Kansas City Content Marketing Agency Guild Content Owner Justin Ricklefs

Have you been heartbroken by your digital content creation partner?

Have you struggled with getting quality blog posts, reliable video production, or need help getting your podcast produced (yeah, your company should have a podcast by now)?

If you’ve ever struggled with content marketing, you are going to love this episode.

In this episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast, we interview Justin Ricklefs of Guild Content, an award-winning Kansas City content marketing and social media marketing agency and discuss how they have solved the content production problem for their clients and their own agency.

Connect with Justin Ricklefs & Guild Content

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I’m your host, Phil Singleton. Today we have a Kansas City legend, Justin Ricklefs. Justin is the founder and CEO of Guild Content. I love that name by the way, we’ll talk about that. Probably the first or second question. A KC based marketing agency focused on creating content that connects and builds brands that can be trusted. His love of writing and connecting to the emotions of audiences led him to leave his front-office role in the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 to start his agency. You can learn more of their story at GuildContent.com. Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin Ricklefs:  Dude, I don’t think I can continue after you called me a legend. What do you… I’m out man.

Phil Singleton: You are my in eyes, man. Totally. We’ll talk about a little bit more about why, but really awesome stuff. I’m just so happy. Like you said, we become kind of fast friends, I feel. I’m just so stoked because you and your company are bringing such a breath of fresh air to the Kansas City business owners. I can’t wait to just kind of spread the word out more for you guys, but at first I just really like to get into, tell us about your first steps out of school and what got you in the business world and then how you started a Guild.

The Justin Ricklefs & Guild Content Origin Story

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, man. First, I’m really privileged and honored to be with you, number one and also with your listeners. So appreciate the invite and man, happy to tell that story. I grew up in KC, North of the river, went to Oak Park, graduated in 1999 back in the day, the whole thing. Was going to go play baseball at Rockhurst and stay in KC and through some personal stuff that was going on with our family, ended up being like, dude, I got to get the heck out. So went to Mizzou and kind of chased both my older sister and a girl who ended up becoming my wife, and still my wife, thankfully. Yeah, thankfully. Went to Mizzou, started as an education major and frankly kind of wanted to do the high school coaching thing, and got two years in and this shows my ADD and my lack of process.

You’re a process guy and I’m opposite of that as you know, and so got two years in and there’s like this huge capstone, not it wasn’t called the capstone. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s some like huge project and I was like, I’m not doing that. It’s way too hard. I changed my major midstream to communications, which if you go to Mizzou and you’re a J school person, like lots of clout, lots of like people it’s a really highly regarded J school, but if you go to Mizzou and don’t go to J school and get your communications degree, people are like, really man! That’s lame. So anyhow, long story short, I can make stories really long, but the long story short was graduated from Mizzou in 2003 and met a guy who changed the course of my life really, and is still like a really deep mentor to me.

A guy named Clyde Lear. Clyde started a company called Learfield, at the time it was Learfield Communications and it kind of evolved into Learfield Sports, and now Learfield IMG. Has been kind of bought and gobbled up along the way. His passion, his wisdom, his generous spirit, he was one of in mid-Missouri and really across the country, if people know him by Clyde, like he just has this aura about him. He’s probably in his mid to late 70s now. I met him through an organization called Young Life and we were in his basement at like this volunteer retreat and he had this, essentially this party. He had like a Bob Stoops signed football on his wall and he had a North Carolina signed Roy Williams, basketball.

He had this huge sports memorabilia and I kind of grew up playing sports and that was an outlet and the thing for me. I was like, what the… Super nice house, like what the heck does this guy do for his job? So I started asking questions and he’s like, Oh yeah, we own these multimedia rights in all of these colleges and we’re growing this school business and we have awesome people that work for us. I’ll remember this forever. He’s like the motto of our company is, build the team, grow the company have fun. I was like, I’m in. How do I work there? For about six months after I graduated, I legitimately worked in a fraternity kitchen flipping burgers, working just like a cook.

It was a job because I was so desperate to find a spot at the Learfield kind of team. I kind of scratched and clawed and annoyingly hung around and interned and ended up, they hired me in 2004 as like an entry-level sales guy. I’m making like $22,000 a year with a little bit of upside. So I worked at Mizzou for three years and then they transferred me down to the University of Memphis for a couple of years, which is really cool. Our third daughter was born in Memphis. We have five kids. I feel like I’m jumping into the deep end here. Sorry, man. We have five kids, two of them were born in Columbia. Our third daughter was born in Memphis.

My wife wasn’t this dramatic, but she essentially said, we have three kids. All of our family is in Kansas City, I’m moving back there. If you want to come with us, you can. I get it, it wasn’t that dramatic, but…

Phil Singleton: I know, but I also know how that goes.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, there was this call towards home and the comfort and the support of home. So we went to KC. I fortunately had a chance to interview with the Chiefs in 2008 and took a sponsorship sales job in 2008 with the Chiefs and kind of did the corporate thing and worked my way up or whatever. Then I actually took my first entrepreneurial swing with a cousin essentially. Left the Chiefs in 2013, we moved to South Florida, which is a story in and of itself, to try to help him build this business. It was kind of my first swing with equity and growth and all this stuff. I was like yeah, I’ll do that. Let’s go do that. We moved our five kids to South Florida.

Unplugged from the NFL and all the cool stuff that comes with that. Dude, again, it’s totally a longer story than we have time for, but it was a disaster. It was a total disaster. Like a swing and miss. I missed like a million things that I should’ve seen. He misled me on things that weren’t true. It was just a bad fit and essentially kind of agreed to disagree on lots of things and then he agreed to not let me work there any longer. That was in 2014 and we kind of limped back with lots of shame and embarrassment and weirdness and not much money.

Lived in my in-law’s basement for a few months while we were trying to figure it out. I took a technology job for a year that I didn’t really love. Great people, awesome family, but not the best fit for me and ended up kind of sneaking my way back into the Chiefs world and felt like, this is something I know, this is like a backbone of a job I can go perform at. I say this lovingly, because in my resignation letter, I ended up writing like, I recognize that I’m walking away from the coolest job in the city. There’s nothing but respect that I have from the team and the time I had there, but if I’m honest, I was manufacturing at the last 18 months because I just grew this really big disconnection between what I felt like I wanted to go do, versus what was actually taking place proverbially 9:00 to 5:00.

The components that led to the start of Guild, which I think is the long winding way to your question is that the last couple of years I’d begun to just write. I didn’t really know that it was in me, man. I just started blogging. I started creating long-form Instagram posts and sharing stories about the struggles of being a young family with five kids and-

Phil Singleton: A personal blog basically.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, so like a spun up and it’s really, you will laugh at it. I spun up this little website, justinricklef.com and it needs like drastic attention. I started blogging man, and writing stories and telling stuff about the ways I was failing as a dad or the challenges that we’re through in marriage or leadership things that I’m learning, whatever. Just random more personal and emotional type stuff. I found like there’s a lot of lessons there, but the thing that I try to kind of keep coming back to with Guild and what we’re doing now, is when you create content that connects to the emotions and the experience of others that they can relate to, what happens is really magical. It creates this like audience in this community, in this conversation. Then, I mishandled some of it and like screwed up and kind of got weird and the desire to build some audience or whatever, but there’s cool stuff happening.

Justin Ricklefs: I was writing for HuffPosts and I was writing for the Today Show, and I was writing for Yahoo Parents and all this cool stuff started to happen. We had the Today Show in our living room filming us about daddy blogging stuff. It was really-

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: It was really weird. It was really weird.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. It’s so cool.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. Yeah. Again, like most things, it had like some weird… There’s some mixed motives and I was trying to build this thing that I could leave my job for and then what was really just profound and good timing was, I have good friends, like we all do. We had this group that we used to call the Guild, we would meet, I named it because I’m a dork and we had this once a month, fire pit in our backyard with, hopefully your listeners are okay with whiskey and cigars. We had whiskey and cigars once a month and sat as guys and kind of had friendship and just talked and shared stories and challenges in life and excitement, whatever. Just super organic.

I had to give it a name because I’m in a dummy. I was like, man, this thing needs an identity. It kind of started naturally and organic and then it grew to like 30 or 40 guys. I was like, man, we need a name, so we called it the Guild. What started taking place in my real job, my day job, where I was getting money and 401k and health insurance from was all of these big companies that we work with. Everybody in Kansas City knows most of them, right? Like it’s Community America, Hy-Vee and Sprint. Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Farmland Foods, all these big corporate partners that the Chiefs were sitting in these meetings and for the most part, it’s a generalization.

For the most part, the conversation continued to turn to, hey, how do we tell our story? How do we create content that our audience wants to read via email or on social media or on our blog. I just had this, again, not the most brilliant business idea in the world, but I was like, hey man, I’m kind of doing that on the side over here with weird stuff like marriage and parenting. I think I could write a blog about selling stake that would probably be better than what they’re doing right now. It was like the aha, right? I think those companies would pay me to do that. Again, this is in 2016 when I’m kind of trying to figure it out. So I started searching, probably companies you work with and it’s like content marketing is a thing.

I didn’t grow up as an agency background guy. I just like stumbled into this need and this pain that these companies were experiencing going, they need help connecting. We’re living in this transformational era where the power has left the brand, so to speak and it’s now fully in the hands of someone with an iPhone or an Android phone, right? If you can’t connect to their emotions and make them pay attention, they’re not mean or bad, but they don’t care if you don’t connect to them emotionally, they don’t care and they’re going to move on.

Anyhow, I kind of fortunately had a couple cool relationships that allowed me to test the concept and they were like, oh, dude! You got to go do that. You got to go write words for companies and help them get out of their own way from selling products and services and features and benefits into, their customers care about themselves, right? They’re not bad or selfish, it’s just how it is. So instead of us talking about the stakes that we have for sale, let’s talk about the holiday table that, that stake sits on and the meaning behind the meal with the family or whatever analogy or whatever story. So Holy smokes, Phil, I just rambled for a long time.

Guild Content Kansas City

Phil Singleton: No, it’s brilliant. I love it. I love it. I love it. As you’re talking, I’m looking and reading because before we even started recording, I Googled Guild because I love the name. I did this before and I’m reading a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants or having considerable power, but then an association of people from mutual aid or their pursuit of a common goal. Awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: Definition B was originally the meaning behind… Again, man, I’m kind of weird and a little bit more old school than a traditional digital marketer. My desire is like there’s nothing that will ever replace the human connection that people make friendship over and sit across and eat a meal together, drink a glass of wine and say I trust you and I will do life or I’ll buy something from you, right? Nobody talks like that, but in the digital, and I was like, man, the old school craft and art of a Guild in that definition. It was the meaning. For me, it started as like fellow like-minded, again, in my particular instance, men that would gather around a fire and talk about life for an hour and a half on a Thursday night.

It’s morphed now, it’s grown. It’s evolved into like, we’re hoping like-minded businesses that have really meaningful stories to tell that kind of have either been overlooked or forgotten or maybe the big agency wouldn’t take the meeting because the monthly retainer isn’t enough. So these scrappy, hungry, beautiful storied, local for the most part brands that are looking to create a mutiny a little bit, are perfect clients for us. We love getting to help tell their story.

Phil Singleton: I love it, man. I love it too that you’re so… I mean everybody and myself too, I’ve got tell my story from time to time. Every entrepreneur has gotten their butt kicked hard and that makes you who you are, me too. Gosh, I could just, all the times I’ve fallen on my face and all the time… Yeah I love it. It makes us hungry. It makes us move forward. We learn from it, but it makes you humble too. So it makes you more appreciative of what you’re doing and use it as a stepping stone, not something to blame stuff, but I just hear all that in your voice. It’s so in your story, it’s awesome. It’s awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. Thanks Phil. It has been, you don’t have enough time for me to tell you all the ways that I’ve screwed up over the last four years, but….

Phil Singleton: I’m the same way because nobody wants to hear about, I just made my first billion dollars at a lemonade stand when I was five years old. It doesn’t work that way. Every entrepreneur has got several failure stones they’ve stepped forward on so it’s great. I got to ask you a couple of things. Let’s jump right into because I’ve been around a little bit longer than you have, not too much longer, but a little bit longer.

Justin Ricklefs: Triple the time.

Solving Business Owner Content Creation Problems

Phil Singleton: Well, maybe from a business standpoint, but you guys have gotten much further along than I have in a much shorter period of time so kudos to you, man. I think that’s true to that. In fact, we’ll get to our last question, which is like if you were able to do it all over tomorrow, what would you start? What you have learned in how to rebuild Guild? Think about that one for a little bit, but really what I want to get to is I’ve been in this long enough where the same problem has existed from when I started to yesterday and that is, getting content going. For us, we build SEO driven websites, but guess what happens when we go through the process. We get 90% done and then we’re waiting sometimes days, sometimes a week for guess what? Content.

Justin Ricklefs: The words.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, exactly. Whether it’s more and more, we want video. More and more we want words and copy and that kind of stuff. We can do some of that. It’s not really what we do in house so much, but my point is, it’s just a struggle because I think a lot of people think content is hard, or there’s not good story. Every company out there has got too much content inside their company in terms of what they can write about. There are stories, there’s FAQ, there’s emails, there’s expertise. I mean, sometimes they feel like, well, we don’t know what to talk about or say. They’ve got plenty, but why is it that you guys have been so good and so successful at being able to create good quality content in the voice of the client, which is what I’ve noticed, which is really exceptional:  consistency – that’s the problem for a lot of us that are not professional content creators.

Like I’ve said before, we do it, but we do content that’s anywhere from good to… Okay, maybe sometimes it borders on great, but it’s still not our thing because it’s not what we focus on and we get to it because it gets us the results, but I want 10X return, which is what great content does. Not 1X or 2X return. The problem is, the clients can’t do it. They want to do it and they’ll say they’ll do it, but they’re busy running the business. They’re not writers and they don’t know how to do video most of the times, they don’t have to do it. So being able to get in there and develop a process where you can extract great content from the client, tell their clients stories. I mean, how are you guys do?

I mean, it’s really amazing. We’ve already talked about this. I’ve been in heartache after heartache of trying to work with other people, other companies on cases. Other agencies definitely writer after writer, after writer, and it’s the same problem that we have for literally 15 years now, but here we come and work with you guys on a mutual client, hopefully many more, problem-solved. Great, authentic content that we can take way further. That adds way more value to the client’s digital footprint and it’s coming from you guys. I want to know can you give me some insight on how you’re able to solve this problem that so many other people have problems doing?

Justin Ricklefs: I’ll answer your question with a quick story. We’ve got a guy on our board, his name’s Corey Scheer and his fingerprints are all over what we’re doing. We sat actually in this exact same room I’m sitting in now looking at the whiteboard, remembering him, he drew this… He’s like, everything comes back to Venn diagrams. He draws this Venn diagram that said, one he labeled creative, one he labeled care and one he labeled operations and he was like… This is probably 18 months ago. He’s like, you guys are beautiful at the storytelling and the creative part. You guys are first class in the care. That’s for me that the mission here is how to get, not literally invested, but telling the Lumber One story with Dan and Kevin and that group that we’re doing kind of mutually together.

It was like, my ass is on the line. I want nothing more than for everything we produce for them to be first-class and like connecting. When it does, and I feel like personally responsible. Anyway, the third circle he drew was the operations. He’s like, you guys are really bad at that. He was like that part is a huge area that has to get better in order for quality of life to increase for lower all of the things that we were kind of struggling with. We’re still not perfect at that, but we’re getting way better. A client version of the same story, a dear friend, Marcy Johnson, who’s been a client since day one. She runs the corporate communications at National Beef and we do their social media and help them with their newsletter, and it’s a really fun, beautiful project. I wrote this blog for her and submitted it to her at literally like 11:30 PM the day before it was supposed to go on the website.

I caveat it with like, hey, I’m really sorry and this and that. I’m like, all these reasons why it’s so kind of last minute and I’ll never forget. She called me the next morning. She was like, hey, couple of things. I won’t get a word for it, but she essentially said, hey, the blog was amazing. It is unlike anything that we could have produced. She’s like, but if you put me on this spot again, I’ll have to tell my website guy that he has to get it up today, it’s not going to work out for long. It was in that moment, where I realized, of course we have to produce great stuff. We’re in the content creation business.

If we write bad words or blame blogs or crappy videos, or create graphics that look like crap, of course, people should fire us. The secret and the biggest aha I’ve had in this kind of three and a half, four year journey, is like man, really 90% of this stuff is being really crisp on the execution and showing up and being thoughtful and responsive and caring. I wish it wasn’t such a low bar, but it is. It’s a low bar. It’s a low bar that people have been taking advantage of for far too long that we’re just like, hey, you have a dedicated account manager who lives and breathes and speaks your business and anytime you need them, they’re going to respond to you within… Company policy is, we don’t have many policies because we’re kind of are anti.

Really it’s me. It’s my own dysfunction, but company policy is like, hey client, you don’t go to bed if there’s a client email, I will respond to it or someone on the team responds day of and really within four hours is kind of a goal. Again, we miss that and there’s exceptions and all this stuff, but like the culture is like, we need to come alongside and be these people are desperate. Whether they have zero internal marketing people or 30, they all have too much work on their plate. They’re all spread way too thin and they just need somebody they can trust to execute the stuff that we said we’re going to do. I wish it were more complicated, but that’s been our experience is like showing up, being consistent, being thoughtful, having a plan, and then being able to execute that plan in ways that are not scramble mode, is really key for where we are.

Phil Singleton: I love that. I love that one part too. I think there’s way more to it from what I’ve seen. I think I’ve seen that a lot, which is what’s so refreshing about you guys, but you did hit the nail on the head in one thing. It’s how I feel on the web design and maybe even the SEO services side is, you can kick just about 90% of the market’s competition’s butt just by answering your phone and answering your emails. Being responsive. Do you know what I mean?

Justin Ricklefs: 100%. Yeah. Again, especially in Kansas City and I’m biased because I live here and this is where we’re raising our family, but if you like the people… The obvious caveat is, man, Phil if you and your team develop a really poor website, like you’re not going to get very many clients. Lots of people in Kansas City can develop nice websites. Lots of people in Kansas City can develop on-brand, on voice blog, but if you have a team of people who care and go above and beyond with being consistent with the way they communicate in a way that they like… I’ll give it a great example, Colin Potter on our team, he’s like this funny ninja about, he knows everybody’s birthday.

He knows their anniversaries and he sends them gifts that they care about. That’s how it started. Now this culture is like, hey, I noticed… This is a real example of our selection of this week, hey, Andrew’s birthday’s coming up on the 16th of November. Today’s November 5th when we’re recording this, so he’s about two weeks in advance going, hey, Andrew’s birthday’s coming up in two weeks. I noticed when we did the Google Meet, he had his daughter’s Hello Kitty bobblehead thing in the background. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we sent him a Hello Kitty lunchbox, along with $100 Scooter’s gift card, because Scooter’s is his favorite coffee shop. You think when Andrew gets that in his mail at his house on the 16th, he’s going to be like, those guys suck. I hate those guys.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. It’s almost like the flip side of like how to me SEO is. It’s so in the details of just noticing some stuff and that’s so beyond what people would even remember. That’s really clever. I love that. I do have another question because we run into this occasionally where your stuff and you’re so responsive that you create a monster.

Justin Ricklefs: Big time.

Phil Singleton: So you got to be careful of that too, because it’s like all of a sudden it’s like you’re able to reply so quickly that now it’s the expectation if you don’t reply in a couple of whatever it is and then all of a sudden there’s more and now you’re getting outside of the stuff. It doesn’t happen to us that, but it does happen sometimes where we got to say, hey, this is kind of… We got to kind of figure out a way, because it’s not sustainable what we’re doing type of thing or disappoint somebody, because it’s like, Oh my gosh, you answered the next day and now all of a sudden the world sky is falling. I don’t know if I…

That’s pretty rare for us, but it does happen enough or sometimes we have to have that conversation because we’re our own enemy there. You know what I mean? If there’s not some understanding of somebody saying, we got to find some middle ground where you don’t become high maintenance for us to where it’s like not a workable relationship, right? Where we don’t want to disappoint you. That’s what happens sometimes when you’re really trying to over-deliver and you over-deliver into somebody where the expectation it’s on demand little stuff. I don’t know. Like I said, assuming you’ve run into it at least once before.

Justin Ricklefs: Oh yeah. Honestly, man, it feels like you’re my counselor at this point because that’s the struggle of what we’re doing right now. It has become so, and it’s beautiful, but there’s this been kind of contagious energy to what we’re doing. The challenge is like, hey, we can run this fast for a while. Everybody can’t and our people might get burned out and our clients might feel like whatever and so that is a struggle to kind of say, okay, how do we be real? This is again where you bring so much more value in and the way you approach stuff, it was like, how do we take a big deep breath and create the process and not just like be so nimble and responsive. Nimble is great when you’re three people and six clients.

Nimble is a little bit harder and more chaotic when now we’re at 10 and client work is growing and evolving and it becomes a little trickier and it becomes a little less sustainable and some people get left out of the communication. I don’t know what’s going on. So we’ve done a lot of work and really Colin and Rachel and our team have led the effort of like documenting what is the Guild way? How do we cook the food here? What are the step-by-step ways to cook the food. I’m used to like, hey, cool. We need a blog, let’s like whip up the blog? I didn’t take the time to write down the recipe. We’re starting, it’s been like the six month journey, but we’re documenting all of our processes and exactly the steps we take.

I’ll be giving one specific random example. I got really frustrated one time because I was like, hey, this blog post kind of sucked and it missed the mark. What happened? It didn’t get to the client, but we stopped it and it just wasn’t very good. I was like, guys, this isn’t that hard. Colin pushed back on me, which is beautiful. I’m glad he did. He said, you haven’t given us the ability to sit and document it. So we did it on that call and the Guild way to build a blog post and the way that we want to do it, which the end result is 400 words, or 600 or whatever it is. Is 17 steps from interview the client, to that grab the photo, to make sure the title’s right, to make sure we get three steps of editing and all this stuff. That kind of pull them back and we’ve got to become more operations and process minded like you are. Again, that’s my random answer.

Phil Singleton: Well, its like how you saw it, I mean, I think I sent you over kind of a demo proposal from us. It was like a half a page when I first started, now it’s like six or seven, but it’s more like trying to… It’s not like we have proposals, it’ll be like contracts so much as expectations to walk through. For me, what I’ve done in the past and I got my butt kicked a few times, was if you’re such a yes person, you want to be a pleaser, right? I feel like we are-

Justin Ricklefs: Which I am totally.

Managing Kansas City Digital Agency Client Expectations

Phil Singleton: You can slippery slope yourself into hell and then really turn… It’s not even the client’s fault at that point. You just kept giving and giving to the point where you gave away your value and now the expectation is… So that’s kind of how we’ve done it and you guys are doing the same thing. It’s really just trying to kind of systemize stuff and put a price tag on things and we’ll do stuff sometimes where it’s like, okay, we’ll do this one for maybe, but we can’t keep doing it this way. We’re going to have to charge you type of thing or you got to. I think that’s almost get to a point where you have to just make sure that you don’t over… Like I said, I think you can… Can you? I mean, you tell me. I guess I’m asking you the question. I feel like if you don’t, you’re at fault for making a relationship go bad because you’re the one that cheapened yourself by just overdoing it and not setting some kind of expectation or boundary up.

Justin Ricklefs: 100%, man. I am the worst at like, I’m being critical, but I am the worst about the… I am a pleaser. I am like we’re scrappy, trying to build it and trying to get the thing off the ground. I’m fortunate that I’ve had enough burn marks that I’ve put some people in my life to help me not do this again and again.

Phil Singleton: Saying yes to everything.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, yeah. As an example-

Phil Singleton: These can stress your team out too, right?

Justin Ricklefs: Totally. Totally dude. Totally. The billable hour thing, like we don’t really bill hours. We just do projects and like stuff, but like at what point does Justin getting in his truck, I hate talking in third person. I just did it, sorry. Me getting in my truck, going to a video shoot in Lawrence, Kansas. That takes me four hours out of my day. My wife said like, are you sending them an invoice for that? I was like, yeah. I mean, right. I had no answer for it because I didn’t build the boundary in the right way, the front end. So that’s the area that as we get through a little bit through the bootstrappy hustle, money in, then you can do stuff kind of mindset. Then as we grow up, these next couple of years that’s the area we’ve got to be more disciplined and rigorous as in our own internal stuff. The client work, we’re going to kind of always be in the mind of doing it, but anyway, I’m not answering your question directly.

Phil Singleton: That’s thorough, that’s thorough.  Just being able to kind of talk shop on that, so no. Then, just good communication with clients kind of letting them know sometimes what the scope is. Sometimes, I myself, was so afraid in the past to charge people. Now, I’m a lot less because we’re trying to, okay. We can’t do that because if we do it throws these other projects out of sync, we can’t just jump in and do this thing for you unless we put a price tag on it. What I found is most people are pretty cool about that.

Justin Ricklefs: Of course, they are.

Phil Singleton: They expect to be charged, it’s not like they’re asking for something for free, type of thing. So I got out of that mindset and it actually worked out better for us, but it’s always kind talk about, see how other people struggle with that kind of stuff because of your nature, it sounds like mine is you just want to make people happy and you’ll bend over backwards, but then sometimes like you say, you can really just create a problem for yourself.

Justin Ricklefs: 100%. You nailed it. For me, from my personal relationships and also for our team, the discipline to be like, hey, let’s slow down. Let’s make sure this is in scope. Let’s make sure that we clarify on the front end what we’re going to do, what we’re not going to do. As simple as like, hey, if we have four hours of graphic design built into the retainer per month, if we go over that, it’s going to suck. We’re going to send you a bill for $125 an hour or whatever it is. When we send those now, it’s cool. Like yeah, you guys communicated, went through it-

Phil Singleton: Because they knew ahead of time, right? They knew it was going to be was there, it’s not surprising, not angry.

Justin Ricklefs: That’s right. That’s right.

Phil Singleton: So let’s wrap that up because-

Justin Ricklefs: I was going to say that’s one of a thousand ways I’m currently learning how to be a better CEO.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: All of us. That’s awesome. A couple of things like to wrap up with, one is, most of the time I’ll ask the $10,000 question, which is, let’s just say you got to rebuild Guild tomorrow, you have nothing. You’re just starting from scratch, total scratch. So you’ve got $10,000 just to rebuild the business that you have now. None of the people, right. What would you do right now, if you had to just kind of start a new company? Would you with $10,000 bucks buy a computer, go to internet, what do you do? What do you do to start making money the same way? Also, it kind of gets into what have you learned and how would you get jump-started knowing what you know now, but not having any of the employees or team or anything or resources to work with.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. What a great question, man. I’m smiling. I can answer it a thousand ways, I think. I think the current answer to that question would be, I would have invested quicker in video and audio as storytelling mechanisms. The words we write are always going to be like the lifeblood and kind of the like ongoing thing. I think the way we’ve been able to tell stories through video and then specifically through podcasts for clients has been really cool. I think I’d hire somebody who’s really awesome at videography. So that’s my corny answer. The other answer I really want to give is, if I had $10,000, we probably should invest knowing the wards and the challenges we have internally here is like into the operation or the financial discipline of everything, to prevent some of the stuff that we’re kind of trying to figure out now in year four, right? Like we should have just maybe hired a CFO first, not like a client service person, but that obviously. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s great insight. Then lastly, I’d just like to just ask people, it used to be a little bit more before COVID and stuff, favorite places to go, but I just like to ask people now. You’ve been around Kansas City long enough, not necessarily has to be clients or not clients. I’m just wondering other companies that you know of in town here that you admire for whatever reason. It could be people of influence or a company that you look to as like, wow, this company does this great. I look up to this company for this reason. Are there a couple that kind of stand out that you… Anything specific about what you admire about them?

Justin Ricklefs: That’s great. I’d say this if I was on a different podcast, I have a huge man crush on what you and your team do. It feels like this missing ingredient for us, because I want to… Maybe you’re speaking to my ego here, but I want to be the 800-pound gorilla. I want when people think of good content in Kansas City, I want them to think about us and the way you approach the website, period. The foundation of the digital marketing engine is so refreshing and it’s a piece that our group had different experiences with other folks on. You guys are this huge breath of fresh air for the way that you do your work. I legitimately, I’ve like fanboyed on you behind your back a lot.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. I appreciate that. I wasn’t trying to set myself up for that one so much.

Justin Ricklefs: No. Then another one that just came to mind, there are a million and I don’t know this guy super well, but Matt Wegerer, I think his last name is Wegerer of Whiskey Design. They’re really like boutique design shop. When I, and I’m kind of a visual person so when I see something really pretty and visually compelling, and he and his team the stuff they produce from a visual arts perspective is just mind blowing. It’s so good.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, I’m just gonna wrap it up. Where can we find out more about you and kind of things that you’re doing and anything that you’ve got special going on that you’d like to promote too, let us know.

Justin Ricklefs: Man, again, I appreciate the invitation. Our kind of ongoing, evolving story is at guildcontent.com and we have our own podcasts and kind of do that thing there. Then me personally, I’m actually pretty silent on social personally, but I am fairly active on LinkedIn. Then yeah, man. I think that’s kind of on all the social handles as Guild Content…

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s pretty funny because social stuff too, for me personally, I’m on it for business and stuff, but I don’t participate in it almost at all, except for LinkedIn of course, for business stuff we do it a lot. Okay. We’ll make sure we put those links up and thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your story, man, it was awesome. I was just listening to every second of it and it’s so great when people come and share inspirational stories like you have, because it was inspirational to me and then being able to talk shop and how you guys are really doing some special things here in Kansas City for your clients. Man, we’ve said it over and over again, but I already know we’re going to do. I mean, when people see what we’re about ready to bring to Kansas City, partnering on some of these things, I think it’s going to be like King Kong and Godzilla. That’s what it feels like.

Justin Ricklefs: Let’s go!

Phil Singleton: Let’s get ready to crush it here. So yeah, man, this is going to be really exciting. I’m already excited about some of the stuff we’ve started to do. It’s just great. I really appreciate you and your team and I can’t wait to do more stuff and I want to thank you again for coming on the show.

Justin Ricklefs: Oh man, it’s my pleasure and it’s my honor. I’m grateful that you would have me, man. It’s a blast. I’m pleased to call you a friend.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, likewise. All right, man, take care.

How to Become an Amazon Best Selling Book Author with Jon Schram

If you’re looking for information on how to become an Amazon best-selling book author, you just hit the jackpot! Learn how from Jon Schram of the Purple Guys.

Jon Schram is an IT support expert and the founder & CEO of The Purple Guys, a tech company that has grown since 2001 to become the Midwest’s premier provider of IT support services. The Purple Guys is a fast-growing, 7-digit business that has helped hundreds of companies grow by solving their IT problems and providing them with stress-free, bullet-proof tech support. Jon and his wife, Jill, have three children and have founded two businesses together.

Episode Resource Links


1. About John Schram & The Purple Guys

Phil Singleton: Okay. What I’d like to do, firstly, in the last couple episodes that we’ve done is really just kind of let the listeners know what we’re going to cover. So they’ll know how long they want to stick around or if they want to fast forward. And the first thing is, just to get a quick background of Jon and his experience in the business world and give us a brief overview of Purple Guys. And then secondly, I’d like to ask him about what professional organizations has helped his company grow or helped him solve problems either personally, professionally, or what have you.

And then thirdly, a special announcement, Jon has become a published author today, but also an Amazon best-selling author. And we’ve teamed up, and we’ve actually helped him do a little bit of this. And I want to go through that process with Jon and explain how we did it and get some of his commentary on the process. And all the things that we’ve done that have led up to a successful launch that we’re right in the middle of. So with that, Jon, again, welcome to the show. And why don’t you give a little bit of background about the Purple Guys and what brought you here today?

how to become an amazon bestselling author

Jon Schram: I’ll give you the brief entrepreneurial background for me. So Purple Guys has been my career for the last 20 years. So this is, as you mentioned, I’ve had a couple of startups. I refer to myself as an unintentional serial entrepreneur. What that really means is I’m a slow learner, and I’ve had really three very successful entrepreneurial startups from a financial perspective. And the first two were very unsuccessful from picking the wrong partner. And if you want to hear the gory details of that, I just did a very deep dive on that history with, with Jon Lovell on his podcast, In the Arena. So you can hear all the bits and bytes, and it’s really better with alcohol when you listen to that.

It’s also better with alcohol when I tell it. But as far as the Purple Guys go, we’re the outsourced it department for roughly 176 small businesses, and we’ve been doing this, again, for 20 years. The Purple Guys itself is a brand that came about because of our customers. We started wearing purple shirts, and our customers started calling us the Purple Guys. So I’m slow, but I’m not that slow. We became the Purple Guys and it’s been a lot of fun branding with the color.

But we help small businesses with their IT. We serve as the outsourced kind of help desk. So for when folks have trouble with anything, with a screen and an on and off switch, they call us and we help troubleshoot those issues. We take care of backups, security, anything to do with email, and basically interacting with all the different technical technology vendors. So, that’s what the Purple Guys do, and we’ve been doing it for 20 years. We’ve seen a lot of change. A lot of fun.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. And the “In the Arena” podcast episode, you really go into your experience. Then we’re going to recommend and put in the show notes and make sure everybody goes and take a listen, and a watch, to that podcast because both of you guys did a fantastic job. And it was a great place to tell a fuller version of the Purple Guy’s story. So definitely head over to In the Arena after this one.

2. Growing Through CEO Peer Groups

But what I want to jump into next is professional organizations. And I know you belong to HEMP and that organization’s done great things in Kansas city. There’s a ton of great companies and we’ve dealt with several of them in different projects. Some of them are clients and everybody that has worked with it has great things to say about it. It seems like everybody that I know that’s in that organization has been successful. And I’d love to get your insight on that one. And any other organization that you’ve joined, how it’s helped you and helped your business grow and solve problems.

Jon Schram: Yeah, well I would encourage just generically any small business owner not to be on an Island because it’s just hard. It can get really lonely. So I am just a huge fan of the peer group model of leaning on other entrepreneurs and other business owners to be able to leverage other people’s experience. So I’ve been in a lot of different peer groups. The Helzberg Mentoring Program specifically, I think is one of the best-kept secrets. And it shouldn’t be a secret, but it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Kansas city in terms of the value you get from participating in the organization.

Barnett Helzberg is just a fantastic human being and he modeled this organization off of his relationship with Ewing Kauffman. And he will be the first to tell you that he learned so much from that relationship in that one-on-one mentoring, that he created an environment where they match seasoned entrepreneurs, or seasoned business professionals and seasoned entrepreneurs, with newer entrepreneurs. And you can lean on each other. They’ve got group meetings. There’s Dr Michelle Robin, she’s awesome. Yeah, they’ve got group meetings, but again, any of these things, you get out what you put into it.

So you get paired up with somebody. You can bounce ideas off of them. You meet with them on a regular basis. You go to the group meetings. You get as much out of the group meeting that you do out of your one-on-one mentoring because other business owners… The business of business is the same across every industry. They’ve all got their own unique pieces, but the thing you can learn from other business owners are just fantastic. So highly recommend this group. And another one I’m actively involved in is called Acumen. It’s a peer-to-peer mentoring program as well. It is a CEO round table kind of a group.

And if you’re familiar with Vistage, I’ve been in that for a while. This has a similar business model to it. 12 to 13 CEOs in a room and a professional facilitator, which I think is actually critical to keeping a group of CEOs on track. Having someone there that’s paid to keep the meeting moving forward. You’ve heard the term herding cats. You get a bunch of CEOs in a room, it’s kind of hard. So having that paid facilitator in the room to help move the conversation forward and keep things on track has been fantastic. But I participate in both the Helzberg Mentoring Program and the Acumen group right now. And I wouldn’t leave either one of them. They’re awesome, awesome groups. One of the groups that I participated in the past, it was a place to come have your answers questioned.

You would show up with, here’s my issue, here’s what I’m going to do about it. Wait a minute, have you thought about this, this, this, and this, and here’s all the stuff that’s happening?

Phil Singleton: So it’s entrepreneurs, business owners, you guys are kind of sharing problems, bouncing stuff off each other. Do you bring challenges that you have and people share solutions? What’s the…

Jon Schram: So the structure to Acumen is we meet a day a month. So you commit to the time and you bring your issues. And you’ll meet with the facilitator before the meeting. You tee up what it is you want to talk about. It’s a structured conversation, so you’re just not showing up and winging it. And I will tell you, I have learned as much from listening to other people’s issues as I have bringing my issue to the table and having people specifically answer my questions because I’ll listen to somebody else’s issue, and I’ll have something that I can add to it. But I will learn from the collective knowledge of the group every time really there’s any topic. So it’s just a fantastic model. It’s the concept of a mastermind group. And it works.

Phil Singleton: I’m assuming that some of these, maybe some are more relationship or network? Is there any level of people working with each other and referring business or is that not really… Is that off the table with some of these…

Jon Schram: it’s specifically not the primary purpose in any one of them, but as with any kind of a group-

Phil Singleton: It happens.

Jon Schram: The more you gather, the more you learn about each other, the more you’re going to want to try to do business. But in all of them, it’s the important part is to be transparent. If you start doing business with somebody, be transparent so everybody in the group knows. And it’s not something that’s just in the background affecting the way you’re going to interact with each other.

Phil Singleton: That’s really cool. The one thing that the Helzberg site does, is they list lot of, I guess, mentees, mentors, and fellows. And I go through here, he has been really awesome companies that have been on here. Some of them…

Phil Singleton:
Yeah. Some of these are… Just going through, Carol Espinosa, I’ve met with her and worked on different boards. She’s really a great person. There’s just so many people on here.

Jon Schram: Yeah, there’s a lot.

Phil Singleton: You’re on here. And I’ve got a client, Robyn Schmitz from High Prairie Landscape Group. Worked with the people at Gutter Cover KC. McIntire Management Group. Gosh. MAKE Digital Group, Evan and Andrea Kirsch over there. They’re great people, collaborated with them as well…

Jon Schram: Kathy Koehler’s in there. Anybody’s bought or sold a home, she’s awesome.

Phil Singleton: There’s Mark Mcintire right here. It’s kind of a who’s who of the up and… Of course Danny O’Neill’s in here. So he must’ve been like a mentor.

Jon Schram: Yeah. Well, Henry Bloch was his mentor earlier on.

Phil Singleton: Oh, wow. So this is really awesome. So these groups are… You through here and it’s like, wow. The people that have… That’s one of the things these guys do, you go through and it’s like, wow, look at the folks that have come through here and what they’ve accomplished. Pretty, pretty amazing thing. And to think that it’s also been a networking group, a place where they’ve helped you come together, solve problems, help you grow, scale, expand. All those types of things. Really cool. So you recommend these types of groups. They’ve been a part of your business Purple Guys.

Jon Schram: Yeah. I’m not smart enough to do stuff totally on my own. No way. I would mess stuff up. I would rather get other people’s advice and learn from other people’s mistakes. And move the ball forward faster. It is a time commitment. It’s both time and money. I will tell you from my perspective, the more important thing is the amount of time I have to invest. It is phenomenal the return you get from spending the time, and again, you got to put the work in. You got to be prepared when you fill… You got to be present. You got to set your phone to the side and actually be there in the meeting. But if you make the investment and you show up and you interact, it is just fantastic.

3. Becoming an Amazon Best Selling Author

become best selling amazon author

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Highly recommended. All right. Let’s transition over to your book. I think we’re both glowing a little bit today. I think I am more than you. I’ve been telling my wife, Jon, it’s a best seller. So pretty exciting to be in the middle of this. And to those of you who are listening on the podcast, we’ve also are recording this on video and I made a really super attractive PowerPoint presentation. White and black text on here. Can you see that, Jon?

Jon Schram: I can see that, yes. You spent a lot of time on this thing I can tell.

Phil Singleton: Thanks for doing this on short notice, but you can tell we’re short notice. But what I really wanted to do here is just to make sure that I covered all the points here. And what I’d like to do for the people listening is I think we’ve done something pretty cool. I’ve helped a lot of clients and other people write books and gather their expertise, and put it in writing so they can use them for different things. In every case that we do one, we learn something a little bit different. So what I’d like to do is just explain Jon’s path from being able to… All that we did to get a book production and writing, put it all together, publish it. And actually some of the things that we did from engineering the campaign to have a good chance in actually achieving bestseller status.

Phil Singleton: So where I like to start on this, and we’ll get Jon’s commentary along the way is, why do you write a book in the first place? So one of the things is I think, and you correct me if I’m wrong Jon, but this is kind of where I came from it. I think everybody thinks about writing a book of some sort at some point in their life. Wouldn’t it be good to write a book, whether it’s on business or maybe some other type of thing? Did you have that as a…

Jon Schram: Absolutely. I’ve got quite the story and someday I want to write the entrepreneurial. It’s very colorful, no pun intended with the verbal, but learned a lot along the way. And I just think there’s good things to share. So yes, I always have thought about memorializing some of that stuff.

Phil Singleton: I think we all kind of have that in our list of long term professional goals. I’m guilty of this. It’s maybe a little bit plays into ego and stuff like that for me, certainly I wanted to kind of do it as a personal thing I wanted to try and do. But when you think about it, and you may have thought the same way I certainly did when I wrote my book, was it kind of felt like it was just a great thing to do someday. But you never really think it’s as attainable as it is. And now more than ever, it actually is with self-publishing and the Amazon network, and the things that we can do to kind of put it all together. But I’ve got this quick slide that I wrote up and it’s like, why write a book?

4. 10 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

And I put down 10 different reasons of why I think this is a really important thing to do for people right now. And the first, most important one to me is Google. Because Google to me is a monopoly. They know everything about pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase. They know what people need to see on a website or in a company to get to buy from them. And they have a document called a Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines. And in that document really spells out what companies need to be doing in order to show up in search results.

But the most important part of this is since they know the whole purchase process, they’ve got this concept called… That they’re focusing on these days called EAT, which is expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. And that to me is the number one reason why I try and get my clients to get on this path is because I know that if we get a person like Jon, who is actually a client, if we can get his EAT score, which is an actual score on Google to raise up, his website’s going to do better. His website’s going to get more visibility.

The people that see stuff and see that he’s an author are going to be more likely to buy from him. And so all of these things that happen are the main reason… There’s other reasons for it, but this was my main reason. You may, Jon, get some kind of a commentary on what attracted you in the beginnings. I think you’re seeing some other things that happen because there’s a cascade of wins that we’re going to talk about. But is there anything in particular that when we first talked about this, say several months ago, you thought was a good idea? Any comments on that?

Jon Schram: Well, the biggest thing for me was that you had a process for getting it out there. And how to build the chapters together, and actually create something, and make an actual book. Because just the thought of, oh, I got to write a book. Where do I even start? So your structure that you brought to the table was fantastic.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So that made it feel like, oh, this is actually doable.  “Don’t just throw a book project on my plate. I’ve got other things to do right now. ” We bring it and try and make it easy. Hey, there’s a process where if we have a strategy, we can be basically writing a book on our sleep. But when we get to the why reason, this again, it’s the EAT reason for Google. It’s personal branding. This is one of the things that Purple Guys has done really well from a corporate standpoint, I think. Purple Guys everywhere, you see it on the road, you see the color purple. They’ve got great character, brand recognition. Jon’s out there. His face is recognizable, but there are pieces to I think the personal branding campaign that we’re bringing to it, that a book is actually going to do.

And we’ve seen this with the book that we’re writing right now. You see it with the podcast guesting that we’re doing right now, doing podcasts. You’re going to have a podcast. You’re going to be on more podcasts. This is as much about the Purple Guy’s brand, as it is about personal branding. And that becomes really important these days in an influencer economy. It doesn’t matter if we’re B2B or B 2C. So when we talk about EAT, we’re talking about writing a book, man, it’s the definition of authority. You publish one out.

It creates a massive ripple effect, behind the scenes on the internet. That again comes, if we point it back to the website in the right way, we’re raising that internet authority of the company and for the author. Eventually you’re going to have, and this is the next step of it. You’re going to have, I’d mentioned Robyn Schmitz here of High Prairie Landscape Group, a great person. Another, I think HEMP. I think she might’ve graduated already, but she’s got her ebook, but she’s actually got a physical book which you’re going to have. So we’re going to be able to pass that out and say, look, I’m holding…

Jon Schram: I have one of those!

Phil Singleton: You have one of these too? You’re going to be your own book in your hands. This, by definition, is an authority, right? So you got the physical proof of trust. It’s a big differentiator against competitors. You already have a lot of differentiating factors, but why not stack the deck, right?

Jon Schram: Oh, absolutely.

Phil Singleton: I love it as a pre-sales closing tool. So one of the things we did with your book intentionally, Jon, is that when somebody reads through it… Because we’re going to use it, we use it for authority building, but we also want to use it on your website so that when people come to it we can send it to them.

So if they read through it, they basically are going to read about all the reasons they should choose you, or what red flags to look for. So it warms people up by the time they… It saves people. It should save sales guys, 30 minutes to 45 minutes on the phone where they would be explaining all this stuff. Now we’re going to have a tool to send out ahead of time and say, hey, before we scheduled this call, take a look at this free book or whatever, and read through. It’s going to help whether you choose us or not, you’re going to get the best. So some of those things. Of course, having a great sticky thing, business card on steroids. You’ve already done some of the podcast, guesting. This is a great thing. Once you become an author, you’re by definition an authority and an expert, it’s much easier to get you booked on third-party podcasts as a guest expert because you’ve written a book on the subject matter.

And then finally, as we’ve seen today, and we’re going to talk a little bit more in the next slide is we can actually engineer a bestseller. Now it’s not super easy. And you’ve seen what we’ve done behind the scenes, right? There’s been a lot of hustling, got a lot of emails over the weekend, going back and forth and circling the wagons and stuff like that. But it can be done if you got the right strategy. So any other comments that you have on why to write a book? Would you recommend people to do it?

Jon Schram: I highly recommend it. Again, the structure that you put in place allowed me to just see that, all right, we started here. We’re going to finish there. There’s a timeline. I knew we could get it done. So it made it very achievable and I highly recommend people do it.

Phil Singleton: And then you got… I don’t know if you’ve been there, but some of you guys start to write one. You’re just like, you know what…

Jon Schram: I already got the second one. Absolutely. We’re doing another book!

Phil Singleton: All right. All right. All right. Yeah. This is the one thing I wanted to let people to walk away from is… And I thought about this after we’ve done it, we’ve done it many times for other people. In your case, I really think we’ve honed it down to more of a science. And this is what people should be doing. You got to start off with an optimized website and a digital footprint. So to be in fairness, to get to this point, you and I have been working together from your website from the keyword research. And that goes all the way through. It gets a bit tougher to try and say, let’s go tackle a giant project like this at once. But when we’re working it into a holistic marketing plan, and it’s working in the scenes, and we’re chipping away at it a week in and week out, it’s being done while we’re doing other stuff.

5. 10 Steps You Must Take to Create an Amazon Best-Selling Book

Phil Singleton: So in your case, worked on the website, we figured out what the keywords are. We developed… This is something you’re already familiar with. We figured out what we wanted to write about in terms of a blog series, which essentially is the title. And then we’ve got standalone blog posts, which are actually the chapters. So we’re able to use the blog chapters as blog posts that can be distributed as social media. So you’re getting that win off of it, right? Then they go out to social media, we get a point back to the website. So we get that win. Then we stitch them into an ebook. Now we’re in the stage where we actually stitched in together. And by the way, your team, Paige Lee in particular, did a fantastic job with your Kindle. In fact, your guys’, the production value… If you want to see an ebook, a Kindle version that’s taken it way further than I’ve ever seen in terms of a graphic version, you guys killed it on the design.

It took me beyond our current skill level. We’re at three guys that we work with to try and put these together formatting them, weren’t able to do it. And we actually figured it out in-house. But I’m glad you guys pushed us to do that because I think we came up with something actually really incredible in terms of, it’s basically a magazine quality book with great content and great graphics and stuff like that.  So we can stitch those together in ebook, and then we publish it up on Amazon. Again, a little bit of strategy behind making it a best seller. We publish it on Amazon. Now Jon’s already got a little bit ahead of the game on this where we’ve got him on a podcast guesting tour, right? So normally we would publish the book, be a best seller if we get to achieve that, and then use that to get on other guesting shows.

Phil Singleton: You’ve already been doing that just as a guest expert. Now we’re going to have a little bit more of a advantage to get you on hopefully bigger and better shows because you’re going to be a published best-selling author. And then the next step of it is getting you your own podcast so that you can start being the interviewer. So we’re getting that ying and yang of the podcast. And podcasts, that’s a whole nother probably thing we could talk about, but there’s tons of extra benefits that come of having a podcast. And the last one is really launching the podcast up on the podcast hosting site, all the other things that happen in and around it, that really are the benefit if you tie everything together.

So any comments on how that played out? We’re in it, we’re doing some of this stuff. Now you see it in front of you. If you look at it, it seems like we’re doing these things week in and week out, but now you’ve seen these 10 steps in front of you. Is there any comments that you have in terms of expectations that other people might go through, or parts of it that were easy or harder than others?

Jon Schram:  The process itself… And again, until you see the end product, I knew the structure of the book, I knew the chapters, I knew what we’re going for, but until I actually saw the final copy of it, and Phil can attest to this, I’m kind of anal-retentive when it comes to checking periods and spaces….

I know. So I would say I probably slowed the process down being very picky. But seeing that, and then kind of just understanding, all right, well, we’re going to push launch, and then we’re going to try to get it to be a best seller. Can we really do that? And then actually seeing it hit today being number one on a couple lists is freaking awesome!

Phil Singleton: Heck yeah. I’m going to show a couple of screenshots. That’s going to be the cherry on the top here, but I want to leave the listeners, and the people, and the viewers in this case, with some simple tips on how we got it to be a best seller. And one is, we talked about this, right? When you talk about we’re both big on StoryBrand. I love StoryBrand too, but you can’t forget about Google, right? You have to put practical language in there that people are searching for. And this is, I think we’re StoryBrand and SEO and Google need to work together because you can come up with much cooler copy that doesn’t have anything to do with, it’s more clever if people get it. But it’s not as practical. So you guys did a really good job I think of working on it.

Phil Singleton: And if we didn’t have to worry about Google and stuff like that, maybe we would have come up with a different title. But look, Amazon’s a search engine too. If somebody is looking for IT, support and IT support book, don’t you think it’d be helpful to have IT Support in the name? Which is why we titled your book the way it is. So you guys were really flexible on that, but we got to be practical. And this is one of the reasons why stuff works is because you marry those two things together. So you got to optimize your title. You got to optimize your book page. In our case, we… In my case for SEO, and in your case for technology, we’re in a less competitive niche, right? So it’s not like there’s a ton of people that want to cozy up by the fireside with a glass of wine and read an SEO book or an IT support book.

So we’re lucky to be in a smaller pool where we can get out there and a smaller amount of sales can help us raise it up. So in any case, when you’re trying to write a book and you’re going for best seller status, you definitely don’t want to go too broad. Broad sounds great, but no, you want to narrow it down and use those categories to your advantage, which we did I think masterfully in your case. And it’s one of the reasons why we were able to kind of get that bestseller. If we went for a general business listing, we would’ve never broken the top hundred. So I think launching on a Sunday really helps. I don’t know what other people think, but I’ve done these many times now and getting them up and making sure that they’re able to get published and give the amount of time so that you got a Sunday to hit it, a Monday to hit it.

And then the rest of the week to carry that because there’s… This rolls into point number five, which is Amazon’s also an algorithm. So they’ve got their own freshness component, which when you launch a new release, it’s got a little bit more weight. So if you get a certain number of sales during that new release period, which is about a month, but really it’s weighted towards the first five or 10 days, if you do it right, you can basically Spock pinch the Amazon algorithm. And pool those things in a way that you can get the maximum amount for the amount of sales that you gather together, which gets into point number six. You know we spent a lot of time circling the wagon. So we’re going to go out and promote and do the things that we do know to promote it.

But you got to beg, borrow, and steal, ask all your friends, promote it like crazy. And again, try and get as many as you can in those five day periods. And it has to have enough. They don’t let you say, I’m just going to go at one or two sales in a two-year period. It doesn’t work like that, but you do have to coordinate stuff and it can be done so in a way that if you set everything else up right, you got a really good chance at achieving best seller status. So what does that mean? Promoting an email, promoting social media. You guys already did a great job. I think you’ve got three reviews already encouraging people to get more and more reviews. And then doing what we’re doing right now, leverage podcasts. You’re already on your own virtual speaking tour, which I can’t…

Phil Singleton: That’s a whole nother podcast we could maybe do another time, but there’s just so many benefits to getting… Again, that by definition is a way to get in front of another audience to get more sales, to get your own listeners out there. As you see now when you’re on other people’s podcasts, they have you on as a guest and then they do all the work on their platform promoting it, right? So you get back links and all sorts of stuff, but it also helps you sell books. And I’m going to jump over now and show people, tada… What this looks like. Hey, guess what? I purchased one on December 6th. That’s kind of the way it works, but we’re the number one new release in computer network security. In fact, we’re number one in network security, we’re number two in information technology.

Phil Singleton: We’re number 12 in computer network security. So that’s really cool. You’ve got this thing up in here. Then if we jump over and look at the actual Amazon bestseller, it’s like, boom.

Jon Schram: That’s awesome.

Phil Singleton: Number one!

Jon Schram: That is totally awesome.

Phil Singleton: Oh man. I spent my whole week on this. This is so cool, dude. You did it…..KC represent!  And what’s cool is it couldn’t have happened to a… You deserve it. You’re an expert. You wrote a really good book. This is another piece that you should have anyway. But the fact that we worked hard over this, over the course of weeks, and then it worked, right? We did it the right way and you are more than deserving of anybody else to actually do it. It’s a great book. And again, for anybody that… The content itself is awesome in terms of what people learn.

But I think I mentioned this already. The design quality of this Kindle will blow your mind. I’ve never seen anything like it. So that’s just a great example of how far can you take a Kindle design? Well, I think you’ve taken it as far as it can go.  Now, this is the one thing people. I talked about Google’s EAT being really important. And one of the most important thing to me, and this is getting back into my little world of SEO, is in the fact that you get the best selling list, you have your own book page, but one of the things that Amazon gives you as a published author now is an author page up on their domain 99 authority website. So what that means for you is you’re up there. You have your listing up in here, you’ve got it.

You’re a published author, but guess what else they let us do? They let us put our RSS feed up on the site. And every time you post a blog post on your website, comes up and we get a link back to your blog posts. Your site was already very well-engineered with SEO. Now we’ve got another… It’s not a silver bullet, but that’s another piece of that SEO pie where we’re saying, “Jon’s an expert. Purple Guys are an expert.” Now all the more publishing that we do on your website is going to get more expertise, more visibility, because we’re demonstrating to Google and the rest of the internet that you are a true expert in your niche.

jon schram amazon author page

So to me, this is actually the coolest thing that happens is getting an author page up in here and being able to drive backlinks to your blog every time we publish a new post on your website. So this is another main reason people should do it. So that’s kind of me wrapping that part of it up. I’d love to get your feeling as where you are in any parts of the process. You haven’t seen the whole benefits that are going to happen as a result of this, but you’re seeing some of the shiny parts of it now.

Jon Schram: Well, and again, I’m blown away that we hit number one the way we did. Which again, it was the execution of your strategy and it worked and it’s been awesome. So I’m anticipating in additional… From these backlinks and having it out there, just that additional little bit that everything is cumulative over all the different platforms, different things we’re doing, but it just helps to just notch the brand up a little bit higher, a little bit higher. Stay top of mind, stay present.

And that’s what drives business for small business for small businesses. And it we’re a small business and we’re trying to be top of mind for other small businesses when they need IT support. So every one of these little things helps. So I’m excited about what this does for our SEO, for our website, for visibility. We’ll eventually get some hard copies we can hand around. That’s just kind of gravy. This is all part of the visibility and stuff that’ll be out there. It just helps build our business.

Phil Singleton: Really cool. Is this fair, it’s work, but it’s attainable?

Jon Schram: Absolutely.

Phil Singleton: I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s not that hard. It’s not like you can just do it, but when you got…

Jon Schram: You’ve got to have a framework. You got to have a coach. There’s no way I would’ve got it done if you hadn’t been coaching along the way and had…

Phil Singleton: And there’s no way. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without having a true expert with good content and stuff like that too. So it’s kind of that mix and match. So awesome. And this is so great. We’re able to get it out here and we’ll be publishing this podcast within 48 hours of you publishing the book and becoming a best seller. So this is really awesome for you. It’s really awesome for us. I hope we can bring this to the other small business owners to understand, you should be doing this. Every people should be doing this and doing so in a way where it’s like, don’t drop everything and try and write a book. Work it into your plan so it’s happening over time.

Jon Schram: I still ran the company while we were writing the book. I did not take a month off and write a book. Now we had a lot of other stuff going on.

Phil Singleton: Well, let’s wrap it up with bringing it back to Purple Guys and you. I always like to tell people, hey, any particular things here in Kansas City, or really anywhere, where you… People that you admired. Other businesses that have done things a way that you maybe have modeled your business or stolen or used ideas from, that kind of thing. Just anybody that comes to mind in terms of it’s been inspirational or somebody that you think could help other business owners that you’re taking stuff from in terms of admiration.

Jon Schram: Well one, we crossed him on the Helzberg Mentoring Program, Danny O’Neill on Roasterie. Talk about somebody that knew and understood guerrilla marketing. And now Roasterie and Messenger have been combined over the fair wave umbrella, which is just kind of cool, two Kansas city brands. What Danny O’Neill was able to do with his brand and his passion for coffee. And again, if you ever heard Danny speak, it was very clear he was passionate about coffee. He’s passionate about a lot of stuff, but totally passionate about coffee and about his brand, which was super exciting. And I would say I took some stuff away from Danny on the branding side and the guerrilla marketing thing of just being present at a lot of places. So I’ve learned a lot from him.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, on that note, congratulations on your book and here’s to your next one.

Jon Schram: Yeah, I’m excited to do number two now that we have number one under our belt.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And I’d love to do a followup on this, on what the print version looks like. And you’re early in on your podcast guesting campaign. You know we have ambitions to have your own podcast for a lot of different reasons. So maybe we’ll do a followup on this if you’re gracious enough to do so where we can say, hey, we went from the book and here were these other parts of the whole master plan that includes podcast hosting, podcast hosting and some print stuff. And we’ll look back on this and see how things have affected the business from today.

Jon Schram: Yeah. I’m happy to. This has been fantastic.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Thanks a ton, Jon.

Jon Schram: All right, thank you.


James Hardie Marketing, Growing & Scaling Contractors with Scott Neidow

Are you a contractor want to know how and grow and scale your business?

This is a great episode to listen to if you want to know more about James Hardie siding marketing, scaling and other valuable tips and advice for helping your small business reach its true growth potential.

Scott Niedow was born and raised just outside of Chicago. He is a proud Purdue Boilermaker!  Scott’s been at James Hardie just shy of 15 years. He’s had many different sales and management roles at Hardie over the past 15 years but the bulk of his time and passion lies with helping contractors run successful businesses.

Scott says his mission is to be able to help contractors transform their businesses to meet and exceed their financial and personal goals.

  1. First we’ll learn a little about Scott’s journey to Hardie and how he got to where he is today.
  2. Second, I want to learn more about what I call the James Hardie magic. When I talk about Hardie to other people, I tell them that they are the Chick-fil-A of the material supply industry. They go so far above and beyond what most material supply.
  3. What are some of the the challenges exterior remodeling contractors face and how have they overcome them to grow their businesses and their wealth, and improve their quality of life.

Learn more about Scott Neidow and James Hardie Siding


About Scott Neidow, Regional Sales Manager, James Hardie

Phil Singleton: So one of the things I want to do in our talk to Scott and ask him a couple of questions first is just let people know what we intend to cover here. So they’ll know how long they want to listen. The first thing we want to learn about is just Scott’s journey, just wanting him to explain how he got into the business world out of school and what led him to his position at James Hardie today. And second, the meat of the discussion is really, I want to talk and learn more about what I call the James Hardie magic, because when I go out and talk to other people, and I’ve had some experience with lots of other material vendors over the years. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. The bulk of our clients are contractors or home services so I know a lot about the local construction industry and the people that they work with and partner with.

Phil Singleton: So I’ve seen some really cool things that Hardie’s doing that in real life I think nobody else is doing. And when I explain it to other people, I call them almost the Chick-Fil-A of the material supply industry. They go far above and beyond what most other material suppliers do, and I just want to understand why, how that happens because nobody else does the things that they’re doing. And I see a lot of things that they’re doing that are really helping local contractors, exterior remodeling contractors, all sorts of contractors do better than they were doing before, and it’s just so much further beyond what other folks are doing. I want to talk really a lot about that and why that happens and then how cool that is.

Phil Singleton: And then finally, what are the challenges that Scott sees with the exterior in terms of exterior remodeling contractors? What challenges they’re seeing. Is it lead generation? Is it marketing? Are they having problems scaling? What parts of the business does he see from the smaller, medium, and maybe even larger contractors that they have that holds them back from reaching their potential?

Phil Singleton: So those are the things that we’re going to cover. And with that, I want to introduce Scott. And Scott, let’s lead off with having you give us a little bit of background about your first steps out of school and what led you into this career with James Hardie.

Scott Neidow: Yeah. Right on. So I definitely appreciate it. So I grew up about 25 miles outside of Chicago, went to Purdue. Never in a million years would I have though that I’d end up in construction. So I was always going to go to law school and so you find out how much it costs and how little you make out of law school. And then my whole family was in sales so did a bunch of interviews, found Hardie, been there 15 years. So it’s interesting too because I’ve had, I think, 13 roles in 15 years. So right when you figure it out, Hardie decides it’s time for you to do something else.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Cool. So pretty much was this your first steps out of school…

Scott Neidow: This is my first and the only real job ever, yeah. So I started in D.C. Hardie moved me out there. I spent a couple of years working more with the retail boxes, so Home Depot, Wells, and then their customer base. And then Hardie actually makes the interior product HardieBacker. Spent a lot of time in tile contractors in Chicago, Wisconsin, across Midwest and then I got into our exterior products. And really my first sales job at Hardie really business to business was with, I think I was the first sales rep who hired the call-on contractors.

Scott Neidow: So our business historically was always new construction. It’s easy, it’s scalable, builders are very low maintenance versus contractors. It’s the opposite. Every home is a custom home because every homeowner’s different every single time we’re at the kitchen table. So we needed to try to figure out how’s that work? How do they sell? How do we add value? We think we have a great product, but I think what we found is that’s maybe one thing. A lot of homeowners buy from people, companies and then the product. And so for us, it was a big deal to really understand the contractors and charter to how we help them.

Phil Singleton: Right. And what’s also really cool about that is I think this is a testament to the organization and that you just don’t … We talked about this before. I’ve had the chance to work with you guys on some, I guess, mutual clients or people that are clients of James Hardie and clients of ours. And what I’ve noticed in speaking to other folks within your organization is there’s a lot of longevity. You’ve been there for 15 years. You’ve got a number of people on your team or in and around you that have been at Hardie for years. Whereas a lot of times these days, you see people jumping around.

People & Recruiting Make James Hardie Special

Phil Singleton: So I think that says a lot about maybe why you guys are successful too. You seem to be able to recruit and attract people that want to stay in there. And is that part of … Walk me through that a little bit. Is there an extensive training program? Why are the people that you have so good, I guess is what I’m saying? Is there something-

Scott Neidow: Well…

Phil Singleton: There must be beyond just getting hired and saying jump to the team. There’s some kind of magic in there.

Scott Neidow: No, I appreciate that. And listen, I think was Bill Parcells that said that it’s not the Xs and Os and the Jimmys and the Joes. And so a big part of Hardie’s success may be able to hire and keep really good people, and so it’s probably the hardest part about being a manager. It’s one of the biggest thing contractors struggle with is grooming and attracting talent. And so we have a whole recruiting team as well as some outside consultants that we use to interview and hire people. And then I’ve gone through multiple classes or multiple … I’ve interviewed hundreds of people. And so first, you get that part down. You got to make sure it’s the right fit.

Scott Neidow: And I think one thing that Hardie does real well is we, I don’t want to say we screen people out, but we’re very … There’s no fluff. We’re very candid on here’s what you’re going to get. Here’s what you’re going to expect. Here’s what the family atmosphere is like. It’s very competitive. If it’s not for you, let’s just know now. And it’s probably several interviews on the phone, it’s face to face interview, and there are aptitude tests. And so it’s really important for us to get it right. And I will tell you to be honest, Hardie got it wrong way more than it got it right for my first decade. So it’s something that we’ve probably really stumbled across in the last five or six years just through trial and error, trial and error.

Scott Neidow: But even after we hire someone, we have a very extensive training program. And so we have people in our company, all they do is focus on onboarding sales reps. And so that’s webinars, that face-to-face meeting. I build out my people’s calendars for the first 12 weeks. I know every day where they’re going, what they’re doing, who they’re talking to, and it’s not about micromanaging. It’s about setting them up for success.

Scott Neidow: So Hardie’s a unique business in that there’s nothing transactional. No one gives us money to buy product or no contractors buy product from us, but my entire team spends their life trying to influence and coach contractors. So we have an awesome customer base, everyone from Boise and Forest Distributors to ABC Supply in Lansing who are local vendors that service contractors, but we don’t actually transact with contractors.

Scott Neidow: And so it’s really important for us to get this right, because it’s not like we always know where POs come from or who’s buying our product or … It’s our job to indirectly influence contractors to do something different, and so we spend a lot of time and energy. And probably the best thing too is we never stopped training. So Tiger Woods doesn’t stop golfing. He practices in between golf events and same thing for pitching and football and everything else. So like Patrick Mahomes is ridiculous, but it’s great that he’s got Andy Reid and the whole coaching staff, the whole system built around it. So we try to constantly improve. One of our mantras is 1% better every day. It’s not about drastic step change. It’s not about overnight changing your business. It’s every day being a little bit better than what we were the day before.

Phil Singleton: So is that like you guys have an extensive training resource department? Are you bringing people from the outside and doing things? What’s the training like?

Scott Neidow: Yeah. It’s normally inside. Yeah. So we do have, I think Richardson’s the partner we use. They’re a professional B2B sales organization that does a lot of sales training, but Hardie over time has developed our own sales process and how we go about it. And one of the beauties at Hardie that makes it scalable is everyone does it the same way. So 85% of what we do is always the same, and then each rep or each manager has got the 15% to make it their own. But it’s really easy to scale when everyone else is speaking the same language, doing the same thing at the same time. There’s never any ambiguity on who does what or are we dropping the ball or how come Steven’s having success in Kansas City and Mike’s struggling in Chicago? It doesn’t happen. It does happen, but you know why because everyone’s moving in the same direction.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, and that segues into the second part of this, which is, and you mentioned this already a little bit at the beginning, but there’s not a transactional piece to this. So I look at you guys as highly trained, and I’ve seen you bring a ton of value to the people that you work with, the contractors that you work with. I also see the shine and the glow that comes from the contractors that you work with in terms of how they revere and respect and really value the help that you bring them. It’s a reflection of what you guys are doing, but it’s almost to me, I think we’ve talked about this before too outside of this recording, which is to me, you guys are almost like business coaches. Really, that’s what I see. You mentioned that, but maybe that’s not the right word or something, but you guys have seen a lot. It’s like you put your heads together, you get to know the contractors that you work with and you try and understand what their pain and their growth points are and then try and figure out, hey, and actually bring solutions.

Phil Singleton: So it’s really different than a lot of the materials supplier relationships that I see that’s more relationship based. I know you guys do a lot of that too, but a lot of those guys, more about wining, dining, golfing, doing some things. I’ve seen people arrange some webinars and stuff like that, but not to the extent of really trying to almost provide what I consider free coaching help to some of those folks, and I’ve seen you bring people in to help people grow businesses and solve problems. Where does that come from? Is that active? Was that something that’s been around for a long time?

Scott Neidow: No, yeah. It’s probably been a culmination of about nine or 10 years of every year getting 1% better. So we actually started off being a … We actually opened a Hardie siding solution center in Denver 10, maybe 12 years ago because we had no idea what we were doing. We were a new construction company. The market crashed. Remodeling was a big part of it and we had no idea how to actually … We understood how builders went to market. We didn’t understand anything about our contractor base. So we sent out 10,000 mailers to 10,000 people and nobody will call. And you’re like, “This is crazy. Boulder, there’s so much feeder in it. There’s so many wealthy people. Hardie the perfect product.” But you can’t send out mailers once.

Phil Singleton: Wait, wait. Hold on. Let’s step back on this. You guys actually set up a remodeling center in Denver, you said it was?

Scott Neidow: We did, yeah. And-

Phil Singleton: Was that a place where people actually contracted you to do this stuff so you learned about it or was it just a place that people come see the product? What was-

Scott Neidow: No, yeah. So Hardie set up as an exterior placement contractor that only did siding. And so we still bought from our customers. We used Oracle sub-base. We went to all of our current contractors and basically guaranteed them that we charged a fair premium. Our whole goal was we need to figure this out, and we find a demographic fit.

Phil Singleton: So like a James Hardie lab basically. So you guys were like it’s actually happening.

Scott Neidow: It’d be similar to Anderson Renewal, but instead of having franchises, the manufacturer did everything.

Phil Singleton: Got it.

Scott Neidow: And so our goal was to try to figure it out.

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Scott Neidow: And we basically failed at everything. We…

Phil Singleton: And when was this?

Scott Neidow: It was 10 years ago.

Phil Singleton: 10 years ago. Okay.

Scott Neidow: Yeah. We basically only learned through failure. There were very little things we did well there. We had huge 50,000 foot showrooms that no one ever came to, and she was marking budget time, direct mail that … Direct mail can actually work if you do a smaller group several times. We did a huge group once, and….

Phil Singleton: And there’s so much wisdom in that. There’s so much wisdom in that because that’s marketing in general. You do one thing, it’s never going to work. If you do stuff over a time and build a relationship, that’s when the payback comes off.

Scott Neidow: Yeah. And then we had to learn to actually sit in the home. We actually sat in the home. Most contractors to do a two-call close so we purposely did a one call just to see if it can be done. And again, one of my favorite things in working at Hardie is great people, but Hardie’s base allowed us to fail. Hardie’s allowed me to try things over and over and over again and not work out and be … We talk about embracing the red. It’s really about what’s not going well? Let’s keep trying new things. Let’s not be afraid of failure and let’s figure it out for our customers and for our contractors.

Scott Neidow: And so from there, we basically got hooked up with a lot of really great contractors. So I’ve learned so much from the Twin City Sidings and Craftsman’s Choice in Minneapolis, All-star in Wichita. I live in Kansas City now, so Salter in Wichita. Lakeside Renovations in St. Louis. These are 10, $15 million companies that figured it out through trial and error themselves. There’s really dedicated, awesome contractors that just got it right. And so we spent a lot of time with them understanding their secret sauce, trying to add to it, trying to hook them up with other like-minded contractors. We’ve been able to crowd surf thousands of contractors across the country, and that’s really what’s our success is. I don’t just talk to one contract in one market. I talk to hundreds of contractors that try thousands of different things, and it’s much easier to figure out what works by basically being able to try several different things all the time.

Scott Neidow: And it’s funny. So it’s always the little things that add up to matter. Very rarely is it one thing that changes the contractor’s business. It’s like the little things are so important, and those are the hardest things for contractors to dedicate infinite resources towards. But having the right phone script is extremely valuable. And it’s much easier to ask Ben what he uses in Minneapolis and then share it in other markets, not in Minneapolis, but bring it to St. Louis or Milwaukee, than for us to always try to figure it out. And so we have some phenomenal partners as well as by the way. So you do a great job. We love the partnership. CCN out of Washington, D.C., Certified Contractor Network. We learned a ton from them. BTA Breakthrough Academy up in Canada. These are other like-minded entrepreneurs that run businesses and basically coach contractors for a living.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Scott Neidow: And so it’s really the combination of all our partnerships and all of our customers that’s allowed us to get to where we are.

Phil Singleton: Right. And you mentioned something, you brushed over, but you and I have talked about this a couple of times, about how important the phone is. Wow. I’ve learned this on my own listening to call real calls is a major pain point. Some people don’t answer, some people don’t … I think a lot of times I hear people that we spend all this time with, for instance, James Hardie.

Phil Singleton: James Hardie does a great job with marketing and getting the brand awareness. And then these contractors will come out and they’ll hire hired guns like maybe me there get out there and to make sure they’ve got a great web presence and a pretty website and social media and great reviews. And all of a sudden, they come to the phone and it’s a fumble or it’s low energy, or it’s not answered at all, or it goes to some automated and it all pins down to the funnel, that one thing. And people don’t realize how much money is lost or maybe how somebody might bounce off to somebody else to where they hear somebody … Little things like that can make a huge difference to your client.

Scott Neidow: For sure, yeah. I don’t know if it’s the best analogy, but I think about if you work out, if you stretch before you work out and you stretch after, you’re much more likely to be successful with whatever you’re trying to get out of your workouts. That’s the blocking and tackling around answering the phone and scheduling meetings. No one likes to think about it. They all think about going to lift weights and run and all this marketing and huge marketing budgets and my cost per lead. But the reality is, to me, people just never realize those actual leads.

Scott Neidow: I remember if I’m ever having a really bad day and I want to feel better, I’ll go listen to some of the recordings we get from when contractors answer our leads. It’s somewhere between depressing and horrifying, and these are successful business owners, by the way. These are people that run two, three, four, $5 million businesses that answer their own phone though, and they’re just humans. They’re probably driving. They got caught off guard. They’re almost trying to get off the phone versus trying to actually make the customer’s day…

Phil Singleton: Totally a solvable problem. But to you and me, those are the unicorns man. It’s all like the customer, the lead that comes in is what it’s all about and just to have one.

Scott Neidow: Oh, for sure.

Phil Singleton:  But, again, all these business owners, they’re working their butt off. They got other things on their mind. They’re not trained to be the, “Hey,” that kind of stuff all the time. But it can be solved, and there’s little things like that if you put them all together, that I’m getting into the last question here, which is what are some of the challenges that you see with contractors and how they’ve overcome stuff? How do you see the million dollar a year guy getting to two or three million or the $5 million approaching 10 plus? What are the things that you’ve seen?

Scott Neidow: I think probably the biggest problem across all contractors are, and this really separates probably the great ones from the good ones, is if you want to scale and you want to have some business that either runs itself you could sell someday, you can’t be an employee in your business. You got to start working on your business, not in your business. You actually need to be an investor or an owner of your business, and that scares a lot of contractors because they either don’t want to hire people or they had a bad experience, or they think they’re going to get too far away from the business. There’s a million different … Some of them also just don’t know better. They just have a hard time letting go of control and I get it. Their blood, sweat, and tears have basically built the entire livelihood that takes care of their family just on their own.

Scott Neidow: But the reality is they’re normally, the owners become a bottleneck for growth because they want to control everything. They want to make every decision. They’re not necessarily hiring the right people. And I think the second that they can take a step back and actually think about, “Okay. I could keep sell them the home forever, but I’m probably tapped out.” And so, to be honest, marketing’s probably the easiest thing because if someone has a marketing problem, I could recommend someone like Phil and say, “Listen. If you have $75,000, it’s just math. Phil could do it for you.” And most people have $75,000 and they can call you. The problem is it’s, “Okay. Do I have the labor production capacity?”

Phil Singleton: Can I scale?

Scott Neidow: They’re too many guys nowadays … Exactly. So if you have the marketing budget, the next thing you need to do is you need systems and processes from the phone rings, I answer the phone, we have the same phone script every single time. The lead goes to my sales rep. He runs the exact same sales process every single time. He doesn’t do his own thing. Then we have someone from our corporate office set the next meeting or follow up, and then we go on a second call if we need to. And then if I don’t close it, do we have a set rehashing structure? Because I just paid Phil all this money to get the lead. I can’t just stop calling if they didn’t buy.

And then when you sell the job, to hand off to pre-construction and when your subcontractor or your in-house crew gets out there, do they know what to do? I can’t say how many people sold a $50,000 job and it’s like chicken scratch on a piece of paper. And then the installer is furious because he can’t read it. He’s not sure what’s going on. Like, “Why do you want to work for a contractor?” They might pay him well, but they have no process and no structure. So just a really bad experience for the sub.

Scott Neidow: And so the biggest thing overall is it’s whether the contractors want to scale or whether they want to maximize their profitability. There’s not written systems and processes, and they’re not thinking about how do I develop my own employees. And if you’re an owner and investor, that’s all you’re thinking about, is where is my growth going to come from? How do I get good people? How do I train them up? But if you’re an employee in your business, you’re not worried about that. You’re just worried about where’s my next sale. How do I finish this job? I’ve got all these receivables coming out, but got to order material. But if you’re an owner, that’s probably a really bad use of your time, well except maybe the first year or two.

Phil Singleton: Do you think there’s a point? To me, it seems like I don’t know what the number is for different contractors, but there’s a point of, and I think it’s probably in the million somewhere where you maybe … Definitely 10 million. It’s hard to get to 10 million on one owner doing everything. At that point, they’ve got a system in place and they’ve got a team, they’ve got a repeatable thing where they’re just feeding it because there’s no way usually one person unless you’re like a home builder and you’ve got 20 projects and you’re getting 10 million right?

Scott Neidow: Yeah, yeah.

Phil Singleton: What’s that number where it’s like-

Scott Neidow: So I know two huge unicorns. One guy, Steve Jones from Tulsa Renew. If you ever look up a great small business, Google Tulsa Renew and he’s as good as it gets. So one guy, actually two people, him and a production manager, four and a half, $5 million, amazing customer experience. Another contractor in Milwaukee. Scott could sell 130 hard jobs by himself. That’s a very rare thing. Most other contractors probably tap out around a million and a half, maybe two. And at that point, they need a structure and they need people. And the reality is you need to start planning before. You should have a written sales process before you hire your sales guy because how you’re going to train them?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Scott Neidow: And that’s what Hardie tries to do though. So we try and spend our time looking for bottlenecks in companies’ businesses. Saying, “Hey.” Shield’s Exterior in St. Louis, phenomenal business. “You sold 40 jobs. You have two crews. We need to be talking to Isaac. We really need to help you find a third crew. Is it money? Is it time? We could train them. What do you need? How do we help you recruit them?” Because if you wait till 40, it’s just too late and then you have a huge bottleneck. And so the thing we try to do is help contractors just realize what their problems are. And I’ll tell you half the time we identify a problem, the contractor doesn’t want to fix it and that’s okay because it’s their business.

Phil Singleton: That’s because some people, there’s just going to be some…

Scott Neidow: Yeah. It’s okay.

Phil Singleton: That are always going to be a million, 2 million. That’s just it because their personality or where they don’t want to … That’s just…

Scott Neidow: And it’s probably a fantastic life, yeah.

Phil Singleton: To get to 10 million plus, that’s pretty special. To get to five million in most markets is probably pretty special. Even to get the one to two million’s probably take some, but you can do that by one person, like you’re saying. There’s not a lot of people though that can get to….

Scott Neidow: No, it’s not. It’s not. So if I put things in perspective, there’s probably maybe four companies in my region over 10 states that will do a 100 plus hard jobs a year, resides. And then there’s another 20 that will do 50 to a 100. And then there’s, I don’t know, another 75 that do 20. Then a big guy or two or some a guy that do 20 to 30 homes a year. My methods, if it’s the contractor in 20, 30 homes a year is do you want to be more efficient? Do you want to be more profitable? Do you want more freedom? Because if you can let us help you build systems in your business to make your life easier and embrace technology, either way, we can help you save money. And either way, we can help you be more profitable or at least just work less.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. You can go on and on about this, is so fascinating, but I wanted to ask if you … You’ve named a lot of different companies you admire, good examples but I do want to ask you just some other ones that you admire, whether they’re in the business or out of the business, things that they do.

Phil Singleton: But before that, I came up with another question I wanted to ask because I’ve got some projects I’m working on this. I’ve got other plenty of all sorts of contractors, who they are looking at different softwares on the project management software. We’ve talked about, again, some of these before this recording, before we wrap up, what are some that you’ve seen that people using or are starting to use more in terms of … I’ve started recently to hear people talk more about JobProgress. CoConstruct is another one and it’s out there. I think it’s more like home builders and bigger remodelers. There’s AccuLynx and there’s a bunch of, there’s so many of them out there, but you’re in a great space to know what things, what people are working for.

Phil Singleton: None of them do everything that you want, but are there some up and coming ones that people are like, “Wow, this is really solving some problems and would be a good recommendation? And if there are, you do have some … Are there some that you’d say, “Oh, this is good for the million dollar or under guy or one or two million. Here’s one for a guy that’s doing a couple million or a few million a year.” Any of on those?

Scott Neidow: Yeah, right on. So I would tell you from a purely customer relationship management, managing your leads, follow up with customers, rehashing, from the marketing and customer homeowner standpoint, MarketSharp‘s probably the best. They’re also-

Phil Singleton: What tool was that again? Which one?

Scott Neidow: MarketSharp.

Phil Singleton: MarketSharp. Yeah. Okay.

Scott Neidow: Yeah. Now listen, they might be the worst when it comes to the production side or at least I don’t want a contract to only use them on the marketing side. So there is a handful that a lot of contractors-

Phil Singleton: That is more for sales automations, CRM stuff like that on the front end?

Scott Neidow: Yeah, yeah. So Contractor Cloud is one I see a lot of people use. JobNimbus is one a lot of roofers use, I see a lot of siding contractors like to use. JobProgress is another one. Buildertrend is pretty popular at the base at Omaha. I think for a builder, a remodeler or builder, it’s phenomenal. There’s just so many features you could use that you would never use as if you’re a windows siding roofing contractor, but it is a really cool platform. That’s arguably one of the more popular ones. AccuLynx, if you’re a storm contractor, I feel like you should be using AccuLynx. But if you’re someone who’s really more high-end retail focused and it’s about lead generation, AccuLynx doesn’t do a ton for me.

Scott Neidow: Two other quick shout outs though is there is a company called SumoQuote and it’s basically for those of you that don’t have a good sales presentation, but you’d like one, it’s a GAF and Hardie contractor based in Canada that built an online digital platform that it comes out to be a 10 page proposal and it’s awesome. It’s really cool. You can use it for a couple hundred bucks a month. If you don’t love your sales process, I’m a big fan. It’s not the best. Don’t get me wrong. There’s contractors out there that have a way better proposal, but if you don’t like your proposal and you want an A- proposal overnight … And they have free tech support, it’s awesome. Everything’s cloud-based so you always know where stuff is. So I’m a really big fan of that company, for sure. And then just the last thing I always try to … Well, I’m sorry?

Phil Singleton: I thought you said there was two. So is there another one?

Scott Neidow: Oh yeah. The other thing I would say, it’s more a concept that is please use financing. So if contractors only take away one thing I’m saying, so two things. One, always have someone always answer the phone and please, please, please, please, please always promote market leverage and offer financing on every single call, not just when people ask for it. Build in your pricing, figure that out. I realize it costs money, but you will get more leads, sell more jobs, and you’ll upsell jobs because you’re allowing homeowners to actually get what they want for what their budgets are. I can’t stress enough, especially during a pandemic.

Phil Singleton: Amen. Amen.

Scott Neidow: So it’s the number one thing I’d tell you is please use financing.

Phil Singleton: Totally. Especially when you talk about James Hardie being the top end premium product, you talk about exterior siding being the most transformational piece that you can do outside of your home, I actually heard some statistic that it’s return on investments is 60% or something like that. I don’t know where I pulled that out of. I heard somebody else talking about that, but it’s a pretty high return on…

Scott Neidow: Yeah. I think it’s low 70’s. A lot of it does depend on the region you’re in, but it’s 10, the last 11 years Remodel Magazine said residing with fiber cement will be the top upgrade over 500 bucks for your house. And so homes look big billboard for the product….

Phil Singleton: So if you’re there and you’re just like, “I don’t want to do this. I want to save a little bit.” Well, financing is the answer and it’s such a no-brainer. If you’re going to finance anything on your house…

You’re almost guaranteed to get it back if it was slightly outside of your budget or something like that. So I agree with you. So I need just put it out there. It’s a no brainer, should put so many more people in reach. But if you….

Scott Neidow: It makes your collections must easier too, by the way. No one thinks about you don’t have to collect any money. That’s all taken care of. You’re getting paid by the financing company so.

Phil Singleton: I have heard the argument though that, and you can tell me what you think about this. If you come in and you want to be the premium priced leader, which is what I would be and what I try and do for anything. If I’m going to go in, I don’t want to be the guy that’s trying to chase the bottom. If you come in high and then you offer financing on top of that, is there still a way to … Are you following what I’m saying? You know what I’m talking about?

Scott Neidow: Yeah, that’s fair. Well, I guess what I’d tell you is the 20 most expensive guys I know are the 20 really expensive because they offer financing.

Phil Singleton: Financing, I guess. Yeah.

Scott Neidow: And so I would come in, and listen, there are some legal things around cash discounts and credit cards so I’m going to try to avoid that. But if I was a contractor, I’d come in and say, “Hi. Your price, Phil and Mrs. Phil, is $37,200. How do you think about paying today?” And they’d say, “What do you mean?” I’d say, “I have 18 months, same as cash. I also have an option where you could pay 3.99 a month. Does that work for you within your budget?” Or, “Obviously, I accept cash, check or credit.” If it was me as a contractor, I would do the math on how many people are going to pay credit card? How many people are going to pay cash? How many people going to pay financing? What’s my most popular financing fee? And I would just blend them. So I would just build the cost in to every single proposal so you don’t have to worry about it. Your price is your price.

Phil Singleton: Yes. And is there a go-to resource that most people use for … Is it a local thing if you’re going to be a “contractor financer”, is there a national finance company you receommend?

Scott Neidow: There is a handful. It’s Synchrony Financial and Interbank and GE. There’s a lot of different companies that do it. There’s a newer company. The name is escaping me now….

Phil Singleton: We’ll put that in the show notes. When you find it later, I’ll put it in the show notes.

Scott Neidow: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s basically like you basically sign up and you pay monthly. And then it’s just a service that they go through 30 or 40 different vendors. That’s new and a lot of contractors like it because it pays monthly. I have heard though, it probably doesn’t work as well for clients that really need credit. And so if you have people that might be credit crunched, you might be better off going with an Interbank or a Synergy or GE or someone like that.

Scott Neidow: The one thing I would tell you though is I wouldn’t leave it in a homeowner’s hand to go get home equity or you pay us money to get in the house, you spend all this time to build a proposal, having the option … If they want to go that route, God bless them, but I’d have a solution for them that day. And I would definitely be telling your marketing person to market financing. I’ve heard from a lot of contractors in the last year that well, actually, people used to get deals like a free green egg or free gutters or a thousand bucks off, and they changed the messaging to more financing based, that they’re offering 12 months or 18 months same as cash. And the same marketing spend and the same proposals have been seen to be eight to 10% better this year, maybe because the pandemic and people are more worried. But I’ve heard from several bigger contractors that that’s really working for them.

Scott Neidow: Leveraging financing is the give in the marketing versus a $500 coupon, which most people assume you’re going to raise your price anyway. Most people don’t actually think they’re going to get $500.

Phil Singleton: So you’d say most of your more successful, larger contractors are offering financing, it sounds like? That’s just-

Scott Neidow: I would say so, yeah. There’s a couple of old school contractors that they’re just they’re really good because they’ve been doing this 20 years, they have a great business and amazing quality and tons of referrals. And very few that guys break through those companies have had to make the jump, but those companies also aren’t trying to grow. Any of the companies I’ve seen really trying to grow and all the companies I see that are normally the most expensive, they all really leverage financing. That’s a huge part of what they do is … A quick story. Two of my sales reps to used to work for big contractors, and those contractors used to only sell vinyl 10 years ago. And they were selling vinyl for more 10 years ago than our best contractors at Hardie today because it was 100% financing. So these people are selling vinyl for … Hardie probably goes on average around a thousand bucks a square plus or minus 25%. These people were selling vinyl for 1800 to 2000 bucks a square 10 years ago because it was heavily financed.

Phil Singleton: Right. All right. I’m going to wind this up with, I got one last question. I really appreciate you because I’ve gotten two more than I said I was going to ask you-

Scott Neidow: No worries.

Phil Singleton: But one of the things that I’ve noticed, I’ve, again, been in a lot of different businesses myself and I don’t know about your perspective on this, but I’ve seen in working with some James Hardie contractors now around the country now, thanks to you guys, there’s some guys that have done phenomenally well with not a whole lot of marketing, what I would call … I think a lot of the companies now that are dominating that I see basically adopt an agency mentality. They become marketers. Those are the ones that are really winning. They don’t fear marketing. They’re not intimidated about it. They’re basically fearless marketers.

Phil Singleton: But I do know there’s other ones that don’t do much marketing at all and still kill it. You know what I mean? They still got their other channels. They’ve still got other things. Now does that mean that they’re still reaching their full potential? I would say no. I would say somebody that’s killing it at whatever they’re killing it at, if they adopted an agency mentality, they could do 50 or 100% better maybe more than they’re doing now. But what’s your feel of when you see that? Do you see contractors resistance to investing in marketing? Surely everybody out there has been burned by some way, shape or form where they feel like they’d been let down by an agency or a digital marketing or an SEO or what have you, or even trying, like you said. Just because you tried a mailer one time doesn’t mean it didn’t work because you didn’t do it right or had the right messaging. You did it one time. You just tried it one time. You can’t throw it out the door and say that doesn’t work.

Phil Singleton: Everything works. If you get the right message in front of the right person at the right time, they’re going to buy it from you. So I guess my question to you is what do you guys see and do you see resistance to it? Do you see people becoming more marketing oriented? What’s the feeling over a course of dozens of-

Scott Neidow: So there’s obviously been a lot of contractors that have been burned because a lot of there’s a lot of … Marketing companies or used car sales. They’re everywhere. They’re constantly contacting you to replace some contractor. They’re constantly cooking on your PPC saying I could do it better when you’re paying for it. So I would say anyone interested in growth is all in on marketing, several different avenues, spending five to 10% of their revenue back on marketing that they built in to their pricing. There are a lot of other companies that are starting to dabble and my message to them is, “Hey. If you have a minute and a half to start marketing company mostly based on referrals and ValPak. Awesome. But if you want to be a $3 million company, you probably need to spend $120,000 or $150,000.

Scott Neidow: And now listen, your base business is your base business because for 20 years, you’ve always done it. If you want to grow, you’re not going to get the extra one, two, three, $4 million based on doing what you’ve always done. And so I think once contractors understand that, it’s a little easier. Whatever you have, you don’t need to spend more to keep it. But you definitely, if you want to grow, you need to spend more. And I will tell you…

Phil Singleton: That’s a great message.

Scott Neidow: Anyone, $1 to $3 million, almost every penny should go into digital marketing, like SEO, PPC, Facebook. I know some people don’t love Google, but the reality is you’re better off, if you’re going to spend…

Phil Singleton: Can’t avoid it.

Scott Neidow: Any money at all, yeah, yeah. You should spend the bulk your money not ignoring Home Advisor. It’s the speed of leads. Make sure you’re the first one to call homeowner back. There’s nothing wrong with … So we both have a mutual client in Minneapolis who I think he ends up selling seven to 10 jobs a year from our Hardie radius kits. So when you sell a Hardie job, we give you the option through our system to basically send 50 door hangers or 50 direct mail pieces around that house, and we give them 20 Starbucks gift cards, five to the right, five to left, 10 across streets. Knock on a door and tell them who you are. It costs next to nothing. Probably did a million dollars of business and it was just time. He made sure someone had to the time to do that.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome.

Scott Neidow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome because when those things happen, especially when they’re in a neighborhood where they’re like, I don’t know what you guys call them, they’re transitional or whatever, and they’re vinyl or something else. Somebody comes in and just tricks out their house with James Hardie. It looks like somebody dropped in a million dollar house in some cases, you know what I mean?

Scott Neidow: It’s a huge billboard. Yeah. It’s a huge billboard for that contractor. If a homeowner get house looks brand new and for hopefully for that contractor, if they do a good job, they should be able to get three, four, five, six, seven houses over the next three or four years. So our strategy is basically help contractors win neighborhood by neighborhood. And it’s not the easiest thing, but it’s the best longterm annuity. Every year you’re going to get two or three home from this neighbor if you provide an awesome customer experience. And if you do, if the home looks great, but then you also got nurture it. You got to send direct mail every year. You got to follow up the Jones’s and ask them for referrals. You actually need to have the yard signs out. You need to do a great job at everything around that job and need to absolutely ask for referrals and ask for the business. A lot of contractors don’t struggle with asking for the business or asking for referrals.

Phil Singleton: Right, right. I just thought of two more questions that I’m not going to ask. I’m going to invite you back. I know this is going to be one of my most popular episodes ever because we’ve got a lot of small businesses and a lot of home services people that listen. But I do want to ask you very finally just any other types of businesses that you admire personally, whether in Kansas City or whatever, that they do something cool that you look up to or admire, and then we’ll just call it a wrap.

Scott Neidow: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I probably wouldn’t be in this position today. There’s a handful of people in my career that have really helped me. So at Hardie, shot out to Dave Denafrio 00:38:16]. Outside of Hardie, there’s a couple of companies, Siding & Window Group, Greg Bednarski the owner is-

Phil Singleton: Wait, wait, who are those guys you just mentioned?

Scott Neidow: So the one guy David Donofrio is a Hardie guy, but Siding & Window Group is a company in Chicago. The owner’s Greg, Greg Bednarski. I’ve learned so much from him. There’s two other big contractors in Minneapolis. They’re both seven to $12 million companies. Terry and Kristen Stamman from Twin City Sign Professionals, Ben Juncker from Craftsman’s Choice. I can’t tell you how much those companies have meant to me, to my learning, to my development just even mentorship or just dealing with Hardie and some of our growing pains. So it’s companies like that that have really allowed me to grow professionally, but also really allowed Hardie to trial and error some things. So thank you for putting up with us, I guess I’d say. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Hey, well, thanks so much for taking this much time, man. Every time I talk to you, it’s on the phone and especially here, I’m glad I had the chance to record it and share it because you’re a wealth of knowledge. And like I said, you guys just blow my mind every time I see or talk to people, how much you help these contractors, your contractors out, your partners, or whatever you guys call them. It’s just really amazing. I hope you guys keep doing what you’re doing. I think a lot of us, a lot of home services contractors did … A lot of bad things happened this year, but home services did pretty well. I’m still really bullish on next year, maybe the next several years. So let’s hope for all the guys that we work with will continue their good fortune in 2021.

Scott Neidow: I feel the exact same way, yeah. I think 2021 is going to be a banner year, yeah.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. All right. On that note, let’s thanks very much, Scott and we will talk soon.

Scott Neidow: Appreciate it Phil. Take care.

How To Value & Sell Your Company or Agency | Chad Peterson

Chad Peterson is an entrepreneur, author, and award-winning business Broker. His firm, Peterson Acquisitions, was recently acknowledged as one of the best business brokers in the nation. Chad successfully handles business transactions across the United States, and occasionally around the globe. His M&A firm works on deals from $1 million to $25 million, and in some cases exceeding $25 million. He handles the transactions from start to finish with tenacity and results. He lives great life, traveling and making deals with movers-and-shakers around the country, but Chad started out with a more humble beginning.

Chad business journey started when he was a child.  He hustled as a kid, walking dogs, shoveling snow, mowing grass, trimming trees, and cleaning out gutters.   He developed a thick skin by and ‘can do’ attitude by cold calling and knocking on the doors. He learned how to prospect, how to garner the trust of clients, and a how-to work hard to earn every dollar.

Chad also wrote the book From Blue to White, A Working Man’s Guide to Self-Employment, where teaches people how to transition from employee to self-employed.  This book was well-received and garnered attention from the likes of Scott Alexander, author for Rhinoceros Success, one of Chad’s favorite authors. Scott Alexander not only endorsed the book, but he also wrote the foreword.


Learn More About Chad Peterson


Meet Chad Peterson & Peterson Acquisitions

Phil Singleton:  Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast. I’m your host, Phil Singleton. Today our featured guest is Chad Peterson, founder and CEO at Peterson Acquisitions, an award-winning M&A firm. Chad Peterson is an expert business broker that helps business owners sell their businesses and move on to new business opportunities. Chad, welcome to the show.

Chad Peterson:  Thanks, Phil.

Phil Singleton:  First before we start talking and digging into the nitty-gritty about what you do and how you help companies sell their business, tell us a little bit about your background as an entrepreneur, a little bit about your beginnings. What got you into the business world and your journey basically and to become a business broker?

Chad Peterson:  I hate to go all the way back to childhood because I know we don’t have that time and I don’t think everybody wants to hear it, but in short, I was that kid that was always doing something. Before I was even strong enough to push a lawnmower, I was doing it. I’ve always been an enterpriser. Business for self has always been my deal. I knew the school wasn’t for me. I knew that it didn’t have … The education I need was not in those walls. I was always trying to figure out a way to make my own money and follow my own sword, so to speak.

Chad Peterson:  I built several companies. Even just as a young kid, I sold my first company when I was 19 years old and moved on to flight school, became a pilot and lost my career in 911. In fact, I was flying an airplane while 911 happened, about 15 minutes from where George W. Bush had Air Force One parked, and my flying career was over, and so it was back to, well, what do I do now? I just went back to my self-employed roots and started a company and had 120 employees, and I ended up missing the boat on selling it before the ’08 crash. At that point, it just sparked a real big passion inside of me to make sure that I went out there and let people know about timing and selling their business, and when is the time to sell your business?

Chad Peterson:  I started helping people package their business up and sell it because I’ve built and sold several companies of my own. I know it inside and out. A dear friend of mine just told me very lightly, it was just such a soft suggestion, he said, “Chad, you’re so good at this. Why don’t you help other people do it?” That’s when it really got created, because I had never thought about helping other people do that. I was always doing it for myself. Long story short is I built and sold companies my entire life. I know exactly what business owners go through. Really I think what every business owner faces is burnout and boredom. It’s right around then that you want to sell your business.

Chad Peterson:  What I can do is I can take somebody that has done well. They’ve built it. They’ve made themselves good money. They’ve really done well, but their passion is waning and they’re getting bored. They’re getting burnout. That’s when I want to sell what they’ve built and get that business owner on to a new opportunity. I always tell people, I don’t retire people. Those that think that they’re going to retire and get a new set of golf clubs and golf every day, that doesn’t work. People get miserable. Everybody has to keep working. Everybody has passions they have to pursue. I don’t retire people. I just get them on to a bigger and better thing, something they’re more passionate about, something that gets them out of bed every day because they want to go to work.

Chad Peterson:  It’s not about retiring. It’s not about giving up. It’s about finishing well. I’ve done that for myself countless times and moved on to other ventures that I’m more passionate about. That’s what my passion is. I’m passionate about helping people sell what they’ve built and move on to something else.

Phil Singleton:  That’s so awesome. Tell me a little bit about that because one thing I think is really interesting about you, Chad, is that you don’t fit the typical profile of I think what many of us would think as a stuffed shirt M&A finance person that probably has never actually run a business or have been in the trenches type of thing. When I read about you and when we talked in the past, one of the things I know about you is you actually built businesses, main street businesses too, not just fly by night internet type things just as a hobby but actually built real businesses with employees that built real things.

Chad Peterson:  Right.

Not Your Typical Stuffed Shirt Business Broker

Phil Singleton:  How has that served you and how has that do you think make you different I think than the typical business broker out there, at least the typical impression other people have about the industry that you’re in?

Chad Peterson:   That’s a great question. To my surprise, I have not met anybody in this industry that can even compete with me. That sounds like a very braggadocious statement. That sounds very pompous, but the fact is that most people that are in my industry, they might have been a VP somewhere. They might have been a C-level executive somewhere. They might have had a good management job or perhaps they were in the real estate business, didn’t do too well and then saved up enough money where they could go work for a firm such as mine and survived maybe a year without a paycheck because in order to get in this industry, you do have to have some savings because you don’t have a book of business. You really have to really work hard to get that book of business. People just don’t have the grit that I have, period.

Chad Peterson:  I’ve been self-employed my whole life. Hard work, that’s just what I know. I’m not trying to be a jerk or anything, but the people in my industry, there’s no competition. These guys are in the office around 8:00 AM, maybe 7:30 even, and nobody wants to hear from anybody at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, not in our industry. They usually take lunch around 11:30. They take an hour and a half lunch, come back to the office, and they’re usually having a cocktail by 2:00 PM. That’s who they are. Typical profile of a business broker is mid-50s, maybe even getting into his 60s, not highly motivated. Maybe they’ll close two or three deals a year, and they can make a living, and that’s what they’re happy doing. That’s not who I am.

Chad Peterson:  I do more deals individually than anybody out there, and I’ll put my money on that. I work nonstop. I love what I do. I’m passionate about what I do. It’s one thing to be a broker, and to get two people put together and be looking for a commission and letting those two people work it out and seeing what happens. That’s not what I do either. I get two people together and, number one, I start with the right people. I don’t bring on the wrong sellers, and I certainly don’t introduce the wrong buyer to the wrong seller. I make sure it’s a match first because guess what? The bank is going to do that too. Why would I waste my time? I get the right buyer and the right seller put together, and then I teach both of them through the process to get to the finish line. I assist them in creating a friendship.

Chad Peterson:    I told a guy just last week, I said, “Jim, treat this gentleman like he’s your best friend because when was the last time that even a great friend put $1 million in your pocket?” His answer was, “Nobody has ever put $1 million in my pocket.” I said to him, “This guy is your best friend.”

Chad Peterson:  I make sure that people approach the transaction properly. I’m very hands-on. I’m in the mix. I’m making sure that the buyer and seller are on the same page and we’re getting to the banking process, and I’m not checking out at 2 PM to go have drinks, and I’m not putting in three-hour work days. I think there are two types of hunters. The guys that are sitting in the lodge talking about that one that got away, and the guy that’s out there taking thorns in the side because he’s out there hunting it down and trying to get things done. I’m never going to be the guy-

Phil Singleton:   Yeah. Let me bring it home for you here on this because what I think … Look. I’ve never actually sold one of my own business. I guess sold some parts of businesses before and have been involved in some transactions, but my main point here is this. You got to have somebody that’s really confident working for you. You want a killer. You want somebody that’s really confident that they believe that they’re the best at what they do because who wants to work with somebody who’s not, especially in your field?

90% Closing Rate

Phil Singleton:   One statistic I want to bring in here I think that really, really brings this home, and that is, I think I picked this up on your website or some other industry thing I was reading here recently, is I think the industry average for a sell side business broker engagement is somewhere around 11, 10 to 25% closure rate, and yours is up around 90%. Well, I don’t think you get into that level without being an absolute killer.

Chad Peterson:    Yeah. There’s a few reasons for that. I do close 90% of what I bring on. There’s a little catch there. I don’t bring people on … I have criteria to bring people on. Just because you have a business, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to bring you on as a client. You have to have something that I know that I can sell, something that I can match up a buyer with. I would say as far as my competence level and what I know and how I go about it, I am head and shoulders above the competition. I’m relentless. I don’t give up. I make sure that the business gets sold, but more than that, I do it with integrity.

Chad Peterson:   I do it to make sure that the banks don’t have a loss, that the buyer doesn’t put his family’s life on the line with these banks, with the SBA loans and everything else to have their houses repossessed, things like that. I make sure that never happens. In all the deals that I have ever done, I’ve never had a single failure. That means that I could call any buyer out of all the businesses that I’ve sold, and all it is say hi, check in and just have a good conversation. I’ve not had one loan go bad. Not only do I close 90% of what I bring on, I make sure it’s a good fit. Yes, absolutely.

Chad Peterson:   It goes back to your previous question though, comparing me to other brokers. I got to tell you, folks, whoever is listening. Most brokers will bring on any business because there’s no downside. It’s all upside. If they bring you on to sell your business, they don’t have any skin in the game. They’ll say, “Yeah, sure, we’ll try to get it sold.” Next thing you know, your competitors know that you’re selling. They’re sending out mass emails. Everybody knows that you’re selling, and that’s an improper way to go about it. I don’t do that. I make sure that whenever I go to sell a business, I use more of a rifle approach rather than a shotgun blast approach. I work with individual buyers and individual sellers and non-disclosures and discretion is always held to the highest degree because I want to make sure that nobody knows those businesses are for sale, and the competitors don’t know that you’re selling.

Chad Peterson:   That’s what really separates me. It’s tenacity. It’s integrity. It’s also my approach. Just not letting everybody know that it’s for sale. Like I said, I’m head and shoulders above my competition.

Dealing With Business Seller’s Emotions

Phil Singleton:    Well, let’s segue into something else because you touched on a couple of things that I think of as a business owner who will eventually sell my business someday, and that is my business is my life’s work. It’s my masterpiece. If I’m going to sell it, I want to sell it to the right person or somebody that’s not going to maybe pick it apart. Maybe some people don’t feel that way. Maybe they do. I’m thinking about how I think about my own business. I’m going to probably be a little bit emotional about selling it, and I probably would need some guidance. Is that unique? Is that me? Do you feel other people have that same feeling about their business? They’ve lost their passion or they’re just trying to get rid of it like an unwanted stepchild. How does that work?

Chad Peterson:    As direct as I am and as forceful as I can sound, I’ve got a whole lot of bedside manner, so to speak, when it comes to working with business owners because, to agree with what you’ve said, this is not just selling your business. This is like putting your kid up for adoption. It’s something that’s taken more time, more money, more investment, more emotional investment, financial investment, risk. It really has been everything to a business owner. It’s their dream. It’s their vision and everything. Now that they’re not as passionate about it, they decide to sell, well, it’s like their baby.

Phil Singleton:   It’s still important to them, right?

Chad Peterson:   It’s like an adoption. You want to find the right buyer for it. A lot of my job is navigating that seller to let go of his or her business because to your point, it’s what you built. It’s like your baby. I do have a lot of bedside manner to get people over the emotional humps to get them to the ultimate goal, which is to sell when they’re doing well and to get them into something else that’s more suitable to their current passions.

No One Ever Really Retires

Phil Singleton:  What percentage do you think of the people that you work with actually move on to another business versus some that “maybe try to retire” for a couple of months until they pull their hair out or is it pretty much all of them?

Chad Peterson:   I’ve never had anybody retire. It was about two years ago. I sold a drug and DNA testing company down in Texas. He intended on retiring, and I really believed he was going to retire. He was in his late 60s. He sold the business and less than a year later, he called me back and said, “Chad, what else do you have on board?” The one that I was betting on retiring, he didn’t retire. He called me back and wanted to get started. The gentleman that bought his company paid cash for it, and it was a lot of money, and paid cash for it, and he was 73 or 74 years old. I just don’t see people retiring. If anybody knows, it’s me because I’m at the forefront of selling businesses, that people actually don’t retire. They don’t. They got to stay busy.

Phil Singleton:   Awesome. Let’s get into some nitty gritty questions about how this stuff is actually done. You mentioned about buying and selling businesses. I’ve talked to you in the past earlier about, hey, I’ve got some interests myself. When somebody wants to, like a small business owner or a business owner or anybody else wants to buy a business, what are the ways that they actually end up buying one from somebody who is selling? Is it their owner financed a lot when people are selling? Are people buying them for cash? Are there loans involved? How is it you break out from … I know it’s probably a whole mix of everything, but I’m just curious what the typical percentages are that way?

Chad Peterson:   Well, a cash buyer is like Bigfoot. I’m sure it exists, but they’re seldom seen. Out of all the deals that I’ve done, I’ve done two cash deals. I can’t tell you what the percentage would be, but it’s definitely less than 1%. You can’t bet on a cash deal. Number one, money is too cheap. You can go to the bank right now and borrow money. Number two, people just don’t have that kind of cash lying around. If you go to buy a business for $1 million, you’re not going to write a check for that. You’re going to go to the bank. You’re going to get a note on it, and you’re going to pay the debt service because the company is going to be generating enough cash that it pays the debt service.

Chad Peterson:  As far as seller financing or owner financed, there is always a component of that, but it’s usually only 10% maximum 20% of the purchase price.

Phil Singleton:  Why is that? Are there people that just want to be out or that’s just a common way to keep people involved? Why is that?

Chad Peterson:   Well, there are a couple of reasons. There are different vantage points. I could give you three reasons from different vantage points, but the main reason that the banks like them is because the bank knows that the seller isn’t going to walk off into the sunset. Let’s just say the bank wrote $1 million check. The bank wants to know that the seller just isn’t going to walk off in the sunset and not train the buyer properly.

Phil Singleton:   Got you.

Chad Peterson:    The bank is always going to ask for a 10% seller carry. Let’s just say it’s $1 million business. The seller still owed $100,000 so the bank feels pretty confident knowing that the seller has to ensure the buyer’s success and give the buyer a good transition. That’s why the banks like them.

Phil Singleton:   Are they expected to exit out of the 10% over time or are they expected to just hang onto it?

Chad Peterson:   No. The 10% seller carry is usually on a one-year standby. The seller wouldn’t get paid for the first year, sometimes two. It’s usually put on a 24 to 36-month note after that. Let’s just say you’re a seller and you carry $100,000. You should expect to get your payment back in 36 to 60 months with 7% or 8% annual percentage rate with this type of that note.

Phil Singleton:    Most people are going out and putting some money down, 10, 20%. Is that right? What does it look like?

Chad Peterson:   Yeah. Typically as a buyer, you’re going to come in and put 10% down, and then the seller will carry maybe 5%, maybe 10%, and then the bank is willing to go in on the 85 or the 80% at that point.

Phil Singleton:    Is it any bank?

Chad Peterson:   No, it’s definitely not any bank. These banks’ climates change all the time. Banks that I was really doing a lot of business with last year, their climate has changed now. It comes and it goes. A good broker like myself, an expert business broker should know where to go to get these loans. Like I said, right now, I’m in the middle of it right now. There’s a local bank that has done countless deals for me. The last one that I sent to them, I barely got done and I just thought it was that deal alone. Now I’m in the middle of this one. Actually, I’m almost done with it, but they’ve gotten so tight that part of my job is that I’ve got to go find the banks that are hungry and have an appetite for loans. Otherwise, it wastes everybody’s time.

Chad Peterson:   No, not every bank, Phil. A good business broker is going to know where to go to place these loans. That’s again what separates.

Phil Singleton:    What does the business owner look like? How long is it … What are the length of the terms usually?

Chad Peterson:   A business loan is usually 10 years, unless there’s real estate involved. If there’s real estate involved, there are some things to consider there. As a general rule, you’re looking at 18 to 20 years on a term if there’s real estate involved. If there’s not real estate involved, you’re pretty much looking at a 10-year term.

Phil Singleton:   Is there a range of percentage rates on what the business loan would go? Is it-

Chad Peterson:  It’s usually 2.5% plus prime. Right now, I think that’s right at 8%, somewhere in there.

Phil Singleton:   Is it possible to pay them off earlier? Are there all sorts of things like that or you can’t do that?

Chad Peterson:   Yeah, you can pay it off early. Yeah, you can.

How Much is Your Company Worth?

Phil Singleton:   Awesome. That’s really, really good info. Tell us a little bit about some of the type. Obviously, confidentiality, you can’t get into the exact names, but I’m really interested. There’s a lot of people that are listening to this podcast right now that are business owners. A lot of them are probably going to be agency owners. Some of them just traditional maybe home services or main street small business owners. If you’re ball-parking something, what is my business worth, I guess, so to speak? I know there’s a lot of factors into it, but if somebody is trying to ballpark something like, okay, I’ve got a digital agency. Can you give us some insight about is it worth anything? How much is it worth? What will be good to be start thinking about?

Chad Peterson:   Well, it’s an interesting question, and I want to preface this with this is a ballpark, and this is a general rule of thumb. All you listeners out there, your business is roughly worth three times cash flow, or another word to use is seller’s discretionary earnings. What is cash flow or what is seller’s discretionary earnings? Cash flow or seller’s discretionary earnings is the bottom line. It’s your salary, plus the company profit, plus your cellphone usage, meals, entertainment, travel, 401(k) contributions, IRAs, key man life insurance, automobile payments, automobile maintenance, fuel that you put in your car for personal use, personal expenditures on credit cards, things of that nature.

Chad Peterson:  What we do is we go through the tax returns and then what we do is we add any add backs. It’s called recasting the cash flow or recasting the tax returns. We go to what those business owners can write off in accordance to IRS tax code, and we add that back in as an owner benefit. Let’s just say that I came up with $200,000 in seller’s discretionary earnings, which could be $150,000 of that could be salary and company earnings.

Phil Singleton:  Is this pre-tax or post-tax?  Is that before or after tax?

Chad Peterson:  Well,  the personal income tax for a seller is added back in, but the bottom dollar is cash flow. We use that number. Let’s just say you’re living a $200,000 lifestyle out of your business. As a general rule of thumb, your business would be worth 3X. That puts us to $600,000. If your company is earning between you and the company and all owner benefits comes to 200 grand, your business will be worth $600,000 as a general rule of thumb. It changes. That multiple can go up. It can go from three up. It can also go down as well. If you’re on a business that is not highly marketable, if you’re in a business that has a lot of problems with keeping employees, that multiple can go down to say 2.75 or 2.5.

Phil Singleton:   There are all sorts of variables. It’s a total ballpark.

Chad Peterson:   Yeah, there are all sorts of variables. Guess what? If you’re in a business that you can run from a laptop and there’s freedom involved and you get away from corporate America and being chained to your cubicle, you can get as high as 5X depending on earnings. Anytime that you get above $500,000 in cash flow, your multiplier will go up.

Phil Singleton:   Wow.

Chad Peterson:   There are all sorts of little things, but as a general rule, 3X is what I tell people, depending on how sexy your business is, depending on how much that multiplier can be raised or lowered.

Phil Singleton:   Some might have recurring income that’s coming in. That’s got to be more attractive than people that are just getting fixed businesses, I guess. I would think so. That would probably add and things like that. I’m still a little bit confused. Sorry if I’m being dense on this, but let’s say somebody earned $300,000 as a business owner and paid $100,000 in taxes and took home and lived off 200,000. I’m still confused. 3X of what? Is it 300 or 200?

Chad Peterson:   The federal taxes would be an add-back. It’s hard to answer that question, but they’re not going to pay $100,000 in taxes. How do I answer that? Basically, we take the top line revenue minus your cost of goods sold and then add back … I’m sorry. Take off all your operating expenditures, and then add back the owner salary, and then add back the federal taxes, payroll taxes for the owner. If there’s any rent regarding real estate, we add that back in as well, any disparity. If you’re making $2,000 a month off your rent, that would be a $24,000 add back. We add back anything that the company is paying for that is personal benefit like automobile, 401(k), all that.

Chad Peterson:   The cash flow, to answer your question, is based off of the top line revenue minus expenses and then adding back everything that’s a lifestyle. The individual taxes that that person paid income tax, that’s a separate issue. It’s based off the corporation and then whatever the income tax, the federal income tax of the principal owner would be added back to that. It would be an apples to apples comparison. Yes.

Phil Singleton:    That’s awesome. Again, as a general rule of thumb, somebody is thinking, well, we’re talking about dental, lawyer, home services agency, anybody.

Chad Peterson:   Yeah. I’ve sold digital agencies. I’ve sold countless service companies, service-related companies, home service companies. I’ve sold a law firm. I’ve sold an accounting firm. I’ve sold manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, parts manufacturers, restaurants, hotels, foundation companies, roofing companies, any type of service-related business.

Phil Singleton:   There’s just no end.

Chad Peterson:   There’s no end. Yeah, no end.

Phil Singleton:    Talk a little bit about, bringing home with this and wrap up with this. Of course, a lot of our listeners are going to be agency owners. Like I said, there are some small businesses, a lot of business owners out there too. Just from your perspective, how do you see marketing playing a role in the companies that … particularly if somebody is going to buy a business or even selling it. Does it help to have a business that has good lead generation in place, has a good online reputation, maybe has been working on their reviews? Does that factor in at all? I could see as a potential buyer, geez, if somebody has been in business for 20 years and has 105 star reviews online and I can see that they’re getting a lot of leads coming from all sorts of different areas, that would be more attractive to me than maybe coming into one source. I think everybody has got a different angle.

Does Marketing & Reputation Help Sellers?

Phil Singleton:   Maybe some people are just looking at, what does the financials tell us type of thing and just make a calculation based off how much money it’s running. Talk a little bit about that. The marketers out there, of course, are going to want to hear that marketing helps, but maybe it doesn’t. Tell us how it goes.

Chad Peterson:   Yeah. It’s a strange deal where I can’t ever place my finger on what makes somebody buy a business. Everybody has their own passions and desires and interests. Sometimes I look at a business, and to me, I’m just like, what the hell? Why would anybody want this? There’s a market out there for it, and there’s somebody who is passionate about that. I remember selling a circuit board company, and I thought, who in the hell would want to buy a circuit board company? To my surprise, people … I had geeks coming out of the woodwork. It was unbelievable. What somebody wants to buy is … I just quit even looking at it anymore. I don’t even make my own judgment on it anymore. If it’s making money and somebody wants to sell, there’s usually somebody else out there that would like to have it.

Chad Peterson:   As far as the marketing, I find that everybody I speak to has a marketing problem. Literally everybody that I speak to. Everybody should be spending 10% of their gross revenue on marketing, and almost nobody that I see does it. Yes, marketing … People that have a real strong marketing budget, 10% of what they bring in grows. They’re the ones that are winning, always. A big thing today that people don’t really pay attention to is reputation management. It used to be … and I don’t mean not too long ago. Even just six or seven years ago, it used to be, well, are you a member of the BBB? I’m not saying that the Better Business Bureau has no relevance. It just doesn’t have much relevance. 15 years ago, it used to be let me look you up in the Yellow Pages. I’m not trying to say to the Yellow Pages doesn’t have any relevancy, but not very much anymore.

Chad Peterson:   It’s reputation management between Google and Yelp. These are things that people really need to be paying attention to. As long as business owners are focusing on the reputation and doing business right, and people are going online to report that they’re doing it right, I think that’s a big thing. I think if you can get your customers to go online, and hopefully you don’t have to ask them because they’re just great people and they want to go online and give you a good review, but more often than not, you have to ask them to go on there. I think that’s one of the crucial key components of selling your business, to have a really good reputation out there.

Chad Peterson:   If somebody is thinking about selling their business, I usually tell them they’re at least a year or two late to actually engaging in the process. They should be having a reputation tip top. They should have a great reputation online, any cleanup … I’ve seen people go and get reviews removed by just taking care of the customer. If it’s a service company, let’s just say it’s a hardwood floor company for instance, and a message got dropped, somebody didn’t go out there to fix it, whatever. Because people are 12 times more likely to go online and slander you than they are to give you a good review. If somebody slanders you online, whether you did something right or wrong, you have to call that customer and see if you can take care of them in some way and kindly ask them to remove the review because it is everything.

Chad Peterson:   To answer your question, yes, reputation management, making sure you have a good reputation online is everything anymore. It really is.

Phil Singleton:    Actually in your business, it’s probably just going to get bigger and bigger because look, you’re going to sell a business. It’s not just to sell a business, they’re going to sell it to a buyer, and the buyer is just a buyer, a bigger buyer. They’re going to do their homework and due diligence. A lot of it is going to be done online. I can assume that they’re going to look up-

Chad Peterson:   I think frankly … Well, here, there are two ways to look at it, Phil. You can go buy a company that’s already ranking on Google. If you search organically and, boom, they pop up and they’re number one or number two, man, that’s attractive. It really is.

Chad Peterson:   There’s also another way to look at it too though. Let’s just say you run an organic search for that industry in your town and let’s say they don’t pop up. Let’s just say they’re popping up on page number two. Well, that’s also good because that shows that there’s room for more growth. There’s room opportunity.

Phil Singleton:    Well, you just got me fired up here. You got me fired up. A lot of the people that you’re talking about aren’t even spending the 5% or 10% they should be to be the market leader even maybe. Well, look, if you can come in as a buyer and all of a sudden just get a real marketing and marketing partner or a marketing plan in place on your own and willing to buy the company, invest what it can be to reach its potential. You could literally take somebody that’s built a business probably the hard way on the old, making the personal connections, word of mouth, all that kind of stuff without spending a whole bunch on marketing. You go in there and fuel it with a real professional marketing plan. It won’t take you too long to take that million or $2 million business you took to maybe to 5 million pretty quickly.

Chad Peterson:    Exactly. Yeah. As I read in your book, SEO for Growth, the best place to hide a dead body is on page number two on Google. Sometimes those are good businesses to buy because they’re not doing the marketing and they still have a book of business. Let’s just say you can go buy a business that’s making a half million dollars a year. By the way, I think it’s important for your listeners to understand this because we’re throwing all these numbers out there. Let’s drill down on this real quick so your viewers or your listeners understand.

Chad Peterson:   Let’s just say you bought … Remember 3X, three times cash flow. If they’re going to buy a $600,000 business, theoretically that should pay them $200,000 in earnings annually. Here’s the good news. If you want to go buy a $600,000 business, it only takes you as a buyer 10% of that, $60,000 to go buy that $200,000 a year job, so to speak. If you can find one that doesn’t have a good strong marketing budget in it that has room for growth, I call it selling the deficiencies. Find one that’s deficient in marketing and just break it wide open because if you come to it with passion and marketing, you can do 10 times more than what the current owner is because the current owner is burnout and bored.

Chad Peterson:   That’s really what I do. I take people that are burnt out and bored and replace them with somebody who’s passionate. Almost every time, I see the numbers go up. As long as they’re willing to spend the money to put the marketing in and they’re passionate about it, I see the numbers skyrocket.

Phil Singleton:  Huge. Well, we’re going to wrap it up on that. Chad, this has just been so awesome. Tell our listeners where you hang out online in terms of where they can follow you, your website address, and how they can get in touch with you.

Chad Peterson:   Yeah. I’m really easy to get in touch with. No matter what I’m doing and where I’m at, this cellphone is like a shot collar and I’m not hard to reach. If you just go to www.petersonacquisitions.com, fill out the contact page. Like I said, I love the work. I’m responsive. I tell people I work nine days a week and they say, wait a minute, there’s only seven. I said, no, I think I work nine. I’m always working. Saturdays, Sundays, it doesn’t matter. I’m always responsive. Go to petersonacquisitions.com. Contact me and let’s start talking.

Phil Singleton:  That’s so awesome. I recommend everybody to go check out your website. Whether or not you’re ready to sell your business right now, if you want to learn on what steps to maybe learn a little bit more about how to prep your business for sale and just get some more great information about the business broker in this whole process, please visit his website because I’ve already learned a ton. Chad, thanks again. This has been so awesome and hope to have you on again at some point.

Chad Peterson:   Hey, thank you, Phil.


How to Get Business Coaching Clients with ActionCOACH Brad Sugars

Brad Sugars started the ActionCOACH brand when he was in his early twenties!

Today the company is internationally recognized as the leading global business coaching firm and one of the leading and most awarded franchises in the world today.

So how did a twenty-something Australian create this global powerhouse? He did it through hard work, determination and a well-organized, systemized approach that leads businesses to profits.

Brad Sugars has always been entrepreneurial. Even from a very young age, Brad was an entrepreneur. He displayed a natural curiosity for how to work smarter and get measurable results. When still at university, Brad Sugars ran several small businesses. Perhaps due in part to his talents which were developed at a relatively young age, Brad’s ability to make companies from every conceivable industry flourish lead him to be known as “The Turnaround Kid”.

Brad Sugars was soon asked to speak to business owners and executives – sharing his tips and advice on marketing, sales, systemization and team building. Audiences were wowed. Brad’s “pull no-punches” approach was a refreshing change from other speakers at the time.

Today, ActionCOACH operates in over 70 countries and has more than 1,000 coaches around the world, coaching 15,000 business every week. The franchise has received numerous awards including Fastest Growing Franchise, Franchisee Satisfaction, Best Overall Company and has been named the number one business coaching franchise in the world every year since 2004.


Learn More About Brad Sugars & ActionCOACH


Meet Brad Sugars | ActionCOACH Founder & Chairman

Phil Singleton:  Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast. I’m your host, Phil Singleton. Today our featured guest is Brad Sugars. Brad is the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH, the world’s number one business coaching company. He started ActionCOACH because he saw business owners needed simple how-to and strategies to grow their cashflow and profits and many simply didn’t know what they didn’t know, leading to struggles with their time, teams and money. Brad, welcome to the show.

Brad Sugars:   Hey buddy, it’s great to be with you.

Phil Singleton:   This is going to be awesome. So the first thing I can lead off with is just give us your story, your first steps out of school or what have you, into the business world and you’ve got a really successful business. You’re an influencer or an authority in your space. But I’m sure there might have been a few stumbles here and there along the way. I’d love to hear your journey from getting started to building your empire.

Brad Sugars:   Yeah, look, I think that all of us ended up in business by some sort of an accident, a stumble, a fall or a, “Hey, let’s just make a crazy decision.” I was one of those young people that I got into this business real early and I did it because while I was a kid in Adelaide in South Australia growing up and it’s cold in the winter and I had to deliver the newspaper every morning. And so I employed seven of my friends. They delivered the newspapers and I just manage the business. I thought this is a much better way to do it, but it got a little more complex. So I became an accountant by training. I never actually worked as an accountant. I’m very proud of that fact. But I’ve started businesses all my life and most of what I did was bought broken companies and fixed them early on.

Brad Sugars:  So I’d buy a pizza business that someone was running badly, I’d get in and fix it and then sell that business. It led to me succeeding pretty early. So people say, “Well, how do you do that? What are you doing?” So I started speaking and very quickly fell in love with teaching and all of a sudden here we are, 26 years later, we’re an overnight success. ActionCOACH coaches business owners in 78 countries. And it’s now published 17 books on the subject. So we got overnight success, my friend.

Phil Singleton:  That’s awesome. That’s so awesome. You’d mentioned your book and I know you’ve been a part of or written several of them and you’ve got a recent one. Tell us about your experience as a writer and your latest book.

Brad Sugars:  Yeah, I think being a writer… Actually, I started writing for one simple reason. I got sick of teaching the same material and I thought that if I write it in a book, I won’t ever have to teach it again. Little did I realize that the more you write it in a book, the more you’ve actually got to teach it. It’s like the band with the great song, you’ve gotta play it at every single concert type thing.

Brad Sugars:  So this latest one, about two years ago, a bit over two years ago now, actually, a buddy of mine was sitting at lunch and he runs a very large corporation. He says to me, “Brad, it just seems like magic the way some of these companies like Ikea and Amazon, it just seems like magic the way they keep growing.” And I looked at him and I said, “You don’t mean that for real do you?” He said, “Well, sort of.”

Pulling Profits Out of a Hat

Brad Sugars:  So I sat down, I said, “You know, it’s a formula the way they do it.” So over the last two years we looked at all of our clients around the world who are growing at an exponential rate, meaning year on year multiplied growth and sat down and said, “What are they doing the same? What are they doing similar?” And just as a joke to my friend, we ended up calling and pulling profits out of a hat. So it was kind of like a reference to the whole magic thing that he was mentioning.

Phil Singleton: And that’s the latest book that you’ve written?

Brad Sugars:   That’s the latest one, yeah, buddy. That’s… what’s that, 390-odd pages. You know when it gets to you because it weighs two-and-a-bit pounds. So it’s a heavy one.

Phil Singleton:  So the books that you’ve written before, were those out of your organization or did you write, read as the author on the 17 projects that you mentioned?

Brad Sugars:   Yeah, so I find that writing for me… I’m not a great typist so I actually record all my books and then get someone to transcribe them and then I can edit them from there myself. But I find that when I talk it through, the logic comes out. Because one of the hardest things about teaching is actually getting down in a methodology and a format that someone else can understand why you do what you do and what it is that you do. It’s actually relatively tough to come up. And I remember very early on it was like, “Well how do I do what I do? What is the method?” And so that’s why pretty much everything I’ve done, I’ve tried to break it down into a very simple model for people so people can understand it relatively quickly.

Phil Singleton:   So you wrote this last book and that’s the reason I’m kind of drilling down this little bit is because it sounds like you were a part of book projects or writing before it became the cool thing to do. Like, for example, I’ve written a couple of books now and mostly I’ve done it for not really selling the book so much as trying to build my own authority and credibility. Of course, as you know, it’s really… And you’re in a different space because you’re a true influencer in the niche of coaching, business coaching around the world and globally. But for guys like us that are on the ground building stuff, trying to open doors up when you’ve written a book or been in part of a book project, I can lay that in front of somebody.

Phil Singleton:  It’s almost like they’re holding credibility in your hands. Right. So that’s kind of why I started and I wrote my first book. So it’s a little bit different than what you’ve done. But I’d love to hear your take on, for instance, for the guys that are part of your ActionCOACH network, do you see some of the coaches writing their own books for authority and expertise and trust building and that kind of thing? How do you think that fits into coaching or an agency type of business?

Brad Sugars:   You know, I see a lot of people that use books for knowledge, for really a credibility build. And I think it’s a wonderful thing for credibility build. Because if you can read someone’s thoughts and it’s kind of like one of those things, if you can read the way someone thinks and you go “I think the same way and I think I could learn something from this person,” and it definitely helps out.

Brad Sugars:    I would say a book is probably one of the best brochures there is for understanding the thinking of someone that you want to work with or someone that you want to learn from or someone that you want to grow through. And I think that’s always going to be the case. That being said, I see most of my team writing their books because they have a message that they want to get out there to the marketplace, a message. Most of my team around the world, they’ve joined me because they all live in the same passion that I do and that is those business owners… Executives and entrepreneurs are some of the loneliest jobs in the world. When you’re a high-level person in a business, it’s hard. There’s not a lot of people to chat with. And so a lot of the coaches that work on my team are there because they want to help people. And a book is really an extension of that.

Brad Sugars:  For me it’s always been about what is the systematic methodology by which something can create success? So, for instance, one of my earlier books, The Business Coach, I actually wrote that book after we had coached I think it was around 13,000 business owners to success back then. And I wrote the book, which was, “This is the methodology we use to help business people grow their business.” I find it interesting that people go into business for themselves without learning the formula for business success. It’s like, “Come on, if you’re going to open your own shop, at least learn how to run the whole own thing and make it successful.”

Is Everyone “Coachable”

Phil Singleton:  That’s interesting because I even think of myself, when I first got my agency started, I don’t know, getting the first, maybe couple hundred, $500,000, $600,000 in sales, maybe. I felt, I guess, at that point looking back I was kind of uncoachable because you feel like you can do everything. Then you maybe get up into the… And, again, I’m in a different businesses, I guess we’re probably at a different level.

Brad Sugars:  Yeah.

Phil Singleton:   You get to a point obviously where you hit that kind of classic E-Myth stuff, and it’s like, “Well maybe I do need some coaching. It’s getting a little bit harder for me to manage all these pieces,” and then you can go to somebody else. I’ve kind of seen that myself over the years. But do you find that some people, or do you think your coaches find that some people are kind of uncoachable? Do they have to be coachable? And you see that at different levels or does the business kind of knock people over the head? You know at some point you need help.

Brad Sugars:  Yeah. I think that pretty much everyone is coachable. The question is, do they have the coach that suits their personality style or their profile or the way that they like to work? I think one of the biggest challenges with coaching is that it is such a personal relationship. You are letting someone in to the secrets of your business. You’re letting someone into the inner sanctum.

Phil Singleton:  Totally. I can totally identify with that because that’s my-

Brad Sugars:   You’ve got to trust. You’ve got to know, like, and trust that person. And I think that for my team around the world, one of the big things is that what helps them a lot with their clients is their clients understand that here we are in 78 countries, ActionCOACH has more than a thousand offices around the world doing this. People get a bit of a trust factor and they realize, “Hey, there must be a system behind this. There must be a system for success.”

Brad Sugars:  But I think the other thing, Phil, when you go and get a coach, a lot of businesspeople see that as an acknowledgment or a “Look, I’ve got to give up and admit that I need help,” where it’s exactly the opposite. In the early stages of coaching people would say to me, “Coaching, is that like consulting?” I said, “Yeah, it’s like that only we work once a week and I coach you in how do you get better, not do the work for you.” And then people eventually say, “Oh, they’re failing, they should get a coach.” I think we’ve seen a transition in the last three to five years of people understanding that if you want to be great, not just good, then you need a coach. We see big examples of this from CEOs of Google and Yahoo and Ford Motor car company all talking about their coaches and people going, “Oh, well maybe this makes sense for me now.”

Phil Singleton:  For an ActionCOACH coach, let’s say, what’s the typical ideal client? Is it from small, is it a medium size? You mentioned it could go all the way up to Fortune 500. I’m just curious.

Brad Sugars:  Yeah, we work with everyone from the smallest entrepreneur to the largest executive because we’ve got such a large team. We have someone to suit every level of coaching. But like a brand-new startup, they can come and join us at some of our programs that are only a $100 a month. So it’s really not that hard for a brand-new start up. When you come in at the highest levels, the information we have in pulling profits, we have 12-week programs that we go into major corporates and help them rethink certain areas of their business to help them rethink the business overall.

Brad Sugars:  Because executive coaching is about helping the executive get real good at their job. Corporate business coaching is about the corporation rethinking how they’re going to make money and re-looking at their business and saying, “What do we need to do? How do we apply the five disciplines of pulling profits to make our organization an exponential growth business?” Then in the middle you’ve got those small to medium sized companies who, they are the vast majority of businesses in the world. The vast majority of companies in the world are the small to medium. So we coach all of them as well.

Brad Sugars:  I think that one of the keys to my success with ActionCOACH was making certain that we could help every business person, whether you’re the highest-ranking executive in the biggest company or you’re the brand-new startup entrepreneur with very little money to get going. I made sure we had a way to educate every single level and coach every single level. So it’s kind of that chicken and the egg thing, buddy. In the beginning I would’ve said, “Yeah, just those small to mid sized companies.” Now we have programs to suit every business.

What Are the Best Ways to Get Coaching Clients & Leads?

Phil Singleton:  That’s awesome. I’m going to wrap up with this question because this is one of the things I think that a lot of people are… I don’t want to say struggling with these days, but it’s definitely probably one of the hottest topics is just lead generation in general. Like how to get leads, where to get leads from. What are some of the key ways that ActionCOACH coaches get their new clients? Is that speaking, are they doing their own website stuff? What do you see your team, how they’re successfully getting new clients?

Brad Sugars:  Yeah. D, all of the above.

Phil Singleton:  Definitively doing it all.

Brad Sugars:  Well, the way we work it is when they first start out, they’re going to be working short term strategies. So your short term strategies, your direct marketing strategies, whether it be direct mail, direct phone, but it’s real direct strategies type thing. Then you move to the midterm where you start to say, “Okay, now we’ve got to move to the more social and the more content based, have them start to find you,” type thing. And more strategic partnerships.

Brad Sugars:    And then we moved to the ultimate in the longer-term strategies where it’s about the brand and all of those sorts of things, creating the books and that type of stuff. So we use all three. We love seminars, we love webinars, we love any content-based marketing because the reality is someone may or may not be able to start with you today, but if you can give them some good content, at least they start making some more money and they’re around.

Brad Sugars:  I always live by a very simple thing. All of my coaches everywhere in the world all do five hours a week of pro bono work, four hours with business owners that need help, one hour each, and one hour with a charity every single week to make certain that we get the information out there. And I’ve found that by chatting with business owners for free, some of them come on board, some of them don’t. But at least we help them make some more money so that when they are making more money, they can afford to jump on a program with us and keep growing.

Phil Singleton:  So I absolutely love that. Two little spin-off questions here. One is one of the questions I was going to ask, when I got started, I did my first three, four projects totally for free. And what I did was they became my screaming references and I was able to refer people to those guys and that really, I think, made this successful.

Phil Singleton:  Even today, really on reputation management, trying to make sure that we document our successes, get those testimonials because people buy off that stuff. I love the fact that that’s what you have. Because I think that’s the key to it. But some people are afraid to give some time away and do pro bono work. But I think if you do it the right way, man, that can just snowball.

Brad Sugars:   I think if you’re brand new, you must be doing pro bono work.

Phil Singleton:  Yes.

Brad Sugars:   If you are a further down the road and you’re not doing free work. In other words, it doesn’t have to be free actual work. It can be free content. It can be free information that allows people to see the value in what it is that you’re doing. Because, hey, how do I know and how do I understand the buyers subject if I haven’t done it before? See, most people have never hired a business coach. So for me, if I give them information and they start to understand what it is we do at a better level, then it makes their life easier to make a decision to engage with a coach and actually become a coaching client and grow their business in that methodology.

The Importance of Testimonials & Reviews

Brad Sugars:   That being said, I want to go back to a point you mentioned, the two most important things in this day and age in marketing, two most important: testimonials and ratings. If you are not a guardian of every testimonial, a guardian of every rating that you’ve got out there. If you’re not using Net Promoter Score, if you’re not out there using these things and really pushing it, then you’re missing the best sales person you’ve got: your customers.

Phil Singleton:  I absolutely love it because it’s really funny, because even when we talk to clients it’s like they’re not working on their own testimonials and reviews and on their reputation. But if you ask them how they buy stuff, it’s exactly how they do it. They go to a restaurant, they go to Yelp, they want to go to a new place or a new… So we’re all the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re B to B, B to C, everybody’s looking people up, looking for that trust, looking to make sure that there’s a track record there and they’ve been able to produce for somebody else. I absolutely love that that’s a focus because I totally agree. It’s just the way the world is now, right?

Brad Sugars:  Well, let’s be really, really blunt about it. They may not find you through Yelp or they may not find you through the Google score, but sure as heck they’re going to search, so make sure if they’re going to search, they find what you want them to find. I had to learn this the hard way, buddy. Many years ago when the Internet first started and all that stuff, I didn’t know to put all of my testimonials online. I got people writing me testimonials and I’d put them in my marketing, but you have to make them live. You have to make them live.

Brad Sugars:    We spend a lot of time, a lot of energy these days, making sure we get videos from all of our best customers, making sure the Net Promoter is out there every single year. We’re right in the middle of Net Promoter Score right now. But we worked real tough to get that information out there because if you don’t make it sure that your best customers are telling the world how good you are, then the worst ones are the only ones that people can hear from.

Phil Singleton:  Exactly, man. Because that’s how the whole system’s geared. People, they’re incentivized to tell their bad stories. But if you’re going to tell the good ones… People are being asked to review everything all the time. And when we get a good service and we pay for it, it takes extra work and time to get somebody to actually sit down and write a testimonial. Sometimes they’ll say, “Yes,” and they won’t do it. Or sometimes they feel like they’ve dragged their feet because they don’t know what to write and then it never gets done, so you have to stay on it.

Using Video to Your Advantage

Brad Sugars:  That’s why we use video so much because when we use video, we can get that person, put them in front of camera and they’re done in 10, 15 minutes.

Phil Singleton:   Make it easier, right?

Brad Sugars:    You’ve got to make it dead simple for them. They’re there doing work to help you make sales. Make it easy for them, get them in front of a camera, get a professional, sit them down and say, “Hi,” and just get them feeling comfortable in those interview.

Phil Singleton:  And those are they best, aren’t they? Video testimonials, they’re just killers.

Brad Sugars:   Look, today we all know that in this day and age, video is the thing. I mean, Google, Facebook, Insta, they’re all going, we’re going live. You sit down and you take a look and you say, “Why is it that there’s now live on LinkedIn?” Well, because video is the future. They’ve all got it. They all know it. They want time on site. That’s what they’re going to use. So build what’s being used out there.

Phil Singleton:  All right, final thought here, because this is still along the same lines of lead generation and stuff. Thoughts on, especially in starting out, cold calling and hitting the phones. Is that something people still need to do? Some people? What are your thoughts on that?

Brad Sugars:    100% yes. 100% yes. You should be doing calling. Now, does it need to be cold? No, it doesn’t need to be cold anymore. All you have to do is jump on LinkedIn or Facebook or something. You find out so much information about any prospect that you don’t need to be cold anymore. Now, that being said, if you’re doing short term, if you need business immediately, then, yes, you must do that stuff, the short term marketing reality. You’ve got to do that stuff. Run an event, get there fast. But flip that over.

Brad Sugars:    Now, some people are going to feel a little beat up right here just for a second. I’m sick and tired of hearing people hiding behind social media instead of actually getting on the phone, picking up the phone. If you want to ask for a date, pick up the phone, don’t go and send them a text message. That’s just downright awful. You want to put the best foot forward, pick up the phone, chat with somebody. This, “I sent out 20 LinkedIn connection requests.” Shut up. That is not business. Come on. Be Real. Don’t hide behind social media and emails and all that stuff. That stuff’s a great tool, but it’s not the tool. If you want to speak to a human, pick up the phone, get on the phone to the human. Go visit the human, even better type thing.

Phil Singleton:   We had this conversation today at my agency, which is just like, “Look, nobody ever really is going to spend money with us without looking us in the eye and shaking hands. At some point it’s gonna be a conversation and probably in a lot of cases, a meeting, right? You’re not gonna be able to hide behind and sign an engagement up with never having to talk to somebody.” So the sooner you can get that going, the better. Because in this business that’s one thing that will probably never change is there’s going to be a relationship and some kind of actual either phone call, video call or, more likely, an in-person meeting.

Brad Sugars:   It’s still true today and I guess it’s probably going to be true forever, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. Those three words have been in that sentence for a hundred years and they’ll probably still be there in a hundred years. And the fastest way to get to know someone is to actually have a conversation with them, to actually meet with them. So that, to me, is the best way.

Phil Singleton:  Well, let’s finish this up with telling us the best way to follow you. Where we can buy your book and how we can learn more about ActionCOACH.

Brad Sugars:   You can buy the book at any good bookstore, Amazon, Coles, Barnes & Noble. Any airport bookstore. Me, you can find me on any social media, Linked, Face, any of them, or bradsugars.com.

Phil Singleton:   Do you have a favorite one that you go to or do you pretty much cover them all?

Brad Sugars:  You know, I cover them all because I find that it just is today. Different people like different methodologies and I have different target audiences. Some people love Facebook, the older crowd. The younger crowd in business, you’re getting them on Insta, you’re getting them on the Snap. You won’t find me on Pinterest, though, buddy. I’m not really into crafting. I’m not a crafty guy.

Phil Singleton:   There you have it, ladies and gentleman, Brad Sugars. This was an awesome call. I really appreciate you spending this much time with us and sharing your experience and advice and some tips.

Brad Sugars:   It felt wonderful to be with you, buddy.


Ex-Paypal & Airbnb SEO Manager Tommy Griffith on Online Courses

Tommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for more than 10 years. He previously managed SEO at PayPal and Airbnb, and now runs ClickMinded, a digital marketing training platform for marketers and entrepreneurs.

Tommy started ClickMinded as a side project while working full-time at Airbnb. He grew it until it started generating more revenue than his annual salary. Two years ago, he quit Airbnb to go full-time on it and ran into a number of problems in trying to grow the business from there.

Learn More About Tommy Griffith & ClickMinded


How Tommy Griffith Got Started

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I am your host, Phil Singleton. Today, our featured guest is Tommy Griffith. Tommy has been doing search engine optimization for more than 10 years. He previously managed SEO, PayPal, and Airbnb, and now runs ClickMinded, a digital marketing training platform for marketers and entrepreneurs. Tommy started ClickMinded as a side project while working full time at Airbnb. He grew it until it started generating more revenue than his annual salary. Two years ago, he quit Airbnb to go full time, awesome, and ran into a number of problems trying to grow the business from there. We’re going to talk about that today. Tommy, welcome to the show.

Tommy Griffith: Phil, what’s going on, man? Thanks so much for having me on.

Phil Singleton: Let’s just take a few steps back and talk to us about your journey, your first steps out of school and into the business world, kind of quickly run through PayPal and Airbnb and then what got you here today in creating and building ClickMinded.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. It’s always kind of funny and weird talking to internet marketers about how they got into the game because everyone’s kind of a weirdo, you know?

Phil Singleton: Here here.

Tommy Griffith: Right? No one has a very traditional path. It’s always very kind of strange story. Yeah, I started … I was studying finance, graduated in 2008 while the banks were crashing. Like a lot of internet marketers, I got started by reading this book, The Four Hour Work Week. Are you familiar with it?

Phil Singleton: Yep.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so that’s a lot of … For the uninitiated or anyone that hasn’t read it, The Four Hour Work Week was kind of this, I think it was written in 2007 maybe, but it was kind of the catalyst for a lot of internet marketers. Today, it was one of the first books to put into place this idea that you could build a remote business, and travel while you build a business, and kind of sell something online sort of thing. It’s probably pretty out of date now, but the general concepts are still fairly strong.

Phil Singleton: That’s a Tim Ferriss book, right?

Tommy Griffith: Tim Ferriss, yeah.

Phil Singleton: Right, okay.

Tommy Griffith: Tim Ferriss, Four Hour Work Week, yep. I decided to not do finance or any banking or anything like that because I couldn’t find any jobs and the economy was crashing. I sat in a hammock in my home in New Hampshire and read this book and was kind of thinking through different ideas of what I could create. I ended up writing a very dorky e-book and started trying to sell it and get it to the top of Google so I was searching around for how to do that. This was back in 2008 and for like a more…the exact match domain update hadn’t happened yet. This is one of these moments in time where you could just pretty much put your-

Phil Singleton: There was a silver bullet in SEO.

Tommy Griffith: There was. There was a hole in the matrix that we all found. It was to buy a domain name that had your primary key word in it. I didn’t know that, but bought a domain name with the primary key word and got one link. Within like four days, it was ranking two. I was like, “I am a genius.” It was pretty funny. That sent me down the road. I ended up starting a business with a friend of mine shortly after that failed miserably. I was in this very lucky situation, my parents paid for university, I graduated with no debt, but I ended up putting myself into debt after graduating university trying this very dumb business idea.

Tommy Griffith: But, I guess the upside was I learned internet marketing. I spent a year learning SEO, learning paid advertising, but ran out of money, did the desperation call back home after a bunch of traveling and working with this business. I got a bail out from my dad for $400 for a one way ticket home. From there, it was just kind of right place right time. I was applying around like crazy for jobs, miserable, and in debt, living on mom and dad’s couch. Yeah, just at the time PayPal was hiring for SEO manager. I had been doing SEO, taught myself for the two years prior, and that started the catalyst. I moved to San Francisco and then for six years managed search engine optimization for two years at PayPal and then four years managing search engine optimization at Airbnb.

Phil Singleton: Right. That’s awesome. Right in the heart of it, man.

Tommy Griffith: Right in the heart of it, yeah. It was kind of a wild story. It went from try my own thing, to failing miserably, to working at a big, slow, kind of bank-like company, and then over to Airbnb where it was pretty wild. I joined at a time where it wasn’t as known when I joined in 2013. My friends hadn’t heard of it yet. The first week I joined Airbnb it was subpoena-d by the State of New York for their data and then the last week I left, we worked on a Superbowl ad, and Beyonce was staying at Airbnb’s, and everyone knew about it by that point. It was kind of a wild time to be there.

Phil Singleton: You were there before and after. That’s so awesome. Where are you now?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so I’ve been traveling around the last two years, mostly through Europe and Asia and based in New York. I’m in Honolulu, Hawaii right now.

Phil Singleton: So awesome.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: I love that. I spent 10 years in Asia myself, but I’ve been based back in Kansas City here for the last 15 or so, but I love traveling too so that’s really cool. It’s so awesome that you’re having … maybe get into that a little bit later, but having kind of your own job on your own here and being able to have that kind of lifestyle. Literally living the book, right?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: You’re probably putting in a little bit more than four hours or have at least in the past.

Tommy Griffith: Oh man, the biggest … probably the most click bait title of the world is Four Hour Work Week. Tim Ferriss openly admits he’s never worked four hours a week in his life. He’s like an 80 hour a week guy. He’s nuts.

Phil Singleton: Right. If you’re doing stuff that you love and you’re into it where you’re not in a cubicle … I don’t know want to knock people who are working in a cubicle and stuff like that, but I came from that. I was miserable for three years working at an insurance company and I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is just never going to work.” I didn’t like what I was doing so the clock went really slow. But then, you end up loving … finding what you really truly love to do. It doesn’t feel like work anymore and you’re up at 5:00 because you’re excited about it. I mean, that’s how a lot of people work.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly. Yep, that’s totally true.

Phil Singleton: Let’s get into ClickMinded, man, because I’ve got a lot of things I’m personally interested that I’d like to talk about and get some free consulting from you out of. I’d also just like to go over what it is, who you target, and how it came about, and what you guys are up to right now.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, sure. When I first joined PayPal, I was in this situation where I had had a bunch of debt. I had started from the old company and needed to pay it off. Man, ClickMinded was probably idea number 15. I tried so many different ideas and this was just the one that stuck. It’s interesting how I came about it because I think there’s a little bit of a balance. On one hand, I was very neurotic, and ADD, and wanted to try a lot of different ideas. It really didn’t start to take off until I had forsaken everything else and really went all in on it. There’s a funny way to test this, like to test how neurotic you are as an entrepreneur. If you go into your web hosting account, check how many unused domains you have.

Phil Singleton: I’ve used it. That’s so funny. I have said that before too. I was like, “Man, how many of us have … our old domain accounts. There’s just so many half-baked ideas in there that are domains somebody thought about and bought.” I probably have 100 in there myself.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Same idea, right? It’s crazy.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: You’ll never feel bad for having that.

Tommy Griffith: Well, that’s the thing is you need that to some degree, but if you … you can sort of test your neuroticism by how many you have. Yeah, I was the same way. You have a couple beers with someone, you buy the domain name, and then you don’t do anything about it, and then when the annual renewal comes up to pay the $12 you’re like, “I’m going to do something with this this year,” and you renew and you never do it, right?

Phil Singleton: Guilty as charged. I’m still doing that.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, exactly. We’re all hoarding digital real estate.

Phil Singleton: But, to your point, I think we all know this, nothing really works unless you give it 100%. I mean, there’s no easy way in anything. I don’t care what it is, not an SEO, there’s just nothing that really … unless you get truly lucky for a short period of time, I mean, no business idea, no business really works unless you put at least 100% into it. Am I-

Tommy Griffith: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Am I wrong?

Tommy Griffith: You’re not wrong at all. That was sort of the issue was, okay, the neuroticism and the ADD was good in getting me to try a bunch of different things, but what I found was … this was sort of the story, I ended up … my boss had asked me to do a brief at training on SEO to my colleagues at PayPal, an in person class around 2011. I did it and I got a lot of really good feedback on it, specifically that I had made a nerdy, kind of hard to understand topic interesting and sort of fun. I took that and ran with it. I ended up teaching physical in person classes at coworking spaces in San Francisco for a while.

Tommy Griffith: It was kind of Saturday, all you can SEO, start ups and entrepreneurs who come in, and we would just nerd out on search engine optimization for a few hours. The business, that actual business was a terrible business. It didn’t work, it didn’t scale, there were all kinds of problems, but I really liked it. I really enjoyed it. It ended up just being right place, right time with this kind of online course renaissance that we’re in now. Udemy had just started to take off, I had been physically teaching these classes in person and ended up filming one of them and turning it into a Udemy course, and that sort of spiraled up from there. I think that-

Phil Singleton: That’s kind of where you started to get some initial traction, was from Udemy?

Tommy Griffith: That’s right, yeah. The whole course started on Udemy. It’s interesting just stepping back a minute to the giving 100% stuff, one example, I mentioned ClickMinded was kind of like idea number 15. One example was, before then, one of my other ideas, I had this idea an iPhone app development lead generation site. It was 2011, iOS apps were really starting to take off, every company wanted their own app, people were interested in learning x-code and how to develop their own apps. I saw the search volume, and I said, “Okay, I’m going to rank a site for iPhone app developers, and iPhone app development cost, and iPhone app development companies,” and get it ranking really high and then maybe sell the leads.

Tommy Griffith: I got it up, I got the site running, I got it ranking, it was generating traffic, it started to work, but then like every Saturday morning I would wake up to go work on it and i just hated it. I had no passion it, I had no interest in it. It was really, really hard to find the motivation to work on it. There’s this kind of trope in Silicon Valley and in a lot of start up world now around markets. They say like, “Okay, I would take a mediocre product and a mediocre team in a great market,” but when you’re starting a side project, I actually disagree with that.

Tommy Griffith: I think your own personal interests in the market is huge. It’s a massive piece to get started. That first zero to ten thousand dollars, or that zero to a hundred thousand dollars, or whatever it is, it’s all you and it’s all your personal interest in it. What you were alluding to earlier, Phil, around there’s just no room for anyone to not give 100%. It’s completely true. The world is getting so polarized that there’s just no room to suck anymore. People are too good at everything so you have to find these unfair advantages where you really enjoy what you’re doing, otherwise you’re kind of toast. You know what I mean?

Phil Singleton: Like you said, the information out there, literally. I mean, you have to be good and have passion because it almost into the courses and the things you’re talking about. I was talking about this with another guy before on a different type of business where it’s just so different, businesses today, because you can go out there and get great info from places like your website, let’s say, but if you don’t have the passion in SEO, you’re not probably good at it. If you’re not trying to start a business at it, you’re probably not going to succeed at selling those types of services. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t known it and it can help you better at what you do, type of thing, but in terms of making a career or business out of it, you just have to have passion anymore.

Tommy Griffith: For sure. You absolutely do. I really like this idea of Naval Ravikant, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, but he’s like a tech visionary, venture capitalist guy and he’s like all over Twitter on a lot of philosophical stuff now. His whole angle is, you have to find your unfair advantage, and more specifically, what other people view as work should feel like play for you.

Phil Singleton: Love it.

Tommy Griffith: If you can do that, you just have this natural out of the gate advantage where over the long term, you’re going to kick everyone’s ass. That’s sort of the angle I ended up taking and it ended up working.

All About Clickminded

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Let’s get right into ClickMinded. Tell us a little bit about what you guys do, what the course is about, kind of who it targets. One thing I’ve noticed about even writing an SEO book, it was really hard to satisfy a whole broad audience because it’s like people will either know some, or know a lot, or know nothing. It’s kind of hard to hit the mark with the message you’re trying to give sometimes because people come in with different levels of knowledge. When somebody takes a course through ClickMinded, what’s one of the modules or whole kind of bundled package that you sell? Who is it for mostly?

Tommy Griffith: It’s really interesting that you had that problem as well. Yeah, it’s been funny to get feedback. We’ll get back to back feedback from users. ClickMinded is now eight years old. We have more than ten thousand paid users and we’ll get feedback on the same day, “Hey, this was way too hard and complex and you move too fast,” and then five minutes later, “Hey, this was way too slow and too easy. What are you guys doing?” It’s like, okay.

Phil Singleton: That’s tough.

Tommy Griffith: Those are very minor critiques. The vast majority of users love it, but it’s because we really dialed in our customer avatar. ClickMinded is a digital marketing training platform. We started as an SEO course. As I mentioned, it started as an offline course and then became an online course. I continued to use it at PayPal and Airbnb to train up my own teams. Everyone who joined the SEO team, part of the growth team at Airbnb, all the data scientists and designers and engineers that joined would take the ClickMinded SEO course. Two years ago, I went full time on it and we now do seven types of digital marketing courses; SEO, paid ads, content marketing, email marketing, social media, sales funnels, and Google analytics.

Tommy Griffith: Our model is we try and use world class experts that do this stuff every day. The social media course is taught by the former head of social media at Airbnb. The content marketing course is taught by the former content strategist from Lyft. We kind of try and focus on entrepreneurs, in house marketers, and consultants or agencies that want to either get better at one particular topic or they want to train up their teams. That’s sort of the angle that we take. 35 hours of HD video and then we do life time updates for free. When you enroll, you get access forever and every time we push out an update, you get it for free. That’s kind of the angle we’ve taken. It’s been a lot of evolution and iterating on it for sure. It’s been eight years and so it did not happen overnight.

Phil Singleton: You’re constantly probably updating. Stuff happens all the time. The book that we wrote, we were talking about Google Plus in 2006. We’re not talking about that anymore.

Tommy Griffith: Right.

Phil Singleton: You’re probably constantly tweaking, and updating, and changing stuff.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Which is why that’s valuable.

Tommy Griffith: That’s got to be really tough for you to write a physical book. We can barely keep our blog posts up to date.

Phil Singleton: Right?

Tommy Griffith: I don’t know how you can do that with a book. That’s tough. That’s really tough.

Phil Singleton: Talk to me about the people who do join. Is it kind of all mixes? Are they mostly digital marketers? Do you get people that work in companies that are trying to learn more about it?

Tommy Griffith: It’s about a one-third, one-third, one-third split. Entrepreneurs is about one-third, in hours marketers, like you know, people on the marketing team at Coca-Cola, and Proctor and Gamble, and stuff like that, and then consultants and agencies. That’s usually on the smaller side, like two to a hundred employees.

Phil Singleton: Great.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. Our model … Are you familiar with this guy, Ramit Sethi? He’s a personal finance blogger. He wrote this book called, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It’s a corny sounding title, but it’s actually a great read. It’s kind of like millennial, personal finance sort of stuff. Anyways, his model around how he does it is he says, “Okay, 98% of everything I do is free for users, but if you’re looking to get the results, the other 2% is for the paid product.” That’s sort of how we operate as well. We have at on of checklists, templates, cheat sheets, downloadables, free mini courses, free webinars we do all the time.

Tommy Griffith: Then, we say, “Yeah, all this is free, but if you want to get the results faster or if you want to train up a whole team, here’s the paid product.” We’ve had a lot of success with that so it’s cool to give people a ton of value for free, but then if they’re already further along in their business and they want to train up a bunch of people or they want the results even faster, then we have a paid product for them. It’s been a lot of fun and all of that is done through our online course.

Phil Singleton: Okay, awesome. I’ll have to ask you, what would you do differently if you had to start over again? How would you set it up? This is probably not … Let me rephrase this a different way because you’ve already gone through a ton. You probably, I don’t know what the site’s built on or what program you use to power it. For just the average person like myself that maybe has a book or wants to build a course on something like WordPress or something else, how would you get started into taking your knowledge and turning it into a course or taking a book that you’ve written into a course? What are the steps?

Tommy Griffith: Right.

Phil Singleton: Are you so far removed from that that now?

Tommy Griffith: Actually, no, not at all. It’s every day and I have a lot of strong opinions on this now. I’m very passionate about online learning as well because I think there’s so much room for this stuff. I am an avid … I am so angered and motivated by the graduate school education system in the US. I think this is a massive … student debt problem in the US and graduate school is a complete scam. It’s horrible. I say this as a former graduate school, right? I used to teach at a grad school in San Francisco. I taught an elective, an internet marketing elective. I think there is so much room for entrepreneurs to create online courses and completely destroy secondary education.

Phil Singleton: You’re like freaking me out. It’s almost like … We were talking about a zoom … What was it? Some kind of security breach and being able to hear and see people. It’s almost like we’re so like-minded that you’ve been listening to me. I’m so zeroed in on the same thing. I was just having this conversation with somebody else where it’s like, there’s so much good information that you could get out. The time that you would spend in college or even graduate school, I mean, you can go and people like yourself, you’re giving it up and selling it to somebody that could then turn around and turn that into real money.

Phil Singleton: The tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that you would go into debt could be a complete swing the other way because you’re out of high school learning a real skill that people need. There’s so many people that need all sorts of services, but digital services in general. It’s like, what is the point? I just don’t get it. I’m like, man, I’m totally just like lit up because I couldn’t agree more. I want to be part of that too, where’s like, “Hey, you know, we’ve got the same thing. I can actually teach somebody a skill that’s made me some money,” pass that along, make a little bit of money, maybe scale it up a little bit where somebody can totally bypass all the heartache that we’re reading about right now.

Phil Singleton: Who wants to go to school? I don’t want to knock college too much, but I didn’t really learn anything when I stepped out of college. I couldn’t have started making money the day out it, right? I had somebody else had to train me for like six months before I was any use to anybody. Even then, it took me a couple years worth of experience to really start making any kind of a difference.

Tommy Griffith: Absolutely. It makes no sense. The economics have been upside down for almost a generation. An entire generation of people are putting their life on hold for it. It’s horrible across every category. There’s a handful of exceptions, rocket scientist, and pediatricians, and things like that.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, doctors and lawyers, I mean, you’re going to walk out, but you’re learning something you’ll probably have to go to school for. That probably makes a little bit … you need to do other things.

Tommy Griffith: For sure, but the vast majority do not need it. I mean, there’s 50 … There’s more than 50 graduate school degrees in the United States that offer a Master’s Degree in digital marketing. They range from 40 to 100 thousand dollars and they are completely useless. They are … We’ve hired people at PayPal and Airbnb, I’ve hired people in my own company. No one respectable in this industry would ever glance at this degree. It means nothing. It means absolutely nothing. It’s an opportunity … Think about from the university’s perspective. It’s an opportunity. It’s a move in a new vertical. They have no idea what they’re teaching, but you’re a 22 year old kid, you’re at a university in Florida, you get an email your senior year that says, “Get a Master’s Degree in social media. We’ll give you financing.”

Tommy Griffith: You think, “I don’t want to go start my work yet. They would never give me a loan if I couldn’t afford it. I’m good at Facebook,” and you take the offer. This is happening … This is close to my heart because it’s digital marketing, but this is happening across a lot of other categories. We’re on a bit of a tangent here, but because of this online learning renaissance that we’re in, people can compartmentalize their knowledge and scale it up to this massive amount of leverage and teach people. I have a lot of strong opinions on this and I think the market is big, but I think it has an opportunity to be hundreds of times bigger than we could ever really conceivably imagine because of, what are we at? More than a trillion dollars in student loan debt, with a T, trillion with a T.

Tommy Griffith: It’s like, inconceivable amounts of opportunity. The way I would … The first thing I think I would note is that it is so much easier now today to launch an online course than it was when I started in 2012. It’s incredibly simple to get going. I really love Teachable. I use Teachable as my learning management system. I’ve tried everything else and Teachable has been-

Phil Singleton: Teachable? Is that something like a Kajabi or something like that?

Tommy Griffith: Those are all in the same ballpark.

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Tommy Griffith: Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi. I really like Teachable. I’m friends with the founder. I was on Udemy and after trying many different other WordPress learning management systems, had a lot more success with Teachable. It’s just one of these kind of, it just works. You can make some customizations to it if you want. If you want to be a real power user, it’s probably not for you, but one way I heard it described is as like the Shopify or the Square Space for online courses.

Phil Singleton: It is their platform and you kind of pay a subscription type of thing?

Tommy Griffith: Yep. You pay a subscription, but the way we do it so our site is WordPress, our core site is on WordPress, but our product is on a sub domain of our site, which is Teachable. I don’t know how technical you want to get here, but you can just change a C name record in your hosting and set up the course on a sub domain. You can customize it to a degree, but the actual course is happening on a sub domain on our site. You’re not going to teachable.com or anything to do it.

Tommy Griffith: It’s been … It’s just really nice to just pay someone else to handle all this because I have … I spent a year and a half managing user login credentials and dealing with payments. Then, a WordPress developer changes one thing and everything breaks and that kind of stuff. I just refuse to go down that road again. There’s probably other alternatives, but I really highly recommend checking out teachable first because we’ve had a lot of great success with them.

Phil Singleton: That’s literally something you can just upload your course and your slice it up how you want, your content, people can pay through it and pay their subscription or however they do it, and it all kind of is done through Teachable.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, exactly. It’s really the 80/20 of getting going the fastest. They have all the payment processing there as well. It’s improved a lot over the last few years.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. What things … How do you market it? You’re out there and you’re known, you’re very obviously an expert in SEO, you’ve done things like podcasts, you’re on one right now so that’s really good stuff. What things have worked? How have you marketed it from the beginning and what things are kind of working recently?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, I mean, the majority of our sales come from SEO. YouTube and YouTube SEO as well, which has been an interesting one recently. We’ve done other stuff, too. We’ve done interesting partnerships, JV partnerships. Over the last year, we’ve actually really focused a lot more on our product and our bottom funnel and our middle funnel and how users experience the site. We’ve almost become a webinar and an email marketing company now. We do a lot of webinars and we’ve had a lot of success and they’re a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing them quite a lot. Our email marketing game has been very, very strong. We run everything on Drip. Drip is an email marketing software and CRM. Even though they’ve had some stumbles this year with pricing and some technical problems that we’ve been a little grumpy with them about. But overall, Drip is fantastic and it’s been a really good way to kind of manage our business. All of our automations and all of our flows flow from Drip. We’ve had a lot of success there.

Phil Singleton: In terms of when you get started, pricing, because I know a lot of times … Because like I said, we did a little bit of … Let me take a couple steps back. One of the things I think is really interesting about some of the digital marketing modules out there, kind of like you said, even in this space, there’s all sorts of … they don’t really … a lot of them just don’t compete directly. I noticed on some of them, they’ll come in and maybe to basics and somebody like Moz has some training where they focus a lot on maybe selling the SEO services or digital marketing services so there’s a whole training on that. Some of them don’t have it.

Phil Singleton: The other guys like Brian Dean out there who really kind of zero in on all about this content piece that he does type of deal. There’s other ones that are kind of teaching the broad basics. There’s another one out there that we saw that’s almost more on creating the processes on the back end so it’s really heavy on operations and setting up the business side. It’s like, how do you actually deliver SEO services? They all kind of are pitched in and around digital and SEO. I think it’s really interesting how everybody’s got their different perspective, right? There’s different ways and different things you can learn in digital where you can’t just really stop at one sometimes if you really want to get the whole picture and other things that are working.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. That’s an interesting way to think about it. Brian’s course is great. We’re buddies and he’s just such a great leader on so much of this stuff and created a number of different tactics and techniques around content marketing and link building and a lot of that.

Phil Singleton: There’s so many angles, there’s so many different ways to skin the cat. I mean, so many people have different ways to do things. Especially, with digital in general. Everybody’s got their own recipe and they all can all work really well, right?

Tommy Griffith: For sure, yeah. For sure. It’s been a lot of fun, too, because I love chatting with digital marketers about how they do stuff. We get inspired by a lot of different people on how they do it. Brennan Dunn has been a great leader for us, in terms of how to run a lot of different automations. Andre Chaperon has a course called Auto Responder Madness. He’s an incredible copywriter on how to write emails. We pick stuff up from a number of different sources, for sure.

How do you set pricing for online courses?

Phil Singleton: One of the other things that I want to talk about that’s related to this is how do you suggest people price things? It’s funny because I’ve thought about doing a course. At some point, eventually we will. You see all sorts of things where people kind of will go to the three, six thousand dollar things that they have. Hot spots seem to be $997 or around a thousand for something. You’ve got people who are focused maybe selling on the modules or just monthly subscription type of a thing. You’ve probably experimented with different types of pricing. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who are thinking about creating a course? What is a good price point or a good pricing strategy that people will bite on?

Tommy Griffith: Pricing is fascinating. I still have not figured this out. I wrote a blog post a while ago on my pricing progression and how to think about this. The only real conclusion I came to is always get it wrong. Yeah, I mean, we’ve played with a lot of different things. The one thing I think …. so, I don’t know what your pricing should be. I’ve seen so many different models like Brian Dean is a very high priced product and he only does it through launches so you can only enroll a couple times a year. That puts a real scarcity behind it and that definitely works for him. The other thing, too, to keep in mind is how you want to manage your business operationally.

Tommy Griffith: For example, and full disclosure, with our business, we don’t have a Facebook community, a forum, or a way to interact with the community. We answer email questions and take support tickets all the time. That stuff is all cool, but we don’t have an ongoing management piece. The reason why is because we would suck at it. We know what we’re good at. We know what we want to work on and so we leave out those aspects that we know we wouldn’t be great at. People say this all the time, “Why don’t you create a membership product, or a Slack channel, or a Discord channel, or a Facebook group that costs zero to 99 dollars a month?”

Tommy Griffith: Outside of the opportunity and the totally addressable market around it, think about what you want to work on. Think about how big you want your team to be. Think about what sort of services you want to offer. Are we leaving money on the table by not having a monthly recurring community? Probably, but I’m not convinced it would be good. I’m fairly convinced it would be very mediocre. We’re not going to do it. The precursor to how to do pricing is to first think about where your unfair advantages are and what you actually want to work on, and then you can start from there. In terms of pricing, yeah, we started the courses on Udemy way back at $99.

Phil Singleton: A lot of those seem to be lower priced stuff. Usually it’s like, whatever it is, $29.99.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. I have a lot of strong opinions about Udemy. Udemy has really hurt the online course marketplace. We got into a very public fight. They kicked me off the platform. I’ve got some Jerry Springer level drama with Udemy.

Phil Singleton: Oh wow.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. I wrote a blog post actually about how … It was titled, My Revenue Increased 300% After Leaving Udemy. That was obviously much higher than now.

Phil Singleton: I can’t imagine ever using that now, but I guess at one point it was probably the place to go and it probably still is maybe for some folks who just don’t have any access to-

Tommy Griffith: It’s interesting. I actually … It was the place for a while and Udemy really … The reason why I’m so mad at them is because they really were positioned to kill grad school. They could have done it. They decided to do these vapor wear level deals where everything is $10. It’s all these very mediocre Photoshop courses and things like that. There’s a handful of exceptions of great content out there. What they really did was they hurt the creators. They hurt the course creators. You just … There’s so many platforms out there where you can really build a business and lifestyle. You can build a lifestyle on Uber, on Airbnb, on YouTube.

Tommy Griffith: You cannot build a lifestyle on Udemy. You can’t do it. There was a moment in time where you maybe could have and you no longer can. They take too high of a revenue share. They don’t let you price whatever you want. You don’t get access to the email address. I used to recommend using them to get started-

Phil Singleton: Do you guys take a really big cut? I don’t even … or is it reason?

Tommy Griffith: It changes all the time now. They’re really fumbling now and their CEO was let go a little while ago. It’s varied a lot the last couple of years. I have no idea what it is now. It was too high even back in 2014. I’m not sure where they are now. Anyways, we started at kind of the $99 mark. We moved up and down. It was too low for too long. What we found, all the way up to $500 was that sales went up the more you moved the price up, which is fascinating. Refunds go down, people complete more of the course, so it was really kind of fascinating for us, and people commit to it. It’s been really interesting.

Phil Singleton: On yours, I’ve noticed that you’ve got what a lot of people do is you kind of parse them out, you can take modules, and you’ve got like a bundled price, which is really attractive because it’s half or third or whatever all of them together would be, right? Is that a big part of sales? Do most people kind of go for that? I mean, I guess I probably would, but I’m not every buyer either.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, it is. It is. What people realize is … You know, we do a ton of free stuff, and free mini courses, and things like that. People get a taste of what our style is and our style is really good, world class people that do this stuff every day that take technical concepts and make it pretty easy. They know they’re going to get that with all the courses so we’ve bundled them all up into one and it’s lifetime access so any time there’s updates, you get them for free. People say, “Okay, I’ll have lifetime access to this and all these topics free forever for this one price? Okay, I’m in.” We’ve found a lot of success with that and a lot people take it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. One of the things I’d like to ask about your opinion too, because what I’ve noticed in, again, trying to maybe create my own course at some point is it seems like a lot of people who go the course route do something different than you’re doing. That is, they’ll do the course as a way to get … actually as an entry level lead generator almost. To pay for itself and make some money off of, but the real track that they’ll tell you to making money is getting those folks to come in, having them join a group, like you were saying, and then maybe turning it into some kind of master mind where they become big ticket consulting clients that you’re making tens of thousands of dollars maybe or ten thousand dollars a year.

Phil Singleton: To me, that didn’t ever become … It’s not appealing because that’s a lot of time. I mean, how many people … If somebody’s going to spend X amount of dollars on a master mind group and really try to make a decent amount of money on it, they’re going to need a lot of your time. Well, if you’re already stretched out on other businesses that require “100% of your time” that gets really tough. You’re able to do this, it sounds like, without really having any of that. My understanding is a lot of these guys that are doing it do have that kind of master mind backend.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: It actually ends up being more than the front end piece. That’s what I love about what you’re doing. Do I have that right?

Tommy Griffith: You have that completely right, Phil. It’s fascinating to me because somewhere someone … at some point, someone laid out a sales funnel where they said, “And by the way, on the back end, you can invite people to an island and charge them ten thousand dollars for it,” and everyone started doing this. I think … I’m not going to sit here and say it’s wrong, but I think two things; one is, we’re just very clear about who our customer avatar is and what’s best for them and the best way to help them, and then two, we’re very, very certain about where we’re good and where we suck.

Tommy Griffith: I think what a lot of entrepreneurs do when they start to get some success is they continually say, “How do we 2X? How do we 2X? How do we 2X? Where are there other opportunities?” Of course, that’s fine, that’s great, that’s doing what’s best for the shareholders and all that, right? There’s a point where if you’re constantly valuing your own time at zero and it’s just this relentless pursuit of revenue, you end up doing a lot of BS you might not want to do. We’ve found we really like what we do. Everything we do we scale up and we write really evergreen content and tutorials. We don’t do master mind calls, and we don’t do the big annual retreat, and we just stick to our basics. We are definitely-

Phil Singleton: That, personally, is just not appealing to me because you just took the scalability out of it and put a bunch of consulting work into it, which yeah, then it gets to be like, well, what’s your time worth? Can you really scale this out? That’s what I love about what you’re doing. If you’re not doing that, your eye’s on the ball, which is making the best possible course that you can to really good job, like what you said, stay away from the stuff that you suck or you’re not going to like at. Stick at the things that you’re really good at. Keep making that really awesome. Then, all of the sudden, that’s the really scalable piece of the business that you have is the one that you don’t have to worry about, like the groups, and the customer service, and the master mind stuff, and all the people that might asking personal questions at the end of that piece.

Tommy Griffith: Right.

Phil Singleton: That’s really, really appealing. In my mind, when we’ve been kind of researching this, I was like, “That just doesn’t appeal to me at all,” but that’s what’s pitched by people who have kind of coached or given some advice on. I was like, “That’s just not me.” It’s awesome to see that somebody’s doing it this way and the front end is kind of … that’s where the value is, right?

Tommy Griffith: Right. Yeah. I’ve never thought of it that way, but that’s a really good point. There’s other funny things to think about. When I go to a retreat, when I go to an island, I don’t want to be hosting master mind calls. I want to be drinking Mai Tais. You know what I mean? It’s very … I think a lot of this, too, comes to the fact that when you’re out there working for yourself and dragging it home every night and it’s all on you, but you don’t have any obligations, it can change your mentality a lot. When there’s no investors to have to email and there’s no one else but you. You kind of realize it’s just on you. It just becomes a little bit more clear.

Tommy Griffith: There’s other funny examples, too, like we do promotions or joint venture email marketing things sometimes. Sometimes we’ll get questions. People read through the FAQ, they’re considering something, and they’ll send an email or they’ll post a comment and they’ll say, “Why isn’t there a Facebook group? Why isn’t there an ongoing community? Are you going to offer one soon?” I’ll just reply back and say, “No, we don’t plan on offering one soon.” I’ve seen multiple replies that are like, “Smart. That’s pretty smart.” It’s like, even the people who are demanding the extra things are like, “Yeah, I get it. I get it. I would be that awful customer that would ruin your life. You’re a smart man. Touche, sales man.” It’s just like … We’re just very open about what it is and people seem to get it.

Get in touch with & follow Tommy Griffith & Clickminded

Phil Singleton: Tommy, this has been awesome. These are my favorite ones where we talk shop a little bit with literally someone who looks at the world the same way I do, I think, and obviously got the same level of passion that I have for SEO and digital marketing. This has been especially cool. I’m so appreciative that you came on and chatted with me. Where can we follow you? What have you guys got going on? How does somebody follow you and what do you have on your website in terms of people maybe getting a little trial, a try before you buy or sign up, or getting a little taste of what you guys have to offer?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Phil. You can find us at ClickMinded.com. On Twitter, I’m @TommyGriffith. We have … Actually, we just launched these, they’re pretty cool, we launched these retro looking, 8-bit digital marketing and SEO strategy guides. They’re modeled after these old school, Nintendo powered video game strategy guides from the 90’s with kind of the 8-bit characters, these free strategy guides. Maybe I can send you the links and you can link them up in the show notes, if that’s cool.

Phil Singleton: Oh, big time. Any particular social platform that you’re more active on others that people should look out for you on?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, probably Twitter, @TommyGriffith on Twitter.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Tommy Griffith: We’re at ClickMinded.com.

Phil Singleton: We are going to have all these links in the show notes and once again, thank you so much, Tommy Griffith, for coming on the show and be sure to check out his website ClickMinded.com and check out one of the best digital marketing courses out there.

Tommy Griffith: Phil, thanks a lot.

How to Hire a Virtual Assistant from the Philippines

About John Jonas Founder of OnlineJobs.ph

John has been making a 6-7 figure income online since 2004.

He has helped thousands of entrepreneurs succeed by teaching them how to replace themselves through outsourcing.

He created OnlineJobs.ph, the largest marketplace to find Filipino workers. He also teaches his system for how to find great Filipino workers for free.

While making a full-time living he rarely works full time. His team of 27 full-time Filipino virtual assistants do the work in his businesses, while he manages the process. They range from programmers, designers, and webmasters, to writers, researchers, a project manager, and just general VA’s.

John has made millions of dollars online directly from work that his Filipino workers have done for him and now teaches others exactly how to do the same thing.

If you’ve tried outsourcing before, but haven’t heard what John has to teach about it, give it another try. John’s teachings are SURE to change the way you look at running your business, outsourcing, and the success you have in doing it.


Where to follow John Jonas



Meet John Jonas

Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody and welcome to another episode of The Local Business Leaders podcast. I am your host, Phil Singleton. Today, our featured guest is John Jonas. John is the Founder of onlinejobs.ph, which is an online marketplace for finding talented virtual assistants and more in the Philippines. Hey, John, welcome to the show.

John Jonas: Hey, thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Before we get into what I’m excited about and we kind of talked about in the green room before recording here, I’d like to just get a little bit of background about what got you into this. Tell us kind of your first steps out of graduating school and what got you in the business world and kind of what led you here today.

John Jonas: I’m a terrible employee.

Phil Singleton: I already like this story.

John Jonas: I graduated from college in 2003, I think 2003, and I had a job for eight months out of college and my only goal during that job was to quit because I just found the incentive system doesn’t work with me with being an employee. I do good work, I get paid, I do bad work, I get paid. It’s the same thing, it doesn’t really matter. My only goal was to quit. It took me eight months to figure out how to make some money online and I quit. That was fine. I was making a little bit of money and I had some contract work. I was making a little bit of money online but I could see, there’s something here that I can do.

John Jonas: For the next couple years I kind of struggled through stuff. Maybe the next year I struggled through stuff. I was working on my own. I was doing everything. I was working 60 hours a week and I tried hiring other people to do some stuff for me and just kind of leading into what we’re going to talk about today, I had a conversation with someone who, this guy owns backcountry.com. Huge, huge, even in 2004 or 2005 when this was happening it was huge.

John Jonas: He said, “You know John, when you really start outsourcing some of this stuff, make sure you go to the Philippines with it.” I was like, huh, that’s interesting.

Phil Singleton: Were they even on the radar for you at that time?

John Jonas: Not even close. Why would you even think to go to a specific country? Everybody goes to India with outsourcing. That just is what it is. He was like, “Yeah because in India when you tell them something and they say yes, that means yes I heard something come out of your mouth. It doesn’t mean yes I understood what you said.” And I was like, dang, that’s super different.

John Jonas: But what it really did was it kind of gave little bit of hope that the four different times that I had tried to outsource stuff either to local people or to contract workers or to India, it just hadn’t worked out and what it did is it gave me some hope that I might find a different experience. He gave me a reference where I could hire someone full-time and I hired them full-time and that, it took me a couple months before I actually did it because I debated, I didn’t know if I could afford to hire someone full-time. This was the beginning of my business. I didn’t know if they could good work, I didn’t know if I could keep them busy full-time. I ended up taking the leap and that really changed the future of my business across the board.

Phil Singleton: That one hire basically was a success.

John Jonas: Oh dude, that was the single most liberating experience of my life where I was working 60 hours a week and I was doing everything. I was doing the accounting and I was doing the content writing and I was doing the webmaster stuff and I was doing the programming and I was doing the marketing and I was doing the crap that I hated. I hate writing content. But I was doing it because I knew it had to be done but I just hated my life when I had to do it. I hired this guy and I had him starting writing content, which I tried doing that before on it was oDesk at the time. Now it’s Upwwork.

John Jonas: I tried doing that before and it was just a failure because what I found was, and this is kind of the difference between what I stumbled into and what I was trying to do and what most people try and do. I hired this guy to write this content for me and he was a content writer and he wrote the content. And fine. Then he sent me the 50 articles that he had written and I had to go through them and check every one of them because he doesn’t work for me so his only goal was to get paid. I checked them and the first few are really great and then they get worse and they start getting plagiarized.

John Jonas: Then, I had to go back to him and be like, no dude you plagiarized these fix them. Fixism fine. Then I’m done with that process and that’s when it really hit me.

Phil Singleton: You were done when you realized they were plagiarized and then it was just like, how can I get out of this with the least amount of damage?

John Jonas: Well yeah, totally but that’s not the worst of it for me. For me, the worst of it was, I had gone through this whole process to get these articles written and now I had them written and that dude was done. He’s a writer. And he’s a contract worker, that’s what he does. He writes and he gives you your crap and now it’s up to you to do the rest of the work. That was to me the biggest issue was I have all these articles and now I have to go and add links to them and better titles and good resources boxes and submit them and link them together and all this crap. I have to go do all this. I just left myself with 50 hours of work to do from these 50 articles that was supposed to take a burden away from me. Now it just added a burden to me.

John Jonas: That was the first thing I had. I hired this dude, his full-time job was to do anything I asked him to do and that was the first thing I did was I taught him how to do this process. And that was why it was so liberating to me because I could have him write the article then I could have him do the rest of the process. I hated that whole thing and I never had to think about it again, once I taught him how to do it which took a couple weeks.

Phil Singleton: That’s a big part of it. I’d like to talk about that later. I think having a process set up and a step by step thing is something you got to kind of invest in to probably make it work. I’m guessing because I’m going through it right as we’re talking about. You kind of just brushed over it but I do think that’s a big part of probably the whole being successful is knowing that you’re going to hire somebody for and giving them direction, right?

John Jonas: Yes, absolutely. Here’s kind of what I stumbled into, a lot of people, Michael Gerber and the EMR, the E-Myth Revisited, he talks about you have to have these standard operating procedures before you hire someone. You have to do this. Dude, I suck at that.

Phil Singleton: You got to hire somebody, I know, I feel the same way right now. It’s like, I got to hire somebody to help document my procedures.

John Jonas: Creating procedures is hard. It sucks and it’s a burden and I don’t want to do it. When I hired this guy, this was this magical liberating experience for me. I had no idea at the time what I was getting into. I hired this guy and I started teaching him and I taught him to do his stuff and one of Michael Gerber’s biggest things, which is even worse today than it was when he wrote it which I don’t know, he wrote the book 20 or 25 years ago, something like that, is that people just leave today. People don’t stick with jobs at all for any reason except in the Philippines which is this super weird interesting characteristic of the Philippines where they’re super loyal and so that dude who I first hired, still works for me today. It’s 15 years.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

John Jonas: I taught him that one thing and I never had to deal with that thing again. He’s taught other people how to do it since then. And then I’ve taught him other stuff and I taught him other stuff. For me, one of the biggest deals was, I don’t have to create these standard operating procedures that I can pass off when someone quits because people don’t quit. If you treat them well. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t create standard operating procedures because you should. I’m just crappy at it. It sucks. What I found was I can kind of train this person as we go. I can give them this training and I can …

Phil Singleton: Document his training while you’re training.

John Jonas: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

John Jonas: Yeah, and then he can do it and he can mess up with it and then I can correct it and he can do it and mess up and I can correct it and it’ll take us two, three weeks, whatever. And then we get it right and I’m done man, I’m out. That’s the end of this.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. The fact when you said 15 years ago, what were you doing at that time where you’re trying to build a business? It wasn’t onlinejobs.ph, was it a website? Something else that you were?

John Jonas: I was doing tons of affiliate marketing.

Phil Singleton: Okay cool.

John Jonas: I had built tons of websites and we were marketing those websites.

Phil Singleton: Got you.

John Jonas: It was super effective once I had people to do the work for me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Awesome. And so when did onlinejobs.ph become a real thing? How long has it been around? Tell us about it.

John Jonas: I was part of a mastermind group when all this was going down. In that mastermind group, there was nine of us in the beginning and then we kept adding people, got up to 15 people in this mastermind group, which, just for future reference, 15 people in a mastermind’s too many. We had phone calls every week and after I had had this person working for me for a year, I just found the group was asking me every single week to talk about it. Every week I was telling the same things over and over again because it was so dang good for me and everybody else wanted it. They just weren’t doing it.

John Jonas: After six weeks of this I was like, guys this is ridiculous, I can’t keep just saying these same things over and over again so I recorded myself talking for 45 minutes and I kind of put it out there on the internet and people just went crazy. I was teaching this thing and people went crazy for it and then all the guys in mastermind group starting asking me to teach to their audiences. I was like, okay, I’ll teach it to your audience, fine.

John Jonas: Couple years of teaching it and finding people sucked. It just sucked. One of the things you and I talked about in the green room was the first person i ever hired I went through Agents of Value. They’re an American company, they’re an agency. They recruit Filipino workers, bring them into their office in the Philippines, they mark up their salaries, two, three, 10 times and they lease them back to you. I was paying them $750 a month, they were paying him $250 a month.

Phil Singleton: When did that realization come? Again, we were talking about this before and we just dig right into it now. It was like, I think until just recently, that I had the epiphany, I think a lot of people look online and you got guys like me that are helping maybe virtual assistant companies or virtual assistant services, websites rank and stuff and they’re paying a lot of money so you think that’s where you need to go to get access to the workers but then at the end you start looking, wait a minute, there’s good wages X and these guys are marking it up two or three X. Dominated by middle men even now. Look this up online.

John Jonas: Which, that’s not the worst. It’s not the worst that they’re charging you $10 or $15 an hour and they’re paying them two or $3 an hour. It’s not the worst thing ever. But it just didn’t sit right with me and it certainly didn’t sit right with him when he found out. I think it took me six months to kind of put it together. I said to him, actually what I think happened was he told me, “Hey I’m quitting.” It was like, why? He was like, “I can’t handle to office politics here.” I was like, office politics? I don’t have, your my employee and we don’t have any office politics. There’s nothing of the sort. He was like, “Yeah it’s the managers here at Agents of Value and it’s the people around here. I just can’t do it.” I was like, “Well you can’t quit because you’re amazing now.” I was like, “How much are you making.” 2.50, I was like holy crap, I had no idea.

Phil Singleton: Is this the first guy that’s still with you or somebody else.

John Jonas: Yeah, this is the first dude. Still with me. I was like, I’ll double your salary but you can’t leave for 30 days because that’s part of the contract. The next day he was like, “I quit, I’m working for you today on my own.” I started paying him 500 bucks a month, I doubled his salary. I cut my costs by a third and it’s been amazing ever since.

John Jonas: But still, when I went back to find someone else it was like, this sucks. How do I find someone? Couple years later, I decided to start a marketplace because there wasn’t anything. That was onlinejobs.ph. Starting building it in 2008, we launched it in 2009, that was 10 years ago. For five years, I completely ignored it and didn’t really for five years, I didn’t touch it. It was I think it was when there was 70,000 employees or 70,000 worker resumes in it that I thought, dang, I should probably do something with this thing.
Phil Singleton: Wow.

John Jonas: Today there’s over 700,000 resumes there. That’s kind of how this came about.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s amazing, full disclosure for me, this is one of the reasons we’re having this podcast. I went through it, I was pretty impressed with the whole process. My experience was actually had heard about your website from a second employee that we had that had heard and he’s in and one of them was from home services and the other guy that just recently was kind of in home buying, real estate investment type stuff. He had mentioned at the same time and I wasn’t even really half paying attention but I heard onlinejobs.ph a second time. When I heard this the second time, so I’m going to go check this out because in his mastermind or his group or whatever company he was affiliated with, the guys that were in that kind of business were all kind of talking about it. I was like okay.

Phil Singleton: I went and checked it out and I signed up and really clear what you guys do on the website. I signed up for it. I love the way you guys structured the subscription and the payment. I think it’s very fair. But I went in there so seamlessly and I went in, I paid a reasonable fee. I put very quickly, put up a resume of some of the key tasks that I was trying to look for. Within a couple days over the weekend, I got some great resumes. I found one. First of all, the people were very responsive and I thought that was great. Lots of great feedback and then I ended zeroing in on one person.

Phil Singleton: Talked to her and then what ended up really getting it for me is she gave me the reference of a previous person that she was being a VA for and this person was out of Chicago because I was still a pretty, I was like, this sounds really good, it almost sounds too good to be true to be doing this. Is this going to be one of those, it’s like you were talking at the beginning, so many people go through the heartache of hiring somebody on Upward or on Five are not realizing how much hair they got to pull out and that the money they paid that was so low actually ended up costing them a lot in redoing or editing yourself or going over or have to try it over and over again. It’s kind of deceptively expensive even though it seems like really, really cheap.

Phil Singleton: I had already been burned many, many times but I had never kind of gone this route. But anyway what did it for me is I ended up getting a reference. I got the best reference on this person that I’ve ever gotten for anybody that I’ve hired. And I’ve hired many W2s over the year for my own company and businesses and stuff like that. I was like, okay, I was thinking no matter what, if I get somebody good that’s coming in at a lower risk kind of a salary and is this good, I’ll find something for them to do if they’re really this good. Is hardworking and stuff. And it was great. Has been. It’s been seamless couple days and I still now, I’m thinking I posted for this but I might actually be using her for something different. I’m not really sure. It’s like you said, the passion’s there.

Phil Singleton: You’re talking to somebody here that she already has her own restaurant so she’s already working a full-time job basically I would think. But just the, and I lived in Asia for 10 years so I know what kind of the southeast Asian work ethic is for a lot of countries out there. It’s just different than it is here. We’re all hard working in our different ways but it’s definitely different.

Phil Singleton: I was just super impressed and I’ve had a super great experience and now my mind’s like we were talking about again, in the green room, really excited about it. The possibilities I think of just being like wow, this is just one person but I could actually have a team for what might cost me one employee here where I’m based in Kansas City. I might be able to get two, three, maybe even four, a team of people to help me do many more things. I want more versus I was thinking well if I do this gosh, if I hire one of these through these, one of these virtual assistant companies and they charge 10, 12, 15 bucks an hour, it’s a discount and I’m sure it’s there but it’s not like that. You start talking about five or $10 an hour more, you’re getting into where you can hire some entry level people with a few years experience here in the States, you know what I mean?

John Jonas: Yeah, right.

Phil Singleton: But I had no idea that it was for some of these folks, was three, four, $5 an hour and you’re getting people. And the other thing is I have to mention, the first thing I did was I had a phone call and of course just I already knew Filipinos had good English but I was just like, it almost like she grew up here with a slight accent. I was just completely blown away. The English was good as it was. Obviously I’m really fired up but I just, I wonder, did I just get lucky and you just happen to pull one out of the pack? And I was like wow, this is really great. Or is this kind of norm? I guess you can kind of tell me based on the feedback of the excitement that you’ve had, the people that have hired one and gone on to hire many. Tell our listeners a little bit about how that goes.

John Jonas: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people, man I just got really lucky. I hear this all the time. No, you didn’t get really lucky, you did a good job of recruiting and they’re really good. Not everybody has a great experience the first time. A lot of people don’t do a good job of recruiting but if you do a good job of recruiting, your chances are pretty high of getting lucky. And then you said something else, a bunch of the thing that you said are things that I hear over and over and over again. There was a light bulb that went on for you, when you recognized, I can get really good talented people. It’s two to $5 an hour. They’re thinkers. It’s not just a robot. They’re willing to work hard. It’s a different hard work than here in the US.

John Jonas: Some of the things that I’ve found culturally with the Philippines that I didn’t know about was, they’re loyal and I already talked about that. The first person I hired still works for me. If you treat them well, they’re loyal almost to a fault to where they’ll never quit. It’s not a matter of, oh they got another job offer, they’re going to jump ship. That’s not a thing in the Philippines. They’re honest to the point where my guys in the Philippines have my credit cards, they have my bank account numbers. They have access to my personal email account. Don’t go doing something you’re not comfortable with and get yourself ripped off but the only situations where I’ve seen people get ripped off in this is either they did something dumb or the tried to rip the worker off. They tried to get them to do a bunch of stuff and not get paid or not pay them.

John Jonas: They speak American English. Like you said, her English was amazing and obviously not everybody’s English is amazing but dang it’s a lot of people. And then they’re not entrepreneurial so they don’t want to steal your idea. They don’t want to take your domain. They don’t want to hijack your hosting account. They don’t want to do any of that stuff. They just want a job and if you’re willing to give them a job, you just found this really great situation of it’s hard to find a job in the Philippines. It’s especially hard to find a full-time job and you’re working from home on your own hours and you’re working for a foreign boss which in most countries is kind of a joke but in the Philippines it’s an honor which is different. It’s like a bragging point. They’ll brag about you their foreign boss to their friends.

John Jonas: You end up getting this situation where this person has a full-time job. They’re working their own hours, they’re working from home, they have a foreign boss, they’re getting paid well and they’ll go above and beyond what you ask them to do to keep their job. Not always, and again it completely depends on how you treat them, and this is especially the case in the Philippines with how you treat them makes a difference on the quality of work they’ll do but they don’t quit. That makes such a huge difference for a small business. And it makes a huge difference for the amount of effort you have to put in. The standard operating procedures, the rehiring. When you lose someone, everybody know this, the cost of losing an employee is double their annual salary or something like that because there’s so much pain involved.

Phil Singleton: Well even time wise. I’ve been spending a couple hours a day already and I’m just thinking, wow, that’s a lot. I’m the most expensive resource in my company but I feel the risk is pretty low. But point, that’s where I think people get it, the hidden cost of hiring. If you don’t like them.

John Jonas: Let me get into kind of a side thing that people don’t realize in there. People here are thinking something and it’s wrong. What most people are thinking of is oh I don’t want to take the commitment. I don’t want to make the commitment. I just want to someone out. I’ll just hire someone hourly in the Philippines and get the same thing. You won’t.

John Jonas: There’s a big difference between hourly work and full-time work and that’s on you, on your end. It’s not such a big deal on their end. It’s much more of a big deal on your end. And there’s a big difference between contract work or freelancers and hiring full-time. Let me just explain these because this makes a really big difference on your business success.

John Jonas: A contract worker or freelancer, this is someone you hired to do a project or to do a specific thing and they don’t work for you. When they’re done, you pay them and they go and do work for someone else. That’s all good and fine but it doesn’t allow you to give them things that will lessen your burden. For me, all of this is about lifestyle. I work 10 to 15 hours a week. Right now it’s summer, my kids are out of school, I’m working 10 hours a week and I’ve been at 10 to 15 hours a week for 10 years now because I get people in the Philippines to do my work for me.

John Jonas: With a contract worker you can’t do that. That person doesn’t care about your business success. You’re still going to have to spend the same amount of time hiring and recruiting and training as you would a full-time, long term person. Just because you always have to bring someone up to speed. But once you’re done with them, they go away and now when you need something done again, you have to go through the full process again. That’s kind of a contract worker, freelancer and that’s a big deal.

John Jonas: The full-time versus part time thing or the hourly versus full-time, part time, if you pay someone hourly and they’re not busy, you don’t care. They do the job that you gave them, they’re not working, it doesn’t matter to you. And that’s a really nice feeling of oh let me do what I’m comfortable with and just continue working on answering my emails because I don’t have to worry if they’re not busy. When you hire someone salaried, either part time or full-time, if they’re not busy, it’s on you. It’s your responsibility and that little change of giving yourself giving that responsibility, forces you to become the CEO. To work on your business instead of in your business.

John Jonas: That was probably the biggest thing that I didn’t realize that kind of changed my life was, this dude who I’m training, I just gave him this task to do and it took us a couple weeks to get to the point where he was getting it done faster than I thought but then he was done and I had to keep him busy. That had to take, that kind of jolted me out of oh man, I got to respond to this email. Oh I got another email I got to respond. Oh I got another. This endless cycle of garbage working in your business to I have to step away and think and give him something else to do because otherwise I’m wasting money. It’s not a lot of money but it’s still wasting money. Then I had to think of …

Phil Singleton: Then I also wonder, I’m a little bit in the spot of now where it’s on me to train. I can’t really give a full-time thing until they get up to speed and we’re both comfortable but my bigger fear to take a step back on this is, which I don’t mind right now that I might not be having full-time hours or work but I also don’t want somebody one, get in the habit of I don’t have enough work for them right now. And two, is that okay, are they going to be bored? If I’m like geez I just do some stuff, here’s some stuff to study but I can’t give you the full workload over day one so it might take a few day or couple weeks even to get the rhythm and the routine where I can start passing some stuff off.

Phil Singleton: And you mentioned a little bit of that. You had some stuff right off the bat then it was kind of like okay, you’re going to have to fill the plate up probably a little bit over time versus on day one. Especially for people that are smaller agencies or maybe a solo printer that’s just hiring their first person.

John Jonas: Yeah, but get on it. Start teaching stuff because it’s going to force you to start thinking about your business instead of thinking in your business. And that will make the biggest difference for most people of growth, success and growth. The other thing you mentioned if I don’t give this person enough stuff to do, are they going to get bored? Yes, and the result of getting bored is finding another job or taking a second job which is not a great situation. You want to keep them working for you and only for you.

Phil Singleton: That was my other fear of hiring actually was how does it work? Is it I’m going to hire somebody and I had this discussion, am I going to hire somebody and the reason it’s the pricing seems really super awesome is because they’re trying to take on three on four, quote unquote, full-time jobs. I was, well that wouldn’t really be fair either if somebody’s trying to take on. I actually was upfront about it. I was like, well what thing, what other responsibilities do you have? Would you be exclusive to me? Would you be taking on a lot of part time work and stuff like that?

Phil Singleton: That’s when it came out. Well I’ve got this restaurant during the day, doesn’t take a lot of my time. I just kind of have to be around but I can work upstairs. That was one thing. The other thing was she was really upfront, was that from time to time taking a couple little small, one or two hourly things, is that okay? I have something now to do, I don’t know if I’ll do them later. I feel like it was, but we had that discussion ahead of time. Is that common? Is that something to worry about?

John Jonas: No, that’s common, you did a great job. Just being upfront about it is a really big deal.

Phil Singleton: Is it common though? Is that a way for people to get ripped off is somebody just come on and they just basically took four full-time, they’re trying to squeeze four full-time jobs into one?

John Jonas: It definitely happens but if you can usually tell. You hire someone, you’re happy with their work, they’re doing good work and all of sudden you’ll see oh your productivity went down, what’s going on? And you need to approach them about it and say, “Hey, I can see that your productivity went down, what’s going on?”

John Jonas: I don’t use a time tracker. A lot of people do, I don’t. I don’t like it. They don’t like it but I can always just gauge like hey, I can tell that you’re not getting stuff done like you should. What’s going on? Or if that starts from the beginning, stuff’s not going on, then that’s when I know this isn’t going to work out.

Phil Singleton: And how quickly and how easy is it to get onto to, hey this isn’t working out. Do people get, they get nasty on you? Is it kind of like …

John Jonas: How easy is it?

Phil Singleton: Or just what’s the recommended way to do it in a way that saves face for everybody I guess?

John Jonas: There’s not. It sucks if you’re firing. Firing people sucks. But, they’re not going to do anything to you. If it hasn’t worked out, it hasn’t worked out. They’re not going to go try and rip you off. They’re not going to steal your crap. Unless you try and not pay them. It’s worse, the worst of it is on you. You’re letting someone go and that sucks. But they’ll go find another job.

Phil Singleton: And one of the things I wanted to dip into now is also to me, the way a lot of these services are pitched and even on yours on your website, onlinejobs.ph, it’s kind of opens up and I guess it’s kind of the common buzzwords is virtual assistants, virtual assistants from the Philippines. But really what I found, even on your own marketplace is you can hire way more than just a virtual assistant for just random tasks. There’s people like skilled website developers. There’s graphic designer. There’s all sorts of skilled people that are maybe would fall outside just what some people think of as a quote unquote virtual assistant. It can get pretty deep with some pretty solid skillsets.

John Jonas: Anything that can be done on a computer, you can hire someone in the Philippines to do it. I have 26 people, we just hired someone today to do customer support. 26 people in the Philippines full-time. I have obviously customer support people, I have graphic designers, I have web designers, I have video editor I have.

Phil Singleton: And those are all under kind of the onlinejobs.ph company?

John Jonas: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: You have actually have office space or all they all remote and somebody manages them remotely?

John Jonas: They all work from home.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. Wow.

John Jonas: Programmers.

Phil Singleton: That’s got to be, that’s a plus too for all of us. A corporate job can work actually out of our house.

John Jonas: Yeah, yeah, they get to work from home. You don’t have to pay for office space or utilities or insurance or any of that stuff. Plus their salary’s tax deductible. Really, depending on how much you’re making, it’s saving you one third of their salaries each month. It really is a good situation that is it’s like having a local person without the local issues.

Phil Singleton: And the other thing I was going to mention, is there a few things I’m learning, some of this is on your website too but you take the leap, you get somebody, you find somebody you like, you spend some time training them, hopefully you already have her in the process of kind of documenting some of your tasks and procedures. Just for the long term benefit of your own company, your own operation but for certain hiring somebody I think really does kind of jumpstart that. But there were some things, certain things I just recently learned about the Philippines.

Phil Singleton: There was the salary negotiations that went I think very smoothly. There was an ask to include, I guess a budget for I think she called it HMO or some type of a health kind of a stipend almost for that. Some kind of common and then also the quote unquote, 13th month which I guess was a, there’s some expectation for some of them I guess to pay a bonus that’s equal to about a month of the salary. Is that, hopefully you’re not hearing that for the first time.

John Jonas: The 13th month, if you are in the Philippines, if you’re a Filipino employer, it’s legally required that in December you pay them a bonus of one month’s pay. You pay them November’s salary on December 1st and then some time during the month of December you’re going to pay them one month’s salary.

Phil Singleton: They get doubled up in December.

John Jonas: They get doubled up in December, yeah. It’s not legally required for you because you’re not a Filipino business but it’s something you definitely should pay. And, you’re hiring someone like July 1st, that’s halfway through the year, you should prorate the 13th month so in December you’ll pay them half of one month’s salary.

Phil Singleton: Right, that’s kind of what we talked about. I actually, I didn’t know any better but I just said, “Would that be okay?” And she was cool with it.

John Jonas: Yeah, that’s correct. The HMO, the health insurance is a totally won on a case by case basis. A lot of people will ask for SSS and Phil Health. SSS is their social security. Phil Health is their national health insurance thing. But it’s not really health insurance it’s just kind of a discount thing. It’s kind of silly but it’s also 10 or $20 a month. It’s pretty cheap so it’s worth saying, “Okay, I’m going to pay you this much and here’s your, I’m going to add to that this.”

Phil Singleton: To cover those things.

John Jonas: To cover these things, whatever.

Phil Singleton: I thought that sounded reasonable. It wasn’t like I didn’t know it was going to come. It was like, 10 or 20 bucks. It wasn’t like another $200 a month or something. But that’s what it is here in the States, man. You hire some W2 and put get the insurance going.

John Jonas: Right, you get all that extra stuff here. You don’t get that there. We recently did health insurance after 15 years, we finally added full on health insurance to people and it was an extra $100 a month per person but we had to do a lot of work to get that done. It’s something that I guess we could talk about it on the website.

Phil Singleton: At some point. Look man, this has been super awesome and like I said, I was so excited about that I literally reached out to you and said, “Gosh, I’d love to do a podcast on this because we do, half of our listeners are agency owners. Other half are basically small, larger maybe small businesses and stuff like that.” I think honestly, with the way things are digital, especially in the marketing space, so many, a lot of agency’s owners already need help all over the place. They’re already looking for any kind of assistance they can get to kind of help them scale so they can grow their own business without having to hire too many W2 employees or what have you.

Phil Singleton: And then you got actually a lot of small business owners that could use, they can’t really afford to have a full-time social media or marketing person just to maintain some type of a presence on social media or anything really. It’s either all or nothing. They hire an agency like mine, helps them do everything, gives them a presence like they have somebody in house. But this is a huge opportunity for small businesses, if they can take the leap and train people and trust them to do stuff because it’s, I can see anybody considering this, there’s just no, you don’t just hire somebody and then just press a button and it works. There’s definitely the one thing I think I probably didn’t anticipate was but now I understand, is you just definitely have to take time to train people and tell them what you want them to do.

Phil Singleton: You just think some of the people are going to know coming in the door, know exactly what. It’s not. It’s the same way you hire somebody locally. You have to go through a lot to get them up to speed.

John Jonas: Yeah, for sure.

Phil Singleton: It doesn’t change anywhere.

John Jonas: My advice to people is when you’re getting started, hire someone to do something you currently are doing. Get something off of your plate and yeah, it’s going to add. You’re working 50 hours a week, you’re going to work 55 or 60 the first few weeks. It just is what it is, you have to spend more time.

Phil Singleton: I’m spending a couple, probably two hours, I getting up 6:00, 7:00 in the morning and spending two hours, three hours even. I think I even spent four hours literally just trying to go through every employee.

John Jonas: But then after that, you’re going to work 45 hours a week. You’re going to get time back into your life. If you hire someone to do something you’re currently doing. And then after that you work less and then you have this understanding, this full new world exists for you that you can hire someone else to do.

Phil Singleton: Well then you mentioned something else John, was like how what I’m really hoping is if I have as much faith in this person I have, if she can really understand different parts of the business and get one or two of these things down, can she help me train somebody else?

John Jonas: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: So I don’t have to do it?

John Jonas: For sure.

Phil Singleton: Which is why I really want to put my time and effort into one person that can help me document stuff, understand, they go through all the processes then she can spend 20 hours a week for a couple weeks training somebody. It would totally help. Then that really starts to scale for you.

John Jonas: Yeah. Let me just, let me tell you really quickly how I train people. And I will train two, three, four people at a time on a single thing. For example, we’ll create a process in the backend of Online Jobs where we need to have this monitored. The way I do that is I use Snag It. Have you used Snag It?

Phil Singleton: Yeah, screen capture.

John Jonas: Yeah, screen capture. It’s creating a video of my screen. It’s recording my voice and my mouse and my screen and I’ll just talk through the entire process and whether it takes me one minute or five minutes or an hour, I’ll just talk through it. And then I’ll send it to all of them and say, “I want you all to learn this,” even though only one of them is going to do it. You’re all going to learn this because the more they know, the better off they’re going to be at whatever else they’re doing. And then they’ll come back to me with questions and I’ll just do it again. I’ll spend five.

Phil Singleton: That’s like us as business owners. You know pretty much everything that you’re doing. The process, you’ve gone through it before. You know how to change stuff on your website. You know how to add a blog post, whatever, all that stuff.

John Jonas: Yeah. You want to modify WordPress, fine, talk someone through it. Here’s how we do this. Or you have your Shopify store or whatever, hey, here’s how I do this thing in Shopify. Whatever it is. Open up Snag It, start talking your way through it. It’s so much easier than writing an email and trying to describe every little thing. Or when you are writing an email, take a screenshot and draw an arrow on it so people know exactly what it is.

Phil Singleton: Love it.

John Jonas: It’s so much easier to do that. I do that.

Phil Singleton: I actually use, I use one called Loom, you got Loom US, it’s the same thing sounds like. You go in, do a browser plugin and just screen capture stuff.

John Jonas: Yeah, I do it probably 10 times a day. And that’s how I communicate with people. And everything goes into a project management system for me.

Phil Singleton: So sweet. Last but not least, I always like to ask people that have successful growing online businesses, what kind of things are you doing for marketing for yourself? Obviously you guys know something or do your own kind of SEO. You rank for certain special keywords that you’re doing so that helps. Is there any other things that you guys do for marketing. I’m sure it grows and there’s some, I got to you by a traditional offline referral. Somebody else had heard about you or was happy about it and they were like, hey, check this out and I did and here I am.

John Jonas: For us, that’s one of the biggest things that we have is we just get a lot of word of mouth. But outside of that, one of things I learned a long time ago and this was with that very first person, I do everything. We implement everything we know of, everything we hear of, I just don’t do the work. I just get other people to do the work. We’re implementing everything. I don’t really know what it is that’s working super well.

Phil Singleton: You guys are just trying it all. Last, last question is, of your team members, 26, 27 of them, what does that look on a day, what does, just give me a breakdown of the percentage wise. Are 10 of them customer service? Are they in general, a lot of them just multi-tasked, multi-talented people. You got graphic designers, what’s it look like?
John Jonas: Yeah, I think we have five programmers, I think we have four customer service people, I think we have five or six admin people, no there’s probably more than that. People that are working on data security. We do a lot of work in Online Jobs to make sure, not to make sure, to try and have a clean set of worker profiles. We get scammers. We get people from India. We get all kinds of stuff and we spend a lot of time trying to clean that up. We have a bunch of people that do a bunch of things to clean that up.

Phil Singleton: Got you.

John Jonas: I have a couple front end webmaster kind of people, HTML, CSS. I have a couple designers. I have a girl that does HR. She does recruiting. I have a couple social media people, content writer. I have a project, kind of a project manager. She kind of helps oversee a bunch of different things. What else do we have?

Phil Singleton: You’ve got one or two right hand people. I’m sure that one initial hire is one of them.

John Jonas: Yeah, he definitely is. He manages all the admin backend people. And I could ask that guy to do anything I want. He’d do it. I have a Facebook ads person. A couple of people that write content. We have a pretty widely varied team. They all work from home, they’re all in the Philippines.

Phil Singleton: Sorry, I’m going to wrap this up, I really appreciate you spending this much time with us. So much great info, I know we’re going to have a lot of people interested in this particular episode. What would be the range is usually starting from whatever, two to three, four, $5 an hour to I’m sure it can go up from there. People that have had more experience for other type things. In a general sense, what are we talking about for people with a couple years of experience out of school maybe? I think the person I hired is probably in her early, mid 20s versus maybe somebody that’s in their later 20s, has maybe different degrees. What are we looking at for those types of hires and stuff? What would be a web designer versus kind of a general just virtual just assistant, general assistant? What kind of?

John Jonas: I’ll just kind of change the paradigm here. I have no hourly people. I don’t know how much anybody makes hourly. My people are all full-time. They make between 400 and $1,600 a month and so at the upper end of that I have a really good Facebook and Google ads person or a designer who’s amazing or a couple really good programmers. In the middle end I have these, I have good content writers would be in the middle of that. Good front end people. On the lower end of that I would have probably customer support people or some admin people. At 400, she’s an admin person. Most of our people are probably between 550 and 850 a month.

Phil Singleton: And what would be a let’s say a talented graphic designer? You guys have really great stuff on your website. That’s obviously probably part came from your team, no?
John Jonas: Yeah, 1,500 bucks a month. You can hire a really good graphic designer between a 1,000 and 1,500 bucks a month.

Phil Singleton: Somebody who know what they’re doing with WordPress and stuff like that? Making a WordPress side.

John Jonas: Somebody who knows what they’re doing on WordPress between 500 and $800 a month. A video editor would be 700 to a 1,000. A good content writer would be 550 to 950.

Phil Singleton: Content, that would be a big one. That’s the one thing. Is that really even possible? Your stuff, it looks like you do have a content writer. I forget her name but there’s some really good posts you have on your website.

John Jonas: Yeah, stuff on the onlinejobs.ph.

Phil Singleton: That’s all from your team from the Philippines, right?

John Jonas: That’s our team, yeah. A lot of it’s well, they started posting it is as them but a lot of it was posted as me and I don’t know that I wrote anything.

Phil Singleton: Right.

John Jonas: They wrote it, yeah.

Phil Singleton: But content writer, around a $1,000 a month.

John Jonas: Yeah, you could, I would be less than that, yeah.

Phil Singleton: For a good something that would, even if I have to edit.

John Jonas: It just depends on how you recruit. You do a good job recruiting, it’ll be 700 bucks.

Phil Singleton: Are you looking for somebody that has, how easy is it to hire people in this kind of a system that have maybe secondary degrees or even English type stuff. Is that what you’re looking for for this kind of stuff? That’s why I’m asking so much. Is your marketplace more kind of people that are coming in in that early 20s range that are looking for experience? Or is it all over the map?

John Jonas: It’s all over the map. It’s all over the map. Here’s a couple things. In the Philippines, almost everybody you find will have a degree. That’s just across the board.

Phil Singleton: That’s a baseline.

John Jonas: That’s a baseline in the Philippines of you’ve gone to grade school, middle school, high school. If you have a high school degree in the Philippines, basically the only thing you’re qualified to do is be a nanny. It’s socially you’re kind of an outcast if you only have a high school degree. After that you have a college degree of two to four years, two to five years of college degree and basically everybody you find is either going to have a degree or they’re going to be working on a degree.

Phil Singleton: Got you.

John Jonas: That is just a matter of how much experience are you hiring for? For my, what I would recommend to people is, you’re hiring someone to do something you’re already doing. Unless it’s a technical position, unless it’s programming, design, webmaster, WordPress, whatever, unless it’s a technical position, you’re going to hire them for their English because you can teach them how to do social media. You can teach them how to write content. You can teach whatever if their English is great. Hire for their English skills and then worry about the specific skills after that.

Phil Singleton: Thank you so much for doing this John. This was so awesome. It was one of my favorite episodes. This is going to be I think a great one to kind of promote. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of downloads off of it. Tell us where we can follow you. I know the one thing we’ll have in the show notes is onlinejobs.ph. Is there any particular social media place where you connect with people more? Is it LinkedIn, Facebook, something else, let us know and we’ll make sure that we let people know how best to follow you.

John Jonas: You can follow me on Facebook. I’ll be totally honest, I hate Facebook.

Phil Singleton: Me too.

John Jonas: And if you follow me on Facebook you’re probably going to see …

Phil Singleton: A post a year, something like that, like mine.

John Jonas: No, you’ll see regular posts I think. It’s just not done by me. But if you want to get in contact with me, I’m contactable. If you use the contact desk link on onlinejobs.ph, it doesn’t come to me but if you say, “This is for John,” or you say, “I have a question for John,” I will be the second person to see it. They all know just to send it to me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

John Jonas: And I’ll respond.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well I’m definitely going to type up some notes and let people know that this is one of these things where I actually tried and I’m very, really excited about honestly. I’m like, in my mind I’m imagining a much bigger team over the next months and year so maybe but then you also kind of temper it. You want to make sure that one step at a time. Works out. I can definitely see the potential here for me but for lots of other people. Hope a lot of the people kind of check this out.

John Jonas: Sweet. Love it.

Phil Singleton: All right man.

John Jonas: Hey, thanks for having me man.

Phil Singleton: All right, have a great rest of your week and Happy Fourth of July.

John Jonas: Talk to you later.

Phil Singleton: See you.

Kansas City Keynote Speakers & Motivational Speaking with Joel Goldberg

Joel Goldberg, a popular Kansas City keynote speaker and sports announcer, has one of the most recognizable faces and voices in the metro area.

While Joel has had a first-row seat to one of the most inspirational stories in recent sports history, I found his personal story to be fascinating.

It’s no wonder that he has become on of the most sought-after keynote speaker in the metro area and has spoken companies such as Cerner, Mariner Wealth Advisors, American Family Insurance, Mobank and Enterprise Bank.

Joel shares an amazing story of how he started out in his early 20’s, fresh out of college, and created an opportunity by cold-calling scores of TV stations around the country and fought his way into the business with sheer grit and determination.

You will love this episode!

Click to learn more about Joel, his broadcast career, and all the cool new things he is doing at Joel Goldberg Media!

Learn more about Joel Goldberg


Meet Joel Goldberg

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody and welcome to The Local Business Leader’s Podcast. I’m your host Phil Singleton. Today our featured guest is Joel Goldberg. Joel has spent nearly a quarter of a century covering college and professional athletes in football, basketball, hockey and baseball. He’s a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and won a Regional Sports Emmy in 2001 in St. Louis.

More recently Joel has hosted thousands of pre and post-game television shows while traveling with the Kansas City Royals since 2008. Joel is a true storyteller, sharing lessons from the sports world about culture and building relationships with audiences looking to make an impact in their businesses.

He recently spoken at some top Kansas City companies such as Cerner, Mariner Wealth Advisors, American Family Insurance, Mobank and Enterprise Bank. Joel, welcome to the show.

Joel Goldberg: Thanks for having me Phil.

Phil Singleton: This is gonna be awesome. Really before we get started with some of the other questions I’d like to ask you today. Just love to hear about your journey on those first steps out of school, almost what got you here today.

Joel Goldberg: Well I’ll say that growing up like a lot of kids, I had the dream of one day playing professional sports. Unlike some kids, I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t going to happen. I was, and I’m not being humble, an average athlete at best. I loved talking about it. I was the kid from I can remember as early as first or second grade driving my teachers crazy with details of what was in box scores and games from the night before. So I feel like I always enjoyed telling stories and letting people know what was going on.

So my dream from I would say certainly teenage years on, or maybe even a little before was to be on TV talking about sports. I didn’t know exactly what that looked like. I got out of college, that’s what I studied, and what I found was everybody wanted to do that. So let’s just make up a number, say 10,000 kids came out of college wanting to be on TV in 1994 and it’s more than that. There were only 100 jobs available.

I just started cold calling, and I’m not a cold calling type by the way.

– Joel Goldberg

Now let’s back up and say that this was a time where there was no internet. It was just starting, email had just begun. There weren’t YouTube links. You had to put together physically a tape and then record over and over again more versions of that, put a label on it and stick it in the mail and send it out. I got rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter. The first lesson that I learned really in life, business, TV, sports, everything, it was instinctual at that point was I had to figure out a way to get to the top of the list really not being any better than anyone else.

I just started cold calling, and I’m not a cold calling type by the way. I just started cold calling TV stations around the country and the conversation basically went like this, “hi can you give me the name of your news director,” again remember there was no website to look up. Sure it’s Dave Smith, thank you, click. Ten minutes later call back, hi can I speak with Dave Smith, hi my names’ Joel Goldberg. I recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin, I’m looking for a job in TV. I understand that you don’t have one right now, but I just happened to be passing through, fill in the blank, Quincy, Illinois, Terre Haute, Indiana, Rochester, Minnesota, Mason City Iowa, blah, blah, blah.

I happen to be passing through Terre Haute next Wednesday, could I stop by and introduce myself and give you a tape. Sure, and I’d hop in my car and drive all over the country. I started meeting people that way. Put a lot of mileage on the car and sure enough a couple months later I got my first TV offer and within a month or so later, three more came in.

That was the start of it, that’s how I got to the front of the line and 24 years later here I am.

Phil Singleton: That is so awesome. The reason I say that is because seriously, how many of us, I’m guessing you were in your what, 20’s?

Joel Goldberg: I was 22 at that point. I had no idea what I was doing. Was I good, I don’t think I was all that good. I probably did at the time, but I had-

Phil Singleton: Yeah I can tell you right now though, how many kids in their early 20’s have that kind of grit?

Joel Goldberg: That’s true for anything. By the way this is a message that still applies today. I remember talking to my nephew about this a couple of years ago. I don’t know how it all came up. He’s like, well nowadays we have Linkedin, it’s so much easier. I said sure, so does everyone else. So what are you gonna do different than the thousands of people that also have linked in.

The jobs have changed now too by the way. Kids aren’t, I’m hearing this now. Kids aren’t coming out of school saying I wanna be on Sports Center, or I wanna be the local sports anchor. They’re saying that they wanna be the sideline reporter. That’s become a bigger deal. I wanna do the interviews on social media, I wanna have a presence on SnapChat or whatever it is.

So it’s changed, but I still think that philosophy applies today and will apply till the end of time. How do you differentiate yourself from everyone else.

Joel Goldberg – The Entrepreneur

Phil Singleton: That’s a great story. I’d love to talk a little bit. We were talking kind of in the green room so to speak before we started recording here. I look at you as having two sides to your business. Obviously you’ve got the kind of hosting would you call it a career or a job or, almost want to…

Joel Goldberg: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: But then you’ve also got this other side where you’ve got this separate business, where you’re doing things like, speaking, giving motivational speeches, other types of services as well. I’d love to dive into that a little bit more, how that came about.

Then also how you’re going about using your own influence and career path that you’ve taken at this point to grow that business.

Joel Goldberg: Well it’s, the TV things’ been going obviously for a quarter century, and that makes me feel old. I knew I was starting to really get older when we got to a point where there were officially no players left in the major leagues that were older than me. The last one was Jason Giambi, and once he retired I’m like, I don’t even need to search this anymore. It’s gonna take like a 50 something year old deciding to come back and play. So that was one of the points where I realized that I was getting old.

Phil Singleton: But that’s in the sports world in the grand scheme, I mean come on. You’re in your prime.

Joel Goldberg: But I think that there’s a good message there and I would like to sit there and say this was my speaking business and the entrepreneur side of me was all this master plan to have a fall back option or have life after TV. Because I do the speaking thing like golf, I’m a terrible golfer by the way, but you can do it forever.

As long as you can speak, or as long as you have your physical capabilities, you can play golf. You don’t need a lot of physical capabilities to at least get out there and have fun. As long as I’m capable of speaking and standing up on a stage I can do that. But the reality of it is in the television world, it’s gonna expire at some point. Whether they decide tomorrow that they wanna go a different direction, they haven’t for a long time, or whether I just get older.

So I could sit here and tell you that I had this master fall back plan, but it wasn’t that. I just kind of stumbled into it by accident. Being in TV you’re asked to do a lot of appearances and Rotary Clubs and church groups and schools and things like that. I’d always done that, and about two and a half years ago I was asked by a couple different organizations to come out and speak. We have a small budget, so we’ll pay you. I’m, wow, you’ll pay me to do this, wow.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a lot of money, but it was money. More importantly is I got up there and it was two totally different audiences. One was a group of financial advisors, and the other was a group in lawn care and golf course management. I don’t even remember what the whole speech was, I just remember the reaction to it was the same. I thought, boy you got two different audiences, with different professions, dressed totally differently and they had the same reaction.

I was out with a friend, ’cause my off season … I basically work six to seven days a week for six months in baseball. My off season can kind of do what I want, I was doing some other sports. So the natural question from people is always, hey what have you been up to, what are you doing in your off season. I told them I spoke to a couple groups. One of them said, you know you could form a whole business out of this. I was naïve enough to say really, you can?

I didn’t know anything about the business world, about the speaking world, because for all the people that say to me, hey you’ve got such a good job. You get to talk about baseball every day, you get to travel the country. I say yes, they pay me to talk about baseball, life is great. But it’s such a comfortable place if you can get there, that you don’t ever really look outside of it.

Most of us in the TV or the sports world don’t look outside of it. You look at other sports, and this was totally different. So I kind of caught the bug and the entrepreneurial bug. Then I went about this the old fashioned way. I just started networking and great, we have huge audiences that watch us for baseball. So it certainly made getting into doors easier than just some random cold call.

But as you know, one connection, two connections, three connections and suddenly they start multiplying. During my off seasons, I’m two, three, four meetings a day for coffee, breakfast, lunch, happy hour, whatever it might be. That could be anything, it was anything from new relationships to other introductions to brainstorming content. To learning about speaking techniques to being introduced to a speaking coach. To meeting people in the National Speakers Association to on and on and on and on and on.

With that said, this business has been built. I feel like I’m … it’s become sort of an obsession of mine, even in season. It’s kind of giving me new life at a time where I was okay. It wasn’t that I was bored, it wasn’t that I was unhappy. I was lucky enough to love what I did, love what I do. But I think also Phil, there’s sometimes there’s the danger when you’re happy or satisfied of being complacent.

Kansas City Keynote Speakers & Motivational Speeches

Phil Singleton: Right, I was just gonna say that. So take one step back to the new company that you’ve created, that you’re providing services for. The main service you provide is motivational speeches, are there any kind of other services? I wanna make sure that our listeners get that right. What does this business look like in terms of the services that you offer?

Joel Goldberg: Yeah I think the main thing is speeches, and it’s mostly keynote speeches.

Phil Singleton: Keynote speeches.

Joel Goldberg: That’s really where my comfort level is. There have been some workshops and some other activities, but at least for me right now, that sweet spot is the speaking business, and really two speeches. I’m closing in on a third and a fourth.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Joel Goldberg: But the two, what I’m really focused for now on Kansas City. Just because I think I can provide value to companies all over the country. But the reality of it is, I am, and there’s so much here that has to do with branding. I have a brand as a baseball announcer. I have a brand as the guy that Salvador Perez dumps the Gatorade bucket on and all that stuff.

So I’m trying to take that brand and expand it into someone who can not just come and motivate you, but someone that can come in to teach your employees, or teach the members of your association. Because the one thing that I say is that you don’t have to be a baseball fan or a sports fan to take something out of my speeches, and that is my goal. The same way that when I go on TV, if I’m just gonna go hardcore stats, I’m gonna eliminate a lot of our viewers. If I just go human interest stories and don’t add those stats in, it’ll eliminate other viewers.

So I had to find a way to really pull everyone in. That’s our job, so I try to go about it the same way with the speaking business. Meaning that a lot of former athletes, people on the speaking circuit from the sports world, they can go in there and tell the greatest stories ever. They’re celebrities, and you really don’t have to have a take away. If George Brent or Terry Bradshaw or whoever it might be comes and speaks, they’re gonna make a ton of money by showing up and sharing stories that are gold.

But for me, I don’t think I’m that big of a deal. So I’ve gotta be able to take these stories that I view as a peek behind the curtain. It’s not a tell all. But I’ve been lucky enough for this quarter century to have a shotgun front row seat to teams that have won, lost, everything in between. You look at the Royals, last place to champions. How did they build it, how did they keep it. The highs, the lows and taking these stories and using them as teaching tools for people in business and life.


What I’m finding is, because storytelling … stories are powerful. People remember stories over numbers. People remember stories over pie charts and graphs. That’s important, but I always say when I get to follow the compliance person at a speaking event, I always feel pretty good. Because the compliance, the HR, all that stuff is necessary. You have to do it, but my stuff’s different.

You know what it’s done Phil, it’s given me this new purpose that I can take so many of these things that I can’t necessarily do on TV or I might only have 15 seconds to do on TV, and I can turn them around and spend the better part of an hour with the group really highlighting some of these moments and hopefully opening people’s eyes.

Phil Singleton: Love it. So one of the questions I’ve gathered related to this is, from that standpoint, you’re basically a small business owner, kind of just like the rest of some of us are, right? Of course I know you speak at some of these major top Kansas City companies with lots of employees and stuff like that. But from a business standpoint, in terms of getting new clients for your business. Some of the things you’d already mentioned is how you’re getting new speaking gigs. Part of that is networking, I think you mentioned that. You mentioned you’re active online, on social media. I see you on Linkedin a lot.

I guess one nice thing about also speaking is that kind of leads to other speaking engagements. You do a good job people like the stories that you’re telling, the lessons that you’re teaching and that leads to other things from referrals and that type of thing.

You also have a website right, so you’re kind of like, not only do you have your own social media presences on some of the major social channels. But you’ve actually got kind of a central location for your business online in terms of your own website and you’re kind of marketing that.

Just like to hear a little bit about how that’s working for you, what you’re doing to drive traffic. Other ways that maybe, and let me know if I’m getting this right, other ways that you have tried to generate new business.

Joel Goldberg: Well it’s a good question and I think the first thing I’ll say, ’cause a lot of this is certainly on the website. A lot of this is more your expertise than mine. I’m learning every day, of course we all learn every day, I know that sounds really cliché.

Marketing as an Entrepreneur

Phil Singleton: When you’re doing some of it is common sense. You mentioned you’re going out, you’re having coffee, you’re making it happen. You’re not waiting for the phone to ring. You’re out there actually networking and trying to create these opportunities. I think that’s really just happening because that’s who you are, that’s your nature. It’s like what you said from the beginning. You went out from college and you didn’t wait, sit down and wait for the phone to ring, you went out and made it happen. You had the grit, you made the cold calls, you traveled around the country and finally you got it.

I feel like you’re kind of doing a little bit of that right now. You got this, you got this vision, you got the bug. Now you’re making things happen, like going out and actually meeting with people and being proactive about it. I think that’s a really big lesson to learn for all business owners. ‘Cause so many of us hope for like a magic pill. Throw some money at somebody and hope new business is gonna fall out of the sky.

It really doesn’t happen like that. You have to actually hustle a little bit no matter who you are, especially if you’re gonna start a new business.

Joel Goldberg: Okay, if you have Jeff Bezos type of money or Warren Buffett or name those kind of people, they can make anything happen. Money will buy you if you want. But for the most part for most of us you’re right, there isn’t a magic pill. By the way none of those guys got where they did with the magic pill. All their hard work now enables them to purchase that magic pill if they so choose to. But they also are very astute business people.

But I think it’s a good observation Phil and I appreciate it because it’s weird, I was thinking about this the other day. But when I started this speaking thing two and a half years ago, okay I gotta start networking. I went out immediately, and a good friend and neighbor of mine said you need to meet this guy, he knows everyone. That lead to five more and on and on.

I don’t think I sat there and said okay, I need to do this in the same way that I’ve built my TV career, or started my TV career I should say. It just kind of happened instinctually, which is I think interesting to me. I don’t know how to analyze myself on this one, but I went about it the same way I did when I hit the wall. I didn’t hit a wall on this, but when I had no other chance. My back was against the wall back in 1994, and I just went out there, and I went after it.

So I didn’t go into the speaking thing saying okay, let me go and do this the way I did in ’94, I just started doing it. So you’re right, maybe that’s who I am, and there’s some things you can teach, some things you’re born with, we can debate all that. But I think anyone can do this if they have the desire to do it. I do think that it’s a lot easier to do it when you have a passion for it.

What was interesting to me was as I started this and reading a lot, and all the networking and everybody starting saying the Simon Sinek stuff about finding your why. I didn’t know what my why was. It was almost like you’re not allowed to say the why is for money, you have to have a passion for it. You have to know why you’re doing this. It’s like wait a minute, we all do work to get paid, is that allowed. Am I allowed to talk about that.

The money and the speaking thing potentially is pretty good, and I can control it as a business owner versus signing a contract for TV and this is kind of where you’re at. But along the way I found the why, and I found that I love interacting with people. I love building relationships, I love helping people. I love storytelling and I love opening people’s eyes. Really not all that different than what I was doing when I was seven, eight years old driving those first and second grade teachers nuts. I liked being the one to share that and maybe then it was entertaining. I think now it’s hopefully to help people.

So I guess that’s kind of how everything came about. But I firmly believe that you have to build the relationships in everything. People say to me, when they say to me, hey you’re in the baseball business, you’re in the TV business. I say no I’m not, I love baseball, I’m not in the baseball business, I’m in the people business. I don’t know that I would consider any of the current or former players good friends of mine. But I could rattle off an all star list of guys that if I were to call them or text them right now, and ask for a favor, they would do it.

Because of the relationships and trust that have been built. I’m not doing it, but point being, when I need that interview or I have that big moment, I know that I can rely on these guys. Because, I’ll use a baseball term here, I didn’t steal a base. I went through the whole process. I didn’t try to get to second or third or home before touching first. I think there is a lesson to be learned there. You talk about the magic pill and especially now, as I’m growing all of this and I try to be active on all the social media avenues or platforms.

What I’m finding is, is people try to connect with me on Linkedin and I try to accept everybody because you never know. As I accept them, you start getting some of these messages back. You can see right away it’s sometimes it’s an automated message too, we all get those. It’s like wait a minute, you’re looking for my business and you don’t even know me yet. It’s everything I’m against.

So I’m not asking for everybody that connects with me on Linkedin to try to build a relationship with me. None of us took time for all that. But I’m certainly not gonna do business until we’ve sat down for coffee or gotten to know each other. I think so many people skip that step. I think that’s the one point. Then back to what am I doing. This was another thing that took me a little while to realize, contents’ everything.

So yes, and I have a marketing director that does phenomenal work for me. Basically if you look at my social media, if it looks like something that just was typed out, it was probably me. If it has a nice graphic to it, it was probably her.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Joel Goldberg: She’s very measured with what she does and when she does it. We are at a point now where she is promoting my business and me, which is a little uncomfortable for me. But more than anything, it’s putting out content. Whether it’s sharing quotes or clips from my podcasts or just different things to get people thinking, it doesn’t cost anything.

Just continuing to put out content, building the brand, trying to help people. That doesn’t really cost a lot to do that.

Phil Singleton: Well in a way doing what you are saying that’s been help to get successful your entire career, which is using it in a way with general good content that people are consuming. In a way they’re almost building a relationship with you over the connection, the channels that they’re following you. You’re building that relationship slowly over time ’cause you’re building that trust up and I love that.

Joel Goldberg: That’s right, and again, it doesn’t cost anything. I guess I’m lucky enough that I’m a content person. I also happen to be surrounded by content. But I also think that if we open our eyes, no matter what we do, there’s content around us all the time. There’s stories to be told everywhere. I happen to be lucky enough that I go to work every day of the year for six months a year surrounded by a lot of famous people or people that are less than one percent talent wise. They’re doing something that nobody else could do, that’s really interesting.

But I think everybody has a story to tell, you just have to look for it. You have to ask questions and you have to be willing to share with people and put it in perspective.


Phil Singleton: So that’s a great segue way into one of my recent favorite topics, which is podcasting. You have a podcast, I have a podcast. I think it’s really hot, I think it’s great for all sorts of different reasons. Of course it’s been around since 2005 or before, but it’s really picked up speed in the last three or four years.

Tell us how that came about, what you think about podcasting. If you think it relates to, or can be used by small business owners, other types of business owners. I’d just like to hear what your general thoughts are on podcasting in general.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, I sort of stumbled into the podcasting in the same backwards accidental way that I did the speaking business. The very short of the story, I mentioned that a friend of mine said to me, hey you can start a speaking business. In the message that I got from him, actually his wife is a speaker. She said, you need to write a book, if you’re gonna be a speaker, you gotta write a book.

You see that in the speaking business, when you have a book you get into more doors. When you have a book you can sell books and you make more money and blah, blah, blah. You’re more credible, and by the way, the whole book thing to me, and the podcasting for that matter too is a little bit silly from this standpoint.

It just means you’ve written a book, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great speaker. It doesn’t necessarily mean okay, I won an Emmy. I put that in there because, in the bio, because that’s the one that always gets an ooh and an ahhh from the crowd. But you know that’s like winning a Grammy or whatever. It’s a voting thing. I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it, but there’re years where I think I deserved one and I didn’t get it and other years where maybe-

Phil Singleton: In all fairness I think to the rest of us, you have a platform. Most people I think that go out and try to create speaking gigs or get booked on any type of a gig really, they almost need to have something like a book to establish themselves. You don’t because you’ve already got an audience, you’ve already been on the air. You’re a TV host, you won an Emmy.

You could make an argument that you wouldn’t necessarily need that, but if you didn’t have that platform, you might need something like a podcast or a book or something to help you establish yourself as an expert where you have all this kind of stuff. I think it’s a little bit different, but-

Joel Goldberg: I agree, and so I fully get that. So I’m fortunate enough, and not apologizing for it. It’s all the sacrifice and all the years put in and all the content and everything I’ve learned. That now I can show up really well in a speech and podcast and all that.

But back to the whole podcast question, this person said you need to write a book. I met with an author, and really two years ago the thought was daunting. Like how the heck, I don’t know the first thing, what am I doing. She said to me you know what, I don’t think you should write a book, which I appreciated. Because I’m sure she could have potentially made some money by helping me write a book.

She said do a podcast instead. I said why, she said well one, you’re a broadcaster, it’s in your wheelhouse. So I said okay. Two she said it’s an opportunity to meet people and network. Three it’s new content material that could at some point go into a book and fourth, it’s a great way to create a brand.

When she said that, I said well what should I podcast about. She said you figure that out. The one thing I knew was, I don’t wanna do a baseball podcast. I still to this point have friends and people say, hey you should do a season preview, you should talk to … get an athlete on there. I will say this, I could increase my listenership by huge numbers by just doing a Royals podcast. But it doesn’t interest me. I already have that brand, I’m not trying to grow that brand. I’m not trying to stunt it, but I had that exposure that you talked about already on TV.

People see too much of me already and I say that in a self-deprecating way. But I’m hosting 300 shows a summer. I just need to keep doing that job well.

Phil Singleton: I absolutely love it because the podcast that I have called, Local Business Leaders. I could have named it WordPress Website Development Guru, this or that or Kansas City SEO Expert Guy this and that. But no, I wanted to name something kind of like what you’re going after, which is how do we build our network to reach another kind of audience, a new audience. How do we get maybe something that’s more appealing to elevate the type of people I wanna interview. It sounds exactly like where you’re going right. You didn’t just say hey I’m gonna-

Joel Goldberg: That’s exactly it.

Phil Singleton: I love it, I absolutely love it.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah and then it’s just telling stories. I’m not … don’t get me wrong, I have … one of my guests was the new now, it’s been less than two years now. But CEO of H&R Block, I had the mayor of Kansas City, Sly James. I had the CEO of Garmin, those are big name companies and I’ll never say no to those. But at the same time, I’m really interested in telling the story of the start-up entrepreneur who maybe is going to bed tonight worried about financing and making it work and is this gonna work, or is he gonna have to look for something else or she, and telling those stories.

In turn we talk about value of hoping that people that are listening to them, and there’s a library full of them.

Phil Singleton: Tell me, do you think that’s helping your business. I don’t know what episode you’re on right now, but you’ve done dozens of them  Has it lead to new clients, new inquiries, how does it workout that way?

Joel Goldberg: I think it has and maybe I’m not smart enough yet to measure it. One of the things I think with entrepreneurs or certainly people going into a new business and when you’re doing it yourself. It’s the whole scaling issue of what comes first. There’s something and then the investor invest and hope you achieve. So I’m dealing with all that like a lot of people do.

So there’s a lot that I’m still trying to figure out. But what I know is this. I’m getting more buzz, I’m having more people on a regular basis say to me hey, I got a good guest for your. That’s something that wasn’t happening before. I don’t even know if it’s showing up necessarily in the numbers yet. But again this gets back to just trusting this process, it’s very much like building relationships.

Once I got past over obsessing, well I don’t think I was over obsessing, but I would wanna look at those numbers every single week. I was doing it bi-weekly, now it’s weekly, and see how many people are listening to it. I just stopped worrying about that and just keep going out there and more content, more people.

Phil Singleton: It’s like you said earlier, the relationship building. You got a platform now, people know you that want to be interviewed and want to be on your show. Even like this, we’re now talking to each other 20, 30, 40 minutes for a podcast episode. It’s almost like a little bit of relationship starts to build from the nature of podcasting. You’ve already done that with some really heavy hitters in the business world in Kansas City because you have that platform.

I think that’s one of the things people overlook. A guy by the name of Steven Woessler, he’s a marketing guy from one of my earlier episodes. Man people just don’t realize how podcasts, especially the interview format. It’s like the ultimate sales Trojan horse. You get in there, you build up a relationship, you’re doing something for somebody that elevates who they are, their expertise. The relationship actually develops over the interview itself.

That’s one of the reasons it’s happened in the sports world for you. The guys know you because you interviewed them. Then all of a sudden it’s like, you got that, and the same things can happen at the business level. Which I think can apply to all sorts of businesses.

Joel Goldberg: It just grows and it multiplies. It’s one of the reasons why I go, and I trust my network. My network started with one or two, it’s hundreds of people now. It’s started to grow beyond Kansas City. When someone that I trust from in my network says hey you should go for coffee or meet this person. I don’t say why or what am I gonna get out of it. I went to lunch with someone today at the recommendation of someone in my network.

Little did I know we were gonna end up sitting down talking about possibly writing a book together. So you don’t know where the stuff is gonna lead. But I’m looking sitting here in my office, or like you said before we got on the bat cave. It’s a little small for a bat cave. But I’m looking my dry erase board or white board, and when I started this podcast I did every other week because I was worried about, and I think all podcast hosts should be worried about this. I was worried about the regularity of it.

So I know over the years I’ve tried blogging here and there and things like that. I might do one, I might do two and I’m all fired up about it. Then I don’t do one for three months. It’s like who the heck is gonna read or pay attention to something that irregular. So the advice I had from a good friend of mine was, whatever you schedule to be, you have to stick to it. Not just for the listeners, but for the algorithms and all that.

So I thought baseball, I’m gonna go bi-weekly. Well there were stretches. The podcast started in November of 2017. So there were stretches where this podcast, which by the way is called Rounding the Bases, was … I get down there the day before I had to release one and I didn’t have a guest. I thought, I guess if I just wait for the weekend it won’t be two weeks, it’ll be 16 days, that’s fine.

I’m looking at my dry erase board right now, and having switched to weekly guests about a month ago, I’ve got the next eight weeks set, like they’re already recorded. So that’s a product of what you’re talking about and seeing the results to me. I didn’t have to search for those, they just keep coming to me.

So that to me is a sign, a little bit of the branding. When you start seeing and getting traction, again Phil I would say, we’re all guilty of this because we live in a world where you keeps score. I work in a profession covering a sort where somebody wins or loses based on the score. We are since the time we are kids report cards, job reviews, on and on. We keep score and we can get so focused on those numbers understandably. It’s how we get paid, it’s how we succeed that sometimes we forget about the process.

Joel Goldberg’s Kansas City Favorites

Phil Singleton: Such great insight and we could go on and on. But what I wanna do toward the bottom of this interview now is just get into stuff that you love about Kansas City. What you like about living here, kind of some of you’re go to places in terms of maybe you and your family or like where you guys go to eat. Whatever, whatever it is, give us some Joel Goldberg favorites.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, there’s so much. Mostly I hate and love the barbecue question because one, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble. But to me it depends on what kind of mood we’re in. So if we want the nice sit down, =we love Joes. But we also love, wife and two kids, we love just trying to find some of the outskirts of town Mom and Pop type of places too. Just to try to those out. So those are all-

Phil Singleton: Anything come to mind? I’ve got one client, that’s all he does man. He just goes and finds the hole in the wall, family owned types of things and really tries to stay way from them, somewhat like the commercial places.

Joel Goldberg: I remember locations, I don’t always remember names. So there’s a place, and I’m in Johnson County, but there’s a place out in Leavenworth, I can’t remember the name of it, but that’s really good, we’ve gone there a couple of times.

Phil Singleton: What kind of food is it?

Joel Goldberg: It’s a barbecue place.

Phil Singleton: All right, sweet.

Joel Goldberg: A barbecue place, you can never do too much barbecue. I know that’s such a Kansas City thing to say. The flip side of that is, I can’t tell you how many times we were on the road for baseball and you got press box dining for broadcasters, writers. One night of every series on the road, they always do barbecue, as a homage to Kansas City. I’m like no offense, but-

Phil Singleton: Not necessary.

Joel Goldberg: It’s not necessary, you’re not gonna do it like we do it. So that’s certainly something. Other restaurants, there are so many. But we love-

Phil Singleton: There’s no Goldberg family go tos, it’s just oh, there’s no where else to go to.

Joel Goldberg: This is going to be a little gratuitous, not gratuitous but they named a sandwich after me at-

Phil Singleton: ‘Cause you went there so much?

Joel Goldberg: No and they started at Broadway Deli in the Crossroads, 20th and … I should know this because I think I’m-

Phil Singleton: You have a sandwich named after you…

Joel Goldberg: They said there’s the Joe Goldberg and it’s half corned beef, half pastrami. You can’t go wrong with that. So that’s really good. One of my favorites is Blue Koi-

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s there in Leawood.

Joel Goldberg: Which is phenomenal. But if you ask my kids, they’re like any other teenagers. They wanna go to Chick-Fil-A and Kings and wherever they can get chicken tenders and that type of garbage. So that’s it, but the only thing that we really love to do, just to get out of the surburban bubble, we go downtown as often as we can. Whether it be my wife and I, or whether it be with us and the kids and just go try new places in the city and just go explore.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Joel Goldberg: This city has so much to offer. There a lot of people that’ll go down there if they’re not living there. There are a lot of people in the suburbs that never leave the suburbs. That’s true in most cities, but there’s so much going on here. Whether it’s a first Friday or just really any night of the week there’s always something going on.

Phil Singleton: That’s a good measure for everybody. I mean my job takes me up a lot and it’s just so much. If you stay in your suburban bubble and you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, then you lose what’s all the cool things that are happening and new places that are going up. The new kind of generation of people that are creating new restaurants and stuff.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, I think like all the influence of the millennials and the amount of people moving to town and all the tech industry and upgrading that’s going well, it’s a benefit to everybody, because you see all the places popping up. I’m too old to go clubbing and all that kind of stuff. But there’s so many great spots for live music, and food and drink and festivals. It feels like its growing by the day. I wanna be able to check all that stuff out.

Phil Singleton: Love it, well Joel, we’re at the end of the interview here. What I wanted to ask is where … mention the name of your podcast again so I wanna make sure we get links to it, and then where else people can follow you online. What social media channels you are most active on. I wanna make sure those is all those on the shoe notes when we promote the show.

Joel Goldberg: Well Twitters’ always been the big one. That’s gonna be my more of the baseball types of updates, goldbergkc. Instagram is really what I’m trying to grow right now which is not easy to grow as Twitter, I’m learning. But just trying to get some of that cool content pictures things like. That’s Joelgoldbergkc, that’s Instagram. I’m on Linked in and I’ve got a Facebook business page, fan page, whatever you wanna call it.

The website is JoelGoldbergmedia.com. The podcast, which can be found anywhere you find your podcast is Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg and just having fun doing it.

Phil Singleton: Thanks so much for coming on the Local Business Leaders podcast today Joel. It was so awesome to get some of your insight and listen to your story. I wanna make sure that we have all those show notes up on the page with links to your social medial channel and your podcast as well.

I just wanna thank you one more time for sharing your story with our audience.

Joel Goldberg: I appreciate it, thanks for helping me out Phil.

How to Use SEO & Processes to Build, Scale & Sell Your Agency or Business

Ryan Stewart, is a marketing entrepreneur with over a decade of experience building and selling online businesses. He worked as a consultant for Deloitte and SapientNitro helping large brands like Target and Best Buy improve online acquisition. He built and scaled an eCommerce site called Laces Out with a 1.2 million organic business per month and sold the business in 2017. He built and scaled an online SEO agency called WEBRIS to 1.1 million in annual recurring revenue in 16 months, and sold the business in 2018. Ryan is now a partner and board member at From the Future, a technical digital agency with 40 employees and offices in Miami and Philadelphia.

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Meet Ryan Stewart

Phil Singleton: Ryan, welcome to the show.

Ryan Stewart: Thank you for having me, Phil. I appreciate it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, this is going to be awesome. I’m so psyched. It’s so cool to have people that are in the business that you can talk shop a little bit. And some of this is going to fly over some our small business owners’ heads, I’m sure, but the SEO and marketing folks are going really love this. So tell us a little about your story, those first steps out of college or university or what have you, into the business world, and what got you to where you are today.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so I graduated undergrad in 2009 and was super lucky. The school that I went to had a really good alumni network, and I was able to get a job in consulting. And I kind of bounced around that for like two years between Accenture and Deloitte and really did not like it. Wasn’t for me for a whole number of reasons. Great company, just not for me. And so I started looking for other ways to make money, and I stumbled across Instagram. This was back in like 2011. This was before Facebook bought it, back before it has anywhere near the mass adoption that it has. And I knew, I saw a lot of my friends using it. I saw a lot of people moving over from Facebook. So I wanted to figure out a way that I could maybe make some money off that. And I ended up getting into something that didn’t work out, but after going through that process of trying to do something and then making a little bit of money and getting a taste of what being an entrepreneur is like, I couldn’t go back.

Phil Singleton: Did you jump out into the cold or did you quit or were you kind of doing this-

Ryan Stewart: No, I didn’t … I was super lucky that I wasn’t doing much at my job. It was big corporate America. I had it down to I would come in, do an hour worth of work, sit in a couple of meetings, and then I had basically had four hours of time on my hands to be on the internet. So it was the perfect time to do things on the internet.

Ryan Stewart: But anyways, so I was doing that, and I was in a coffee shop talking to this kid I was working with. Some guy next to me overheard me, and he did SEO. I didn’t know what it was at the time. It was back in 2011. And he started talking about it and introduced it to me and I was like, “That’s where I need to be,” you know what I’m saying? To be able to control what people are searching for and all that stuff.

Ryan Stewart: So got into it, just became obsessed with it. At that point, I ended up quitting my job at Accenture. I picked it up pretty quickly within like six months. Actually lied on my resume, and then went, took a job as a contractor at SapientNitro, which is a huge digital agency. And through that, I was able to learn a lot about analytics, how websites are built, how the internet works, all that different stuff, client communications, all those things.

Phil Singleton: Let’s take a step back here because one of the things that blows me away about you is there’s a lot of different things that you’re really talented, you’re obviously really smart, you’re an SEO genius, but the one thing that I notice is that you are … And obviously, I follow you, we don’t know each other personally up until like now, this interview, is that you’re a master of execution.

Ryan Stewart: Sure.

Phil Singleton: All the stuff that you’re doing, you’ve got all these things going in different directions, and I’m just wondering is that some of the stuff that you think came … Did some of that come from Deloitte and training and stuff like that, are you just naturally wired that way? Did SapientNitro … Somewhere in that, you just learned how to execute, man. You’re a killer.

Ryan Stewart: I appreciate that, Phil. First of all, I was an athlete my whole life. I was a scholarship football player in college, D1. I was always undersized. I just had work ethic beaten into me from when I was a young age, so I had that going for me, which was one thing. But going to Deloitte, I was actually a business process re-engineer. So what my job was, I hated it, but my job was to look at massive enterprise software and then build the human processes for that. So I developed a feel for process driven thinking. And that process driven thinking plus my wanting to work hard and succeed, I think when I combined those two things, I found a nice niche in the space. Because a lot of people talk, especially in this industry, but results are what matter. And more importantly too is execution.

Ryan Stewart: So having that process mindset, I was able to build processes to help me scale my time. By having a process, I can then go out and hire somebody with a lot less money, a lot lower cost, that’s not an expert in the field. I can just follow that process. So pretty much everything I’ve done from the agency to the eCommerce to The Blueprint, everything is built on these processes that I’m able to get people underneath me at 4, 5 bucks an hour just doing the busy work that takes stuff off my plate that allows me to be hyper-productive and execute at a very high level as well.

Phil Singleton: Yes. Now it’s coming together. Because I can see, obviously, the competition with SEO, people are really competitive, right? That definitely probably fuels a lot into what drives you.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I love it. I have a love/hate … Off topic now, but that’s fine. I have a love/hate with the industry because I love it because it’s so competitive, how passionate it is. The people are super amazing too. When you go to a conference and meet people, they’re all genuine, nice people and we all share this kind of bond and passion about something as stupid as SEO, right?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ryan Stewart: But my hate kind of comes from the fact, for the same thing, people can be very condescending. People always think they’re right. And at the end of the day, nobody knows the answer.

Phil Singleton: But your bank account knows the answer is the way I look at it.

Ryan Stewart: And that’s all relative too. I have this debate with my business partner at the agency because he sees things one way in terms of promotion and money and how things should be done. I look at the other side. So we’re in SEO, which is the very white hot side of internet marketing, but you get into like the advertisers, the true internet marketers, like the Frank Kerns of the world, who are just selling info products over and over again, you look at their bank accounts, and if you use that justification, you can get, I don’t want to say unethical, but you can cross some lines in that space. Whole other topic for conversation. But yes, bank accounts really do matter.

Phil Singleton: Right. You mentioned something, I know we’re kind of going through … I’m going to reel it back here in a second, but because this is a little bit talking shop too.

Ryan Stewart: Sure.

SEO Experts vs SEO Journalist and SEO Bloggers

Phil Singleton: I think in our industry there are a ton of people that are perceived to be SEO experts, or I don’t know what have you, I actually wrote about this in the book I wrote with John Jantsch, but a lot of them are actually like journalists or reporters or they’re regurgitating top level stuff. But they’re not actually the grunts that are on the ground that are having to make money for themselves and for their clients. And I think that’s where a lot of SEO expertise comes in.

Phil Singleton: That’s why for people that have been doing it for a long time, I know you’re an expert. I read your stuff. I know that on the side of being an influencer and having great content and helping to educate people, you’ve actually, through your track record, been able to build businesses and make money for other people, make businesses and sell them and done it multiple times and stuff like that. That’s actually a huge difference. Do you agree with me on that? I think it’s a little harsh to come out and say, hey, there are SEO experts out there, but are they really experts or are they just reporters or bloggers that couldn’t rank themselves out of a wet paper bag? That might be a little bit harsh, but I mean seriously…

SEO is so legitimate now …you can go and get a job, and work at a job as an SEO making 100 grand.

– Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart: Yes and yes. And this is, again, another debate I that I have with people is that when I got into SEO it was to be an entrepreneur. It was to make my own money. But what SEO’s become, it’s become such a legitimate, it’s a legitimate industry, you know what I’m saying? You can go and get a job, and work at a job as an SEO making 100 grand. So there’s different levels to SEO. There’s people who have built their own websites. There’s people who have done Black Hat. There’s people who do local SEO, big enterprise, technical SEO, and all those different … There’s link builders, there’s content marketers, there’s all these different people that have different view of what a result is. You know what I mean?

Ryan Stewart: When I was at Sapient, the big technical SEO stuff, smartest SEOs I ever worked with, but they didn’t know the first thing about content or creativity or … Not that they weren’t creative people, they just looked at things, they were working on Target.com, so of course, Target.com, it’s a technical campaign. And the way that they approached SEO was very different than I was used to approaching SEO building my own WordPress sites and hitting with back links.

Ryan Stewart: So I think it’s all relative. I’m not trying to give a political answer here. I think everyone can be an expert in their own right. But at the end of the day, yes, it’s about what you’ve ranked. It’s about what you’ve monetized. It’s about who you’ve helped. And it’s so much more than that too. I tell people all the time that SEO is a microcosm of marketing which is a microcosm of running a business. And you running a business know after you get to a certain point, SEO doesn’t even really matter to your business anymore. It’s important, but it’s like, what’s more important is hiring, building company, all these different things come up.

Ryan Stewart: I think that if you’ve been doing the same thing for ten years and haven’t necessarily progressed … If that’s what you want to do of course, if you haven’t progressed in the field or with your business then I would have to agree with what you’re saying. You know what I mean? So if you’re still talking about the same things ten years later, it’s like are you building a business or you’re building … You know what I’m saying? There’s different levels to it, you know what I mean?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, let’s jump back because I totally cut you off to go on a tangent.

Ryan Stewart: No, that’s fine.

Phil Singleton: At some point, you jumped out and you actually had your own business because you were able to quit a full-time job.

Ryan Stewart: Yes.

Phil Singleton: You went to Deloitte, and then it was SapientNitro, and then it basically was out on your own?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so when I was at Sapient is when I really started like blogging, doing YouTube videos. This was like 2013-ish when I was in the kitchen of my old apartment doing videos and stuff. And then I was getting traction, especially with like link building, I built the process for link building. I was getting a lot of clients. And at that point, because I was a contractor, I went part-time. And then I just eventually left Sapient after about a year, year-and-a-half. And then WEBRIS was launched. And then I did that and then, well, actually before WEBRIS, there was something else, which we’ll talk about later, with my failure. I had another partner, failed, then I picked myself back up, started WEBRIS, grew it really fast, sold it. And have a whole bunch of…

Phil Singleton: And was that pretty much you? Was there a partner involved with that pretty much your own gig?

Ryan Stewart: WEBRIS was all me. Yeah, that was all me. And now I’ve been with From the Future for about a year and a quarter now, and just a whole bunch of other projects in between as well.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. That’s awesome. So okay, we’ll get to some of this other stuff, but I’d really like to talk about … Well, let’s talk a little bit about how … Because WEBRIS, when you started that, at some point you just jumped onto the scene, the SEO scene where you started, you have great … I was thinking about this before we started the show and it was like a couple things struck me. One is, as I mentioned, you’re a master of execution. The other thing that really strikes me that I remember about your sites, is some of your blog posts, dude, are like entire websites. They’re like web apps. I mean, they’re sick. The amount of stuff you put into them, they’re so good and they’re so detailed, and they have so many features into them. That really stuck me. For anybody, I wanted to add a couple of links to the show notes of some of the post I am talking about.

Blogging & Becoming an SEO Influencer

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I appreciate that.

Phil Singleton: Did that help draw people in, that kind of stuff?  You were all over the place. You’re pitching. One day I see you’re doing a whiteboard video on Moz. You just kind of blew up. Was there a big break there when that happened, and all of a sudden it took off?

Ryan Stewart: Again, it depends how you’re looking at it, but it was years of hard work that was leading up to me….

Phil Singleton:  Becoming an overnight success, yeah.

Ryan Stewart: If the first time you saw me on Moz Whiteboard Friday, it would seem that way, but yeah, that was years and years of blogging, of outreach, of begging people for links, of guest posts. And that’s another thing I did a lot of. I would spend a lot of time guest posting. And I would give my best content to other websites because of the reach. And then when I had it, felt like I had enough authority and clout, I started blogging a lot more on my website.

Phil Singleton: Gotcha.



Leveraging YouTube

Ryan Stewart: But yeah, I mean, the blogging definitely helped me. It’s still, even on From the Future now, when we release a really good blog stuff, it’s tough in the SEO space because everything’s been covered, there’s no new tactics. But if we can come up with something kind of unique, it always draws clients, still a thing. But for me, it’s been video. Video’s been much better for me. And it’s more scalable for me too. I can put together a deck in like an hour and then talk in the microphone and then give it to a writer to write up. So I’ll do a lot more of that now. Plus it gives me different mediums to attack. It allows me to satisfy two different parts of the audience. Some people like to read, some people like to watch and listen, as you know. And YouTube, for me, has really been my biggest driver.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Ryan Stewart: YouTube grows on itself. You don’t have to promote it nearly as hard as a blog post. You don’t have to wait for it to rank. There’s a whole other algorithm in place on YouTube.

Phil Singleton: Brian Dean is huge on there.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, he crushes it. He crushes it.

Phil Singleton: And you mentioned … The one thing I’ve never done, I’ve never been to one of the industry conferences. Is that something you started? Have you always done it?

Ryan Stewart: A little bit more and more. I’m a little bit bougie in the fact that I don’t like to go and just sit and spectate. I like to go and speak.

Phil Singleton: Great, okay. So you’re doing it more as a speaker then?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s makes a lot of sense.

Ryan Stewart: Because I’m a huge introvert. You see me on camera and this and that, and it’s for the business. But you put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I will just sit there and awkwardly stand there.

Phil Singleton: That’s why I got into SEO man. All of a sudden Google chased me out of my hole…

Ryan Stewart: But when I speak, people will come up to you and interact just naturally. So I’ve been a little bit more speaking. I actually was at a conference … And if it’s a cool place too and they pay me to travel, I’ll travel there for free too. But I live in Miami, it’s tough for me … I work at home all the day, all the time. And it’s difficult to get me out of here. I’m not going to go to some random place that I’ve already been to.

Phil Singleton: Has to be worth it, right?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. So the point is that I was in Austin in September with Brian Dean at a conference, and we talked a lot. Super nice dude, super smart, amazing business model too. Doesn’t work with clients, he just makes seven figures a year from launching one course every year. And then it’s all from his blog and YouTube. He’s really smart dude.

Phil Singleton: So on that note, was there a point when you started to get actually clients off of people knowing who you are and doing the speaking versus … I do a little bit of it, but still the vast majority of our stuff comes in from referrals, our own SEO, and maybe podcast. A lot of people that go, “Oh, I heard you speak somewhere.” But obviously for you that must work because you’re out there all over the place. You’ve got a huge, highly engaged audience. A lot of people know you in the industry. What percentage of clients come just from that?

Ryan Stewart: I would say 100% between my partner Nick, Nick Eubanks, he’s also really well known in the SEO space, brilliant technical SEO, really smart businessman too. But conferences are a little bit saturated now. It’s usually the same people up there talking to the same people. It’s really more for networking purposes. I don’t really get clients from when I speak at a marketing or SEO conference.

Phil Singleton: The YouTube stuff out there, people are coming in, that kind of thing?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so that’s the thing is it’s my opinion that with this much … Most of the ROPs that we get now are almost sole sourced from people because they know me or my partner and they want to work with us as long as the price and the pitch is right. So I would say probably like 90% of our clients come through that. 90% of our leads anyways come through that. So yeah, its really powerful stuff.

Starting, Building and Selling an eCommerce Business

Phil Singleton: All right, let’s jump in … I could literally just go on and on with you, but I do want to talk about … Because I think for me the one thing that really struck and I was like, “Holy cow, this guy is a genius,” for lots of different reasons, but the Laces Out project was awesome. Because on so many different levels, I mean one, it’s like, first obviously, things that went on the internet now is you got clients that come to you that want to be the Amazon of something. No, it’s the niches that win. That was a highly niche-based product. I loved it because I’m just thinking in my mind, “Here’s something that people will pay for. It’s really light.” To me, the margins have got to be good.

laces out shoelaces

Phil Singleton: Then, what the coolest thing was, you’re actually using it as a case study that people are linking back to, and it’s probably helping that business out because you are using it as a case study. And I was like, “This was blowing my mind how many angles you were playing on it.” And I’m sure it was all intentional, but for me I was like, “Okay, now I gotta really start paying attention to what this guy is doing because that was brilliant.” So talk a little bit about how that came about, why you picked it.

Phil Singleton: And then I want to ask you something almost as free consulting. Because I see some things at the local level, and it’s like geez, should I start buying? I’m almost thinking of buying into some local businesses. You’ve got a platform to do some stuff on, you could literally probably rank number one for anybody. But it makes sense to buy into another business for that reason. You could use it as a case study. You could make it another source of income, that type of thing. But before we get to that piece, I want to talk about Laces Out happened, and how did you turn it into so many wins like that?

Ryan Stewart: That was probably within my first few months of being, so we’ll talk about my failure in the future, but I had my own agency experience a little bit before WEBRIS, so I knew dealing with clients wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. And I wanted a new challenge for myself. I wanted a new project. I’m somebody who has to be … I can’t be working on one thing. I need at least two businesses to focus my attention, at least two, to keep me motivated.

Ryan Stewart: So I had been seeing a lot of stuff about Amazon FBA, and I wanted to start something on Amazon, fulfilled by Amazon, more of an eCommerce play, something different than working with clients. So I did a lot of research and I came across, I really like sneakers, like I said, I’ve been athlete my whole life.

Phil Singleton: So this was, at the beginning, it was more an intellectual, “I just want to try this and learn it,” type of thing to satisfy your brain power? You can’t focus on one thing, gotta have a couple things. So that’s kind of how it started, am I hearing that right?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. I’m a firm believer that we have a very unique skill set that, again, kind of what we talked about in the beginning is that a lot of people just use it as a job, but I see it as an opportunity to do something that I love and to free up my time and get paid for it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, so Amazon FBA, so you started that, and you started looking into it.

Ryan Stewart: Yep. And I did a lot of research. I buy a lot of courses. I’m a firm believer, buying courses from people, because I’ll just listen to videos and fast forward and consume a whole new business plan in a matter of weeks. It’s pretty awesome what we can do now. But anyway, so I started researching a lot about what works and how the algorithm there works. And I came across shoe laces because it was something that is light, it’s cheap, people never complain about. And if you can angle it and position it the right way, they’re all selling the same thing, it’s more about the package that you put on it and the feeling that people get from that.

Ryan Stewart: So I started Laces Out, just started a website on WordPress. Ended up not doing Amazon FBA for a lot of reasons, mainly because of the fact that I’m a marketer, and it’s hard to build a brand on Amazon. Although, in hindsight, seeing what’s happening on Amazon now and where we’re going, I wish I would have stuck with Amazon or put more effort into it. But I just had so much success with content marketing for Laces Out, just building likes and viral content.

Ryan Stewart: As an expert marketer, when you walk into a space where there’s not a lot of marketing taking place, you can grow something very quickly. And it happened again, actually, I was interim CMO of this cannabis product company like eight months ago, and the same thing. There’s not a lot of marketing knowledge in that space, it’s still blossoming, but a ton of online volume.

Ryan Stewart: But anyways, with Laces Out, just a lot of content marketing outreach, not even like the craziest type of stuff. I was building infographics and submitting them and they were going viral on like the biggest sneaker websites, which have a tremendous reach, an unimaginable reach and how viral that culture is, and Instagram and all that stuff. So it was a fun project, but I was sourcing my own products from China. I had to dedicate one of my employees to do all the shipping and stuff. It was just burning up too much resource. It was making good money.

Phil Singleton: That’s the type of business starts to be like, “Okay….”

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. I didn’t want to deal with the logistics of it. It was great because it was making me like $5,000 to $10,000 of pure profit, passive income a month. But it just got to the point where I was like, “You know what, it’s still taking too much of my time and attention, and I don’t want to be dealing with stuff that …” That’s what it would cap out at. I couldn’t get that to be a million dollar business. It would never happen. And I realize now, the older I get, the less time that I have to do these things, I want to be focused on projects that have a much higher return, much higher cap rate. So I ended up selling that just on Empire Flippers, made a good amount of money off it. But I just unloaded that, and then a case study.

website business brokers

Phil Singleton: Ultimate, exactly. That’s so awesome to have that and just be like. This gets kind of to the question I was going to ask. I literally had a client come in here the other day. He’s not actually a client yet, but he’s thinking that he’s here. He’s thinking about moving to another state, taking the business and rebuilding it. So he’s thinking about selling this business that he has. He ranks really well. It’s kind of a home services of thing. He has tons of leads, so many that he can’t even do them all. So his business is limited by his ability to scale. So he thinks the business is worth about what I think it is. He had somebody offer him 30 or 50 grand for it. And I was like, “Dude, I will pay you 50 grand right now for this business.”

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, for sure.

Phil Singleton: I’ll pay you 100 grand for it. I’ll write you a check right now. That got me thinking, “Gosh, it is awesome to do what you’ve done.” One is because I feel like I’m in, you probably feel the same way, I feel more so because I’m older than you, but I feel like I’m in my prime earning years, and I’ve got this ability to help folks out. There’s got to be a different way to scale out some knowledge. If I can do it passively and spend a little bit of time and get a big chunk of the upside and really help these businesses grow.

Phil Singleton: But then on the flip side, I’m like, “I don’t really know anything about window treatments and blinds and stuff like that. How am I going to find somebody to run it. Maybe I get 50%. Am I going to go down a black hole and start pulling me away from the 60 plus clients that I got right now that I’m responsible for lead generation for and all?” So what are your thoughts on that? Because I think it would be cool to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner just like you. I bought this company. And now I’ve had it grow four or five times because we put a proper marketing and digital plan in.” How awesome is that and then you get more leads on top of that? On the other hand, is this is something where I’m just like, “Man, you step into something, maybe you get pulled into it and it starts hurting your main business.” Thoughts on that? This is the counsel because I’m literally thinking about this right now, and I want somebody to either talk me into it or talk me out of it.

Ryan Stewart: I’m always the type of person that’s going to talk you into it. I truly believe that we, like I said and like you just said, we have a skill set that when you really break it down of who really knows what they’re doing and not just can talk about it, but can put in a plan to execute and then build a business on the back of it. We’re in a small percentage of people. So yes, I think you should highly consider it depending on pricing obviously.

Ryan Stewart: And I think at the very least what you could do is, forget the business, you could just sell the leads. You could sell those leads for 250 a pop. I sell a lot of my SEO leads, to be honest with you, to people because I get a lot of them that are just not qualified for. So I just push them off, and I make more money off that. Lead selling is a very legitimate … Especially if you have control over all the advertising, all the marketing, you could even set up like a chat bot to pre-qualify them all, you know what I’m saying? Sell them for even more.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Ryan Stewart: That’s a true passive play. And then of course you could obviously set up a business on the back of it too, which can then take off and grow in its own right because you’re going to get its. It’s just going to grow aside from just the SEO play that you have going on with it. So I think yes to both.

Phil Singleton: You have so many things to hang your hat on that it’s not really … Like the Laces Out thing is really cool. But I could just see from a local play being able to say, “I own. I bought it. Of course I can do this for you. Look at this business.”

Ryan Stewart: Absolutely. So I say yes.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: Awesome. All right, so then let’s get into the final question here, the $10,000 question, tomorrow you wake up, you got all your knowledge, but nobody knows who you are, you’ve got none of the digital assets that you have right now, but all your knowledge and skill set. What would you literally start doing tomorrow? Because you’re in Miami, you got bills to pay, to start using the $10,000 that we give you to start rebuild your empire. Would you the website, would you start … Where would you start?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I mean, I would start, if I’m selling anything, I can sell whatever I want, or just doesn’t matter ?

Phil Singleton: Yes, anything.

Ryan Stewart: Okay. I would just throw up a landing page. I would do a couple of videos and just advertise on them. I would do like a webinar video that really shows in-depth process of whatever it is that I’m selling. This is, of course, assuming it’s still SEO or consulting or….

Phil Singleton: Could be any of that.

Ryan Stewart: Anything, whatever it may be. The webinar model still works, and just with video. You don’t even need a website. That’s kind of the thing. I would spend 90% of the money on (digital) advertising, just promotion, promotion, promotion, promotion.

Phil Singleton: You’d get something nice and clean up and start promoting and you would.

Ryan Stewart: Yes, just capturing leads and then just giving them a phone and closing it. You know what I mean? It’s still something that not enough … Especially the SEO community, I think that’s one of the reasons why you see me so much is because nobody advertises, man. People publish a blog post and expect it to … They’ll do manual outreach to people to get them to promote it, but it’s like that’s such a waste of time. It’s so much effort time wise that it’s still money coming out of your pocket as opposed to just like put it on Facebook.

Phil Singleton: Was that a big step for you? You say you’re an introvert, but you’re awesome. You’re very charismatic. You got a lot of stuff. You’re very articulate. You get a lot of information out. Was there a point where you’re just like, “Uh.” Because I’m okay at speaking, I’m not great, I’m good enough to get the knowledge out, but it drains the hell … I got to take a nap after I do like. Just physically drains me.

Ryan Stewart: I 100% agree. After I speak, I have to go up to the hotel room and lay down, no joke, for like 45 minutes.

Phil Singleton: That’s an introvert. You can’t help it. It’s just physical.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, dude, it’s exhausting. And yes, I feel the same way now, but I look at it this way, and it’s still painful. I am really trying to push myself to do more on Instagram because even that is a wide open playing field for people in the business space. The influencers and fitness people had their day, it’s kind of spammed out, but it’s just now people are swinging, everyone’s on Instagram, and everyone’s checking it. Not so much Facebook anymore. But Instagram is different than Twitter. It’s different than YouTube. YouTube is more informational. Instagram is a lot more personal. And I have a lot of trouble showing that side of my life just because it makes me super uncomfortable.

Ryan Stewart: I am not the type of person that’s going to have my cell phone out, my food everywhere. I can’t do it. It’s just not who I am, and it goes against how I feel. But it’s the same thing when I started doing the YouTube stuff, blogging, all this stuff. Because you do have to put yourself out there and people are going to criticize you. They’re going to talk. They’re going to … It’s just what happens when you put yourself out there.

Just ask yourself: If I do this, is it going to help the business?

– Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart: And it’s not even the whole, “Don’t worry what other people think, you shouldn’t.” It’s more about a very simple choice. Just ask yourself, “If I do this, is it going to help the business?” Absolutely, then if not, then I’m standing in my own way. So it becomes a very simple decision for me to just dive all in and do it.

Phil Singleton: Then you get used to it, you get a little bit numb to it. It’s kind of like just doing your routine, I guess.

Ryan Stewart: Of course.

Phil Singleton: Get it over with.

Ryan Stewart: I can film a video like nothing, but still when I try to do something on Instagram … Like I have this video filmed that I want to promote on Instagram, but I’m not comfortable posting it. I’m just not.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Ryan Stewart: It’s just too personal for me there. But I have it on YouTube and Facebook and I couldn’t care less. There’s something … So yeah, in that sense, it’s yeah.

Ryan Stewart’s New Projects

Phil Singleton: Okay, sweet man. All right, let’s wrap it up here. Just let us know what your hot on, where we can find you. Obviously, you just talked about Instagram, so that’s a great place. We’ll make sure that we get those links up. But what else, what are your projects? Where can we follow you? What else are you promoting right now?

Ryan Stewart: Yep. So just really two things right now, the agency From the Future. We pretty much only do enterprise SEO in U.S. projects, so big eCom websites, massive B to B, SaaS companies, stuff like that. And then Theblueprint.Training, that’s basically where I’m funneling all of my advanced knowledge, really more SEO … It’s an SEO agency in a box is what I’m calling it. It’s everything from client onboarding to technical SEO to monthly reporting all done for you, videos, templates, everything that you need. So that’s kind of what I just launched last two weeks ago now, and I’m pushing that really hard.

Phil Singleton: Oh, yeah. You got obviously, your audience is probably dying for that…

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, it’s been going well.

seo course

Phil Singleton: Especially that process, a lot of the guys are probably like myself who have been able to build up decent sized business without embarrassingly enough having decent processes in house. A lot of us are flying by the seat of our pants. We do really well, we start choking on whatever the number of clients is you start choking on. Then you have to be able to come back and be able to scale it to get bigger. And that’s painful. Obviously came natural to you for a lot of reasons, but I think that’s a big weakness in SEO in general, especially with the ones that have raw talent to see some of this stuff. But definitely, definitely check that one out.

Phil Singleton: The other thing I was going to … I’m going a little bit off topic there. Oh, on the SEO front, the people that are ideal for this program, what are they? Are they more enterprise play? Is this guys local, that are shooting local? Is it all over the place? What’s the typical-

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, it’s SEO agencies and consultants. I really am broad that way, pretty broad. If you’re doing over like five million a year as an agency, you don’t really need it. You could definitely use it. Basically what I’m trying to position as is like internal training for agencies. So our agency goes through it all the time. We hire someone new and then we have to rely on our existing staff to pull them off billable work to train someone. We’re literally burning money. And then the SEO processes training. And it’s pretty advanced too. You walk into it like I’m not going to tell you what a canonical tag, you have to know what it is. It’s not an intro course.

Phil Singleton: I saw the tools that were up there. It was like all the ones that I use, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and some other ones….Screaming Frog.

Ryan Stewart: So it’s really great, that’s true, exactly. It’s built for people that are doing five to ten K a month all the way up to like 100K a month, but are having trouble, just like you said, getting to that next step. A lot of people just hit natural plateaus when they get to certain points of the business. I did. Everyone does. So it’s meant for those people to kind of like guide them through that process and get to that three to five to ten million as an agency.

Phil Singleton: So cool, dude. We could go on and on. I love talking shop and especially if somebody’s been through it and still is in. We’re going to put all of this great stuff up in the show notes. You’ve been an awesome guest. This is already one of my all-time favorites. We’re going to put a couple links summary. You can send me a couple of your favorite blog posts up on WEBRIS and a couple other ones that I’m thinking of right now, From the Future, whatever else. Send us a couple things that you got, and we’ll make sure we include those in the show notes too. Really appreciate, this has been awesome.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, happy to be here.

Redefining Success: The Million-Dollar One-Person Business

Elaine Pofeldt is a freelance writer, editor, and ghost writer who has recently worked with publications including The Economist, Fortune, Money, Inc., CNBC, Crain’s New York Business, Forbes, and many others. Entrepreneurship, small business, and careers are her specialties. She is also the author of a new book, which we’re going to talk about today, The Million-Dollar One-Person Business.

She helps corporate, non-profit, and private clients write and edit proposals, newsletters, blogs, RFPs, reports, white papers, academic articles, and books. Elaine also helps her online editorial clients create inviting high-traffic websites, drawing on her experience on excuse me, Fsb.com to five million page views a month and the number two site in Google after the USSBA. She founded and ran a national businessman competition for fortune, small business and now advises clients on creating and improving contest on their own. She experienced appearing as a guest on TV outlets such as MSNBC and CNN.

You can connect with Elaine and learn more about her and her awesome book here:


Meet Elaine Pofeldt

Phil Singleton: Hi Elaine and welcome to the show.

Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you so much Phil great to be here.

Phil Singleton: Alright this is going to be really exciting because as we were talking in th green room so to speak, before we started recording, Elaine wrote one of my favorite books of last year, million dollar one person business book reviewprobably going to be of all time called The Million-Dollar One-Person Business. So as I was explaining to her when we first connected this morning, I think it’s one of the most awesome book titles that I’ve ever heard of and it’s one that’s inspired me I think the first time in my life to buy a book within seconds of actually hearing the title.

So I can’t wait to actually dig into this because as an agency owner and somebody who aspires for this kind of business model I really thought this was exciting and I love the content of the book. But before we actually dive into that I would just like to hear Elaine about your background and those first steps out of school or what have you that got you into the business role.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, sure Phil. Well I came into the business world by accident. I started out as a general assignment reporter after I graduated from college. I was an English major and I worked in Jersey City in Patterson, New Jersey for small newspapers covering police stories, city hall that type of thing. Then after about seven years of that I started to feel a little burned out by all the bad news. So I wanted to do something light and fun and I got a job as a fashion features editor at Women’s Wear Daily.

It couldn’t be much more different than my beat of covering the Hudson County Jail. But it was fun and it introduced me to the business world. I found that I really liked learning about the business side of the fashion businesses even more than covering a runway show. So I wound up going in that direction and I had the opportunity to go to Success Magazine which covers entrepreneurship and then I went from there to fortune small business online which is what you were referring to FSB.com and then I went over to fortune small business magazine for a while. Then they brought me back to the website to help build the traffic some more.

Elaine Pofeldt: Then 11 years ago I went freelance, so now I’ve written for a variety of business publications all in that area of entrepreneurship and careers.

Phil Singleton: Excellent. Thank you for giving us that background and it sounds like at one point whatever that was 11 or 12 years ago you went into the business side of covering stories and content and have never gone back.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, absolutely. Well the coverage at fortune small business was very much focused on the business side and even some of the stuff I did at Women’s Wear Daily was and Success Magazine of course was also I formed my own business 11 years ago. So I now have the understanding of what it takes to stay in business for a pretty long time and you manage cash flow and all the nitty gritty aspects of running a business that you learn on the job when you start your own business.

Phil Singleton: The one thing I’m going to ask, I want to dig into the book here really in a couple minutes. But since we already started talking about this a little bit you’ve been writing, you’ve been a journalist you’ve been a writer for some time. The Internet’s changed a lot. I’m assuming some of the things when you first got into the writing world so to speak maybe a little bit more emphasis on print publications and then maybe that shifted some. Can you talk a little bit about how that changed for you personally in the way you write and where it gets published and distributed.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, its changed completely Phil. You’re completely right about that. The whole journalism industry has been disrupted. It’s had good and bad changes I would say. I came up in a system that was print oriented and there was a level of rigor to journalism that I think a lot of younger journalists had not experienced. I’ll give you an example. If I wrote a story for fortune small business there might be a line editor that would edit it. A top editor of the magazine and three copy editors before it ever went out to the public and so you have a lot of great training that came with the job. Now what’s happened a lot is papers are basically gone. A lot of stuff has shifted online. But with that shift it doesn’t seem like the industry has been able to really find a good profit model. So where I think a lot of publications have gone is to go ultra lean in terms of staffing.

Elaine Pofeldt: So there are times when I’m publishing things where maybe there’s an editor somewhere in the organization who’s looking at it just to make sure there’s nothing glaring, but I don’t have any contact with that editor on a daily basis. So it’s very much you’re sort of out there winging it and you do your best. Luckily I do have very good training and I know how to do things. But that’s what’s evolved so you have to bring that quality control to your own business and do the fact checking even if they don’t ask you to do it and that sort of thing. Sometimes I have sources who laugh and say I’m the only person who ever contacts them with fact checks and I think that’s probably because there are not that many internships anymore. There are very few staff jobs anymore and there are few opportunities for young journalists who are entering the field now to really learn how to do things in that way. Fortunately there are still a lot of very experienced people doing it so they bring that training to the work.

Elaine Pofeldt: In terms of where I get published it’s definitely much more online these days. In the last year or two you’re on the cutting edge Phil of a big trend which is podcasting which has been a wonderful trend because it’s brought a lot of news waste to the whole discussion of whatever topic it is, in this case entrepreneurship. I find that a lot of the hosts of business podcasts are business people like yourself and they ask very, very smart questions. So I really enjoyed seeing that. Now on one hand maybe if a radio veteran listens to them there might be some things that they look at that they would do differently because they have a certain training. Similar to how I feel with written journalism. But from my point of view as somebody who is part of this whole dialect I’m so excited to see all of these new voices and some of them maybe would have not had the inroad to the media. It’s very much a who you know business that goes way back to your early career and it can be hard to break into. So it’s nice that people can just break in if they have something to say and they can build an audience, I love it.

Phil Singleton: Totally fascinating and as you’re talking I want to get right to the book as soon as we can but I have another question I just have to ask you because of your background and how you’ve seen this shift online and the way that you’re explaining how things have changed being published today. It also makes me think of somebody who for myself often times we’re trying to do for our clients is almost treat their websites as a marketing and a publishing platform. So some of the things that I’m doing writing my own books now, I’m publishing. I’ve got a podcast for many of the reasons you explained.

Phil Singleton: But I actually started to produce our own local magazine. So but one of the things I’ve noticed as looking at content as a publishing platform is how tricky it is for some of these online media sites or online publications where you’ve got this gray area. I don’t know what you want to call it. I’d love to hear your take on this where and I’ve seen this, I’ve been reading about it a little bit more as I get into this publishing model about native content. You had the print model before. There was so much checking, so many tiers as you were mentioning before and it was physically separate. But you know now when we publish things online you’re part of a whole system of things. There’s online ads, there’s people commenting. There’s things being advertised within editorial content. There’s people trying to get an SEO or a Google advantage and get links and stuff. So it’s so much more complex just I think in the way things are presented and distributed in the type of technology that’s embedded in new content, versus the simple way of there was literally a physical firewall on content.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, yeah.

Phil Singleton: In a newspaper or magazine. So can you comment on that kind of stuff because this is where it really fascinates me the things I’ve never really thought about before because I’m coming at this as an SEO person and here now I’m trying to play with my own almost media publishing platform. I’m seeing this myself and it’s really making me think, wow I can see how people struggle a little bit with the advertising model because it does get a little bit tricky.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, it does. Well when I see the publications doing is they’ll clearly label it. I’m talking about bigger publications they label it when it’s advertising. I write some content and what I notice is they label it. It’ll say this is our custom content and a lot of them have gotten very sophisticated about it so they won’t just publish anything like the old editorials of the past. Just aren’t done where it was a pay to play kind of thing. It’s very much when I do it I have a lot of discretion as to who to interview. There are people in the stories that did not pay anybody at the magazine. The publication for an ad that they don’t discuss that with me if an ad was purchased or not. They want me to go ahead and do the best possible story because what the advertisers are realizing is no one wants to read some hokey ad you know? They will read a good article that’s topical and related to what the advertiser is in the middle of doing. So maybe somebody might buy an ad. There still are some print publications.

Elaine Pofeldt: The way I see this done is they’ll buy a full page ad somewhere in the publication and then that supports a section on a certain topic, let’s say it was accounting and then as the writer I’ll be asked to submit story ideas about accounting, similar to being a journalist. It’s almost exactly the same. Then go out and report it. It supports the section itself but there’s nobody leaning on and you saying you have to say this.

Phil Singleton: I mean that’s great to know at least from the bigger and more popular ones and of course they’ve got the reputations and things. But you do see I mean gosh some of these ones that offer a sponsor are clearly marked. I think some of these smart advertisers that are doing it, they’re not producing the good ones anyway. Aren’t producing advert tutorial type content. It’s actually they’re getting it…if the sponsor post even it’s not written by a journalist. It’s provided and information provided by a company. It’s almost like the really good ones are truly trying to provide really good educational content that has value versus something that’s so promotional.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah you’re right.

Phil Singleton: Some of those look like they’re so good and then sometimes they’re so good it’s almost like wow is this editorial content or did somebody pay for that? So I pay attention to it a lot more. It’s great to get your insight.

Elaine Pofeldt: Well it’s interesting that you raise that as far as the commentary and that sort of thing. What I found is for awhile a lot of publications were so happy to get the content that they had pretty relaxed standards and then what happened I guess it was the beginning of 2018 when the Huffington Post kicked all the contributors off the site. It seemed like that touched off a wave of scrutiny where I saw a lot of the publications were cracking down on ad content basically. It wasn’t necessarily to “advertisingy” it was more just boring.
Phil Singleton: Lower quality stuff.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah, not true thought leadership and they really raised the bar in terms of thought leadership and I do some editorial work for people who have been trying to get published and they don’t understand why the publication won’t take it. Now I was a senior editor so I worked with some of the toughest editors in business trials so I know why the editors are taking something or not taking it. I can give them some guidance. Now some people don’t want to take that guidance. They just want to say whatever they think is interesting without regard to that feedback. But a lot of people say oh, you know what I just don’t know this field so thank you so much for that feedback and they will adapt their content to make it readable. That’s why it’s so similar to what you see on the journalism side because it has to be. They don’t want to junk up their sites with poor content.

Elaine Pofeldt: Now with smaller publications sometimes they have less sophistication. Not always there are some excellent very small publications. But. We see that very, very blurry line it’s usually going to be the smaller ones that maybe don’t have an experienced staff or don’t have the budget to bring that rigor to the whole process, similar to on the editorial side.

Phil Singleton: Interesting. That does sound like you mentioned, I mean the Huffington Post thing it seems like a lot of these larger online media sites really did look at their contributor platform and like you say some of them shut things down completely and redid them. Looked at them with new eyes and then changed and it sounds like it went through almost like a quality upevil and kind of got focus back on the basics and now we’re all getting a lot better quality from the sites. There was great stuff on Huffington Post that got passed around and I’m sure there were probably some diamonds in the rough that came from little known people that once in awhile got something that went viral. But it got really spammy. So I’m being more harsh. You’re being nice about it, but some of these things really got spammy. A few of them got called out probably from people trying to abuse it from a Google standpoint and it just gets stuff in there for either exposure or traffic or back links and then that got really cleaned up which was good because on some of these sites I think it was really starting to become a problem and people are putting content up for the wrong reasons and it dilutes everything.

Elaine Pofeldt: Well you’re a professional too in the field so I can look at things too and I can see when something is put up for that reason. It junks up the whole site. In terms of protecting their brand I think a lot of the publication said we really don’t have enough of a team to police this to the level we need to so it’s easier just to get everybody off the platform and only have paid contributors. It kind of went full circle in a way.

Phil Singleton: Right I’m so happy it did because it got a little crazy for a few years there and it really cleaned up. Thank you for your perspective on that I really want to get to the content and the topic that really excited to reach out and so happy to have you on to discuss it today which is your book. I thought, the first thing I said like I mentioned at the top and then earlier is the title is just so awesome. Probably personally the best book title I’ve ever seen from a business standpoint because it probably just spoke to me and how I’ve always wanted to run my business, what I’ve aspired to. One of the other things I just personally see in terms of technology and maybe some of the agency and digital type businesses that are run because a lot of things we’ve seen I want to give you a little bit of a preface about why I think your book is important to me and how it resonated with me and kind of dig into some of the things that you wrote about and why you wrote about them.

Revenues, Employee Counts & Venture Capital Do Not Equal Success

Phil Singleton: But, one of the things I see personally is all of us that are in business these days are trying to figure out ways to elevate our authority and trust and expertise and get that out there. One of the things a lot of businesses do especially startups but agencies and other digital types of companies as well is trying to put stats out there which are a lot of times they are related to things that I think don’t necessarily relate to true business success. So, let me give you an example of that. You hear a lot of times people here in my town other places that explain to you they’re being really successful because the number of people they’re hiring. Or because they’re revenue is X amount. But at the end of the day it really relates to the way businesses today are and how profitable are you or how much of that revenue are you bringing in that actually you get to take home.

Elaine Pofeldt: Exactly, yeah.

Phil Singleton: Right? A person or agency that makes a million or two million dollars a year but the owner’s only bringing down 100,000 dollars net is a lot different than a mutual person that we know Chris Parker he’s got a whole website business where he brings in around a million dollars a year and it’s just him and his wife. So obviously his take home is huge. Big difference in lifestyle and these kind of things and I think your book speaks a lot to that kind of a new lean business that’s highly mobile and allows you to live a lifestyle and go out while still bringing in large revenues and being able to take home a lot of it. To me that’s what really excites me about business in general ’cause I know there’s a lot of agencies out there that’ll say oh, we do three million dollars in sales but we’ve got 100 employees. Well, you’re struggling. I know I’ve seen this happen all the time in my town and other ones where you start building up the beast, the number sounds really good but then it gets really tough and it gets to be a lot of heartaches in there sometimes.

The average small business in the United States their leading income is less than 50,000 dollars.

Elaine Pofeldt: Well I’m glad you brought that up. I’m sorry.

Phil Singleton: Sorry?

Elaine Pofeldt: That’s such an important topic and I’m really glad you brought that up because with the title sometimes people say why did you focus on revenue and the reason I did was because when you look at the average small business in the United States their leading income is less than 50,000 dollars. So they don’t even have the revenue to be making much of a profit or to live on honestly depending on where you live in the country. I mean there are lower cost places where 50,000 dollars goes a lot longer way than it would say in Manhattan, New York. But I want to get people thinking more about moving the needle on the revenue but you also do have to move it profitably and that can take some figuring out. That’s why there’s so many case studies in the book because there’s not really a cookie cutter as you know because you run a business and I know the same thing. You have to experiment. What worked one year doesn’t work quite as well the next year because something changes with technology in your field or whatever it may be. Something comes more labor intensive, less labor intensive. So it’s a constantly changing thing.

Elaine Pofeldt: But what you take home is important as far as profits too. There’s a point where you get to where the business can be so profitable that you could be paying out so much in taxes that it’s hard to regress. So sometimes what business owners do is make a decision to actually try to lower the profits a little bit so they’re not paying so much in taxes by reinvesting the business or maybe they have a spouse who is helping out with the bookkeeping but they’re not paying that person so they might hire the spouse and then put the money that the spouse earns into a solo 401k or something like that. Rather an IRA I should say. So sometimes you have to look at those types of things too because it’s complicated the whole thing with profit. What people have on paper isn’t necessarily what they’re really capable of bringing home in the business. They may be in a high tax state and make certain decisions that would actually depress the profits because they almost have to as a matter of survival.

Phil Singleton: Excellent. Let’s take a couple of steps back though in terms of what motivated you to write on this topic? I mean obviously you come from business we talked about your journey as a journalist. But this particular topic I mean how did it, why is it exciting to you? Why is it important and how did it come about?

Elaine Pofeldt: I write a blog for Forbes and I was down to my last couple of days of the month, I write five posts a month and I ran out of ideas so I started Googling for inspiration and I came across some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau for the non employer business. Now that’s a wonky term for businesses that have no W-2 employees. So the owners might work there but no one else. So it could be one person, generally it is one person. Sometimes it might be a couple of spouses. Friends, that sort of business. Anyway I noticed that the numbers of those that were bringing in between one and 2.49 million were going up and they rose 35 percent as of between 2011 and 2016. That was the most recent year we had the census data for and I thought that was pretty interesting. I got very curious about what they were doing and I started looking at the census data and I was able to see which industries they were in.

Elaine Pofeldt: So I published a post about this and then people said well we need to know a little more about this. I need to start a million dollar one person business. Are they doing E-commerce what are they selling and I couldn’t find this out from the census bureau because they won’t give you that type of personal information about the people who fill out the form. So I wrote to the readers and I said if you’re one of these businesses please write to me and tell me what you’re doing because people are curious. So they wrote and I wrote this post about five of them and went very viral. It was I think 340,000 page views now.

Although their numbers are going up  (one-person business millionaires) they’re still a needle in a haystack.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Elaine Pofeldt: It touched off a whole series of profiles as I found out about these folks. Although their numbers are going up they’re still a needle in a haystack. There’s about 36,000 of them in the whole country out of maybe 25 million non employer businesses. So these are the Olympic athletes-

Phil Singleton: Unicorns, yeah.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah. So there are people who just don’t want people to know what revenue they get. They don’t want to go public with that for privacy reasons. All various concerns they might have. So you can’t always get them to do an interview. But the ones that would do an interview I profiled and then over time an agent noticed these and said this would be a great book and it was kind of in the back of my mind that in these posts it was hard to bring them altogether and because I was the only person writing these types of profiles I had some observations about what they had in common that I could share at a high level and go a little deeper into the profiles than you would with a blog post. So that was how the book came about and it came out last January.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome too. I remember when I got it, got on Amazon came the next day or whatever it is. I basically tore through it. I started actually reading it again around just slower this time. I didn’t bring it to the recording studio here. It’s sitting on my nightstand still. I’m halfway through it, the slow read. I know we talked about some of the people that you profiled and at least in general. I know there’s towards the beginning I think there’s a couple but there’s at least one E-commerce one in there for sure. You explained some of the backgrounds on some of them an overview. I obviously want get people to… I think everybody should buy the book and read it especially if you’re… I think this is the dream of a lot of people these days is to have something, a lean company that can run from home, home part time and be able to do things to where you can have the freedom to have a lifestyle and actually be able to experience life to the extent that you can.

Phil Singleton: I know that all the people in the book are like that, it’s like a child and they’re doing it 24/7 and even if they are or claim they have a lifestyle they are probably working a lot harder sometimes on the book than they are playing. But I still like our audience to hear a little bit more about the diversity or the types of businesses that were in there.

Types Of One-Person Millionaire Business Owners

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh sure Phil. Well there are six main categories I focused on and just for a little background there are some categories where people tend to go over five million. But I did not focus on those because they’re still niche and require very specific talents and skills. One of them is finance, so they’re hedge fund managers. I didn’t do that because how many people can become a hedge fund manager. That’s very sophisticated skill. Then there are people like actors, actresses people with very unique talents. I guess we could all go to acting school but we might not make five million dollars a year as an actor. So I eliminated those and I focused on the ones that I felt were most relevant to the general worker out there. So the categories were E-commerce and I’ll give you some specific people after I run through this quick list.

Elaine Pofeldt: Manufacturing which sounds really odd for a one person business but it’s actually growing. Informational content creation, so that would be things like people who have webinars. It could be people have a teachable course any kind of informational product. There’s professional services so this could be attorneys, accountants, engineers, architects who can command high prices basically for what they do, they’re that good. Personal services firms, so this could be people like fitness coaches, nutritionists. Often these types of folks will have contractors working under them. They have a methodology that they teach and then they train other people to use it. I had one person who was an eyebrow stylist who trained other eyebrow stylists to use his method in the book. So it could be something like that.

Cory Binsfield – Real Estate

Elaine Pofeldt: Then there’s real estate. There is one entrepreneur I profiled Cory Binsfield who started out buying a single duplex. He was a financial planner but he was just getting his business off the ground. Reinvested the money from that duplex, the rent money into the next property and now 20 years later he’s got 116 properties, or he did as of the time in the book. He’s probably up to like 120 by now is my guess and may throw off one million dollars in revenue. That’s something that’s accessible to all. So I’ll give you a few examples.

Camille and Ben Arneberg – eCommerce

Elaine Pofeldt: In terms of eCommerce there are Camille and Ben Arneberg they started a business called Willow & Everett it’s an Amazon store and they sell housewares and they’re a young couple. They had recently gotten married. He was in the military and she worked in corporate social sustainability but she felt like she was not really a corporate person even though she cared about social sustainability. So they wanted to create a business they could do together. What they did first was they’re both very athletic. She’s also a personal trainer. They said let’s do something related to our shared interest in running. So they started selling running compression sleeves and they decided after a short time it wasn’t really selling what they’re inventory was. So they decided to change gears, they thought about their other interests and they like to entertain people and buy cool coffee mugs and wine decanters and that sort of thing.

So they ordered I think it was like six or seven products from a private label manufacturer in India and put them up on Amazon. They had about a 5,000 dollar budget and they had saved while they were working and they rationalized that a college course would cost that much. So they were going to view this almost as a college course, even if they lost every single dollar they would have learned something, they were committed to being entrepreneurs and once they put them up there they did a horse race. Some of them didn’t sell as well as others so they discounted the ones that did not sell and reinvested that money into the inventory that was selling and ordered more. That was how they built that business. Now they’ve expanded to several other businesses. They’re selling baby products on one site and pet products on another one. They just sold a business. They kick started that business with another couple.

EThey sold maps for people who use standup desks so they don’t get blood clots by failing to shift and that one was just acquired by somebody Richard Jailichandra who was the Chairman of Click Bank, a giant marketplace for informational products. He’s trying to acquire about 100 million dollar one person businesses actually. So they were acquired by him. So that’s one example.

Megan Telpner – Professional / Personal Services

Another example is Megan Telpner she’s a nutritionist. She was working in advertising in her 20s went on a trip to Africa, got very sick. She was diagnosed with Crones Disease and she didn’t like the treatments that were being given to people with Crones disease and she wanted to heal herself with health and wellness and nutrition. She went back to school, became a nutritionist and stopped working in advertising altogether and she started blogging about her views on nutrition which had a very strong point of view that not everybody cared about the role of nutrition and healing and over four years she was on a panel like this. She blogged every single day and built up a following, very gradually through hard work. These are not overnight success stories.

They started selling a product called the three day green smoothie fast and this was 11 years ago so it was a pdf file basically. She sold it to her email list but her email list was not an email list in a CRM system it was just the people in her email. So this 10 dollar product she saw people bought it so she sold it to some more people. This led to other products like courses, eventually and then she started something called the academy of culinary nutrition where she trains people in her entire system of cooking. Along the way she wrote two cookbooks for Random House called the undiet, easy ways to cook nutritious foods. So that was how she built her business. Now she’s also gotten into coaching other people in their businesses, people like nutritionists who are trying to build their business. So she’s an example of professional service, personal services. But it’s a hybrid because she’s selling informational products.

Rebecca Krones &  Luis Zevallos – Manufacturing

Elaine Pofeldt: We say informational products people think it’s going to be a webinar that then tries to sell you some other thing and what I found with the ones that have sustainable business it’s a real value in terms of what they sell. She has a big following among nutritionists and they really trust her as far as what she’s teaching about nutrition. So I think that’s really important is a real value there. Then another example would be Rebecca Krones and her husband Luis Zevallos, they are in food manufacturing. They sell honey online and they’re doing what a lot of people are doing with manufacturing which is using a co packer. They had the good fortune in that her father is a beekeeper and he sells the bees to commercial farms but he wasn’t doing anything with the honey and she did some research and she found that a lot of people were worried about the origins of their honey at one point there was a scare that adult aerated honey was on the market. It has bad things in it and so she knew where the honey came from and so they put up a site for tropical trader factory foods and they didn’t want the responsibility of bottling up the honey and putting the labels on.

Elaine Pofeldt: So they hired a firm called a co packer that does all of that so that it can be sold commercially. There was another woman I came across after I wrote the book who her product is called Booby Bars it’s a nutrition bar for new moms to keep up their energy level and produce milk for their babies. She was a neonatal intensive care nurse. No business experience whatsoever. She was a mother of three, she was running this volunteer group helping the moms and she started baking these bars for the women and they were so popular that the women started offering to pay her because she was making them in such a large volume. You know how people always say you should turn that into a business. This is really one place where she did and she went to a co packer because as you scale up you really can’t make the stuff in your kitchen because of food safety rules.

Elaine Pofeldt: She was able to get the product into Walmart. (Laughs).

Phil Singleton: There it is, there’s your big break.

Elaine Pofeldt: And she told yeah, you’re a marketer and branding guy. She was worried about the name that Walmart would find it too direct but she said they didn’t even bat an eye. They were fine with it and she went on Shark Tank and she’s done really great with the business. So there are a lot of ways you can do these things.

The Millionaire Next Door

Phil Singleton: Yeah so fascinating the diversity and like you say that’s my favorite thing about the book is it’s in some ways one of my very favorite books but before yours is on the list now too is The Millionaire Next Door.

Elaine Pofeldt: I love that book.

Phil Singleton: You know about how the things that you perceive them to be aren’t and how people live high consumption of lifestyles. Some of that I felt some of that, I don’t know if you intended it, but I feel like when I read some of the stories and the way people are they’re hardworking people that are just trying to go after passions and then they’ve got experience and all this kind of thing for people trust them and they’re just working hard. They’re probably also a lot of them are probably just inherently smart people and maybe low consumption I’m guessing. But it felt like that kind of similar type of small business where you had that blue collar work ethic in terms of them really putting the time and effort behind it and then just turning it into something real. Was the feeling that I took away from some of it. I don’t know that that was necessarily your intention but it really struck me there and I thought that was really interesting.

Elaine Pofeldt: That’s interesting that you took that away. I agree with you about that. I think these folks are very hardworking. They’re self motivated. You have to be to run a successful one person business ’cause there’s not a boss there cracking the whistle. Every once and awhile someone will post something like what do I do about motivation. And if you really are not motivated it’s very hard to run a one person business. You can get external motivation by getting a coach or a system of accountability around you, similar to people with exercise right? You have people that are just at the gym at five in the morning no matter what it could be a blizzard. Then you have other people have a personal trainer. They both maybe equally as fit, but these folks have put their motivated themselves or they’ve put the systems in place with a coach or someone like that to keep them on track. It’s not always easy to run a business. These are not get rich quick type of people.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Elaine Pofeldt: I’m not interested in telling those stories because they are not sustainable and I’m more interested in people creating lasting value. Giving something back to the community. It doesn’t mean they have to be almost a nonprofit. But giving something to their customers that makes their customer’s lives better I think is really important ’cause we’re at a point in business where it’s easy not to go in that direction. We see a lot of bad examples of business. So I don’t want to tell those stories. I want to tell the ones of the people that are doing things right and that are working hard.

Phil Singleton: You have to have two pieces of it too. You can’t work hard on something, make a successful profitable business and still on your lifestyle and be making bad decision where you’re maybe squandering the fortune that you’re making. Even to some extent I mean just running my own business there’s some people that take chances with some of the reinvestment money that they make and you got to basically be doing all that stuff which to me then feeds into that work ethic. These people really must be able to not only work hard and be pretty smart in terms of how they’re making money but also kind of how they’re saving and reinvesting in their business. You almost have to have all of those pieces. I think, I’m guessing I don’t have research on it.

Elaine Pofeldt: You do. There is a certain amount of R & D that they do. Some of them like Alan Walton in the book who runs a spy camera store online called SpyGuy uses profit for his accounting and I noticed that a number of them do that where you put your profit away first and you set aside a certain amount of money to do the reinvestment because that’s one difference between these businesses and the sort of scrambling freelancer is that there is a strategy behind it. The owner does step back a little bit and think about okay what is the purpose of this business. Is the business helping me in my life’s biggest goals? Do I have time for my family? I started this business so I have time. Do I actually have it? They set back a little bit and think about the purpose of why they’re doing it all and they do realize the importance of keeping it fresh and sustainable. So you have to do R & D. Even I do R & D in my writing and contact business because there’s new stuff coming out all the time. You can’t know if things are going to work until you try them.

Elaine Pofeldt: Sometimes it costs you money.

Phil Singleton: Right, right.

Elaine Pofeldt: That’s another thing I have to point out which is sometimes folks are thinking about leaving their job to start a business and they can maybe do it without risking any money. These folks have really taken the risk out of things to some extent because they’ll start the business on the side and they do small experiments to test what worked.

Phil Singleton: Was that pretty common that they had the foot kind of in the other boat a little bit and grew it enough to step away?

Elaine Pofeldt: It’s pretty common. Not in all cases. A lot depends on the stage of life. As people who have kids and dependents and things like that often have to start it on the side because it’s very hard to save up enough money to create the perfect circumstances to start a business. The average American has trouble saving 400 dollars, right? So when you think about six months of living expenses, six months of business expenses all the conventional advice which is correct, I mean who can do it. So the way around that is you start it on the side and as it builds up revenue you finally can jump from the job and go into it full time. But you do have to be willing to risk some money because there is some risk to running a business and if you want zero risk at all in your professional life and financial life this is not for you.

Common Success Trait: Ambitious, Self-Educated Risk Takers

Elaine Pofeldt: It’s for people who are willing to take very smart calculated bets on themselves. Ben and Camille they were committed to learning what it took to being entrepreneurs. They knew they wanted to be entrepreneurs. So even if these products didn’t sell they were willing to bet that 5,000 dollars. Now a lot of people don’t have 5,000 dollars but over time you could save up or you could have fewer products if you wanted to be in E-commerce. But there’s going to be certain elements of people might not buy it. That’s the thing you have to be mentally prepared for. It can be stressful for people who are used to going to their job and then in two weeks they get a paycheck whether or not their efforts were successful they would get paid. If they’re really unsuccessful for awhile they might get fired. But basically the money is guaranteed, it’s not in a business.

Elaine Pofeldt: But these are folks who thrive on that and they understand it. But I wouldn’t say they’re extreme risk takers. They’re not like Elon Musk. They’re kind of mildly risk takers and that’s why I thought their stories were so appealing cause there are a lot of people in corporate jobs who are just starting businesses who have that same profile who don’t necessarily don’t want to be the highest rollers in town. But they are willing to take a little gamble on their good idea and on the chance to have the better lifestyle and maybe they’ll decide how much they’re willing to risk. Similar to like if you want to Las Vegas you decide alright that’s it. I’m going to bet this much and that’s it. They kind of take that attitude and then they can go into it with the spirit of fun. But they do put things in place so that they don’t have to end it prematurely.

Elaine Pofeldt: Sometimes it might be that they have a spouse or life partner who has an income coming in or I’ve seen cases where people downsize their lifestyle. I’ve seen this with older entrepreneurs. Sometimes they own a home and now their kids are out of the house and they want to start a business and they might sell the house and move into a rental. Then they have money to invest in a business. I didn’t focus in this business in this book too much on things like franchises. But there actually was one franchise case study in there too so that’s an option too. In that case it was a uni-shipper’s franchise.

Phil Singleton: Yeah sometimes that’s even a bigger up front gamble because it’s a bigger investment.

Elaine Pofeldt: But you can do it. You can get to one million and what he did was he used an outsource back office service so he didn’t have to have all the employees that you would normally have in a franchise and then he eventually liked the back office service so much he acquired it. So there are ways even with that you can learn from these entrepreneurs about how to keep things very lean. But going back to your point about the Millionaire Next Door these are not wasters of money. They’re not people who have to drive a Maserati. I’m not saying anything against someone who wants a Maserati if you like sports cars, but they’re not living for other people. They’re living for who they are and what they want and sometimes they do go on nice trips or I haven’t been to many of their homes so maybe they have really big homes. I don’t know, but the impression I have gotten from them is that their lifestyle focus and they want to build a sustainable lifestyle.

Phil Singleton: Fascinating. I want to wrap this up with just, I should know this but I don’t, first book that I read from you. Was this your first book or?

Elaine Pofeldt: This is my first book under my own name. I’m a ghost writer so I’ve written a handful of books for other people but this is the only one I can really mention here.

Phil Singleton: So just out of curiosity any things that you’ve learned? I’ve written a couple you went through a traditional publisher which is great. We did ours through several different partnerships that I had co-authors and what not. Direct publishing, but I’m just curious. Seems like every time I’ve gone through a book writing process I learn something new. Is there some things that you’ve learned that you would have done differently just in the process? I’m just kind of curious just as somebody myself might write another book again and I know every time I’ve gone through one I was like wow that was a good idea I wish I would have done that a little differently. Just curious if you had anything that you learned from it that you might do differently in the next book?

Elaine Pofeldt: You know there’s always something that you learn you’re so right about that Phil. One thing I found was very valuable was I had events around the book where I would bring together the entrepreneurs from the book and do panel discussions. Sometimes I would get invited to do key notes and I did do some. But I really I liked the more collective approach. So folks would come and get to meet the people from the book and that was extremely popular. Sometimes we’d have two or three hundred people at the events.

Phil Singleton: Wow, that’s great.

Elaine Pofeldt: I think there was something really nice about it not being filtered completely through me. So people could see that these are real people just like themselves and hear it in their voice and there would always be somebody…if you’re a person in the audience maybe you would relate to one person in particular a little more because of the same industry. They’re your same age or your both women or whatever you have in common with them. That was really something that I enjoyed and I thought was very positive for the book and I would definitely do again. I didn’t know to do that when I did the ghost written books with the ghost writing clients but it’s something that I’m now suggesting to others that they do that if they have a case study driven book.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Elaine Pofeldt: The real people plus you can do it regionally. So I did it in San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago, well I didn’t have a panel in New Orleans but I did go. I did it in Austin, Texas. I’m in the New York area do I did it there and I wound up keeping in touch with a lot of people I met at the events. Thinking of something like that that you could do that really brings it to life and makes it about not just you but the subjects of the book. To me that was my biggest takeaway. That that was very, very helpful and I would also record these things in Facebook lives so it enabled me to bring that message to people around the world who would never be able to come to an event in New York. If they were India or somewhere like that necessarily. But they could at least learn the message of the book and there’s always more to say on the topic. So I was never worried that once people were exposed to it then they’d never read the book. It’s a topic that’s evolving by the minute. Like we didn’t even know people could do this a few years ago.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Elaine Pofeldt: So you learn a whole lot in the next few years.

Phil Singleton: It’s interesting ’cause I think at the beginning of the book or somewhere towards the beginning its like there’s only a matter of time before there’s the billion dollar one person company.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah that’s evaluation. Yeah it was funny that was a VC and I was talking with someone else about this yesterday, who knows? I mean I don’t know where it could go, but I’m hearing about bigger and bigger revenue businesses. We’ll see what the profits are as you pointed out in the beginning. But just the fact that they can raise the revenue so much without a big team. They often have a team of contractors and that sort of thing. But that’s to me that’s very freeing for people ’cause there’s a lot of people that don’t like managing people. They just, they’re fine with managing-

Phil Singleton: Well this gets so much easier now to build a system and then specifically hire people out as a gig or a contractor as part of your system for something specific. So you build this machine up and it’s like yeah I can totally see it. As long as it doesn’t strip all the profit away from it and you find a way to add a lot of value and then be able to decide and stop somebody from building something really big and scalable.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, no and these folks are very good at hiring contractors. One of the things I learned from Sol Orwell who’s one of the entrepreneurs, he pays a lot for his web designer. I don’t remember if he was on or off the record what he pays her so I don’t want to say it but it was what you would consider pretty high fee. But he found that really good people can get done in one hour what it’s going to take a mediocre person six or seven hours to do. Excuse me, and so that’s one rule of thumb that I’ve used in my business. I try to find the best professionals I can even if their hourly rate is high because these folks are so busy they don’t want to pad the bill anyway. They’ll bill you for one hour and in that hour all the knowledge that they bring is so valuable that it’s not worth trying to find somebody who’s charging the rock bottom price who’s not going to be as good generally.

Connect with Elaine Pofedlt (and Please Buy Her Book)

Phil Singleton: Great, great, great advice because I think we’ve all learned the hard way. Shopping around ends up wasting a lot of time and gives you a heartache. If you just find the experts and then pay them a fair rate you’re likely to get the best return on that. Let’s since we’re coming to the end of this time wise, I’d love to tell our audience one where we can buy your book and two, where the best place is to follow you online for your content.

Elaine Pofeldt: Sure, well the book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, all major book stores. So I hope you do enjoy it and they can reach me at TheMillionDollarOnePersonBusiness.com It’s the title .com. No numbers, all spelled out in words or they can write to me on LinkedIn or Twitter under my full name. I’m sure it’s in the show notes so I won’t spell it out it’s a mouthful. But I do invite people to write to me, I really love hearing from other people in ultra lean businesses and I do write back and I love hearing about what your questions are because it helps me as I’m writing to become a better journalist and think about what were the unanswered questions I didn’t address so I can address them the next time.

Phil Singleton: So great Elaine thank you so much for spending the time. It was absolutely fascinating. Thanks for writing such a great book and then for agreeing to reach out on LinkedIn come to our show and share such great insight and some of your background with us. Personally I thought this was one of my favorite ones so I really appreciate it.

Elaine Pofeldt: Awe, thank you so much this was great. You ask really awesome questions. It was really a pleasure.

Phil Singleton: Alright. We’ll see you soon.

Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you.