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.

Storytelling

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.

Podcasting

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.

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.

Project “X”

We always have several project in progress, but not too many. Sometimes we have a wait list to ensure that our current projects are completed on time and to the service expectations of our clients. We try to treat all of our customers as if they were our biggest clients. Although we get inquiries from all over the country, its no secret that Kansas City businesses are our favorites. Continue reading “Project “X””

Project “Startup Co.”

We always have several project in progress, but not too many. Sometimes we have a wait list to ensure that our current projects are completed on time and to the service expectations of our clients. We try to treat all of our customers as if they were our biggest clients. Although we get inquiries from all over the country, its no secret that Kansas City businesses are our favorites. Continue reading “Project “Startup Co.””