Back to Basics: Building an Effective Business Strategy – Jess Dewell

In today’s episode, we have Jess Dewell, Managing Partner of Red Direction and host of Bold Business Podcast, who shared valuable tips in helping small businesses create a strong growth impact plan. She found satisfaction in helping small businesses what they are good at and amplifying it to reach their goals. She said that knowing your strengths and how to prioritize them are key to effective business strategy. When your business seems to be going far off track, there might be a discrepancy with the goals you are setting, your strengths, and your strategy. It is always important to go back and evaluate your growth impact plan.

Jess’s website:


Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hey there. This is Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back to Rocky Mountain marketing. My guest today is just dual Jess is the managing partner of red direction where they chart a course that leverages where strategy and operations overlap. She is also the host of the popular podcast, the bold business podcast, Jess is a nationally recognized sport, right boy in collaboration and transformation. And she uses proactive approaches to instill guiding principles to run, grow and scale their businesses. I am so excited for you to come on the show today. Jess, thank you for joining me.

Jess Dewell 0:53

I am so glad to be here with you, Katie, this is one of those programs that our conversations have been so great. I couldn’t wait until today.

Katie Brinkley 1:02

Yes, you and I have connected offline a number of times. And the more we talked, the more we thought, Man, you need to come on this show because you are just a wealth of knowledge. I can’t wait to talk about some strategies on growing your business because that is something that is really hard to do as a as a small business owner trying to scale and grow. But before we dive into that, tell us a little bit more about you give us a little bit of your backstory so that the listeners can get to know you better. Tell us about where you grew up and what your life was like growing up.

Jess Dewell 1:32

I grew up south of Kansas City, Kansas. And I say that’s where I grew up. Because that’s where I spent most of my childhood. I learned to speak living north of Chicago. So if you stick me around anybody from Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Chicago native, that accent comes right out. It’s hilarious to watch that happen. And I love being from the Midwest, I love having I still have friends in the Kansas City area. And then a long time ago, I moved to Seattle and we lived in Seattle is the first and only the first place I ever lived as an adult. And now here in Colorado was the second place I’ve ever lived as an adult.

Katie Brinkley 2:08

I love it. Now coming from Kansas to Colorado. I mean, what do you think about living here in our great state? Do you are you a pretty outdoorsy, I know that you live in a very beautiful part of Colorado?

Jess Dewell 2:20

Oh, I do. I love boulder. And you know what the answer is, I am a wimp when it comes to hot. So the summer’s here are a little harder than I thought they would be. Because 90 degrees is too hot for me. And I actually like the rain. I love the rain. And I love the sun. And so what I really enjoy about Colorado is the amount of sun we get. Because in Seattle, people think that it’s the rain that gets people down, but it’s not, we get the same around the Seattle gets the same amount of rain, as New York City does. The difference is the cloudiness clouds come and they just stay over Seattle from November to May. And then the rain comes with it. And so I love the rain of the Northwest and I love the sun of Colorado. And being from eastern Kansas. It’s hilly in eastern Kansas. And I really think eastern Kansas is very pretty the prairie is gorgeous. So every place I’ve lived I’ve connected to its landscape fairly well.

Katie Brinkley 3:20

I love it. And I think that too, like that’s something that about Colorado is, you know, when once you’re here, it’s hard to leave. But I mean, like and you can do your business from anywhere. So what keeps you here in Colorado is is it just being part of that outdoor life? Or is there something else that keeps you here?

Jess Dewell 3:39

All be real? I don’t know the answer to that we got here by saying well, maybe we should move. And in fact, when we bought a house in Seattle, the last house we bought in the greater Seattle area, my husband was looking at properties and houses in Boulder, but he didn’t tell me. And he told me we probably would have moved to Colorado earlier. sooner, if you will. It’s great to be in Colorado because we’re we are now within driving distance of our entire family. We’re still many hours away from everybody. But it’s better than a required plane ride and a full day of travel. So we get to see our family as much as possible, and it makes it a little bit easier. Plus, if there was ever an emergency, getting someplace is much, much faster. So I like the fact that we’re outdoorsy. I like the fact that we’re high. I like the fact that my family is all within driving distance. And I like the fact we get to just kind of be and I knew I was going to live here, Katie, when we came to see if we could live here. We were at a stoplight, and the window was enrolled and the person who was in the lane next to me, the driver of the car just started having a conversation with me at the red light. It was the best thing ever and that’s my personality. I’ll talk to anybody anywhere. And I was like, Oh, this is where I’m supposed to live. And I don’t know when I’m gonna go away because what Talk about the best first experience.

Katie Brinkley 5:02

Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, I mean, now that we’ve heard a little bit about what brought you out here, what keeps you here? Tell us a little bit about your career journey. How have you come to where you are today?

Jess Dewell 5:14

I think I have been guided by something bigger than myself. It didn’t matter what I said I was going to do. I’ve always learned something along the way. And then the path has unfolded in front of me to be where I am today. So when I graduated from high school, I thought I was going to be a biochemist. Well, the only person who seemed to really not realize she was never going to be a biochemist was me.

Katie Brinkley 5:40

And so, so I was

Jess Dewell 5:42

like, Okay, fine, because when I was in college and opportunity came along to be part of a startup, and to be one of its owners. And I took it, and we left Kansas, and we went to Seattle, and we sold that business. And it was great talk about an experience being 19 years old, actually wasn’t 19 No, it was 19. When we started, it was 21. When we when I was 21, when I sold my first business, and that was also the year I got married and bought my first house, and it went in that order sold business bought house got married. I don’t know why that order sticks in my brain, but it does. And then I did mergers and acquisitions with that company. And I ran six companies in a I call a portfolio today and grew them and had so much amazing experience that even though I lived in Seattle, I was never there. I spent half my time at the Digital River headquarters in Minnesota. And I spent another great big portion of my time on the road visiting clients and going to events. And this is when I really found out what I was good at, which is finding what somebody is good at and amplifying it. So all of my clients, I looked at them, and I was like, Oh, well, if I can grow their business, they’ll stay in business longer. And if their business stays in business longer, my company makes more money. And I never thought Why wouldn’t? Why would that be hard. And I just did it. And it worked out great. All of the companies I was responsible for grew, we came up with a great plan. And then that’s what I did. After I left, I went back to college because I dropped out to be part of that company, and finished my degree. And then I worked for a real estate firm in the greater Seattle area and did some training and integration. And the same thing applied the whole purpose was to grow the businesses of the real estate agents that were that were there. And there was something like 13 or 1500 of them. And that’s what I did. So I came in on us, let’s grow some people’s businesses. And that’s what same thing again, what are their strengths? How do they work. And this was a little bit different, because technology is different than service, right? So you have technology, you have real estate, which is very service oriented. And then after I left that company was when I fully committed to being a contractor, if you will, a consultant that would come in and help a business at the strategic crucial points when they needed it, and then be able to go away because I’m all about teaching people how to fish. And so even even though I was on contract work for that real estate company, I was there. They were like my only client at that time. And now I’m like, I can do this for a lot of companies. Why don’t I just do that. And so, a long time ago, I said I’ll do it. And I’ve been doing it ever since Katie,

Katie Brinkley 8:25

I love it. I love it. Now you’ve been able to see the side of businesses wanting to grow and growing and then being sold. Talk to us a little bit about if there is a new business owner that is listening to the podcast right now, what is some advice that you’d want to give him or her as their journey starts?

Jess Dewell 8:46

Okay, it’s wrapped into a statistic, I want to say that Don’t be one of 85% of business owners that neglect their strategy. And when people hear strategy, they think, oh, but that doesn’t make money directly. And that’s absolutely right. Working on our business is more powerful than the work that we do in our business. It has the opportunity to amplify, it has the opportunity to allow us to make smaller adjustments or smaller pivots, instead of ever having to face a time where we are we must make a gigantic choice. And coming down to that then. So how do we what does that mean? Don’t neglect your strategy. That means really focus on what we want. That means really have discernment and ruthlessly choose and choose what we’re going to work on. So we know exactly what we won’t work on. And then how to prioritize the things that we have chosen that are important to work on. And that time on your business really is that reflection of am I doing those things?

Katie Brinkley 9:49

I think that that’s great too, because it’s very similar to what I offer and what I teach is the strategy behind social media. A lot of people just think that you need to just post started and the leads and customers are just going to be knocking down your door. And that’s part of it. I mean, just posting is part of it. But there is so much more that goes into having a successful impact and a successful position on social media. Are the ads, sending people the right way? Do they have the same kind of tone and feel as your as your organic posts? Is everything going to the to a lead magnet? Or is everything going to a place where there’s a clear call to action? I mean, there’s so much strategy behind all of that stuff just on social media. So I am right there with you. As far as it might not make seem it might not be the most sexy part of being a business owner. But it is so important. Now, if you if besides just telling people to have a smart strategy and pay attention to it, what is some of the biggest mistakes that you see business owners make?

Jess Dewell 10:51

Oh, okay, is not choosing. So because everything comes from a place of, well, if I choose, I’m automatically going to miss out. Or if I choose, I might choose wrong, which creates this illusion of well, if I just don’t choose things can still happen. And that’s, that’s also part of neglecting a business strategy. Because the more we choose, the more we know. And in fact, we can actually talk about what we know right now, right now we know we know what our business model is, well, what are the things that we do to make money? Is it dollars for our is it dollars for program? Is it recurring revenue, right? There’s all kinds of business models out there, we know that, so why not claim it? Our business is running a certain way. Let’s claim it, it’s already there. And we’re probably not going to change it. So claim it. The other thing is, what is our strength? Why our strength is why do we like to do the things that we like to do? And how can we leverage those so that we can do more. And there was one other thing and it’s escaped me right now around that. So I’m going to just stop with those two, because actually think the third one was the most important, but we’ll come back to that when it shows up because I know it will. And oh, Duh, of course it is the most important, Katie, it’s, it’s what we value. When we know what we value, we know how the work should look, which means to your point about all the strategy behind social media, which means if our social media is not working, there’s a discrepancy between the messaging and the strategy of the social media and what we’re doing in other parts of our business. And if we’re not working on our business, we can never sit down and go, Hmm, is that worth it? Where’s the error? What is the gap? And by the way, it’s not sexy, you’re right. And it does take time. And it doesn’t necessarily generate income in the short term. But it leverages and positions us to make more money in near short term.

Katie Brinkley 12:45

Now, I know that one of your specialties, is developing a growth impact plan and implementing it alongside of a management team. Mm hmm. Talk to us a little bit about what that means.

Jess Dewell 12:58

Sure. So everybody’s got where they’re at. They want to maintain sales, because they want to grow their management team. They want to grow their revenue. And they may want to grow something else to right infrastructure. So whichever main path or whichever variation of those paths that a company is at, we have sit down, and we take stock, and it’s literally as simple as what is everybody doing? And what do they say they’re doing. Because what we do is actually what we value, what we’re doing is the work that we’re prioritizing, so we automatically prioritize what we value. So if we say we value something different, but we’re at than the work we’re doing, there’s a problem internally. So the first thing in a growth impact plan is where is the communication gap? Where is the opportunity to get more connected, to build more trust within a management team and the way the message, the mission of the company is actually articulated, and the way the work is done to achieve it. Because from that moment of a business impact plan, the growth impact plan, we have the opportunity to then go down to the steps of being able to understand well, so with that information, what do we really want and actually make the decision to do it. And then based off of the decision to do it, it’s what are the things that must be done to get it done? And then there’s an accountability piece of being able to say yes, we are doing it or man, that habit and that that the way we’re doing business and what we’re prioritizing is so different than what we actually need to be doing. We actually have to spend time changing habit to see the result. So ultimately, it’s a What are we doing? How are we doing it? Is it working and keep on going but the the clear pieces of I have discerned as a leader, I have been part of a team that has decided exactly what’s going on and I understand it and I can reflect Back to the rest of my team and the rest of my company and all of my customers, and they get it, and they can reflect it back to me, clearly.

Katie Brinkley 15:08

I love that. And I think that too, like, so for me, like, as an entrepreneur, a small business owner, you get to a point where you the thing that you thought about the thing that you dreamed about the business that you dreamed about, the whole reason that you decided to go into the entrepreneurial road down that path, as opposed to going into the corporate world, is because you have a dream, and you want it to succeed. And when you do succeed, and your business starts growing, it can be exciting, and it can be scary. What advice do you have for people that are at that point where their business is, is doing? Well, they’re ready to grow, and they don’t know where to go.

Jess Dewell 15:50

Find somebody like you and me, Katie. I mean, seriously, we there’s that point where it becomes scary, and we don’t know what’s going on. And that means we’re getting in our own way, it means we know what trees are in our forest, we can go up to them and hug them and make sure that they’re not gonna, you know, we’re clearing out the brush to reduce forest fires, we’re helping out all the little seedlings that are starting to grow. But we never take, we never pause to like, take a step back, go up the mountain and look at all of the trees that make up our forest. And so that’s one of the things that an advisor a coach, has the ability to bring to the table is to say, yes, it’s so good. You’re doing all this cultivation within your business. Now come take a step back with me. What else could we doing? What else could we be doing? What else should we be doing? What can we let go of? What are some things that we must embrace that are different than we’ve ever done before? And it’s really difficult to do that on our own? Is it possible? Yes, it takes a lot of time and practice. I am not, I am not proficient at that. And I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, I still can’t always get out of my own way I can get up and look at my forest. But I’m not exactly sure what question to ask. And so anybody who’s at that place in their business, where they’re growing, and they’re making these decisions, must have somebody else to talk to. And by the way, every time we talk about what’s important to us, every time we talk about the goals that we have set, every time we talk about the challenges that we’re facing, means we’re talking about strategy. And going back to that stat that I opened up with business owners spend less than one hour a month a month discussing strategy. And I I’ll tell you what, that’s not enough. And so being able to have those conversations with somebody illuminates so much for us.

Katie Brinkley 17:37

Yeah, what, that’s a great way of putting it. And I think that, that there is no reason that you need to do it all by yourself. You don’t need to be a Jack or Jill of all trades. There are people out there that excel in their specific fields, and are there to guide you and help you along your journey. And I think that sometimes just looking up to try and find that help is is invaluable. Now, let’s go back to your business just a little bit. I want to know, because your business is unique. And I love your strategy. But I want you to tell our listeners about what your marketing strategy that you’ve implemented that has been working.

Jess Dewell 18:18

Yeah, perfect. So in our company at Red direction, my sole marketing, my sole marketing is our podcast, the bold business podcast, and I didn’t realize that was going to be the be our sole marketing. And I say sole, it’s really not the soul. But it is by far the bulk of our marketing budget is all about how do we bring business owners together to talk about the problems that we’re facing as business owners to recognize we’re not alone in this and to learn from each other without actually having to tell people because what I find is a lot of people are like, oh, yeah, but I don’t want to talk to you yet. Oh, yeah. But I really am embarrassed by that. Well, guess what, one of the things and I don’t know if you see this, Katie, but one of the things that I am actually proud that the clients that read direction works with have a relationship with us such that it’s okay, because the time that our clients need us most is when the warts come out. The breakdowns occur, the frustration is at its highest. We’re not at our best when we really need an advisor. And that’s we’re the kind of people that people come to when nobody else has been able to solve their problems. Because we don’t have a single process. We don’t have a single program that we put everybody through. We have all of these elements that really help build businesses, and they’re customized to your strengths and your values and what’s important to the growth that you’re trying to achieve. And our podcast reflects that. And so that’s where we put all of our money. And then what we’ve done with that as we’ve built a an on demand program that business owners can come just be a part of and when they need help, or they want some inspiration or they’re trying to find an answer to look it up. Probably differently, they can come check out all of the resources that are available, in addition to staying up to date on the things that we’re talking about with all the interviews that we’re having with people.

Katie Brinkley 20:10

And I think that a lot of people, I mean, podcasting is a fantastic way to reach your target audience. get the conversation started, I think that it is a great idea to have it as your your marketing plan. And you can build an entire strategy, just around your podcast with social networks and landing pages and courses and opt ins. I mean, there’s so much that you can do if you decide to go down the podcast route. I mean, honestly, here we are, I love podcasting. And I love being able to do this show and have these conversations with different business owners throughout Denver and throughout the United States, and just hear what has been working for them. Because every single episode I, I learned something new. And it’s great because I get the opportunity to talk with all these visionaries, and business owners who have found ways to succeed, despite whatever is going on. 2020 is in the rearview mirror now. And you know, it’s exciting to be hopeful for a new year 2021. And if anything, what 2020 taught us was the power of connecting and networking online. And one of those online networking tools is podcasting. So before we finish up, I want to know, is there anything that I didn’t ask you about during today’s discussion that you think is important to share with our audience,

Jess Dewell 21:30

I just want to reiterate two things. The first is, know what you value as a business. And by the way, these should be separate and different than your own personal values. But your personal values matter, too, when we know what’s important to make our company run and we know the pillars with which we are doing the work within our business, we know and have bumpers and making sure that everything we’re doing is going in the same direction, that the values are going to be the key piece to how you can be authentic, pragmatic and resilient within your business. That’s the starting point. And the second thing is just talk about your business more with people that you feel comfortable with people that you can let your guard down a little just like you, Katie, come talk to you, your podcast listeners, if they are not taking advantage of just having a conversation with you. They’re really missing out because there’s so much insight you can provide not only as a business owner, but also as potentially a way to go, Oh, guess what? I’ve been there or I know somebody or have you tried this and be able to help somebody get unstuck. And I think that those are the two things that I want to make sure get reiterated at this moment.

Katie Brinkley 22:33

Yeah. And I think that you were just a wealth of great ideas and tips. And like I said before, you and I have had the opportunity to talk before the podcast a couple times. And every time I walk away from a conversation with you, I feel inspired and ready to tackle the world. So how can our listeners get in touch with you what is the best way for them to find you online?

Jess Dewell 22:57

The best way that will get you everywhere you want to go social media link, the blog, the podcast, whatever is going to be fast track your

Katie Brinkley 23:07

Thank you again so much for coming on the show today. And I really have enjoyed this conversation. Be sure to check out Jesse’s podcast as well Jess, if you want to give your podcast one more plug. Whoo, whoo, the bold business

Jess Dewell 23:20

podcast. And you can catch up on everything right now. We’re in our break. We just concluded season three and sometime probably March ish. We will be back on air with season four.

Katie Brinkley 23:31

And I’m sure you know there’s plenty of ways on on the podcast apps for you to go back and check out previous episodes, so be sure to check out her podcast connect with her online. And again, thank you so much for coming on the show today. And if you’re ready to take your social media to the next level for your small business, head over to my website and check out my free video training the three biggest mistakes small businesses make with social media and how to avoid them. Discover how to make your social media marketing stand out from the crowd online. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at or connect with me on LinkedIn and Instagram. Just look for Katie Brinkley. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.