What does it take to raise $10 million and get 100,000 users?
After starting multiple businesses with little success, Lucas Carlson started AppFog in 2010.
Lucas raised almost $10 million dollars in venture capital, and was acquired in 2013 after signing up over 100,000 developers.
Lucas is also an author. He wrote Ruby Cookbook which was published by O’Reilly in 2006 and has sold over 20,000 copies.
20,000 copies for a programming book is a big number.
Lucas is also a keynote speaker. He spoke at nearly 30-conferences around the world.
And last but not least he is an open source programmer who’s code has been used by over half a million people.
Listen to the following interview to find out how Lucas went from multiple failed attempts to success with AppFog.
Say hi to Lucas at craftsmanfounder.com.
How does a former arbitrage trader become an Airbnb expert?
Jasper Ribbers is a former arbitrage trader who travels full time while making money online.
He is also generating income by renting his Amsterdam apartment through Airbnb.
At the age of 32, Jasper quit his well-paying job to pursue his lifelong dream, ultimate freedom.
Jasper is not a millionaire, but he makes enough money to support his lifestyle.
He lives a life many can only dream of.
Listen to the following interview to find out how Jasper made the transition from arbitrage trading to entrepreneur.
Say hi to Jasper thetravelingdutchman.com.
What does it take to turn your passion for food and travel into a lifestyle business?
Tasting food around the world is Mark Wiens' passion.
Mark is the founder of Migrationology.com and Eating Thai Food.com.
Born in Arizona, USA, Mark is now based in Bangkok where he is working on building an online business that finances his dream of travelling and eating his way around the world.
Mark has a very successful YouTube channel where he has more than 103,000 subscribers and nearly 18 million views.
I have watched most of Mark’s videos and I am fascinated by what he does.
Listen to the following interview to find out how Mark is turning his passion for food and travel into a lifestyle business.
Say hi to Mark at migrationology.com.
How do you go from MIT to Amazon to venture-backed entrepreneur?
Sandi Lin is the CEO and cofounder of Skilljar.
Skilljar provides businesses with an easy and flexible online course platform.
Their instructors are using the platform to generate leads, sell courses, and improve customer success.
The Skilljar founders were graduates of TechStars Seattle 2013.
Skilljar received $1.1 million funding in November 2013.
Sandi has an MBA from Stanford and 2 Engineering degrees from MIT.
Listen to the following interview to find out how Sandi and her team are building Skilljar.
Say hi to Sandi skilljar.com.
What does it take to start five businesses and sell three?
Satya is the Founder and CEO of MartMobi.
MartMobi helps online retailers go mobile in less than a day, through both mobile sites and native apps.
Satya is a serial entrepreneur.
He sold 3 startups prior to MartMobi which is his 5th startup.
Listen to the following interview to find out how this serial entrepreneur is succeeding in business.
Say hi to Satya at martmobi.com.
What does it take to go from nothing to making over $280,000 per month?
John Lee Dumas is the Founder and Host of the Entrepreneur On Fire podcast which was awarded 'Best of iTunes 2013' with 7.4 million downloads, 829,000 unique listens and subscribers in 145 countries.
John interviews today's most inspiring and successful Entrepreneurs 7-days a week and has been featured in Forbes, INC, & TIME Magazine.
John has turned Entrepreneur On Fire into a business that generates over $200,000 dollars a month & shares all the details in his monthly income reports.
John also founded Podcasters' Paradise; a community where over 1200 Podcasters learn how to create, grow, and monetize their podcasts in a supportive environment.
Listen to the following interview to find out how John went from unknown to Best of iTunes 2013.
Say hi to John at entrepreneuronfire.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Success Harbor: Hi everyone, this is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have John Lee Dumas with me today, John is the founder and the host of the entrepreneur on fire podcast which was awarded best of iTunes two thousand and thirteen with seven point four million downloads and eight hundred and twenty nine thousand unique listens and subscribers in a hundred and forty five countries.
John interviews today’s most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs, seven days a week and has been featured in Forbes, INC and Time Magazine. John has turned entrepreneurs on fire into a business that generates over two hundred thousand dollars a month and shares all the details in his monthly income reports. John also founded podcasters paradise, a community where over twelve hundred podcasters learn how to create, grow and monetize their podcast in a supportive environment.
I am very excited to have John on the Success Harbor podcast today, check us out at Success Harbor dot com and subscribe on iTunes.
John Lee Dumas: I am excited to join you George and of course prepared to ignite.
Success Harbor: By the time you started your podcast in two thousand and twelve, there were a lot of podcasts, it wasn’t really a new concept yet you have managed to stand out and differentiate yourself, what do you think people need to do today in two thousand and fourteen to have the similar success that you had and create that differentiation that you were able to do?
John Lee Dumas: There are three letters that I want to bring up George, USP, Unique Selling Proposition, that was one thing that I was really able to identify as missing as a void in the marketplace in podcasting back in September two thousand and twelve, there wasn’t a seven day a week podcast, there wasn’t a podcast, it was just structure and it gave me the same format and flow overall every time you press the play button so that’s really what I did and I was able to do it in more of a broad sense.
But in today’s game George, the saturation is much more heavy, a lot of people are getting into it for obvious reasons, it’s an incredible medium and a great way to build an audience so my biggest suggestion to podcasters these days is look at your market right now that you want to get into, your passion, what you are excited about and then find a way to niche down and then niche down again and then even niche down a third time, you might feel like you are niching a little too much but believe me, when you get to that point, you are now at the place where you can start, dominate that niche, build a rating fan base in that niche and then once you get the momentum George, then you can start to build out and expand a little bit but you are never going to get that momentum if you start too broad so don’t be afraid to niche to dominate and then expand.
Success Harbor: So it’s almost like niche down until you feel like you are talking to one person.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely and it can be only one person because sometimes you can start with one and then once you have converted that person [Inaudible] then you can be like ok, lets expand the market to ten people, now a hundred and before you know it, you have all these raving fans because you have connected with them in a powerful way.
Success Harbor: So, what are the most effective ways for you in the beginning to market yourself to get the word out about your podcast?
John Lee Dumas: What’s so powerful about entrepreneur on fire and interview podcasts in general is when I started out, I was a nobody, I had no social credibility, I had no online platform, I had no online experience, I had no interview experience so I was weighing heavily on my guest now if I was only doing one episode a week, that would be four guests a month that I would be relying on to help me spread the word of entrepreneur on fire and that would have taken a lot longer to get going but doing a daily interview show allowed me seven days a week to interview inspiring and successful entrepreneurs and to have them, every single day, share their journey with their massive audience.
Exposing a whole new level of people, a whole new number of people to entrepreneur on fire for the very first time, a certain proportion of which were listening, a certain proportion of that were becoming evangelists and subscribers and that snowball effect really helped me build that momentum while I was still a poor broadcaster, while I was still an inexperienced podcast host but it allowed me to build that momentum which I have now maintained over the last seven hundred and fifty episodes.
Success Harbor: When you mentioned the numbers, seven hundred and fifty episodes, it’s almost scary for somebody that starts out and it’s almost like… previously you mentioned about finding that niche and really focusing down to something narrow. You want to set a goal that’s so scary that other people don’t even want to try to do what you are trying to do.
John Lee Dumas: There is a book, a great book and he actually talks about BHAG, the Big Hairy Audacious Goals and if you are not willing to set those big hairy audacious goals, guess what, you are never going to accomplish them so why not just get out there and set those really scary goals for you and the book is actually by Jim Collins, how to achieve big hairy audacious goals so it’s really just something to think about for people.
Shoot for the moon, odds are you are going to miss but at least you will land amongst the stars so fortune favors the bold, think big, go big and have a blast doing it.
Success Harbor: So when I was doing my research, I read about the twelve hour work days that you put in and I would be shocked if you are still not doing a lot of that even today so what advice do you have for those that are interested in starting out maybe a podcast, a blog or a business, how many hours do you think they should expect to put into that business especially in the beginning?
John Lee Dumas: It really depends on what your goals are of that business, if you were me and you were going all in because I wanted my entire business to revolve around my podcast, I wanted to build a business around entrepreneur on fire, a seven day a week podcast, I went all in, I went in ten, twelve hour days, six, seven days a week and I am still at that cliff almost two years later. The reality is that not every, A, can put in those efforts right away because they need to be monetizing, they still need to be bringing paychecks to be paying the bills, to be paying some mortgage, to take care of the kids etcetera so there is nothing wrong with starting as a sidepreneur, waking up an hour early, going to bed an hour late, stopping, watching, no longer watching amazing race or voice with the stars.
And instead working on your business because if you can do that as a side preneur two hours a day for six months and you are consistent with it, you will be shocked at how far you have come and then this time you can take that leap because you have set enough of a platform. I just did the full leap without any knowledge of what was awaiting me below but I had the financial backing to allow me to do that so if you do, I recommend going that route because there is nothing like trial by fire, there is nothing like on the job training, there is nothing like putting your back against the wall and having to survive, having to thrive but if it’s just not realistic, the side preneur route can be powerful as well.
Success Harbor: So, tell me what is it about a podcast that makes people take notice, there are people with a following, Tim Fares is a good example, he started podcasting and he is doing a great job and he already had a huge platform, for somebody that’s starting out now without a brand, without an audience, what can they do, what do they have to do to create something special so people take notice.
John Lee Dumas: It really goes back to the things we have been talking about which is what I love because it is a scene that is really consistent throughout this interview. Unlike Tim Fares, when I launched, I had no online presence, I had no name, I was nobody in the world, I had never done anything entrepreneurship related whatsoever in my previous career, I was an officer in the army for eight years, I was in corporate financing, I was in commercial real estate XYZ but I knew that I needed to mix elbows with the right people so I hired a mentor, somebody that was in the place that I wanted to be, Jamie Tardy of the eventual millionaire.
I joined the mastermind [Inaudible] which was really powerful because it was chalk full of likeminded podcasters and then I started going to conferences and rubbing elbows with the right people at conferences with the ten Ds, [Inaudible] they are really getting into it and building relationships because when it came down to it, the success of entrepreneur on fire was built off, number one, of the relationships that I made with the guests that I had on every single day of the week and then, number two, the unique structure that I took into creating entrepreneur on fire so find that niche as a podcaster that you really want to nominate and then get out to those rock stars in that industry, ask them to mentor you.
Ask them to be a guest in your show, do whatever you can to try to ingratiate them with you and you with them so you can really become a powerful connector in this universe and again, don’t be afraid to niche down until you are in an area where you can actually make some ways, if I jump into the pacific ocean right now and I start jumping around, I am not going to make any waves that anybody in Japan is going to notice but if I jump in my little pool right here on my patio, people are going to start noticing some waves, anybody that’s hanging out by my pool.
There might only be a couple of people by the pool but they are going to notice these waves so really don’t be afraid to make waves.
Success Harbor: You brought up Jamie Tardy and that was one of my questions actually, can you bring up one example that helped you working with Jamie Tardy?
John Lee Dumas: So a great example is I sat down with Jamie and she agreed that she was going to mentor me for three months and it was not cheap, it was thousands of dollars for me to invest so number one, that investment along just flipped my mind to being like “Ok, this is real now, I am investing real money that I spent a lot of time working to create and make into this mentorship, I am going to make the most of it”, so when Jamie looked at me, she said “[Inaudible] number one, I want you to go to an entrepreneurial conference. Next week in New York city, there is blog world, I am speaking there, other people like Pack Flynn, Michael [Inaudible], Corporate Bar are speaking at this conference, these are your future guests for entrepreneur on fire, I want you to buy a ticket, get a plane ticket, get a hotel room, invest in yourself, get down there and attend this conference”.
I was like “I spend all this money investing in Jamie Tardy and now I need to spend more money on this three day trip, it’s going to over a thousand dollars in total if not more” again George, it was something that I knew was right, I listened to my mentor, I went down there, for the first time, I was hanging out with other attendees that were like minded attendees, these were people that were in similar situations to me which was so powerful, I was seeing that energy.
I sat in the front row and listened to the speakers as they went on about what they were doing, I went to the networking events and I asked questions of the speakers and I asked them straight up. I said “Hey, listen, Jamie Tardy is my mentor and they all knew Jamie Tardy because she has been a rock star in the industry for a while and she has spoken about events and I said “Jamie is my mentor, she is rocking and rolling and she has suggested that I come up to you and ask you if you would consider being a guest on my upcoming podcast entrepreneur on fire”.
And George, that’s where I got my first couple of yeses because I was there, in person, looking at these people in the face asking them if they would join me on entrepreneur on fire showing social credibility with my mentor Jamie Tardy, I got my first couple of yeses at conference, I was able to go back to my little studio and man, that I was able to then start writing E mails to other people’s saying, hey [inaudible] they would agree to be on my podcast, I would love if you would join me as well and that’s how I build up my first forty [inaudible] just from that that one trip, with just a couple of guesses, turned that social credibility into forty guesses and getting to pair for my daily podcast launch.
Success Harbor: How much more effective do you think is to actually meet some of these people that you want to interview as opposed to just reaching out to them on twitter because it feels to me and I….tell me if you have a different experience that if when you look at somebody and they look you in the eye, it’s a lot harder to say no than it is just to send them a hundred and forty characters to why you want to interview them.
John Lee Dumas: I completely agree with you, I get DM’s and I get Facebook messages and I get E mail messages every single day from people asking me to be on this show and I can tell you honestly that any time I get an E mail right now from today we’re talking George and forward and this has been the way for the last few weeks, I’m just frankly booked out for [inaudible] for all of two thousand and fourteen like when you booked this, you had the book a little ways in advance and after you booked, I pretty quickly filled up and so my response back now is, listen I’m sorry like I’m completely booked up for the rest of two thousand and fourteen and I’m not even booking for two thousand and fifteen.
But if you want to reach out to me in January, you know we can see where you are at, I mean we can talk about where you want to schedule then and that’s what I say to the multitudes of requesting, I get coming to me from unknown people but George whatever I get asked by somebody who [inaudible], a great example is the interview right before this, I went to…I spoke as Jonathon Fields camp GLP in September in Maine, so I was in upstate New York and it was a great [inaudible] conference and I got to spend a lot of time with specific individuals there and one was a woman named Lora.
And Lora was a great person, she looked me in the face and she said, John, can I get…can I have you on my show and my answer to everybody else is that I get E mails from and messages from as you know I’m sorry, I’ll reach back out in January because I’m booked out but my answer to her was, listen, she [inaudible] E mail when I got back to San Diego, I’ll fit you in and I did and that’s the power I’m looking for In person.
Success Harbor: Can you talk about being helpful because networking comes up so much and I’ve interviewed a lot of people and networking is probably the most important thing when it comes to success, also be helpful comes up with networking so what advice do you have for people that want to reach out, want to network, want to grow their network, how can they be helpful to the people that they want to interact with?
John Lee Dumas: So this is a very powerful question because your answer whenever you’re reaching out to somebody to ask for something is first and foremost, how can I provide value, how can I be a person of value, so here’s a little strategy that I used that has a lot that is [inaudible] really well, has had a lot of success over the past two years, what I’ve really drilled in and narrowed into something that I really want to have on my shelf, I start adding value to them by retweeting their tweets by going to their blog posts and commenting on their blog posts.
By sharing their blogs, by liking a comment and sharing their Facebook messages, I become a person of value in their world, I just get, give, give add value, add value and then after I’ve done that Gary V, jab, jab, jab for a little while, then I pull that right hook and then I say, hey by the way this is John not sure If you have mentioned, I have just been loving your stuff recently, I’ve been sharing with my audience for some time and of course, they are going to see that because you’ve been doing it for some time.
Listen, I’m doing this late show, it’s perfect for you, I know that because I’ve been following you for some time now and then know you have because they have seen you following them and that just share [inaudible], join you for twenty five minutes on a Skype audio only call, I’d love to share your journey with my audience and George, works every time.
Success Harbor: So let’s talk about evolving as an entrepreneur, I mean since you started, you have generated about two million dollars in that income, I mean it’s a huge accomplishment in a world where most businesses fail, you have accomplished a lot but at the same time you’re also evolving as an entrepreneur so how are you changing, how have you changed in the last couple of years and how is that helping you to take yourself to the next level as an entrepreneur?
John Lee Dumas: So I really like to kind of focus in [inaudible] an Albert Einstein quote, which is trying to become a person of success but rather become a person of value and George I was going after success for most of my life, after I served in the military, I jumped to [inaudible] worlds and I went to Law school chasing success, chasing [inaudible] and then I quit cause It was miserable and I tried to corporate finance and I was chasing that success and that respect and that easy money and then I failed miserably there.
Same story commercially, the reality was I realized finally after six years of these failures, of these setbacks, of these quittings, that I had quit every single one of those ventures, I realized that I was going at my [inaudible] all wrong, I was trying to become a person of success which is a sprint, in a sprint you always get burned out but if I instead turn into a marathon and try to become a person of value and for me that value turned out to be entrepreneur [inaudible] delivering free valuable consistent content seven days a week and just delivering, delivering, delivering value and then letting my audience grow and then my audience tell me the way that I can monetize and so I once I got to the tipping point with my audience fire nation and what they told me exactly what they needed and what they wanted and what their struggles and pain points were.
I could then turn around, create a solution for them George, often a solution then create a [inaudible] business.
Success Harbor: So Podcaster paradise is your biggest source of income, what gave you the idea to create this community of paid members, how did you come to that idea?
John Lee Dumas: So exactly using the method that I just shared, I would reach out, my audience would reach out to me and say, John, loving the podcast, thank you for the content, I would respond with the most powerful question you can ask your audience, what are you struggling with? And there answers John were, I create my own podcast on how to make sure my messages with the world, how can I create a podcast that allows me to share my voice, allows me to roll an audience, allows me to monetize my business and all these questions kept coming George and the answer for me was an aha moment.
I need to create a community that teaches people how to do just that, how to create, grow and monetize their podcast and that turned the podcast paradise, George since October of two thousand and thirteen so just a little over a year now, we’ve generated over one point three million dollars of revenue and we have over fifteen hundred members since podcast paradise has launched, hundred, if not now thousands of podcast and more coming every single day and just an amazing community that just is every single day they are taking nearly over two hundred video tutorials that we have every part of the process.
They are the accountability match maker tab, we match people up with the accountability partner, the thriving Facebook group where people can ask for guidance, support feedback and give the exact thing, again you get to over fifteen hundred people, it’s amazing [inaudible] level that you get and then we do the monthly webinars with today’s top podcast exclusively for podcast’s paradise in a monthly Q and A session with me.
All of those ideas George, every one of those came with our members, it didn’t come from me, it came from the members of our community telling us what they wanted and what they needed and then us providing that solution.
Success Harbor: So in December of two thousand and twelve, you have interviews, Barbara, everybody knows her, she is in the introduction as a huge, it’s a huge win for you but it was back in two thousand and five so I mean today it was a lot easier when you just said, you know I have millions of downloads and hundreds of thousands of subscribers or…in hundred and forty five countries subscribed to us in a hundred and forty five [inaudible] support but you were talking about two years almost two years ago so how did you land someone like Barbara?
John Lee Dumas: See that’s a great question because it’s not easy, cause you don’t have that sort of credibility, you don’t have that social proof but you do have what you do have and that’s what I use, I did have a platform, I did have a podcast that was live, I did have a podcast that was rated one point number one and number one in [inaudible], Notebook or iTunes, I did have a lot of [inaudible] guests, by December I’d already interviewed close to a hundred people and I was able to share all of these numbers with Barbara and just say, listen this is what I’ve done thus far, this podcast is only growing, your episode is going to be ever green, meaning that people when they hear about entrepreneur [inaudible] for the first time, they are going to go back and listen to that episode like it was the very first time.
Because for them it is and that’s again another power of podcasting and I just listen to very much the value [inaudible], I would be adding value to her twitter, her tweets, I’d be adding value to her social media in any way possible leading up to me asking that question so when I did, I didn’t come across as a complete stranger, she made a comment on [inaudible] where she said, I love the military, I’ll do anything for them and so I started off the E mail by saying, I’m a US army veteran, I spend thirteen months in the army and you say you’ll do anything for the military, I’m asking for twenty five minutes of your time to talk to me about your journey with my audience.
That’s a pretty powerful ask and it’s pretty hard to say no to that, on National TV, you just proclaim you’ll do anything to the military, well here’s a veteran that has spent thirteen months at war, after twenty five minutes and that was a pretty easy guess for her.
Success Harbor: We only have two minutes left so really quickly, can you talk about, I know you have multiple BA’s that are helping you, in the beginning, what were some of the first things that you outsourced?
John Lee Dumas: So the first things that I definitely outsourced is any redundant task meaning you know tasks that might be used to [inaudible], sending E mail reminder to our upcoming guests, sending thank you messages to past guests, going ahead and entering, in the bio, the Skype ID name and entering the calendar, all of the interviews that I was scheduling, I’m scheduling social media releases and tweets and Facebook posts via [inaudible], doing all of the tasks that are very redundant, that’s what I use my BA’s for, so my suggestion to anybody is, take no over the course of one week, right now everything that you’re doing and then go back on Friday night and look at the tasks that you are doing over and over again.
But if you could just sit down at one time and create a video tutorial using a tool like JING or SNAGGET and you can just show a BA how to do it that will be completely taken off your plate, opening up so much bandwidth and energy that you previously didn’t have.
Success Harbor: Well John I really want to thank you for coming on success harbor and I want to thank you for your service as well and I do wish you much more continued success with entrepreneur on fire, how can people contact your….connect with you, find out some of the projects that you’re working on right now?
John Lee Dumas: So George all the magic happened at EOFire.com and I highly would recommend anybody that thinks podcasting might be for them, go ahead and check out our free weakly podcast workshops, we do them every week when they are free, they are alive, you can ask them any questions you have, that’s podcasters paradise dot com and also George I’d love to get all listeners a gift, my book podcast launch completely free, no E mail required, just go to EOFire.com/gift.
Success Harbor: John and everyone else, thank you very much.
John Lee Dumas: Thanks George, bye.
Success Harbor: Thank you.
What does it take to come up with a business idea while fishing and turn it into a multimillion-dollar business?
Joe Mecca and his brother Paul founded KwiKBoost in 2010.
The Dallas, Texas based company makes mobile device charging stations.
Kwikboost charging stations have charged 20 million mobile devices at universities, car dealerships, hospitals, bars, and more.
They proudly manufacture everything here in the USA.
Listen to the following interview to find out how Joe and Paul are building and succeeding with KwikBoost.
Say hi to Joe at kwikboost.com.
What does it take to create a movement with your business?
Eric Bandholz is the founder of BeardBrand.
BeardBrand is much more than a company that sells beard oil and beard care products.
According to Eric, BeardBrand is a movement for the bearded lifestyle.
Established in 2012 with a mission to help men take back what is natural to them, their Beards.
In just a couple of years, Eric and his business partners went from zero revenue to $150,000 per month revenue.
Listen to the following interview to find out how BeardBrand is building a movement.
Say hi to Eric at beardbrand.com.
What does it take to raise over $300,000 through crowdfunding?
While living between a boat, a grandmother’s basement and the open road Noah Dentzel and his cofounder Brian Hahn raised $161,000 on Kickstarter in the summer of 2012 and about 172,000 in 2013 on Indiegogo.
The Nomad mission was to reinvent the USB cable with their first product, ChargeCard.
Nomad creates minimalist smartphone accessories.
Listen to the following interview to learn how Noah and his team are growing Nomad.
Say hi to Noah at hellonomad.com.
By the time he was in his 20s Tai Lopez was a self-made millionaire.
He is also an author and a member of MENSA: the high IQ society.
Tai has read over 5000 books.
He wishes no one ever had seen when he was on Bravo's "The Millionaire Matchmaker."
Listen and learn from Tai what it takes to succeed in business:
Say hi to Tai at tailopez.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Intro: Hello everybody and welcome to the Success Harbor podcast with George Meszaros, where it’s all about making success happen for you.
Success Harbor: Hi Everyone. This is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have Tai Lopez with me. Tai is a self-made millionaire, an entrepreneur by his 20's, an avid reader of over 5000 books which was noted when he was seen on Bravo's The Millionaire Matchmaker and fortunately his episode is the highest rated yet. Welcome Tai.
Tai Lopez: Thanks man. How are you?
Success Harbor: I'm great. It's Friday and it's beautiful out and just great to be here. Thanks for being here. You've been an entrepreneur for 18 years and started 12 multi-million dollar companies. Can you give our audience, our audience an idea of some of the companies that you have started?
Tai Lopez: Yes, so really what, what I like to do is, I'm an investor so you know, if you look at the 440 wealthiest, there’s 440 approximately, 44, 450, self-made billionaires. There's more than that who inherit their money so, the largest category of wealthy people are investors. About 77 are self-made billionaires, are investors so that's about double even the next closest second category so you know I started when I was a teenager. I started a long time ago. I didn't start you know, late and I really started my first business when I was 5. I remember 4, I started a little tomato stand outside. I remember nobody would buy my tomatoes. I had a little 10 cent bag of cherry tomatoes then I realized lemonade worked better, which is one of the 25 cognizant biases, reward versus punishment. Most people don't like tomatoes, at least cherry tomatoes. They like lemonade with sugar so that was my first business lesson and since then you know, it turns out that the businesses that, a lot of businesses I've started, been an investor in or I'll co-start with people. So I like to be behind the scenes. I owned some of the biggest night clubs on the east coast. I sold them so they've changed names. I started a big investment company on the East Coast called; it used to be called Legacy Life Group. I basically have sometimes I exit the businesses that I'm in, so that's still around. My business partner and close friend John Dewar runs that. It's called LLG Financial and now I invest, you know, I own some of the largest dating sites as an investor, big net worths of dating sites, not necessarily Match.com although I work with, in that space, the social space. But now I, I try to get. What I like to do is I travel around the world, and, and I find the best person in any industry and I talk them into doing a 50/50 business with me. So I just bought a business in Romania, 50 percent. I'm looking at one of the large universities in Europe wants me to buy a large percentage. I don't want to say the name because I'm under a NDA but they're a pretty well-known university that's doing some for profit stuff outside of Europe. I am, you know, I have, done real estate investment company.
Success Harbor: So how do you decide on these ideas? There are so many ideas and so many opportunists so what makes you say no to some and yes to others?
Tai Lopez: Well, okay, here's the deal. Humans have what's called bounded rationality, so you must always constrain your choice potential by some level of bounds. So I put a boundary around what I feel confident in you know, and so now over time you know, it started out, one of my first businesses with Joel Salaton in agriculture. For about ten years I was very focused on organic agriculture, grass-fed, the whole paleo movement before it was even the paleo movement, I was involved in. And that was something that came out of my natural interest , curiosity at that time of my life. I spent two and a half years with the Amish, did lots of different stuff and from there I decided that I needed to understand money because most humans, most of us are destined to spend most of our time acquiring money, resources so I decided, why don't I get into becoming a financial advisor because then even at the worst case scenario, even if I didn't like that industry I would learn about money in order to help me in whatever I wanted to do. So I focused on that. I became a certified financial planner, CHFCC, all those things we did. I was one of the first guys to market financial products online. In 2001 Google Adwords merged and so it's been a progression of things that are. I think I talked about this, we can talk about this later but I call this business destiny. You know there's four concentric circles. You got to find where they intersect and those circles are what you grew up around, what you've been doing the last ten years, what 3rd party people that don't know you have always complimented you on and lastly, what you have natural energy around. So when I was younger, I was a little more erratic and random. I did what I had energy and as I have gotten a little experienced, I've been able to become more and more focused. And now I 'm mainly focused on spreading good ideas with mass media. So I'm interested in, I live in Hollywood Hills Hollywood so I'm interested in the entertainment industry and mass media and TV and movies and internet, radio, magazines, books, anything that I can take a message and spread it to a lot of people quickly. And so, now I'm focused on basically education based things. So most of my investments if I'm going to be invading or finance I'm going to be in the business, of business teaching people how to understand you know financial planning. If I'm going to be in the dating world, instead of, you know, being maybe, owning dating sites, I'm taking those dating sites and making them more educational, learning about social and romance. If I'm going to be in the health space instead of actually manufacturing a physical product like a vitamin, I'd rather be in the business of selling education, some education stuff, but I want to blend it and meld it with, you know, I want to meld and blend that with entertainment, so I call it you know, edutainment. People on a scale of 1 to 10 and a textbook is a 10. I like to read textbooks. Textbooks, most people don't, you know. A 1 is the Kardashian show. You come out dumber from it so my blend is you know, how can I blend 1 through 10 in some way where it's not too textbook-y and it’s not too minus entertainment. So that's what I'm working on now and that's my goal and all, anyone listening to this, the sooner and younger you narrow down the focus because creating immense wealth or creating immense impact, whatever your goal is whether it's money or to be the next Mahatma Gandhi or Mohamed or Martin Luther King Jr., you know, Dalai Llama, whatever that might be, the way you're going to get there is with planning and execution. It’s that simple, those two things. But planning is immensely difficult. Zig Zigler says, you know, spend 30 hours on your plan. I think that's a gross understatement. Sometimes it takes me a year to make a plan. But you know what, no matter how long it takes, it's better to make a good plan to get really good at a the wrong thing. Joe Sandler, one of my mentors said, “Hey dude.” He said, "Worst thing in the world is someone who's good at the wrong thing. Most people are good at the wrong thing. You must never be good at the wrong thing.” So what you got to do you must figure out what is your destiny when it comes to and I'm assuming we're primarily talking here about business. But I think everybody here has 4 destinies. You have a health destiny. Some people are naturally built like big body builders. Some people are built like skinny, you know, endurance runners. Find your destiny and pursue it in health. When it comes to wealth, some of you are destined to, you know, I say this, four levels of wealth, there is scarcity, that's what most people are in. That's when you make according to Daniel Connerman, the great noble prize winning economist spoke of happiness under in the modern world. You know, if you make under 80,000 or so you'll experience deprival and a level of unhappiness that it is can be seen on a brain scan so most people are in scarcity. The average American makes 50 grand or less. And so you got to get to a position, of at least, the next level from scarcity is financial independence. That's level two, anywhere from an 80 to lets say 150 grand. Now if you live in a, if you live in Romania, you don't need to make this much. I'm talking about, you got to look at the parody. What it means, the market, where you live. For some of you, if you live in the UK, you need to make more because the pound is the beast and expensive there so then you got to get level 3, which is, or you can move to level 3 which is prosperity and prosperity you know is generally let's say whatever, 150 grand, a million dollars and then beyond that is the final and fourth step which is wealth and impact, and not everybody is destined like Jon Wooden, the great UCLA coach, basketball coach said, he said look man, he said, "God only made one cream of Doulleger Park. God only made one Michael Jordan. God only made one Bill Gates. You do not have to, you should mentor under them and mimic them to the extent that you can, but you may not have the exact capacity that they have in those areas but it's not a competition with others. It's a competition with potential. The greatest tragedy of our times are not religious wars, they're not strive, they're not divorce, they're not hunger, although all of those things are, you know, nasty. What, the true tragedy of our time, of our lives, and of your life will be wasted potential because time is elusive. Time is the thing that even great physicists don't understand. My grandfather was an astrophysicist and he talked about Albert Einstein said if you go at the speed of light, you would, time would begin to slow down but if you go faster than the speed of light, potentially you could reverse time and go back in time but he said, Einstein said the problem is that as you get, approach the speed of light, mass becomes infinite and you become more or closer to infinity and you become heavier and heavier. So as far as we know, it's going to be hard to ever reverse time so you got one shot. Maybe reincarnation is true, maybe heaven is true but you don't know. All I know is you're probably here now and you better not waste your potential because one day you will look back and if you want to be unhappy you can do what Charlie Monger says, "Before you try what will make you happy, focus on an inversion and invert, invert, invert.” What will make you unhappy? Memories of wasted potential.
Success Harbor: So in one of your videos on YouTube, you talk about, one time when you walked in to someone's office telling the person I will work for free as long as you show me how to make money. Would you recommend that approach to others and why aren't more people doing that, especially earlier on before they started something on their own?
Tai Lopez: Well recently I put out this, you know, PDF info graphic called the 67 Steps To Becoming A Millionaire. You see things on 3 steps on how to become a millionaire which I think is naïve. I think it takes a hell of a lot more than 3 so I've got a couple 100 written down but I think there are 67 concentrated ones that will create wealth for you and prosperity and whatever it is that you may want to be doing and so I think the number 1 of those 67 will answer your question. So most people I call it, you got to have , I call it, "get arrested humility." The ability to be so interested in what you do in terms of pursuing mentors, ideas from other people that you’re willing to get arrested. The guy who started ACME. He was basically arrested by, I can't, I forget if it was Bill Gates or, or Steve Jobs office persistently saying, "Hey, you got to help me. You got to listen to me" and they eventually had police, it wasn't police, they had security remove him. Right. You've got to have that level of humility that you're willing to say I don't know and I'm willing to, you know, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to do that. And most people aren't. They are very, very, very proud. You know the great billionaire, maybe the greatest business man of our time, Sam Walton, made 160 billion dollars personal net worth for himself and his family with Wal-Mart back, and this is what I call 'get arrested level in humility.' He was down in Brazil. This is after he was the richest man in America, after he started the empire of Wal-Mart and he was down visiting some friends and while he was down there, he was, his friends in Sao Paolo got a call, he'd been arrested, come bail him out of jail. They go down to the jail and they're like, "What are you doing arresting this, this 60 or 70 year old billionaire from America? Brazilian jails are a dangerous place to be for anybody and for sure for him.” And they said we thought he was crazy. He was crawling around on his hands and knees in all these stores and they asked him why were you crawling around? And he said, I was measuring how wide the aisles were in these stores were because I was trying to see if these Brazilians knew something that I didn't know. Think of that for a second, the level of humility to make a billion dollar, but yet say, maybe somebody knows something I don't. People are too damn proud. They're insanely proud for no good reason. I asked, one of the 67 steps is, from where does the pride come from? Where does your pride come from? Most people have pride not based on any, any actual accomplishment or if they do have an accomplishment, it only sounds great to them because they're friends are losers or I don't want to be judgmental, but they hang out with people who had done worst than them. Man, don't have so much pride, you know. Whenever I get proud I think about my best friend who's making a million dollars a day right now with his business. Seven years he built a company he's going to sell for a billion dollars. Whenever I get cocky, I think about him. Whenever I get cocky, I think about you know Mahatma Gandhi changing the world, Daniel Lewin by 31, Steve Jobs, I mean Bill Gates by my age were much more, much more accomplished. So whoever is listening to this, whether you make million dollars a year then you better be comparing yourself with men who make and women who make a million dollars a day. They’re out there my friend. You think you're good at basketball, that just means you play on the wrong court. Go play down on the UCLA summer games when you'd be playing against you know pro basketball players. You won't feel so good then. Compare yourself to Michael Jordan. I call it the law of 33 percent. You don’t need to beat yourself down. Right. You know, I call it the law of 33 percent. Hang out with people, 33 percent of your time should be with people who are below you. You can mentor them and they'll also make you have high self-esteem when you realize that other people are doing worse than you. Then you can also spend 33 percent around people on your level. Like Mahatma Gandhi says in his autobiography I just read . I read a book a day and I try to read from all types of greats and he said, "On the rise to the top you will often feel lonely." So you need friends who are on the same path as you but not ahead or behind. Those will be the people you connect with, and lastly, find and this is the hard step, people 20 to 30 years ahead of you. If you find men, this is the path humans learn, not by visual, audio. They learn not by kinesthetic. They learn by osmosis. Osmosis, as things rub off on you. You must have the right people rubbing off on you. The beauty of mass media, in books and YouTube and airplanes where you can fly around the world, when I was in my teens I took a little bit of money I had saved and I travelled around the world, been to 51 countries and I went to, you know, I remember I took a plane trip to Tazmania, an island off Australia, rented a car, drove across from Lancashire to a little village on the other side of Tazmania and I was literally about as far off as you can ever be on a planet. I was in the south of New Zealand, at a place that said, 30 miles south from here is Antarctica, but I was looking for people full with answers right. You've got to have the humility to spend all your money learning from others. Forget the hype that you learn from within. You don't learn from within. Did you learn English from within? No. Somebody taught you. Did you learn to drive from within? No. Somebody taught you. Did you learn basketball, did you learn social skills? No. Everything is taught. If you and I were left on an island, it would be like Lord of the Flies. We would be killing each other with spears and not talking; we'd be grunting. In the same way, elevate the mind and you will accomplish what you want and you will do it by learning. The great influential impact people, I was just reading Jean Jacques Rousseau from the 1700's this morning. It's a story by Willanera Grant, the great gale historians and they said you know, Jean Jacques Rousseau, he ran, he worked on a paint of volume, a work and he read 200, I think it wasn't Rousseau, maybe it was Voltaire, I forget. But before he wrote his book, he read 200 books on the subject so that he could write a good book. Most people are out there spouting their own opinions without downloading the consciousness of great people in their minds.
Success Harbor: So I want to get a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed. When most business' fail, you know, there are people that can, who are just serial entrepreneurs. They can succeed almost every time. Nobody succeeds every time but they just know how to go from one success to the next to the next and those people that can't get there, why do they fail? What are some of those, what's missing? What's missing? Is it a mindset or is it skills or is it being, not respecting the business to do their homework? What do you think is some of the biggest reasons some people fail repeatedly?
Tai Lopez: Well you guys would like, you should have everybody, it's free on my site TaiLopez.com, have them download my 67 things. The answer is I put together 67 vile. If you violate these 67 principles, you will very high likelihood be a massive failure and so if you can follow frameworks of thought, you will do much better. Now if you're asking me what's the most important, you know I, there's a handful of highly important things in my experience and like I said the first one is people who are not humble enough generally fail. People who try to build too much off their own ideas, often fail. Okay so that's one of the 67. Other things, if you want the full list they can get it on my site. It's free I just give it away. I'll give you a handful. Other times,
Success Harbor: So trying to be original is a bad thing in your opinion?
Tai Lopez: Well it depends on your definition of original. Let me give you an example
Success Harbor: Okay
Tai Lopez: Are you original in how you speak English? The answer is yes and no. You formulate words and recombine them in the order that is in your brain but where did you learn the foundational building blocks of the word "the", the word "a", the word "and”, the word “house"? Those were taught to you and they are construction. Victinstyne, the great philosopher speaks on this. Your reality is a construction of the words that you use but you were taught the words so what you do is you use other people's thoughts as the foundational steps and then you recombine them over time but I will tell you man, most people, do you know how hard it is to come up with an amazing idea that hasn't been thought up? Why? Why do you need that? My mentor Alan Nation told me and this is a very accomplished, one of the smartest people I've ever met. He said to me, "Tai, I never had an original idea in my mind. I just read a book a day of smart people. That's where I got this idea back when I was a teenager. Reading." And this is the normative pattern. Find me a great world changing person who doesn't read. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates both said that if they could, they were asked what's the number one super power you wish you had and they said, "To read a book a day, I mean to be the fastest reader in the world." To be the fastest reader in the world whereas you know I always talk about rich friends, poor friends. I've got rich, very rich friends, that book by Kawasaki, poor, Rich Dad Poor Dad. I didn't have a rich dad. I had a poor dad, but I have rich friends and poor friends now. I've some of the wealthiest that are my friends but I have my old school friends. I don't base my friendships on how much money someone makes so I have all my friends back who are just regular people and I’ll tell you the difference between my rich and poor friend. The difference between my poor people are what I call, skinny fat. Every heard of the term skinny fat? It means somebody who appears skinny but if you grab their skin they're kind of flabby. Most people are humble cocky. They appear to be humble on the outside yeah yeah, yeah, but if you look at their actions, they’re never learning. They're secretly think that one day they'll wake up with the next great idea that makes them great. It won't happen. Read Nicholas Tesla. People think he's a self-made man. He had a photographic memory. He had a mathematician. He read an immense amount of books. He had a mathematician mentor. He went to university and learnt from some of the top people. Victinstyne, the greatest thinker of modern times. He went and tracked down Bertram Russell. For 3 months he haunted the great, you know, Bertram Russell was the great philosopher at that time and he went. Victinstyne went as a young kid and pursued Bertram Russell and said, and Bertram Russell thought he was crazy. So he had pursued and said, I need to learn from the best. That must be your attitude. We'll never get along. I never get along with any person that tries to tell me how they're going to learn the answer within. I’ll give you an example. Somebody. The Dalai Llama was mentored by who? He was mentored by Gandhi and Gandhi had a mentor. It's a series of passing down of knowledge. Why do you want to do it yourself? Most people are mistaken, massively mistaken understanding that the way that you learn is through mistakes so I was going to tell you the other reason that people fail is that most people are trying to learn from their own mistakes. That's a long hard path that's going to take you 30 years. You only learn from mistakes that is true but, but, but, but, but, you learn much quicker through other people's mistakes. Who do you want to be? Someone who spends 30 years learning through your own trial and error? You want to be somebody who has to discover that the world is flat versus round? I already, it didn't take me more than one minute to realize that the world is not flat. I read, I built upon other people's works. I didn't spend my life, I could've spent ten years, travelling the globe and trying to go to space and mathematically proving it. Why? So why are people going, “Hey Tai. Well I want to do it my way, the original.” And I’m like, well then you want to be poor my friend. That's your choice and I'm happy for people who want to be, who want to be poor. That doesn't bother me at all.
Success Harbor: So, so you credit 90 percent of your success to five of your mentors, 3 millionaires and 2 billionaires? What were some of the most important things that you learnt from your mentors that you can share now?
Tai Lopez: Well a lot of this, a lot of this 67 steps that I have is from the compilation you know from travelling the 51 countries and learning from people like that okay. So that, that's step one. I mean I've been mentored by all the books that I read. That's extremely important for me to, to learn through these books and the most important thing are in that 67 steps. There are things from understanding, like you must control your mind, you live in a world where we're bombarded by too much stimulus. Robin Dunbar, the available, I mean Robert Dunbar, the great anthropologist said, “We really evolved only to be in groups of 150.” Okay. And hold on one second, let me close this door. I have all my assistants here talking. Sorry about that
Success Harbor: Alright
Tai Lopez: So you've got this 67 steps right and I think there's about 2 or 300 I just didn't want to bombard people. So some of the big ones is, one of my mentors, I was about 18 years old, my mentor, he was a guy named Mike. He was one of the wealthiest men in Ireland and we were on this farm in Mississippi and he, he, he was telling me that. I brought up somebody that I looked up to and I was like, "Oh this person you know blah, blah, blah and this person da dee dee." And he looked at me and said, “But Tai is he worth a damn? Was, is he worth a damn?” And at the end of the day the three most important lessons I learnt from mentors is number 1, the “worth a damn” factor. What's your worth of damn factor? And worth a damn is a set of massive intangibles. It’s hard to define but I call it awareness. People who are aware. Like this Amish guy, I lived with the Amish for 2 and a half years and an Amish guy told me, “You know Tai, there are three kinds of people in the world. One watches things happen, one makes things happen and the last wonders what happened. Most people wonder what happened. You must never wonder what happened. You must make things happen.” So, that's the first one.
Success Harbor: So
Tai Lopez: So that’s the first one. Sorry.
Success Harbor: No go ahead
Tai Lopez: The second one that you must do, okay, you must then what I talked about a little earlier. You must have massive levels of humility and the next, the 3rd one which I haven't gotten to is what Charles Darwin said. Charles Darwin said, “It's not the most intelligent. It's not the strongest that survive. It's the most adaptable.” The most adaptable. You must be adaptable. Right so most people don't read the obvious signs of their life. They do not read that their life is crappy and they won't admit it. That can't be you. That cannot be you so those 3 things and there are 64 other main things. There's cognitive biases, misaiming bias in essence, bias availability, association bias, papilogan response. You, contient fairness. There’s systems that I, 6 sigma perfection levels that you have to work on. It's really a recipe, an overall recipe that you must master. It's different for different people, Okay?
Success Harbor: Can you share your five percent rule to a 7 or 8 figure income? I read a little bit about it on your site I believe. I don't know if you can go into that a little bit.
Tai Lopez: So, so, okay, so the law of 5 percent. I used to date this girl that almost won American Idol. She was one of the best singers. She made it to the final rounds of American Idol and she was on a scale of 1 to 100 of singing, you know, just to audition and get on American Idol you have to be in a stadium of 15,000 people to make it okay and she did. And then she made it, and Simon liked her and so on, but the thing and this is the tricky, nasty, thing about success, on a scale of 1 to 100, okay, she's a scale, on a scale of 1 to 100, the world no longer rewards 85's or 90's or 92's or 93's. The world rewards 95's to 100's. That's the hard part. That's the hard part. How can you become that last 5 percent? That's what you have to figure out. Okay.
Success Harbor: Hmm mmm
Tai Lopez: So that's what the law of 5 percent says.
Success Harbor: You also talk about a, an infinite cash injection method you pioneered to keep a constant cash flow coming into your business. Can you share that?
Tai Lopez: Yes so there's three factors of production out there in the world. There's classic if you study economics. Number 1, it is, well it’s land, labor and capital. So, most entrepreneurs are focused on land. That's the position that you need. That's networking and who you know and so on, okay. Number 2, labor. Most entrepreneurs are extremely focused on their own skill levels. “Hey Tai. I'm good at that and the other thing,” okay. But lastly and the one that's most often forgotten by most entrepreneurs is capital. We live in a capitalistic society. You probably need capital. Richard Bronson, if you read his great autobiography, Screw It Let's Do It, what he says is without capital you're done. He acquired massive amounts of capital. That must be what you do as an investor. Now when I say massive it will be different amounts for different people. For some that’s 10,000 dollars and for some people that's that is you know, I don't know, 50 million dollars. So, that, but, make no mistake, capital is the fuel that you must bring into your business and so I've pioneered various, I have this academy that I do and I, I give away almost 80 percent of what I do for free but there's a few things. I have this academy for highly engaging, it's a private mentorship and I teach this whole system. I’ll explain some of it. I mean I teach 5 hours on it in the system I can't teach at all now but I'll lose my voice. But the basic system is you want to create an ongoing source of capital that's not always you know profits for your business. For some people thats shares, for some people that's debt. But I like some creative strategies like franchising. I just read the book Grinding, Grinding it out with Ray A Croft. Amazing book if you've never read that and his trick was very simple. He created a franchising system. He licensed it from the McDonald brothers but they are, another very humble guy and he went out there and licensed this business to other people. So he was able to bring in large sums of cash in that way and so for some people you will do it through a form of franchising or licensing as I call it which it can be extremely you know, extremely effective. For some of you it's licensing if you're a more software business. If you, for some people I find that what works best is a system of debt. Sam Walton built an empire on debt. Debt is nasty though. You should only use debt, if you do decide to use it, when you already have a proven system that you can pretty much, Walton was borrowing money once he knew the numbers and what would sell you know. So he didn't use debt to furnish his initial business. You must be very, very careful, very, very careful about using debt. So those are, infinite, and I've got some things that are more advanced that you can do but the main place to start first is listening. You must come into a place mentally where you understand that you probably will need capital at some level. Sometimes if you're lucky enough you can use reinvested profits as your capital source but you may want to diversify the flow of money that comes into your business.
Success Harbor: So how should we imitate entrepreneurs that are way ahead of us? So you mentioned that maybe you have a third of the people you interact, you kind of help out and then the rest of the people should be ahead of you so you can learn from them and they can possibly influence you. So what can we do to imitate or learn from these entrepreneurs that are kind of way ahead of us or at least a few steps ahead of us in the game?
Tai Lopez: You mean how can you get them to do what? How?
Success Harbor: Well what I look for, if I look at Mark Cuban you know, I didn't really, I can read a book about him or whatever, but he's a billionaire so maybe he's not the best example. Let's suppose somebody makes 100 million dollars so that's a substantial business, what do I, what do we want to learn from them? What do you think is the most valuable things that we can learn from them? Is it more about just the general outlook on life or do we want to get, try to get tactical you know in terms in terms of trying to imitate what they do?
Tai Lopez: I think, I mean go the most humble path, like Alan Nation taught me. The secret to life is ignoring 99 percent of people but when you find the one person listen to everything they say. So I was actually reading a book called The Republic, which is by Plato, this morning and he talked about this concept of listening to one or 2 people at a time. And remember it's not a cult following. Over time you'll accumulate people in your life but listen to them you know. And so, think it’s better to, what I recommend people do, I find, it's very simple. You go out and you identify your destiny and you find somebody 20 years ahead in your exact destiny. That's the best type of mentor. So if you want to do a hotel business, don't get mentored by a guy who owns a sushi restaurant. Right? You can have them on your board of advisors. I teach in my academy on my site, tailopez.com, I got a little link there, but I teach there about the difference between a board of advisors and actual mentors. Mentors need to be in what you're doing so that you can emulate them very, very closely okay? So if you could do that you know that's the first path. So you brought up whether the Rich or Richard Branson or whoever it might be, you know, you may make a mistake of following somebody who has you know, really no experience. Just because somebody is successful in something doesn’t mean that they'll be able to lead you down a different path for a different type of business so they can be on your board of advisors and give you generalized advice, okay. But in general you know they should be on your board of advisors. They give you big picture advice and then you find mentors that you can really follow around, maybe work for, whatever it might be you know.
Success Harbor: Yeah. Many entrepreneurs spend their days putting out fires instead of being strategic. It's almost like they're operating in crisis mode, most of the time. What do you think they, you know, why do you think they choose that path, I mean and what can we do to avoid it, to build a business that doesn't operate in crisis mode most of the time? What's, what's going wrong in their business?
Tai Lopez: Well, it's hard to diagnose. It's funny. There are only a few ways to succeed but there are a hell of a lot of ways to fail so the people can be failing for anything. Like Charlie Monger says, if you really want to fail, have a lot of slough and unreliability. Some people have slough, they are lazy as hell. Some people are unreliable. They're good one day and not good the other. They should read the book Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker. Other people are going too fast of a track you know. It took Pablo Picasso a long time to become Picasso. They call it the 10 dark years, the 15 dark years where nobody knows your name. Wray Crawford before he became the richest man in America spent 30 years selling paper cups. Bill Gates started at 12 and wasn't a billionaire until 31. Buffet started at 7 and wasn't a billionaire until 57, 50 years so some people's timelines are so short and they're like "I'm failing" and I'm like you're not failing my friend, you're going through the normal and normative growth patterns of any biological organism and business in a sense is like a baby. Alan Nation told me, said, “It's like a baby. The first year it keeps you up all night, crying. The second year it's a brat. The third year, fourth year it finally you know, you can sleep through the night but eventually if you take care of that baby, it'll take care of you. So some people have a baby business and are treating it like a grown adult going. You know, there's a big lie out there in especially in the Internet entrepreneur world. I'm not sure where it started but I think some of it started within the four hour work week as much as I like Ferris’, his general ideas, they're massive, massive mistakes in it that are causing people to go, “Well I'm going to start a scale up business and this and that". It's a bunch of BS. It's not true. You can't find many examples. You can find a few statistical aberrations but its aberrations. So I think most people, especially maybe your audience specifically, is simply, okay, is just simply poorly timing and they have a poor framework dude. I mean, I told you it's about planning and execution so most people have the crappiest plan ever. They build their plan off some internet nonsense that they read somewhere. It's a weak plan. I mean what do you expect from a weak plan. What if my plan when I broke my ankle was to put you know, wave a voodoo doll over my ankle to get better? You follow a crap plan and you're going to have a hell of a lot of problems with your broken ankle. You want to follow a good plan and most good plans are carefully, methodically done. When I broke my ankle playing basketball at UCLA a couple of years ago, I wanted an expert. Somebody spent 30 years, and built upon an accumulated body of medicinal knowledge at the hospital to fix my ankle. You know. That's what I wanted.
Success Harbor: So most people handle failure badly. What do you think, why do you think that happens? You know, I think you've talked about this. I don't know if it's one of the videos on YouTube or maybe on your site, you know how 70 percent quit after the first failure and another 20 percent quit after the second and 90-95 quit after the third, you know, and the average millionaire fails about 3 times before they actually make it. So what can we do to condition ourselves, because you know, when you're a baby and you try to walk, I mean you fail a million times a day and yet you keep going
Tai Lopez: Yeah but
Success Harbor: What breaks, what breaks in us that as we grown up? Well I don't even know when that happens. You know you fail and you take it personally and a lot of times it really ruins people.
Tai Lopez: Well look, there's two ways I can answer that. There's some people that answer that by saying the education system has trained us to see things as black and white. I think there's some there. I think there’s some religion and traditional morality but I think, you know, so I could go down that path and talk about that. Let me take you to a little different place before we even talk about that. There's a good interview by Warren Buffet and JayZ. I think it was for Forbes magazine or something and basically what they said was just very fascinating was. Well Buffet says, Buffet had a mentor named Benjamin Graham, one of the foundational guys who taught people to understand the stock market and what he said was “What you want to do is never fail, make a big failure. Okay, so when you’re walking as a, a baby your mom does not let you walk close to a cliff. When my mom was a little girl my grandmother said she disappeared at 2 years old through the back door and my grandmother found her across like a pier with a fifty foot drop off to shark infested waters in Panama. You don't want that for your kid or for your life. Right. So you can have mistakes but they can be little ones. What you need to be trying to do is get on first base. Everybody is trying to get on home base, with the first hit. Don't be a fool. Make a lot, a lot, a lot of first base hits and the next thing you know, you've scored a lot of runs. So really, most of us have bought into the lie that you need to make a ton of mistakes. Joel Sods had told me the first day I was there he said, “Tai, I have one rule. You're not allowed to make any mistakes.” What he was saying was limit, put risk prevention. In stock market you put options on it right. You put options on it to protect yourself from down side.” Don't go all out with your first business. Everyone I meet wants to make a million dollars but I’m like have you ever made 100 thousand consistently? Don't tell me about your million dollar plan. I had a guy come to me one time and say, ”I want to go to lunch with you. I've got the next billion dollar plan.” And I said well depending on how you answer this one question, I'm going to tell you if I'm going to go to lunch with you. Have you ever started a million dollar business? He said no. Did you ever start a 100 thousand dollar business? No. Fifty thousand? No. Then why are you talking about a billion? You're too cocky my friend. It took Warren Buffet 50 years to become a billionaire. He has a 155 IQ. It was measured by the Winter Warden. It was mentioned by one of the greatest people of all times in the financial area and and it took him 50 years but you're sitting here telling me you've got the next billion dollar idea? I feel like saying get out of my face my friend. I can't handle it. I don't want your bad vibes. Now, he meant well and I didn't say that to him but that's what I naturally feel. So most entrepreneurs out there I'm like, hey man if it took Bill Gates 19 years and from age 30 Bill Gates said "I never took one day off", ten years he used to sleep and you know not take a shower and sleep at the office in his cubicle writing code. If it took him and he's got a 155 IQ as well, are you smarter than Bill Gates my friend? Because if you think you are and you're working for 19 years like he worked and you're still having problems making money then you can come talk to me. But everybody wants, this is what my TED talk was about. Everybody wants but not everybody's willing to do what you have to do to get what you want.
Success Harbor: So what businesses are exciting to you? Where do you see the greatest opportunists today in 2014? If you're starting something or if you're advising somebody to start a business, where do you see the great opportunities now?
Tai Lopez: Well I don't buy into that. I hate opportunistic stuff. I tell people you can disagree with me as much as you want but you got to have facts. So when I state strong opinions I'll try to back them up with facts. If you look at the wealthiest people in the world, 44 self-made billionaires, there's no consistent pattern except maybe investors that continually wins the game of business. They're all over the place. There's a yogurt billionaire. There’s a billionaire who, Sara Blakely needed spanks. She made tights and made a billion dollars. There's people from tech, real estate but they're not dominating that thing. They’re all over this so I tell people, quit with the opportunistic stuff. You will not create wealth with the next big opportunity. For every story of Instagram where they stumbled into a billion dollars or multibillion dollar business, there's 10,000 failures. You don't want to play a hand of cards that wins 1 out of 10,000. You want to play a hand of cards that wins 1 out of 2 or 2 out of 3 and the hand that wins 2 out of 3 in a consistent pattern of world impactful changing people as people who follow what I talked about in the beginning, business destiny. What's your natural destiny? Go down that path. Opportunities will arise over time and you will make money if you're suited. But remember the law of 5 percent. If you're trying to just jump in, like me I suck at construction. I did it. I know how to build a house but you will never want to live in a house that I built. I have no interest in it and the doors will be crooked because I don't like building so if I was to pursue and say there was a ton of money in real estate and I'm going to get into a construction company, I would be a fool. You never want to be a fool. All these people out there, is the blind leading the blind. Don't be that person. Remember if you don't know who the sucker is, you're the sucker. What you need to do is first get massive levels of clarity. You should be able to say in a few words what you want to do. Warren Buffet at 2 years old, I mean 7 years old, I want to allocate capital. I met Steven Spielberg. He said around 7 years old I went to an Indiana Jones, private screening here, in Hollywood and he was talking there at the beginning before the movie. It was the 30th anniversary of Indiana Jones and he said, at like 7 or 8, I was playing with camera lens. I already knew what I wanted to do. Bill Gates at 12, there's there is a pattern, now you may be listening to this and you're fifty years old. Well you can never, you better get this down now, faster. Most people are like well I'm already 50 years. Well it doesn't matter. The laws of business don't change just because your life is out of whack. So what you got to do is figure out what you should do immediately. Immediately. You know.
Success Harbor: Yeah
Tai Lopez: Yeah
Success Harbor: You know, I just basically have one or two more questions. I know we went over a little bit than you know, I said about a half an hour so I appreciate your, you being here. What do you think is the biggest time waster for people in business, people that want to be entrepreneurs or people that are trying to be entrepreneurs?
Tai Lopez: Oh that's easy. Getting good at the wrong thing. Getting good at the wrong thing is the tragedy of our time. Everybody wakes up and goes to work and 99 percent of those people are getting good at something they don't like. Don’t get good at something you don’t like. Why? Let somebody else be good at that because they probably like it. So that's the biggest time waster without a doubt. Without a doubt.
Success Harbor: Any last word of wisdom to share about building a business, or growing or taking your business to the next level before we call this?
Tai Lopez: I would probably say the biggest thing that you could do. I mean take the philosophy of what Chief de Kumsa says, “Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all thinks in your life.” Focus on an end game that you want. Right. So the end game and then work your way in reverse. Figure out where you want to be at 70 and then go okay, if I want to be there at 70, what does my life have to look like at 60. Then say to get there at 60, what does my life have to look like at 50. And then move your way back to your present age, work your way in reverse. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People talks about end game. The end game. Be an investor and not a consumer.
Success Harbor: Well Tai, thanks very much for coming on online on Success Harbor to share your story, to share your wisdom. How can people connect with you or find out more about you or or where should they go?
Tai Lopez: So I just launched a podcast. If you guys could do me a favor. I rarely ask other people for failure, I, for a favor, I just launched a podcast and it gets in new and noteworthy if I get enough ratings and stuff so if you go to my podcast on iTunes get your blackberry and go to the Tai Lopez show, The Grand Theory of Everything. It's me talking, a little bit of babbling, hopefully a little bit of good news and good wisdom in there, what I’ve learnt from other people and I'll pass it on and just leave me a rating, subscribe. That's the first way. Second way and maybe even better than that, is my site, TaiLopez.com. I've got this 67 Steps PDF. Check it out. Join my book of the day newsletter. You should be reading a book a day but if you can't do it, let someone else do it for you. So I read a book a day and I put out a free summary. A million and a half people from 40 countries are on there. So if you go to TaiLopez.com there's a little place to join our pop up you'll see and you can get the 67 Steps plus free, my book of the day club. Some of you, those people who are really interested and want to join my private mentor program. It's not very expensive. It goes white to black belt. It starts out very inexpensive and that's there's a link on millionaire mentor. I'm on Twitter, I just passed 170,000 followers the other day on Twitter. It's under TaiLopez. You can see my lifestyle and what I'm trying to do. It's @tailopez and the number 1,@tailopez1, and then on Facebook I'm on TaiLopez Official, YouTube. I meet stuff in different channels. My YouTube has some unique stuff but I, you can go to my website, Tailopez.com and go from there but leave me a podcast thing if you guys don't mind. A little review there and subscribe, hopefully I can get five stars. Maybe, I don't deserve it. Give me what you think is fair. I'm not going to tell you what to rate me but
Success Harbor: So check out check out Tai's podcast on iTunes. Check out TaiLopez.com. Tai thank you.
Tai Lopez: 67 Steps I just put that out. It's pretty cool and 67 Steps, it's a PDF and I've recorded like 3 or 4 videos that are about an hour long where I go through the 67 steps. I can't do all 67 in the videos. I do them all in the academy but you can get, like I said, I give away around 90 percent of everything I do for free. Seventy, ninety so yeah, check that out.
Success Harbor: Okay Tai. Thank you again. Thanks for listening and maybe you'll come back again in a year and tell us how everything is going now.
Tai Lopez: Awesome
Success Harbor: Thank you
Tai Lopez: Thank you my friend. Stay strong.
What does it take to build a multi million dollar business on customer feedback?
David Jackson is the CEO and Cofounder of Clicktools, the world’s leader in the field of customer feedback integrated with CRM.
David is a popular speaker around the world.
He has had many articles published and is the author of several books, including “Dynamic Organizations: The Challenge of Change” and “Becoming Dynamic.”
In the following interview we cover everything from starting Clicktools to its $14 million acquisition by CallidusCloud.
Say hi to David at clicktools.com.
What does it take to build a business with 270,000 customers? Christian Vanek is the CEO and co-founder of SurveyGizmo. SurveyGizmo is an online survey company that aims to give business-to-business companies, researchers, non-profit organizations and educational institutions the tools needed to create online surveys, questionnaires and forms. Hundreds of millions of surveys have been completed with SurveyGizmo. The company has 74 employees and revenue is expected to be $10-$11 million this year. Listen to the following interview to learn how Christian and his team took SurveyGizmo from an idea to success.
Say hi to Christian at surveygizmo.com.
What does it take to build an £8 million business? Karen Emanuel has been an entrepreneur since 1990. She is the Managing Director of Key Production with some A-list clients such as Coca-Cola and the BBC, just to mention a few. Listen to the following interview to find out how Karen started her business and how she built it into a multi-million enterprise.
Say hi to Karen at keyproduction.co.uk.
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Joanna writes fiction and non-fiction. Her novels have sold over 350,000 copies. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur. Joanna was voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals. Joanna’s site TheCreativePenn.com has been voted one of the top 10 blogs for writers three years running. Listen to the following interview to find out how Joanna went from being an IT consultant to a bestselling author.
Say hi to Joanna at thecreativepenn.com.
Stephen Key has successfully licensed more than 20 simple ideas that have generated billions of dollars of revenue during the past 30-years. Stephen holds 12 patents. His products have been sold by some of the most recognized brands such as Disney and Walmart. Stephen has won many awards including the Edison Awards. Stephen is the author of One Simple Idea. Listen to the following interview for an insight into the mind of a creative product guy.
Say hi to Stephen at inventright.com.
What does it take to bring order to chaos? David Allen is the creator of Getting Things Done®. GTD is the work-life management system that has helped countless individuals and organizations bring order to chaos with stress-free productivity. After decades of in-the-field research and practice of his productivity methods, David wrote the international best-seller Getting Things Done. Published in over 28 languages, TIME magazine heralded it as “the defining self-help business book of its time.” Fast Company Magazine called David “one of the world’s most influential thinkers on productivity.” Listen to the following interview if you want to become a better entrepreneur through greater focus and productivity.
Say hi to David at gettingthingsdone.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Success Harbor: Hi everyone. This is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have David Allen here with me. David is the creator of Getting Things Done, also known as GTD. GTD is the work life management system that has helped countless individuals and organizations bring order to chaos with stress free productivity. David wrote the international best seller Getting Things Done published in over twenty-eight languages. Time Magazine called it the defining self-help books of its time. Fess Company Magazine called David one of the most influential thinkers on productivity. Welcome.
David Allen: Glad to be here George. Thanks.
Success Harbor: Thanks for being here David. What were you doing before you developed GTD?
David Allen: Well the methodology of GTD is something that just developed over twenty years of me doing consulting and coaching and training work in the professional world. Before that I had my own little consulting practice. Before that I had thirty-five professions. Didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew up so of course the consultant is about the only route to take if that's sort of your style. So you know I liked coming in and assessing situations so I can say how can I prove it so people can get more done with less effort and then move on to the next thing. Then one day I actually realized that they actually paid people to do stuff like that so I hung out my shingle and became a consultant in I think 1981.
Success Harbor: Let's talk about the feeling of being overwhelmed. In your opinion what are the reasons people, both in personal and in business life often feel overwhelmed.
David Allen: They're keeping all the stuff internalized in the system and define and objectify it and your head is a terrible office. It has no sense of past or future so you tell yourself you need to buy cat food or you need to extend your credit line at the bank and if your head is the only place keeping track of that and we're viewing it, it's bouncing around like pinballs in a pin ball machine and it'll wake you up at 3 o'clock in the morning about your cat food or about the bank and you can't do anything about either one then. It really is not, your brain is really not designed for that.
Success Harbor: So what do we use then if our brain is not designed to keep all that information? How do we avoid all that?
David Allen: You can use anything that keeps it out of your head. Write it on your wall, write it on your arm. Print it out. Stick it somewhere. The main thing is you need to get it out of your head. Not just writing it down won't fully solve it. That's the first step. A lot of people write a lot of stuff down. They just don't do anything with it. They don't look at it and they're finished thinking about what they write down. So it's still crawls back up in their head. So there is a formula that I uncovered really about how do you get stuff off your mind without having to finish it yet and that's a five step process that I uncovered so you know that's quite simply you need to capture the stuff on your mind. You need to clarify exactly what it means and what you're going to do about it if anything. What's the outcome and what's the next action step? You need to park those results in some sort of appropriate, organized, set of categories so you can then step back and you know stage four, step back and look at that inventory on some consistent basis so then step five, you actually engage with something from a trusted place as opposed to geo-hope this is what I ought to do. But most people are still being run by the latest and loudest thing in their head because they're still using their head as their system.
Success Harbor: What do you think is the reason that so much self-talk is negative?
David Allen: Well, I read a study many years ago that if you grow up in a healthy American home, whatever that means but you know, reasonably sane, you know American home, about eighty-three percent of your feedback was negative. Don't do this. You'll hurt yourself. [00:04:11.16] Mumblings. Don't do that. And then later on, the people who were studying the self-talk process said that the typical adult does about eighty or eighty-three percent negative self-talk. So it makes sense that that matches up to how most of us are raised.
Success Harbor: Is it that you think that's a part of the animal in us to have that self-talk, to kind of keep us alive?
David Allen: I don't know. I don't know if that's it or not. I think you know you can't stop talking to yourself so you're constantly doing it. The nature is, what's the nature of it, you know as I say, what if your friends talk to yourself like yourself? "Hi George, what an idiot. That was a terrible interview. You weren’t perfect. You said that word wrong. Oh my God. Don't even try to wake up in the morning." You know this is a strange little animal inside of all of us so I think there is a proclivity or propensity for people to want to. I think people want to perhaps save themselves from disappointment you know. The pessimist is never disappointed so you know it's kind of risky to step out there and say I'm okay, I'm good. Life is great so let's go, you know. So entrepreneurs have to deal with that all the time.
Success Harbor: Can you tell? I'm sorry to interrupt. Can you talk a bit about the importance of focus? I think we talked about the feeling of being overwhelmed and I don't know how much of that is a lack of focus. Can you give us an example of staying focused or how to stay in focus?
David Allen: Well you know you have to put yourself in crisis and that handles it. You know just you know set your house on fire. You'll focus, you know. Most people actually move into a high performance behavior in a crisis because basically it puts you, it has you doing the behaviors that allow your brain to be highly focused. You have a desired end result that you're very passionate about called live. You know don't burn up and you're constantly then making next action decisions. You have an outcome that you want, you make a next action decisions. Much like in software or technology. It's agile programming. It's where we're dynamically steered. I take a step, I get feedback until I'm correct and get out of that building and live. That's focus. So that happens automatically. I think a lot of people allow themselves to get into a crisis mode modality because it reduces the necessity for you to think. You don't have to make decisions.
Success Harbor: You know, when I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs, they kind of pride themselves on putting out fires. I was wondering if wanting to feel that you're putting out fires is the way for them to just be more productive or feel like they're able to focus better?
David Allen: Yeah. I think it is. I think it's you know, it galvanizes your necessity to focus to begin with and makes you feel important you know and you feel like you're getting stuff done. And it gets you off your butt, you get moving. You know, so I understand that that's not the most effective way to deal with life. If you're making decisions when the heat forces you to make decisions they're usually not good decisions. If you can make those decisions before the heat is on so I think people actually need to learn how to focus and make decisions before the you know life forces them to.
Success Harbor: I have read that the average person looks at his smart phone about one hundred and fifity times per day. People log in on average to Facebook about fourteen times a day so it's like the culture that is developing is always focused on elsewhere instead of here. Why do you think that's happening?
David Allen: Well I think it gives people a sense of control. It gives people a sense of belonging, gives people a sense of fun. It's the fastest way to avoid your life. You know. Not that it's a bad thing. You know I think social media. I relate to it like a cocktail party. You wouldn't want to spend your life at a cocktail party but sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's necessary if you're trying to network. So there's nothing inherently wrong with any of that. There's really you know. Social media in a way is nothing more than a bulletin board in a Laundromat. It's just a lot more available, coming at you fast and it's kind of sexy and you've got lots of links that you can go down and all kinds of rabbit trails that can suck you in if you're not highly focused on what you need to do. So you know all that social media and all that you know, the digital world has it's come on, is really a two-edged sword. First of all, there's you know all the way cool apps that are showing up every day. At the same time it's this black hole of bulk and moors of what the hell do I do with all of those apps and where do I put this and where does this go and should I, which one should I check and how often should I look at that and you know, it's crazy and it can be very crazy making very easily. But that's only because you know all it's done is surfaced the fact and the situation for people to let you know and give you lots of feedback about how focused are you.
Success Harbor: Yeah. I mean does it feel like that it's easier to be somewhere else virtually than dealing with the here and now. So it's just another way of the opposite of being focused on what needs to be done at the moment.
David Allen: Yeah. Could be. Could very well be. I mean there are lots of ways to avoid being totally present with where you are or what you're doing. You know, oftentimes, it's the, you know, the people who procrastinate the most, people who avoid doing you know important stuff you know, are usually the most sensitive, intelligent and creative people because you know talk about self-talk, it's the thick, dullards, it's the insensitive people who just go start hard charging because they're too you know insensitive to be aware of all the stuff that smart sensitive people that in a quarter of a second that can generate huge phantoms and demons in their head about all the things that might have to be done in order to do that thing perfectly and all the potential negative consequences if it's not perfect and they just freak themselves out within half a second. So that makes it very easy to want to run away from that. So that's why a lot of what I teach is how do you take anything that’s got your attention and identify it and identify the very next action step on it because that next action step as simple as it sounds, that's the whole point. Get it simple. Get it down to something that you can very easily get a hold of and feel like you can win at. Increase your back credit line. Great. You know I can do that. Wait a minute. What's the next step? Pick up phone. You can do that. Punch seven numbers you know. See what happens. And if you get it down to that and if you can say focused on that but if what you can do is train yourself to focus on a doable event you know about any of those things that have your attention, that's. That doesn't happen by the way just because you're born. That's actually a trainable, learnable, skill or behavior set.
Success Harbor: So breaking everything down into small manageable chunks?
David Allen: Sure well you need two things. The zeros and ones ultimately of productivity are what does done mean and what does doing look like and where does it happen. So what does done mean? That's equally important to break something down, to say break what down. What is it that you're trying to accomplish here? You know, what's your project? Is your project to increase your credit line or just to find out whether you can or not? Those are two different projects. So entrepreneurs need to feel more comfortable to say I need to feel okay if they don't give it to me and I need to still create a win. In other words, I've optimized the possibility that I could extend my credit line. That's like in sales, you always need to give yourself a game you can win. So instead of affirming and yes it's nice to have a vision that the client or potential client is going to buy from you but they may have had a bad day and still win as long as your project will maximize their opportunity to buy. And that's a challenging thing for any sales person to do but that's something you can always win at that no matter what they do. So you need to sort of define, wait a minute what are the games I can win, the things I can finish and define those. So that's defining outcome. That's the zero and the one is okay, what would be my next step if I had nothing else to do but that, where would I go physically? Would I boot my computer? Would I surf the web? Would I call somebody? Would I talk to my partner you know? What's the fixed physical visible thing that would start to kick-start movement towards completion of whatever this thing is about? And those are master keys but they seldom show up. Most people listening to this right now, if you have anything that looks like a to-do list, I'll be willing to bet you 99.9 percent of you have an incomplete list of still unclear things. You’ll look down on that list and see things like bank or mom or doctor. Well good you may have captured some things but you have not defined, wait a minute, what's the specific outcome? I get to mark this off as done when what's true? What's the win here and that's your motivator. You know you need to build that in to all those things that have your attention. Nor on your list will you see very many if any very next actions. What's the next action on Mom? Why is it on your list? Oh it's her birthday coming up. Well what's the project? Oh I don't know I guess we're going to give Mom a birthday party. Fabulous. Now you have a project. What's the next step? I don't know. I guess I'll have to call my sister and that's the kind of thinking as dumb and silly as that sounds that most people are avoiding like the plague. I know I've spent thousands of hours with some of the best and brightest people on the planet, best side with them going through that process.
Success Harbor: That was really good by the way you know. It just makes me think about to-do lists in an entirely different way. It feels like there is so much more competition for attention, so much more data out there. I'm not sure if we’re smarter though. There is all that's out there to become just a distraction or to make us dumber.
David Allen: Well George back to your original point to stay focused. What are you trying to do? You know for some people that may be exactly what they need to do for networking reasons or other things but why are you doing it? You know. And that's tricky business because sometimes the thing to do you need to, if you had a bad day you know you've been in six meetings and you were beat up in five of them and your brain is scrambled eggs by 6 pm you know, that's not the time to call a potential client. That's the time to surf the web and do Facebook and do all kinds of dorky things just to relive your own pressure on yourself so you have to. It's all about how conscious are you. Why are you doing this? Is this avoidance or is this recreation and I think that's important to know. A lot of that's about how well do you know yourself and how conscious are you willing to be you know at that point in time. Does that make sense?
Success Harbor: Yeah do you think that society is addicted to distraction? You know I'm wondering if distraction is actually just another form of addiction or an escape?
David Allen: Well that's a good question. You know I don't know. I'm just guessing on it. From my experience the biggest addiction is control or attempt to control stuff and I think that when people feel out of control they need to hop into something they feel like they can control. That's why people love to play golf, or play tennis or play pinball or play computer games or whatever because you get to complete something. You get to control it. You know and I think that's what people are most addicted to. I think that's also why people keep stuff in their heads because of the false sense of control.
Success Harbor: What do you think are the reasons for people staying busy doesn't translate to being productive?
David Allen: Well, if you step back and say well what’s the definition of being productive? Say well, do you produce something or what are you trying to produce? If you go on a vacation to relax but you are stressed out on your vacation, that's an unproductive vacation. I think people have a little bit of a preconditioned idea of what productivity is. Productivity in my terms is just achieving desired results for experience. So if you're trying to relax but you can't relax, that’s unproductive. That's an unproductive experience. So when you think of it that way then being busy is, it's all about are you, is your busyness producing what it is you're committed to produce. Some people, being busy is a very healthy thing to do. If you have serious depression, sometimes getting up and being busy no matter what it is, go wash the dishes, go you know take the dog for a walk, go do something that you can do because busyness then may actually be a very positive thing for you. Get you engaged in something. You know so you don't you know you don't sort of self-absorb in morbidity. So again, it's tricky. I don't mean to be clip about this but you really do need to ask yourself wait a minute, what are you trying to produce. I know, the simple answer is, sure, a lot of people out there are used to doing busy kind of work but that work is not focused toward a specific outcome. They wind up just doing a lot of stuff. Why are you doing it? I don't know because I've always done it. Well that's probably not the best answer.
Success Harbor: Can you share your ‘mind like water’ way of thinking about productivity?
David Allen: Well that came from the martial arts. I spent some years in martial arts years ago and it's a great image. Water sort of responds to things appropriately. You don't see water over or under reacting to things. It's an appropriate response. You know you throw a little pebble in the water, the water responds to the pebble. It doesn’t overreact. Throw a big rock in it and it has big rock responses. And it goes back to calm again ready for the next input. So that idea is not overreacting or underreacting to anything but being appropriately there. So it's another way of saying I'm present or being present with whatever it is that you're doing. So that idea is ultimately getting things done and here's a big secret George for you and your audio listeners, getting things done is really not about getting things done. It's about being appropriately engaged with your life and your work. Now there's a lot to unpack about that idea of appropriate engagement. What does that mean? Well, you know if you keep telling yourself I need cat food and you know and it keeps popping into your head, you're not appropriately engaged with your cat or you're agreement with your cat. You know so you don't have to go very far to see where to say wait a minute, do I have my life water yet? Well that's because of what's still on your mind. You know, what's still popping into your head, distracting you, pulling you, tugging you, little big personal or professional. You don't have to go very far to ask yourself what has your attention. The reason things have your attention is usually because there’s some decision about that thing you haven't made or you haven't parked the results of that in some systematic way so that you trust your brain can let go of it. Did I answer your question or did I go too far afield here?
Success Harbor: Yeah. No, it's actually great. It's great. Now can you give me an example in your own business on staying focused? What helps you stay focused?
David Allen: Well yeah. First of all, zeroing all my in-basket, getting out all my new inputs every twenty-four to forty-eight hours so that I'm not distracted or pulled on by stuff that might be meaningful to me that might be more important than whatever it is that I'm focused on. So I need to stay focused by keeping very current with whatever is new and in my work and in my life so it doesn’t pull on me. And so that I can also then trust my inventory of all the options I have to do. And you know so that's you know basically I implement the five steps you know. I make sure I capture everything that's on my mind, everything that's popped in that's potentially meaningful. I pull it into my own entry or in-basket, ensuring my own in basket, both electronic as well as physical and then I zero themselves out sooner or later. What is it? What does this thing mean? Am I going to do something about this? Is it reference? Is it trash? Is it something I need to do something about? What do I need to do about it? Is it a single action? Is there a project here? So I'm constantly making those decisions and essentially defining what my work is and then once that work has been reasonably defined and is reasonably current, then I need to be able to step back and take a look at the whole picture. Look you know, I'm out. I've got a mobile phone. I'm waiting on a client to meet with me but he's twenty-minutes late. Let me see all the phone calls I need to make then I've already determined the next steps on anything I need to make progress on. So all those techniques and all of those, the results of having captured, clarified and reviewed all of my stuff is how I stay present.
Success Harbor: As an entrepreneur, how often do you revisit what your vision is, what your goals are etc.?
David Allen: As often as I need to get those off my mind. There's an inverse relationship between on your mind and getting done. So if you keep thinking, I keep. When I'm playing with my dog I don't want to think about my strategic plan. I need to have already thought about it. So it really comes back to what do I need to keep looking at. Now a more practical answer perhaps is yeah, every so often it's a really good idea to pull those things out and say am I directing myself or really where I want to be and how I want to be. You know, I would say, I’ve identified in my book and my work, I've identified six horizons that we actually have commitments about you know. On the ground level are all the commitments of actions you need to take, phone calls you need to make, cat food you need to buy, stuff you need to talk to your banker about, stuff you need to talk to your spouse about etc. So there's that level called the action level. A lot of that action level is driven by your commitments on the next level up which is projects. What are the outcomes that you're trying to accomplish? Oh yeah I need to extend my credit line. Oh yeah I need to make sure I get all my checkups since I'm fifty this year or whatever age you are. So make sure you get all that updated and handled. That's a project. Need to give Mom a birthday party. So that's the next level up would be horizon one which would be projects. But the reason you have projects and actions too is horizon two which is what are all the things you are committed to maintain? You know, what are the things you need to keep up to a certain standards? I need to maintain my health. I need to maintain my finances. I need to maintain my relationships with people. I need to maintain my house. I need to maintain, in your business. I've got PR and marketing and financing and whatever., Those are not things to finish. Those are just areas that need to be maintained at certain standards. So that's the third horizon up which I call horizon two because the first horizon is really the ground level. Horizon three is going to be well okay, where are you going in the next you know three to eighteen months? And that would be what most people would think about in terms of plans or objectives or strategies for the next year or so, so that's oftentimes where you want to look at that. You know where do we want to be by the end of 2015? Okay what do we want to have true? Above that would be vision. Where are you going with this? When you really grow up five years from now, three years from now, whatever, you know what would success look like for your business, your enterprise? And then above that horizon is about what's the purpose, what is the point in doing all this and what really matters to you, you know? What's the purpose of your business? What's the purpose in your life? So those are all relevant levels of commitment to start to identify and so when you think about how often I need to look at those, I'd say well you want to keep day to day control. You need to look at your calendar. You need to look at the calls you need to make. That's the ground level, probably once a day or multiple times a day you better revisit that. The next level up in terms of your projects, you probably better be reviewing those weekly if you want to keep it in control and at a next level. And then your job description and your org chart and how am I doing about all the aspects of my life in terms of life balance, making sure I'm monitoring all of those every month, every quarter or so is not a bad idea. You pull that out as a checklist and then your goals meaning what are you trying to accomplish in the next twelve to eighteen to twenty-four months? Yeah probably once a year or quarterly revisit those. Make sure they are still alive and well. Correct them if you need to change them. The big picture stuff. You know hey where do you want to be? Where's out vision? Not a bad idea to do that yearly. You know go off-site with your partner or your spouse or your family or step back and take a look and say hey where are we really going here? So those are you know generally speaking the horizons or commitments. You don't need to look at those every hour or every day but probably need to build at them often enough. So I’ll come back to my first answer. I tend to do those whenever I need to do those so that that pressure gets off my brain whenever that needs to be. Oh come on entrepreneurs can be big picture stuff constantly especially in the tech world. Man those things a lot of people especially if you're edgily building your business, you may come up with a very different product than the product you started with as you probably know George in that world. So there's kind of a, it depends, but those are all the factors that one should consider.
Success Harbor: Can you give us an example of how your company helps entrepreneurs?
David Allen: Well what we do is we produce and facilitate the conditions for people to be able to flourish. We like that word because it really means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and it should. In order for anyone to flourish they really need to have clear space. The need to have, they need to feel in control, need to feel focused. So all of our work is to facilitate people being able to get into that space where they are in control and they're focused and they have the capabilities to do that in a maximum way and you know it looks very different for different kinds of people. So if I say you know if you're twenty-four, you're old and full of juice and venom and adrenaline, flourishing for you may look like a twenty-four-seven kind of week you know. That's because that's your game. If you're fifty and just left a corporate job and going to sort of build your own little business, the next thing you want to do and do it on your own, flourishing may look very different for you. You may have kids that are still trying to get into college and a lifestyle that you still want to maintain and so that's going to look very different for you. However our stuff is universally available for both of those people to be able to do both of those things better with less effort. You know the whole idea of productivity is being able to produce an outcome with less effort and less resources required. So being able to stay focused, able to keep your eye on the ball and be able to allow your brain to not be distracted by the things that hold it hostage because you haven't managed those well, that's what we solve and or that helps anybody.
Success Harbor: You have managed to build an amazing brand. What are some of the reasons that GTD stands out today?
David Allen: It works. Sorry. It's good stuff and one of the things, I did not go out to publicize GTD as a brand. It's kind of an accident, brand by accident. It just really you know, the methodology was developed over and I tested it, researched it, used it for twenty, twenty-five years before I was willing to sit down and write a book about it. I had to make sure there were no holes in it and I've literally spent thousands of hours with truly some of the best and brightest people on the planet that would spit you out in two seconds if you couldn't stand toe-to-toe with them in terms of this methodology not being functional or not really working for them and it worked without fail with everybody. So I figured okay it was time to write the manual for it. So I know that's not, doesn’t say much about how do you promote and build a brand. I think you know one of the things we've been learning over the last two or three years ourselves is you know, is I think a real key to brand is authenticity. How authentic do you show up? Does what it is that you're putting out represent who you are, what you're doing and what you're delivering? So you know I think because I didn't hold anything back, there's really not much dialogue out in my work. At least I don't think so. I wrote it all into Getting Things Done in that book because I truly wanted to say look if I got run over by a bus, maybe somebody at some point would figure this methodology out but apparently nobody else seems to have done it the way I did so I decided I would just put it out there in that way and you know part of this too is I kept, stayed available. I've done probably 99.9 percent of every podcast, every interview, everything that anybody ever wanted to talk to me about this thing, I said sure, because you know it's like, I care enough about it and I suppose this comes back to what people would you know generally refer to as passion. It's like I can't stop doing it. I discovered this is great stuff. It improves everybody's life when they start to implement any version of this so I can't hold it back. And it's fabulous to have sort of created something that without fail you know is one hundred percent bulletproof that it works. So I don't know maybe some combination of all of those things helps. Maybe that's the long way of saying, George come [00:30:59.07] Inaudible. I'm sort of used by it as much as anybody else.
Success Harbor: That's great. How much of your growth is global and what kind of impact does it have on your business?
David Allen: Well we're still a small little company. I mean we're twenty-plus people you know and we're still not huge but you know our game, I think a lot of what we've been learning over the last few years is stick to your knitting. In other words, what are we the best at and try to as best we can find partners and other channels that can manage what we're not that good at. So one of those aspects was years ago we discovered this is great global methodology and the world had been knocking at my door since Getting Things Done was published. We’ve has all kinds of people as you can imagine, said gee David can I distribute your stuff in Romania? Can I distribute your stuff in Japan? Can I distribute your stuff? So we really didn't know how to manage that so our strategy is then to find partners who we knew had much better capabilities and expertise in those kinds of channels. So we now have a partner whose been setting up exclusive franchisees around the world for us, for this methodology. So we're right in the middle of that right now, just starting to get traction but we have officially and legally fifty countries now that we've signed in license agreement to start to distribute this. Still very small but it's a long tail and a long game of my division that we would build a global community of practice, best practitioners and trainers and people who really get this. Because if there's no bias culturally, gender wise or person-wise for this methodology and the world really needs it more and more so every day.
Success Harbor: David I want to thank you for coming on Success Harbor today to share your wisdom. How can people find out more about you, either the franchise opportunity or about GTD in general?
David Allen: The website. Gettingthingsdone.com to spell it all out and go there. Lots of stuff. It's a fun site now you'll see lots of stuff. Lots of ways to play there.
Success Harbor: Everybody out there. Go to gettingthingsdone. Check it out and again David thank you very much. I appreciate your time today.
David Allen: George my pleasure. Best of luck to all of you
Success Harbor: Thank you very much. Bye.
How do you help entrepreneurs save over $1 billion for retirement? Chad Parks is the CEO of The Online 401(K). He started the business in 1999. Today, The Online 401(K) has 80 employees and $12 million revenue. Listen to the following interview to learn how Chad built his business and how he plans to take it to $100 million.
Say hi to Chad at theonline401k.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Success Harbor: Hi everyone. This is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have Chad Parks with me. Chad is the founder of the online 401k. His company of 50 employees is helping over 4,000 businesses with their retirement. Welcome.
Chad Parks: Hi George. Thanks for having me.
Success Harbor: Thank you for being here Chad. Can you tell our audience about the online 401k and how you help entrepreneurs with their retirement, what the business is about?
Chad Parks: Yeah, absolutely. So it's hard to believe that I started the company way back in 1999 right when the internet was coming along and I did that out of my financial planning and investment management practice because I would work with a lot of small business owners in that capacity and would help them with their overall financial planning including retirement planning, and one of the big pillars of retirement planning is to have a retirement plan in place so that you don't spend tax dollars unnecessarily and that you have a good vehicle or accumulation over your lifetime. And most of my clients at the time didn't argue with me, they said, 'sure, go find me a plan'. And so I went to market as an independent advisor looking for a turning key solution for my small business clients and lo and behold I didn't find anything that met my needs or their needs. And then with the internet coming along I saw this as a great opportunity to sort of level the playing field and create a new business model in the retirement saving space that would be able to serve small businesses regardless of their size and regardless of their assets.
Success Harbor: So you have started the online 401k in '99, have you had other business ventures prior to this one?
Chad Parks: Yeah, you know, I'm one of those, I guess, serial entrepreneurs that they call us. I was the kid who had the newspaper route, and the lawn mowing business and the car detailing business. I had a real job for a while there in High School and College and then I also, prior to this in Grad School I published a menu guide-book to San Francisco's city restaurants and then I also prior to the online 401k, that was my independent financial planning and investment management practice and I've got to say I've had a few hobby businesses along the way on the side with this one as well.
Success Harbor: So those other businesses prior to the online 401k were you making a living with those businesses or they were kind of like side businesses?
Chad Parks: I mean, you know, those when I was a kid were just more like side businesses but the financial planning practice and the other businesses that I've had while I've been running this company have definitely made money.
Success Harbor: Okay, and so how much of your business was online back in '99 when you started it?
Chad Parks: Well, we had some local clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I had built a website because I wanted to have something that was a leave behind for me, that would represent me when I wasn't on site, you know, to help them enrol their employees and educate them to sort of just replicate me. And so we started with that and our local clients started using it and I was not the third-party administrator / record keeper so I was merely the advisor on a plan, and I was using other people's administration or record keeping. And my clients liked that so much so they said 'hey can't you do the rest of it?' and you know 'we don't really like this other part of it, but we like what you have, it seems pretty cool, pretty advanced'. So that's what really has driven me into this space and I said 'okay, you know, what really is going on here?'. So it didn't take us long from that, from you know '98 or '97, to say there's something bigger here and so we committed to that at the end of '99 and basically all of 2000, for the first nine months of 2000 was when we committed to taking our light approach to a more institutional quality back then and we began engineering again full-scale. And so by the end of 2000 we were fully online.
Success Harbor: So, when you started your business did you have a partner or did you go alone?
Chad Parks: I had, my wife at the time was one of my co-founders that made it convenient since being an entrepreneur as your audience knows, having family support is very important. And we also had an attorney friend who had helped me with some contract work with some of my other businesses and you've got to remember we were all sort of getting the dot com fever and he was looking for an opportunity and so we needed a lot of legal work and things in the early days so he came on as a co-founder and helped us as well.
Success Harbor: So, I read one of your interviews that your company took off and really kicked ass with the small business audience. So what did you do right, what were the things that resonated with the small business audience, because you're in a very competitive area and there are a lot of very competitive areas but yours is one of them and so a lot of people try to succeed there and most fail. So, what did you do right?
Chad Parks: Well, I think, and you know I appreciate that, thank you, you have to kind of understand our industry to understand my answer and our industry being the financial services industry still to this day is very, very interested in your money. And they like to work with people and businesses that have a lot of it and that's how they generate revenue and that's how they pay their bills and they pay their distribution. And so many of them were not able to figure out how they could make money with small businesses while charging asset fees and retirement plans because brand new companies or small businesses with small plans they don't have a lot of those assets. And so what really worked for me was I basically, I remember, had this epiphany one Sunday morning in my living room with my whiteboard and I was modelling this and I said, 'you know, yes, the asset model is attractive no doubt, that's why most of them are doing it this way, but it, how can I get into this market and serve the small end of the space without having an asset model?'. And basically I just did some calculations and turned the model upside down and said 'what if I was to do a flat feature service model where a company would pay me a fair monthly fee to run their plan regardless of if they have one dollar or a million dollars and I don't really care what they invest in because I'm not going to broker or get sold on the investments or get paid to be selling the investments'. So that's basically how we approached it and then-
Success Harbor: So it's kind of like an all you can eat financial planning service for small businesses?
Chad Parks: We don't necessarily do the financial planning for people and individuals but what we do is definitely help a company install and run a successful retirement plan for themselves and their employees. And I think what resonated to answer the question 'why have they been as appealing?' it's because we've always fair with our pricing, we've been transparent, we show them how the other guys are out there trying to, you know, either they're ignoring them or once you get a lot of money how they kind of gauge you. And I think it also resonated that we are also a small business serving small business, you know, we'll end the year this year with about 80 employees so we're still, you know, a small business that serves small businesses.
Success Harbor: So what were some of the greatest challenges during the first let's say a couple of years in business? You know, again, it's a very competitive field, what did you do differently and what were some of the big challenges, before I go around anymore circles what was some of the big challenges in the first couple of years?
Chad Parks: Well, I mean first and foremost it was just figuring out what we're doing. We were definitely blazing new territory, no one had done what we were about to do so there wasn't a model that we could copy and do better, we really were creating it from scratch and so we just had to really be smart and think about, you know, what would I want and what's makes sense and what is logical and what tools are available to me. So that was the first part, but really the day-to-day struggles and most of your audience will appreciate this is just that, you know, you don't have much capital, you don't have many resources, you don't know what you don't know, you're having to scrap and put it together, you know, you're a limited number of people I think in the first year or so we were like six or seven people max and so everybody's doing everything and its very, very challenging and then as we start to grow past that the challenges are about just really where do you put your resources? Where’s the best return on your dollar? How do you stretch people thin and still, you know, be able to deliver a good product and so I'd also like to add to that, is that you've got to remember the time frame in which we started so we really came to market at the end of 2000 and for those who are old enough to remember, you know, the first quarter of 2001 was the internet dot com bubble bursting. And then six months later we had September 11th and then, you know, by 2002 we entered into a bit of a recession so it was really, a really difficult time to start a business and we did everything we could to survive including using credit cards and home equity, and other things, because we knew that in the long-term that this was something that was worth keeping going.
Success Harbor: Did you ever get close to shutting down or bankruptcy or anything like that during those years?
Chad Parks: Yeah, we got very close, we had been fortunate in February of 2000 we raised a little bit of Capital from an angel investor, about $300,000, and so we really stretched that and that attracted other investors but when all those things happened in the Summer of 2001 we were poised to raise another little bit of money, maybe a million dollars. And what they came to us and said was 'well, you know, times are very strange right now, we're not sure we just want to hand over a million dollars, we too still believe in the business so here's what we want you to do, we want you to get to get to cash flow positive within 12 months, come up with a plan to do so, we'll fund your monthly difference, and then once you're cash flow positive then you won't need us and you'll be in a much better spot'. So that was probably the toughest love that anybody could give but it sure did forge a good solid foundation for us and lo and behold from October of '01 to October of '02, you know it was monthly maybe 40 or 50 thousand dollars a month in some cases short, they did fund it, and by October 2002, we were breakeven, and then all of '03 we were breakeven. So it was a tough time but we did it.
Success Harbor: So what were some of the changes you had to make during that time period?
Chad Parks: A reduction of salaries across the board, renegotiate rent with your landlord, work on payables with people, I mean you remember it was a bad time for everybody so I think it's always relative, you know, so everyone kind of understands. You know I was the type of entrepreneur who I wasn't going to be the one who took my investors’ money and walked away from it and we saw that happening all over San Francisco where people would raise all kinds of cash and the first thing they would do is go out and buy and furnish a really fancy office space and not worry about their fundamentals of their business and I don't know, something about me was very different and I just wasn't going to be that guy so I just really felt the personal obligations just to ensure that my investors trusted me was worth it and you know, that their investment would be preserved.
Success Harbor: Did it change the way you do business, does it have an impact on your business today, the changes you made back then?
Chad Parks: You know, I think that's a very good question, and I would say if anything it taught us a lot of discipline and not being, I guess, loose with the capital and making sure that you're very, very careful about where you spend the money. I remember once we got to breakeven and I mean this sounds silly now, you know, we didn't even have a photocopier type of machine in the office, and I remember when we were able to finally commit to a photocopier / document management system so we could get rid of a lot of our paper. But even spending those few hundred dollars a month that was really, just felt like it was a huge commitment, so I think there was sort of that DNA was sort of set and it carries forward to our company and today it's allowed us to do a lot with very little resources and capital throughout the rest of its history.
Success Harbor: So how did you market your business during the first couple of years especially when you started the online 401k?
Chad Parks: So the first was we looked at other benefits, types of providers where these businesses would be going to get them, and we knew that retirement was a very underserved area when it came to that and so we partnered with several. One that the audience might know is a company that's actually survived a long time as well called TriNet, and they were a professional employer organisation, and they were one of our first partners, and they would refer their clients to us for their 401k needs, so that was a good pipeline for us. We began to replicate that with other distribution partners, benefits, payroll, financial advisors, and then I don't know what year it was but this also sounds crazy to say but there wasn't always - there was a Pay Per Click, I can't remember the name of it now, but the early days of Pay Per Click advertising we got into that and we said 'Oh this is good' and you know, using the paid advertising on what is now Google and something else that again, that I'm blanking on the name.
Success Harbor: I don't know if it was Inked, was it Inked or something?
Chad Parks: Inked actually I think eventually bought the one I'm that I'm thinking of. But you know, that, we're like early entrance into that and that started the drive on our business and that was our direct channel. Before it got too popular and it got too expensive so it was just a lot of that, a lot of highly leveraged relationships and really just trying to build a little bit of a brand.
Success Harbor: So instead of going directly to the customer you went through a partnership route mostly?
Chad Parks: Yeah in fact throughout the last fifteen years, I would say that we really re-emerged as a strong company, we got in 2004, '04 was when the rubber started to hit the road. But for the last ten years we have been nothing but a relationship driven business, we have not had a true direct to the consumer, to the business owner presence, they've always come to us through referral partnerships or they'd find us online. And the reason I'm stressing that right now is because we are finally at a turning point in our company where we are changing that. We're going to keep that existing model but we are now finally where we have the revenue and the momentum and the technology to take a sales force to the streets, so you'll start to see that happening for us real soon and we're very excited about that.
Success Harbor: So what shape is that going to take? Are you going to have just direct sales people or are you going to put on events? What additional marketing channel will you introduce now?
Chad Parks: Yeah, I think direct sales people, you know, we're fortunate in this case, we don't have to reinvent that wheel, you know, or invent a wheel that didn't exist before because there are many organisations that have very successful in person sales forces that, you know, cover the country and so we can model that, we can take our product and our business model and our different way of doing business to the consumers directly. We know what the metrics are going to look like and we feel pretty confident that that's going to be successful. I think that it is a little bit of a different approach, I mean when you're an online company for you to be coming to somebody directly is somewhat novel. I think the time is now because in our market one of the things I didn't mention to you is the statistics are frightening. We work in primarily the under 30, under 50 employee market, but our speciality is those business with two to twenty employees. And the data shows that 92% of businesses with two to twenty employees do not offer any kind of workplace savings for their employees. And there's a lot of reasons why but those numbers are, that's almost four million businesses, forty million people, so we have a natural market that raises their hand and says 'hey, maybe I'm interested in retirement, I should do something about it'. But when you have 92% of them out there not realising that they can have an affordable tax savings vehicle and the true benefits to their employees, we feel like we're going to be very successful by introducing them to this concept.
Success Harbor: So how are you using social media for marketing, if at all?
Chad Parks: You know that's a great question. So what used to be our direct panel of PPC, search engine optimisation, etc., once the rest of the industry caught on and started outbidding us and our ORI kept dropping, I think it was probably 2008 or 9 we basically, we abandoned that as our direct effort. In 2011 we hired a new director of marketing and creative and one of the points of what she was here to do was to create more of a social presence as well as humanize our brand. We'd gotten a little bit stuck in selling features and benefits which I think a lot of people do in our space with retirement plans, you know, they're plans, they are complicated and there's a lot of jargon but you know if I tell you that I'm doing your 5,500 for you that doesn't really mean anything to you, you know? It shouldn't mean anything to you, if I'm in this business that should be a given, what I should really be doing is trying to connect with you on an emotional level and let you know that I'm like you and that we're really here to help and be the good guys. And so part of the humanizing of the brand, was to engage our social channels, so that direct channel went from nothing, contributing nothing to the business because we'd abandoned it, to today where it is contributing about 20% of our business again and so I think that's a pretty good success story. And what comprises that is that we have internally a team of people that we call our 'twitterazi' and so there's seven or eight people who, there's one person who's responsible for it but there's seven or eight people who help contribute to it and we have a corporate presence but you know also a personal presence on all the major platforms. You know, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit and the bunch of others where we have that presence out there and it actually does work, it does generate a lot of exposure for us.
Success Harbor: Yeah, that's great. I read about your revenue a little bit online at you had a 1.2 million in 2003, and this year you have 2014 forecasted to be a 12 million, which is very impressive. What is- it sounds like things have been fairly smooth, right, I'm sure you have made some mistakes and maybe you can share one learning experience or mistake with our audience that you think would be beneficial for us to learn. I'm sure you have a lot.
Chad Parks: I was going to say, I'm sure I have more than one. But yeah I mean this, you do a lot of introspection and reflection over the years and I think that the best advice that I could give or the experience I could share is that as an entrepreneur, as the founder, as the someone who has the vision, and in certain cases has the strategy to see it through, doesn't mean that you're always the one to execute. So there's two parts to this; one, is make sure, and it's a little bit cliché but it's very true, make sure you surround yourself with people who can complement you and don't be afraid to delegate. But the other part of that is what I've learned is that as that entrepreneur you really have to trust your gut, you really have to trust your instincts and where I've made mistakes is that you know I had my instincts and my gut telling me one thing, but then maybe logic and or others having different opinions and sort of overrode that decisions, and I went down that path and I can tell you every time that has happened I have regretted it, and I wish I had just listened to myself in the first place because it wouldn't have happened.
Success Harbor: So entrepreneurs sometimes, you know, we're looking at other businesses and you know for example in your business somebody looks at your business, you know, wow, you know, he's making 12 million dollars revenue, I'm never going to get there, people get discouraged or all that so, who do you look to, to get motivated for your business and how much should you look outward as opposed to at your own business? So you can keep your focus but you're also keep motivated at the same time.
Chad Parks: No I understand exactly that it's a really, it's hard, you know, who do you compare yourself to, right, that's always, and if you're comparing yourself to the Facebooks and the Microsofts and the Googles and Apples of the world then guess what? None of us are ever going to get there, those are sort of once in a lifetime things for those people, and the odds are very, very rare, and that's one of the reasons we love small business too, because they're not all sexy, they're not all glamorous but man they take care of their founders families, and they take care of their employees and they help to fuel the economy in their community. And so I think that when you're looking for some sort of, you know, validation in the world, benchmarking, you really just really need to look at those around you and say what is enough and when is enough. But there's a couple of resources that I really like, that I've always drawn on over the years, one of them is called Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) and it's a global organisation of about 10,000 members, the entrepreneurs, you know, you do have to qualify to be in and that qualification is a million dollars of revenue for your business at least. They do have starter programmes to help people get in, but what it is, is it's a peer group, and it's a peer group of people who are just like you, founders and CEOs, managers, who are facing the same struggles that you do with personnel, with your own belief in yourself, with market, with, you know, a variety of everything and they have this infrastructure to support you with that and it's not a networking group, in fact networking and solicitation is prohibited, so it's a really great group of folks, who have instant brotherhood, instant camaraderie, no matter where you go you can find an EO number and you're going to click. So I definitely recommend folks looking into that, they have chapters in every major metropolitan area and then some, and the other is Inc conference, the Inc. 5000, Inc. 500 group. When I was early on as an entrepreneur I used to read those magazines, there was Inc. and there was Entrepreneur, and they each had their subtle differences and I felt like Entrepreneur was more focused on franchises and didn't really speak to me, and I felt like Inc. was something but to your point will I ever be that sort of company. You know, how does this help me? Well, years of pushing and eventually attending some of these conferences and networking and it sort of opened up a lot of things. I'm happy to say that we've been on the Inc. 5000 list eight years in a row. I think there's very few companies who have done that. And so it's really just about getting yourself out there and surrounding yourself with people who are going to positively support you and give you that sort of witness test to, you know, maybe it's not easy but you're sure moving forwards.
Success Harbor: Great, so what do you think is the biggest timewaster for entrepreneurs?
Chad Parks: So, I'm glad you asked that because for the last five years or so I've been actually looking at that myself, and really just try and get control of my schedule and figure out where my time is going and how can I be more efficient with it. And part of that answer is what I mentioned earlier which is that you really need to surround yourself with good people who can complement you and you have to trust them, and you need to do some of the hard work of making sure that the systems and policies and procedures are in place so that you're not always chasing fires. And so those last five years of work have really been for me to challenge myself and challenge my team by adjusting my schedule and by putting myself off-limits in some cases and by keeping myself out of things in some cases. And really just trying to come up with a rhythm for my week. And most recently within the last six months I came across an organisation called Strategic Coach, and they are exactly about that, which is maximizing your time, making sure that your input gets the highest output and they come up with a sort of series of ways of segmenting your time and in a very simple form they call them buffer days, focus days, and free days. And so when you start to think about your life in that way and how your spending it then you kind of change your mind about it’s not just about hours worked, it's about output and when you get into that mind-set then things really become more of a game for you and you say 'how can I get it in and get out, get it done, and how can I ensure that my team is operating like that too?' And so it's been an evolution, I have to be open-minded to it, but I know a lot of entrepreneurs get caught in that trap of I have to do everything, you know there's no predictability, but my challenge to them would be to say, you know, there are ways to get control, it's just a matter of wanting it bad enough and finding the tools to help you do so.
Success Harbor: If somebody in your family or maybe a good friend came to you and saw your success as an entrepreneur and they say, you know, 'Chad, I want to be a successful entrepreneur', what would be the first thing that you would teach that person?
Chad Parks: Wow, that's a good question, I hadn't thought about that.
Success Harbor: What's the one thing that they need to start with?
Chad Parks: I guess, I was going to say a dose of reality, but then that would probably stop them from doing what they wanted to do. So I guess, you know, here's what it is, I advise some entrepreneurs as well so this is what I think I told the last one. Basically, if you have a clear vision, if you see it, and you know it in your body, in your soul that it is the right thing and it is doable and it's your passion and you want to follow it then by all means do so because the Universe will have a way of showing things along the path that will continue to surprise you but also take care of you. And so you just have to have that leap of faith, you jump off the cliff, and there will be something there to catch you and I have done that so many times myself and I call that sort of the entrepreneurs paradox too because once you get a little bit more successful than you tend to not want to take those chances. But then you have to remember, like if I hadn't taken those chances to begin with then I wouldn't be where I am today. And so that's really the main thing, just trust yourself, if you can see it and you know it's real and it's clear and it's your passion, that’s the recipe right there. If it's not, if your doubting it, if you don't know why, if you don't have a strong belief, if you think, 'well I'll try it, if it fails it's okay', then those cracks in the armour are almost going to be self-fulfilling. So you know if that vision isn't there for you then don't necessarily pursue something that is not yours and continue to work on it and wait for the one that is yours.
Success Harbor: Where do you see the online 401k five years from now? Do you plan that far ahead?
Chad Parks: We do, in fact I'm working on right now as we speak, in this time period not on this interview, what's called a five-year growth plan and capital needs analysis. And so unfortunate that my companies not fifteen years old so if you think about it that way I've had three five-year cycles and the first five were so absolutely out my control and unpredictable, the second five from '04 to '09 that's when things started to look better and I had some idea about where we were going and I made some commitments and I was able to deliver that pretty good. From '09 to '14, remember '09 was difficult because we were in the middle of the recession so again a lot of uncertainty but I said here's where I think we can go and I think we'll get there. And so now here we are in '14 and it's hard for me to look out to 2019 and '20, and of course it's going to be a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability in the markets and in the economy but at the end of the day, you know, what I have is something that everybody needs, and I think for us we're in a fortune spot that it's not a matter of will we grow and be successful, it's like how much will we grow and how fast. So in looking forward in the next five years we're at a very interesting inflection point where I feel like the momentum that we have, the infrastructure, and the experience that we have in place that's internal, with the hiring of the external sales forces and increasing our relationships out there in the market, plus let's not forget that again what we have is something that everybody needs and I think more awareness is being put on that issue of retirement savings. Then I see us really growing strong, I kind of put out a goal internally for our company that says we want to hit a hundred million in revenue in five years and that sounds like a lot to go on, I just thought what you said earlier, how do you go from a million to 12 million, like how do you do that? Well going from 12 million to 100 million how do you do that? I have a lot more clarity and certainty about how we can do that now and it doesn't scare me and I think that we're going to be on a pretty good trajectory to hit that.
Success Harbor: I hope you hit it and thank you very much Chad for coming on the Success Harbor to share your story and I hope you come back in maybe next year, or in a few years, and report how your business is doing. I really appreciate your insight.
Chad Parks: Yeah, absolutely, George, thank you for the opportunity and congratulations on what you're doing.
Success Harbor: And how can people find out more about the services that you offer or maybe connect with you.
Chad Parks: Sure, theonline401k.com is our website and me just search my name Chad Parks on 401k, I'm pretty much full up the first page of Google with you know LinkedIn and many other ways to get to me so I'm happy to talk to anybody further if they'd like to.
Success Harbor: Thank you very much Chad and everybody check out the online 401k and I wish you much success going forward in the next five years.
Chad Parks: Excellent, thanks George.
Success Harbor: Thank you.
Chad Parks: Bye.
Success Harbor: Bye.
How to build a marketplace for publishers and advertisers? Todd Garland is the founder of BuySellAds, the marketplace for online advertisers. Todd was an early employee at Hubspot. As a one man show, Todd grew BuySellAds to $1.5 million in 11-months. He did it without spending zero dollars on sales and marketing. Listen to the following interview to find out what it takes to build a successful marketplace.
Say hi to Todd at buysellads.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Success Harbor: Hi everyone, this is George Meszaros with Success Harbor, and I have Todd Garland with me. Todd is the founder and CEO of BuySellAds. BuySellAds is a marketplace for buying and selling ads. Todd also writes at his blog at toddgarland.com. Welcome.
Todd Garland: Thank you, George, and hello to everybody at Success Harbor.
Success Harbor: Thank you for being here, Todd. Would you please give our audience an example of how a company would use BuySellAds, and maybe how it’s different from AdSense or something like that? The name sort of gives it away, but most people haven’t used it, so if you can give an example that would be great.
Todd Garland: So we serve 2 different types of customers. One is what we call a publisher, someone who owns a website and is selling advertising on their website or blog, and what we help them do is sell ads directly to advertisers. It’s much different from Google AdSense in that with AdSense you install a code and you’re magically making money as it’s on your site, but you tend not to make the kind of money you could make if you were selling directly to the right kinds of advertisers. What we do is help the publishers automate the process of selling directly to higher-end advertisers.
Success Harbor: And you have more control than with AdSense as well, right? In terms of what’s showing.
Todd Garland: You do. You get to approve every ad before it shows on your site, so there’s a great deal of control.
Success Harbor: You started BuySellAds in 2008. What were you doing prior to starting it?
Todd Garland: Well, rewinding the tape a bit, I was working at an interactive agency, so building websites for people and extricating marketing plans for other people and other businesses. After that I joined a local company here in Boston called HubSpot, which pioneered the inbound marketing movement. I launched BuySellAds a little bit before and a little bit during my time at HubSpot.
Success Harbor: So how did you get the idea? What clicked that told you, “Yeah, this makes sense”?
Todd Garland: Well, I’m a web developer and web designer by trade, and I had a few blogs that were both geared toward programming, stuff like CSS. Advertisers would reach out to me wanting to advertise on my sidebar, and I thought it was great to make a little extra money in addition to my fulltime job. The problem was that each advertiser wanted to work with me a little bit differently. Some would negotiate and some would pay what I said and some would pay differently, so I had to go through that every month and there was a lot of maintenance to make money. It seemed a little silly to be going through all of that for a couple thousand dollars extra per month; I wasn’t getting compensated for all the extra time involved. I wanted to automate that and respond to an advertiser’s email and say, “Here’s a link where you can go buy it,” and let them buy it or not buy it, or just put a link on the site where you could see all the sizes available, and if you really want it, you click “Buy Now” and upload your creative, and you’re off. I wanted something that simple.
Success Harbor: So it was kind of a scratch-your-own-itch evolution, so to speak.
Todd Garland: Yeah. I consume a lot of content online, and anything that can help content creators make money and do what they love is a great thing for the web. It’s really about letting people share things, and allowing them to continue to share things and make content that people can consume is very fulfilling.
Success Harbor: When you put BuySellAds on the web, was it more automatic and software-driven on the back end, or was it more manual on the backend and automatic on the front end? How did it work at first?
Todd Garland: The core problem we were solving, which was making a transaction as seamless as possible, was all automatic. The other things that go into running a service like BuySellAds that weren’t absolutely necessary to the transaction weren’t automated at first. So for example, if someone wanted to cancel their ad, they would have to email me, which is crazy. People also had to email me to withdraw money. There are a lot of things that we’ve built up since the launch to make the service what it’s turned into today.
Success Harbor: So how soon into starting BuySellAds did you feel that there was traction and that people were using it and that it was taking off? How long into the whole process did it take?
Todd Garland: I’ve gone through different phases where I felt like it was taking off. The first one was within the first 3 months, because as soon as a started emailing people and telling them about it and putting boots on the ground, people were responding. That was the first big sign from publishers especially that there was a need there. That was followed by advertisers buying those spaces from the publishers, so those 2 sides of validation really happened within the first 3 months. Like any business, there are ups and downs, and I’ve definitely felt different ebbs and flows of momentum.
Success Harbor: Yeah. What were some of the early challenges of BuySellAds?
Todd Garland: Well, the first big challenge was that I still had a fulltime job and I was in the middle of buying a condo and getting married, so it was a really busy time personally. And I had the limitation of not being able to work between 8am and 6pm because I was working at another company, and I took my work there very seriously. I don’t want to pretend it was this heroic thing about getting up early to work and going to bed late to work some more; it was more this feeling of, “Oh my gosh, people actually like what I’m building, I need to work on it some more.” Interestingly enough, initially the more difficult part was the publishers. Imagine you’re making a couple thousand dollars a month advertising on your site; are you going to want to turn it over to this person you don’t know and give them a 25% cut? For them it was really a leap of faith that I was going to do what I said I was going to do. Publishers look around to see what other people are doing, so every large publisher I successfully recruited made it easier to get other large publishers. The other thing was me working really hard for these people. For the first 12 months it was just me alone building this thing, and I still have really great relationships with those first publishers who were on the system. It was about building relationships, and I think what further convinced them we were a good solution was that ultimately we would help bring them more money. People started to see the value of a functioning marketplace that has liquidity.
Success Harbor: So you proved to them that they can actually make more money with your platform?
Todd Garland: Yes. Publishers would come in and sign up and have 3 or 4 advertisers, and within a couple weeks we’d bring them a few more advertisers, so they’d see that benefit right away.
Success Harbor: So when you were trying to get other publishers, you would just show them the numbers of these other publishers that were already using your service?
Todd Garland: In many cases, we didn’t even have to show people numbers; they would see their competitors with more advertisers than they had, and that’s what would convince them to sign up.
Success Harbor: What about challenges around technology? Did you encounter any of that?
Todd Garland: Yeah. I’m more of a front-end developer than a back-end developer, and the first version of BuySellAds that I wrote by myself was trash. About a year after I launched, around the time of my first hire, we actually rewrote the whole BuySellAds program from scratch, so we had a better foundation to build the rest of the business.
Success Harbor: What were some of the most eye-opening things that you learned from your first customers, especially on the publishing side?
Todd Garland: Well, for a lot of these people, this is their livelihood and I think it was really important for me to be so connected with them and for me to be their support. It was cool to get every single support request and to see how passionate they are about sharing content and making money through ads so they can continue sharing that content. There are a lot of people out there doing really neat work.
Success Harbor: How did they shape what BuySellAds is in terms of the features on the site and functionalities? Did you learn a lot from the customers, especially the first year or two?
Todd Garland: Yes, definitely. Even 6 and a half years later, I’m still seeing a ton of iteration. So yes, those initial folks definitely helped shape the product going forward.
Success Harbor: When you hear things from customers, how can you tell whether it’s just noise or whether it’s something you need to react to with some kind of adjustment?
Todd Garland: That’s a great question. Over the years we’ve used intuition, which is almost never the best way to go, but we also will hear things from people over and over again, and these themes will evolve. We have a system we use to track things, so we can tell how many people have talked about something, and once it gets to a certain point we know it’s time to get something done.
Success Harbor: Is there anything that was surprising for you on the other side of the marketplace, with the advertisers?
Todd Garland: The craziest thing is that for the first year and a half, as an advertiser, we didn’t actually provide you with any statistics for your ads. Picture spending $5000 or $10000 as an advertiser, and all you get is a receipt that says, “Thank you!” Truthfully, them not requiring stats for so long was very helpful to us, because it’s a huge technical thing. And things have really changed since 2008, so while we used to see some folks who focused on brand and not tracking, that’s completely changed now and everything’s focused on ROI and performance.
Success Harbor: Building a marketplace business is difficult, because you’re dealing with a balance of supply and demand. What were some of the challenges in bringing the buyers and sellers together,, and we need some kind of a balance. Have you struggled with maintaining that balance from the beginning?
Todd Garland: We’ve always struggled with that and we continue to struggle with it today. It’s always tricky, especially in a business like online advertising that’s continuing to evolve today. The temptation for publishers to create endless inventory is really high, especially because of products like Google AdSense that you put on your site and start instantly making money. There are challenges with keeping the balance. One is that we only accept about 3–5% of the publishers who apply to work with us, so we can usually find enough advertisers to keep them happy. That doesn’t mean every single publisher we accept immediately starts doing well and making money. But it means for publishers who are creating good content, there are advertisers who want to be associated with that content. That’s what we’re really good at matching: the quality content creators with quality advertisers.
Success Harbor: Can you share some of your processes for selecting the right publishers for BuySellAds? You mentioned it’s a crucial part of your business; do you have a system for the things that matter to you?
Todd Garland: The most important thing is quality content. We understand that quality content is mostly a subjective thing, but we’ve found that what matters isn’t so much the amount of traffic somebody has, but more the quality of their content. So let’s say there’s a blog about VMWare and one about Android phones. You might have a blog about VMWare with 20,000 visitors a month and we could make you a couple thousand dollars a month because the focus of that site and the demographic is so targeted, whereas you might have a blog about Android phones with 500,000 visitors a month and we might not be able to make you any money. The number of people talking about it and the demographics might be very different, so we try to look for publishers who will bring good value to advertisers because they have good content and audiences to publish towards. Traffic isn’t the main thing, but we do look for sites that have a decent amount of traffic. The more traffic you have and the better your content and the more focused it is, the better the cahnces we can sell advertising for you.
Success Harbor: So this probably isn’t an easy question to answer, but if you’re a publisher, what’s an easier path: B to C, or B to B?
Todd Garland: I think the vast majority of people on the web are consumers, and whether they’re consuming from a business perspective or not, I can’t say one wins out over the other. So let’s use a different example: a site about horoscopes versus a site about freelancing. When you’re talking to freelancers, you’re usually talking to a very specific group: they’re work-from-home professionals or they have a small office, and there’s a very specific toolset that they need to run their business. But look at a person who’s going to a site about horoscopes. It could be my grandmother, it could be a 12-year-old kid, it could be me—it’s such a broader, less defined, less passionate demographic. That’s a great way to think about being a publisher. You’re already passionate about something and you can write great content about it, so you think, “Who would perfect advertisers be for me?” If you’re running the horoscope site and you think “Car insurance would be the perfect advertiser for me”—anyone who’s buying car insurance ads is doing that through an agency that doesn’t care about your site with 500,000 impressions a month. But if you have the freelancing site, you can think, “Accounting software,” so there’s Intuit, which might be a little too big, but then there’s Freshbooks. That’s like online invoicing for freelancers—perfect. You can think through this ahead of time before you get into building your audience.
Success Harbor: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. What are some of the best marketing channels for BuySellAds?
Todd Garland: Well, ironically enough, it’s not buying ads—it’s word of mouth. Our sweet spot for a buyer is someone spending between $5000 and $50,000 a month, and our sweet spot for a publisher is someone making between $1500 and $50,000 a month. Those ranges might seem large, but they really fit in nicely for us, and it’s just word of mouth.
Success Harbor: You can’t beat word of mouth. How many publisher sand advertisers are using BuySellAds?
Todd Garland: Well, I can give you a ballpark, but it’s not necessarily something we keep track of. If you look at other ad networks, they'll say, “We have 30,000 publishers,” and crazy things like that, and it’s like, “Well, how many of them are making more than $100 a month?” On the publisher side, we have around 1,800 publishers, and on the advertiser side, I believe we have around 3,000 active.
Success Harbor: When someone wants to become a publisher, how much traffic do they need for this? I’m sure it’s not an easy number to give, but what’s the bare minimum for them to even be considered?
Todd Garland: It depends on the site, but we start looking at sites with more than 50,000 page views per month. But the best sign that they’re ready to start selling advertising on their site is if advertisers are already reaching out to them directly.
Success Harbor: So your revenue model is 25% commission, right?
Todd Garland: We have products that range anywhere from 10% up to 25%.
Success Harbor: So how do you set that commission, and do you get pressured to change it at all?
Todd Garland: Our commission has always been 25%. We have some other products that are cheaper, around 10%, but the core has stayed at 25%, and I’d say we’ve gotten equal pressure that it’s too low and too high.
Success Harbor: As the CEO, what do you do to make sure you have great customer service? It’s a very hard thing to do, so as you grow BuySellAds, how do you make sure you have outstanding customer service?
Todd Garland: We treat folks equally: if you’re making $100 a month or $10,000 a month, we’re going to treat you the same way. We respond to people, on average, within 4 hours, which is good because some things take us awhile to look into. A lot of the folks who work at BuySellAds are publishers themselves, so we know what’s going on with them and it’s easier for us to empathize with them.
Success Harbor: If you could go back to 2008 and talk to yourself about your business, what would you tell yourself to do differently?
Todd Garland: One thing about starting a business is that it’s okay to be naïve. A lot of people think, “I don’t know enough about the industry or XYZ,” and that’s great. The less you know, the better. But honestly, I would tell myself to stick to the business. Anytime we weren’t doing as well, it’s been because we were distracted by some shiny new business model or something, so I’d say, “Focus on the mission.”
Success Harbor: With the experience that you have now, how do you know which shiny objects to ignore? Can you ever really learn that?
Todd Garland: It’s a really hard lesson to learn, and I learn it time and time again—I have a little side project I tinker with right now, at night. But anything that's not centered around the core thing you’re trying to do with your business is a waste of time.
Success Harbor: And the last question: If a friend or family member comes to you and sees your success as an entrepreneur and says, “Help me; teach me,” what is the one thing you would tell them to set them on the course to building a successful business?
Todd Garland: I think the hardest thing is getting over the initial hump. A lot of us are scared to start, and ultimately you just have to try. There's a great quote that was always hanging on my dad’s bed growing up: “He who is afraid of making mistakes is afraid to succeed.” It’s true: if you’re afraid of making mistakes, you won’t succeed, because you’re going to make mistakes in order to succeed.
Success Harbor: Todd, thank you for coming on Success Harbor to share the story of BuySellAds. How can people connect with you or find out more about you?
Todd Garland: You can reach me on Twitter at @toddo, or you can email me at email@example.com, but I’ll warn you, I’m kind of boring.
Success Harbor: Thank you very much, Todd, and everybody out there, check out buysellads.com or toddo on Twitter. Thank you very much for coming on to share your entrepreneurial story; we really appreciate it.
Todd Garland: Thanks, George; thanks, everybody at Success Harbor. Take care.
What does it take to start a successful business? Peter Shankman is best known for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO is currently the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,500 queries from worldwide media each week. HARO’s tagline, “Everyone is an Expert at Something”, proves over and over again to be true, as thousands of new members join at helpareporter.com each week. In June of 2010, less than two years after Peter started HARO in his apartment, it was acquired by Vocus, Inc. The New York Times has called him "a public relations all-star who knows everything about new media and then some,", while Investor's Business Daily has labeled him "crazy, but effective." Peter is an author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector. He is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about Customer Service, Social Media, PR, marketing and advertising.
Say hi to Peter at shankman.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Success Harbor: Hi everyone, this is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have Peter Shankman with me. The New York Times has called him a ‘public relations all-star’ who knows everything about new media and then some. Once Investor’s Business Daily has labelled him ‘crazy but effective’. Peter is an author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector. Peter is recognized worldwide for radical new ways of customer service, social media, P.R, marketing and advertising. Peter is best known for founding ‘Help a Reporter Out’ (HARO) which in under a year became the de facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources. Welcome.
Peter Shankman: Good to be here, thanks for having me.
Success Harbor: Thank you for being here Peter. In 2007, you had founded HARO, how did you get the idea for it?
Peter Shankman: You know, I’m a big believer in helping people. I grew up in New York City as a public school kid and one of the things I learned was, if you want something, it’s good to give something back first so I learned to help people at an early age and I talked to everyone, you know, I have really, really bad A.D.D so I talked to everyone and I talked to a lot of people and I know a lot of reporters. I just met them over time running a PR firm and they called me and they said, “Hey, who do we know? Do you know anyone who could do this, do you know anyone who could help; I’m doing a story on (whatever)?” And overtime I’d say yea I do, like pushing [inaudible 01:24] someone and it just sort of became--, it grew from that.
Success Harbor: What I love about HARO is; actually why don’t you just tell what HARO is, maybe there’s a few people in the audience who don’t know it, briefly you could describe what HARO is.
Peter Shankman: ‘Help a Reporter’ is a free service that three times a day sends emails to anyone who signs up with queries from journalists all around the world; if you can answer those queries you can get famous, you can get in the press, it’s totally free and everyone wins. You get quoted in the media which helps your business, the reporter gets the story they want.
Success Harbor: What I love about HARO is how democratic it is especially for small businesses, to connect with a journalist it used to be; it was possible but it was just so, so difficult. How long did it take for you to go from idea to validation to what HARO is today?
Peter Shankman: Well for me it was really about building something to help people and so I never really tried to make money from it in the very beginning and so I just launched it, you know; reporters would call me and say “Do you know someone who could talk about this?”, and I’d send it to my group on Facebook, my little Facebook list and then from there that sort of grew up and it became a real mailing list but again didn’t want to make any money on it and then advertisers started calling saying “Hey could we post a little ad on your list?”, and that’s when I realized there might be some money in it so from 2008-2010 HARO made about a million dollars a year in revenue. It kept growing so a million dollars the first year, little more in the second, more in the third and then it was acquired in the end of 2010.
Success Harbor: So what was the initial response of journalists in general to HARO, what was the feedback that you were getting?
Peter Shankman: They loved it; reporters were thrilled because they were able to get all this great information right when they needed it. So you have all these journalists who are really sort of on deadline, rushing their asses off and all of a sudden I’m like hey guys I have thousands of sources that know what they’re talking about who can really kind of help you out so why don’t you try it and I didn’t really pitch them, I didn’t try to sell them anything or you know; use it if you want, don’t use it if you don’t want, I don’t care and as soon as they realize the value of it they were like “Oh my God this thing is great”, so it was kind of cool like that.
Success Harbor: Did you receive any kind of criticism from people because it’s kind of a revolutionary idea, was there anybody that criticized it for some reason?
Peter Shankman: PR Newswire wasn’t a big fan because they had a similar product that they charged like 10 grand a year for, so they weren’t too happy but everyone else loved it.
Success Harbor: So what were some of the challenges with HARO especially during the first couple of years?
Peter Shankman: I think that the biggest thing was telling people about it. Once people realized what it was and how it would help people it was really easy. It was really about getting that message out there and so what I found was that the better experience someone had on HARO the better chance they were of telling someone about it and that really taught me about customer service and that’s funny because that’s what I do now, I really talk about customer service and marketing so you know, I learned that it’s really about customer service.
Success Harbor: So based on my research you didn’t spend much money on marketing HARO so…
Peter Shankman: I didn’t spend a penny on marketing HARO.
Success Harbor: Oh, not a penny, so did it basically just grow by word of mouth marketing or…?
Peter Shankman: When you’ve got quoted in the news, when you get quoted in the Herald, in the New York Times whatever everyone was like “Oh my God, how did you get quoted in the paper?” Isn’t that cool because all you want to do is share it right so you would post it everywhere; you’d be like, “Look what I did” and they’d say “How’d that happen?” “Oh I used a service call HARO you should sign up too.” I realize that everyone loves to be a finder; everyone loves to find new things before it becomes public so that was helpful.
Success Harbor: So HARO is kind of like a market place right? To bring people together and market places are inherently difficult to build or more difficult because it’s almost like you have to sell something twice. Did you find that difficult at all to bring those two people together to serve the needs of two different types of, you know, the journalists and small businesses or peer professionals?
Peter Shankman: Well because it was free, it was really easy. It’s like you sign up; you don’t sign up I don’t have to sell you anything. We had very simple rules and the rules were like ‘Make sure you be nice to the journalists, be nice to the sources’. The fifth rule; there were five rules and the fifth rule of HARO, honest to God, it said ‘Be excellent to each other’. It’s a line straight out of Bill and Tedd’s ‘Excellent Adventure’; it was really about playing nice, if you could play nice you could be on my service, if you didn’t play nice I kick your ass off.
Success Harbor: Yeah. You mentioned that HARO was making about a million dollars a year in the first couple of years, did that surprise you?
Peter Shankman: Oh it shocked the hell out of me; I didn’t expect to make a penny, I got really lucky and I mean I worked my ass off for it but it was pretty amazing. It was pretty amazing; we had a really good run, it was a lot of fun.
Success Harbor: So how did you have to work a lot; you mentioned you worked your ass off, what was the difficult work about it? Even though it sounds like you loved it and all that but still there was a lot of hard work.
Peter Shankman: I had to talk to everyone; everyone had a [inaudible 6:50] I had to explain what it was; I had to make sure that I was curating the lists properly. The lists went out at 5:45, 12:45 and 5:45pm. If I wasn’t up at 4:30 in the morning putting out the HARO, people would complain where the hell’s the HARO, what happened? This is right around the meaning of social and so I really learned to start understanding my audience and listening to my audience and things like that.
Success Harbor: So most companies do an ok job serving their customers but they’re not so great at being news worthy, what can companies do to be news worthy especially small businesses?
Peter Shankman: I think the best thing they can understand; the best thing to know is that you have this ability to tell your story and you can bore the world with your story or you can figure out trends. You can find out what’s going on in your industry that’s interested and exciting and include your company in it, when you do that it stops becoming about you and it starts becoming a much bigger picture that includes you; reporters like that a lot more.
Success Harbor: Can you think of an example recently maybe or just an example that kind of stands out for a small company that does?
Peter Shankman: There’s a huge market; I just bought a drone, a camera drone and there’s this huge market for camera drone, if I was a drone company and I pitched that “Hey look at our drone, we have the greatest drone in the world”; more than likely no one would pay attention to that but if I posted “Hey, you’re a reporter, I’m seeing a really interesting trend in New Jersey where more and more people are using drones to film high school athletics or using drones off their boat to film the ocean; you might be interested in that, I can find some of my customers who’d be willing to talk about this new trend if you’re interested in this bigger story.
Success Harbor: It seems that so many companies want stuff to go viral; it’s almost like a disease, let’s go viral. For me it’s almost like chasing something that is not there for the most part; most things never go viral but I believe in word of mouth marketing a lot more, how can we use PR to enhance word of mouth marketing or can PR be used for that?
Peter Shankman: I think the best way to use PR, in terms of growing your business, is to create great stories, allow your customers to tell these great stories. Show what the company is doing by way of how much the customers enjoy it and how much the customers are happy with it, once you do that it’s usually a lot easier to tell your story because you’re not creating--, it doesn’t sound forced. It’s the equivalent of, if I go into a bar and I see a hot girl and I go “You know what, I’m awesome in bed you should sleep with me”, she’s probably going to throw her drink in my face but if her best friend says “Holy crap that’s peter I’ve heard a lot about him you should probably go talk to him he’s pretty cool”, you know, at the very least I’m getting her number and that’s a start.
Success Harbor: Let’s talk about social media; in your opinion in what ways is social media misused today?
Peter Shankman: I think that so many people are focusing on the word ‘me’ in media; it should be called ‘social you-dia’. You should be able to talk about what’s going on in your client’s and your customers and your friends’ worlds much more than you talk about what you’re doing. I spend every morning; I take a half an hour and I email ten people in my network, I just ask them what are you working on, how can I help? I don’t try to sell anything I just ask what’s going on and from that I’ve gotten so much business and so many people remember me and talk to me and who I am and say things like that, it’s pretty amazing.
Success Harbor: So when you build your network, how should somebody build a network? Let’s say it’s a small business; what do you think is a manageable size of network and who should be in my network, is it people that are potential customers? Is it influences?
Peter Shankman: It doesn’t even matter because in two years everyone in the world is going to be in your network. It’s no longer about adding friends or clicking or liking or confirming. It’s going to be whoever you interact with; you meet a person, he’s in your network, how much you interact with them, how little you interact with them, what you do with them, the sentiment of that, that will determine where in the network they go but in terms of who should be in your network it’s irrelevant, everyone will be in your network within 48 months. Every business, every customer, every company, every person, every ex-girlfriend, anyone you interact with.
Success Harbor: Why do you think so much of social media doesn’t translate into sales for companies?
Peter Shankman: Because people are idiots.
Success Harbor: Can you be more specific?
Peter Shankman: No that’s my answer. No, I think a lot of the reason is because people don’t understand how to--, they hire people to handle social and they don’t necessarily understand that it’s not about creating social it’s about marketing, it’s about selling things. At the end of the day your job is to generate revenue and if you can’t do that, you’re doing it wrong so your job is to hire people who understand marketing, not social media geniuses but marketing experts.
Success Harbor: Can you share the Morton’s story with the steak house when you tweeted and what was the impact of that?
Peter Shankman: Yeah, it’s my favorite story. So I was at the airport flying home and I was starving and so I jokingly sent out tweets that said “Hey Morton’s, I’m hungry. Why don’t you meet me at the airport when I land in two hours and you work with the porter house ha ha ha ha ha”, and I land ok and they showed up at the porter house and it was mind blowing and it was totally unexpected and I think they got so much press out of that, it was just ridiculous. Crazy; crazy, crazy stuff so it just shows they shouldn’t have to do that every day, that’s not their job. Their job is to create awesome steaks and they do that already, this is just sort of an advance.
Success Harbor: So why do you think we don’t hear more of these types of stories or do you think companies are afraid to do this or they don’t believe in…
Peter Shankman: They don’t believe that there’s value in it and you could show them that there is, as time goes on it’s very easy to show there is value and once they figure that out then they start to understand a little more.
Success Harbor: Are you still involved with HARO? Even though…
Peter Shankman: No I sold it and I have absolutely nothing to do with it. I had a 2 year earn-out; it is no longer my company.
Success Harbor: Ok, are you working on any new ideas? What do you do now, you’re a speaker now so what are some of the topics that you talk about?
Peter Shankman: I do a lot of talks, I’m a speaker, I’m a consultant, I run a mastermind series called ‘Shank-minds’, which is all you can find at shankminds.com and that goes all over the country; all over the world actually where we help small businesses really take it to the next level. It’s exciting stuff; we’re having a lot of fun with that so I’m doing the speaking and I’m doing consulting in the masterminds, I’ve just written my forth book it comes out next winter so I’m having a lot of fun.
Success Harbor: What is the new book about?
Peter Shankman: The new book is called ‘Zombie Loyalists, and it’s all about creating amazing customer service; such incredible customer service that your customers actually become zombies, they want to bring more customers to you.
Success Harbor: Why do you think that so many large companies have so horrible customer service?
Peter Shankman: Because there’s a huge; huge, huge disconnect between the CEO who believes that everything is great and the people on the ground who know that it’s not and they don’t listen to each other. CEOs don’t want to hear it, they’re surrounded by ‘yes-men’, they need to get their shit together and need to understand that it’s never been easier to lead a company. Thirty years ago you wanted to leave a bank you had to take five trips to the bank, if you’re a woman, forget it you had to bring your husband. Today I could switch banks and all my money and move it in two seconds by clicking a link, they got to get better.
Success Harbor: What is the best advice you’ve ever received Peter?
Peter Shankman: Fail often. Someone told me to fail often and make sure that I fail a lot and document every failure and only then can you succeed because you learn from it. I actually created a podcast around that called ‘The Mistake Podcast’ and in the Mistake Podcast every week we interview people, with CEO’s and ask them their biggest mistakes.
Success Harbor: What do you think is the most important thing for an entrepreneur to focus on during the first one year of being in business?
Peter Shankman: I think It’s really about getting a product out there, getting something out there that’s [inaudible 15:36] getting something out there that works. Getting people to understand why it’s valuable; never losing that passion, letting the people who understand why it’s valuable tell your story for you.
Success Harbor: And what do you think is the biggest time-waster for small business owners?
Peter Shankman: For me it was really about paying attention to what the haters said; I wasted too much time paying attention to what the haters said. Doing it over again I wouldn’t even bother listening to them.
Success Harbor: Well do you have any last word of wisdom for our audience about either customer service or entrepreneurship?
Peter Shankman: The expectation of customer service and even entrepreneurship in this country is that we expect to be treated like crap, if you can figure out a way to treat your customers; if you can be one level above crap, it doesn't even have to be good. Just one level above crap; your customers will remember you, be five levels above crap, they’ll take a bullet for you, that’s how you grow a business.
Success Harbor: Well Peter how can people connect with you or find out more about you or maybe find out more about your upcoming book?
Peter Shankman: Well my entire life is at shankman.com, that’s easy and everything I do runs in shankman.com. My twitter handle is @PeterShankman, on facebook.com/PeterShankman, LinkedIn.com/PeterShankman. You can pretty much find me in all the places in the world as Peter Shankman and you can email me Peter@shankman.com, I answer every email I get.
Success Harbor: Thanks you very much Peter and everybody out there go and check out shankman.com, connect with Peter. Thank you for coming on Success Harbor.
Peter Shankman: Pleasure was mine.
Success Harbor: Bye.
What does it take to start a business at 7? Syed Balkhi created his first business when he was only 7 years old. Syed has been doing internet stuff since he was 12. He is an online marketer with design and development experience. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Yahoo, just to mention a few. Syed is the founder of WPBeginner a wildly popular site that provides quality tips, tricks, and hacks for Wordpress users. In 2011, Syed created a site called List25 which is an extremely popular site. Within 3 months of launch, the site was receiving 5 million pageviews per month. List25 has over 700,000 subscribers and 100 Million video views on its Youtube channel.
Say hi to Syed at balkhis.com.
Read Raw Transcript Now:
Success Harbor: Hi everyone this is George Meszaros with Success Harbor and I have Syed Balkhi with me. Syed created his first business when he was 7 years old, yes, that’s 7. Syed has been doing internet stuff since he was 12. He is an online marketer with design and development experience. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Wired Magazine, Yahoo, just to mention a few. Syed is the founder of WP Beginner, a wildly popular and successful site that provides quality tips, tricks and hacks for Wordpress users. Welcome.
Syed Balkhi: Thank you for having me George.
Success Harbor: Thank you for being here. I really appreciate Syed. Let’s get into your beginnings in business. I read about you that you have started at 7. Your first business was at age 7, is that correct?
Syed Balkhi: Yes, that is correct. I started a greeting cards business when I was back in Pakistan because I grew up there and we have 2 very popular holidays and [line breaks 1:07] you have and you ask people are doing--, kids are doing lemonade stands, we have like, you know, a lot of kids doing greeting cards so that was my first business.
Success Harbor: Anything after that, after 7? Because I think I read about, what was it, 12?
Syed Balkhi: Yes.
Success Harbor: You know, you’ve been doing stuff online so, I mean, it’s kind of crazy to start that young. Why, what’s the attraction to business at that early age?
Syed Balkhi: So, one of the big motivations at age 7 was I saw other people doing it and, obviously you know, kids were a little older than me but you know, it’s not really uncommon for you to see like a 9-year-old having their own greeting cards stand and that’s what the adults would buy from. I have given a long talk about this and I’ll try to keep it very short. I saw the power [inaudible 01:53], with the chips, one of the chips brand, they were giving away toys so I got into the greeting cards business and it went real well and kept on doing it for as long as I was in Pakistan and then my family moved to US when I was 12 years old and that’s when I got into all the internet stuff, buying and selling domain names, building proxy websites, arcade websites, getting really involved with the SEO industry, with the web directories and then consulting and then blogging and all that.
Success Harbor: And then later you got into buying and selling domain names right?
Syed Balkhi: Yea.
Success Harbor: What age was that and how did you get into that business?
Syed Balkhi: So that was age 12. I started high school fairly early, I was 12 years old and I didn’t have a lot of friends, you know, I was playing a lot of online games at that time. I would get up in the middle of the night and start playing games. Didn’t really have a schedule, you know, my parents weren’t really strict. So one of my cousins says, “Dude, you wake up in the middle of the night to play games and to earn fake money that the games would have right, the game point, why don’t you wake up and buy something that has actual value, like expired domain names, and he explained to me the whole concept, that expired domain names expired a certain time and if you can get it they can be worth some money and that’s how I really got into it.
Success Harbor: Do you have a number or was it just a few domain names or did you buy and sell thousands or hundreds of domains?
Syed Balkhi: No, at one point I had over 450 domain names and then after that I slowly started cutting down, selling them as part of bulk packages and now I have like, I think closer to 100 but those are the ones that I like to keep.
Success Harbor: Ok. So they’re not for flipping, they’re more of a long-term investment for a potential business?
Syed Balkhi: Yeah. Now they are yes but in the past, I would buy and sell, like flip a lot of domain names. I had 3-letter.us’, 3-letter.coms, 3-letter.net and you know, I would flip them.
Success Harbor: Wow. Do you think that’s a viable business model even today, this 2014?
Syed Balkhi: It’s more risky because a lot of the good domain names are already taken, unless you come up with a new industry name that you think is going to be worth money. The one thing I always tell about domains is, it doesn’t matter what you think its worth, it’s what the buyer is willing to pay you for it. But you’ll be sitting on that domain name for a very long time because there’s no--, the value of it is completely on the user.
Success Harbor: Yeah, yeah. So you have then started, and now we’re jumping way forward but I want to get started talking about WP Beginner which you started in 2009 if that’s correct, right? 2009?
Syed Balkhi: That’s correct, yeah.
Success Harbor: So, when you started WP Beginner, what were your goals with the site? Was it for business, hobby? What was your dream about that site or what did you want with it?
Syed Balkhi: Yeah, so I started using Wordpress in 2006 and I had built up quite a portfolio of clients that I was working with, you know, building their websites using either static html or like custom php framework and at one point it just came to me that I make a lot more money when I sign a new client versus keeping long-term retainer clients on like, you know, maintaining their websites practically the small businesses and I thought to myself what if I could give them WordPress? They don’t have to ask me to maintain it or ask one of my staff members to maintain it and I sent all of them an email saying, “Hey, would you be willing to pay me an upfront fee if I switch you over to WordPress and then you would never have to pay me again on a monthly retainer?”, and most of them agreed so I switched them all to WordPress, only to find that I was getting emails from them again but it was a different type of email. They were asking me how do you do this in WordPress and how do you do that in WordPress. I reached out to a bunch of my friends that were consultants and developers and asked them how they were doing it and most of them had a pdf that they would give out to their clients to learn how to use WordPress and so on. I didn’t want that and the reason for that was because I asked everybody. “What was your biggest complaint about this method?” and they said “Updating them.” So I started looking at web-based versions because you know if you have a site that’s powered by WordPress, it’s fairly easy to moderate and manage; there was none. Most of the sites about WordPress were by developers for developers. Nobody was really targeting beginners and there were some coaches that were selling the courses for, I think like $400 to learn WordPress and I said well I’m not going to send my client to somebody who’s going to charge them $400 because I just billed them a significant chunk of money. So instead I decided that there’s a huge need in the market and I started WP Beginner.
Success Harbor: So, did you have to do anything special for WP Beginner to stand out? I mean, we’ll talk about it later, your Alexa ranking which is super impressive but when you started it did you think that you had to do something special or you just kind of added some articles and then see what happens?
Syed Balkhi: So WP Beginner was not my first site so I was very familiar with how the search engines work, how social media worked. Back then, social media was a lot of Digg and a lot of stumble upon so I had fairly decent profiles on all those platforms. So I knew exactly what I had to do to grow the business right, in terms of like, getting traffic. Getting traffic wasn’t the issue for me thankfully because I’ve had so many different sites but the one thing that really helped to differentiate WP Beginner was that I actively listened to the users. I used ‘search.twitter.com’ and I just sat there like a hawk on the WordPress hashtag and I would check it several times a day to see what kind of questions people were asking about WordPress and that’s how I got all of my article ideas, because I saw exactly the questions people were looking for so I know if I gave them that, they would automatically help me stand out and build trust because somebody--, you know, most people would just rant about their problem on Twitter. Somebody actually listened and gave them a solution; that will make sure you stand out.
Success Harbor: So, I want to just understand how you did that so, you did a search and then did you respond immediately or did you develop the content and then said, “Hey, I have an answer to your question”? What was your process?
Syed Balkhi: A little bit of both. So, if it was--, I did a little bit of both when answering the Twitter questions. If the article was something really simple, like too, too simple that it didn’t really need an article, I would reply to them in a tweet but if it was a little bit more complexed, I would write about it. If it was too complexed that it wouldn’t really fit the WP Beginner type of audience, I would find a resource that the user would find helpful so I try to cater to all of them.
Success Harbor: Ok. So it was more important to be helpful than just to push people to WP Beginner?
Syed Balkhi: Exactly. That’s very important. I didn’t always, you know, get the users, there were several people who were developers that were looking for questions and I still answered their questions because I had a development background. It was just to be purely helpful. The goal wasn’t always to bring the user back to WP Beginner, it was to build trust.
Success Harbor: So, I want to talk about your Alexa ranking for WP Beginner, you have about 1400 the last time I checked, I think a couple of days ago which is amazing, I mean, some people in the audience may not be very familiar with it but Google is number 1, Facebook is 2, Twitter is 9 so to have 1400, that’s out of all websites in the world, is just a super impressive accomplishment. What are the reasons for you to reach that level of popularity for your website to get that kind of traffic? What were you doing right?
Syed Balkhi: To be quite honest, I have very strong reason to believe that Alexa’s flawed and that’s mainly because I have other websites that get a lot more traffic than WP Beginner and Alexa’s not as high as WP Beginner. So, I don’t…
Success Harbor: So it’s not very accurate but I mean, if you have like, a 10 million Alexa ranking or a 3 million or a few hundred thousand, it kind of gives you kind of an idea but it’s not an exact number right, we agree on that.
Syed Balkhi: Yeah, so it’s not very accurate at all. I have higher sites that get more traffic that should be at 1400 versus WP Beginner but to answer your question, it was just a word-of-mouth advertising. I was helping people, people were talking about it, I had a decent profile on ‘Digg.com’ so I would occasionally get my articles to hit the front page of Digg and that would instantly bring a good chunk of users, close to 60-80,000 people on the website in the matter of like, a few hours or as soon as the article would hit front page. So I wasn’t new to social media. I did use all of my skills there to get the traffic but a lot of it was building relationships, trying to be as helpful as possible and then let the organic growth begin.
Success Harbor: And so how long did it take WP Beginner to really take off from 2009? Was it within a matter of months, weeks, I mean yes you had experience to drive traffic to it but was it more of a hockey stick type of growth or more of a gradual growth?
Syed Balkhi: No, it was very much of a hockey stick growth in the beginning because every time--, imagine getting like several articles on the front page of Digg.com when it was really powerful? So you’re getting like 80,000 people in a day, 100,000 people in a day to a brand new website and that’s what caused the initial big burst of growth and then the word-of-mouth started coming in and then several influencers that started noticing it and then they started twitting about it and then ever since then, the growth has been very steady.
Success Harbor: So, help us out, for those that are starting a new site or a blog, what do they have to do today, 2014? Let’s say it’s just a one-person business, they don’t really have people helping them or they don’t have a whole lot of time or experience, what do they need to do to set themselves apart from competitor sites and to get traffic?
Syed Balkhi: So, what I would say is find out what your audience is looking for, ok and you can do that by creating your audience profiles, [inaudible 11:46] profiles, user profiles, there’s all the different words for it and see exactly what they need. Now start offering what they’re looking for, whether they are articles, whether they are podcasts, videos. Next, find out exactly where those users are going to be. Which websites do these users go to currently and then see if you can work out a collaboration deal with them or if you can target them using either advertisements but also, you know, everybody’s on Twitter - it’s an open network; you can build relationships that way.
Success Harbor: Ok. Ok, you have also co-founded ‘List-25’ in 2011 and that site has over 1 million subscribers on YouTube which is more than BBC Worldwide so again it’s a very, very impressive number. What do you do right to become one of the top 700 YouTube channels for List 25?
Syed Balkhi: The YouTube channel was a pretty good experiment so we did an experiment and it turned out real well. To be quite honest, we didn’t really do too much special. We just tried to create videos that triggered some kind of emotion and then we just based all of our content based on some sort of emotion whether it was the ‘huh’ reaction or the sad reaction or the happy reaction and we continued to build videos that way and we would occasionally send emails to larger websites that had few tweets like the Cheese-Burger Network and the New York Time editors and there was just a lot of sending email, “Oh we have a video about this, we have a video about this…” and occasionally we would get picked up by one of the publications and that would help us captivate the audience. Our content was good, the video quality might not be the best but our content was good and it triggered the right emotion in the users and after that it was just word of mouth, people started sharing it and the type of content that List 25 has, had a lot of viral potential when it’s done right and we were able to hit the nail.
Success Harbor: How did you learn to create good content? Was it easy? Did it come to you easy or you had to really work at it?
Syed Balkhi: So, yeah, I obviously had to do a lot of work on it and creating good content is not something easy. Even now when I hire new writers I have to spend good several months training them. Yes, they’re great writers but they don’t know how to write for the people. A lot of times people write for themselves. You have to understand, you are not your own audience; you have to break it down for whoever your audience is. Imagine if I start writing an article on WP Beginner that caters to me? I would alienate 95% of my audience and that’s exactly what all the other blogs at that time that were about WordPress were doing. It was written by developers, they were writing for themselves so they were writing for developers, which is why they were only targeting 2 or 3% of WordPress users. The 97% that are do-it-yourself for businesses weren’t getting that. So 1 - Write for your audience; figure out what your audience needs and then give them that and if you can hit that then you know, it just takes time and practice and you’ll get consistently better and better.
Success Harbor: So what do you think is the proper way to do SEO in 2014? Is there still such a thing as SEO or it’s really about content creation and content promotion anymore?
Syed Balkhi: I mean, good content always trumps any dirty black-hat trick you can find. I’m sure if you start doing your research on Google and start following several black-hat forms, you can find all the black-hat tricks. However, I wouldn’t recommend you doing any of that mainly because black-hat is short-term, they’re short-lived. You are in right now and then maybe a week later you’ll be kicked out because you were manipulating something in Google. So I recommend writing good content. Make sure your on-page SEO’s optimized if you’re using a WordPress blog or WordPress site then you can use the WordPress SEO by Eos Plugin, configure that and just keep on writing good content. You can use Scribe content which is another plugin that kind of gives you an idea of what your keyword density is but you know, you don’t really need that. It’s nice to have, it’s one of those plugins that’s nice to have but you don’t absolutely must have it to create good content. But just focus on your on-page SEO and then start building relationships. If I build a relationship with you and you write a blog post about me and you naturally gave me a backlink, that’s a good backlink of course instead of me trying to force a backlink into a website that’s completely unrelated or kind of buy links, which are also inaccurate.
Success Harbor: So, let's talk about it. You've been in business basically most of your life. Talk about a good learning experience that may be a big mistake that you have made that our audience could learn from that you could share with us.
Syed Balkhi: I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes. Some of them were not as big but they were just as detrimental because a lot of stupid mistakes can add up to be a big mistake. 1 - Always keep back-up. Just because you think you're not going to get hacked or you're not going to need the back-up, you will. Spend the money and make back-ups for your website because I have lost months and months of content because I didn't make a backup. Thankfully it wasn’t on WP Beginner or List 25, it was on one of my older sites so definitely, definitely make back-ups. Don’t try to think too far advanced. A lot of times, people are looking at their 5 year plan versus looking at their 6 year plan, because guess what? If you don’t execute on your 6 month plan or your 3 month plan, you’re not going to get to the 5 year plan that you spent most of your hours planning for. So start building short-term goals; short-term goals that you can easily evaluate and those short-term goals should lead to your long-term goals. And when you can do that, you’ll be pretty good.
Success Harbor: You know, the average consensus is that about 50% of businesses fail within the first 4 years in business. Why do you think so many businesses fail?
Syed Balkhi: I don’t know why every business fail or why some of the businesses fail but the general idea that I’ve seen from people who have reached out to me, you know, they started something and didn’t follow through, is because they don’t follow through, they’re not really passionate about what they’re doing. People say, “Oh, I think I can really kill it in this particular industry” but maybe you don’t know enough about that industry. Maybe you’re just not that into it, you know, like I am very passionate about WordPress so I think I can do real well on WordPress. I don’t always write on List 25 because I’m not the best suited person to write for List 25. That’s why I have my co-founder and I have other--, a group of writers who write for it so not everything can be done by you and a lot of the times, by the time most people start realizing it, it’s too late.
Success Harbor: How do you deal with the roller coaster ride of being in entrepreneurship? You have been very successful with the sites that we talked about but I’m sure there have been some downs as well so--, and you’ve been in business most of your life so I’m sure you’ve had a lot of ups and downs that you had to deal with. What advice do you have for our audience for dealing with the roller-coaster ride so to speak?
Syed Balkhi: Embrace it. I live for the ups and downs and a lot of times when people are going towards down, they start putting negative vibes out there and they start discouraging themselves. Take it one day at a time, look up and keep moving. If you’re having a bad day, tomorrow will be better and that’s the attitude that I’ve used and gone through but I really enjoy what I do and I appreciate what I have right now versus what I could have or what I could’ve had, so learn to appreciate what you have.
Success Harbor: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Syed Balkhi: The best advice that I would ever receive is that time is the most valuable asset you have and it’s also the most expensive teacher so try to learn from other people's mistakes rather than making the same one over and over again by yourself.
Success Harbor: Ok. What is the most important thing for an entrepreneur to do during the first 12 months of being in business? I ask this because I think the first 1 year in business is so crucial and a lot of people make a lot of mistakes or maybe they focus on the wrong thing. So based on your business experience what is your recommendation they should focus on?
Syed Balkhi: It's really, really hard to say what you should focus on because every entrepreneur, every different business has different needs but I would say try to nail down exactly what you’re building, what you're creating. A lot of times people say they want to create something but they kind of have an idea or sort of idea of what they want to create. Nail it down. Nail it down to exactly what you want to build and then build it versus trying to go in and then figure out as you’re going.
Success Harbor: What do you think is the biggest time-waster for entrepreneurs?
Syed Balkhi: Distraction. It could be anything, it could be social media. I think not being organized is the biggest time-waster. Start time-tracking yourself, whether you use something like a Rescue Time, I personally use Time Doctor, it takes screenshots and really hold yourself accountable and see where you're wasting your time.
Success Harbor: So, where do you see the biggest opportunities in business today? You've been in business most of your life, where do you see the big opportunities now and not just something general like online or social media but do you have anything specific that you been thinking about or you think is a good opportunity now?
Syed Balkhi: Yeah. I'm always a believer that you create your own opportunities. If you're talking about which sector is hot right now, e-commerce is fairly hot right now. Just because I was looking at one of the numbers the other day, it said only 6% of all businesses actually have an online presence like e-commerce presence, so imagine the 94% that doesn't and so I think e-commerce is really big, or is going to be really big, if it’s not already; it’s pretty big.
Success Harbor: Ok. If someone came to you, a friend or a family member that had a job but they saw your entrepreneurial success and they said, “Syed, teach me”, what would be the first thing you would teach that person to succeed in business, to set them up for success?
Syed Balkhi: I probably wouldn’t because most of the time when somebody comes to you and say, “Oh, I see you’re successful, I want to be successful”, I tell them to go and figure out what are they trying to accomplish first. I’ve had several people who’ve come and done that but it’s not like--, what does success mean to you? Most people don’t know that, they just think that this is successful. Define for yourself what does the successful George look like? What does successful Syed look like? And whatever your name is, determine what does success look like to you and what do you need to get there and if that means ‘I need to create a business around this’, figure that part out and once you have that, then come back to me and then we can work on how you can get customers, where you should be looking at, what you can do but a lot of times when people come to you, they’re not really there yet. They’re in a very, very early stage, they haven’t figured it all out themselves and quite frankly I don’t think helping them figure out what they want to do is what I need to do.
Success Harbor: Ok. Well Syed, thank you very much for coming on Success Harbor today to share your story and your wisdom basically, I really appreciate it. How can people find out more about you or connect with you?
Syed Balkhi: You can find me by going to ‘wpbeginner.com’. You can follow me on Twitter @wpbeginner or @SyedBalkhi. Thank you for having me on the show George.
Success Harbor: So everybody go and check out WP Beginner. Syed, thank you and I wish you much luck with all your endeavors.
Syed Balkhi: Thank you.