Checklist Manifesto| Content Machine Ep. #9

We think about direction changing books for our business, The checklist Manifesto is one of those. As a creative marketing agency, we do a lot of different projects, and each project is different within itself, and we never want to feel too corporate. So for a long time, we didn’t lean into standard operating procedures. But this book changed that. A checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is a look at Atul’s work in the public health world and shows how fallible the human condition is. The story centers on doctors and nurses in surgery rooms. Doctors and nurses are some of our smartest citizens. But a tool notes that for many years, simple mistakes were leading to many, many unnecessary complications and deaths of patients. Why? Because humans are bad at remembering all the things that they are supposed to remember. In enters the simple checklist, and the numbers of complications decline nearly miraculously because of a simple, humble checklist. Some things like confirming the name of a patient with the team and the paperwork can make sure that the right person has their kidney removed. But without a checklist, a lot of assumptions and mistakes are made. So how does this apply to a marketing business?

Well, I think it applies to all businesses and organizations because anyone who does anything can benefit from a checklist. To air is human, right? Humans are prone to make mistakes and forget things. Checklists can help mitigate that. Do you have something that happens every day? every week? Or once a quarter? Do you remember all the steps it takes to make it happen? We launch websites approximately once a month around here, but as they have grown in complexity and our business has gotten busier, it can be easier to forget a simple thing like submitting to Google search console. Checklist for hiring can make sure that we give employees and interns a smooth start to their work here and not forget, for example, their payroll paperwork to make sure that that gets taken care of. We think checklists are ever evolving. We encourage our team to update SOPs regularly if something changes or we need to add something new. Our team has the authority to speak up if they see someone else missing a step. These are living documents that allow us to be better so that everyone is encouraged to be involved. We started building checklists for lots of things, most anything that is repeatable.

I have a template I use to guide brainstorming sessions. We have new lead and closed project checklists. We have a video export standard operating procedure. We have a logo design package delivery SOP. We want to make sure that the routine things that we do that we do not forget something simple like sending an invoice or something less common like asking ourselves, are we going to add this project to our website? The second most powerful thing, besides not forgetting things, is that it allows us to decentralize authority. One of the things that we are trying to grow through right now is me being less involved with every single thing that happens in the business. We are working to decentralize my authority to empower more people throughout the team. Sops are one way we do that. A checklist for a process that I used to do, or another tenured member used to do, allows us to keep quality up and minimize mistakes as more people touch projects. In fact, during the pilot phase of making this podcast, we built an SOP for both production and distribution, and then we handed that off to our interns who are doing the production and distribution of this podcast, which allowed them to get up to speed much more quickly.

A good shout out to Eric, who’s sitting right there, Cameron, who’s editing this, and Addie, who’s distributing it. If you’re in a business that is not typically a checklist type of company, you should think about this book. If you are in an industry that does use checklists, but you have some people like me who might think that they’re ridiculous, you should also read this book. I give the checklist Manifesto by Atul Grande, a five out of five. Be sure to add it to your reading list. And thank you for checking out the content machine podcast. If you found this episode helpful or insightful or know someone that would, please send it to them. We will be releasing these episodes weekly, so be sure to subscribe to get more helpful content on marketing and leadership. Thank you for listening.

Splinterization of Media| Content Machine Ep. #8

This week, our culture’s last real media focused holiday happened, the Super Bowl. The big game represents a unique moment in the US every year. It’s the closest thing we have to a unified cultural moment most years. Every year, headlines in the newspaper talk about how expensive Super Bowl ads are. And this year was no different with most ads costing between $6 and $7 million. On top of that, companies are usually willing to invest millions more in putting together star studded commercials, investing millions more in production. Why? Well, one, prestige. The company feels cool about being in the Super Bowl. It’s a big ticket purchase and one they can brag about to their friends on the golf course. Production companies also view this as an opportunity to show off. So that’s one reason many of the ads are so over the top. Super Bowl ads are so expensive that it also helps showcase a brand’s relev. If you are buying a Super Bowl spot, it’s not because you are struggling as a company. It’s because you are thriving and relevant and investing money to stay relevant as part of the cultural conversation. But the biggest reason is eyeballs.

The Super Bowl is the biggest media event in any given year in our culture. In 2022, the Super Bowl had as many as four times as the viewers of the College National Championship Game. Most every single major TV viewership event in every year is NFL related. And if it’s not NFL, it’s live sports. Why sports? Because sports is the last live event that you want to watch on traditional TV and not catch the highlights of something later on YouTube or catch it streaming. The Super Bowl is also a cultural event in the United States. Not only do we watch the game, but we have a party about it, and some people just watch it for the commercials. But the Super Bowl is unique because of the diversification of media in our lives. Would you guess that the M Ash Show back in the day, the day, the Finale, had more viewers and a bigger percentage of viewers in the United States than the 2022 Super Bowl. Why is that? Because M Ash was basically watched by everyone. Because in 1983, there were a lot less options on what to watch. Instead of having major networks and no data on a phone, let alone having a cell phone at all, people were set up to choose a very limited number of media options.

And people who grew up with that era are still having a hard time of understanding today’s era. In that era, there were household names and actors in TV shows. But I think the last touch point a majority of our culture has, the working adults at least, can go back to is Kelly Clarkson winning American idol in 2002. Since then, because of the ubiquity of the internet, the options have grown to the point where no one can keep up with them. This has tremendous effects on our marketing, but also as a society. I think it has some ramifications that will continue to play out as increasing division in our society because we have less and less cultural common ground to work with. So what is a marketer to do besides convincing clients that this has already happened? You have to take multi channel marketing seriously. Realizing that the media attention is so splintered in our society that it requires businesses to be available in many different places at many different times. For example, radio used to grab everyone in their cars on their way across town, but now you have to compete with satellite radio, podcasts, and streaming services in people’s cars.

This splinterization is only going to continue, and the cost to produce quality content has dropped, and there’s no more gatekeepers to prevent you from making content, and so there will be more and more options for people to find. Now, you can make your way onto all these platforms, but how do you prioritize? Lots of customer research. Evaluating where your customers are putting their attention will give you an opportunity to find the channels where you’re most likely to find your customers. Now, you can be on all these platforms, but how do you prioritize? Lots of customer research. Evaluating where your customers are putting their attention will give you an opportunity to find the channels where you are most likely to find your customers and people like them. We ran a political campaign last year, and part of our planning was to hit as many mediums as we could to reach as many people as possible. But we did have to rely on the mailer as well. Why is the political mailer so popular? The humble mail is still one thing that gets to everyone. They might not watch TV. They may not be on Facebook. They may not even watch YouTube, but they do get mail.

And additionally, when voters register, they give their address and political campaigns can get those. So we should think about the bigger picture here. How can we reuse the media? The Super Bowl has created such a touch point that some companies use their Super Bowl ad as an event within itself. They tease the release of the commercial or like this year, fan duell with its Gronk Kick. They have a whole series of promotions that lead up to the event, including real time things happening in their apps. So we have to think, how can we use the media we create in multiple channels? Can we use it as a radio or podcast commercial when we record it for a video? Can we use it on YouTube and TV? Can we turn it into pictures? Can we use the spot on our website or in a brochure or on a mailer? How can we squeeze every last penny out of the creative we are making to maximize the value of production for our clients? If you’re using positioning as an expert branding, so you’re creating content that has value like a podcast, how can you take the time you are investing to create good content to be used on multiple platforms?

Thank you for checking out the Content Machine Podcast. If you found this episode helpful or know someone who would, please send it to them. We will be releasing these episodes weekly, so be sure to subscribe to get more helpful content on marketing and leadership. Thank you for listening.

Cannon Johnson of JFC Part II | Content Machine Ep. #7

Now, the reason I want to have you on here is because I know that you get marketing, and I think you can see that in your company. So what role has marketing played in Jackson Fence company?

Wow. So marketing. So I’m curious how you’re going to respond to this. Okay, all right, so I actually went to college. That’s crazy. I know. But now Kevin, I have a PhD. I call that a postal digger. Right? So anyways, I went to college and kind of similar to building fence. They want you to pick a major. What do you study? I’m like biology, looking, all this stuff. I’m like marketing. That sounds awesome, you know what I mean? So I chose marketing. That sounds fancy. On it my collegiate path. And I’ll never forget, man, I might even have the book somewhere. I opened this textbook up, my marketing textbook, and it was like it’s not verbatim. I’m always bad at remembering exactly what people said, but I do remember how I felt, you know what I mean? That’s just always my thing. I’m not good at details, but I remember the gist of it. But it’s something to the tune of, like, first of all, kiddos, marketing is not advertising. All right? So let’s just start.

There two different things.

Yeah. It’s like marketing is the overall delivery of a good or a service. And that goes everything from the very beginning of, hey, we have an idea through the financial department, through the manufacturing department, whatever, to, hey, the end user, the end consumer now has this piece of good and they give you money for it and it goes back to the very beginning and starts over. That’s marketing. It’s more the whole entire business operation rather than just always in marketing. And it’s always in regards to advertising. And that’s fair.

Yeah, there’s a lot of people who will define it differently depending on who you’re talking.

I see marketing, and advertising is related, but marketing is the overall operation. And how do you go from conception to delivery and repeat, repeat, repeat where advertising is, hey, I want you to buy this drink and I’m going to make the logo really cool and bright and big, and we’re going to face it just a certain way. So when you walk in, you’ll see it, you know what I mean?

We kind of delineate the two between. Marketing is like, maybe marketing is the design of the can, but advertising is like the payment of placement to make sure that people know that the can exists.

I like that too.

So marketing in the Fence company has been very intentional about your branding. So you see it as an entire business process. So how does that work out throughout the whole business?

So in our company, everything goes back to like, this is going to sound really dumb or simple, overly simple, maybe awesome. So it all goes back to two things. If it makes sense, do it. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it. And that comes from a corporate red tape structure, which I grew to like, absolutely. I learned a lot, but like, oh, wow, that’s not the way that I want to do things. And just because it makes sense, that doesn’t mean you can do it. Canon you have to still ask 17 other people who we don’t know, and then they’ll let you know if you can. So we just have a business model of like, hey, if it makes sense, do it. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it. And as it relates to advertising, I’m like, look, I want to be familiar. So everything has to have blue on it, right? Everything has to have blue. And that’s even a dress code item is like, hey, look, you’re welcome to wear whatever you want to to work. You got to have boots on. That’s one thing. We have different colored items, and we’ll give those out.

Swag, we call it. But just because I give you a black shirt with a white logo, don’t take it for granted. You still got to have some blue on. So you can wear your black shirt, but you got to have a blue cap on. You got to have a blue beanie on. You got to have a blue t shirt on. So my dress code is pretty simple. Just boots get to have the logo showing somewhere and get to have blue on. And I’m not talking about just the outline here.

I’m talking about, like, a blue primary blue.

That is blue up there in it. What do you have? I’m not breaking the rule. I got blue here. But that becomes to be synonymous with the brand. And I want when people see people building fence, period, in blue shirts, I don’t want there to be a discussion or conversation. I wonder who they got to build their fence. I want it to be that must be Jackson Fence Company, aka. Team Blue, building that fence, you know, and so everything’s blue, even the the roof of the trucks, you know, hey, everybody’s got blue hats on. Well, guess what? Let’s take out all these trucks. We got to the rap shop and, hey, rap. Yeah, I need all these roofs blue because that looks like us. So when we pull up, you see a blue roof, and the guy just had with a blue hat. You don’t have to warn to what the size of the trucks is, but it says Jackson Fence in blue. Yeah, absolutely.

Except for yours, which is black. Right?

Well, I got rid of that one.

Oh, did you?

Yeah, because it didn’t fit.

It didn’t it didn’t?

They brought the dress code.


Awesome. But no, I didn’t have a black one, but I thought that was kind of cool, too.

So when you when you’re getting started and you’re starting to sell more fences because really fencing is like a one time a life purchase, probably for a lot of people.

You’d be surprised.

People break their fences or whip. No, but so or once every ten or 20 years.

So, yeah, what we know is people typically the average stay in in a household now is seven years. Okay, all right. So people are generally moving houses every seven years. That’s not me. It’s also not my parents. But on average, we take everybody, the people that move every year, because we know those people, too, and we know the people that stay in the same house for 40 years that’s my parents take all those people together and add them up and divide them by whatever, seven years people are moving. So you might buy a fence from us now, 2023, but 2030, you’re at a new property. And the other thing, too, Kevin, is if you’ve looked around, there’s a whole lot of new houses going in, and.

It’S going to be keeping being like that, right?

Yeah. And so for us, people always think, hey, man, did I get all those new houses? I’m like, well, we got some. But to me, as long as new houses mean more than just new houses, that means that people are moving from the older houses into the new houses. So now that house has become available, too. So now that’s two opportunities to build a fence. And then not only are those two opportunities, but where are these people coming from? Well, they got to be coming from somewhere. We’re not just moving people from left to right. They’re trickling in from somewhere. And so what does that mean? Now we got to build another school. We got to build Pope elementary. They’re going to have a playground with a fence around it. And then because we have another school and all these other houses, now, we can have another fire department. And then it just keeps on expanding and expanding. And right now, I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s three high rise apartments going up right now in Jackson, Tennessee. I say high rise. They all have fences. Every one of them has a fence around it.

But to answer your question about the repeat business thing, so when we keep up with people through our accounting software, QuickBooks, I was actually doing that this morning, going through and doing job costs, and it’s amazing how many of the same people are on that report. You know, you got 50 names, and one person’s name might be on the other three times. It’s like, well, why? You know? Well, you know, we had a lady, she bought a fence for herself. She liked it so much, she bought one for her daughter. Now we had the same lady’s name in there twice. And so we’re having it’s such a common thing that in QuickBooks and our CRM system, you have contacts, and then you have jobs. And so we’re having to figure out how to not just say Kevin outersberger, but now we got Kevin outersberger as a contact, and then we’ve got Adisburger marketing, we got Kevin’s private residence, we got Kevin’s church, we got these different jobs that are separate from Kevin, but they fall under Kevin’s thing. So we’re having to figure out how to we’re figuring it out because it’s so common that I don’t know, I think people just love us, bro.

Well, and that’s repeat business, which is the best kind, we love them.

So what are you doing to I mean, what’s the thought process on trying to get new business in what’s been working for you?

Yeah, so I never really know. So fencing is a hustle. It’s very fast, and it goes back to our team, eric and Corey and Mike and Brandon Swain. All these guys, man, they’re freaking rock stars. And they build fence really, really fast and good, you know? But so when I say that, I mean, we’re probably build this week six or seven fences, maybe eight. It just depends on the size of them, you know, we built like 500 fences last year, and so it’s a lot of fences, you know, so so we’re always on the hunt for the next one. And leads, you know, you gotta we call them leads. I hate to refer to people or people’s homes as leads, but in sales, you got to lead something. So it’s an opportunity or whatever you want to call it. And where are these people coming from? SEO? Google Ads? That’s not attractive to say, but yeah, we paid Google to put our name at the top. Sure. We actually just bought six billboards, man. We never done that either. Okay. Lexington, Mackenzie, Alamo, Jackson, Medina, Humboat, those are the six towns that they’ve got. Now I got a Jackson Fence billboard.

I don’t know how well it’s going to work either, but our plan is to grow the fence company, and the only way to grow the fence company is to have really good people and really good quality leads. And I don’t know how to do it exactly, other than be everywhere, put your name on everything you could possibly put it on, and be the only when people think about a fence, I want to think about Jackson fence.


Did I answer your question?

I think so. Maybe if you were to start over again, what would be the first thing that you do to be successful?

The first thing? Man, that’s hard. Not much different. I always said before, we worry about making money, let’s worry about doing a good job. And I think that’s one thing I advise new fence companies now to do, too, is a lot of them, lot of new companies get all this advice about how to make more money, and I’m kind of the different guy. I’m like, hey, no, figure out how to be really good at what you do first. And be affordable and just name out there. And then once you start getting really good at it, then just worry about how to make money. I don’t know that I would change a whole lot out of the three or 1004 customers that we’ve had. A couple of them don’t like me, and that still bothers me, really happens. And I wish that I could handle some of these things differently than I did. And not that I handled it wrong, but at the end of the day, when people do business with me, I take that sincerely, and I really want people to like this. I had a guy that we didn’t see eye to eye with a year ago, and about three weeks ago, I called him up, and I said, hey, man, I’ve been thinking about this, and let’s get together.

Let’s figure out what we can do. It’s bothering me to know that I got some guy, like, 45 minutes away that doesn’t like Cannon, doesn’t like Jackson Smith. I’m not okay with that. And we’ve had a really good year, and, look, I want to meet with you. I want to figure out what we can do to bring this back to zero, and then maybe we can be friends. So, I don’t know. I might take it too personal sometimes, but that’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, man. This is a dude that doesn’t like me. I don’t like that at all.

That’s okay. That’s good. Now, it’s a really competitive labor market. Yeah. And you are specifically in the all I hear we hear from lots of people, I can’t hire enough people, can’t hire enough people, can’t get enough people, can’t keep people. You’re in a very labor intensive industry. It’s not an easy job to do. You’re out in the elements. People are sweating and working hard. How are you continuing to grow? Because you have to have people to build defenses. So what’s important to getting people and keeping people, and how are you being successful in that?

Wow. So in six years, I told a guy that this morning. I was like, hey, I may be wrong, and I don’t want this to air and be wrong, but I think in six years and we got 2020 people working for us now, I’ve had three people give me their resignation in six years. And I like to think that goes on record or whatever that speaks to the team that we’ve found and that we’ve worked with and that we have right now. People say these kind of cliche things like, hey, higher, slow, fire fast. To a degree, there’s truth to that. Like, if somebody who gets fired from jack’s fence, those are the people that don’t fit the culture more than anything. But, hey, these other guys, they don’t like you, man. And I don’t know, and that’s real. Hey, bro, I cannot put you out here with these guys in this truck. They’ve got a brotherhood going, and they’re kicking butt and taking names, man. If for some reason you’re not fitting in with them, and that’s not a me versus you thing, and it’s also not a veteran versus you thing, just, hey, I don’t think that we are the right fit for you and vice versa.

And we’ve had to have those conversations. But I think Jackson fence company, it’s not just me anymore. It’s like the people around me are genuinely smarter. I’m not just saying that they build better fence. They sell better fence, they have less anxiety, they’re cooler, they have better jokes, all that stuff, man, they bring better lunch to work every day, seriously. And I’m eating out of a peanut butter jar. So I’m not the guy that people are coming to work for. They’re coming to work with other people. But I’ll tell you this, Kevin. There’s a mechanic shop in our town that burnt down a couple of weeks ago, and there’s a guy that works there, and I know he’s very talented, and I interviewed him this morning, and when I say I interviewed him, it’s kind of like this just a casual he had a coffee. We’re just talking, and we don’t need I was very honest. I said, look, man, I don’t even need nobody right now. But I have this, like, what is it called?

A Vision.

A vision that when somebody good becomes available, you bring them into the equation some way, somehow draft the best player.

Available instead of maybe by need.

And so, hey, look, man, I want you to work here. I know that. I don’t know what I want you to do, but we want you on our team, and we’ll figure that out in time. But if you’ll take that leap with me, I’ll never let you down. That’s kind of the way I look at it. Take the best people you can possibly find and put them on your team.

And then so that’s a part of the culture. It’s like, we want good people, but, like, what else is about culture? How would you define the culture at Jackson’s, man?

So the culture at Jackson’s fence or anything that I want to be a part of is look, this is a story that I like to paint. Look, in the bible, Jesus had disciples. These are people that followed him, all right? These people are dirty. These people are not like him. And then what did Jesus do? He took their sandals off and he washed their feet. That’s called servant leadership. Now, I’m not saying that you’ve come to Jackson fence and I’m watching all these guys feet or walking on water, and that’s right, but I want to take care of these people, you know what I mean? And if Jesus can get on his hands and knees and wash somebody’s feet so that they’ll follow him and work with him, what can I do? Just a little example in the wintertime, this past winter, everybody got new pair of boots. And the thing is, like, hey, if you’re at work, you’re wearing the Jackson fence name, you’re doing a great job. It’s important to me that you’re in a good mood, that you’re happy, and if you’re walking around all day in these uneven terrains on your feet, that’s the foundation of your body.

And if your feet don’t feel good and if your feet aren’t safe or if your feet are getting wet because the dew on the grass is seeping through your shoes or your boots where you’re not going to have a great day and your body’s not going to feel good. And you’ll never be able to get away from the sore. 80 wet feet. And so one thing that we like to do is we like to buy everybody boots because I want you to come to work and I want you to be comfortable. I want you to be safe. I want you to take your boots off the end of day and your socks are dry. I guess that’s my example. Like washing feet, that’s literally the bottom of your body and you’re on it all day long. Get Jackson fence. And so it’s important to me that we take care of your feet, so.

You take care of people. Servant leadership. You clearly have a good rat track record of keeping people.

What else about culture, man? Just treat people the way that you want them to treat you. We’ve all had jobs before you worked at Burrito Truck.

I did help with marketing for Burrito Meal back in the day.

I remember that story. But do unto to others as you want them to do under you. And we’ve all heard stories of people becoming targeted or becoming, hey, I think they’re trying to fire me or whatever. There is none of that at Jacksonville. It’s like, hey, if we don’t want you here, we’re going to probably let you know. You know what I mean? Just that cut and dry, really. But we owe it to the team. We owe it to the people. We owe it to all the families. I’m begging you, hey, come to work. Be a team player. No drama. Do a good job. If you mess something up, say, hey, I mess it up. We’ll go fix it. Just do that. That’s all. That’s all we need at the end of the day. And I think what we’re doing is helping people be better husbands and wives and me, I want to believe that anyways.

And not everybody thinks about that when they think about places to work.

That’s right.

Well, Cannon, I appreciate you coming in. I appreciate the friendship we’ve been able to have. And you’ve helped my fences out.

I know that.

So if someone wants to get their fences mended or a new fence installed, how do they get a hold of you?

Yeah, look here. So we talk about technology and bringing stuff back to the table. So,, you can literally draw your own fence via satellite imagery like Google would do, and get a free instant online quote in minutes. I’m not talking about you just fill out a form and we’re going to call you. No, you’ll fill out a form. Yes. And then next thing you know, you’re drawing and then you’ll get a price right there. There’s no emails, there’s no back and forth, nothing.

Just instant quick price conversion rate on that.

It’s 50 50. So there’s a lot of people, too, that don’t understand what defense costs, you know, and so we won’t yeah, it’s probably the same in marketing. You know, we don’t know what the cost to do a do a short commercial, you know?


And so rather than them wasting their time and, you know, us going out and spending our time with it, you know, we just cut to the chase. Hey, look, you’re going to be somewhere between $5,000 you want to do it, and if that’s way more than they can possibly do. Well, let me tell you about the financing options that we have. There you go. We want to build you a fence. We want your backyard to have the best fence. So make it easy for you.

All right? So Jackson Fence website. What’s the website? good enough.

All right. Thanks, Cannon.


How I Work | Content Machine Ep. #6

I’ve been a business owner for eight years, and during that time I’ve realized that the more work I was able to get done during the day, the more time I would have at the end of the day to to not work or to spend time with family, friends or going to church events. And time at the end of the day allows me to recharge for the next day. I have been on a steady practice of trying to improve my work habits since then. If I can get more work done done in the time allotted and get better work done in the time allotted, it’s going to lead to wins. If I am able to get one more productive hour out of the week, that adds up considerably over the course of the year.

So here are some thoughts, some framework that I’ve discovered that works really well for me and might work really well for you. So one use micro scheduling. Block out the entire day and 30 minutes time entries to budget your time. Instead of being constantly reactive or not having a plan, budget your time out based on your priorities. Each day my day is scheduled out to at least 30 minutes windows to work on different items.

It allows me to tell my time what I’m going to work on instead of trying to deal with whatever seems the most urgent. Urgent is not always important. The second component of that is planning your day the day before. Since I use micro scheduling, some people call it time blocking. I have to know what I’m going to do in those time blocks.

Every day before I shut down for the day, I go over my to do list and my appointment calendar and use that to plan how my time should be allotted for the next day. For me, this covers from when I wake up in the morning to when I go to bed at night, but also build time breaks into your week unless something weird happens. When I am done at work in the evening, usually between 430 and 530, I am done at work until the next morning. I stop looking at emails and I pay attention to where I’m at and who I am with, which is usually my family. If you do not take breaks, you’re going to minimize your effectiveness when you’re on the clock.

The human mind can only work for so long before it gets diminishing returns. If you have a chance to build a break into your day, that can help as well. Lunch is a great way to work this in. I can mentally tell when I’ve been running hard all day without a break versus when I get a chance to take a break in the middle of the day. You can tell it at night how your brain feels and how you are able to interact with others.

At the end of the day, when I’m planning my schedule, I also set out three big targets. What are the three things I need to do to count this day as a success today? One of those was recording this podcast. This also helps me to shape the day. Does my entire plan work out the way I plan it?

Not always. Fires happen, distractions happen. But with three big targets, it allows me to have a focal point for the work of the day. Consequently, I usually book time for those earlier in the morning so that I can have a better chance of accomplishing them on that schedule. It is also important to leave margin in that time blocked schedule.

If you overbook that time, you will find yourself with not enough time to deal with any distractions or fires that show up throughout the day. I actually book time for email, checking on my calendar so that I can keep that activity focused, and I even book time to plan my next day and manage my to do list. Now, speaking of email email has a tendency to take over our lives. Instead of being a tool vigilant, email checks cause us to be overreactive. My advice?

Turn off email notifications on your phone and on your desktop, and I would even take it a step further hide your inboxes. Make it more difficult to see what email is coming in so that you can stay mentally focused on what you’re currently working on. Focus is a hugely valuable commodity that our modern world seeks actively to weaken. Hiding inboxes allows you to still search for an old email, to find notes on a meeting that you’re working on, or compose an email as part of a current project without going down the rabbit hole of the latest issues deposited into your inbox. While we’re talking about distractions, let’s also turn off all non critical notifications on our phones.

What’s critical? It’s different for everybody, but for me, things like security systems, website downtime monitors, bank notifications, and calendar events. I take this a step further and silence all incoming calls and texts unless that person is on a very, very short list of people like my team or my wife. When I’m really getting into deep work blocks of time, my phone will go to the other side of the room to prevent me from picking it up and checking it all the time. Additionally, with Focus modes on Apple Now, I have even more focused mode that’s Do Not Disturb, that blocks out everything and everyone except for security alarms and my wife.

But I also have a personal mode time that blocks out my work team so they won’t unintentionally bother me during my time off. Our team uses Slack to communicate internally. This is a great tool, but with nine team members and four interns and lots of open projects, it can be a very noisy place when I’m working on projects. I am now closing Slack for about an hour at a time. This minimizes notifications and distractions, but I also check it once an hour on my breaks for my project to make sure that the team has what they need to be successful.

Music can be helpful, but I find typical music to be really exhausting or distracting over time. I would recommend Focused music or something like Lo Fi Beats to listen to while you work. It can help block out background noises and help your brain focus on the thing that you’re working on. I sometimes also pair this with to help drown out the background noise from my work from home life. I also use a Pomodoro timer to work for 48 minutes on, ten minutes off.

This tool is built into my browser. Since most of our work is done through browsers, it is called Strict Workflow. This serves two ends. One, it helps me work on something for 48 minutes. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to work, but if I can force myself to start the timer, it really does help me start the ball rolling and start working.

And then two, it gives me little breaks that allow me to have a better run through the course of my day. Those little breaks help rejuvenate me for the next 48 minutes. Block finally, an overarching comment. Think critically about how you work. Do you work better in the mornings?

Do you work better in the afternoons? If so, how can you maximize that time? Maybe work on shifting more meetings to one half of the day so that you can have more of your productive time to get things done. Maybe you get to work an hour early and get more time in before everybody else is there. Think critically about where your distractions are coming from on any given day and see if there are ways to mitigate those.

Think critically about what it means to have a successful workday. What do you really need to accomplish or make progress on? And keep that in mind. Framing what success looks like can help you have a better start to tomorrow. If you found anything helpful in this episode, text it to a friend.

=If you have any additional questions, shoot me an email. Thanks for listening to the Content Machine podcast from Adelsburger Marketing.

Cannon Johnson of Jackson Fence Co.| Content Machine Ep. #5

Welcome to the Content Machine Podcast. This is our first ever guest, cannon Johnson canon. Welcome to the show.

Thank you.

Cannon and I met years ago and co starters at the Co, and since then, both of our business has grown, but I think yours has grown a little bit more than mine has.

We’re Wiley Parker homeboys.

That’s right. Way back in the day. Tell us about Jackson Fencing Company or Jackson Fencing Company. Sorry.

Put me on the spot here, man. So, in a nutshell, Kevin, we have a belief that your backyard and people spend more money. Like, the largest investment that people make in their lifetime is generally a home. And we want people to enjoy and feel safe and protected in their own space. And so what we’re trying to do, Kevin, is build fences that truly make people’s backyards and their own escape, their own vacation, their own getaway. So we build fence, I guess is the short answer to that. But we think that we build the best fence. We often say your backyard deserves the best. That’s our little tagline. So we’re building fence, but we’re taking the same to a whole another level. We’re traveling the country looking for the best methods, the best techniques, the best people, and really just not copying what the guy down the road is doing or what West Tennessee has been exposed to for years and years and years. We’re looking far and abroad and bringing in new products and all kinds of neat stuff. On the surface, it’s just a fence, right? But we don’t see it that way. We see it as something that adds value to your home, protects your family, keeps your dog in the backyard, all that kind of stuff.

What’s an example of something that you’ve brought back recently?

Man so, we call those golden nuggets. All right. So anytime we travel and we pick up information, we bring it back, and we try to not everything fits. It’s not like, hey, we find the circle, let’s put in the circle hole, we get, right? So we got to figure out how to make things fit into what we’re doing, or we have to do a lot of work behind the scenes that make it fit. But one of the big things that we’ve recently brought back more than once, like, recently, meaning, like, the last three times that I’ve left town to go talk to defense people, this keeps getting brought up. It’s like, dan, this is a clue. The FBI calls that a clue. People keep telling you it’s a clue. So driving post and so what’s going on, Kevin, is we’re digging holes in people’s yards, and digging holes is not fun. How many holes you’ve ever done?

But it’s not fun.

It’s the hardest thing we do. Even with equipment, it’s the hardest thing we do, and we call it owning your hole, because we got to dig the perfect hole. We take pride on digging the deepest, the widest, and not just the absolute biggest hole, but the perfect hole. It’s exactly the size that it’s supposed to be and it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be. We don’t have to shave it, we don’t have to move it. We dig it and bam. We know that post is get it.

Right the first time.

That’s right. We take pride in trying to do that, but even doing that is hard and it’s exhausting. So the newest thing that’s coming to the fence industry and that we’re planning on bringing it to the West Tennessee industry is driving fence post. And so we’re hoping the next two years we stop digging hose, like using.

Almost like a hammer and smashing the.

Post into the ground, pounding, guess what? We tally.

Interesting. Okay, well, and you are clearly passionate about the fence and we’ll talk more about that, but how did you get started in the fence business?

Man, this is a great story. So I work for Lowe’s Home Improvement and I like to say Lowe’s Home Improvement because that’s what it is. A lot of people just say Lowe’s. I’m like, no, the company presidents and the board, they caught it. Home improvements.

That’s. What?

It’s Lowe’s home improvement. So there we began to build fence through Lowe’s, the company back in 2011. And I worked for Lowe’s from 2006 to 2015. And in that time frame, I became an assistant manager of the stores. And in 2011, Loew said, hey, we want to build fences. It wasn’t just fences. It was roofs and windows and all this other stuff.

All the people they sell stuff to.

Yeah, exactly. Yes. And so we want to compete with all those people, basically. And who are we going to find to help us compete? Well, we’re going to find the people that are already doing business with us. And it was really weird, kind of. But Lowe’s took on this general contract model of will it, sell it and then we’ll find somebody else to install it. And through that process, I kind of became the liaison between the store, the customer, the installed sales team, all the different people. And what I really learned is they say, hey, can we want you to be the liaison? That’s the go between the salesperson, the install sales team and the customer. And the installer. Well, liaison evidently is just a fancy word for like, hey, we want to put you out in the middle where all the bullets are flying because the salesperson is going to screw up and the customer is going to be mad and you’re going to be right there between the shots. And then the install sales office is going to miss schedule and the installer is going to get upset or he’s not going to show up when he said he was and they’re going to be right between the two of those that gun fight.

And so after about four years of being in between gunfights. That’s a liaison, evidently. I was like, I think I can do better. And honestly, I’m not a contractor by trade. I’m not a builder by trade. I’m not a handyman or nothing like that. And so when I looked at all these things that we were doing at Lowe’s, we built decks, roofs, windows, and fences. I’m going to say, Kevin, that I didn’t know. I don’t know what’s really going on between the wall. So do I want to start a window company? Not really, because I can see the outside of the wall and the inside of the wall, but I’m still not really sure what’s going on between the wall. You know what I mean? But I was like, you know what? That fence thing, I’m dumb enough to dig a big hole. I can see most of that. I think I understand what’s going on here. And so fencing, it was there you go.

That’s awesome. And so when was that? When did you start?

This was 2016, September of 16. So we’re at six years and four months ish five months.

So six years we went from you to tell us about the company today.

Oh, man. So six and a half years ago, we sold our first fence. It was this ugly green chain link fence out in Beach Bluff, Tennessee. And I went to this lady’s house and sold this fence. And I couldn’t believe it. She bought it on the spot. I was like, wow. And I remember telling her, lady, hey, look, this one will probably take us two weeks to get to your job. You want to sound busy, right? But honestly, when I said two weeks, I didn’t tell her why, just, hey, I don’t know the next step myself, but I’ll take your deposit check and we’ll figure it out. But I need about two weeks to get to your job, period.

Pure hustle.

Yeah, man.

I love it.

And so we began to subcontract just exactly what I learned from my previous employer, sell it and subcontract it. And because I had that previous employer, I already had a lot of connections, already knew kind of who could do this and who couldn’t do this. And so we began to subcontract. And like, the first five or six jobs that we sold, we subcontracted. And then I began to realize they don’t know what they’re doing. The problem is bigger than what I was seeing at my previous employer. The problem is we really need to bring something better to West Tennessee. This is not just a hustle. This is not just a way to survive. There’s a real market here, and there’s a real need. And I think that if we put our hearts and minds to it, we can fulfill that need. And so we said, hey, look, we’re going to take over the whole operation, the sales, the ordering, the warehousing, the building, the whole nine yards. And to summarize all of that, I said, hey, look, let’s build a company that we’ve always wanted to work for. I’m tired of people lying to me.

I’m tired of people being wrong. I’m tired of people being mediocre and half hearted and just crappy, you know what I mean? Making excuses. I hate that stuff. So let’s just put it all on paper together. Let’s bring in a bunch of people to help us do it, and let’s build something that we want to work for as well. And when I say bringing in a bunch of people, we couldn’t afford anybody. So a bunch of people was just me. I was a sales guy, the builder and all of that, you know?

So it’s not just you anymore, though?

No. We get like 20 people, man. It’s nuts. It’s absolutely, like, stupid.

Now, in your world, that really works out to cruise, right? So how many crews you have going building fences? Every day.

So every day we run four. Four crews every day. These guys are better. They build a fence better than I do. It took a while, but I feel more confident in saying, hey, I’m going to send Core to your house, Kevin. I feel more confident in saying, hey, I’m going to let Mike and his team come out there and handle this because they’re going to do a lot better job than I could ever do. But they show up, man, 20 of them every day, 630 in the morning, and they fight for me, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, if it’s muddy, if it’s hot, they show up and they fight. And sometimes we fight internally, but it’s because I always say, hey, we love what we’re doing. We all have the same mission, that we want to give the best product that we can possibly give and the best service, and we want to do what he’s efficiently and all this stuff. And when you got everybody that wants to do the absolute best that they can, well, sometimes you have friction. But it’s all about love. Just like when you love your wife, sometimes you argue.

And if you don’t argue with your wife, I say, hey, you’re not really in love, you know what I’m saying? But sometimes we have those bro fights, you know what I mean? But at the end of the day, we always hug it out and we always say, Man, I love you and I appreciate you bringing that to the table. And salespeople my wife by far outsells me and fence. And then we got another guy who works with this, brian by far out sales me. They have patience, they have charisma, they’re smart, they’re good looking, they’re on time. I’m the guy you tell me to be here at 02:00 to a freaking podcast and I’m walking in at 206. Hey, where’s Kevin at? I’m late. I’m not the guy. I’ve had to learn, like, I don’t really know what my role is, Kevin, but I can hype some people up. I think that might be my role, man.

Hype people? Yeah, professional hype, man. You’ve told us a lot about the fence industry and kind of some of the struggles, but what else do we need to know about the fence industry to help us appreciate what Jackson Fence is doing?

Oh, man, I love the fence industry. Like, a whole lot. Like, too much, probably. It’s really not just a job to me. It’s a pretty small industry. So I think, I don’t know, 50 states. I’d say there’s probably 500 to 1000 fence companies in every state. Maybe a little bit more, give or take. But it’s not a huge industry. By no means. It’s not like insurance, where there’s 15 different options.

Hit an insurance agent.

Yeah, exactly. It’s not church, it’s not grocery stores. It’s fence. And we cover bigger areas. We do hard work, we take pride in our work. But the fence industry as a whole, I’m on this whole mindset. Of course I do a podcast. It’s called My Fence Life, and it’s an industry facing podcast, so it’s not even customer specific. And in fact, a lot of the times I hope customers don’t see it. Yeah.

Because you’re talking about the real nitty.

Gritty behind yeah, we’re talking about yeah, what’s really going on, how do we grow our business, how do we scale it, how do we improve profit margins, stuff like that. But it’s reality. Sometimes we think profit margin is a bad word, but it’s not. That’s how we survive. That’s how I can tell you, hey, I’m going to be here in ten years to honor my warranty.

It’s the report card of business.

It is. But that’s the stuff we talk about. It’s not always glamorous or it’s not always marketing, you know what I mean? But it’s fence industry specific. And so what I’ve learned is there’s a lot of fencing has a pretty low barrier to entry, and that’s a big thing. So if you own a pickup truck, you can go to lows, get a postal digger, a hammer and a drill, and then, hey, next thing you know, you got a fence company. Yeah, you can compete with me. And so because there’s a low barrier to entry, what we also see is the fencing industry as a whole is kind of inundated with people who are very talented and good at their craft. Not always, but they need help on. Okay, so we’re building expenses. How do we turn that into a business? And what’s the legal side of this? What’s the accounting side of it? How do we bring people in and make this whole thing go? And I’ve always had a heart for consulting and coaching and stuff like that, so having a podcast talking to fence people is kind of my outlet to connect with other people and not just talk about what I’m doing, but talk about what they’re doing.

And I learned just as much as I give away. Probably way more than I give away, because I’m not that smart, you know what I mean? But I make myself available to people and they call me and they talk to me. They give me their ideas, and then I take their ideas and I make them a little bit better. I plot them to my business.

So the podcast is also a networking tool for you because you have a passion to see more people be better at fencing.

Yeah, exactly. It’s fun too. So on the microphone and talk just like this yeah.

One of the cool things about the world that I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older is everything is a world unto itself. There is a whole universe of fence people that are passionate about fencing, like there is for marketing or football or accounting. I have a style cup here. There’s a whole universe behind the people that make this right. And most of us never see it. But the more you get into it, the more interesting it gets. I think I’m a naturally curious person.

So I guess it could be a Styrofoam cup trade shop. I guarantee there’s a paper products disposable. Paper consumables.

There’s probably a podcast for it too, right?

You’re probably right.

The second half of our interview, View with Cannon Johnson will come out in a few weeks. Stay tuned.