Welcome to the More Cheese Less Whiskers Podcast. Today I'm excited because we’re talking to my good friend, James Schramko.
We talked about many things including the book he’s just written called Work Less, Make More. It’s a title I love. It does what it says on the tin and you know exactly what it’s going to be about.
I go to Australia for a Breakthrough Blueprint event every year, so we get to spend a couple of weeks together just having breakfast and having great discussions both about philosophical approaches to business and practical approaches.
James is just one of my favorite conversational partners, and I think you're really going to enjoy this episode.
Want to be a guest on the show? Simply follow the 'Be a Guest' link on the left & I'll be in touch.
Download a free copy of the Breakthrough DNA book all about the 8 Profit Activators we talk about here on More Cheese, Less Whiskers...
Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 080
Dean: Mr. James Schramko, I presume?
James: Yes, hi, yes, how did you know?
Dean: It's our appointed hour. That's how I knew.
Dean: See the power of scheduling?
James: How are you?
Dean: I'm so fantastic. It kind of feels odd that we didn't get to spend some time together in August this year.
James: It was a huge disappointment because I think we get used to the schedule, the routine and then it doesn't happen.
Dean: I think you're absolutely right.
James: It feels like you're missing.
Dean: Yes, well, we're already booked for this year so we'll get back on track here. But, welcome. I'm excited. We're already recording here and we're going to just talk for the whole hour here. I'd love to talk about what your evil plans are for your book on the heels of this. You've spent a lot of time writing Work Less Make More.
James: Yes. I actually spent a lot of time talking and organizing and editing and thinking and researching, but the writing part I confess, was probably the least time I spent on the book.
Dean: I love it.
James: There's only a series of emails that I'd sent that formed part of the structure of the book that were more or less a trigger or catalyst for the lady who helped me put the book together. Her name is Kelly Exeter. But from there she was asking me questions and we were recording answers and then I was uploading them to Trint, T-R-I-N-T, to get a transcription. And I would send her the transcribed version and the audio for her to pick at, and of course I produced a lot more material than ended up in the book.
Dean: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I don't know whether you've heard me talk about this now, but I've started lovingly call this method the moo method. The M-O-O stands for multiplied oral output. I love it.
James: That does make sense.
Dean: It really does but here's the thing. You've discovered the great joy of writing without writing. There's so much to it. What I really discovered in this is that the fastest bandwidth way to get information from your brain into a digital format is through your mouth because it's still the highest bandwidth right now. Until we figure out how to just extract the thoughts from your brain without you having to express them, there's no faster way to get them digitized.
That was a new distinction that I learned, that talking is one thing, but as soon as you record it, now you've digitized it and it becomes an asset that you can multiply. That's really the greatest thing.
James: Yeah, and if you want to point out a ying/yang to this, you know how with every big positive, there's a negative or with every negative there's a big positive, like it all balances out?
James: Recording audio will create an asset. At the same time it will create a liability. It's one of the reasons I don't record my weekly Master Mind calls, is because that would create an obligation for me to store it, at some point review it in much the same way as we may have a few boxes of documents or diaries or notes in our garage. It's a huge burden. You have to move these things around. John R was talking about this with books lately. You have to cart them around. They're drawing on your attention in the corner of the room there.
I made this decision not to record Master Mind calls because I didn't want the liability of storage and retrieval and management of data and having just updated my phone. The obligation I created for myself with pictures, tens of gigabytes worth of pictures that I had downloaded from the cloud. It took out my internet for a day.
Dean: Right, right.
James: But I agree with you that if you're a two finger typist like I am, there's no competition between talking and typing when it comes to producing information and a huge part of it for me, the greatest amount of work was in the research or the compiling of the seed ideas that I wanted to talk about. I put a lot of priority on checking the facts and making the timeline of the story work and for that actually one of the old school, something that my uncle taught me who is a published author in Australia especially in political and economic publications; he used to just keep a card system where he would put ideas for his book into cards and then he'd sort the cards into order, like make a loose sort of chapter structure. After that he would do the typing. So it's like the spine, or the DNA of the book.
Dean: Mm-hmm (affirmative), well that's kind of the ... I kind of use that. Part of it is that I brainstorm first and then from those brainstorms I outline and then I record and then edit. So it's bore, B-O-R-E, brainstorm, outline, record, and edit. That's the core, that's the spine of the moo method you know.
James: Of those, I found that most of the work was the editing is just a huge part. It took me two hours per chapter to tighten up the words. I felt, and we've had this discussion before, but I felt a big obligation when I'm publishing something in paperback. I felt that this is an enduring tomb. It's a legacy that I'm handing my children and saying, "This is what I've learnt. I've been out in the world and adventured and spent a few decades refining, speaking to people like Dean Jackson and this is what I've learnt."
I wanted it to be something that could sit there for a while and not get too dated, but it also has to represent my current up-to-date thinking and something that was really interesting was when I was looking at the ideas and thoughts that we had pulled from about five years ago. Probably 80% of it was the same, but 20% of it I've had new information and have modified my thought patterns around.
Dean: It is interesting to understand that, right and know what things are contextual that don't really change. I look at it that the profit activators that I work with, that framework before, during, and after is a universal and timeless context, and underneath it the methods and the things that are available, to use all of those it's constantly evolving, that you get to, there's constantly introducing new ways, new things, like you said new information that comes around it. So it's always nice when you have that, when you have those main things.
Like some of the things you talk about in your book like the framework of your life starting with building the day that you really want. It's not going to be any different 20 years from now in terms of what the main things of that are. I mean it's really still going to be about sleep, eat, move, and fill the time with things that are challenging you, interesting to you, and have the highest commercial value to you too as well if you're still thinking about it as a business context you know?
James: Yes, my day's still got 24 hours in it. One of the big challenges was this idea when I quit my job which was about 9 1/2 years ago, I thought that freedom meant I could do whatever I want, whenever I want, like Dean's rules that I had pasted onto my filing cabinet.
Dean: I know I'm being successful when.
James: I know I'm being successful and that was a huge inspiration for me. Then I resisted the urge to partition out my life thinking that committing to time blocks was attacking my freedom. When I actually finally got there, I discovered that it actually creates the freedom because if I'm prepared to commit to doing hard things now and sacrificing some of that freedom for the surrendering of that time block each week to external matters, then by definition every other portion of the calendar was mine. So I'm saying, "Okay I'll give up 10% of it, or 15% of my week in advance to guarantee 85% is always mine," because if you don't do that you're more or less always open. It's like you've always got an open sign on the shop and people can come and interrupt you at any time.
Dean: Yeah, yeah I found that. I mean that's been an evolution for me too, having great conversations about that. I started a new podcast since last I was in Australia I think. I think I started it right after I got back from Manly, the last time I was in Manly, with Dan Sullivan called the Joy of Procrastination. One of the things, you know my number one thing on my list is I know I'm being successful when I can wake up every day and say, "What would I like to do today?"
That has always guided everything. I've been resistant as you were describing to filling up my calendar with lots of recurring things. I've started to realize and I've seen how it all evolved for me over the last several years, but some of the things that are ... You know I fill the times with things that are planned in advance I'll say.
I like either that that's the thing where I am kind of putting equal weight in some portion of the day when I say what would I like to do today, that some portion of the day is spent asking and preparing for the question, "What would I like to do tomorrow?" Tomorrow being sometime in the future, any future time. You realize that the impact that you can have on your future self today is really profound. It's really pretty interesting because we often put things off thinking that future self will somehow have more time to figure that out or have more time to deal with stuff so we put things off and just pile it on future self to deal with.
But then you realize, when I saw this from Kevin Smith actually, the filmmaker, had an interesting insight that future self is really just present self last week, or last month. It's really just the same. They're all the same guy. It's just that he doesn't have anything figured out any more than you do, than your present self does. So you need to go to work now. The only way that future self really stands a chance for something great is if you go to work today making it so easy for future self that he doesn't have to think about it because he's not really going to be any better equipped than you are. We're our best chance.
James: I think we better equip ourselves in the future by making the choices today. For example, me my present self deciding not to record Master Mind calls means that my future self doesn't have a burden to deal with. I only realized that as I'm unpacking boxes from my past self thinking, "Let's stop this cycle." It's like a bad cycle and it's stopped by making a change. I think the real point here for me is change. There will be continual change from now until whenever and it's the choices along the way that we make that will determine where we end up, if you turn right or if you turn left.
I think for a lot of people that's a discipline muscle that doesn't want to get worked. It sometimes takes tough choices or a more difficult approach at the beginning. A great example for me is it's summer here right now which might be hard to relate to if you're on the east coast of North America, but it's T-shirt weather. If I go for a surf in just my board shorts and no shirt, or wetsuit, the first sort of dip into the ocean is just slightly cool, just a little bit cool, but I just channel my wind huff and I accept to do that very difficult instant cool and then for the next hour, hour and half, I'm the perfect temperature and I'm really feeling at one with the ocean because I took that slightly harder decision to get into the water without the T-shirt to protect me and keep me all comfortable and warm.
If you do go, if you over gear, you know if you take that warmer top, you end up getting too hot and the rest of the hour is a bit uncomfortable. You dehydrate faster so yeah, taking a few little things. For me that schedule was a massive change that had a huge positive impact and now I love not having to do the old scheduling shuffle back and forth and wonder what's going to drive my business. I already know if I keep a schedule for my Wednesday calls I'm always going to have content for my podcast which will continue to feed my business. That was one of the routines that was really a big discovery for me and one thing that I've changed my mind on I guess in the last decade is I've seen the power of that.
Dean: Yeah, me too and that's the thing. I realized that sometime when you think about it, what I'd really like to do and I still think that this is ultimately the winning question, is I wake up every day, I'd say what would I like to today and often I've already thought that through for myself, right?
Like when you look at it that if you had the idea that I would like to wake up, and I'd like to have some coffee, and I'd like to go for a surf, and I'd like to have some breakfast and then go back and do a little work, perhaps talk to some people. Then have a little lunch and then maybe go for a surf and talk to some more people, and then have some dinner and watch a movie in the evening. That sounds like that's pretty much a carbon copy of some of your ideal days that I've experienced in Manly and so delightful because we have a very similar rhythm minus the surfing for me while I'm there.
But I get to enjoy the beach. I get to enjoy the breakfast and the lunch, and the coffees and the movies and we often get together for those times and then go off and I'll do a little work and you'll do a little work. It's a nice blending of our schedules. It's never ... It's such an interesting rhythm to life you know when you look at it like that, that there is never ... You know I think that that's why I enjoy spending time with you so much is that we have very similar life approaches in a way. We don't kind of get wrapped up in this hustle and grind and the way that goes.
I was saying to Dan Sullivan on our Joy of Procrastination podcast, it's almost we're in a society where entrepreneurship is celebrated, but it's almost where we fetishize the hustle and the grind and the pushing element of it without sort of really celebrating the lifestyle choice side of it.
James: I think there's a sliding scale where there is that extreme hustle badge of honor culture and I think people do celebrate that. There may be a few people who just want to do it and get a huge amount of satisfaction and I accept that that's fine. If they're happy that's good, but I think sometimes they celebrate it as some kind of a justification to kind of make it okay, to help them avoid facing the harsh reality that they might be really damaging their health and their relationships.
And then there's the other sliding scale which is the auto-leveraged push button lazy hammock riches for no effort which is completely unrealistic and it's a dream that's sold to many hopeful people online. Probably some of the material that I consumed in the beginning seduced me a little bit with that because I was working in a big cog of a corporate machine, certainly seemed appealing and the more I dug into it the more I realized reality set in.
There is somewhere in the middle though and I think that's where I fairly and squarely aimed my book is that you can still make good money and you can still be healthy and have great relationships and move about in life at a pace that is sustainable. It's really like living as if you're semiretired in a way and I've derived so much inspiration from your checklist because the minute I didn't have to do the hustle and grind which I certainly did do for many years, I remembered to pull back and question what was the reason I did that in the very first place?
I think some people forget to recalibrate and there are no review points and they're not acknowledging change. They're getting into a pattern or a rut and once you're in that if you don't question it or challenge it occasionally, you can end up a long ways from where you'd rather be by your deathbed.
Dean: Well I loved your book, the book by the way. It was really well done. It's great because I've seen and experienced a lot of this evolution as you know because we've known each other now for over ten years now. There must be ... When did we first meet, 2006 or 2008?
James: I first met you at Detroit at Jeff Johnson's event and I first heard about you years before that as this super underground legend in Florida who I just have to meet. I was prepared to get on a plane and come and seek you out. At the time it was Brad Fallon alerting me that you were the super power behind a lot of the people who I considered to be experts. From memory, Devon Pagan is one of your early seedlings that took a strong hold into the market and there are other ones like Marie Forleo some people wouldn't know about. And there are your innovations with capturing email addresses on a website. You've always had a great brain for these things.
Dean: Well there we go, but you know so the thing that we've got a common love now that you have a book out. What I'm really excited about is to think about what are we going to do with this book of yours now? What's this going to do? What was the thought process for you in choosing to write a book and what's kind of the master plan here?
James: It's a funny thing. We've had fun debates about it on the podcasts on my show a few times.
Dean: I'm not, here's the thing, I'm not going to tease you for spending so much time writing the book or anything like that. Look, you've got-
James: You were encouraging me.
Dean: I was yeah.
James: You were encouraging me and that's all it took it as to get this thing published and it did take ... It took a long time. I think it took at least eighteen months. These days there are services where you can have a book published in 90 minutes or so.
Dean: 90 minutes or so, yeah.
James: That's really funny. Look I feel it's a great question because a lot of it comes around to motivation. For me it was not a purely front end marketing device to capture someone into a funnel and turn them into a customer which I acknowledge is a very strong motivation for a lot of experts and authors. For me it was something I wrote for my kids and more of a line in the sand. So okay up until this date, this is what I've learnt and I wanted to give it to my kids and be able to say, "Look start with this. This is a good foundation." It captures a lot of the things they informally learnt and puts them into actionable steps.
My kids are at that age where this sort of book is very helpful to them. They're spanning in age range from 22 to 15 and it's very good timing for them because I wish I had this book when I was there age. My 22 year old has been learning from me for two decades. He knows so much that is so unconscious. He doesn't even know that he knows this stuff until he starts picking up books off my shelf and saying, "Hey Dad, I know this stuff." I'm like, "Yeah, you were learning this stuff when you eating breakfast in the morning when you were a little baby."
I was in my prime sales and sales management years as he was chatting with me. Even when we go down to the park, he could have another kid's toy within three minutes. He's always been a charming negotiator and gets what he wants, but the thing is I wanted to do something that's legacy driven. I wanted to satisfy myself that this is a real book that I can put on the bookshelf next to a Jay Abraham book or anyone else, Tim Thurston's book which helped me along the way.
Dean: Yeah right.
James: I wanted to make four hour work weeks for adults with kids. I think we've got pretty close to the brief and it's so fascinating seeing my book up there on Amazon next to Richard Branson's book and Timothy Thurston's book in the marketplace, or Ray Dalio's book. I mean that is pretty mind blowing. To me I underestimated the impact that having a book would have on the perceived authority and it's been on my marketing plans for the last ten years.
It's the only piece of the puzzle I hadn't produced on my plan that I sat down and wrote ten years ago. It's been a long time coming. I've always collected and taken notes, and stored things in my garage on the sort of idea, this knowing that one day I would produce a book. I think the resistance to producing it was because I put a lot of weight in what it needs to be. Now that it's out, what I'm noticing is firstly in the last month I've had the biggest membership sales for my two programs that I've had for a year and one-half. It had an instant and profound effect on awareness and conversions.
I'm finding influences in my market who I really look up to are now saying nice things and mentioning the book socially which I find very humbling. I didn't even know some of these people know me. That's been quite surprising and interesting. Now that the initial sort of release is over because I didn't do a big draw. I didn't spend $100,000 buying books all around the country. I'm not trying to stag any best seller and I haven't burned a huge budget at it. I'm not doing a free book shipping offer. All that's happened is I've just published the book and let people know about it.
Now it's actually gathering momentum just through the Amazon recommendation engine, it's going out in some emails, showing up on best seller lists and people are starting ... I've looked for reviews. There's been dozens of reviews in the different market places all organically which would be my dream. I heard that book's influence went for about two years before it popped off as a classic.
Dean: And now it's been a perennial for 30 years now.
James: Yeah. He's the go to guy for anyone.
Dean: Yes, I agree. It's really, it's great that I think that if that's the intention, you know to have a book be a perennial, part of the thing that you did brilliantly is that the book is titled well. Work Less, Make More, it says it all right there. You know exactly what that's about. I always look at it that I would say that the three absolute most important things if anybody's is contemplating using a book is that you've got to have a book. That's number one. You've got to have a title that upon reading it the person that you want to be in a conversation with says, "That's the book for me. I want that book," and you've got to have a way for them to get it. Those are the three things that make the boat go faster. Those are the most important things, the things that make a difference.
James: Well it's tremendously reassuring to hear that you like the title.
Dean: Well it's great because it was fun. I was watching some of the ... You know there were a lot of titles being bandied about and so I watched this as I'm part of your superfastbusiness.com membership, your community. I get to see the stuff going in. It's part of the value of having a community too to bounce ideas off. You were able to share the whole journey with everybody. I mean you've been talking about it in the forum for 18 months since it's been going out, but then there were conversations about the titles and it was fun to watch that because some of the titles didn't have that, what we look at now as what you've landed on is really couldn't be better. What's the sub-title? So it's Work Less, Make More.
James: The counter intuitive approach to building a profitable business and a life you actually love.
Dean: There you go and that says it all. That, when somebody sees that book, they know immediately that that is a message that either resonates with them and they want to know more about it, or it doesn't. It's like a shortcut. That's the thing. If that message resonates with someone, that's the person that you want to be in conversation with.
James: Yeah, it's such a good point about community because having had a community for a long time, I think probably coming up eight or nine years, I'm blessed that these people carry me. Kelly virtually wrote the book off all these patched together audios and previous info products. My first draft of the book that I tried five years ago, she took all of that and threw out most of it.
Dean: Right, right, right.
James: Pulled it all together. Greg did my designs. He's so sharp at designs, and then Mel did the picture. Everyone came together to force this book out of me. Then Dean on the sideline goading me, "Where's this book?"
Dean: Yes, where is this book?
James: You're right about it was so hard to figure out what to call it because if you ask different people in my community, they will know me for something completely different to each other which is strange. If you've been around for a while and if you're not a specialist, if you're not the Facebook ads guy, or the YouTube guy, or the podcast guy, then you can be different things to different people. Some of the proposed titles were for a chapter that actually didn't even make it into the book. It became the bonus download from my personal website because it was the most likely to change and I wanted to keep it out of print for that reason, even though I'm mostly known for Own the Racecourse. That was a proposed title at some point.
The point of this book was an introduction. Then there was this little side point I'll mention. I had to get very clear on who I was writing the book for because one of the early versions had a lot of technical talk, a lot of tools were mentioned, and it was really only useful for someone who had an online business. I went through with a fine tooth comb and I removed tools and software. I rewrote it through the eyes of my 15 year old son, and my 17 year old son, my 20 year old daughter and my 22 year old daughter.
I rewrote it through their eyes so that I could spell it out. It actually suits someone who probably still has a job all the way through to a high level person. Even people like Perry Marshall and John Reese and Jonathan Mizel, they wrote kind words about the book because I put things in there for someone at any level, but I did take the effort to make it as clear English as possible, like the less technical jargon and spelled things out. So if I write something like affiliates, then I would explain that this is getting commission for making a sale. So I would actually spell things out. It was a little more work, but hopefully I've picked up a more general audience.
Dean: Yes, and so what's the grand plan here for it? What do you see? It's really interesting because I just had ... Do you know Ari Meisel who wrote Less Doing?
Dean: So, right Ari was just on More Cheese Less Whiskers just in the last couple of weeks. We did an episode and you know he's three years beyond now when Less Doing came out and made its initial kind of ... That was his introduction to the marketplace and it's really done amazing things for him because it says all the right things as well. Then we talked about what three years later now, what the best thing to do with the book now. We looked at the big thing that drives his business, that drives everything, it drives everybody's business of course is expanding his reach.
If you have more people on his list that he can communicate with, that he has a bigger footprint using it as a tool to engage the right audience. As soon as people see it just like your book, as soon as somebody sees the title, Work Less, Make More, that is appealing to everybody. So as soon as they see it, now what's the process that's going to kind of bring them into the world here, into your world?
James: Well yeah, step one is I've done the book. Step two is the book is introducing me to people who don't know I exist which is probably the biggest challenge for my business. I'm completely unknown to people who need to know me. Up until now I've more or less been working behind the scenes at the high expert level-
James: ... with people who that do know. Now I've given the people who they do know an opportunity to share me and some of them are doing that. I have a great person, Ryan Levesque for example who acknowledged how much I've helped him and Tom Breeze and a few others. Ezra Firestone, these have all been ... It's a way for them as you say with your mechanism, like give people a way that they can refer you. Well giving someone a book is a great natural step in that evolution.
They can hold it up and talk about it or post it to their page. Taki Moore put a picture of my book and recommended it and now I think step two is engines like Amazon are showing my book to people who buy their book and other related books. It's doing what it does best. I was not prepared for this Dean, but the sales end of royalties on Amazon are quite shocking to me; that I can actually make money from the book. I didn't even think about that. That was never a consideration and I know that's probably 99.9% of the consideration for the average, non-expert, non-internet marketing person for writing a book. They probably think the book royalty will be like a Harry Potter thing, in writing the book to make all the money.
As we know that's just a part of the system. For me it was an introduction. It's a heavy business card. I think natural steps for me would be to continue sharing information about the book to communities and podcasts. There would be some merit in doing some press because it's a good story for people who might be able to...
Dean: It's good. I mean it's like you can imagine in even local markets to have that on the Good Morning Wooloomooloo TV Show.
James: It would.
Dean: And this morning on Good Morning Wooloomooloo it's James Schramko his new book. How do you say that sound by the way? It's one of my favorites.
James: Which, Wooloomooloo?
Dean: Wooloomooloo, is that how you say it?
James: Yeah, it's got Wooloomooloo. We've got Woolongong.
Dean: Wooloomooloo, so here's James Schramko coming up this morning on Good Morning Wooloomooloo is James Schramko with his message of Work Less, Make More.
James: There's a mixture of indigenous man's and English man's. We've got them all. They're Surry Hills and Woloomooloo, not far from each other.
Dean: But that sort of sound bite format really does lend itself to doing radio and television and all that sort of traditional media appearances. It seems like the right thing because that's what everybody's looking for you know?
James: Yeah, so I also feel that it would lend itself to a little video campaign on YouTube. If I bring people to the book, the book does interest people and reignite them passionately into joining my community. I've had, as I mentioned, a great month. Since the book came out I've had people rejoin the community and I've had new people come to me who I've never heard of before and I'm new to them. They got introduced to me by the book.
The book is a substantial on-ramp for them. They can really learn a lot about me and the way that I think and if I'm able to help them with the book at a very low cost, there's a good chance that the more high level access solutions are going to help them. So my focus and this might be counter-intuitive, has been to be developing my product. The first thing that I did was get my rates to be more appropriate for the level of solution that I'm offering.
The second thing is I've started to innovate the way that I deliver that service so that I can maintain scale and quality, so to basically prepare my capacity to harness this onslaught of new business so that I maintain a Mercedes Benz or ING level of output immediately. So my team has rallied around that. It's really just business as usual. I want to surf every day. I want to do my podcast on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and I want to answer people's questions in my community.
This is a good business already. It didn't need any enhancement. I just think it's going to be growing slowly as the book goes out. I'm not needing to force induce it. I don't need to strap a super charger on. I've got no impending doom requiring a turbo to my business. It's just organic growth and this adding a few extra pistons to the machine will give it more grunt.
Dean: Yeah, well that's nice. So when you said you adjusted your rates, what kind of adjustments have you made to accommodate all of this?
James: Well the first thing is I look after everyone who's already a member by grandfathering them at their existing rate. So for the Super Fast Business I've now set that at $1999 for year one, and $999 for year two and subsequent years. So that's a loyalty step down and that encourages people to stick around. We have very good retention. It's almost three years average which is pretty good in our circles.
I've also for the sixth monthly rate it is now $999 for six months. There's no change to that rate. It's just continual. Right now I'm just reintroducing for the first time in a couple of years a monthly rate of $199. This is for people who want to come and nibble at it and see what they think because it wasn't viable for me when I was on a $79.00 per month rate. That's when we had a strong drive for annual.
Members like you Dean, you're on a very low rate compared to what it costs to join now because you got in earlier and you've basically been there for the long haul. So this is how we have very, very low turn. We have very few people leave now because they're on a great rate and the service will continue to improve. Most of my attention is on delivering a great service and not out there setting up 1500 different campaigns to drive more traffic through my system which is where most people spend all their energy. Obviously for reasons explained in the book that returning subscription model and focusing on retention and actually keeping members is where I spend my energy.
Dean: That sounds like a really valuable insight focusing your energy on returning revenue.
James: I'd rather have to deal with the same Dean Jackson six years in a row, than inspire more people to replace Dean if he leaves. It just makes sense.
Dean: That's funny.
James: It's like a good red wine that just gets better with age. It takes a little longer to produce. It costs a little more in the beginning, but the longer that relationship goes on the easier it is for me to coach someone. The more contacts I have and the more value they're able to get, and you explained this to me quite well once about why you continue to go to Dan Sullivan.
I asked you about diminishing return and you said that you've already been paid for your whole lifetime in return so it's now this ... It's this even topping up. It's still worthwhile for you to go.
Dean: Oh it's compounding. That's the way that I look at it, you know. That's a thing is that I very consciously measure return on investment of everything and I look for people and encourage people to do the same thing in their relationships with me. I look at it that I've been in Strategic Coach for now this year will be the I think the tenth year or ninth year of the Ten Times Program that Dan started in 2009.
So yeah, it will be this is the ninth year of that and that started out at $20,000 a year, went to $25,000 a year. You look at that over the decade of somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000 of an investment to be part of that community has yielded literally millions of dollars because it was from a conversation with Dan that birthed my Breakthrough Blueprint events.
That's the whole reason they came out was out of a conversation with him where I immediately got off the phone and called the Celebration Hotel, booked the boardroom and sent out my first email to my group saying, "Hey I'm doing this three day event in Orlando. Would you like to join us?" It's been nonstop ever since. The 90 Minute Book is a business that was completely inspired by, thought up, and all sort of finalized within that Strategic Coach environment.
If I hadn't been in that, there would be no 90 Minute Book and that's a business that continues to go and we help hundreds of people every year write books in 90 minutes. I look at those, that investment that whatever it was, $200,000 or $250,000, that it's a multiplier. It's the same thing with being part of Genius Network with Joe Polish and being in Abundance 360, and being part of Super Fast Business. I mean all these things it's very easy to get a, and track a return on investment on these things.
If you have those kind of winners, my philosophy is always to gather them and collect them and stack and layer them as opposed to day trade them. You know I'll try this one this year and this one next year, and I'll try this one for a little bit trying to get that. I'm definitely a buy and hold investor in communities that create value.
James: I'm going to be sending members to this recording because you just summarized that perfectly. Sometimes when someone sends me a request to cancel, I query their motivation. What's the reason? How can I improve? Then I sometimes remind them like, "Hey remember you got introduced to that person running the Facebook campaign and we also found someone to hire staff for you and at the meet ups I remember you talking about your high level group and we started that." Then I get, "Oh yeah. No, I'm okay I'm okay to stay."
So I think what you have is quite a unique approach where you somehow combated this natural tendency to take diminishing return too far and you are looking at the ROIs as a grand sum rather than a continual basis. I have seen those people who turn one program to the next, to the next, looking for the little piece of magic, to get their fill, and then quit. That was actually the reason I switched from monthly to six monthly for my Silver Circle Program because I would take it personally if someone joined for a month or two and then quit. By going to six months I actually prevented themselves from making a silly decision, to be temperamental around one billing. They had one bad day the same day their monthly bill comes in and they want to quit. They're actually doing themselves a huge disservice.
In fact you've committed yourself to a lifetime of commitment to these programs. That's why you can take the pressure off this constant should I renew? Should I not?
Dean: The way I look at it is that I look at it that I am a lifetime sustaining member, that my profits, or my reward, my return is paying for it. You know like if you look at it that the first year that you're in something, that you start to kind of look and ... I never look at it that I'm expecting that the person who runs the community that I'm joining is going to spoon feed a ROI to me. I'm looking as an active investor in a community to drive my own ROI.
I'm an eager participant. I question. I'm open-minded. I do everything. I seek out the opportunities to drive the ROI and then I acknowledge it though. I also have the ability to acknowledge those things, that this is the idea that I got because of being part of this community, or this is the person that I met as a result of being in this community because that's really where all the ROIs are going to come from. They're either going to come from the IBF that you get or they're going to come from a person that you meet who is either a customer potentially who can give you money to do something for them, or a supplier of a vital piece that you need to drive the things forward in your own business.
I'm very conscious of that. Every community that I have, I encourage people and we celebrate their return on investment. I'm looking to drive that right away and ultimately my real goal is that people are ROI positive ahead of the game. That's why I do so many, do podcasts and do all the things that we do. I mean all the value and things that we create by giving our really best ideas even on podcasts, that often people who I start a relationship with that they come to a Breakthrough Blueprint event for $5,000. Or they join Email Mastery for $1500, that they already are paying for that with money from executing an idea that they learned on the podcast.
James: That's so good this idea of the active investor because the subscription membership, it's the passionate investor you've got to help out. I like them to see a positive return and I created a Success Discussion Board for that. As with any community not everyone will post their successes. Some of them like to keep it up their sleeve. One thing I do is I get on the plane and I go to places. That's how I met you in Detroit. I was sitting beside you from another country. Then you fly here and we go and have breakfast at the Pantry which is restaurant in case anyone is wondering.
Dean: Right on the ocean. If you see my Facebook on my arrival morning in Manly you'll always see that there's a picture through the window of the water bottle and the beach at Manly. It's my arrival tradition.
James: Yeah, so it's something that you're doing that I do too. I want to be active with my investments even with some of my financial investments where I've got someone helping me with what you'd probably call your 401K, but our superannuation. Even though he's supposed to be doing some of the investing, I'm pretty active in checking up on how my passive investments are going. I want a report. I would like to see the returns and I'd like to know where it's at.
I think if people took more responsibility and if they are more realistic about their long-term gains and the amount of investment, the fact is I think a lot of sole entrepreneurs are simply not investing enough in their own business. They get used to a very large profit margin and the large profit money margin seduces them into short paying their investment fund whereas any real business is going to be reinvesting back into their business for sustained growth and empowerment. Some people are skating on thin ice trying to cut corners and budget cut.
Dean: No that's the way I look at it. So I look at it that those are self-funding, but once I get to a point where I drive the ROI then it's enough that I'm reinvesting the profits and continue on. Now Dan is starting his new game changer program in April which is a $50,000 group that I'm a part of that we'll have our first event, first meeting in April. But that, there was no question. I know that this is good stewardship of my capital, you know to invest in an environment that I know is going to yield multiples. It's an interesting thing.
I think part of, James, what can really help with that just to tie this into your Super Fast Business is to encourage. One of the things that I do in my communities is to feature field reports that show those ROI capturing moments. So you're encouraging members to share the things that are going on, but to document them as field reports so that you see it solidifies their ROI and it also evidences it to other people as well, you know?
James: Excellent idea. I drew a lot of case studies for my book and for my podcast so I recognize that it's great for me to tell people how amazing I'll be able to help them, but it's excellent if they can see a customer who's gone through that process. A lot of the book has case studies and a lot of my podcasts these days, I've made a decision not to be getting people on my podcast who are doing those outrage campaigns with the celebrity PR guy or lady trying to push these offers in the market, who want to be on every podcast. That's like an instant no for us.
I'm interested in either solo podcasts where I'm talking about something useful that's working for me or for my customers, but I'm especially interested in case studies. Any one of my customers who's doing well is welcome to come onto my podcast and talk about it. We use the case study format that I learnt for the Sales Marketing Profit Show that I did with Taki which really breaks down where someone was at, what their challenges were at that time, how that made things hard, and then what they actually did to change and what sort of results they got, and then what advice or resources would they recommend for someone who's in a similar situation.
That has been a dynamite recipe for helping the instructors. It really sits well with my idea of selling which is just helping people be better off. It's a lot like the demonstration when you go and look at your latest empowered BMW and you drive it to see what it's like. A case study is a perfect test drive and it sits really well with your cookie metaphor. You're really showing someone every step of the way without them having to put a lot of effort into it whatsoever. They don't have to join too many dots.
It's like you're tracing the pen with them to see. It's massive proof and credibility. I've asked people when they leave occasionally why they didn't engage in the personal coaching. I've discovered that some of them didn't know they actually get it which was interesting. Since then I've been taking that cookie metaphor further and making sure that we spell it out in our on boarding and I've set up now a tool called buongiorno where I send a personal video to every new member inviting them to start their private discussion with me so there can be no mistake.
Ideally, if I could take it to the next stage, I would figure out how I can start the private discussions on my side, but I think at the moment a technical limitation is they need to initiate it. But at least the technologies around to personally outreach to them and invite them to start that discussion.Then I follow up if they haven't started it, seven days later I can send them a follow up and just saying, "let's get together." Because you, I know for a fact if they start a private discussion, they're not going to leave the community because those people are the most engaged, but they're also getting a massive benefit.
Dean: Do you personally shoot the individual videos?
James: Yes sir. It's what you'd say something that doesn't scale.
Dean: I was going to say that's not scalable.
James: That's right, but it does automate some things that I would do manually. In the past I would film the video on my phone and then go and look up their email and send it to them. Now the software prompts me. It pops up a little bubble on my phone and I click on the app. It actually just loads them up. When I see it I just click on the person's ... It might say Dean joins Super Fast Business so I click on that, say "Hello Dean, welcome. I'm looking forward to coaching you. Please start your private discussion. There's a link right next to this video."
Then I hit send and it pops up as a screenshot on their email. They click on it. They watch the video. It tells me they've watched the video and they can click on the link that takes them straight to the community. So it's leveraging something that is still highly personal and it's still much easier than the handwriting a letter and mailing it, direct post or whatever which I do for my high level customers.
Dean: Of course.
James: I send them lumpy mail. I've certainly leveraged that. I've had that now send me an email with the address and I've got a stash of envelopes. Actually my wife helps me out to address the envelopes.
Dean: Your wife!
James: We go to the post office and it has to be done manually, but not necessarily by me, but we go down the post office and I pay for that. Each one of those sales for me, they're $20,000 minimum sales so I'm happy to visit the post office for $20,000. I still batch them. I sometimes take two or three in a row. It's not a big deal.
But you know I think these little personal touches are what separates you from a big machine. I think, because one of my gripes and the problem I wanted to solve with my community is you can never have access to the person. The expert is never accessible. It's almost the first mandate of any expert author is how do I make this work without me having to be involved? That's what takes away most of the magic or the power of a community like that.
Dean: I agree. It's so funny. We had Jeff Moore who I met him, the first time I met him he came to our I Love Marketing Conference, the first one, which I believe you were at that very first one too.
James: This is the seafood man?
Dean: Jeff Moore owns a seafood company yeah, and he came to a Breakthrough Blueprint event. He came to the second one that I did and one of the things that he did, because we talked about the client experience timeline, and he would start recording a video as they were packing up people's orders. So if you ordered stuff, he would say, "Hey James. I'm just putting the finishing touches on your order here. We've got the crab claws in here and you're going to love these steaks, and I'm going to go ahead and put some of this Mahi in here for you too." They were really like totally engaging videos and people who would get them, they were just so thrilled about it, you know?
We had a whole discussion in our community immediately about, "But that's not scalable." Then one of the guys in our group did a video where he had the videos like he'd welcome and, "I've personally packed your order and I see that you got the ..." and then he did a totally different voice that was like voice inserted into the thing to automate like a Bot had done it. It was just so, so funny because that's immediately where most people go is how do we now take the magic out of this and sometimes it's really about just scaling the un-scalable.
James: Yeah, let's get some leverage. You've really drummed this idea home to me. It's how can you automate or leverage something that you would do manually and get some assistance with it? I still do broadcasts and fresh podcasts in my business. I don't have 67 auto-responders to people who join my newsletter, to punish them with regurgitated crap for the next three years. Some people question me on that. I'm like, "You know what? I'd rather have fresh bread from the bakery that was baked this morning than pull it out of the freezer from last year."
It just makes sense to me. I want fresh and organic and real. There's a reason why the content is always relevant and timely because it's just been made and people can tell the difference.
Dean: Yeah, I get it.
James: If I make a personal video to someone, there's absolutely no doubt about the intention or the effort that's gone into it versus getting an auto response. There's no comparison. That's why I'd rather just keep 500 to 1,000 people is enough for me to have a happy life and surf every day. Somewhere in that spectrum is a sweet spot for me in that community. For the other community it's about 30. Thirty is the number that I've found it's just right and I've found a nice balance between personalization and leverage. There's some leverage in a group, but there's definitely some personalization in the individual prescription.
Dean: I love it. Well James we could talk all night, or morning.
James: We really could. We could talk for weeks on end about it.
Dean: I missed our talks, I really did miss. There was a noticeable sort of missing chunk of my year is our time together in Manly.
James: I had to go and surf it all off in the Maldives, you know that emptiness. I had to replace it.
Dean: You'll be happy to know I've booked it already, the last end of August I'll be there, reunited. But really I enjoyed this. As a matter of fact we should have another conversation tomorrow.
James: Yes we should. We should do that for our Super Fast Business podcast, continue on.
Dean: We'll do it simultaneous because I'll share. We'll share both. I'll share both with everybody. But this was great. I appreciate it. This was good to catch up.
James: Always, always love chatting with you. Just the ideas you generate. You stimulate action and I can see why your podcasts are going so well because you get to talk and make a living for one thing.
Dean: That's right, that's it. I will talk to you tomorrow.
James: Okay, speak then.
James: Bye bye.
Dean: And there we have it. Another great episode. I really enjoy talking with James and a couple of these concepts that we ended up talking about I really like what James was saying about doing the welcome video for new members even though that's not scalable per se. Everything that James shared, everything that he does with his whole approach to blending his business into his lifestyle is so resonant with the way that I like to approach business.
So it was really great to have him. I hope you enjoyed that conversation, a little bit different than some of the episodes that we've done, but you can tell it's just this is the way the conversations go when we are together and we both get a lot out of the stimulated thought as James said that comes from these. So I hope you felt the same way. If you'd like to continue this conversation you can go to morecheeselesswhiskers.com. You can download a copy of the More Cheese, Less Whiskers book.
If you click on the be a guest link we can hatch some evil schemes for your business on the podcasts and if you'd like to see how the profit activators are either growing or slowing your business right now you can go to profitactivatorscore.com and try our online profit activator scorecard. Give you a really great insight into where the big opportunities are for you. So that's it for this week and I will see you next time. Bye bye.