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[Podcast] How Pat Flynn Turned a Pink Slip into a Serve-First Business

By The Leadpages Team  |  Published Mar 06, 2019  |  Updated Oct 06, 2023
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Our inaugural episode of The Lead Generation Podcast is here!
The Lead Generation features conversations with today’s entrepreneurs willing to tell the truth about what it takes to be your own boss and why they wouldn’t have it any other way.

In this episode, we’re bringing to you the growth story of long-time Leadpages member, partner, and advisor Pat Flynn.

Pat is the founder of Smart Passive Income, a prolific podcaster, and internet marketing thought leader. This year, he adds Inventor and Live Event Host to his credentials.

In this episode, Pat shares the entrepreneurial journey he’s been on since he was fired from his promising day job, and the frustrations and lessons he’s learned along the way. He also shares a behind the scenes look at the launch of his new tripod for vloggers, the work going into putting together his first live event, and what he thinks about attempting to achieve work/life balance.

A slightly edited transcript is below these show notes.

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Top Takeaways

If you’re short on time, here are a few golden nuggets from our conversation and the resources mentioned.

  1. Serve first. Based on your own expertise, create content that truly serves people by solving the problems they are currently facing. Turn your best solution ideas into products and services that drive revenue.
  2. You’ll encounter frustrations and setbacks as an entrepreneur. But you can lessen the severity of these by seeking feedback from key people in your life earlier, and asking talented people for help in areas that you’re not an expert.
  3. Don’t wait until some time in the future to start an email list. Start right away, even if you don’t quite know where your business is truly headed.
  4. Instead of trying to attain an impossible work/life balance, create your business in such a way that can bring your family closer together so their involvement can be higher and their understanding of what you’re up to can be sincere.
  5. When thinking through your next business venture, pretend that you’re in front of the investors on Shark Tank and imagine the kinds of questions they would ask of your business idea.
  6. The product you currently (or will soon) offer is the start of a relationship, not the end.

Resources Mentioned

Continue the Conversation

After enjoying this episode, what are your top takeaways from Pat?

And what's one lesson you learned in this episode that you'll take action on over the next week?

Get to Know Pat Flynn

Bob: Pat, it is great to have you on this episode of The Lead Generation, thanks so much.

Pat: Absolutely, it's an honor to be here, I'm excited.

Bob: And you were on our former podcast, ConversionCast a couple of times, I'm sure people would enjoy going back into the archives for those too.

Pat: A lot has changed. I tend to do a lot of things in a short period of time so I'm sure it would be fun for me to listen and hear how things were going back then too, because definitely adding a lot more iron to the fire, that's for sure.

Bob: Indeed. And I think that's one of the cool things we're gonna talk about today is that you do have new irons in the fire. You've got a great origin story of how you got into marketing in the first place that I would like to touch on but when you think about your core business, how are the lives of your customers transformed by what you're doing?

"All good businesses serve other people."

Pat: Yeah, that's what drives me every single day. And luckily every single day I do get emails and I do collect even hand-written notes from people who have said that I've been able to help affect their lives in one way or another. And in general it's mainly helping them realize that A) they have superpowers that they might not even know about that they can use to then serve others to create a business around. Because all good businesses serve other people. And when you find that market and when you hone in on who those people are, what their pains and problems are, if you can be there for support, if you can create solutions, if you can provide accountability perhaps. There's 101 ways to make money but it all stems down to helping people. So I help people help more people and in turn, that helps my business too. So that's really what it's all about.

Bob: Fantastic. So again I want to talk about your newest venture that you're getting ready to do but before that let's talk back at the beginning. Sometimes, since I've known you for a long time it's easy to take for granted that maybe some people listening don't know who Pat is. I'm sure there's plenty of those people in the world, right?

Pat: I hope so, because I want to reach everybody and I know I'm not done yet. So if you don't know who I am, I hope to inspire you and Bob I think you were going to go into where this all started?

Bob: Yeah, where did you get started? Because I know that you are a little bit more of an accidental entrepreneur than what other people would be?

Designing a Business by Accident

Pat: I was definitely an accidental entrepreneur, I was somebody who actually enjoyed my nine to five job, although it was more like a nine to nine job. I was an architect and that was my world and I wanted to be a world famous architect when I was older and have my own firm and all those kinds of things. But that dream got taken away from me in 2008 when I was laid off, much like many other people, especially in this industry that I was in. And it was impossible to find a new job and right around the same time I had gotten into podcasts and actually that's when I had heard about podcast and listened to podcasts and I was like, wow, free audio content, this is amazing, what's here?

"I had just gotten laid off and here I was making two and a half times more money in a month than I was in a month of architecture."

And I found a show called internet business mastery and on one of those episodes, it was hosted by two guys, Jason and Jeremy, they interviewed a guy named Cornelius who had built a six figure business teaching people how to pass the PM exam or the project management exam. And that was my big first light bulb moment that made me consider whether or not maybe I could create my own business because I had taken a number of different exams on my way to becoming an architect.

I wasn't officially a licensed architect yet, but I had taken several exams and I knew a lot about them and I was actually helping people study for them, so I took a lot of that information knew about one particular very difficult exam called the LEED exam. That's mainly about sustainable buildings and environmentally friendly designs, and those kinds of things.

I patched that, put that all onto a website, started participating in forums and becoming known as quite quickly actually the guy who knew information about this exam and people just started to talk about me and ask me questions and I started to be seen as an expert, I did have a website.

And then I started to put more content on there and then eventually later that year I published an ebook, just an ebook with a compilation of all the tips and study guides and charts and everything that I created. And I sold it for $19.95 and in that month, the first month I launched I made $7809.55 and it just blew me away. Because I had just gotten laid off and here I was making two and a half times more money in a month than I was in a month of architecture. Not only that I was getting incredible feedback from what I was doing. People were responding and sending me emails and I was even getting handwritten letters from people who said thank you so much for helping me pass this exam, I got promoted because of it, I got a raise because of it. Thank you so much, I'm a big fan of yours and I'm like, what? I just helped you pass an exam, how are you a fan of me, this doesn't make sense.

But I started to make sense of all this over time and realized that because I was directly affecting somebody's life in that moment where they needed help, people reciprocate. And that's what I took into my new business venture after that which was Smart Passive Income where it wasn't even really built to become anything more than just a resource for people who didn't know that his world of online business existed and then over time, because I was sharing everything including how much money I was making, the marketing things I was doing on my architecture website. New businesses I was creating and revealing my strategies for starting those. Some were wins, some were failures.

But I just started to become known as the transparent entrepreneur who was teaching people how to build businesses. And I started to get asked to do interviews and I started getting featured in articles and all that kind of stuff and over a year and a half's time it became this thing that started driving thousands of people to SmartPassiveIncome.com.

"I'm so thankful I got laid off because I promise you it wouldn't have happened if I wasn't let go and then saw what else was out there for me."

Then I started a YouTube channel, started a podcast. The podcast took off, that's now over 55 million downloads since 2010 and it's just blowing my mind. I wrote a wall street journal bestseller, I'm speaking around the world, I'm putting my own first live event on this year. I didn't know this would happen, I didn't expect it to happen and looking back I'm so thankful I got laid off because I promise you it wouldn't have happened if I wasn't let go and then saw what else was out there for me.

Bob: That's fantastic because you're right, you had the opportunity to be sort of in the doldrums and kicking and screaming and you took it in your hands and made something while also not knowing the future.

Pat: Right, true. And by the way I did go through mild depression after I got laid off because I didn't know what to do. I was kicking and screaming a little bit but then I realized after a few weeks that that was not going to help me get back on me feet, I needed to do something and thankfully I heard about these inspirational stories of online entrepreneurs and there was really a very low barrier to entry other than you just gotta get started and that's what I did. I just got started and things started to happen from there.

Bob: Awesome. And we're very thankful for that. When you look back at the growth, you had a pretty good trajectory, some up some down along the way. What would you say was a big frustration or obstacle that you ran into because I think every entrepreneur runs into something along the way that they have to figure out how to adapt.

Turning Frustrations into Fuel

Pat: Do we have a whole entire day to talk about this? Because I have a whole entire day's worth of content that is like the negatives and the down spirals and the bad things that happen from new business ventures that completely failed because I rushed into it, like a software company that I tried to build and the lessons I learned there was I was just chasing the money. A couple of my friends created some software and some WordPress plugins and I was like, ooh, I can do that.

I have this audience now and I can build something and sell it easy. So I hired a developer, rushed into it, didn't really even understand didn't really even understand what I wanted, I just knew what I wanted it to do and there was way too much back and forth because the developer wasn't clear on what I wanted and no surprise because I wasn't even clear on what I wanted.

So we wasted a ton of money, more time. And the saddest part about that story is after I finally had something that I was happy with I shared it with some friends and colleagues and they were like, meh. And I was like, "What are you talking about, this is amazing!" And they were like, "This isn't that amazing, Pat. I wish you told me about his earlier because I would have just told you that this wouldn't have worked." Or a lot of my friends had better ideas, like "Ooh, that's kind of cool but what if it did this?"

And I was like, "I don't have money to do those things anymore." I should have spoken to people about this beforehand. Which definitely inspired my book, "Will it Fly?" Which is about how to take these ideas you have and actually micro task them and validate them before you spend all that time and money on something. So that's one big downtime that was a $15,000 lesson.

"I realized over time that there's a ton of benefit and much more upside by sharing ideas earlier so that you can collect feedback, understand what's going on, get the right help, connect with the right people."

Another time was actually when I had gotten a notice from the United States Green Building Council, this is related to my architecture website and it was a cease and desist letter. And they were like, you've gotta shut down in 14 days or else we'll take legal action against you. And I was so scared. This was just a year and a half after I started that site. And I had no idea what was going on, I just started to freak out and I just was like what am I doing here? This is not for me, I'm way in over my head, I should go back to architecture which is what I went to school for. Like all the little things in my head that were telling me "This is it, this is over."

Hired a lawyer, they basically said that because I was using a trademark in my domain name that that was the problem and I was just too frazzled to read and understand that that was it. And that wasn't too bad, so we changed the domain name to GreenExamAcademy.com from IntheLeed.com and did a 301 redirect so we kept all the Google keyword rankings and such and we were okay. But it was a big lesson for me to realize that I don't know everything and also how important it is that although in the beginning when you are starting out you are wearing all the hats, there are people out there who know how to wear those hats much better. And you can hire them, you can understand and talk to people, because I tried to do everything on my own. I think that's a big part of this. Very similar to the software thing. I wanted to do everything just by myself and then reveal everything and I realized over time that there's a ton of benefit and much more upside by sharing it earlier so that you can collect feedback, understand what's going on, get the right help, connect with the right people.

So that these kinds of things don't happen, and that's something that's very important to me now which is why I have a couple of mastermind groups. We meet weekly and we hold each other accountable, we're very honest about our projects and we collect positive and negative and brutal feedback sometimes from our friends and colleagues who we trust and that's so important in the journey that we've been on. So those are a couple of moments that were not so bright.

Pick the Right Ladder to Climb

Bob: Yeah, and it's great to learn from those and I'm glad that you started to ask for help, and I'm also glad you published "Will it Fly?" Because I think that does help a lot of people figure out is their idea something that they can really run with but most importantly I think they get a sense from that book that they should be running this past other people and not just keeping it insular as things created in a vacuum tend to really not go very well.

Pat: Totally, totally. And the other part of "Will It Fly" that's really important is the sort of internal testing of the idea that you have. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who are successful on paper, and they have employees and they have seven figure earnings, but they're unhappy, and they're unfulfilled. And it's because they said "yes" to the first opportunity because there was money there, and they climbed up the wrong ladder.

"Understand before you climb: is this actually the right ladder to climb?"

It's really sad when you're up so high on a ladder and you realize you're on the wrong ladder. Now the tough part about that is when you look down it's scary so you hold on tighter to that thing versus what you need to do is understand before you climb: is this actually the right ladder to climb? And so knowing internally for yourself, is this in your life plan? Would a business like this that you were thinking of creating actually fit into something that will give you joy? Or is it something that even if it were to be successful would actually be something that you wouldn't be happy with?

So great to know and understand that now so that you can remove that from your brain and insert things that would actually fit your criteria for a fulfilled life. And so a major part of that book is that too, and that's another thing that I've been working with a lot of students about is not just what they should do but why they should do those things.

Bob: The mindset and the real drive has to be there, right? Because persistence doesn't fuel itself. You've got to have that inner thing. As you look back to your days as a burgeoning entrepreneur, now that you are a decade plus in to what you've been doing.

Pat: Yeah, I'm old.

Bob: I was just on a call that's like, "I'm 13 years into doing digital marketing, that's pretty crazy. My business can almost vote." I was thinking, what kind of advice would you share with yourself? And I know you're a huge, huge Back to the Future fan, and you get up to 88 miles per hour and you get back to 2008, what kind of advice would you give yourself?

Advice from a DeLorean

Pat: Number one, don't worry about what other people are thinking about you, that was something that was on my mind daily and it ruined my high school life because I was just so worried about fitting and being the cool kid so that's number one, that's not even business related, but it's life related.

Number two, I would tell myself, hey, when you start a business, please start an email list because I actually didn't do that with both Green Exam Academy or Smart Passive Income until much later and I missed out because email, even though social media is here and all that stuff and that's a quick way to connect with people, email is still by and large the best way to connect with people.

And it's a list of people that you can control who you know are interested in what you're doing versus at any moment Facebook, Instagram, or whatever our followings could go away overnight, so that's really scary. So build an email list and you'll be much better off. So that's number two.

Number three is realize that you can't do anything on your own. Tying back to what I said earlier but also that some of these people who could do the same things that you can can potentially do them better and faster and where do you want to spend your time? Do you want to spend your time actually editing a podcast for eight hours, or would you much rather save that eight hours, spend a little bit of money to have somebody else do that faster and better and then use those eight hours to build relationships or get creative with a new idea or spend more time with your family or whatever.

So realizing how much value there is in my time is something that I've learned over time and that's why I now have a team and I'm really careful with being efficient and those sorts of things.

The Work/Life Balance Myth

Bob: I was going to ask you about biggest misconceptions about entrepreneurship but I think you've just nailed it with those three points. So what I'd love to next know is your work life balance, you've got a really cool family. You've got a lot of irons in the fire as you've mentioned. How do you balance all those things out?

Pat: I think the first thing is to realize that there is no such thing as 100% perfect balance. If you think of a scale and it being balanced to the left side or the right side, it's actually only perfectly balanced in that one moment in the middle where everything is equal on both sides. And if you try to build your life to that, you're always going to seem like you're not there, because guess what it's almost impossible to be there all the time.

So what I build for is not perfect balance, what I build for is let's just make sure it doesn't teeter too far to one side or the other and that things can balance out if it does. Meaning that if I know that I have a big launch coming up then number one, communication with those who are around you is important.

"I want work to be something that actually brings me and my kids together and the family together."

So I let my wife know and my kids know that hey, there is a course launch coming up in a couple of weeks, I'm going to be pretty heavy on just hands on with the business and the team during that week prior, so I'm just going to be in my office or at the studio the whole time, so just be aware of that, but on the other end don't worry if we're gonna take a trip to Disneyland on the other end of that. So there's always a yin and yang or a plus and minus kind of thing.

The other part of this is a lot of people worry about especially when you have kids, how do you balance that out? And actually my strategy is to take the opposite approach of how I grew up with in related to work. Work to me when I was a kid was something that took my parents away from me. I want work to be something that actually brings me and my kids together and the family together.

So actually my kids are pretty involved in the business. They're not in the financials or anything like that but they are in the office and they're podcasting and they're filming and those kinds of things. And for a while they were just doing that for fun but it showed them the kinds of things I did too. And so when the door is locked and I am recording a podcast, my kids know exactly what that means and they know to stay away from the door because their voices would get recorded on the microphone. So just putting them into that world and getting them to have fun with it.

And now that my son's nine we've allowed him to have a YouTube channel, and now he's publishing his own videos, actually. It took one day to teach him how to edit a video, now he's recorded and edited and filmed and exported and published on YouTube about 10 or 12 videos on his own and it's really cool to see him do that. And then he's coming to me and asking me, "Dad, how do I work on this thumbnail, what do you think would be better? What do you think of these tags, are they the right..." He's now asking technical questions about the things that I'm also thinking about too so it's cool that he's a part of the process now.

At my event, FlynnCon, they're gonna be on stage, my kids and my wife. My wife's going to come on stage to talk about what it's like to be the wife of an entrepreneur and how to deal with that because it's a different kind of lifestyle. So we're trying to get the family involved. That way we're all in it together and it actually is not something that is separate but it is actually integrated.

Bob: I love it. And it is cool that they are getting to that age where they can do those things and be part of it and bring you some time together. I think that's wonderful.

Pat: Thank you.

Being Add-Venturous

Bob: I'd like to dig in now to 2 new ventures you're doing, so a lot of people know you from Smart Passive income, they might have taken a look at a few other things that you've dealt with in the past, food truck things and all kinds of really fun adventures but you have a new product and so I'd love to hear, you've got a pretty good gig going. But you still want something new. A, what's that like? You've got two things, you've got a conference, you've got a physical product. So I'd like to see where you want to take it, but what is it about your drive that says I want to add this new thing in, because I know there's a lot of people listening right now that they've already gone past the starting stages. They're already past the initial success and they've got that itch.

When is it appropriate or when is it exciting for you to say, yeah, new thing, let's go do it?

Pat: Well for me it stems from a number of things. Number one, I just have an innate curiosity for how things work. Number two, I think when I see a problem that a lot of people are having, it makes me want to solve it. And then number three, I know that when I try something new there's gonna be huge lessons that will be applicable to other parts of my businesses and my life. So it's actually not just a completely side random thing, but it is integrated in lessons learned and also sometimes integrated in a product line in service to its particular audience. But this new product that you're hinting at which I'll share –I'm going to take you back to 2017 at a conference called VidSummit, and this is a conference for video creators. And my partner, my videographer and I, we were standing there in the hallways looking at all the people, roaming around filming themselves like bloggers do.

And they were all carrying this giant tripod called a Gorilla Pod, it has these bendy legs. And it's funny because that device was not created for vlogging but vloggers have gotten a hold of that and have twisted it in a way to allow them to film on the go like that. And it's convenient because then you can undo the legs and set it down. But I have one of those and I hate it. And speaking with many other people there, they don't like them either. But it's just the only thing that exists that can help them film in the way that they want to.

So Caleb and I were sitting there, like there's gotta be a better way.

"This took 15 months of trying things out, experimentation, going to events, sharing prototypes, getting feedback, actually talking to people, building an interest list and all this stuff."

So we ended up brainstorming a number of options, we got connected with an entrepreneur who helps entrepreneurs build physical products. And we came up with a design solution for this problem which is a tripod that allows you to hold it in sort of vlogger mode, so like a selfie stick but better looking and to the right angle and just far enough distance away to give you the right camera angle.

But then with just a flick of a wrist or with one single motion, the legs undo and turn into the tripod. So it's called a Switchpod, so it switches really easily from tripod mode to vlogger mode, because with those flexible legs, we asked and surveyed a bunch of people. Like 99% of people don't use the flexible legs for what they advertise those legs for, which is like wrapping around tree branches and poles to film. Nobody does that.

So we were like, okay well we don't need to be flexible, we just need it to be sturdy and we need it to be long lasting. We need it to serve its purpose. We want to help creators remove that friction in their creation. So let's build something. And we went through probably 12 different design iterations. This took 15 months of trying things out, experimentation, going to events, sharing prototypes, getting feedback, actually talking to people, building an interest list and all this stuff. And actually by the time you're listening to this it will have just launched on Kickstarter.

We're in 2019 now, 15 months later and you can see what the final product looks like and the branding that we've put behind it and what we're doing to try and market it.

SwitchPod by Pat Flynn and Caleb Wojcik

The SwitchPod from Pat Flynn and Caleb Wojcik

We are launching SwitchPod on Kickstarter because physical products I've learned are a much different beast than digital products. There are a lot more costs involved. Not just from shipping but like with this particular product because it's made of an aluminum alloy, we need molds made. Once the molds are made then essentially you just pour the aluminum in there and then you can die cast these things out.

But those molds are like $15,000 per part. And so we need to raise capital to be able to do that. But Kickstarter also allows us to really understand although we validated this in person, we do have influencers who are backing it, we get to see if people are going to vote for their dollars and that will give us the green light to keep going if we do get funded or the red light to stop and reassess and decide whether or not we want to keep pushing or not.

But it's been hugely fun and it's been hugely educational to go into a completely new thing, like a physical product and just learn how all that works. And I think the other fun thing about this is I look around my office now and I'm looking at all the things that are here and I'm like, wow I know exactly what somebody went through to go and make that happen, and it makes me appreciate actually the things that I have more because of it too.

On my site, SmartPassiveIncome, I'm actually revealing a ton of behinds the scenes information including more about the origin story, what the prototype drawings look like, what the prototypes look like, costs, marketing strategies, all that stuff. That's what I do, I share everything that I do, it's proven to be pretty helpful for people too. So just taking people behind the scenes with me and launching this new business and we'll see what happens.

But we had a problem, I myself had the same itch and we designed something to scratch it and so far we've continued to get green lights to keep moving forward with it. So we're still in the middle of it and we'll see what happens but SwitchPod.co is where you can see the Kickstarter campaign or see how it ended up going but who knows. But it's fun, it's fun man, I'm having a good time.


Bob: It'll be in a Best Buy before you know it for people to buy off the shelf.

Pat: That's a whole ‘nother conversation Bob. I don't even know if we want to go retail, you know? Because then you have to really get the costs controlled and that's a whole ‘nother ball game. I don't know. Shark Tank, I don't know, we'll see.

Bob: I was going to ask, I can see you having an argument with Mr. Wonderful about whether or not you should go that route or stick to an ecommerce model.

Pat: The truth is we did think about not going on Shark Tank but what kinds of questions would those investors ask us should we ever have an opportunity. So one of the questions is, well do you have a patent on this? And the answer is well yes, we have a provisional application on the patent. So that gives us the ability to use patent pending and get a utility patent later and all this stuff.

So these are things I didn't know last year, like how all this works and now I do. So what's really cool about this too is if people now have questions about, well how do I get a physical product done? Now I can point in the right direction and actually have content to serve them with?

Taking the Live Event Leap

Bob: Love it. You also have a live event coming. So for the last so many years you've been speaking at events, traveling around the world and all that's been fun to see you on stage and now you're deciding to run your own event, having run my own events I know the kind of undertaking and dedication this requires. What was going through your head to know that FlynnCon it's ready, the world is ready and you're ready to bring it to it?

Pat: I think I need somebody in my life to just tell me no, don't do that sometimes. Because I come up with all these ideas. But no the honest truth is I have said no to a lot of things but the event is something I'm really excited about and we said yes to, because I have been like you said speaking so much over the past eight years and really getting a feel for what it's like to be at different kinds of events. And consider what I like about certain ones, what I don't like. And I've always wondered, what would I do if I had my own event, how would I want it run? And now it's actually going to happen. And the cool thing is with just a couple of emails last year for presales, we were able to sell 250 tickets, basically sell out half other event in just a week.

Nine months before the event even starts.

Bob: Nice validation.

Pat: Yeah, it's good. The audience is ready for it and Team Flynn is going to arrive and that's my community and be there and it's really a community event to bring the audience together. Also one thing that I want to do, we're putting so much new things into this conference, for example it's a family friendly conference so there's going to be no alcohol served at events and also if people were to bring the kids they won't have to worry about swearing on stage and there's going to be some kid friendly things to do there as well that relates to building businesses and things like that, we actually have a teen entrepreneur that's going to take the kids that end up showing up, like teenagers into a separate room to teach them budgeting and how to start being an entrepreneur and those kinds of things. But we also don't have 10 speakers speaking at the same time, it's not that kind of conference. We have one stage and there are strategic breaks between each talk for people to go and connect with each other and talk about those things and network and work.

Another thing that we're doing is we have some sponsors that aren't there to just have a booth and sell you things but they are actually there to help you. So we're actually going to have work spaces for people to go and actually get appointments to get work and help from the vendors that are there related to their business which is really cool and we're calling that the smart bar, like think about the apple genius bar, that but for your business. I don't want to say everything because it's going to be a surprise. There are going to be big people who are going to be coming to speak but we're not even mentioning who they are, you won't even know who they are until they come on stage. So we're treating it a little bit differently, we're not using people for marketing, we're just using the community and the relationships that I have with my own institute, bring people together and create an amazing experience.

We're also creating a yearbook. So we planned on doing this more but instead of a pamphlet of information, we're creating a yearbook, like think of a yearbook that you might have in school. Everybody's picture's gonna be there who wants to have their picture, there's going to be sleeves so that when you're in the photo booth and you want to put it somewhere there's going to be space to put it in there so you can have all these memories from the event and my favorite part is like the spine of the book, like if you have all the years lined up next to each other it'll make a picture. I don't know why that's so exciting to me but marketing wise it's like, oh, you can't miss year two or else your picture is gonna be screwed up. I don't know.

We're just putting a lot of fun things into it, it's literally a blank slate and we're just creating an event, an experience for people like never before so FlynnConone.com. We're almost sold out but it should be a good time.

Bob: And I love that you're already thinking about FlynnCon 2 and 10, in order to put this collage together, you know? Because I think a lot of people whenever they're going into a new venture, they think of just the one thing. And I think a smarter entrepreneur over time learns that you plan for the success of it as well as what if it doesn't work and then adjust along the way.

Pat: I'm glad you said that, it's like when I wrote my first book I got some good advice from an entrepreneur who was like, "Okay, you're writing this book, you're gonna launch it but then what do they do after that? Where do they go? What's next for them?" And I never considered that at that point. I was very young in my entrepreneurial career. But it made me think about continuing that journey with people. And I think FlynnCon is just continuation of the journey that I've had with people in my audience over time.

But with FlynnCon two we're already thinking about the theme of that, every year is going to have a different theme, this year's theme is Press Start. So there's a little bit of a video game sort of feel to it as well but its' about pressing start on the next big project that you have going on and helping you through that. But we're already thinking about the theme for year two. We're thinking bout how to use FlynnCon one to sell tickets to FlynnCon two and what that transition is going to be like and what's the story that's going to lead them into that and all of those things are already being thought about. Because we're now thinking about okay, well and then what? And I think that's a really important thing for marketers to think about because we often like you said just think about that one product and then it's gone. But usually the product is the start of a relationship and too often we forget that.

Bob: And I do think the corollary trick to that is don't be so far into the second thing before you really nail the first one.

Pat: Oh, of course, of course.

Bob: I know a lot of people who are entrepreneurial minded, they say they're serial entrepreneurs which really in their mind is just another way to say they're scattered. They don’t know which thing to pick and you're doing a really good job of knowing you want to go there and let's really knock this one out of the park before doing too much of that next one.

Constantly Learning from Others

Bob: You're on the airwaves as a podcaster in a few different versions of podcasts. I'm curious though on the other side are you listening to any particular podcasts obsessively, reading any particular books right now obsessively that our audience can really learn from to?

"Learning is all for nothing unless you are executing."

Pat: Yeah, I'm doing a lot of things with my team this year that are really important and I'm learning how to be a better leader and manager in that sense so Rocket Fuel (Gino Wickman, Mark Winters) is a good book that I've picked up recently and that will help you learn, especially if you're a solopreneur or a small business owner and you are still as the CEO doing a lot of the weed work in your business. And the admin stuff and a lot of the grunt work kind of things.

Like if you want to find somebody who can help you take care of all those things, it's not about hiring a VA, it's actually about hiring somebody called an integrator, and that's somebody who can actually take those ideas that you have and actually organize them and actually execute on them for you, because many of those entrepreneurs were more of the visionary types. And if you are a visionary it's very hard to also be, that's not to say these people don't exist, but if you're a visionary you have a hard time actually planning out and executing those things. On the other hand there are people who that's their whole life.

They are integrators by heart and by trade and that's their specialty, they are project managers at heart and when you match the two together, magic happens. And that's something that I've been trying to teach a lot of my higher level students who are at that point where they need to stop doing some of the work and start handing it off. An integrator can be an amazing answer for that. So Rocket Fuel is a good book.

I'm also reading Company of One by Paul Jarvis, and that's a new book that just came out. And it's not necessarily about just having a business of one person.

But it's about understanding what growth really means to you, and I think this is really important for entrepreneurs. Sometimes we just default to "let's get more. More growth, more traffic, more this." But his thesis in this book is more, well what is enough to you? And what if you were to build just for that, how much more efficient could your business be if you actually had a cap on your growth? And what could you do better and how much better would your life be if you weren't so always worried about the next big growth initiative versus the next big experience for the people who are already in your space.

And I love that and I think it's a new way to think about growth and I like that. So those are a couple of books that are on my plate right now. What was the other question?

Bob: Do you have any podcasts that you're obsessively listening to?

Pat: Oh podcasts, yeah. Actually most of the podcasts I'm listening to now are health related. So I'm listening to a lot of Chalene Johnson and then Shawn Stevenson from the Model Health Show. That's been just a habit of mine to listen to, he's just a wealth of knowledge in health and fitness and so I get a lot of inspiration from him. He and I are also in a mastermind group together.

Yeah, health is important, that's another thing that I've learned as an entrepreneur over time is that my health directly impacts my ability to run by business. My health and nutrition directly impacts my ability to be creative and just be happier, just completely. So that's why a lot of those there in terms of my playlist. I actually don't listen to a lot of business related podcasts. I used to. I used to be subscribed to like 20 but then I realized that I would never get anything done. So I think it's important for you to weed down, stick with this podcast, maybe stick with mine and then that's it. Or any others.

So that you can actually have time to get things done. I think it's important to realize that learning is all for nothing unless you're executing.

Bob: That's so true, so true. I'd also love to know about tools that you're using in your business. I know you're using Leadpages, I know you're using Teachable, a few other things. What kinds of things maybe people don't know about and any other advice around the acquisition of tools to get the job done?

Pat: Yeah, tools are an interesting thing because there's thousands and thousands of tools that can potentially help us in one way or another. I think it's about finding the one tool to focus on and implement that will give you the biggest results and the one that has been really helpful for us lately is RightMessage by Brennan Dunn who likely a lot of your listeners know about. We've been implementing right message on our website and through our email service provider and it's been just game changing for the personalized messaging on our sales pages, on our home page, on our website. To better relate to the audience that is there.

And using sort of auxiliary tools that they provide like right ask, we are also able to quickly survey our audience and understand exactly what they need and what kinds of content we can give to them and what kind of messaging to share. It's just a beautiful tool and I would highly recommend everybody check it out.

Bob: Yeah, pretty well put together and Brennan's definitely a good person to be learning from and just watching what he does.

Pat: For sure.

Serving People First

Bob: Really sharp guy. I think that my last question for you Pat is as you think about all we've talked about and any time you have this conversation when somebody comes up to you, I imagine that the essence boils down to something. What's a singular key aspect of business that really pushes people forward towards success? Is there something to you that you go to that you can say, yeah, this is the key to success.

There's a lot of things, a lot of factors, a lot of elements, but this one thing you've gotta have it.

Pat: Yeah, for me it's this idea of serving people first. And focusing on how you can best help others. And when you have that as the primary motive for what you do, as a byproduct you will make money, you will get customers. It always starts with serving people first. Which therein lie means you need to know what they're going through, how they're going through it, what have they tried before? What language are they using to describe the problems that they have?

Where are they struggling, what are their objections? And the more you can get into the head of your ideal customer, your avatar, then the easier it's going to be to serve them. And when you do that, even if you just start with one, if you're just starting out and you're worried about building your business, try to find one person that you can serve. Even if it's so hands on that it's obviously not what you want to do forever but that's going to give you access to all those questions that you might be having about your target audience. And if you can get one then you can get many many more after that, and you can build those efficiencies, you can build those systems, you can build that team over time, but just start with getting your next one customer.

And if you are an existing business already, well how might you better be able to serve the audience that you already have? Have you actually had real conversations with people and asked them what else od you need help with? What else is something that you're struggling with? Of the things that you have, what do you wish was there that is not? And that way you can get direct feedback.

You have such a luxury if you already have customers because those are the kinds of people that will tell you exactly what is wrong, what is right. What they need help with, what else they need help with. Those kinds of things, so really it all stems down to real care for helping people. And helping your audience and one sort of call to action or exercise that you can all do is, and this is something I practice every single month.

I reach out to my email list, randomly, individually, 10 people and I try to get on a phone call with them or a Skype call. Even though I have an email list of 220,000 people, I individually try to get on the phone with 10 new subscribers and just talk to them. And I ask them questions like what do you need help with? What are you most concerned about? What is something that you wish that you could find on my website but you haven't yet?

"The next time you create a product, the next time you create content, you now don't have to think about the made up avatar in your head with the fake name and fake life. You have a real person you spoke to that you can think about."

And five times out of 10, those things are there, they just haven't found it yet and then that sort of tells me things about what I can do to help them better find it. Some of those conversations are really short because they just don't know what to say, or they just don't have a lot of things to say. So most conversations go for a couple of hours, and those are the golden opportunities for you to learn more about who it is that's in your audience.

And here's the cool byproduct of this. The next time you create a product, the next time you create content. You now don't have to think about the made up avatar in your head with the fake name and fake life. You have a real person who you spoke to, who you now have a relationship with that you can think about when it comes to the product that you're building and the features that you're adding or the content that you're writing the questions they might be having.

And you have the opportunity to follow up with them. Like, hey I wrote this article, I was thinking of you when I was writing it. Does this answer all those questions that you were talking about? And guess what, they're not the only person in the world who has those problems. You've just now been able to figure out how to solve many many more people's problems by focusing on that one person.

Bob: Love it. Serve first. Very good, very good. Thank you so much Pat for joining us for this episode, really enjoyed this conversation and I'm imagining that listeners right now are thinking they spend a really good amount of time with some great great ideas.

Pat: Awesome. Thank you everybody.

The Lead Generation podcast

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By The Leadpages Team
Pat Flynn the lead generation podcast
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