In the first episode of Burning the Boats, Oscar shares an insightful interview with special guest, Michael Higgins, owner-operator of H.D. (Higgins Dynamic) Enterprises.
Higgins is originally from the Jacksonville, Florida area, attended Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida where he majored in History, with a minor in Politics. After his high school sweetheart and wife attended USF, they settled down in Tampa. Higgins taught high school history and theology for five years before starting his own business and focusing on providing the premier outsource web development firm for small to medium sized businesses. You are guaranteed to learn valuable lessons as Higgins shares his dynamic career journey.
- Local Chamber(s) of Commerce
- Local Business Alliances
- Area Business Networking Groups
Show Value Bombs:
- Utilize free resources to learn- Is there something you don’t know how to do? You can figure anything out with the help of the internet, YouTube, other free resources and determination.
- Remember that setbacks are stepping stones– What may seem like a major setback at the time can become a tool for you to differentiate yourself.
- Identify your strengths– The tasks where you are strong are where you should focus your attention. Have someone else do the other tasks to strengthen your weaknesses.
Today on The OMG! Show: Burning the Boats with Special Guest Michael Higgins
0:52 – Oscar talks about his previous experience with SEO and asks special guest, Michael Higgins to describe an overview of his role with SEO.
- Michael shares that he does websites and applications.
- Under the context of websites, he provides websites as a service- SEO, optimization, Google ads, Facebook ads, and geo-targeting.
- For applications, he builds business apps for everything from healthcare to video games.
- Michael shares SEO is a neat market to work in because you never know who the prospective client is and who will need your services.
2:19 Oscar asks Michael to tell him about his back story.
- Michael has always had an entrepreneurial itch and married his high school sweetheart.
- He shares his college aged entrepreneurial vision for a laundromat and the perspective she, his girlfriend then offered.
- Michael shares about his college, degree, and his admiration for his professors’ drive.
- Michael and his wife graduated, got married and had a child right away at the beginning of the recession in 2008.
- He went from selling insurance with OK money to base salary and began applying for other jobs–at 500 places in Tampa with all “no” responses.
- Upon the direction of his thesis supervisor, he contacted a local Catholic boys school looking for a theology professor and began teaching high school theology— a little bit of a culture shock.
13:25 – Oscar Identifies the change in Michael’s mindset in 2008 when he was willing to take any job vs. 2014 when he felt the need to be more selective. Oscar asks Michael to explain the shift.
- Michael explains that in 2008, he had a base salary and was willing to work extra to supplement his income.
- In 2014, he had three kids and did not want to work 80 hours a week.
- His goal was to work more traditional hours to afford time with his family.
14:58 – Oscar emphasizes, “What does your freedom actually cost you? You could work 80 hours a week, but it’s not worth sacrificing the time with your kids and family.” He alludes that early in an entrepreneur’s career, they typically consider the kind of life they’d like to have and how can them make it work?
- Michael agrees and explains that he is good with tech, but he learned early on that it’s a bad business plan to fix people’s computers, because if you fix them, they shouldn’t break.
16:00 – Oscar asks Michael where his tech background comes from.
- Michael’s parents always had the next cool computer in the house, and early on, he figured out how to bypass the firewall at the local library.
- When he was teaching high school, he was one of the youngest teachers and recommended iPads.
- It was approved, so he helped start the iPad data program and evaluated if it was a good idea.
- He shares his mistakes in Google Forms and that he learned the importance of identifying errors and securing data.
- This experience has proven useful in surveying clients using internal forms.
Oscar summarizes that each part of Michael’s career has been a stepping stone, and what may have been a major set back at the time, has become a tool for Michael to differentiate himself.
19:54 – Oscar recalls the early laundromat idea and fixing computers not being the right business model. He asks Michael how he navigated the waters to where he is today.
- Michael reiterates that he didn’t know what he was going to do, so he named his business “Higgins Dynamic Enterprises” or “HD Enterprises” for short.
- He started fixing people’s computers and received recommendations including his longest standing client, a CPA, who has referred him to lots of people.
- He found a dead end with realtors- they either have a lot of money or no money at all.
- He obtained tiny contracts fixing their computers and setting up their small networks but realized it was the wrong thing to do.
- They asked him to run their social media.
28:19– Oscar asks Michael what two hats he actually wears and what he is able to outsource.
- The two hats Michael wears are sales and project management.
He uses the subhats to communicate with the developer what the client wants, the format they prefer and give developers the freedom use their strengths.
- Oscar summarizes, “It’s the classic play to your strengths. Find out your weaknesses and build your weaknesses up with the right people.”
29:17 – Oscar asks Michael if he struggled with letting that power go, or because of the obligation, did he have the mentality that he didn’t have to do everything?
- Michael shares it forced him to realize he didn’t have to do everything.
- His tech friend helped him at no charge, because he was building his portfolio, It reached the point where Michael was asking too much and there was tension, so the two had a financial conversation to keep the relationship intact.
30:57 – Oscar asks the timeline on Michael’s first website.
- Michael shares it was a month to six weeks of him sitting at the computer six-eight hours everyday trying to figure out how to do stuff.
- Oscar recalls his first marketing job also came from him saying he build websites and he had to YouTube CMS, HTML, etc. He encourages the listener that everything is “figure out-able.”
31:46 – Oscar reiterates that Michael was paid enough money to cover his bills without knowing what he was doing – hence “Burning the Boats.” Michael had no option but to press forward and make it happen.
- Michael shares that once he built that first website and had the CPA’s endorsement, he was suddenly on the inside track at West Tampa.
- He was a part of the community even though he wasn’t from there.
It was because they trusted him with something and he did it right.
From 2015-2017, West Tampa was 70% of all his income.
33:05 – Oscar asks where the other 25% of Michael’s business came from (referrals, outside parties, etc).
- Michael shares he joined a Tampa specific group called RGA (Revenue Generating Activities).
- It is where he learned how to grow your business and how to look out for other people so they will in turn look for you.
- He spent time networking with them, so he picked up business from them, secondary, and tertiary contacts.
- He would take whatever contracts he could get. Oscar echoes, “You were in survival mode.”
34:41 – Oscar mentions that, in the beginning, a lot of service based entrepreneurs #1 don’t know how to price themselves and #2 take on too much and get burned out about the amount of contracts.
- Michael started charging $75/hour but quickly learned people are petrified of charging per hour b/c they can’t see you and are forced to trust you.
- A friend suggested 3 pricing models- charge by the hour, project, or percentage of work done for the project.
- Example- Charge by project with 50% up front, ¼ at Beta and ¼ at completion. This worked best after trial and error of working through a project and the client walked away.
- This pricing model also keeps contractor incentivized to completion.
- Oscar agrees that an incentivized pricing model puts clients at ease.
- Oscar gives the example that sales funnels and charging a percent of profit made it easier to get clients because they see you as their sales person instead of someone that is going to overcharge them.
38:08 – Oscar asks Michael if once he figured out the pricing model, he had an easier time getting clients or if he faced roadblocks.
- Michael shared that his roadblock was it was taking too long to build a website, and once you build the site, there is no more money.
Oscar mentions that it sounds like a lifetime value problem.
- As Michael pondered the problem of making enough money every month to make it work, he realized he had to pay for Microsoft 365.
- There was his answer! Software as a service for websites. Websites as a service.
- He identified his deliverables, how he could make money on it and how much a client was willing to pay.
- He came up with a three tiered structure with different deliverables and different price points.
- Michael was delivering a flagship website for a big neighborhood in North Tampa and they encouraged him to go with the idea.
- He joined a different networking group without a digital footprint and they affirmed the idea, as well.
- The concept to design your website AND take care of your problems on the back end means the business owner has no website problems.
- What am I really selling? HAPPINESS.
38:08 – Oscar rewinds to when Michael was trying to figure out how he could make more money. He asks where the want and need came from? At that point, were you not spending enough time with your family or what was the motivation?
- Michael shares he had the time with his family but he wasn’t making enough money on a regular basis.
His pain point was paying back bills at Christmas. He needed more money!
- Oscar identifies that for a lot of people, that happens for a very long time until the come to the realization that they need to get smart about it.
43:49 – Oscar inquires if the three tiered structure is in place now or has it evolved?
- Michael shares that it’s the core of his business and his long term goal to offer website as a service.
- 85% of his clients are local and within driving distance.
44:50 – Oscar asks Michael for his take on having a sales funnel.
- Michael asks how you would develop that because the vast majority of his clients need informational type websites or a members only type website with a limited number of ecommerce sites.
- Oscar shares that most of his clients are service based businesses that don’t do ecommerce so having a website is paramount.
- In terms of developing a sales funnel, there are tools like Clickfunnels, but strategy is more important.
- As a service based business, there are different points of entry for markets that do business with you.
- When the website is fine tuned with messaging, it is like an automated sales person.
- Oscar shares for him, it’s strategy first, then mold the website around the strategy and build the funnels around that.
44:50 – Oscar asks Michael if he feels his biggest catalyst has been networking opportunities.
- Michael says, “Absolutely!”
- He refers to the business alliances and chambers of commerce to which he belongs and emphasizes that is an opportunity to be around big decision makers.
48:14 – Oscar asks Michael to look back at the past three years and identify three lessons he’s learned to continue doing what he wants to do.
1. Make a decision and execute on it. What are you going to do?
Create main tasks and sub-tasks and just do it. Incentive: “I won’t get paid unless I do this!”
2. Create relationships. Face to face relationships can be a potential client. Pipeline which could be many clients. Give an incentive.
3. Simple Math: How much do I need to make? How many clients/contracts do I need to get there?
52:07 – Oscar asks Michael his take on “shiny object syndrome” and staying committed to a simple plan without trying to get there quicker and faster.
- Michael recalls his “shiny object” experience from 2015-2017 with a telemedicine startup who offered him a CTO position and declined 3 million start up funding and a management team from Adobe. It was a distraction to him and took him back to the basics of “simple math.”
55:10 – Oscar asks Michael his take on scaling your business. Do you find out what works and double down on that strategy or identify the outliers and focusing on those?
- Michael shares he has not found specific verticals that his business works better than others.
- Michael does really well at informational, members only and ecommerce websites with a dedicated client base.
- Michael does the sale and someone else builds it out for him – He goes to network meetings, build relationships, makes the sell, has someone else build it out and project manages it.
- Michael’s suggestion: take developer timeline and multiply by 2.25. Under promise, over deliver!
58:57 – In summary, Oscar reiterates to focus on your strengths, use people that will strengthen your weaknesses, and asks Michael how we can find him.
- Michael’s website: tbpc.co
- Phone: 813-205-6160
Michael would love to meet for cafe con leche and talk about how we can help each other!
Watch The Interview!