HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Tips on how to launch a business while working a job with Tommy Griffith

  • ClickMinded was not my first idea to launch a business. It was probably idea number 15 but I ended up working on it on the side, while I was working at these big companies. A few years in, it ended up eclipsing my salary and then two years ago, I just decided to go full-time on it.
  • Being miserable and in debt is like the single greatest force in human nature, right? It was so motivating for me.
  • I think “The 4-Hour Workweek” was the start of the tsunami, that butterfly flapping its wings that got a lot of people going.
  • They say like, okay, markets are really important. I'd rather have a mediocre product and a mediocre team in a great market than a great product and a great team in a mediocre market. And I get that from the venture capitalist perspective but I actually very much disagree with this in terms of small business and side projects and sort of small-time entrepreneurship.
  • What's work for other people should feel like play to you.
  • I actually gave myself too much time to plan. And what ended up happening was I set my expectations so high for how it was going to go that it ended up being miserable. I highly recommend leaning more towards the side of pulling the trigger to launch a business than giving yourself too much time to plan.
  • They're very cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in a purgatory where you're trying to make it perfect and it never launches, right? So I'm always leaning towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.
  • You can launch a bunch. Airbnb launched “three times.”
  • Right now, there are more than 50 universities in the United States that offer a Master's Degree in Digital Marketing. These degrees are garbage.
  • I still think today if you have an idea and you're kind of thinking about different side projects, meetup.com is one of the most underrated channels for new users because it's the single fastest way to bootstrap an email list.
  • And so, I highly recommend, even though it doesn't scale and it takes way more work, I actually highly recommend starting offline because you also end up face to face with your users and you figure out what their problems are.
  • The big mistake a lot of people make is they say, okay, think about how great this is going to be in my life when I get this business going. And the reality is, the first couple years, you're mostly in the business of getting your ass kicked, right?
  • They want their problems solved and that's sort of the impetus for where you need to be starting from, you know what I mean?
  • But what ended up happening was this. I started offline and I ended up learning a lot. And actually, the first way I got started was with meetup.com
  • I really do like the idea of starting really quick, starting offline and then pivoting it to an online version.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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Doug: Well, welcome back listeners, to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today in the studio, is Tommy Griffith. Now Tommy has been in the SEO business and doing SEO search engine optimization for more than 10 years. He was previously the manager of SEO at both PayPal and Airbnb and now runs his own company called ClickMinded, a digital marketing training platform for marketers and entrepreneurs. Tommy started ClickMinded as a side project while working full-time at Airbnb. He grew it until it started generating more revenue than his annual salary. Two years ago, he quit Airbnb to go full-time and work on it, ran into a number of problems in trying to figure out how to grow the business from there. I think you're really going to enjoy this conversation of grassroots and there are some incredible marketing tips that will help you to build, launch, and test a product or project or training before you go live. So I'd like to welcome Tommy to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today. Well hey, Tommy, super excited to have you on the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, Doug, thanks so much for having me on the show. I really appreciate it.

Doug: I think it's going to be an interesting show. I looked at your background, your bio, have to say that your website is very impressive. I like the way you've set it up. It's fairly marketing focused. It looks like you're interested in generating business which is, I'm sure, what you do for your clients as well.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, our site design has been an interesting combination of both we're trying to be helpful from a digital marketing perspective and we really love being clowns and using GIFs and things like that. My friends, they checked out the site to make fun of me and they're like, are you serious? There's a GIF of a little girl eating cereal and crying. How is this serious? Who takes your business seriously? But we try and straddle that line between teaching digital marketing and having fun with it, you know?

Doug: Well, I'll have to look for that one. As I mentioned to you before, I'm really impressed with the flaming, the guy whose hair flames on and the lightning bolts come up as he's screaming on the sideline.

Tommy Griffith: Ah, the Mexican soccer coach Super Saiyan GIF. Yeah, that's a classic.

Doug: So do you want to walk us back, just a little bit of history on your background. I mean you came from a number of various, successful, well-known brands and you decided, hey, at some point in your life that this isn't the way I want to continue and I want to go off and kind of do my own thing. So what did that look like for you when you were still working at Airbnb and PayPal and those companies where you started to have these thoughts?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so backing up to the beginning, I guess, my story started by reading that book by Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek. Are you familiar with that book?

Doug: Yeah, that wrecked me.

Tommy Griffith: It wrecked you. Really? How so.

Doug: I disseminated all my local staff and all my staff were remote.

Tommy Griffith: There you go. Yeah, it's so fascinating talking to entrepreneurs about what kind of impact that book had. That's like the, what that saying, the butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world causes a tsunami somewhere else. That book really did cause a lot of tsunamis. So for the uninitiated or anyone who hasn't read it, this book by Tim Ferriss called The 4-Hour Workweek, I think it was written in 2007 or 2008, maybe. And I'd say, it might be fairly out of date now but the general premise about is still really good. It was kind of the catalyst for a lot of people to build remote businesses, hire remote staff, travel while you work kind of stuff, and I graduated right at the height of the recession in the U.S. The banks were crashing. I had a finance degree. Couldn't find a job. Didn't know what I wanted to do and I was reading this book in a hammock and one of the recommendations in it, it said, create an informational product. If you have a particular set of knowledge that other people might not have, it's a little bit harder to copy that than if you create a physical product and you outsource it to another company, it's just easier to copy those things.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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Tommy Griffith: So I had this weird experience in university. I don't know if these are as popular in Canada but in university, I started a fraternity with some friends of mine. Do you have those in Canada? I don't know if you went to school in Canada but.

Doug: I did go to school but I did not go to college so I can't answer that. I don't know.

Tommy Griffith: Oh, okay, okay. So it's this just really obnoxious social group and we ended up starting a fraternity and it kind of started as a joke and by the time I graduated, there were 100 people in it and so reading The 4-Hour Workweek, got interested in internet marketing, and I used Google's ad words, keyword planner, and it turns out that 1,500 people a month were searching for how to start a fraternity and so I wrote this very dorky 60 page e-book on how to start a fraternity and said, okay, how do I get this to the top of Google? How do I get this ranking number one for how to start a fraternity? I started selling the book for $10. Nobody bought it. I dropped the price to $5. Nobody bought it. And then I increased the price to $47 and 250 ended up buying it.

Doug: I love that.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so that was kind of my first step into internet marketing. I got really excited about it and then I ended up starting a business with a friend of mine shortly after this that failed miserably. I was 23 years old. I was in this situation where my parents paid for university. I was very blessed and I graduated from college with no debt. And I ended up putting myself into debt trying to start this business. So a friend of mine and I, we were overseas, we were in Taiwan and we decided to start a medical tourism facilitation company which is super random. But the basic idea was, we got interested in SEO and the idea was, this was sort of taking off at the time but people that couldn't afford certain surgeries in the U.S., they were looking overseas for certain medical care. And we found that Taiwan, for whatever reason, was really, really good with knee and hip replacement surgery. And so these procedures in the U.S., we were focusing on 45 to 65-year-old Americans in the U.S. that were doing these knee and hip replacement surgeries. They were 40 to $60,000 and in Taiwan, they were about $10,000.

Tommy Griffith: And so, we borrowed money from family and friends. We tried to learn internet marketing and do all this stuff and it just failed miserably. We worked on it for about a year. I put myself in all this debt and we just had to shut it all down. And I came home, tail between my legs, knocking on the door, you know, hey mom, hey dad, remember me? Is there room on the couch kind of thing, you know? But I guess the upside was, I learned internet marketing. I spent the year learning SEO and paid to advertise. And it was kind of right place, right time. PayPal was hiring an SEO manager. I ended up moving out to getting the job pretty quickly and moving out to California for it. And it was just this weird situation. I was out of money in Taiwan on the couch absolutely miserable, trying to get this business to work. I kind of waved the white flag and gave up and a month later, I was 24 years old and managing SEO at one of the biggest websites in the world which is kind of this weird experience and that was the next phase of my life.

Tommy Griffith: I spent two years managing search engine optimization at PayPal and then four years managing search engine optimization at Airbnb and on the side during that time, I started my current business now which is ClickMinded. I was trying a lot of different ideas, trying to pay off this debt I had incurred for myself at the original startup idea. And ClickMinded was not the first idea. It was probably idea number 15 but I ended up working on it on the side, been working on it the entire time while I'm working at these big companies. A few years in, it ended up eclipsing my salary and then two years ago, I just decided to go full-time on it.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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Doug: That's amazing. I mean, there are so many people that don't pull the trigger and good for you, also, for having the patience to build the side hustle. I kind of took the opposite approach after being in the workplace for a little while. I thought, you know, I'm going to start a company, do a little a bit of research and then when the opportunity was there, I just resigned and off I went and freaked out my family, freaked out my in-laws. How can you do that? How can you leave this good job? How can you do this? Like I don't like that. Yeah but it pays well and it has a [inaudible 00:08:08]. And it's like, so what? I don't like the people I work with.

Tommy Griffith: Interesting. So how much of a running start did you have when you pulled the trigger?

Doug: Not much.

Tommy Griffith: Really?

Doug: Yeah. Like seriously, not much at all. I just said you know what? I was done well. I was making good money at the job but I was the point where I was engaged to get married and whatnot, I'm out of here. I'm just quitting this job that I went to school and did for a totally different thing. And just launched a business from basically some pretty limited resources and some pretty limited experience.

Tommy Griffith: Wow, you're braver than me. And-

Doug: Some might say stupid but that's up for interpretation.

Tommy Griffith: You're brave. Beauty's in the eye of the beholder.

Doug: Thank you, thank you.

Tommy Griffith: And you were engaged too, wow, wow. That's pretty wild.

Doug: Yeah, well, that's the way it is. People make a lot of excuses, I find, for not moving forward with their goals, whatever they are, whether it's their business goals or their health goals and it's, oh, I don't have enough money. Well, when's the situation ever going to be perfect in your life to take that step? At least in my experience, there's never a perfect time. There's always something that's distracting you or in your way.

Tommy Griffith: For sure. Yeah, that's a really good point, Doug. My friends that are having kids now all say that. When, apparently, I don't have kids but apparently whenever you decide to have kids, it's like you're never ready sort of thing. Or the other analogy I heard was, it's like trying to plan a cross-country road trip and waiting for all the lights to be green before you even start, right? It's just kind of ridiculous.

Doug: That's a great example, yeah.

Tommy Griffith: It's interesting too because for me and I found this, this was all in hindsight, I wasn't smart enough to realize this at the time, but being miserable and in debt is like the single greatest force in human nature, right? It was so motivating for me, especially because I caused the problem for myself. I wasn't in bad circumstances or had a bad family or the system wasn't chewing me up. I made the decision to start a business. I failed and lost a bunch of money. I was in debt and I had to get out of it. And that was a huge motivator for me and it's really interesting because I had a number of friends along the way in building this side project. Once it started to get a little escape velocity and start to take off a bit, I had friends that would say, oh, that's so cool. I'm going to do that too. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. But the more comfortable they were, the less likely they were to take the leap, right? The better your job is, the better the money is, the happier you are with your friends, the less likely you are to jump, right? And so I found that being miserable and in debt was actually the biggest sort of motivator I had to pull the trigger.

Doug: And good for you. I volunteered with a program that was put on by one of our colleges called the Self-Employment Program and it was really designed as a government-assisted program to help people transition into starting their own business so there was a requirement for people to apply. It was a stringent process. They had to write a business plan and I was in the local advisory committee so I'd read these three to five business plans every five weeks and there was a bunch of us that did that and we had to decide who got approved and who didn't. What was interesting was the absent flows of the number of applicants and the better the economy was, the least amount of applicants we had. As soon as the economy sucked, the worst economy got the more people that lost their jobs decided to start a business and I couldn't figure out why wouldn't you want to start a business in a booming economy. But people waited until they were forced out and they really had no other choice and so they were launching businesses in the worst economy possible.

Tommy Griffith: Interesting. That's fascinating.

Doug: Yeah, so like you said, you're comfortable so you don't need to jump.

Tommy Griffith: Right, yeah, that's really interesting. I never thought of it that way. That's such an interesting data point.

Doug: So how did you take what you learned in the 4-Hour Workweek? Obviously, it's not a guaranteed success book but there are some principles there, I think, that you mentioned that you can apply. So how did you take those principles and apply them to your business?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so I would actually say, I mean there's been a number of sort of teachers and mentors and blog posts and people I follow on Twitter that has been more helpful along the way. I think the 4-Hour Workweek was the start of the tsunami, that butterfly flapping its wings that got a lot of people going. But some of the big ones for me, I found it really interesting. This whole idea around your own personal interests in the project, right? Like I mentioned before, ClickMinded now, we're now in year eight. It's very healthy, six-figure business. I actually recently wrote a blog post posting all the revenue numbers and all that if you want to check it out. But we have a small team of five. We've expanded to eight different courses where we're being used with Fortune 500 companies now which has been great. But it all started in-person SEO courses. And in-person SEO training in San Francisco, I had to rent out a coworking space on Saturday mornings with just two or three people. And would physically teach in person, kind of 9-5, all you can SEO. I would just bring in entrepreneurs and marketers and we would nerd out on their website and try to figure out how to get them more traffic, right?

Tommy Griffith: But this was like I mentioned before, this was idea number 15. And I was trying a number of different side projects to try and pay off this debt I had caused for myself. And there was this funny example of one where, okay, I had this one idea for an iPhone app development lead generation site. So the idea was like, okay, it's 2011. I was in San Francisco and iOS development was really taking off. Everyone wanted to learn Xcode and create their own iOS apps for the iPhone. If you were a company that didn't have an iOS app, you were lame and you wanted one, right? So there was this huge thirst for finding iOS developers to create apps. And the idea was, okay, I'm going to get this site ranking for terms like iPhone app development companies and iPhone app development costs and iPhone app developers and things like that. And basically sell the leads, right? Like, sell the leads to agencies or consultants that do this stuff. And I got the site live and ranking and generating traffic and generating leads and everything was working.

Tommy Griffith: And I just hated it. I hated the business, right? I wasn't motivated by it at all. And I would wake up on Saturday mornings and I couldn't get out of bed to work on it. I wasn't motivated by it at all. And it's really interesting. In Silicon Valley now, there's this trope going around, some venture capitalist or angel investor or something, I think it's Mark Andreasen or someone that's similar. There's this saying going around markets. They say like, okay, markets are really important. I'd rather have a mediocre product and a mediocre team in a great market than a great product and a great team in a mediocre market. And I get that from the venture capitalist perspective but I actually very much disagree with this in terms of small business and side projects and sort of small-time entrepreneurship.

Tommy Griffith: And the reason why is this. Whatever your milestone is whether it's your first $1,000 or first $10,000 or first $100,000 or first 100 users, whatever it is. You are the engine that has to drag this thing across the finish line, right? You're the one that has to do all the work and your own personal interests in this thing is far in a way the most important thing, right? And so, I found that that was a huge problem for me when I was working on stuff that I didn't like. It was a good opportunity. It started to generate revenue but I hated it and so it wouldn't move forward. I was one of these guys who I loved computer games as a kid and SEO became my computer game. I loved watching rankings go up on the dashboard. I loved watching traffic and I also loved teaching. I really enjoyed teaching. I taught at a graduate school in San Francisco and so when I was teaching SEO, it just felt like play to me. It just felt like a lot of fun to me. It didn't feel like work.

Tommy Griffith: And the original business was actually a terrible business. I was teaching in person on Saturday mornings. The economics made very little sense because I would do a revenue share with the coworking space. I would print out physical materials. I would buy the students lunch and it really wasn't generating that much revenue but I ended up being just at the right place, right time with this kind of online course renaissance that we're in now. And I ended up turning my offline course into an online course and it ended up really taking off. But the broader point there was, I wasn't as focused on the numbers and was more focused on what I really enjoyed doing and that took me 15 ideas to get to but once I got to it, it ended up being way easier in terms of my own personal interests in it. I'd wake up at 5 A.M. on Saturday morning, jumping out of bed and super excited to work on it and the rest took care of itself.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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Doug: Well, it's interesting because I have heard a number of different people basically say the same thing around finding what you're passionate about, working your passion, and focus on developing an excellent product or service and deliver it well and don't worry about the money. Yet, when people are thinking about starting a business, often they're thinking about, hey, how much money can I make? I can do this. I can 10x my revenue. I can have the Ferrari like that guy on the Instagram account. And really none of that's true. I mean, there is the odd unicorn story but there are even fewer than companies that last like your company that's been in business for more than five years. The numbers used to be 74% of new businesses fail within the first two years.

Tommy Griffith: Are you saying there aren't any Lambos for me on the other side of that Instagram post? Is that what's going on Doug?

Doug: Well, no, I'm saying that there could be but if you start with that as a motivation, I mean, that motivation very quickly goes away. As you said, you're excited to get up in the morning and that was my advice to my kids. I have three kids and as they were trying to make criticisms, I said, find something that wakes you up 30 minutes before your alarm rings and do that and hopefully, someone will pay you.

Tommy Griffith: Ooh, I love that. I might have to steal that one from you. I'm going to have to tweet that one out and steal that one from you.

Doug: No problem and my kids said, well, aren't you disappointed that I don't want to do what you're doing? I said, no, I don't want you to do what I do. You have different gifts and talents than I do. Focus on what gets you excited and go do that. I don't really care what it is as long as it's legal. And if it's not legal, don't tell me and don't visit me. I don't want to be a part of that. So yeah, I mean, you're coming back saying, hey, find something you're passionate about. And the other thing I heard you say was, it doesn't seem like work because you're having fun.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, there's this guy. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Naval Ravikant. He's this like very prolific venture capitalist guy who's become more of a Buddha in the tech world. Talks about a lot of philosophy and things like that. But he has a saying where he says, what's work to other people should feel like play to you. And his point is that over a long enough time horizon, if you're working 8, 12, 16 hours a day and if two different people are working on the same project 8 or 12 or 16 hours a day and for one of them, it's work, and for the other one, it's played, the person who it's played for is going to win every time over the long term. And that's sort of the natural advantage.

Tommy Griffith: The world is so extreme now. The world is becoming so extreme on both sides of the spectrum that you have to continue to be really, really good at what you do. Not only that, there are so many opportunities to be really good at it. Unfortunately, it's getting less and less room to be mediocre and the only way to not be mediocre is to love what you're doing. I know it's cliché and it's kind of a Hallmarky sort of moment but it ended up working out for me.

Doug: But you know, if you don't have that interest and that passion, then it becomes work, especially when you're creating content so if you're trying to copy somebody else's content, if you're trying to be like a Garyvee in marketing and you're interested in marketing, you're going to fail because it's going to look and sound fake. You're not going to be interested. You're not going to read and hang around with those people and go to those types of event that's going to give you energy and ideas.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly. That's exactly right. I totally agree.

Doug: So if you could think back to when you were first getting started, what was the pivotal moment that you made decide, okay, now's the time?

Tommy Griffith: You know, it's interesting because I really messed this up. I was at a point where and a lot of people come at this from a lot of different angles. The classic situation is I'm at my job. I don't like it. I want to create something for myself and go do it myself. And I want to leave this job as soon as possible. And they kind of do this Excel sheet formula math like okay, what are my monthly expenses? What's my salary? What's my side project making and where's the breaking point? Where can I reasonably leave? For me, I was in this very weird situation where I liked my job. I was at Airbnb at this pretty wild time. The first week I joined Airbnb, we were subpoenaed by the state in New York for our data and the last week I was there, I worked on a Super Bowl ad and Beyonce was staying in an Airbnb, right? None of my friends had heard of it when I joined and everyone had heard of it when I left. It was like 100 something employees when I joined and 2000 something employees when I left so it was just a wild time be there. And it was literally rated the best company to work for in the U.S. while I was there by someone, on Glassdoor or something.

Tommy Griffith: But I enjoyed it, right? And I had other stuff going on. I had my friends in San Francisco and I was dating someone so I was in this weird situation where my side project ended up eclipsing my salary but I didn't end up leaving until a few years after. I just didn't feel accomplished at work yet. I wasn't quite ready but also, the wounds from the old company were pretty fresh. I knew how bad it could go. And so, what ended up happening which is kind of interesting was, I finally started to get ready to go and I ended up planning way too long for my exit. I was starting to get a little sick of the city of San Francisco. I liked my job but I was over the city and I started to plan this great escape. I wanted to become a digital nomad. I wanted to be the guy on the other end of those Instagram posts where all those beautiful people in Bali are drinking from coconuts and things like that, right?

Tommy Griffith: And I was sort of planning it out and I actually gave myself too much time to plan. And what ended up happening was I set my expectations so high for how it was going to go that it ended up being miserable. So I did four years at Airbnb and I ended up leaving. Packed up all my stuff in San Francisco, but my whole life into a backpack and I went to go travel. I filmed the next version of the course. We were just an SEO course at the time and we filmed content for seven new courses and I arrived in Bali. I had just paid for all this new content, put it on an external hard drive and I'm like, okay, I made it. I'm a digital nomad. I'm traveling. I'm going to work on my business. This is the greatest thing of all time. And I got there and it was miserable. I was robbed by the police on my first day.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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Doug: Welcome to town.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, right? I got food poisoning and started throwing up immediately. All the footage we filmed, it's raining really hard and the warehouse that we had rented and so all of the audio was shot. I paid $15,000 for all this new footage and I thought it was all completely unusable. And so I'm sitting in Bali in the middle of Indonesia. It's sort of pouring raining. I'd just been robbed by the police. I was throwing up from food poisoning. I'm holding this external hard drive with $15,000 worth of garbage footage that I couldn't use and just looking at the sky thinking about the unlimited breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Airbnb and the bean bag chairs and the MacBooks and I'm just like what am I doing? Why am I here, right?

Doug: That's funny.

Tommy Griffith: And so it ended up, I'm being a drama queen and it wasn't that bad in hindsight. I ended up fixing a lot of the problems but the big problem I think I made was, I set my expectations way too high for how it was going to go and I gave myself way too much time to plan. So if you have people listening that are thinking about this, I highly recommend leaning more towards the side of pulling the trigger than giving yourself too much time to plan.

Doug: And I think it's good advice for a lot of things as well as even your marketing material. So many people, and I used to fall into this trap all the time, are so worried about it being perfect that it sits on their desk for days, weeks, or worst, years, and never gets out so yes, just launch and fix it.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, for sure. People would be absolutely shocked at some of the stuff, even at Airbnb that we had pushed out or other massive companies like Facebook as well. Big companies that move really quick will push out stuff with a lot of bugs and errors into it because they're very cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in a purgatory where you're trying to make it perfect and it never launches, right? So always leaning towards pulling the trigger, especially if you're new.

I used to teach at a university and taught an Internet marketing class and every student had to create a new site from scratch. And the number of students that would come up to me being like, I want to publish this but I'm not ready yet because this last paragraph needs fixing. And I'd be like, dude, no one is going to your website. Publish this now. You have no traffic. If someone emails you and says there's a spelling mistake, that is a great problem to have. It means at least one person is looking at your site but I promise you, the whole point of this exercise is to show you that nobody cares about you and no one is coming to your website. That is the entire point.

Doug: Yeah, you're not going to be featured by on TechCrunch today so you're not going to crash your servers. You're going to be perfectly fine.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly, exactly.

Doug: So I guess the other way to look at it as someone had mentioned it to me once before, I didn't [inaudible 00:26:18] fail fast.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, yep, for sure.

Doug: That's your point. Get it out there. Get the feedback and especially in the website business. A lot of marketing people go, hey, well, when is it going to be perfect? It's like it's not. We need to launch and the launch is not the end. The launch is the beginning and now we learn where the weak points are and we can start working on stuff and making it work.

Tommy Griffith: For sure and the other thing that people often forget as well, the Airbnb founders were always hilarious about this, about [inaudible 00:26:43]. You can launch a bunch. Airbnb launched a quote on quote, three times. They would launch and no one would notice. And then they would just go back into the cave and launch again and then no one would notice and then they would just launch again and then eventually someone noticed, right? Launching doesn't mean anything. If no one hears about it or sees you, just launch again later on, right?

Doug: Yeah, turn up the volume, yeah. I mean, people do that all the time as authors writing books. They relaunch a book. They will rewrite enough of it that they can relaunch a new version. I've heard a number of people do that on podcasts trying to get attention. They do a relaunch as well. So you're right. That's good advice. I had not thought about that in a while.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. It's just a made-up thing. Launch as much as you can. Who cares?

Doug: So in terms of your plan moving forward, I mean, obviously, you said your business is growing and you're head down and you're not working, you're enjoying what you're doing. What do you see for yourself from the horizon in the next 6 to 12 months?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so now, we focus on training up marketers and entrepreneurs on digital marketing. We train up teams on digital marketing. We're [inaudible 00:27:52] a lot of the corporate education problem now. At a small and medium-sized business education problem now. We love what we do. We create a lot of templates and checklists and cheat sheets and worksheets for consultants and agencies that have clients and they turn our products around and use them on their own clients. We're having a lot of fun doing that.

I think the big sort of hairy problem we're looking at next that I don't know how to solve is university-style education and entry-level education. Right now, there are more than 50 universities in the United States that offer a Master's Degree in Digital Marketing. These degrees are garbage. They're pointless. They cost 40 to $100,000 a year. Nobody in the internet marketing space would ever reasonably look at them and credibly look at them. They're taught by universities that are completely unfit to be teaching this stuff.

Tommy Griffith: Internet marketers are always interesting. They always have interesting stories in how they learn. Most people are self-taught or their boss asked them to do it at work and they fall into it in kind of a weird way. But universities are capitalizing on this. They're manipulating young kids in their early 20s to get a Master's Degree in Social Media and it's completely pointless. And these kids would be much better off instead of taking out a $50,000 loan, they'd be much better off taking some time off and watching free YouTube tutorials. They'd be much better off.

Doug: Or go get a job as an intern at a company.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, plenty of ways, exactly. Starting your own site. There's a lot of different ways to do it. So I think it's gross what these higher secondary institutions are doing. It's morally gross. It's economically gross. They're bankrupting an entire generation of people. It makes me angry. It's also a massive business opportunity for anyone that wants to go after these guys. Our secondary education problems in the U.S. are probably much more profound than they are in Canada and in a lot of other countries but it's a huge problem. And people are bankrupting their future to do it and they're getting tricked. And so, I don't know yet how we're going to solve it.

I've tried three different times with three different ideas to solve it and every one has failed but we're getting a little bit closer now with ClickMinded. And there are other startups trying to do this now as well. Lambda School's my favorite one. They're basically an engineering trade school. They came [inaudible 00:30:09]. The basic idea is you go to Lambda School, you get free education and you don't pay until you get a job, right? And then they take a small portion of your salary for a couple of years which is really cool.

Tommy Griffith: So there's a bunch of sort of ideas that are trying to tackle this problem. I don't know how we're going to do it but it's just, again, one of these things where it makes me mad in the middle of the night. It gets me up in the morning and I'm just sort of following that, for now, I'm not really sure where it's going to go.

Doug: Well then, I think that's your road. You got to fix that. I haven't been as agitated around the economic side as I have the lack of real-life experience often the instructors have. And so to that point, I've said, hey, you can tell a lot about somebody by looking at their shoes. I saw that in the Forrest Gump movie and I listened to people get up and talk about, hey, how to be successful entrepreneur internet marketing or SEO or email marketing and I'm thinking, you know, that's a great presentation and the information's great but you're not living it. It's not real information. And the reality is, I've got nothing against public transit but I mean, you took public transit here. You're not making six figures so quit telling people to follow your road because you don't have the experience.

Tommy Griffith: So true. I think the funniest example and you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their shoes is a great metaphor for this. The funniest example with the universities, they print out physical textbooks to teach internet marketing. I can't even keep my blog post updated.

Doug: How current is that?

Tommy Griffith: Like what are these guys doing? It's such a scam. It's so obviously a scam. It's just gross. And so, yeah, those shoes are not dirty enough for me to trust these guys. That's a really good way to think about that.

Doug: Well, maybe that's a new business opportunity. We can have real on-demand printing for the university so what happened is all the latest, newest information, AI would put it together and in the morning, the textbook would be reprinted and on your desk with what's current today and not something that was current five years ago.

Tommy Griffith: There you go. There you go.

Doug: So what advice would you give listeners that are sitting back going, okay, so I've got some areas that I'm passionate about. I've got some areas that I have some knowledge about. Now, I'm not sure how to formulate this and put that into a course until I get my first digital product. What's the first thing that they should consider doing?

Tommy Griffith: You mean in terms of jumping into a side project or creating an online course or kind of either?

Doug: Well, creating an online course or creating a digital product whether it's a side hustle or whether it's going to be a full-time thing. I've heard a number of speakers say, hey, take your knowledge you've got and created a digital product and launch that. And then that sounds really good, then it comes down to putting pen to paper. What's the first step they need to take to make that happen?

Tommy Griffith: Right, right, yeah. Really question, Doug. So my advice here is very counterintuitive. I went about, and this is kind of the story of my life, I went about this so slowly. And I went about it not because I was smart but this is just how it ended up happening and it ended up working out for me. So I started out offline and it wasn't because I was intentionally doing it. It was more because the online course sort of space in 2011, 2012 wasn't as big and wasn't as intuitive. But what ended up happening was this. I started offline and I ended up learning a lot. And actually, the first way I got started was with Meetup. I still think today if you have an idea and you're kind of thinking about different side projects, meetup.com is one of the most underrated channels for new users because it's the single fastest way to bootstrap an email list.

Tommy Griffith: So even today, meetup.com, I think it's $15 a month to set up a Meetup group as an organizer. And what I ended up doing was I ended up setting up the San Francisco SEO Meetup and it was $15. Meetup immediately emails everyone on meetup.com in that area that's interested in that subject and they end up sending an invite to your group. So for $15 within two or three days, I had my first 100 users.

Doug: Okay, let's stop there for a second. So for $15 so it's affordable, you had your first 100 users.

Tommy Griffith: Yes, within two or three days.

Doug: That's amazing.

Tommy Griffith: Pretty nuts, right? And so I ended up hosting one happy hour. I picked a bar in San Francisco on a Thursday night. I called them up ahead of time and said, hey, can I … 20 or 30 people, is that cool? A bunch of people came. I think, maybe, I held one more happy hour. The Meetup list grew to 150 or 200 or something like that. And then I suddenly had 150 something people in San Francisco that were interested in SEO. They were members of the San Francisco SEO Meetup. I ended up using them as the first class that I ended up teaching. Now one thing to keep in mind if you do this, the flake rates on Meetups are very high. Everyone joins Meetups and then they don't show up, right? So my one suggestion is to do what I did which is you have an event. You put a price tag on it and then you offer free tickets to it. So you don't say, I'm hosting a free SEO course. You say I'm hosting an SEO course. It's $500 per user but I have 20 free tickets. Email me if you want one. That will move your attendance rate up from about 30% to about 70%. Can be really helpful there.

Tommy Griffith: I kind of taught that course to those individual users, made the product way better and way better and way better, and then ended up turning it into my actual offline business and then ended up putting it online. So this is the really roundabout way of saying that by starting offline, I ended up improving the product way more than I initially could have. All the people I was competing with, I started on Udemy, an online course market place and then when I looked at some of these courses, it was all guys in their basement talking into their laptops over PowerPoint slides and talking into their Excel docs and when I was offline, you see right away. When you start online, you don't get feedback until someone gives you a one-star review, right? But when you start offline, you see it in people's faces, right? You use an analogy to teach or you lay a joke somewhere and you see, oh, that didn't work or that really worked or that was great, I'm going to do more of that.

Tommy Griffith: And so, by the time I created my online course, it was like I had already done it 15 times offline and so the V1 of my online product was kind of like fifth-generation already. And so, I highly recommend, even though it doesn't scale and it takes way more work, I actually highly recommend starting offline because you also end up face to face with your users and you figure out what their problems are. You figure out what their actual issues are. Internet marketers hate leaving their basement. They'd be much happier sending 10,000 emails than they would be getting on the phone or going out into the real world. And so, if you go out into the real world, there's this natural moat where 99% of people aren't willing to do that.

Tommy Griffith: And so, I ended up going out into the real world first. Hanging out with my actual customers and then turning that all into an online product and from there, it ended up taking off.

Doug: That's really cool. I mean, what I didn't hear you say was I wrote a business plan, I built a website, I set up all my social media, and I'm not saying those things don't come after but I launched my first business in the U.S. I had ran it for a year with no website and no business card. It's just my phone number.

Tommy Griffith: I love that.

Doug: Just because I wanted to see if it was possible because I hear people saying, oh, I have to have the website or I have to revise my website and [inaudible 00:37:31] no, you need sales. You don't need to revise your website. What you need to do is sell some stuff.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly. I love this Doug because I have so many friends like this too. Have you ever heard of the term wantrepreneur or wantrepreneurship?

Doug: Yeah.

Tommy Griffith: This is all the resistance. The logo, the business cards, whether or not you're incorporated, where you're incorporated, yeah, even the site in some cases. I could have easily launched this product just on Udemy with no site. Our logo, I generated in two minutes in 2012 and it has not changed. I don't have business cards. I was not an official company until the first year. All that stuff, yeah. None of that was … all of that is the resistance. It's the sexy stuff that everyone wants to do but it's not the actual work.

Doug: And you can do those things after. I mean, you start thinking, well, this thing's going to be really big and really huge and [inaudible 00:38:23] be set up in an offshore corporation. And then you realize, it takes a 100 grand to set up an offshore corporation. So go make a few million dollars first. And then if that's what you really want to do is go live as an expat someplace else with an offshore corporation, then set it up. But don't start there because people might not like what you're selling. So I love your idea so if you're working in a job and you want to have a side hustle, it'd take you, what, 10 minutes, 15 minutes to set up a Meetup group if you're not computer illiterate.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, a Meetup group would take, yeah, about 20 minutes, $15, and then from there, you could really figure out who your customers are and what their problems are.

Doug: That's super cool. And what I haven't heard you say at all during our conversation was you haven't spent a lot of time talking about growing your business in terms of a sales dollar amount. So you're more interested in helping people and by helping people and serving people and teaching people, obviously, you're compensated which is meeting your needs.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, that's another really interesting point, especially people that are sort of just starting this sort of journey. The big mistake a lot of people make is they say, okay, think about how great this is going to be in my life when I get this business going. And the reality is, the first couple years, you're mostly in the business of getting your ass kicked, right? You have to be-

Doug: And trying to keep your nose above water.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, for sure. I'm basically an expert at getting punched in the face over and over and over again. That's kind of the first-

Doug: And getting up.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah and getting up. And getting up. But you're in the business of solving other people's problems and you need to be mostly focused on that and then as you continue to solve people's problems, you eventually get to these points where you can take a little bit off the table, but I just see so many people where the whole business is in the context of how it's going to improve their lives and it's just like, I really don't like your odds here because your customers don't care about your life and how great it is. They want their problems solved and that's sort of the impetus for where you need to be starting from, you know what I mean?

Doug: Absolutely. And I remember looking back at my school annual, I said, hey, I would never get married and never have kids and I'd be a millionaire by the time I was 20. So I wasn't a millionaire by the time I was 20 but I am married. I have three kids. I have three grandkids. But I remember the first time I realized that the company had been making a bunch of money. I'd been working away. I had hired a few staff. And I didn't normally open up all the financial papers. I had a girl in the office that did that. And I opened up the bank statement and I looked and I realized that on my U.S. account, I had a million dollars cash. I went holy crap. We're making lots of money. But it wasn't a goal so I wasn't monitoring it every day and it was kind of an aha moment. It's like, okay, I guess I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to be talking to people and making hay but not looking at the dollar. Then it's like, okay, now we need to do something because that's a really bad place to leave your money sitting in the bank. But that was the end result so I don't know how long it had taken us to get there but one day I opened it up, went, ah, there's a decimal place. I like that, where it is.

Tommy Griffith: Right but you were focusing on your users and the rest just kind of fell into place. That's pretty interesting.

Doug: Yeah. I think that's what makes people successful. And I think that you guys that are super successful, the guys that are working hard that deserve the customers and to be different and deliver excellent service like you're talking about. So in your space, in terms of online training, let's take the universities out of this question. What other bad advice do you hear about people that are in the online space in terms of online training and teaching?

Tommy Griffith: In terms of digital marketing or just teaching like online courses in general or?

Doug: Just online courses in general.

Tommy Griffith: Interesting. Bad advice on it. So I mean, there's a lot of different online course sort of angles you could take. There's internal training, there's external training, right? I really do like the idea of starting really quick, starting offline and then pivoting it to an online version. One bad piece of advice is people go for a really, really, really high production value as a V1, as a first version and I just don't think that's necessary. I think that you can do the just your laptop in a quiet room sort of online course as a V1 but even before that, I still highly recommend getting offline because it just puts you in an entirely new mode and attitude of solving your own user's questions. So just a lot of people, they want to go super high production value first version of the course without having ever talked to any of their customers.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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Doug: Yup. That's a good point.

Tommy Griffith: Right. The reality is that if you go offline first and then you make a fairly crappy V1 but it's solving the user's problems, it's just a really fast way to both solve user's problems and have a good starting point to improve from there.

Doug: Good advice. I've just been working through a course myself and the decision was to not launch online as a course but was to do an online launch and do it live. And have someone monitor and get the feedback and have the discussion so make it more of an interactive training because people are in different places around the world, we can't come together but do it online before it's [inaudible 00:43:27] we have a chance to get, as you said, some feedback and hey, I like that, I don't like that, I don't understand this, no, that's not funny, this makes sense, and then you can go to V2 and then maybe find some people to buy it.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, I really like that.

Doug: So a couple of questions for you. Who's one guest you think I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Tommy Griffith: Interesting.

Doug: Somebody that's at least as good as you.

Tommy Griffith: Plenty of people that are much better than me. I would recommend you talk to Dan Andrews from The Tropical MBA. I don't know if you know that podcast but its kind of like an Internet entrepreneurial remote business podcast. They also run entrepreneurship called Dynamite Circle. Dan Andrews, he's definitely a mentor of mine and very big in the Internet business space.

Doug: And where's the best place for people to connect with you?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, you can find us at clickminded.com.

Doug: Excellent and I have been through the website and I've had a chance to look at Tommy's social media as well so all the links are there on his website. So, listeners, I'd encourage you to head over there. I went over and I did sign up because I typically do this to see what the response is like with the various guests. I'm happy to see how he's got his business set up and structured so head over there if you're looking for some training and you want to connect with him on a deeper level. So I just want to say thanks so much for taking time today to share your journey and just be real straight with us and how it worked, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, Doug, thanks so much for having me on the show. I really appreciate it.

Doug: So thanks for tuning in, listeners, I hope you enjoyed this episode. Don't be shy to send us a note or to make sure to reach out to Tommy and tell him, hey, I love your episode. We'll make sure that the show notes are set up and this episode is transcribed. They'll make sure all the links to Tommy and his website are there for you to access once this episode is live so thanks for tuning in and we look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

[just click to tweet]

HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS WHILE WORKING A JOB

Be cognizant of the fact that you can get stuck in purgatory. I lean towards pulling the trigger to launch a business, especially if you're new.

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