Whether it was through marketing automation or the use of big data, Jon Shugart of Book Profits has tackled problems that very few others have gone after solving. However, that is what gets him excited the most, and the more difficult the challenge, the more ready he is to jump in with both feet and get to work to solve it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? In what ways does that relate to what you do now?
I have always gravitated towards solving problems, even when I was young. Math was my favorite subject and I always felt I would be an engineer when I grew up. I pursued that at first in college but then found myself fascinated with computer science and I ended up going down that road instead.
Although, I’m not actively coding our software these days, I still find myself knee deep in architecting the solutions with our developers. I enjoy helping them think through the problems and solutions that we need to ultimately help our customers.
What steps do you take to ensure that your organization’s activities are in alignment with the company mission, core values, and vision?
I guess we should start with what our vision is and then I can get into the steps we take. Our vision is to empower 5,000 entrepreneurs with all the training and tools they need to perform a simple business model of selling used books online. We want a customer to be able to come into our ecosystem and find everything they need to be successful.
Every day we evaluate our support issues, software progress, changes in the market and customer feedback to ensure that we are on track to achieve that vision. If an idea is brought to us that is a great idea but doesn’t help us achieve that vision, then it is put on a list for later evaluation or new opportunities once we have achieved what we have set out to accomplish.
Name two organizations or well-known business people you admire and explain why.
There are so many great business leaders that I admire, it is hard to name just two, but if I have to narrow it down, I would have to say Bill Gates is definitely number one on my list. The world as we know it today from a technology side is largely influenced by him directly. What he was able to build is pretty mind blowing if you think about it. However, while it is impressive from a business standpoint, I’m more impressed with the fact that he has continued to develop as a human being. The fact he is using his wealth to make an impact on the world in such positive ways is inspiring to me, and countless other entrepreneurs.
My second favorite inspirational business person is Walt Disney. I just think it is impressive to see the legacy he left behind and the impact he has had on such a large percentage of the population, especially children. The gift of imagination and creativity he brought to the world is just awe inspiring to me. I know that many people have contributed to the success of Disney, but he was the spark that created the flame that it is now.
What are YOUR main performance indicators? How are they measured and echoed throughout the business?
We focus primarily on two indicators. One is customer success. We want to minimize the need for support tickets and create successful customer journeys through our programs and software, so we are constantly monitoring the number of tickets and repeat issues. The other performance indicator is sales. Without sales, the business stops, so this is the most important indicator for the success of the business. Every day we look at new customer sales and at recurring subscriptions. We want to see both of those numbers increasing on a month by month basis.
What are your top three priorities for the business?
I try to break down our top priorities based on customer needs. If we focus on their needs, then our needs will be met typically. So, our top priority is customer satisfaction. This covers many different areas such as our software meeting their needs, our training being excellent, our support being responsive, etc. After customer satisfaction, our next priority is sales growth. We want to make sure we are getting our message out to more potential customers and then converting them into paying customers. So, the first priority helps us keep our current customers, and the second priority focuses on us getting new customers. The third priority of our business is employee retention. We want to work with our staff a long time because it just works out better for all of us if we can keep people engaged and happy to work with us. A simple summary of our priorities would be we want to keep our current customers happy, we want to find new customers and finally, we want to keep our staff happy and engaged.
How do you fight complacency and mediocrity?
That is an interesting question and truthfully, I have never thought about it. Because of the industry we are in, it constantly changes and thus, we are having to constantly change. This keeps us on our toes and I guess has never let us get complacent. If we get complacent, then we get left behind and we lose our business. So, that fear has always been the motivating factor to never stop improving what we do.
What has been the most impactful lesson you’ve learned as a business leader?
The most impactful lesson I have learned is that you have to dig in deep when something is working and you can’t always assume you will be successful. We live in an age where technology changes rapidly and if you aren’t keeping up, then you will get left behind. That being said, a lot of people try things and sometimes things are successful but they don’t dig in deep enough on that success to build upon it. The world is a lot bigger than we think and just because you feel like you have saturated a sales channel and you want to move on because you are bored, well, don’t! You aren’t guaranteed another winner, so ride the winner as deep and far as you can, for as long as you can!
What’s the most critical piece of business management and leadership advice you would give your younger self?
If I could go back in time and give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to never give up but rather figure out how to pivot. I can think of a particular instance where I had started a business in my early 20’s and we were ahead of where the market was. At that time, I didn’t see any option but to shut the business down because we couldn’t get customers. However, knowing what I know now, if I had just persisted and adapted to where the market was at the time, we would have been tremendously successful and my life path would have been much different. So, the main point is to not force your idea on the market but rather adapt to the market and let their wants/needs drive your business.
How do you create leadership opportunities within the organization?
The biggest way we create leadership opportunities is through more responsibilities of ownership of an area in the business. As someone steps up to provide suggestions for improvement or take on responsibilities, we begin to empower that person to lead in that area. Our company is fairly lean at the moment in terms of staff, so we really depend on everyone to lead in their area and we have to trust that they will get things done.
About Jon Shugart
Jon Shugart, CEO of Book Profits, obtained his Bachelor of Science in mathematics with honors from North Georgia College & University. Mr. Shugart received his Masters of Education Leadership from the University of Southern Mississippi. However, after teaching high school mathematics for four years, Mr. Shugart caught the technology bug and enrolled at the Georgia Institute of Technology to study Computer Science in the year 2000. It was that decision that has led him down the path he is currently on.
Over the past 19 years, Jon Shugart has followed his passion for technology and entrepreneurship and he has built several multi-million dollar businesses from scratch along the way. But more important to him than just the revenue is that the they have helped improve the quality of their customers’ lives.