Keys To Scale: How Adam & Grace Lever Built A $10M Business In 5 Years

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This is the first post in our new “Keys To Scale” interview series, where we sit down with founders of successful 7 and 8 figure businesses. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss our next interview!

Grace and Adam Lever are the husband-and-wife founders of The Doers Way — an education business that teaches women how to become successful coaches and consultants.

The explosive (and most importantly) continuous growth of The Doers Way is something most entrepreneurs will only ever dream about.

It’s fairly common these days to hear stories about brands achieving massive spikes of growth in their early years. What’s less common is a brand that’s able to continuously maintain that same velocity well past the first couple of years.

And yet, without outside investment and while completely bootstrapped, The Doers Way has defied conventional logic and still shows no signs of slowing.

Not only did the business hit seven figures within their first few months, today it’s a global brand with over 60,000 students — and it’s pulling in over $10 million a year!

After talking with their CEO and co-founder Adam Lever, we found out how adopting a flexible business model, listening to their customers and nailing the right brand identity allowed him and Grace to achieve unstoppable growth.

 

Free Bonus Download: Want the exact 5-part strategy Adam and Grace used to build a $10,000,000+ business in just 5 years? Grab it here.

Validating a Seven-Figure Idea

Like most businesses, The Doers Way started off with founders Grace and Adam Lever spotting a gap in the market.

It was in 2014 when Grace recognized that, despite all the gurus and so-called thought leaders out there teaching entrepreneurship and business, there wasn’t anyone speaking about the unique journey of the female entrepreneur.

At the time, there was very little practical information directed specifically to women on how to start and grow their own businesses. According to a survey by the National Association of Women Business Owners, women in the U.S. were twice as likely to cite a lack of a support system when pursuing a business, and almost half of female founders stated that a lack of available mentors and advisers was holding them back.

Something obviously needed to change.

“Five years ago, we were running a digital agency and Grace had a passion for working with female entrepreneurs and women in business,” says Adam. “She came to me and said, ‘Look, I’d really love to pursue this. I’m thinking about stepping down from the agency and going ahead with this. What are your thoughts?’”

The husband-and-wife duo came to the agreement that Grace would take a step back from the agency in order to validate her idea.

While most people might set themselves a goal of acquiring a handful of customers or making a few sales as proof of validation, Grace set herself the ambitious goal of achieving seven figures in revenue as proof of validation.

To test her theory that there was a market out there for what she was offering, Grace put together a couple of half-day workshops teaching on topics such as marketing funnels, overcoming the fear of imperfection, and to just start doing.

Within weeks, her workshops were getting booked out, and she began hitting six-figures. A few months later, she had hit her seven-figure goal.

“A few months into that, she had already hit her seven figures and came knocking on my door at the agency and said, ‘All right buddy, when are you going to come over and start helping me?’” recalls Adam.

“Grace was so passionate about serving that market, because she was that female entrepreneur when she was starting a business that didn’t have that support. She didn’t have that network and community around her. So she set out to create that.”

It was clear they were onto something, so Adam dissolved the agency and joined Grace as her business partner behind-the-scenes at The Doers Way.

The Shifting Business Model

Now that Adam was onboard, the goal was to now take their seven-figure business and grow it into an eight-figure one — an altogether different, and far more difficult, challenge.

“I’m not going to say it was easy, but if you follow the process and you’ve got a decent business model — a good value ladder — in the information marketing and pre-learning spaces, it’s pretty easy to get to seven figures if you can follow the steps.

But taking it from seven to eight figures, or a $10-million-plus-a-year business, that’s tricky. That was definitely, for us, the biggest challenge, and it’s taken probably a good three or so years to work through all the challenges that have come up.”

For many business owners, a common phenomenon is finding yourself stuck at seven figures and having business growth grind to a halt. While there are a variety of reasons behind this, it all essentially boils down to the fact that the original business model isn’t designed to progress beyond seven-figures.

For Adam and Grace, they were still primarily relying on live events and in-person workshops as their primary product. Together they would tour across Australia, with Grace hosting and presenting at all the events and Adam taking care of operations and the running of the business behind the scenes.

They were so in demand that within the first year alone, Grace and Adam held over a hundred events across Australia, even holding multiple events in three different cities in one day!

But, despite the obvious popularity and success of their “Doing Day” workshops, the reality was that there were only so many workshops they could run.

“I think we got to a point where we probably did burn ourselves out, doing that. We fitted, I think, probably three years into one year,” says Adam.

In order to continue scaling to reach their eight-figure goal, it was clear it wasn’t a matter of just working harder or spending more time at the office. They had hit that inevitable point where achieving further growth required a dynamic change to their existing business model.

In terms of business growth strategies, one of the most effective ways to continue scaling is to continue innovating your core product.

For Adam and Grace, they knew they had a thriving market, but the issue was that their current product (in-person events) wasn’t scalable. However, they understood that the core service they were providing to their customers was education and not the events themselves.

After experiencing success with webinars, Grace and Adam began adapting their workshops into online courses. This sparked another wave of growth for the brand, as they now had a product that was easily scalable. That allowed them to reach and impact an even wider group of people.

“We talk about it in our business as the evolution of a coaching consultant, and we’re that online coaching space. So, the way we looked at it is always face-to-face one-on-one and face-to-face one-to-many, which was effectively our workshops. Prior to our workshops, we’d done some consulting with businesses face to face in the agency. And then once you kind of nail that, you can go online. That was the transition and evolution for our business model.”

Free Bonus Download: Want the exact 5-part strategy Adam and Grace used to build a $10,000,000+ business in just 5 years? Grab it here.

From One-Off to Recurring Revenue

After proving they had a successful business model on their hands with their live events and online courses, Adam and Grace began looking for their next big growth lever. For that, they began looking for ways to scale outside of Australia and soon after entered the U.S. market.

“We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. We turned on Facebook ads. We knew we had a great product, and it started that way. And we just started getting feedback from our clients over there. It was sort of a process of improvement from that point onwards.”

However, one key problem remained with their business model: There was no stable source of revenue.

“I think we realized we were too reliant on one-off courses, and we wanted to build a moat around the business to have that extra protection and generate a recurring monthly income,” Adam explained. “We went through some really stressful months early on when at the start of the month, we had to fire things up again, starting from scratch. It just wasn’t a good place to be.“

Once again, Adam and Grace found themselves in a situation where their current business model could only take them so far. It was still too reliant on sweat equity and, as they had learned early on, a business model that required constant maintenance and attention is nearly impossible to scale effectively.

Adam recalled a moment in which a friend of theirs told themL

“If you don’t have recurring income in your business, you do not have a business.”

To build that recurring revenue stream, the couple launched The Doers Inner Circle, an exclusive membership in which, for a monthly fee, members are able to access unique perks such as live coaching calls with Grace, free tickets to upcoming events, and access to a private Facebook group.

“Just having a business model and clients that are committed month or month to what you’re doing and what you’re showing them — that’s really, really helpful. It builds that relationship, and we’ve seen our business grow and our customer’s business having an impact in their businesses through the Inner Circle,” says Adam.

“It’s just been massive because it’s not just a one-off purchase — we’re in their lives, many of them for 12 or 24 months, and we can really invest into their businesses.“

That isn’t to say that it was all smooth sailing.

Anytime you make a change to your business model, you’re inviting risk, with Adam recalling moments with unreliable shipping partners and angry customers. In the end, it took well over a year of constant iteration and improvement before the duo were able to find a winning formula for their monthly membership.

“It was a big investment, and early on it was really, really hard to get it to stick. We fought issues of churn in the membership, and I think there was a time when we just couldn’t get past 250 members inside the membership. It was a lot harder business model, but it’s a lot safer business model now with having that membership product inside the business.”

Making Customer Happiness a Path to Success

According to Adam, a key reason behind their early and current success is their commitment to customer happiness. “We established the customer success division early on because we wanted to have a pulse on our members and our clients, and what feedback they were giving.”

Something that’s becoming increasingly clear in recent years is that we are now firmly living in the age of the customer. These days, the key to winning in business isn’t just about being able to deliver a fantastic service or product but being able to provide a stellar customer experience.

According to a study by Forrester Research, customer experience is one of the main drivers of revenue for a company, with leaders in customer experience having up to five times the revenue growth of companies who deliver a poor customer experience. You can’t just fulfil your customer’s expectations — you need to surpass them entirely.

It was precisely this rationale that led Adam and Grace to start with live events in the first place.

“I think that was really, really important, to get in front of our people and to interact with them, experience them, and to understand and hear their problems. And that really guided us in the products and services that we created, to really help them with where where are at.”

But more than just being able to understand what their customers problems were, Adam and Grace also used those conversations as a way to identify opportunities to create a unique experience for their customers.

When developing The Doers Inner Circle, a key challenge for the couple was to figure out how to create an online membership that differed from what was already available. What they found was that most of their competitors offered the same type of perks and rewards, such as access to online courses and discounts to other products.

But, in order to differentiate themselves, Adam and Grace turned to their customers and directly asked them what it is they wanted from a monthly membership.

“We identified that everyone in the online space wasn’t doing enough of direct mail to your door boxes with educational material that was popular I think early on, early 2000s but went by the wayside as everyone went online.”

This in turn evolved into a process in which every new member of The Doers Inner Circle would be sent a welcome kit containing four different books on starting and growing a business.

They also received a monthly mailer that provided members with behind-the-scenes updates of what’s going on behind-the-scenes at The Doers Way and actionable instructions on how to implement the latest strategies and tactics.

The simple act of incorporating direct mail as part of the membership for The Doers Inner Circle was hugely beneficial to the brand. It generated a constant stream of positive testimonials and social proof for the brand, and it allowed Adam and Grace to provide a unique experience for their customers while also deepening their relationship with customers.

And it all started off by taking the time to ask — and understand — what it would take to make their customers happy.

“Survey and market; get to know them; get to understand their pain points. Once you’ve got that, really plan out what that looks like, and who’s responsible as well. Every team member in our product team is responsible for a part of the puzzle when it comes to creating a product. That’s how we do it.”

Free Bonus Download: Want the exact 5-part strategy Adam and Grace used to build a $10,000,000+ business in just 5 years? Grab it here.

From Founder to Leader

One of the most important lessons any entrepreneur needs to learn early on is that you can’t grow without learning how to be a good leader.

As your company grows, it’s only natural that you start hiring people to help take over certain parts of the business. However, as Adam and Grace were about to learn, knowing how to manage and lead a team required a steep learning curve.

“We were very tactical. We’re sort of marketing agency people, and we could build a great Facebook campaign and a good marketing funnel, but we had no idea of how to lead a team, how to hire a team, or how to grow a team,” says Adam.

“Very early on, we’d burn through our first few hires, and it was guaranteed that it wouldn’t be good for them but it also wasn’t great for us. That was something unexpected. No one teaches you how to be a good leader, be a good boss, or grow a team. Grace and I both had to really grow in that area over the last few years.”

Adam points out that one of the hardest parts about suddenly being someone’s boss is the idea of letting go and trusting people with activities and tasks that you used to be responsible for. He admitted he placed unfair expectations on the first handful of hires by expecting them to immediately perform at the level that he and Grace were at.

In hindsight, Adam views this as a time when he had done the opposite of what was needed to grow the business, committing the classic mistake of micro-managing and ultimately harming his team’s productivity and morale.

“It’s challenging, 100%, early on. I think that’s the biggest thing when founders are stuck at six-figure kinds of habits, because maybe they’re holding on too tight,” he says.

“It’s like ripping off a bandaid, and it hurts the first time you do it. You’ve just got to let go, and it’s not going to be pretty, because things aren’t going to go right the first time with a campaign or a Facebook ad or a sales letter.

“For me, it was sales letters. I’m a copywriter by trade, and giving over that side of the business which I’d invested so heavily in over the years to let someone else to start writing the copy? That was tricky for me.”

Today, The Doers Way now has a team of over 35 people across four different divisions of marketing, customer success, product creation, and sales. While he admits it can still be tricky at times, Adam is much more comfortable with his new role as a leader, even saying their new copywriter is just as good, if not better, than he was at writing sales letters.

While it wasn’t always easy learning to let go of parts of the business, Grace and Adam recognize how important it was to take a step back and let others do what they’re best at, so  Grace and Adam could focus on the big-picture goal of continuing to scale the business.

“It allowed me to step back, think more strategically, think more about the vision with Grace for the business, and not get caught in the weeds as much.”

Married to the Business

For some people, the idea of working with your partner is a recipe for disaster. For Adam and Grace, though, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Grace and I are weird individuals, but we, I think, started working together three weeks after meeting each other, in a business that I had at the time.” Adam says, “We’ve been working together now for probably 10 years.”

Building a business together means spending a lot of time with one another and getting a very intimate understanding of each others strengths and weaknesses. Adam says that having a healthy appreciation and respect for each other’s skillsets is essential in any kind of partnership, marriage or otherwise.

“We know our failings very, very well. We know what we’re good at. I think whether that’s just someone you work with or if it’s a straight-up business partner, you really need to have complementary skillsets.

Grace and I have very different skillsets. Very different. But we have a mutual respect and appreciation for those skillsets.”

But most importantly, it’s all about sharing the same vision and goals. While they don’t always agree on how certain things should be done, Adam and Grace have always made it very clear to each other what it is they want out of their business.

“It’s, for us, lifestyle. I think we almost put a higher priority on lifestyle than we do on profit. Profit is super, super important; you can’t have a business without that.

But not taking ourselves too seriously, really enjoying what business brings, the freedom and flexibility to be able to go and travel and spend more time with the family — all that stuff is super, super important. I think having that lifestyle balance in a partnership is key as well.”

Free Bonus Download: Want the exact 5-part strategy Adam and Grace used to build a $10,000,000+ business in just 5 years? Grab it here.

Conclusion

Growing an eight-figure business isn’t easy, but as Adam has learnt through the years, it isn’t impossible either.

Adam and Grace’s story demonstrates that what holds most entrepreneurs back from achieving their eight-figure goals isn’t whether or not they’re working hard enough — it’s whether or not they have the mindset required to achieve their goals.

So much of it comes down to being willing enough to take action, even if it’s imperfect.

The true strength behind The Doers Way has always been Adam and Grace’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances and their willingness to make the necessary changes when faced with new obstacles and also new information.

Did Adam and Grace’s story inspire you? What were the key lessons you learnt? Let me know in the comments below!

This is the first post in our new “Keys To Scale” interview series, where we sit down with founders of successful 7 and 8 figure businesses. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss our next interview!

Want to get notified when we post new content? Click here.

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