First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Krista Neher: Surprisingly well, although slightly more chaotic. We’ve embraced some of the advantages of more time together and spending time outdoors. The first few months were fairly rough, but we’ve found our stride and trying to enjoy finding creative ways to make things special. Finding new ways to celebrate events has been fun and creates a silver lining when we can’t rely on our traditions.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Boot Camp Digital.
Krista Neher: I started my marketing career at P&G, which is an amazing company to work for and learn from. In 2006 I shifted my focus and began working on a startup part-time with a friend, and I loved it. We were one of the first companies using social media for business in the world. It provided us the ability to outsmart our competitors instead of out-spend them. When that company sold, I was approached by a few companies to do consulting. So I started a social media consulting business. While I liked consulting, I wanted to reach more people, so I started conducting workshops. From there, we grew, and I’ve been in business now for over 13 years. Since then, I’ve written six books, delivered keynotes around the world, and have worked with some of the best businesses on the planet.
How does Boot Camp Digital innovate?
Krista Neher: There are a few things we do to stay ahead of the curve.
1) We are relentless about feedback. We ask for feedback constantly. It was scary for me at first – what if the feedback was bad? But it has become one of our most valuable tools. Positive feedback, of course, is empowering, but it also gives you and your team the confidence that you have a product that helps people. Negative feedback can be hard to hear, but we’ve gotten some of our best ideas from it.
2) We pay attention to the marketplace. We are always looking at the industry for new ideas. We monitor not just our competitors but other businesses in the space to get ideas and see where the innovation is.
3) We do team brainstorming. Every quarter we have a business review and growth session. We review where things are today and decide what we’ll focus on to grow in the next quarter. The most valuable thing about this is that it provides a forum where everyone can share ideas. This means that everyone should be looking for opportunities and thinking. I’m always surprised at the interesting ideas that come out of these meetings.
4) We measure everything. If you want to innovate, you need to know what works and doesn’t work. We measure everything and have clear benchmarks, so we know if we are moving the needle.
5) We stop doing things that don’t work. This is probably the hardest thing for everyone to embrace, but knowing when to stop or walk away from something that isn’t working is key. We use an approach called SSC (Start, Stop, Continue) in our marketing reviews. The idea is that in order to work on new ideas, we need to free up capacity and resources. So we try to be deliberate about stopping or pivoting when something isn’t getting results.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Krista Neher: When COVID hit, we immediately saw a decline in our business – especially in in-person training, speaking, and workshops. With all of these events being canceled or on hold, over 50% of our revenue was immediately wiped out. Additionally, the uncertainty meant that leads were slower than normal.
We pivoted quickly. We researched and piloted virtual training programs and are now delivering virtual training experiences that are just as good, if not better, than in-person. We’ve been challenged to be more creative. We tried things we normally wouldn’t do. It is paying off. Our revenue is almost back to pre-pandemic, and we have really upped our game on some of our marketing.
As a business owner, it has been a struggle. Uncertainty keeps me up at night. My business is responsible for supporting not just my family and myself, but the families of my employees. I take that responsibility seriously. We’ve weathered the storm and come out stronger, but not without challenges, sleepless nights, and all-nighters.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Krista Neher: So many difficult choices. What I’ve learned over 13+ years in business is:
1) Trust your gut – After about five years, I developed pretty good instincts around what works and why primarily through trial and error. It is a tricky balance to stay open to new ideas but avoid repeating mistakes or wasting resources.
2) Rely on data – Everyone has an opinion, but there is usually data that answers the question better and more definitively.
3) Drive Impact – There are so many decisions to make all the time. Not all of them are important. I try to save my mental energy for decisions that really matter and not get too hung up on every little detail or decision.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Boot Camp Digital in the future?
Krista Neher: For me, personally, the action is the biggest thing that reduces my stress. When we realized that it wasn’t just going to be a few bad months, we sprung into action. All ideas were on the table, and we quickly launched virtual content and developed leadership in the space. I started my business in a recession, so I’m always up for a challenge. Action makes me feel more in control, so that is the #1 way I deal with stress.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Krista Neher: Our competition has changed a lot over time. Initially, we were the only company focused on digital marketing training. Then there were other digital marketing training companies. Next, we saw colleges and universities entering the field. Now we have companies with low prices crowding the marketplace and “experts’ offering their own courses. This has forced us to become more strategic and really think about the actual value that we bring to businesses. We laser-focused our positioning and products and realized that we actually compete in a space that isn’t well-served by the other options.
Your final thoughts?
Krista Neher: The only real certainty in life or business is change. The current crisis created more change more quickly than most of us were prepared for. For me, when confronted with a challenge, it always forces me to get sharper, more strategic, and more focused. These approaches serve us well in any climate, but they are vital when things are tough. Looking at the challenge and opportunity has helped me keep a positive mindset and mobilize my team to pivot and move forward.
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