What are the 5 Most Important Lessons in Indie Business? (FS169)
Listen, there’s so much shit out there you need to learn. So many tips and tricks and “best practices” to start using in your blog, podcast or business of any kind.
So today we wanted to try to cut through the smog and prioritize the biggest, baddest, most important things you should know.
This list isn’t everything, but each item is essential if your business is going to succeed.
Barrett Brooks has been working closely with indie entrepreneurs for the past 2 years. Long enough to see the patterns, not so long that he’s withered up inside.
Today on the show (and in the text below) he shares the 5 lessons he feels are most important to entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes.
Whether you’re a blogger, podcaster, freelancer or maker, these are 5 areas that can bring substance to your business, helping it get off the ground safely AND last through the years.
It’s a bittersweet episode for us at Fizzle as Barrett is moving on to the next stage in his career. He shares all the details in the episode (if you’re looking for a business coach you’ll definitely want to listen in).
We’ve loved having Barrett on the team. His voice has been a huge help to listeners over the last hundred episodes or so, and his ideas have helped shape what Fizzle is today.
OK, more on all of that in the episode for today, and below I break out each of the lessons with the transcript from the show so you can read instead of listen.
I asked Barrett in his last episode to bring a list of the five most important lessons are from his personal experience (or the five mistakes that drive him crazy).
Here they are:
1. Money is the key to making businesses work (also, a very touchy subject). (7:30 in the episode) Lots to explore in this one.
Barrett: It was a good question actually. It made me think really hard about how do you distill really what we’ve all learned I think. Two years of work, how do you put it into a few bullet points, but one of the first ones that came up was when you’re talking, maybe to anyone, but definitely to any entrepreneur, money is the most touchy of topics. You draw a line in the sand on money. I don’t remember what we did, but at some point, we suggested a line in the sand on the money thing. It was like if you’re above this amount you’re X or something like that.
Corbett: It was pre road map. We were talking about how to define some milestones that every Fizzler would to through. We’re thinking, what milestones are common to every kind of business? One of the only things we could come up with was revenue. Boy, that set of a firestorm.
Barrett: I don’t know if I ever witnessed a firestorm quite as big as that one in response.
Chase: I’m not remembering this firestorm.
Barrett: It was crazy. The forums went wild for a little while.
Chase: Oh, is it mostly in the forums?
Corbett: Yeah, emails, forums. People were just going nuts.
Barrett: That was fascinating. I just found it so interesting, but the flip side of that is, the gist, true fact is that money is the key to making a business work. I know, Chase, over the past two years, we’ve all evolved on how we think about money for the Fizzle business and how that allows us to do different things and have more resources to pour into the business. You always came up with this interesting point on money that was just like money is the thing that keeps the wheels turning.
Corbett: Yeah and what allows the business to keep working. That’s one of my biggest lessons for sure. It was one that I learned first hand too, but then seeing it across so many people’s businesses, it’s just hard. When your business isn’t making money and there’s not a good sure fire path to getting there or at least a clear plan to try, man, people wallow. They can wallow for a long time and it can be really difficult on them.
Chase: I remember looking at, because I was always doing designs of stuff, I remember several years back looking at, when I would do designs, I always look and do a bunch of research on the audience like who are these people and trying to get in their head space. That was something that I geeked out about a lot, even before being at Fizzle. I remember coming across a Seth Goden post about “here are 10 questions asked by your audience” or something like that. One of them was, how do they think about money? What’s their relationship to money?
Corbett: In terms of building a customer profile.
Chase: Yeah, exactly. People to design the site for, people to design the product for or the business around. I feel like that’s such an interesting question. It always makes me do a double take or think more about the person or the group of people than I was previously. Do you know what I mean? I can make a lot of assumptions and then you ask me, “What’s the relationship to money,” and I’m like, “Hmm. I wonder.” There’s a lot of ways that we can relate to money.
Corbett: To be fair, we have customers who are all over spectrum. There are some people who really uncomfortable with it, others who are very comfortable and some who are earning a lot because they really focus on it. I think the thing that really came up was people didn’t want to be identified by how much revenue they made because in some cases it was because I think some people feel they’re actually playing a business instead of building a business and they like to feel like they’re further along than they are. When you rub their face in it, it’s like, “No, actually you’re not earning any revenue.” At the same time, they just didn’t want to put these barriers between people because some folks have really great life experiences, even good advice, even though their business might not be as far along. It was a touchy subject. Ultimately, we backed off of using revenue as a differentiator, but it is baked into the road map. It’s just there aren’t hard numbers.
Chase: Now it’s customizable. We have the minimum viable income.
Barrett: I think that was a productive way to come out of that conversation and saying, “Okay, we acknowledge it’s personal for every individual. It’s personal how much money you need to make from your business. Maybe you just want a thousand dollars a month or maybe you want to replace your fulltime job.” You need to define that. Instead of projecting on to people, “This is the number you need to make,” we just said, “Define it for yourself,” and then build that into your plan. I really appreciate that we took that approach because I think it really brought … It’s so easy, especially when you’re talking about the audience first approach that we always talk about in building a business, it’s easy to get caught up in that hamster wheel and never get off it until you actually turn it into a money making business. I think we shifted that focus and said, “Okay, you got to have an exit ramp from the hamster wheel at some point and really turn it into an income generating thing.”
Chase: I think this idea of money is something that I have definitely … In my partnership with you, Corbett, and I think definitely bringing you onto the team, Barrett, we’ve focused a lot more on just our revenue because now you guys have got to buddy up and just go sack up in some, I don’t know, in some cabin and talk about numbers and revenue and all those things.
Corbett: Spreadsheets and …
Chase: Corbett, I just saw him just scratching his neck and getting really into it. Everything is getting hot and heavy. I was never able to touch him there basically. In watching you guys, I’ve learned a lot more about … because I’m the stereotypical creative who doesn’t want to have to think about money because it sounds like pressure. It feels like pressure. It makes me less creative.
Corbett: There’s some weird thing that creatives have about they feel like they’re losing street credit if they’re making money or something.
Chase: Totally. Exactly. What I’ve come to realize is that that’s just misinformation. That is just you’re privileged enough to live in a world where you don’t have to make it all about money. There’s this balance of I want people to do both. I want them to do 100% of both. To be uber creative. Totally playful. Totally doing things that have no consequence but that might end up being big and totally safe on the revenue side. I want 100% of both. I have always felt like it’s a dichotomy. You have to pick one or the other, but it is a false dichotomy. Especially for me, being a creative and a lot of people like me it’s like, we get paid more and we’re more desirable when we’re more playful, more crazy, more this, that and the other. It’s this weird mix that’s always been like, “I think I’ll make more or I’ll earn more if I don’t think about it at all and I just follow my bliss,” for lack of a better term, but there’s so much intelligence to bring to it and so much of awareness, a kind of consciousness to bring to it that I learned over the least four years, but especially the last two, as we’ve figured out MVI, minimum viable income, and then when we started teaching on that and doing more about it and having more conversations with people.
I was like, “This is a powerful …” That’s something, Barrett, you brought in definitely. You were like, “I did the business and money was what we needed.” Do you know what I mean? That’s what we needed and didn’t have coming in, revenue. You always made it a point to go like … Corbett, you’re always … from 100 years ago, back when you were still president of the United States Abraham Lincoln, you …
Corbett: I was after Lincoln.
Chase: You were after Lincoln. You were always like, “Blog is not a business,” because you saw how many people just go, “I’ve got a blog now so I guess I’m in business.” It’s like there’s no forethought, there’s no understanding of your value proposition of who you’re selling to and what you’re going to help them with and your product or whatever. Anyways, this idea of money being important is actually really interesting and a good first point here.
Corbett: Last thing I’ll say on it is if you get that out of the way up front, if you’ve developed that understanding, and we have with our audience at this point, we just put it right there in front of them and say, “This is the thing you’re going to have to think about,” and then you can talk about the creative stuff and you can talk about the fun parts of business and how you get there, but you got to get that baseline down. That was the first one.
Chase: I love it.
Corbett: The second one I’ve talked a lot about over the podcast, I was trying to figure out how many podcast episodes we did together once I joined. It’s got to be 75 or something.
Chase: Yeah, we could figure that out. Maybe one of our astute listeners can go find it. That’d be awesome.
2. Expertise is a superpower. What a difference it makes to start a business when you already have your skill set in tact. (15:15)
Barrett: If you want to, go for it. One thing I think I brought up a lot though was this super power that I found in the customer interviews that I did over time of expertise and how cool it was when somebody came to the table to start a business and they had spent 10 years building a skill set. Man. I’m not saying you can’t build a business without it, but some of those people who showed up day one with 15 years having done whatever or 5 years even doing Facebook ads or in the newspaper business or teaching in the classroom or being a chef or whatever …
Chase: Or play an instrument.
Barrett: Yes, exactly. Those skills can become such cool businesses. Seeing those people thrive as business people made me realize that if you put in the hard work, the thing that you’re always talking about, the thing that nobody wants to do is go put in all the years of effort to be good at something. You show up like that and then the business part is fun because I won’t say it’s formulaic, but when you’ve got a thing that people want, a skill that people want and you can teach it or you can share it with others, man, that’s a powerful business asset.
Chase: Thinking about a lot of our biggest success stories, a lot of those people started out with some major expertise, photography or play an instrument or having design skills or whatever and whenever someone struggles for a long time, especially in the beginning when they’re having a hard time nailing down what’s my topic, who’s my audience, what am I going to build this business on, it’s because there isn’t a clear cut thing to go after. Not only do they have to figure out how to build a business, but they have to figure out how to gain all the skills that’s going to take to build the business including the substance of the business itself. You have enough skills that you have to learn anyway from marketing to sales to hiring to content creation and all that, but then in addition to that, having to figure out whatever the thing is that you’re going to teach or create or sell, that’s a hard row.
Chase: That expertise thing is tough because so many people right now are finding Pat Flynn or someone else and going, “Yeah, I want to do a blog. I want to try my hand at passive income. I don’t like my job. I want to do this.” Probably a lot of people listening to the show just go, “Yeah, I want to do something like that. I just don’t know what yet.” They are oftentimes younger or older. You know what I mean? And thinking about an idea that is not what their career has been to date. It’s such a painful or not painful, it just can be such a … The truth is … In fact, I’m doing a video right now that speaks to this and it’ll be out when this podcast is out, this idea of if we think … There’s two ways of doing this business stuff largely when you’re talking about blogs and podcasts. You are already the expert. I remember one Fizzler a long time ago she’s like, “I’ve got 30+ years of post traumatic stress disorder working with clients. I’m just an expert in that and so I’m trying to bring that online to work less hours with the clients and make more revenue serving more people basically.”
There’s people like that that are coming with the expertise and then there’s people who just want to be entrepreneurs. Do you know what I mean? It’s a really tough battle I think in some ways for them, unless they can go full on newbie. Do you know what I mean? Think like an actual noob, listen to advice, and actually … I don’t know. Something about it is like … Everybody is a newbie about entrepreneurship, but really geeking out on your topic. Do you know what I mean?
Barrett: There are some instances though where the opposite happens where somebody comes in with the business expertise. They know the business. Derek Halpern comes to mind when he started Social Triggers. He’s done all of this ridiculous work and online tabloids basically or entertainment news.
Chase: Celebrity gossips.
Barrett: Celebrity gossip and then he turned that into … He leverages business expertise he had built and turned it into Social Triggers and built the expertise having already done the business stuff. It does go both ways.
Chase: Absolutely. It does not take long to be seen as an expert. Do you know what I mean? It really doesn’t.
Corbett: That’s where the choice of topic matters so much because for example, Chase, you have this burgeoning new business potential coming out which is reviewing bags. That’s not something …
Chase: All of my money was made a long time ago when I was doing reviews of Rickshaw bags and now I don’t make any money. I just get bags which is …
Corbett: Still, you could see the potential. Some of those videos get watched more than anything else that you make.
Chase: Yeah, more than anything else that that company has ever made.
Chase: Do you know what I mean? Online.
Corbett: That’s not necessarily something that you would have to bring 10 years of experience to because you are the consumer. You’re not the manufacturing of them. There are topics like that that are either new or that for some reason don’t have a lot of experts in or require you to gain that expertise. They’re like hobbies. They’re geek topics. They’re things you geek out on. They’re like Pokemon. They’re Dungeons and Dragons. They’re Lord of the Rings.
Barrett: They’re TV shows.
Chase: They’re TV shows. There are actors and actresses. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there are still massive fans of that show that talk on forums.
Corbett: Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answer Man, he started out with a podcast that reviewed a TV show. He talked about it every week.
Corbett: That’s how we got his start and it became really huge. The point there is that you have to, like you said, geek out on a specific topic and become the expert on that topic and then people will follow you. The issue is that what most people end up doing is they look inside themselves of what they want from their life and then they decide to make that the center of what they create which is either I want to change my life, I want to quit my business, I want to become an entrepreneur and so they start blogs about those things and they just become yet another me too voice.
Chase: If there’s one thing that I would see as a definite trend and something to watch for yourself, dear listener, is exactly that thing. Yes, you want to start a business. That doesn’t mean you need to start a blog about starting a business. You want to design your lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you need to start a lifestyle design blog. The thing that I’m always pumped about is when I hear someone who’s just like, “I’ve been into this thing for a while. I’ve been a Dungeon Master in my hometown for the last 10 years.” Like Steph’s husband. He’s a Dungeon Master. “I’m really good at it. People are always asking me for stuff about it so I started a little blog and it’s starting to gain some traction so I’m like what could I do with this?” That’s not expertise. That is that expertise. I love that.
Corbett: Another quick example here while we’re on it. A friend of mine in Seattle, he has this company called Hairball Audio. He was a typical garage musician and he did that for a long time, played in bands and stuff. At some point, he realized he was just a crappy musician, but he was pretty good at the audio stuff and figuring out the gear and he helped his friends and stuff work through this or whatever and eventually he started taking equipment apart and he went on to start selling DIY kits to create a compression component that fits in with your stack and it’s a huge business now. He quit his day job. He’s got three employees.
Chase: Some sort of compressor that’s on your …
Corbett: It’s like a kit with all the components not assembled together and you put it together.
Barrett: That’s so cool.
Corbett: It’s so cool.
Barrett: There are so many audio files and people who would be so into it.
Corbett: Again, that came from a hobby. It came from geeking out on something. It came from just trying to scratch your own itch.
3. There are amazing businesses being made out there about unique topics. So easy to get jaded being in this business. (23:50) 95% of new sites are about passion or personal development or lifestyle design or something. But also there is so much more than a pyramid scheme here.
Barrett: Totally. It’s funny. Y’all went down the same thought process that I did which was that my next point here was that it’s so easy to get jaded being in this business where you start to feel like 90, 95, 99% of new sites are about finding your passion or personal development or blogging about blogging just like we were just talking about. That was my next one here, point number three. The flip side to that is we got this amazing opportunity to see so much more than that at Fizzle. Coming into a business like this or into a company like this, coming to work for you guys, it’s easy to think, “It’s going to be nothing but blogging about blogging or whatever.” So many of our customers or so many examples like the ones we’ve been talking about are so much more than that. They picked a topic that has nothing to do with personal development or nothing to do with building an online business. It was special to me. It was important to me to see that because that makes it real. It makes this business much more real to me when you see that it’s not just this pyramid scheme thing. We’re teaching real people to take what they know and what they love and turn it into revenue that supports their family. All those examples mean so much to me walking away from this thing.
Chase: Some of that came up from the 25 up and coming entrepreneurs last year. A lot of it’s come from the examples that we’ve shared on the podcast, even just this year. We talked about Adam with his coloring and posters for Advent and Easter and things like that. We talked about the woman who makes the dog beds that use human pillows.
Corbett: Cozy Cama. All of those examples are just so fun because you never would have thought of that business idea. It’s a lot of stuff that you would maybe see on something like Shark Tank, but these people are out there doing it on their own, finding a market on their own. They’re not going hat and hand to some investors selling their soul away. You can do it.
Barrett: One of my favorite ones was Courtney Sperlazza who was a scientist for a long time, has a PhD, and then they moved for her husband’s job. She homeschools her children. She was trying to find ways to teach her kids science through experiments and she couldn’t find any good experiment kits because she lived in a small town and then she had to run around all over the place to get the materials she needs. She goes to hardware stores, to Michael’s, and all over the town. She figured out, “If I’m having this problem, other homeschool moms are probably having this problem too and they’d like to help their kids do experiments and it’d be nice if this stuff just showed up,” and so she created a subscription box for science experiments for kids. It took off so much that she had to slow it down. She had to be like, “Okay, I can’t take any more new customers basically.”
Chase: I love that.
Barrett: I just love those kinds of stories. They’re so cool to me.
Chase: Yeah, that’s so cool. That’s awesome. It’s easy to get jaded in this business. What makes you jaded when you’re in this business? I’m trying to think through.
Corbett: One of the things that definitely can make you jaded over time is just this constant onslaught of new entrepreneurs, because we see a lot of them, who give you the same song and dance every time. I really want to do this thing. I’m really serious. I’m dedicated. I’ve been working on this idea, blah, blah, blah, and 90% of the time they never go anywhere. Life gets in the way or whatever, but it’s really easy to want something but it’s very hard to actually go through all the effort it takes to achieve it. People are giving up partly because we’re educating them on all the things that actually needs to happen for them to do it, but it can definitely jade you. I always try to be courteous to people when they come in and they’re excited about their idea and I try to give them a little bit of that back, but at the same time you can’t invest your heart and soul into every one of these business ideas on behalf of someone else anymore because you did a few times and then you saw somebody just fade and end up going away and never coming back again.
Barrett: You can see it happening. If you’re not seeing people hit small milestones along the way and they keep coming back with the same thing for too many cycles, you just know. It’s like, “I can see the wheels falling off here.” It’s so much easier for us to see it from this removed vantage point than it is for the entrepreneurs going through it. It’s so hard for them.
Chase: The thing that my video is that I … It’s out now. It’s happening now. It’s all at the same time. I’m living in two places at once. It’s about this idea of when we think we’re … I think this is systemic. A lot of us do this. We think we’re further along than we really are. We think we’re more advanced or more developed than we really are so it makes it really hard for us to actually go and take advice or actually go and … For instance, we can see where Gary Vaynerchuk is right now, but we don’t necessarily see the long path of him figuring out how to be himself, what the market wants, what’s valuable, what people want and all that stuff. When I get started, I need to start at that level. That’s where I need to start from. We don’t go and look like where is Gary V. five years or where was he when he started and then I’ll start there. That is such … I got to mention this. If you’ve your expert or a person that you’re like, “I would love to have a business like this,” you research, you find the original stuff that they published and you just focus on that. Where were they then?
You’ll probably see it’s not that great. You’ll probably see there’s some heart and soul in it. The only thing that matters is that they kept doing it. There was a little bit of traction that they kept doing it. I think that idea of not thinking you’re further along than you are, got the spice in the day of humble beginnings, do you know what I mean, and just caring enough to stick your neck out about this thing, that’s what makes you successful. You cared enough to stick your neck out. If you keep doing that, who knows how long until you’re doing stuff at whatever caliber, whatever taste that you wanted to. I think a lot of people are really bad at that, do you know what I mean? When someone’s saying, “This is what you should do,” you’re like, “Yeah, I know.”
Corbett: It’s hard to say, “Okay, I’ll spend five years doing that. I’ll be humble enough to say that’s where I need to start.”
Chase: Or even just like, “Okay, okay, okay.” My trick on this that I talk about in the video is for me personally, I want to get a little more involved politically. I want to be more active. I don’t know how. I don’t know what way, but I’m getting turned on about this. My little trick is this construct, the sentence that says, “It’s not like I’m going to be blank, but I can at least blank.” It’s not like I’m going to be Martin Luther King, but I can at least host a documentary night with some of my friends. Do you know what I mean? It’s not like I’m going to be …
Corbett: I thought you were going to say stand up for what you believe in.
Chase: No, but just a simple thing that that’s thinking small. It’s not like I’m going to be Gandhi, but I can at least … Insert the name of … I can at least make fliers and put them around the neighborhood. I can at least host a little rally thing. I can at least I don’t know what. I’m thinking small and I’m thinking local and I’m thinking tiny then I’m like, “Yeah, because I’m not trying to be Corbett Barr or Pat Flynn or Elizabeth Gilbert. I just care about this sort of thing and here’s a little way that I can contribute and building up from there.
Corbett: Like Mike.
Chase: No, that is different. Bo does know.
Barrett: It’s so hard not to think that that’s just where you skip straight to. It’s hard to imagine Barrack Obama knocking on doors in Chicago community organizing. You hear community organizing, it’s like this big thing. No. He went door to door and told people to come to a thing where they could get educated so that they can go vote. That’s not sexy. That’s community organizing? I don’t want to go knock on doors. That’s weird.
Chase: The only reason you do that is because you’re turned on enough by the thing. You’re not turned on by knocking on doors. You’re just turned on and like, “I want more people to know about this candidate or this idea.”
4. All of the marketing hype in the world cannot fix a broken product. (37:48)
Barrett: My 5th one here was that all of the marketing hype in the world cannot fix a broken product. I think we’ve seen a lot of businesses where the problem is not in the marketing tactics. It’s not in the blog or the podcast that somebody is running. It’s in whatever it is they’re selling. They’re not actually selling a product or a service that solves a problem for their people, their customers and that’s as much a lesson about what marketing is and isn’t as it is about the product, I think. Marketing can be a great accelerator of a thing that’s already working, but it’s not going to fix an underlying problem in a product that doesn’t actually do what it says it does. I think if there’s a lesson there for me is that you have to start with a product that does the job. That doesn’t mean it has to be flashiest. We talk a lot about minimum viable products, but that minimum viable version of it has to work still. It still has to do the thing it says it does.
I don’t know if it was Mark Suster or Paul Graham. One of them wrote an article about how sometimes we’ve taken minimum viable product too far where you actually aren’t doing the thing you’re doing with the product. Your product has to do that thing. Only then, only once your product actually does the thing, should marketing actually start to work for you and that will really get the wheels turning. That’s been an interesting one to me to see that promotion, attention, praise, those things don’t make a business. A core product that actually serves the audience makes the business.
Chase: There are so many consequences to that lesson. You can have all the stars aligning and then you got the testimonials, you got the investors, things are going and it’s like, “Damn, this is going big,” and overnight a storm comes in and someone’s assets get freezed up and you’re just like, “You know what, actually I have to get rid of this whole company now because apparently nobody wants to invest in me anymore and now I can’t even staff the place.”
Corbett: I think that’s a separate issue. Maybe you built a house of cards. It’s not necessarily that your product isn’t good. It’s that you didn’t give your product a chance to breathe with …
Chase: Yeah, going too fast. In some ways, you need the investment to go too fast, but I think you’re right. We should make a distinction between … because what you’re talking about, Barrett, is a little more like, “I have this product that is okay. I need to learn how to do copywriting. I need to know how to make sales pages. I need to learn how to do Google Ad Words or something like that.” I would normally say, “Yes. I’ll give you three months to do whatever you can on that, make changes, A/B test, do the stuff, then come back,” because one of the next big pieces of growth for you to try out is improving the product, to what you were saying about the MVP, if the product isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. That’s why I think the real skill of being an entrepreneur is only one thing and it’s just knowing who your audience is. It’s knowing what they care about, what they need, what the problem actually is. A good indie entrepreneur to me is someone who is already thinking of … They’re not thinking, “I need to make a product so I can make money.” They’re thinking, “People really need help with this thing in particular. I wonder if I can make something for that.”
Barrett: A great example of that that I love from our audience is Claire Pelletreau who we’ve talked about a number of times on the show and maybe people are tired of hearing about her, but she’s a great example because she started by doing Facebook ads for other people and then she realized she could get more leverage by creating a product to teach other people how to do their own Facebook ads. That solved the problem for some people. Some people were motivated enough and savvy enough with technology to be able to manage them themselves. What she started to realize was that what most people actually need and want is a person to do it for them, that they can work in conjunction with, not an information product. Claire realized, “I don’t have enough time to serve all the people that want me to do this for them and I don’t really enjoy it that much.”
She kept working on this problem and realized that, “Well, if I just train some people to become Facebook ad consultants, they could go serve all the people that want the service and then I make money off the people learning to be ad consultants. I help them create a business opportunity for themselves. All those clients who come to me, now I can point to people I’ve trained, that I trust and send them to them.” That’s become a great business for her. I just love that she really … One way to look at that is, “I’m just going to sell more. I’m going to convince more people that the solution is this information product.” She still sells it. It’s great. She knew that the real solution for most people was having a human to work with and she had that problem and solved that one too. I just love that.
Corbett: The way I like to look at this is I think of this as a continuum. There is product quality and the need that a product fills and then there’s marketing and marketing effectiveness. All businesses are on some sort of scale. At one end of the scale is let’s say a cure for cancer. You don’t need marketing for that because word is going to get out and spread like wildfire. On the other end of that spectrum is Trump University. All sales and marketing and no quality and you end up with a massive lawsuit on your hands because you defrauded people out of their money. The question is, which end of that spectrum do you want to be on and the closer you are to the other hand where your product is desperately needed, the less marketing that you have to do. The more you feel like you have to really rely on marketing probably you have some sort of a product quality issue or there’s a lot of competition. There are other factors that compound it. Marketing is really a multiplier of the quality of your product. If the quality of your product is zero, you can’t multiply it by anything.
Barrett: I’m a reader, not a mather so please don’t do the multiply thing.
Chase: These are really good, Barrett. These are awesome.
Barrett: I can probably come out with more, but I think those are the biggest ones that I could think of as themes that we saw across time. I think if people stuck to … If you address money for what it is, you need money to come into your business, figure out how much and then just know that that’s a thing.
Chase: That’s a journey to renegotiate how you feel and think about money is like a … That takes time. I don’t know what guru is out there doing that. Dave Ramsey is teaching how to save some money, but I’m talking about someone who can make me see the world as just money is not a moral at all. It doesn’t have a good. It doesn’t have a bad. There’s not too much there’s not too little. It is nothing, but you use it like you would use colors in the paint. I want to think about money that way so I can play with it and even as it’s also important to sustenance in some ways.
Barrett: Money is a thing. Second one is the more you can invest in building your own expertise, I think the better it’s going to make your business over time, related to the topic of your business. The third one is there are amazing businesses being built out there that are not blogs about blogs and are not personal development blogs. There are amazing people building businesses of all stripes. If you look hard enough, you can find a mentor or a role model for your business based on those. The fourth one, all the marketing hype in the world cannot fix a horrible product. Eventually the house of cards will come tumbling down. Fifth, I think a mission can be really powerful. A mission or a purpose or connecting to the sense of meaning or why behind why you’re doing what you’re doing in your business. It’s just a really, really powerful thing.
5. Entrepreneurs with a mission are so much more potent than entrepreneurs just trying to make a buck. (31:50)
Barrett: That one came for me. That was my last one so I’ll come back to my 4th one, but my 5th one, you asked me for five, the 5th one was entrepreneurs with a mission are so much more potent than entrepreneurs who are just trying to make a buck. Back to the whole idea of, “I just want to make some money,” versus having a mission, having a problem that you are trying to solve can be so powerful because you come in instead of just, “I’m passionate about this, therefore that must be my business.” If you search for problems and make it your mission to solve a problem for people, a real problem, a real felt need, I think it can really change the way you approach things. It can change your business. It can change the future of the business and how successful it can be when you focus on a thing that needs solving. Getting activated around a cause, a political cause for example, you see a problem. You see things wrong in the political system that would make you want to contribute in some way.
Chase: I see injustice. I see indignity. I’m just like this shouldn’t be like that.
Barrett: Sometimes government has to solve things. Sometimes business has to. Sometimes nonprofits have to. There are plenty of problems that are marketable and that you can solve in a business way. I think if you come in with a mission to solve a problem, it can really, really change things from coming in with a me, me, me approach.
Corbett: You see this in big organizations all the time. The ones where all the employees seem to be flailing and not enjoying their jobs, they’re the ones that are just clearly profit driven and there’s nothing behind it. There’s no core philosophy behind the company. They have no guiding star. There’s no north star for them to know whether or not they’re doing the right thing. All they’re trying to do is try a bunch of shit and see which ones make money.
Chase: Melissa and I, we just got a new car. We just got a new car. We’re selling our other one and got a new one.
Corbett: You learn something every day.
Chase: Man, being in the car dealership, it’s brand new and we got a great deal on the whole thing, but it’s like dude these guys, whoa doggy. I’ve been a sales guy a couple times in my life and I know a lot about salesmanship because of my dad, because of Andy who is one of my close friends and just because of business. First of all, you got an organization like Toyota that’s so large, there are so many people along the way from that car being designed to when you drive it off the lot, just so many people involved to the point where at the very end it’s a sales guy going, “Let me talk to my manager about this for you.” We’re doing the dance and all that stuff and they barely work for Toyota at this point. They’re just barely there. The manager, he’s just got units to sell. I’m just looking around going, “Dude, it’s that damn movie.” The leads are bad. Why can’t I think of the name of the movie?
Corbett: Glengarry Glen Ross.
Chase: That movie is the most heart wrenching movie for me personally. It’s really bad. Bob and David did that whatever Mr. Show thing on Netflix. They did a little skit about salesman and it’s so dead on and horrible and dark and all of the things. Anyways, all I have to say, so much … For some reason, that was always really painful for me, really traumatic, the idea of not liking my job felt like such a prison that I couldn’t even cope which is why I turned into a little ballerina and trying to find fairy dust around every nick and corner.
Barrett: Which to me means you went searching for a mission you could believe in.
Chase: In some ways. Part of it is a feeling though. Part of it’s just a feeling of worth because I’ve resonated with the same thing, that mission thing. It’s night and day. When you talk to someone … It’s so rare, so rare that you talk to someone who’s like, “This just needs to change,” either they’re activist about that or they’re like, “I’m just really into Minecraft and making videos and I teach kids how to make Minecraft videos.” Whatever it is. They just see something almost, I don’t like using the word spiritual, but almost spiritual, almost more holistic than just …
Corbett: Maybe it doesn’t have to necessarily be like a mission. It just has to be some deep seated care for what you’re worried about.
Chase: Something that feels important. Do you know what I mean?
Barrett: It’s just like connecting to the meaning of it maybe. It doesn’t need to be a societal shift because of your business, but if you know why you’re doing what you’re doing basically, at the end of the day, the whole Simon Sinek thing, I think is pretty powerful. If you can connect to the purpose, the why, the …
Corbett: Just to put some meat on maybe why that is, one theory I think is that if you have two people who come to the table to Fizzle or somewhere else, who don’t have experience but want to be entrepreneurs, you have one who has some clear passion, they believe something needs to change in the world, and then you have another one who just needs to make money because they hate their job. When the going gets though, the question is, what’s going to keep you pushing through all the dips and hurdles and speed bumps and things that you’re going to hit along the way? It is possible that someone cares so much about the craft of entrepreneurship, that that could motivate them, we’ve seen that before.
Chase: Or care so much about not being poor or not being like dad or whatever.
Corbett: That can be enough, but more often than not, what we see is that somebody who just feels like they need to makes some money, they can live with the pain of their job and their life and whatnot and there’s nothing pulling them forward that’s like a deeper thing, the purpose or the care or whatever it is. In a lot of cases, if it’s just that you’re geeking out about something like bags or whatever, you’re going to do that whether or not you’re trying to make money from it. You’re continually making progress even though you don’t feel like you’re working on your business because you’re getting smarter and smarter about the thing that you sell.
Barrett: Yeah, 100%.
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