Dennis Yu

#1 VA Mistake and How to Avoid It

There is a lot of vandalism of our assets by well-meaning VAs. Most don’t realize that when they post a piece of content under my name or the client’s name, they are representing that person. Imagine taking the microphone away from Rihanna while she’s singing on stage, but you don’t know how to sing. And you’re deaf, so you don’t realize that your singing doesn’t sound the same. This is what happens when VAs work on content without understanding the context. Whenever you touch any piece of content, always ask yourself WHY someone should see it and WHO specifically should see it. You must know the GCT (Goals, Content, and Target audience). One way the #1 VA mistake hurts us is when a VA processing one of our videos, or a client’s videos, does not understand the GCT of that video project. This leads to bland summaries that don’t get views or engagement, even though the original video itself is powerful. The same applies to the articles we create from videos.   But that’s not all. Unintentional Vandalism: The Cost of Misunderstanding Content and Brand Recently, we’ve had some people attempt to work on my personal brand. These are not bad people; they are great VAs. They’re well-meaning and want to do good work. They’ve gone through some training and have a bit of work experience and knowledge about digital marketing, but they’ve struggled to make a significant impact on my personal brand. We have a document called the personal brand manager, and they don’t know what it is. They don’t know the different people involved, the specific terminology we use, or the underlying concepts. They don’t even follow me on Facebook. So, it’s not that they’re bad people; they simply don’t have enough understanding to effectively represent me in personal branding. If you look at my personal brand, or anyone else’s for that matter, depending on its sophistication, there could be a lot of content. In my case, we’ve collected a significant amount of content over the last few years. We’ve processed it through all the stages of the Content Factory. Much of it has been done by myself because we practice “Learn, Do, Teach.” So, if I want to tell other people that it takes 15 minutes to take a raw video, process it, script it, and post it to a webpage, then I should be able to demonstrate that I’ve done this many times myself. I can’t simply delegate tasks that I’ve never done before. And if I’m going to give advice on “how do you speak on TV,” “how do you speak at a conference,” or even “how do you run a Facebook ad,” then I need to have that expertise myself. If I lack expertise in the topics I am teaching, it would violate the “Learn, Do, Teach” principle. If someone tries to teach something they have never done themselves, it’s like a fat person trying to give weight loss advice. It’s not that their advice isn’t good. It’s probably good advice. But they’re not implementing it themselves, which means they’re not credible, and they’re repeating what someone else said. Anyone who gives an opinion or advice on how to do something should be an expert practitioner on that topic, even if they are highly confident in their opinions. If not, they make the #1 VA mistake, which will likely always continue to be the #1 VA mistake. Personal Branding and Topic Wheels: Insights for Virtual Assistants Let’s see what personal branding actually is. For business owners, their “personal brand” is largely about their network. It’s not what they say about themselves. Some people think that to build their personal brand, they must constantly talk about themselves and their accomplishments. They want others to know what they do so they can hire people, drive leads, grow their business, and build partnerships. This might seem logical, but it’s not how it actually works. This is because people, in general, are selfish. They care about themselves. They care about what a certain business or person can do for them. They don’t care about someone else’s accomplishments. When someone just talks about themselves, others think they’re a douchebag. However, when others in their network talk about them, that is what actually builds their credibility. Even if someone creates a hundred pieces of content per day, they still can’t outperform what their network can do for them. We organize all this content, whether co-created or not, into different topics in a topic wheel. A topic wheel maps out ‘who a business owner knows’ – their network – with ‘what they know’ – their areas of expertise. If someone is an introvert, this organization can start with topics they are passionate about and then associate those topics with other people who share the same passions (an inside-out approach). If they are an extrovert, they can start with the people they know and map that to their expertise (an outside-in approach). This is how you establish a strong personal brand. When we look at the six stages in the Content Factory process: a figurehead produces the content, and a virtual assistant processes it. Producing content is the highest value use of a business owner’s time, which also includes building relationships and traveling. However, they should never handle the processing, which should always be done by virtual assistants. This allows the figurehead or business owner to have time for activities that generate more revenue for the business. But when you, as a virtual assistant, are going to write under the figurehead’s name, you better have excellent grammar. You also must understand the different people that are in their network and why they are in their network. You must understand what themes or topics are important to them and know what is their “why.”  When you promote content for a business owner following the Content Factory process, you must be aware of their audience as well as their business strategy – their

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What Qualifies You to Provide a Credible Opinion

Many people have strong opinions, whether credible or not, about what you should or should not do, whether backed by experience or not. And the more people you have, the more unsolicited opinions you’ll have coming at you– from family, friends, people who work for you, and random people on the internet. The tricky balance is allocating enough time for people and making them feel like they’re heard while not making everything open to debate. As a leader, you often have to put your foot down and hope everyone supports the decision enthusiastically and understands why. Ultimately, the leader makes the decision. Ray Dalio covers this expertly in his book, Principles. The Dunning-Kruger Effect (incredible concept) says that the most uninformed people have the strongest opinions. The antidote to DK is #LDT (learn, do, teach)— to only voice your opinion when you have learned something and implemented it successfully yourself many times to have a credible opinion. To provide advice, even when you really believe in something without achieving it yourself, is to be a backseat driver or armchair quarterback. I constantly catch myself and others voicing opinions on something. Then consider if the opinion is backed by a successful implementation to ensure that it is not from a hypocrite or an unknowing and well-meaning victim of DK. I’ve discussed this at length with mentors many levels above me, but never yet found one who has been able to get people in a large organization to understand #LDT (to provide an opinion only when qualified). I thought there must be a way to teach this seemingly simple concept– since it would open the eyes of many. But my mentors have said the solution is not to force this learning on people but to have a super high bar in the first place (avoiding the problem altogether). Isn’t it incredible how good, intelligent people can come to opposite conclusions? How do you address leadership challenges? See how Extreme ownership has taught me that there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

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Why am I Unbeatable

Do you know why I am unbeatable? Not because I’m stronger than you, smarter than you, or because I “never give up”. It’s because I don’t believe I have any competitors. Anyone who is better than me at something I do, I want to learn from them and partner. I want to honor them and praise their accomplishments. Over the last 30 years, by applying this strategy, I’ve built up a powerful network of friends who are there for me. When I was a 23-year-old know-it-all, I thought I could outwork everyone. Now I realize my vast ignorance, so I just call up the expert in that area for help. And instead of trying to figure out HOW to do something, I now ask WHO can do it.

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Focus on the “WHY” and not “WHAT”

Pros focus on the benefits, not the features. Among folks who sell coaching and info products, the number of courses and the details are not as important as helping people see the result. To know WHY they should buy. The hallmark of a great copywriter is not solid grammar (we should all be able to write clearly and error-free) but the focus on benefits. And the key to being able to zero in on benefits is having EMPATHY— which few people have. EMPATHY comes from within, as well as from #LDT (Learn, Do, Teach), meaning that you’ve gone through it yourself to understand and have credibility. If you’re an expert in any area– especially a consultant, real estate agent, attorney, or doctor– this is where your marketing must focus.

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Leverage your weak connections for a network boost.

Things I wish I knew 20 years ago, which would have avoided me much suffering…

Choose ONE niche serving ONE type of customer doing ONE thing really well, instead of doing many things for many types of people. The latter doesn’t scale and results in headaches. Even a technology business is still a people business first— you need relationship skills to sell, manage employees, and build partnerships. Develop EQ instead of being “just business” all the time. The path is longer than you think, costs more than you think, and has problems your best-laid plans don’t account for. Still set goals, but don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong. Focus on getting results, not on how you look. In due time, people will know you by your accomplishments. Charge a LOT more than you think. Easier to service a few customers paying a lot than many customers who pay little. The less they pay, the more they expect. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Keep a list of mentors who advise you on key issues. The “hustle” of working non-stop is a young man’s game. Take care of your body and have no guilt in enjoying downtime. A fully charged hour of yourself is more productive than a full day of grinding while tired. Turn the camera on to document the journey. Others will learn from your struggles and things they don’t have the courage to reveal openly. Rather than trying to “network”, be choosy in having a close group of high-vibration friends who have done what you want to do. Take advice only from people who have achieved the goals you have— everyone, especially friends, loves to offer you their unqualified opinions. People who are mean to you are actually revealing their hidden pain. Be kind to them. It’s not personal. Honor promises you made to yourself at the same level as an important client meeting in your calendar. Happiness comes from serving others— toys and status soon lose their shiny appeal. Your income is in direct proportion to the value of the problems you solve. What do you do well that you can scale through people, processes, and platforms? Wealthy people own assets that produce residual income— so they focus their efforts on impact, not by hours worked, meetings had, or tasks done. Build a business or multiple businesses that can operate without you, but set the example as the first employee. Give away your knowledge freely— karma will come back 100-fold, even years later.

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What course should I take?

We’re trying to help small businesses by training more folks to be able to help them move their business online. It starts with Learn. Do. Teach. The more we know the more we can share. I think we’ll see a crowd-sourcing of education. And what a great opportunity! A lot of folks have been asking me for direction, so let me break down our course offerings. All our courses are broken into 1-minute chunks. Why one minute? That’s how much time you have. For solopreneurs: start with Vendasta, how to start an agency. For business owners, and especially local small business owners, chiro, plumber, etc., start with Social Amplification Engine. If you want to work ON your business not IN your business, or if you’re the emotive, creative, relationship-driven type, start with personal branding. All three will lead you to the same place, but you can choose where you begin, based on your skills and your situation. But begin by playing to your strengths. If you’re trying to scale up, look at Checklist Architecture, optimization course, basecamp basics (the six threads on how we organize projects at scale) Level 4 Project Manager Course; How do you project manage? If you’re ready to scale, you can start using Learn. Do. Teach. If you’re a successful business owner (doing more than $1 million/year), then look at the Nine Triangles Course. It’s a framework that will work best if you’re already doing quite well. There are many ways into all of our courses, but they all lead to the same framework: The 18-Module Architecture. There’s a path for the specialists; digital markers, agency owners, and stay-at-home moms. You’ll focus on Modules 7-12. Modules 1-6 make up the Social Amplification Engine; good for business owners. If you’re a partner, like Vendasta, GoDaddy, or Instagram, there’s a path to train you. No matter where you are on your journey, think about balancing learning, doing, and teaching. Then, when you’re ready, and you’ve learned the skills, send your work over to me. We’ll work to get you hooked up in a marketplace so you can begin helping others. Think of it like online dating, except for business. As you share, you’ll get feedback, and accolades, from people like me. Here’s a tip to get you started: find your lighthouse client. It will be easier to serve 50 businesses that are similar than it will be to serve 10 random, different businesses. Let me know, what has been your favorite course? What course did you start with? What course did you find the most interesting? How can we improve our courses? Where have you been stuck? Most of all, I want to see you succeed! Hit me up. And, do something for me, let’s start overcoming the of being on video – start replying to things in short videos! Be it your friends’ text messages, Facebook posts, Instagram messages, or whatever. Just jump in! Check out all of our courses here.

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I used to spend 3 hours learning for every hour of doing.

Fast forward twenty years, I’m now spending 15 hours learning for every hour of doing. My productivity has gone WAY UP, yet the percentage of time I spend actually working has done down. My mentor, who was the CEO of American Airlines, spent hours in his corner office– feet on his desk, looking out the window. His colleagues thought he was just spacing out, but in reality, it was his most productive time. As CEO, he’s paid to think, not attend meetings all day. And I’m paid for results, not the number of hours I bill. So I spend most of my time thinking and learning– then take a couple small actions that have high leverage. The junior folks are so eager to rush into just “doing” without consideration for strategy and competence. Measure twice, cut once— or if you have an hour to chop down the tree, spend the first 50 minutes sharpening the blade.

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When your team member FAILS, guess whose fault it is?

If they failed for not having enough skills, YOU should have trained them better. If they just don’t seem to get it, YOU should have put them in the right role. If they’re not motivated, YOU should have aligned with their goals and actively helped them get there. If they don’t treat your customers well, YOU should be treating them better to set the example. If they stole from you, YOU should have a stronger qualifying process. I had a co-founder rip me off blind, rationalized away— and I know it’s my fault for letting it get that far. Real leaders know that 99% of the time, it’s a problem with management, not your team member. The rookie manager blames his people, while the pro manager knows that their job is to take care of their people and help them succeed! Instead of being a policeman, be a coach, mentor, and cheerleader.

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Life’s Work

Everything I know– packaged up into the 1,036 pages below. Not counting the 2,149 videos, 2,000 articles, and 750 speaking engagements. 22 years of digital marketing as a practitioner and educator. You spend the first decade of your career LEARNING.You spend the second decade of your career DOING.And you spend the third decade of your career TEACHING. That’s what Jack Ma said and what my mentors, far older and wiser, have taught me. Don’t boast about your 6 figures and 7 figures or about your flashy lifestyle. Boast about the successes of your mentees– cheer them on and do everything you can to help them win, in the same way your mentors did for you.

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I believe teaching is the highest professional responsibility we can have.

Even if you are not a Karen Freberg, you can still teach others from right where you are, to lift where you stand. Formal educators must work with private sector professionals like us to bridge the training gap that students face when they graduate- so we can help them get great jobs and be awesome employees in our companies. Karen not only is an incredible professor, but somehow finds the time to train professors who want to teach social media to their students, write textbooks, speak at conferences, and be a practitioner herself. We are all teachers, even if not formally, and can learn from her example.

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