Jennie Nash has an eye for compelling stories and a knack for helping writers find the perfect approach to writing their books. For over two decades, she created the kind of results for clients that very few other businesses in her niche can brag about.
Jennie’s passion for helping clients work through the challenges of writing a book led her to start training other book coaches on her process. And so Author Accelerator was born. To date, the Author Accelerator’s executive management team along with a suite of coaches that Jennie has hand-picked and personally trained has helped hundreds of writers bring their book ideas to life.
The downside of amazing success
But Jennie and her team had a big problem: as they grew, the growing complexity of managing over 150 writers and 30 book coaches became increasingly untenable with their cobbled-together back end that had accreted over years. Which was significantly slowing their growth.
Laura Franzini, Managing Editor of Author Accelerator, put it this way:
“I was very concerned about us growing to quickly because I didn’t want to say yes to folks that we would then have to drop later on because we just couldn’t handle the capacity. I never want a writer’s first impression of us to be, ‘Can you wait? Because we don’t have the capacity to work with you right now.’
“We want to be able to meet them exactly where they are and say, “Absolutely, we have the perfect person to work with you. We’re going to help you finish this draft. We’re going to help you write this book and meet these goals that you probably have been holding on to for a long time.’”
Why was the team struggling?
The Author Accelerator was doing such an amazing job on the coaching side that many writers would come back and say: “I have this new idea that’s itching to get out. I so loved this experience of working with you that I want to work with one of your coaches again.” But bringing on new clients was an exercise in frustration.
For their writer clients to have the best experience and results, the Author Accelerator team needed to ensure that the coach and the writer are a perfect match, based on more than 10 criteria: from coaching style, topic, and genre to level of feedback and individual availability.
The match process took five hours of work per client, spread out over the course of about a week.
Besides all the manual labor that went into checking everyone’s profile and eliminating possibilities one-by-one when the criteria did not match, Jennie’s team also spent time juggling information across five different platforms. They kept two different Google sheets and re-entered the same information in four different places.
“We didn’t have a cohesive database or storage center of information, and so we were dealing with misinformation and outdated files,” Laura said. “We didn’t know how many and what writers our coaches were working with at any given time.”
Hitting bandwidth limits = losing time and money
The team was hitting mental and time limits — and morale and productivity were taking a hit.
“The company was losing money because it was taking us so much time to sift through gather all this information again and again and again. So it would take me days to match a writer with a coach,” said Laura. Worse, all this time spent on gathering data took time and energy from the much more important aspects of creating a successful match. “I wasn’t spending that time pondering the writer’s story, their style, the coaches style of coaching what the writer could most benefit from. I was spending time waiting for emails and trying to gather quantitative data.”
Author Accelerator needed a simple, cohesive setup that didn’t require spending so much time keeping track of information, cross-referencing different platforms, re-entering the same information into different spreadsheets, and manually finding the right pairs of book coaches and writers. It needed to be able to easily share relevant information with coaches, and allow non-techy writer clients to work in a way that felt most comfortable to them.
Information at their fingertips freed the team to do what they do best
The solution: A relational database that would bring all their information together. It would allow the operations team have access to the same information as the editorial team. All of the information would be consistent. It would be updated. Anyone on the team could then make the decisions they needed to make, knowing they were all working from the same information.
We decided that the best tool to create this relational database for them would be Airtable.
With Airtable, we eliminated two out of the five tools Author Accelerator was using. Though they are still managing multiple tables of information, now the tables talk to each other, so entering information into one table populates the rest of the places where this information needs to be referenced.
In addition to that, we set up a number of automations so that when a team member performs one action, it triggers other actions automatically. This freed the Author Accelerator team from many of the more manual tasks they had been spending time on. Laura said,
“It really couldn’t have come at a better time. When we were in the trenches, it felt like there was just nothing that we could do. But It’s not as though you said, ‘Oh yeah there’s this thing called Airtable, why don’t you go check it out?’ We didn’t have the time. We didn’t have the capacity to do research to find a system that was going to work for us. We were just so in over our heads.
“It really was like you were a knight in shining armor to come in and to be able to hear us, to listen to what our problems were. It was your enthusiasm and your pushing us to find these solutions, your optimism that there was something out there that could help us.”
With 5X more productivity the Author Accelerator serves more clients, better
But the best part of the new setup is the simplified process of matching coaches to writers. What used to take five hours over the course of a week now takes just one hour on a single day.
“Now we have one database where all of our information is stored,” Laura continued. “I have all of the coach information in one place. I have all of the writer’s’ information in one place. I can very easily sort through the coaches based on their availability and their genre, their coaching style.”
“I can then spend the time that I need to actually make the match and think about the important information that will go into deciding which coach would be best for what writer. It’s been an amazing turnaround and so fast!” Laura said.
Author Accelerator coaches love the new setup as well.
“I love getting on a call with the coach and hearing the enthusiasm in their voice!,” Laura said. “This shows that we’ve made a decision that was really beneficial across the board and not just for the executive team.”
Now, the sky’s the limit
Now, with the new Airtable setup the sky’s the limit for Author Accelerator.
“I don’t really have a fear of growing too fast too soon anymore,” Laura said, “because I’m confident that we’ll be able to bring Airtable along with us and that it will be that underlying foundation for us to be able to keep track of everybody and make sure that everybody’s getting the service that they’re paying for.”
“Now because the matching process is so easy I know that I have coaches waiting, since we implemented Airtable we hired three new coaches and brought into the fold official three other coaches who we had hired beforehand but we’re now training.”
The Author Accelerator team is planning on putting the new setup to the ultimate test in just a few weeks when they relaunch their flagship program Manuscript Accelerator.
Laura shared, “I still feel like we are just scratching the surface of what we can do in Airtable. But already it’s very clear how Airtable can grow and how it can continue to keep up with us and help us remain efficient even as we’re working with more and more people, which is the goal.”
So, stay tuned for my follow up conversation with the Author Accelerator team!