Travis McAshan is the Founder and CEO of GLIDE Design, an award-winning, purpose-led digital creative agency based in Austin, Texas. The team at GLIDE helps startups, nonprofits, and leading brands create a seamless customer experience through its web design, development, and digital marketing services. Completing over 850 projects spanning seven countries, GLIDE continues to grow under Travis’ leadership.
Before founding GLIDE almost 20 years ago, Travis was the Creative Director and UI/UX Designer at Pixona Video and a Graphic Designer for EverdayWealth. He is also on the Board of Directors and the Learning Chair at EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization) and is a member of the EO Austin Chapter.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [03:09] Travis McAshan shares the genesis of GLIDE Design
- [07:35]The problem with project-driven versus growth-driven marketing
- [13:17] What is continuous improvement, and what role does it play?
- [20:16] Travis discusses why they decide to build out departments
- [26:00] Travis explains the addition of a middle management layer at GLIDE
- [30:00] What separates purpose and vision?
- [33:25] GLIDE’s four-day workweek
In this episode…
What is the role of continuous improvement in growth-driven web design? How does it provide ongoing assistance to support your clients’ needs?
GLIDE Design’s Travis McAshan emphasizes the value of supporting clients by eliminating the many headaches of the design process. Instead of waiting for a client to ask for help, GLIDE has an embedded system of continuous development that helps mitigate risks. Travis explains this allows for a richer user experience and better business outcomes.
In today’s episode of the Inspired Insider, Jeremy Weisz is joined by Travis McAshan, Founder and CEO of GLIDE Design, as he shares a glimpse behind his award-winning company and how it continues to make a positive impact in the world. Travis also talks about the company’s continuous improvement embedded in the growth-driven design and how it applies to its clients.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Gino Wickman on LinkedIn
- National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
- Austin FC
- Circuit of the Americas
- WP Engine
- Emmitt J. Smith on LinkedIn
- The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema
- The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth by David Baker
- Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential by Greg Crabtree
- CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra
- “[Chicago Business Series] Imerman Angels: The Largest Network of cancer survivor mentors in the world created – with Jonny Imerman [Inspiration]” on the Inspired Insider
- “Leading with Passion with Gino Wickman Founder of EOS Worldwide” on Inspired Insider
- “[Top Chicago Business Series] What do Lobsters, Howard Stern, and Oprah Have in Common? with Dan Zawacki founder of Lobster Gram and 4 Mores [EOS]” on Inspired Insider
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Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is definitely an inspiration. Travis McAshan glidedesign.com. I’m going to formally introduce you, Travis in a second. But I always like to mention other episodes, people should check out. And right now, as we’re talking, Travis is applying for the B Corp certification, which is really intensive. I’ve had several people who have gone through it on the show, and it’s quite an undertaking. And so I want to mention Jonny Imerman, Imerman Angels. We did a podcast with him and he runs close talk, which is kind of pictured amazing swag for nonprofits. Nonprofits want to send out swag, they want more representation, more exposure, and he does that round through it for good cause for a good cause. The number four, is e-commerce fundraising software’s help nonprofits bring in millions of dollars in online donations, to check those out in more episodes of inspiredinsider.com and this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships, and how do we do that? We actually help you run your podcast, we do accountability, strategy and full execution of a podcast. And for me, Travis, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way to do that to profile the people and companies I most admire on this planet and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you thought about podcasting, you should, if you have questions, go to rise25.com. And even I like introducing other guests to each other. So I think Travis should meet Ron and Johnny. So of course, I’m going to give them all a shout-out on this episode. And hopefully they get to meet and cultivate a real relationship. So that’s what I love to do with the podcast. And without further ado, I want to introduce Travis McAshan. And like I mentioned he founded GLIDE. GLIDE is a values driven digital creative agency based in Austin, Texas. And GLIDE and Travis they’ve always sought out to work with startups nonprofits, and basically people making a difference in the world. All passion, all wine do amazing things. So it’s about for him and the company. I think, giving great ideas and great organizations, the exposure they deserve, through an amazing online digital experience. That’s beautiful, useful and produce is, a really a lasting value for them. So, Travis, thanks for joining me.
Travis McAshan 2:57
Wow, that was a good introduction. Thank you. You make it sound so good.
Jeremy Weisz 3:02
So you’re very humble person. Talk about GLIDE Design and what you do.
Travis McAshan 3:08
Sure, thank you. Yeah, I started the company, essentially 20 years ago. So it’s been 20 years that I’ve been doing this almost my entire adult life career. And it really was just an offshoot from always trying to do what I loved. And so at the time, I mean, I, you know, I got my first computer when I was seven years old 1985. And it was an Amiga 500. It had the first computer with multitasking, and 512 colors, or whatever. And the point is, I’ve been on the computer my entire life. And I’ve always loved the creativity and the scalability of creativity through the digital realm. And so, I got my degree in architecture from college thinking that I wanted to be an architect for many years, but I realized that I just love the concepts of architecture, which is the balance of left and right brain, the balance of art and science. And in just the concepts of usability, I think that like one of my deepest passions, is to just live a useful life. And so I look at the world through the lens of like, a pragmatic usability, like, things that really grinds my gears is like when a door handle or when a billboard is designed wrong, or just things that don’t work well. And so I think we approach, when I started the company, you know, I just like I like marketing. I like the web, I like being creative in so that’s how GLIDE was birthed. And I just love what I did. And I worked really hard at it. And I think that that just collected a group of customers and clients around me that were faithful and that referred and then healthy things grow. Right. And so, here all of these years later, the Glide fire will have growth really, you know, if you look at Jeff Bezos, you know, he kind of drew that the flywheel of growth on a napkin and that became internet history and, but the Glide flywheel of growth has just been do great work. How to Make create raving fan clients. Increase our exposure in the marketplace level up in all the ways, right people, abilities, clientele, and then just repeat the process. And we’ve been doing that ever since. And so, I think along the journey, I’ve realized that I’ve had to evolve, you know, I’m not, for many years, I thought I was, like, have my own little company that Michael Jordan, but I’m not the Michael Jordan, I’m the Phil Jackson, like, I have to be the leader. And so that’s been a big transition…
Jeremy Weisz 5:31
The shift of mindset for you.
Travis McAshan 5:32
Yeah, the shift of mindset, and you start to realize that you can’t solve all the problems. I mean, in fact, you know, as you grow as an organization, you know, we’re on this valley between, like, transitioning from like, overcome, you know, taking the cup into over a million dollars to over $5 million in revenue, we’re still small, but is just trying to, like, have that next level of leadership, right, where it’s not just a bunch of people doing the work, you need to have structures around those people that support those people in the administration and management and leadership. And so, I think that’s been my big focus. But yeah, I’m probably going all over the place. So Glide our passion is just what you said, digital creative agencies a mouthful, I mean, if I were to take away is triple the pretense, we plan design and build custom marketing websites. And then we also optimize and support those websites. Oh, there you go. All screen-share action.
Jeremy Weisz 6:23
Yeah. So if you’re listening to the audio, there is a video piece and we’re looking at glide here and it says beautiful custom websites, designed in good old Austin, Texas.
Travis McAshan 6:34
Yeah, and Austin, it’s a great city, I think a lot of people seek out Austin, it’s technologically savvy, it’s like the second Silicon Valley. But at the same time, it’s also the live music capital of the world and quote, unquote, geared and creative. And so I think that we cultivate that. But we are a digital agency that’s remote. So that means we have team members all over the place. And on multiple continents, and so I love the diversity that we have, because of that in terms of geography, and ethnicity, and religion and gender and all that. So yeah, what else?
Jeremy Weisz 7:10
I want to talk about the evolution of services, right, because, we’ll get into the leap, because you’re a graphic designer, your creative director for many years before you started your own. But I love to talk about the evolution of services, what you started off with, right? So we’re looking at you web design, web development, digital marketing, and what it was like, in the beginning, and then compared to now?
Travis McAshan 7:34
Yeah, so many years ago, I read a book called The Discipline Of Market Leaders, and they talked about this concept of you their best product, best price or best solution, best product means you focus on one thing, and you do it really well, Rolex, Ferrari, you know, best price means, you’re just trying to be the lowest cost, like Walmart, or something like that best solution would be like Samsung, or like Amazon, where they just want to give all that they want to sell all the things you know. And so I really kind of ascribe to this concept of best product, like I, so we always kind of like, circle our wagons around, we design and build the best marketing websites. And so when, when folks call us, I think one of the most disarming things you can say to a new LEED is we don’t do everything, like, here’s all the things we don’t do. And so people trust you more, because you’re not just trying to say yes to anything they can throw at you. And so we really double down on, being world class design, world class, website design and development. And the nice thing about that is specialization makes you less replaceable, when you do everything under the sun, then people can just go find anyone else to do what you do, the more you specialize. There’s a great book called The Business of Expertise, he talks about this idea of as you become an expert, you can notice patterns that other people don’t notice, because it’s the signal-to-noise ratio, that you can see the pattern in the noise better than other people, because you’ve done that thing so many times in such a specific way. And then also you just create processes, right, like you productize your service offering around a particular specialty. And so the answer to that question is it was primarily website design and development in the things lots of people need that right. Lots of people need to communicate via the web. And they have a story to tell, and they want it to look nice, and they want it to like do something, there’s information that needs to be provided credibility that needs to be created, leads that need to be generated all that jazz. But what we found over the years was, it wasn’t sustainable. So in about 2019, we looked at our revenue, we said holy crap, 90% of our revenue is project-driven, which means it’s time down its fixed cost, it means that lifetime customer value for us would just jump off a cliff after a project was over it because we didn’t have we weren’t selling the client anything other than like, support services.
Jeremy Weisz 9:57
There wasn’t like a predictability either.
Travis McAshan 10:01
Yeah, And so you look at marketing agencies like SEO and PPC and full stack digital agencies that are on these big retainers. And they’re the exact opposite of us, right? They’re driving 90% of the revenue from these like beefy retainers. And there’s pros and cons to both approaches. But what I decided to do was like, man, we got to figure out a way to partner with our clients. And we always go back to our purpose, just say, like, well, what is our purpose? How does our purpose guidance in this? How do our values guide us in this and our purpose is to help people who help others, that’s our codified purpose has nothing to do with work has nothing to do with websites. And so because it’s really just an extension of my life purpose to help people. And so we said, well, how can we help people if we give them a website, high five, and walk away? We’re helping them, but we’re not continuing to help them. And if you found someone that you really like, why would you only help them once? And so, we looked at ourselves, and we said, well, we don’t want to become a full stack marketing agency that does everything under the sun. We don’t want to be a PPC or SEO company, but we got to figure out a way to offer services that are ongoing. So it was like this kind of conundrum. And the solution we came to, originally was to create a roadmap. And the roadmap included, moving toward partnering with our clients over time, he said, well, what are we really good at? Well, we’re really good at web design and development, and we’re really good at Strategy. What do clients need? Well, they need all those things they don’t and you know, if you look at HubSpot did a survey they said look, like 52% of all marketers make one or less meaningful changes to their site in a year. That’s crazy, because your website for most marketing, most companies is I think that they said something like eight out of 10 marketing leaders said their website was critical to their business success as an organization. And so you’re saying, okay, most people think their websites are important, and most people weren’t touching it for an entire year. And so HubSpot, just like they, they coined the term inbound marketing, which is just like an aggregation of like, content marketing, and SEO and all those things. They created this separate idea called growth-driven design. So I had the entire agency gets certified in this concept called growth-driven design. And to save you the whole story was overcomplicated is a little bit too, too much of a fuss. But we took this idea that was embedded in growth-driven design called continuous improvement. And we said, what if we offer clients one design and development on an ongoing basis, and you think, oh, well, that’s just like website support, but not enough. It needs to be more proactive, it needs to be more goal-driven, it needs to have a process to it that’s beyond just waiting around for the client to call us and ask us to change something. And so it really is. It’s like if you took web design and development in CRO, which is conversion rate optimization, which is a very high-end service, you know, that requires multidisciplinary skill. What if you had a service that was nascent CRO that was like almost like web design development, and CRO had a baby. And that’s continuous improvement. And here’s the beautiful thing about continuous improvement for us was that you tell someone, hey, we offer this thing called continuous improvement. They’re like, I don’t know what it is. But I want it. Because like, who doesn’t want? Yeah, who doesn’t want continuous improvement? And so we went in 2020 to 2022?
Jeremy Weisz 13:12
Like, do you want the stagnant package? Or do you want the continuous improvement package?
Travis McAshan 13:17
Yes. So it’s like, almost like, what do you call it? Like, it’s like a baked in it sells itself? Right? And so we went from zero clients and continuous improvement to about 12, in the first year of selling that service. And you know, on a retainer basis, that was a huge improvement for us. So, over the course of two years, from 2020, to 2020, to mid q2 of 2022, we went from a eight to one ratio of projects to services revenue to a one-to-one ratio of projects to services revenue, which means that half of our revenue was coming from projects now and half was coming from retainer services. And that created income stability, and it created long-term relationships with existing clients. Anyway, I’m going…
Jeremy Weisz 14:01
Yeah, no, I want to dig into that a little bit, actually. So I know you help companies like the National Breast Cancer Foundation and helped WP engine and a variety of others. Let’s take National Breast Cancer Foundation, I want to find out what you did with them. But as an example, typically before you would deliver the website, like you said, high five and say bye. But now how do you have a process in your team other processes? What are they looking at on a weekly or monthly basis on how to improve the site?
Travis McAshan 14:38
Excellent. That’s a great question. Well, I think our best clients would engage us in a few important ways ongoing. So we do now offer SEO services and PPC, because we just see that as the top of the funnel, I mean, when you build it’s like if you give someone a Corvette, that’s great, but if they leave it in the garage And they’re really not getting any value out of the Corvette, right? So you could have the most beautiful, most high-converting marketing website on the planet. But if you don’t have any traffic to it any qualified traffic to it at the top of funnel acquisition, then we have given them an incomplete solution. So, you know, in our minds, you want to continue to optimize the site, which is continuous improvement, but you also have to make sure you’re helping them drive traffic. Now, as we move upmarket, we work with lots of companies that have preexisting marketing relationships with other agencies doing some of those, or they have in-house resources. But to answer your question related to like some of our best clients, we’re helping them not only right, with the experience of once people get there, but also helping them increase visibility in the marketplace, to create more opportunities for people to give to them. Right. So, and it’s great, as you mentioned, this, at the very beginning of the call topic call, he said, Glide helps good people with great ideas received the exposure they deserve, well, if we just build a website, we’re not really doing that, we’re just giving them a nice poster, like, but if we’re out there helping them drive traffic in the marketplace, then we’re actually giving them the full solution. And so with our best clients, like National Breast Cancer, we’ve been working with for many years, in fact, our VP Brooke Chaley is was invited to join their board, which is a very big honor for her and for us, and so we’re just really well connected with them. We’re doing all kinds of stuff that we do continuous improvement, and SEO and PPC and website support. And so it’s basically just an embedded relationship. So we did go from more of that, like, the discipline of market leaders, it’s like, okay, well, we weren’t the best product, but now we’re best solution and best solution, no way to find that is CIC or customer intimacy, so customer intimacy is you don’t know where your company ends, and the client begins, because you’re so embedded, and you’re so symbiotic right to their success. And so we have transitioned the company from a best product company to a best solution company. But it’s still a niche way, like we, so anyway,