about it. So, so $42,000, basically, in revenue.
[00:08:04] Mickey Mellen: Some number. Yeah, not much.
[00:08:05] Sanjay Parekh: Roughly, maybe in that ballpark. What happened the first year after you both joined up? So, you incorporated, made it a real company. It was just the two of you. When did you start hiring? What was revenue like? What happened?
[00:08:19] Mickey Mellen: I think revenue stayed pretty flat probably the first year or so because we were still doing the same kind of work. It was just instead of me building sites, then paying her a little bit and her paying me a little bit. It was just easier to do that. And I still had my side stuff, so revenue didn't shoot up very quickly.
[00:08:32] Ali Green: And it wasn't like we had a grand plan for growth, right?
[00:08:35] Mickey Mellen: Correct. Yeah.
[00:08:36] Ali Green: We were two freelancers who were going in to practice our crafts together.
[00:08:40] Mickey Mellen: Yeah. That was somewhere we messed up, again, not having that angle. Before, we didn't have plans and goals. We're like, let's just do this together and build websites when people ask for websites to be built. Like, easy enough. And so, it took us a few years to kind of figure out, okay, let's maybe plan a little bit and really, I think it came about three years in when she needed more help with design. And so, we need to hire a designer. So, if we're hiring someone, this is a different kind of situation we get into now.
[00:09:05] Sanjay Parekh: So that was the first time you actually hired somebody beyond the two of you?
[00:09:09] Mickey Mellen: Yeah, it was probably about three years in, I think. We hired her and then we said, well, we have a person we're all here in Marietta. We're supposed to have an office, right? Companies have offices. So, we got an office.
[00:09:18] Ali Green: We were a little sick of meeting at coffee shops, too.
[00:09:22] Mickey Mellen: So yeah, we spent a while looking for offices and found this place here on Marietta Square and it's worked out great for us. We've been in the same place for nine years now. And slowly just kind of expanded based on need for the most part from there. When one of us got too busy with a role, we'd hire that role out, and then get busy with something else, and hire that out and.
[00:09:39] Sanjay Parekh: Right. So it's very funny to hear you say that because obviously in today's age if you were starting this now, you'd be like, oh, we don't need an office. We can do everything remote. So, let's dive into that a little bit. Are you guys still in the office? It looks like you're still in the office. Is everybody still coming to the office? Like, where are you guys at in thinking about that?
[00:09:56] Ali Green: Great question. We are in a little bit of a crossroads right now, which obviously COVID threw us into. But our team, we're a team of eight.
[00:10:05] Sanjay Parekh: Okay.
[00:10:05] Ali Green: And during COVID one of our team members, which we're thrilled, she was able to move back to Michigan to be close to her family as she started her own family. So, we kind of, our first employee drifted up and we kept her, and we would never want to, you know, she's such a crucial part of our team.
She's our project manager. And she's remote. And then a year later we had the need for a designer and a contractor that we've worked with for years and years, happens to be in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and of course! It works, it works with Brooke, so it's going to work with Joanna. So, we brought her on.
[00:10:37] Mickey Mellen: It does.
[00:10:38] Ali Green: And it does.
[00:10:38] Mickey Mellen: Yeah.
[00:10:39] Ali Green: So now of our team of eight two of them are remote, the rest of us still come in once a week, and then Mickey and I come in an additional day for kind of our partnership strategy day. So today is our Tuesday team day in the office.
[00:10:51] Sanjay Parekh: Okay, nice. Nice. So, let's talk about that. Like, how do you think through, like you guys have now been together for 13 years doing this together. Nine years with employees, right. Is that right? Or 10 years.
[00:11:06] Mickey Mellen: Something like that. Yeah.
[00:11:06] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So how do you think about working with one another and making sure that everything is going right for the both of you, as well as the team as a whole? I did notice, I’ve got to say, on the website, neither one of you is the CEO. Both of you are, are technical partner or creative partner for each one of you. So, neither one of you is identified. So how do you think through like making decisions and, and working with one another?
[00:11:30] Mickey Mellen: I think our, our, if you laid out how the two of us work, we're very different in a lot of ways. Like she's all design, I'm all technical. And so any question that falls to either of those, it goes to the other one. If I say, I'm not sure I like that design on there. And she says, No, it's good. I say, Okay, your eyes, it's good. If I say, we need this new tool and she pushes back, we'll discuss it, but ultimately, it's my call. And I think the lines have been shockingly clear on that stuff, really since the beginning where we don't have arguments, really.
Cause we both have the same goals and we both feel how you should treat people, and how to treat clients, and what kind of work we want and so anything else that falls apart usually falls pretty easily to one of our buckets without much work.
[00:12:05] Ali Green: And then you've probably noticed there's obviously more to leading a company. There's HR, there's finance, there's operations. There's so many things. So, Mickey and I, when we meet on Thursdays and have our, so we kind of practice the EOS, or excuse me, the...
[00:12:22] Mickey Mellen: Yea, EOS.
[00:12:22] Ali Green: Model of traction. That's what I was going for. We practice the traction model for managing our company and we meet on Thursdays. We kind of throw all of those items onto our IDS list. It might be HR, it might be a finance question, and we really work through them together. We know that some things may fall on me more and some things may fall on Mickey more, but we kind of put our minds together to work through a lot of those ownership decisions. And we have a business coach and kind of an outsourced finance team that we lean on quite a bit as well.
[00:12:58] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, doing the books is probably, for me at least, one of the most painful things. So, having an outsourcing team for that is great. Go ahead, Mickey.
[00:13:06] Mickey Mellen: I was going to say so with the EOS model, the entrepreneurial operating system, there's a whole, books and stuff people can read about that. But you should have a visionary and an integrator at the top. Those are the two roles. And we are both natural integrators. Neither of us really have this grand vision for the future, but we're both great at getting things done. And so that's been, I guess, kind of a struggle almost. I'm trying to put myself more in the visionary seat, but it's difficult because that we're just getting things done and it's working.
[00:13:29] Ali Green: We love a good to-do list.
[00:13:31] Mickey Mellen: Right, exactly. So.
[00:13:33] Ali Green: We're both. I mean, we both like being in the company, we both like seeing things get done, and orchestrating the happenings that happen within these walls. So, when it comes to dreaming up, what could this company be? We tend to look at each other and say, we love what we have, you know. Why do we have to be something grander? Can't we stay an eight-to-twelve-person shop and be just content?
[00:13:54] Sanjay Parekh: So, so no big plans, Ali, to do the next Apple ad or anything else like that? Is that, is that gone now?
[00:14:01] Ali Green: Those were very eager, 20-year-old aspirations, I'd say. Still happy to consider it, but I like where we are.
[00:14:09] Sanjay Parekh: So if Apple's calling, if they're, if they're needing a...
[00:14:11] Mickey Mellen: We'll take their call.
[00:14:12] Sanjay Parekh: You'll take their call. Okay. That's good to know. So, what are kind of the, the grand plans for the company? Is it to stay small and, and lean and, and serve, you know, the, the range of clients that you do now? Or is it something different?
[00:14:25] Mickey Mellen: It's basically to say, stay small and lean. Everyone we talk to that's grown an agency says around 12 or 15, things change. Once you get to that number of employees, things are different. Not bad, necessarily just different.
And we're not sure we want that different. You know, we love our team. There's a few more roles we want to bring in and we have plans for that in the next couple of years. But 12 is kind of our hard stop in theory. And so, we'll see. Granted, we've been, you know, nine years to get to eight people. We're taking our time, very deliberately all the way. So.
[00:14:52] Ali Green: Yeah, I think what we've determined in a lot of the connections that we have within the agency world, within the business owner world is, you either build a company to sell, or you build a company for your lifestyle. And Mickey and I are both aligned on the fact that we want a lifestyle company where we can enjoy working within what we've built rather than grow, grow, grow. You know, don't sleep, don't eat for 10 years.
[00:15:15] Mickey Mellen: Don't take a paycheck. Just tell your people. Yeah. Which is a fine way, Sanjay, you know, more of these companies than I do, they do all that for a couple years and then they sell it for $40 million. So, it's not a bad way to go, it's just not what we want. We like enjoying our time. Ali can probably speak to that even more. But just having freedom and flexibility and healthy profits and we're happy. It works out well.
[00:15:33] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, so thinking back then on these last 13 years, what do you guys feel like, the, the biggest risk is that you took during that time? And it might be a different answer for both of you. For each of you.
[00:15:45] Mickey Mellen: Yeah. Yeah. because we we're both rather risk averse in general. Again, we're only eight employees, but I think every hire has been the biggest risk. And we had a coach years ago, show us like your revenue should go up in a nice steady line. When you hire someone, that's a jump. Like those are big stairsteps.
And so, you can't hire at the same pace as revenue. You hire, it's a substantial jump up. And so, every hire has been very, very nerve wracking and they've all worked out. Not all. They've mostly worked out very well. The team we have now is fantastic. If you're all listening, you guys are great. But yeah, those have been the biggest. It's scary, because I mean, not only is it revenue and figuring out that sort of stuff, but someone's life is sort of in your hands.
I mean, that's their livelihood. They need to pay their bills and they're counting on you to do it. And that's scary. And then when things like COVID hit, that was scary as well, even though we weathered it very well, you know?
[00:16:29] Ali Green: Yes, and related, I would've given the same answer, but it also made me remember some of the scariest moments are when you find a team member that's not aligned and isn't the fit that you thought they might be.
And, whether they need to go quickly or whether you want to find a new place for them in the company or a new place for them in the world, you know, we've had that situation before, we found a good fit elsewhere. But you know, we really care about our team, and we really care about their mental health, their, their professional growth, and we want to make sure that we're fostering a good, healthy culture within our company. And you have to prune sometimes to make that happen.
[00:17:08] Sanjay Parekh: So yeah, let's talk about that. I'm a big fan of organizational and kind of company culture. What do you all do to help kind of reinforce that in thinking about, you know, bringing on that new hire is, is really the most risky time of that new employee coming on and making sure that they get the culture and they're a right fit. Like what do you guys do to make sure that the person that you're bringing on is a good fit?
[00:17:33] Ali Green: It's hard. I mean, I would say during the interview phase, we always do a team interview. So, Mickey and I will do the first two or three conversations, whether it's from, you know, from coffee to an actual interview to something.
You know, maybe our coach, our business coach will interview them. And then we take it to team, and we say, go have lunch with team without us, without us. Go have one on one calls, often virtual with team, and then we all come back together and discuss the chemistry and, and internally.
[00:18:04] Sanjay Parekh: And, and is that the entire team or is it a section of the team?
[00:18:08] Ali Green: It often depends on logistics.
[00:18:10] Mickey Mellen: Yeah. I mean, right now there's only four other people local. I mean, there's six of us in town, so there's only four others local. So, the four of them would go to lunch. And I think with the last hire, I think one of them had to take a separate lunch because they weren't around and then some video calls and just, we just want them to have some time away from us.
So hopefully everyone can speak their mind freely, because we don't want, we don't want our team over glamorizing things either. Then we have a great employee that quits in six months, because not what they thought. So we try to have, we encourage everyone to be super transparent so we can make sure it's a good fit.
[00:18:36] Sanjay Parekh: Right. Right.
[00:18:38] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox. Committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:18:55] Sanjay Parekh: I'd love to dig into one of the other things that you guys have talked about is having a business coach. When did that happen for y'all and, and is it one coach for the both of you? Is it one coach for each of you? Like what, what's the logistics there and, and what kind of value have you found out of doing that?
[00:19:11] Mickey Mellen: Yeah, you've had more coaches, so you can start.
[00:19:12] Ali Green: Thanks. Yeah. It's been a little bit of both. I don't know when we first, maybe, I would say 2016, 17.
[00:19:18] Mickey Mellen: Yeah. Something like that.
[00:19:19] Ali Green: If I'm putting myself into the past year. But I started, I think with our first coach experience, and it was just for me and it was a and I still, oh my gosh, she's bit, she's one of the best things that I've ever, one of the best relationships that I've had in my life.
I call her my work therapist and she's a women in leadership coach. So, she specifically focused on, focuses on women in leadership. She's the one who ultimately my biggest life lesson from her was permission to be creative with my days. You know, the American culture is so, structured and pre-COVID. And this was a pre-COVID lesson was so structured into an eight to five, a nine, whatever it is.
And I can't tell you how many nights I worked, you know, I stayed in this office until seven at night, until the sun went down and, and me and my developer would walk out together, and we would just be like, this is not the lifestyle I want. So, when I started a family and started working with a specific coach, and she gave me permission, and sometimes I need permission.
[00:20:20] Mickey Mellen: A lot of our coaching wins have been them giving us permission to do things. Yeah.
[00:20:24] Ali Green: Right.
[00:20:24] Mickey Mellen: For sure.
[00:20:24] Ali Green: And I'm like, I didn't know. I could do that. Yeah. Like, yes, you're a grown up. You can do this. To be creative with my days. So, I was able to introduce something that I call scheduled variety into my days, which makes me feel really fulfilled personally. When I know I can accomplish something personally in my day, whether that's being at my kids', you know, lunch, because, their school lunch, I can go stop in and have lunch with them or being their mystery reader, or I'm doing something here productive with the team and having a good networking lunch or something outside, out in the community.
If I could do both of those things in one day, I feel very accomplished. And so, she gave me permission to mix my days up where I don't have to be sitting, chained to a desk, you know, nine to five. That was a good learning lesson.
[00:21:05] Mickey Mellen: Yeah. We encourage the same from our team too, to, you know, they don't have to be chained for those hours either. They'll exercise during the day or do whatever they need, as long as they get their work done. That's the main thing. And that ultimately becomes the most difficult part is establishing that trust. Not difficult, just time consuming. I guess, you know, a lot of our team we've had for five, seven years now, and so we trust them implicitly. I don't know what they do much of the day and that's okay. Because the work gets done and so we're all happy and hopefully they're able to balance things out in a way that works for them.
[00:21:31] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. What, what about, you Mickey in terms of business coach, do you have somebody?
[00:21:36] Mickey Mellen: So, yeah, so we have two others. So one is Jason Blumer. He's our CPA. He's fairly well known. He's one, he did his marketing very well in that he has a podcast, and he has other marketing things. He's spoken at events. We followed him as kind of a fan for three or four years. Just, this guy knows his stuff. And then eventually we needed that kind of work and said, Hey, I know a guy that could do it and it's worked out well.
And then we have a local business coach, too. Jason's firm is all about creative agencies. He works with other creatives. So, you're able to say, Hey, your percentage of this kind of revenue is lower than our other clients. You know, maybe you should look at that. And then we have a local business coach.
That's more just general business help. You know, just with, you know, culture and hiring and just best practices for that sort of thing. Because again, we didn't know what we were doing. So getting some of that kind of help is great. As Ali said, in both cases, them giving us permission is a wonderful thing.
[00:22:24] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah.
[00:22:24] Mickey Mellen: Like with EOS, we've talked about, you know, EOS Traction Model. That's very specific how you're supposed to do it. We just didn't like parts of it, but that's how you have to do it. And Jason told us one day, like, no, you don't. Do whatever you want. Like, you don't have to do those parts if you don't want. We said, that's great! Oh, so great. We're grownups. We can do what we want.
[00:22:39] Ali Green: Most entrepreneurs are not rule followers. They're, they're pretty ruthless when they get out and they make their own rules. We're both rule followers.
[00:22:49] Mickey Mellen: Yeah.
[00:22:49] Ali Green: So we're quite unique when it comes to business owners.
[00:22:52] Mickey Mellen: Yep.
[00:22:52] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. I’ve got to saysay I'm, I'm not a rule follower. I break rules all the time, but that's the fun of it. And, and that said, you know, we need both, right. We need people that rein those of us, that break rules all the time back in. And then we need people like me to get you guys out of your safe zones and do crazy things.
[00:23:11] Ali Green: Exactly.
[00:23:11] Sanjay Parekh: So, let's talk about that, that split of, of work life balance. You guys kind of alluded to it already, and how you're mixing up your days, and making sure that you're doing life stuff, and not just work stuff all day long. How do you think about that? How do you work through your days? You know, is there a set time for you both to do certain things like exercise and work out or have lunch with your significant others? Or, you know, whatever it is.
[00:23:37] Mickey Mellen: Yeah, so good question there. So yeah, we don't like to call it work life balance as much as work life blend, which is kind what Ali alluded to before, having kind of mixed throughout.
I spent, a couple years ago, I spent a week logging my time just in a spreadsheet every 15 minutes. Just what am I doing? And I notice there's a lot of time, especially in the evenings where I'm at my computer sort of working sort of playing. Like, I don't even know how to call it. So, it does kind of blend nicely. I'm catching up with some emails, but playing Fortnite or whatever, you know, doing different things. Ali's in a bit different situation though, with her two kids.
[00:24:05] Ali Green: Yeah, yeah. I had to and I kind of alluded to the scheduled variety thing that I like to introduce into my days. So, and actually, the other thing that Barbara, my original business coach helped me with was scaling back. I couldn't be, so I give a hundred percent in everything that I do. So I was giving a hundred percent to my business and trying to give a hundred percent to my family. So, thank goodness for this guy here who works 110% all the time.
We had a pretty a pretty serious conversation about my time. And if I was able to just continue to do this, and we decided I was going to go back to a part-time owner's role. So I actually only work 20 hours a week. In order to do that, I think I've kind of been switching it around, but now I'm kind of an eight to two model.
[00:24:47] Mickey Mellen: We're, we're playing different ways with it, but yeah, just getting her to part-time.
[00:24:50] Ali Green: So, in that way for a couple years now, I've would say five years even. And it's been so much better for me to not feel like I have to put in the 60 hours that I put in when we were growing this company. Which it absolutely required every minute of those hours to get the company to where it is today.
And now that it is here and we are rather self-sufficient with the team that provides service without our input, I'm able to scale back. And what I'm trying to do now is get the admin off my plate and focus on connections and people, and just not even for business sake, just for personal sake, just continue enriching lives. And hopefully that benefits everybody.
[00:25:32] Mickey Mellen: And the interesting thing that came out of that too, is when she went to part-time prior to that point, we didn't pay ourselves anything fixed. We just kind of said, Hey, the end of the month, what are things looking like? Okay, let's each take five grand or, you know, it was kind of haphazard and that's where Jason and some of our other coaches have helped, like, alright, let's figure out a proper salary.
And then she gets half my salary, but then will still get owner benefits and just trying to figure out how that works, you know? It's forced us to grow up a little bit more too, which things we should have done previously. Anyhow, it forced us to do, which is good to get our act in gear there.
[00:26:02] Sanjay Parekh: It's good to have somebody from the outside telling you, like, what are you doing?
[00:26:06] Mickey Mellen: Exactly. Oh, yeah.
[00:26:07] Sanjay Parekh: Doing things very haphazardly. And, and there's something to be said about that though, doing it that way as well. Right? Like I think some of this probably comes from the fact that both of you have never had an agency before.
[00:26:17] Mickey Mellen: Exactly. For sure.
[00:26:18] Sanjay Parekh: And who's to say that the way agencies run is the right way? And maybe you've found a better model for it. So I, I don't know if I would put a hundred percent stock in, in everything that a coach tells you or somebody like me tells you.
[00:26:30] Ali Green: Sure. Right.
[00:26:31] Sanjay Parekh: It’s great that you guys have found your way and figured all of this out. So, let's, let's one more question before I ask you the big question for, you know, our listeners. Let's talk about productivity and you know, how do you think about people being productive as well as yourselves?
Ali, you're basically half time, but you're trying to make that as productive as possible. Are there tools, are there tricks, are there things that you use to help make sure that you're staying on task? Mickey, you mentioned that you did some time tracking stuff. Is there something that you did or is that paper and pencil? Like what do you guys use to make sure you're productive all the time that you're spending?
[00:27:08] Mickey Mellen: Yeah, it's tough. That was paper. It was Excel, but it was basically hand tracking for the time. There's no paper and pencil in my world, but it's as close as you’re going to get. But yeah, there's a lot of different things and it's come out more recently too with Ali. Like we're both big inbox zero people. And we sort of force that on our team too, saying, Hey, get things done, put them in their proper places. But it's difficult now when she takes off on Thursday and she's off on Fridays and then there's the weekend and she comes in and has hundreds of emails Monday morning, because she's great about not checking it when she's at home, which is fantastic.
And try to solve that has become an interesting challenge, you know, cause then her first day back is shot. It’s just all emails. And so, we're trying to figure that out.
That's a big piece.
[00:27:46] Ali Green: We're looking into virtual assistants and things like to help manage inbox, help manage calendar. And as you get more and more into the world and out of your computer, which I think a business owner really ultimately should end up there. It's really hard to manage your inbox and the, the communication channels that you once have so heavily relied on are not where you should be relying on anymore, oftentimes.
That's the transition I'm finding myself in as an owner is I used to be, we pride ourselves on being responsive, caring for clients being there quickly. And now it's not really where I should be. So, I have to really change my mindset on where I spend my time.
[00:28:31] Mickey Mellen: And part of it is, we have to change our clients’ mindset too. They're used to, email Mickey and he'll get back to you quickly. And I'm like, no, no email support, email, our support address. The one I told you about, they'll get back to you quickly.
If you email me, I still get back to them quickly, which is a problem. But I'm trying to wean them off of that. So yeah, because for years I told them, I said, email me if you need anything. And so, they've learned cool, I’ll email him. I say, no, no, don't email me anymore. Email that support address to make us more productive. And they don't like that.
[00:28:53] Ali Green: So that's an interesting, so productivity, I know a lot of our business owner friends love tools, right? You know, what kind of tools are you using? So. Mickey mentioned a few things in passing. We do have one email address, [email protected] Then that goes directly to one system, with one person that answers it.
It's essentially the traffic director to any small things that need to be done on the websites we manage, the clients we care for. So that is actually a tool that I've never really considered, being a very helpful tool, because if that person is off, we can redirect those emails to somebody else on the team. And they can answer.
[00:29:27] Mickey Mellen: Clients don't have to worry about who's on vacation or whatever. They email that and they get taken care of. It's a win-win all the way around. So that works well.
[00:29:33] Ali Green: And then we use ClickUp for project management. I would say the best tool out of that is our project manager.
[00:29:38] Mickey Mellen: Yeah.
[00:29:39] Ali Green: The person behind it.
[00:29:40] Mickey Mellen: She can use whatever she wants. I think, she does well with that. But I think the big thing that turned for us, I think it was in 2013, we started learning more about processes and what should be written down. We had great processes, but they were all up here. And so in 2013, after one of the Word Camp sessions we went to, we got talking about this process.
We said, oh my gosh, we need to do that too. So now we have pages and pages of processes, but it makes it good. So, if someone comes in, they know, here's how we need to launch a site and here's how we need to set up this. And we're always, always trying to improve that, but getting that in place again, we didn't know that from day one, I would've gone back and done that in 2009, instead of 2013.
Getting that in place has helped a ton for productivity for all of us.
[00:30:16] Sanjay Parekh: That's awesome. Okay. Last question for both of you if somebody is out there, that's thinking about taking the leap to either start a side hustle or take their side hustle and make it a full-time business, what advice would you give them?
[00:30:28] Mickey Mellen: Hmm. See, I needed the comfort again, we're not risk takers, so it makes it difficult. I think if you had risk takers, they'd give a different kind of answer. Both of us said, I think, make sure you have your ducks in a row before you do that. You know, don't take too big of a jump there. And I just was very fortunate that I've always had a lot of little side hustles and Google Earth blog was one because I ran a site called Google Earth hacks and I was making money from that as well.
And that's how I met the other guy. So, I had enough little streams of income that it made an easier jump to, to try what we wanted. So that, I guess I would almost encourage that. If you want to start a side hustle, that's easy to do. It's when you want to take the side hustle full time, that's a much bigger, much bigger ask.
[00:31:04] Ali Green: Yeah, and I would consider what your passion is. So, when you're growing a company and your passion is the craft that you do, you might be a better freelancer and there is a wonderful path in freelance. I mean, you can certainly position yourselves appropriately and do very well for yourself. If you're going to grow a company, just consider the craft is going to fade.
You will hire somebody to do the craft, most likely, and you will become a managing role. You will be in the community. You will be fostering relationships and managing people. So, if you're comfortable managing people and orchestrating, rather than doing your craft, then go build. Go build something great. And it honestly doesn't matter what the craft is because you can probably build something great.
But if your love and your heart is in writing or is in producing or is in designing, then do what you love. You know, don't let growth take that away from you. Don't let the aspirational dreams of having a big company take that away from you, because it will. It will pull at your time.
[00:32:08] Mickey Mellen: We were both happy with that though. I'm happy to give up development. She was happy to give up design, but I mean, heck our designer we have now, she's been a freelancer forever and she's fantastic. But part of her struggle is, as a freelancer, she has to manage finding clients and dealing with all that cruft.
And she said, I just want to design. And so that's why she came to us so we can just give her great things to design, and we deal with all the other garbage on her behalf. So, she can just do what she loves, and it works out great for everyone.
[00:32:31] Sanjay Parekh: I love that. I love that. That's awesome. Ali, Mickey, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
[00:32:36] Mickey Mellen: Yep. Appreciate it, man. This is great.
[00:32:38] Ali Green: You got it. Thank you.
[00:32:40] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit hiscox.com/shareyourstory.
I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter at @sanjay or on my website at sanjayparekh.com.