ACE Engine
Miscellaneous

Behind-The-Scenes: How The Powerful 5E Scale Engine Was Iteratively Developed

The 5E Scale Engine is my method for super scaling a business. This was what I used to grow Vodien to a $30m business. However, while I knew the concepts, I didn’t know it would be called the 5E Scale Engine at the start.

In fact, I didn’t even know that a framework was needed. Everything was in my mind, and so when people sought my advice on how to scale up their businesses, I would just tell them.

However, the lack of a framework meant that it was more difficult to express and convey my ideas. It was also more difficult for people to remember and visualise what I was trying to say.

That’s when I decided that I needed to encapsulate my knowledge in a proper framework.

Here’s how the process developed.

Principles of Super scaling A Business

Super scaling a business requires several principles, and these must be done in a proper sequence. The methodology will have to cover everything from marketing to sales to Human Resources to operational excellence.

These are all concepts that I have in my mind, but the problem was coming up with a framework that encapsulates all of these concepts well.

I started off with just a basic step and went forward from there.

Iteration 1: Attract, Convert, Empower

ACE Engine

The first iteration of my methodology was Attract, Convert, Empower. I called this the ACE Engine.

Attract was all about marketing and how you can create marketing strategies to attract the right audience.

Connect covered creating relevancy in your offer so that you could create best-selling products.

Empower talked about how you can build a team of A-players.

This was a good framework, but soon I realised that it wasn’t comprehensive at all.

Problems:

  • I realised that the strategy and vision were not covered with this framework

So I scrapped this framework, and came up with another angle.

Iteration 2: Triple-E Growth Engine

drawing the triple-e growth engine, a method to scale business

This framework was a lot more holistic. It had 3 components: Envision, Empower, Execute. The Triple-E Growth Engine was born because I wanted to come from an angle where everything in the business could be covered.

I used Notability, on the iPad, to sketch out the drafts of this framework, and it slowly became the final version which was made up of concentric circles.

alvin-poh-triple-e-growth-engine
Triple-E Growth Engine

I even came up with the logo and drew out a diagram in Vectornator, on the iPad, depicting these concepts.

Envision talked about coming up with a vision to lead you and your business.

Empower is all about finding and hiring the right team.

Execute covered all other aspects of operational excellence.

This was a lot better than the ACE Engine!

Problem:

  • I soon realised that it wasn’t granular enough
  • Other important aspects, such as marketing and sales, weren’t given enough emphasis

Iteration 3: House of Scale

The next iteration saw an addition of the fourth E: Engage. I had previously lumped marketing and sales into “Execute”, but I soon realised that they were distinct concepts.

Both concepts required executional excellence, but the customer journeys and sales funnels needed a separate principle by themselves.

That led me to create the House of Scale.

Problem:

  • I discovered the lack of one last component of the methodology.

This iteration covered most of what was happening on the business, but it lacked something that was crucial for you to super scale your business.

Iteration 4: House Of Scale v2

house of scale Alvin Poh

This is an incremental iteration to my scaling methodology. It basically adds one last E: Evolve.

The main thing that binds all these concepts together is not knowing what principles are lacking. In fact, one of the keys to super scale is the mindset and mental models of the entrepreneur.

With this, I knew that the methodology covered everything end-to-end, and that it was comprehensive enough.

Problem

  • This framework was comprehensive, but the name was terribly unwieldy
  • In addition, it gave the feeling of being slow and immobile (which a house was) instead of super scaling (which needed to be nimble, agile, fast)

I went back to the drawing board again, and tried out other permutations of the name and framework. That got me to iteration 5.

Iteration 5: 5E Scale Engine

5e scale engine

Aptly happening at the 5th iteration, my methodology became known as the 5E Scale Engine. On top of the 5 E’s (Evolve, Envision, Empower, Engage, Execute), it also encompasses aspects of the original ACE Growth Engine, namely the “growth” part, and the “engine” part.

I loved the concept of an engine because it signifies automation and systems. A house felt too static to me, so the House of Scale wasn’t such a good concept.

And because this methodology focuses on super scaling instead of just growth, calling it a growth engine wouldn’t be very accurate too. Therefore the name “scale engine”.

Iteratively Progressing Your Goals

I hope that this process was helpful to all of you who might be figuring a concept out for your business, be it a framework, your product pricing, brand name, vision, or whatever.

iterative process of developing ideas

If there’s one thing that I learnt being an entrepreneur since I was 17 years old, it is that perfection is the enemy. It’s so much better to just start, put out an initial version, and iterate progressively from there.

If we’re at point A and want to get to point B, we all have the fantasy of going straight to point B. However, that’s hardly the case in reality.

Across all of my experiences, reality is instead a series of steps that you need to take before you get to point B. Sometimes we don’t even know how to start, but we just have to take a shot at what we think is the most logical first step.

Only then will we realise what we don’t know. And be able to tweak our plan and actions so that we take a second shot, but this time with more clarity and knowledge. This cycle repeats all the way until we get to our final destination of point B.

I never would have been able to come up with the 5E Scale Engine right from day 1. As you can see, it took me many iterations over a long period of time before I finally found the concept of the 5E Scale Engine.

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Miscellaneous

How To Dynamically Insert Affiliate Links or Track Referrals With Aweber

If you are looking to build an email list, and want to be able to use custom variables in the emails that you send out, then this guide is for you. Here are some example use cases:

  • Tag subscribers to affiliates, so that you can add their Clickbank hop ID to all your links, in all your future email broadcasts/autoresponders
  • Track total revenue based on where you acquired a subscriber. E.g. track Google Analytics variables by appending them to all future links that you email out

I chose Aweber because it is a great email marketing service that is very popular because of the advanced features that it allows.

One great feature is the fact that Aweber allows you to use custom variables, but many people don’t know or don’t use this feature. You should though, because this allows you to a lot of cool things. In this post, I’ll show you how you can automatically track who referred a subscriber to you, and insert their affiliate link in your emails. This is good to have for merchants, because you can run an email list on your sales page, and still get affiliates to wholeheartedly refer visitors to you still.

Requirements:

  1. PHP
  2. Aweber

To do this, you’ll need to setup a custom variable in Aweber. Let’s call it “ref”. Here’s a screenshot of where to do this in Aweber.

aweber creating a custom variable

Now that you have a custom variable, we need to use it in our opt-in forms. The problem here though, is that the form builder in Aweber doesn’t allow you to insert PHP code (which is what we require for this to work).

So just create your opt-in form as per normal, but without the ref field (you’ll see it in the form builder). Now this is where things differ: when it asks you to publish as Javascript or HTML, choose HTML. Grab that code, stick it on your website where you want it, and paste this line of code right before the </form> tag. Remember to change the words YourDefaultRefGoesHere. This will set a default ref to use, just in case the visitor got to your form without a referrer (Thanks Mike!).

Note: A cookie-version of the code has been added (Thanks to Chris’s suggestion!). What it does is to cookie visitors, and then read the cookie when they visit your page again. Instructions within the text file.

  1. See the code here (txt file)
  2. Cookie-version of code here (txt file)

Alert: The only drawback for this method is unlike the Javascript method, you won’t be able to track impressions on your form. The benefit is that EVERYONE can view a HTML form, whereas some people may turn off Javascript support in their browsers, or have a browser that does not support Javascript, so they won’t be able to see your Javascript form.

Now that the form and variable is complete, we’ll need to actually use it. The following screenshot shows you how to do so. Simply create a broadcast or followup message as per normal, but click on the “Personalize” link, and choose your custom variable, as shown.

You’ll notice 2 variants of your variable listed, and here’s what they mean. For our case, we can just use the first version, which is {!custom ref}. These are basically the only two variants that you’ll be faced with:

  • {!custom variable_name}: Whatever information is stored in the variable_name custom field
  • {!custom_fix variable_name}: Whatever information is stored in the variable_name custom field, with the first letter of each word capitalized

After this, anyone who gets referred to your page like so: YourPage.php?ref=jack will automatically have “jack” stored into the custom variable of “ref”. In future, anytime you want to dynamically insert the referring affiliate, just use {!custom ref} in your emails.

An example link will be:

http://www.yourdomain.com/product.php?ref={!custom ref}

Viola. Now you can dynamically insert affiliate links in your emails or track referrals with Aweber! If you don’t already have Aweber, I highly recommend it because of the features and performance that it offers. The above technique is just one small feature that Aweber offers – think about Geo-targeting, or split-testing…just some more of the advanced features that Aweber offers.

Update: This works if you’re a Clickbank affiliate as well. Just change “ref” to “hop”, and you can use the following URL structure:

http://{!custom hop}.MERCHANT.hop.clickbank.net

Now your affiliates who refer visitors to your email list can continue earning their rightful commissions!

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Dell XPS disk space problem
Miscellaneous

How To Solve: Dell XPS Suddenly Showing Low Disk Space Warnings

I have a Dell 13-inch XPS 9370 that I bought in June 2018. After a Windows 10 update, I suddenly got repeated “Low Disk Space” warning messages on drive D:, which I didn’t create. After Googling, I found the solution. It turns out that this new drive D: is the recovery drive, and is not meant to have a drive letter. So the fix is to remove the drive letter and the annoying “Low Disk Space” warning messages will stop.

  1. Click your Start Button, type “cmd”, then right-click on “Command Prompt” and choose “Run as Administrator”
  2. Choose “Yes” when Windows asks if you want to allow the app to make changes to your computer
  3. Type “diskpart” and hit Enter
  4. Type “list volume” and hit Enter
  5. Type “select volume X” and hit Enter (where X is the volume number associated with that new drive with the ltr/letter D:)
  6. Type “remove letter=D” and hit Enter (where D is the drive letter that you want to remove)
  7. Close Command Prompt
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third-party usb ethernet adapter macbook
Miscellaneous

How To Run Third-Party USB Ethernet Adaptors with Your Apple Macbook Notebook

Ever since Apple started trimming down the ports on their Macbook notebooks, there’s been an increasing demand for adaptors to make up for the lack of connectivity. Today, I found out that I needed to access my Asus wireless router to set it up for a new ISP that I subscribed to. Unfortunately, I only had a third-party, non-Apple ethernet adaptor. In this case, it was a USB ethernet dongle from Lenovo.

When I plugged it into my Macbook, nothing happened. Clearly, Apple only provided drivers and support for their own Apple adaptors. Thankfully, there were third-party drivers for common USB ethernet adaptors. Plugable had the Mac drivers for the USB2-E100 and USB2-OTGE100 chipsets, which were pretty common in third-party USB ethernet dongles. When I installed it on my Macbook Air, the Lenovo USB ethernet dongle came alive and started working.

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Miscellaneous

How To Open .jar Files Automatically in Mac OSX

A random program that I installed reset the default application (Java) for .jar files on my Macbook, and to reset the behaviour in Mac OSX took a bit more work than I thought. Turns out the “Java Launcher” isn’t in the list of applications that you can select from, in the “Open With…” list. You’ll need to select “Open With”, choose “Other”, and browse to the following:

/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/JavaAppletPlugin.plugin/Contents/Home/bin/java

Ensure that it’s set to “Always Open With”, and you should be set. All .jar files will now be opened with Java in the future.

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creatine powder or capsules
Miscellaneous

Which is Better: Creatine Capsules or Creatine Powder?

Creatine monohydrate may be one of the most common muscle building supplements available out there, but there are so many questions about it. The most studied type of creatine is creatine monohydrate, and it is widely accepted for its performance and value for money.

One such question is: what form of creatine is best? The most common forms of creatine are powder and capsules. No conclusive evidence exists to say which form is better, but considering that the stomach digests both forms into phosphocreatine eventually, then logically, both should be just as effective.

Although “better” can be relative, we can definitely compare them practically.

Difference Between Creatine Capsules and Powder

1. Convenience

The biggest advantage that capsules have over powder is their portability. This can be huge especially for the gym-goer because you can carry a serving of creatine capsules in your gym bag and simply pop them whenever you need to.

The second major advantage of creatine capsules is that they’re more convenient than the powdered form of creatine. Unlike powder, which requires measuring and mixing, capsules only require that you grab the right number. You also do not need to prepare water, juice, or some other liquid to mix creatine powder in with.

However, if you are already consuming other supplements in powder form, you can mix creatine powder together (be it protein powder, BCAA’s, L-Glutamine, etc) into one convenient drink rather than consuming a big pile of pills.

2. Cost

Compared to creatine powder, capsules have a significantly greater cost per serving. Creatine capsules are typically five to ten times more expensive than powder.

Here’s a comparison of creatine capsules versus creatine powder, of the same brand. From the product labels themselves:

Product: Optimum Nutrition, Micronized Creatine Powder, Unflavored, 10.6 oz (300 g) Optimum Nutrition, Creatine 2500 Caps, 200 Capsules
Price: $9.95 $18.49
Cost Per Serving: $0.1745 $0.1849
Cost Per 5g Serving: $0.1745 $0.3698
Cost for 300g: $9.95 $22.19
Serving Size: 1 Rounded Teaspoon (5.25g) 2 Capsules
Servings Per Container: 57 100
Amount per serving: 5g of Creatine Monohydrate 2.5g of Creatine Monohydrate
View/Buy Now
$5 Discount Code: VHW626
View/Buy Now
$5 Discount Code: VHW626

At first glance, it looks like the cost-per-serving is roughly similar for powder and capsules. Look closer though, and you’ll realise that each capsule serving gives you only 2.5g of creatine monohydrate, versus 5g for the powder form. That means your cost-per-serving is actually double, making it $0.1849 x 2 = $0.3698. If you want an apple-to-apple comparison, I’ve added in pricing for what 300g will cost you for both capsules and powdered options. You can see that the powdered form costs less than half the capsule form.

3. Serving Size

Another issue with capsules is on the dosage – to consume the recommended 5g of creatine, you will have to pop at least four large pills (depending on the serving size), compared to just one teaspoon for creatine powder.

In the end, there is really no right or wrong choices on the form in which creatine is consumed. It all comes down to what you need. Go for creatine powder if you’re looking for value. And if you’re going for convenience, choose creatine capsules. If you’re getting creatine powder, then definitely get the micronized powdered forms, which dissolve easily and without clumps. A good brand at an affordable price is Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Powder (use $5 Discount Code: VHW626).

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how to select the best multivitamin
Miscellaneous

Multivitamin 101: How To Select the Best Multivitamin

I’ve recently been getting very interested in getting the right nutrition, sleeping right, and exercising. I believe that it’ll improve my standards of living, and one of the things that I’m working on is what my supplement stack is. Besides the other specific vitamins and minerals, one of the staples of my supplement stack is a multivitamin.

Why A Multivitamin Is Useful

We live in a day and age where taking multivitamins has become quite the necessity. Most of us fail to meet daily required dietary recommendations because of a variety of reasons: poor appetite, dieting regimens, fad diets, changing nutritional needs, or poor food choices. The simple and convenient solution is to take a daily dose of multivitamins, which bridge nutrient gaps, support general health, and prevent the onset of chronic diseases. For example, pregnant women can take multivitamin supplements that contain folic acid to reduce the chances of birth defects. Women above the age of 50 are also recommended to take vitamin D and calcium supplements to lower the risk of osteoporosis.

Multivitamins help to ensure that your nutritional intake is complete. Even though eating healthy remains the most important way to take in minerals, vitamins, and nutrients, a multivitamin can help fill in any gaps in your nutritional profile. For example, if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, or if your diet does not include whole foods, you might benefit from taking daily multivitamins.

However, choosing the best multivitamin for your needs is a daunting task, with so many different brands and types of multivitamin supplements to choose from.

Things to Look for when Buying Multivitamins

Here are some points to consider when buying multivitamins:

  • Read the labels: read the label carefully before buying a multivitamin supplement, in order to ensure it includes the right amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  • Ensure the basic minerals and vitamins are covered: vitamins A/B-complex/C/E/D, potassium, iodine, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
  • Look at the percentages: ideally, 100% of the daily value of each mineral and vitamin should be provided for. However, certain vitamins such as magnesium and calcium are rarely included at a 100% rate, mainly because the pills would then be too large to swallow.
  • Choose the right formula: another aspect to consider when looking to buy multivitamins is the goal of the complex. While some multivitamins are specially created for men, other multivitamins are designed for women. Make sure that the ingredients provided are right for your needs.

Tips On Choosing Multivitamins Based On Your Gender and Age

Each type of multivitamin complex is specially formulated for a specific group of people. At different stages in your life, your nutritional requirements change, and so it is important to choose the right type of multivitamin for your needs. A properly chosen multivitamin ensures that you benefit from all the nutrients you need at your specific age group. For example, while some multivitamin complexes are aimed for seniors, others are specially formulated to cater to the needs of women, or of men.

Normally, multivitamins for women include more folic acid and iron in order to help women stay healthy and bear healthy children. Conversely, multivitamins for men do not contain as much iron as the multivitamins for women. Men typically do not require iron supplementation on top of their regular diet, and too much iron will cause organ damage.

Seniors can buy multivitamin formulas rich in vitamin B12 and vitamin D, two vitamins that most seniors lack. If you are a senior, you should choose a multivitamin complex specially formulated for your gender.

Choosing the Right Multivitamins

When considering which multivitamins to buy, you need to be aware that they come in several forms. The most common forms are capsules, tablets, liquid, and powder, but you can also find gummies, injectable, or chewables. The main difference between these forms of multivitamins is the rate at which your body absorbs it. While liquids are absorbed faster, capsules and tablets are absorbed at a slower pace. Whatever your choice is, try to take the multivitamins with food in order to lessen any potential stomach discomfort. Ultimately, it is always a wise idea to consult with your health-care provider before taking any multivitamins or supplements.

After trying several brands, I see the most effects from ADAM, the men’s multivitamin from Now Foods. The Now Foods ADAM daily multivitamin is a specific formulation for men and has been the best for me in terms of energy, and even helps with my digestion.

Now Foods ADAM Mens Multivitamin

Where To Buy Multivitamins

I’d highly recommend iHerb.com for their low prices, wide variety of multivitamins, and cheap world-wide shipping. I’m from Singapore, and iHerb.com ships to Singapore for free (or only S$4 for orders below $40). I use iHerb for all my supplements, and even things like soap, deodorant, salt, nuts, etc. Shipping takes only about a week, and is way cheaper than anything that you could get locally. Tip: Save $10 on your first order at iHerb with this iHerb coupon when checking out: VHW626

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