Published or Updated on Jun 02, 2016

At parties, reunions, and in emails, I’ve been getting this question a lot:

“It seems like you just travel, write, and goof off. If you don’t have a job… what are you doing for money? How are you affording this?”

When I’m a little drunk, I like to say “magical internet money” since it sounds mysterious.

But the more honest answer, is: “I built a business called Programming for Marketers that funds my lifestyle with almost no ongoing work.” A “lifestyle business,” for those new to the term.

Most people assume that you can either start a business and be 110% focused on it, or you can have a day job.

They don’t realize that there’s an in-between: businesses and products that keep paying you substantial amounts of money, even after you’re done working on them. A passive income.

And if you want to be a full-time creative, or build a bigger business that will take a long time to start paying you, or travel around the world posting obnoxious Instagrams, then having some sort of passive income is an incredible asset. It frees up your time to focus on the fun work you want to do, even if it’s not paying you yet.

When I explain that this is an option, everyone wants to know how to do it. And despite what some sites will make you think: there’s no silver bullet, no secret tactics, and it’s not easy.

But, with the right model and story to learn from and emulate, it’s certainly possible.

All I can do is tell you exactly how I did it. Every detail, every email, every landing page, every mistake, in the hopes that it gives you what you need to make this happen for yourself.

I don’t pretend to be the expert at passive income or lifestyle businesses. But I did pull it off, and I know you can too.

Heads Up: Massive Bonuses
I’m giving away absolutely everything in this post. If you’re serious about trying to build your own lifestyle business or passive income, then make sure you read to the end where I put the downloads (every email, tool, etc.). Or you can get them now.

Inception: 4-Hour Workweeks, Stubbornness, and Time Constraints
I ended up becoming interested in this idea the same way many people do: by reading The 4-Hour Workweek.

I was extremely interested in the idea of building a self-sustaining lifestyle business and not taking a corporate job but ultimately did little with it for 4 years. I was still in school and there was no pressing need to build a lifestyle business, so why should I bother? (I’m not advocating this reasoning, but that’s what I did).

While I never got serious about building something, I did tinker (screw around) a lot. I started a blog teaching people how to improve their habits, started a subscription site providing customized meal plans (programmatically), did Fratboxes, and half a dozen other little projects and experiments that let me get my feet wet with starting things, experimenting, and picking up some valuable skills.

I’d estimate that I started 20+ projects before Programming for Marketers, with 3-4 of them becoming serious time commitments. But those first projects don’t get big articles written about them since they didn’t last, so if you’re just starting out, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right the first time.

No offense, but you probably won’t. Know when to quit and move on to the next thing, and you’ll get it eventually.

The Turning Point: Having a Time Constraint

That tinkering continued until right before senior Spring in college when I realized that I was graduating with no job lined up and no interest in lining one up either.

After working for myself for a year, I knew I didn’t want to go work for someone else, so I knew I needed to figure something else out. (Granted, I did end up taking a job for 8 months, that story is here).

The time constraint of 6 months until graduation was a blessing in disguise. It pushed me to work extremely hard and fast, taking advantage of Parkinson’s Law on a longer timescale than usual, and build something faster than I otherwise would have.

If you’re trying to do this yourself, I fully believe a time constraint is a key factor. Create some sort of deadline for yourself, by quitting your job, putting money on the line at Go Fucking Do It, or other scary motivator. I hadn’t fully appreciated the power of stakes until starting work on P4M.

Key Takeaways:
If you’re going to do this, set up some sort of time constraint so you get shit done. It’s easy to procrastinate when you have a nice salary and no urgency.
Don’t obsess over getting it right the first time. Tinker a lot, and it’ll work out eventually.
Step 0: Having Useful Skills
Before I get into building the business, there’s an important point that many lifestyle business bloggers ignore because they don’t want to hurt your feelings or scare you off.

If you don’t have some relevant, valuable skills, or the ability to teach yourself new things, you’re not going to have a good time. You’ll be more likely to waste years on something going nowhere, or fail and then blame someone or something else for it.

What skills those are will vary, but I can’t imagine someone succeeding at making a lifestyle business without these skills (or the ability to pick them up quickly, ask a friend about them, etc.):

Website creation (not HTML etc. WordPress is fine)
Marketing (any combo of SEO, social, email, community)
Copywriting (writing compelling sales pages, emails, etc.)
Self-direction (setting goals, staying productive without management, etc.)
If you don’t have some of those skills, here’s the quickest way to start getting familiar with them:

Website creation: Make a site with BlueHost + WordPress and just start messing around. It’ll make sense pretty quickly.

Marketing: Read how to grow a site from 0 to 10,000 visitors a month.

Copywriting: Read the “Boron Letters.”

Self-direction: This one’s a bit harder, but read “How to learn in the real world,” “Subconscious sabotage,” and “Quantitative life goals.”

Now, don’t worry. If you read this section and got freaked out about “not being ready,” you should still go for it.

Collecting tons of information you don’t need is a waste of time and form of procrastination, so don’t go overboard by taking a bunch of courses and reading dozens of books hoping that after enough of them you’ll feel “ready.”

It’s better to learn the bare minimum above, get started, and fill in gaps in your knowledge as they appear.

Key Takeaways
Build some relevant skills, which you can start doing with the resources above.
Collecting information is frequently a form of procrastination. Start doing, then seek answers to the questions you run into.
Step 1: Finding The Idea
When I was trying to grow my startup before Programming for Marketers, I had hacked together a bunch of python scripts to automate pieces of our marketing. Little bits of code that could post to Twitter, manage our email funnel, things like that.

One weekend, I realized that other marketers might want to know how to do that. So I bought the domain, put up a super ugly landing page, then posted to reddit/r/marketing about it.

I collected ~100 emails… then did absolutely nothing with them.

Fast forward 8 months. I was talking to my friend Justin who I’d done some marketing projects with. We wanted to partner on building a lifestyle business, but what?

He’d created SQL for Marketers a while ago, and it had become one of the most popular courses on Udemy. The conversation went something like this:

Justin: “Yeah so with how well SQL for Marketers has done, I’m wondering if there’s a market for video courses teaching marketers other technical skills as well.”

“You mean like… programming for marketers?”

“Yeah exactly!”

“Funny story…”

Agreeing that there was an opportunity here, we got to work.

Key Takeaways
‍Solve your own problem, or share your skills in a new and interesting way.
Step 2: Determining How to Validate the Idea
We knew the end goal was the build a video course that people could buy with an automated sales funnel, but setting all of that up is a huge investment. We didn’t want to spend time making it if we weren’t certain that people would buy it. This is called “validating” the idea.

So we asked ourselves:

What’s a lightweight version of a video course that we could use to test whether people would be interested in the topic of “technical marketing”?

The answer was a free email course. Not only would it test if people were interested in the topic, but while validating it we’d be building the sales funnel at the same time!

To be clear, we didn’t invent this tactic. We looked at other people who had video courses that were selling well (specifically Kopywriting Kourse and Double Your Freelancing), and copied their methods. Both use an email course to upsell the video course.

We’d figured out how to prove that people were interested in the topic; now we just needed to see who would sign up for it.

Key Takeaways
Do not build before you know people are interested. Find the simplest way possible to test interest.
Validate your idea with real potential customers, not just friends.
Look at what similar businesses have done to test their ideas, and copy it.
Step 3: Making the Email Course
We wrote out everything we could conceivably cover related to technical marketing, coming up with ~50 lessons, fitting into 12 broader themes.

But obviously, we couldn’t make a 50 lesson email course. It’d be too long, and then there’d be no reason for someone to buy the paid course, so we picked the 7 that looked the most exciting. We focused on ones that could quickly make someone go “whoa, I can do that?!” and that anyone could use.

For example, a lesson on Twitter automation was extremely popular because almost all marketers use Twitter, and would love to easily automate it. A lesson on Adwords automation would have been less exciting since not everyone uses Adwords.

A very important note: We didn’t write any of the lessons yet. There was no point in putting time into writing them if no one wanted to sign up for the email course.

It was the same principle as making the email course in the first place: prove interest, then build. Don’t build hoping for interest.

All we did was put together good headlines for the 7 lessons and very brief outlines. Then I put together a simple landing page to advertise the free email course.

Designing the Landing Page
Just like we took inspiration from existing video courses for how to validate the idea, we took inspiration from existing email courses for how to design our landing page.

I looked at Email1k and Charge What You’re Worth, and more or less combined their pages into one of our own. For reference, this is what they looked like back then:

And Email1k…

This was my first iteration:

Building it only took a few afternoons. I used BlueHost to host the landing page, installed WordPress on the site, and then used the “Divi 2.0” theme by Elegant Themes.

To be clear, I’m not a designer. I just made two existing designs have web-design sex with each other, and this was their baby. The theme made it stupid easy since all I had to do was drag and drop pieces to make it look the way I wanted, then tweak the CSS a little bit.

We got some feedback on V1 from marketing friends, and eventually landed on this design for the launch:

The only thing that’s changed since then is removing the timer, and it still converts ~25-30% of all visitors.

Setting Up Email Collection, and Building Virality
Last, we needed to setup the site to collect emails, and to build in some virality.

The theme had a built in widget for email collection, so all I had to do was connect that to a MailChimp account that I could send emails from.

Then, I wrote an email that would go out as soon as someone signed up, asking them to refer a friend to the course in exchange for a free PDF of automation hacks that they could do immediately.

This referral bonus was extremely successful, boosting our signups by ~30% (each signup brought in .3 more people). If you’re curious how to do that yourself, we covered it in the first lesson.

With all of this setup, we were ready to roll and see if anyone would sign up.

What I’d Do Differently
First off, we didn’t automate the PDF delivery for referrals. I won’t ruin the surprise but suffice it to say that Justin had to manually send a LOT of PDFs the day we launched. I eventually automated this through Zapier, but there’s a better option.

I later worked with Noah Kagan to build Traffic1m, and in doing so coded a nice little referral system that people who signed up would move through (you can see the pages here, here, and here).

And while you could code that yourself, Bryan Harris built a tool called “Smart Bribe” that does it all for you and drops right into your page, so I’d just use that.

Also, when we launched, there was no exit-intent opt-in in case someone showed up and was about to leave. If I were doing it now, I’d add SumoMe to capture people who don’t sign up right away (we have it set up now, and it gets an additional ~10% of visitors to sign up).

Key Takeaways
Focus on the most interesting core of your product that you can use to test interest.
Make it as easy as possible for people to sign up.
Don’t obsess over perfection in the testing phase, get something out there.
That said, make it good. This should get people excited about what else is to come.
Get feedback from knowledgeable people (like on the landing page).
Make it easy for people to tell their friends about your product.
Step 4: Promoting the Email Course
The moment of truth: would anyone sign up for this email course? If no one was interested, we would have tossed the whole thing. There was no point in putting time into making a video course if no one wanted free written lessons.

We decided to launch it on a Thursday, with the quantitative goal of 1,000 email signups by Monday. Where did the goal come from? We just made one up. Wish I could say it was more scientific than that… but it wasn’t.

On launch day, we posted to Product Hunt, GrowthHackers, Hacker News, Reddit Marketing, and Inbound letting people know about it. These posts drove 90% of the traffic and signups since the audience was hyper-targeted.

During the launch period of Thursday to Sunday, here’s how our traffic broke out across channels (Direct is some combo of GrowthHackers, Inbound, and referrals from signups):

For each place we posted, we asked some of our friends to help us by upvoting our submission. Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that, but everyone else is, so if you don’t do it a little bit you’ll have a hard time getting noticed.

Just don’t overdo it and get penalized like we did with Hacker News. Actually, don’t try to game HN at all, as far as I’ve found it’s impossible. It sent a ton of traffic briefly, but then they caught on and kicked us off the front page after ~30 minutes. Sad Nat.

We also posted to our Facebooks, Twitters, and LinkedIns. These all drove significantly less traffic, though, barely a rounding error as you can see.

By Sunday night, we’d amassed ~2,800 signups, well above our goal of 1,000. This was the validation we needed to go ahead with making the email course.

What I’d Do Differently
These days, Product Hunt isn’t a huge fan of email courses, so it’s hard to get them on the “Featured” page where all the traffic comes from. There are other services popping up to fill in the gap, like Email Course Stash, though, so you can try those as well.

I would have been more careful with Hacker News. I didn’t realize that they were so strict with gaming the system, or rather, how good they are at catching people.

Having an existing audience, like this site, would have helped immensely. The best time to start building an audience is now because you never know when it will come in handy. More on that in another article.

If we had planned some lessons with influencers in the space (highly recommend this), then I would have asked them to email their lists, post to social, etc. That could have driven a ton more traffic and noise that we didn’t get by not having as much market recognition.

Key Takeaways
Figure out where your target customer hangs out, and tactically promote yourself there.
Set a goal to measure your success by, otherwise, you might convince yourself that something worked when it didn’t.
Start building an audience now, it will be your most useful asset.
Step 5: Writing the Email Course
With the interest proven, it was time to write some insanely great lessons.

We launched the landing page on Thursday, promising the course would start on Monday, so we had to immediately start putting the lessons together. We had our outlines to go off of, but for the most part, we were finishing them just in time for the next scheduled release.

It was a bit hacked together and last minute, yes, but it worked and people loved the lessons. We even had people asking us when they could buy the full course… without us ever mentioning a full paid course.

As we were making the lessons, we added virality to them as much as possible by giving people bonus content in exchange for sharing lessons on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

This helped immensely with getting more traffic back to the course without having to constantly promote it, and is a big part of how it’s managed to get 500-1,000 new signups per month since launch with no additional work.

Once all the lessons were done and had been sent out to the first subscribers, we put them into a MailChimp automation campaign which would send them to new people who signed up in 2-day intervals. This way we didn’t have to send any more emails, they would keep going out automatically.

With the interest proven and the email course running on its own, now we needed to see if anyone would pay for more.

Key Takeaways
Build virality into your system so that customers and subscribers can tell their friends about you for bonuses.
Once something works, figure out how to automate it. Don’t do the same thing manually more than a couple times.
Step 6: Proving People Would Pay
Just because people signed up for a free course didn’t mean they’d put money down, so we needed to make sure they would buy it if we made a full paid course.

First, we emailed the list asking what else they’d want to learn about technical marketing. Then we added their responses to our existing outline, giving us a full list of everything we could cover in the course.

From this, we made a super janky landing page describing everything that would be in the paid course. It listed all the lessons, bonuses, how it would be structured, etc. and we emailed it to 300 of our “5-star” students (ones who had opened almost every lesson).

We also put together a landing page for a Technical Marketers “mastermind group,” and emailed that to another 300 students.

The paid course pre-order was for $500, the mastermind group was for $50 a month.

And… no one bought either. We realized that the mastermind group was the wrong move and that we’d set the pre-order price too high.

We emailed everyone back, apologized, and offered the pre-order for $250 instead.

After this email, we pre-sold $10,000 in the course without ever making a lesson, which was the validation we needed that people were willing to pay for it.

With that done, and with the pre-orderers waiting for their lessons, it was time to start recording.

What I Would Do Differently
Our pre-sale page was ugly ugly ugly and the copy was not great. I’d put more time and some money into making that look awesome if I did it again, but hey, it worked!

I’d also have been more tactical on the pricing, using a method I mention later. We just picked a number out of thin air and ran with it.

Key Takeaways
Validate interest before you build! Pre-sell if at all possible, on your own like we did or through Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc.
Recognize when you made a mistake, be honest about it, and try again.
Step 7: Making the Course
When we created the landing page for the preorders, we had to list out what the course was going to have in it, which made it easy for us to direct our efforts with putting the course together.

We started with a marathon weekend in SF. I flew out to Justin’s place and we locked ourselves in his apartment to get as much of the recording done as we possibly could before going back to working on it remotely.

This is where things got tricky. Making the video lessons, between planning, recording, and editing, took 3-10x longer than we’d anticipated. Our original goal had been to overload on caffeine and get everything done that week, but we had to scale that back to just getting 2 of the 8 modules done.

As we completed each module, we loaded it into our course on Teachable. They make it stupidly easy to host video courses like this, so we didn’t have to worry about the backend of making the course.

Then the early buyers would give us feedback, and we’d make tweaks while working on the next unit. We released a new unit every few weeks until we’d filled out the initial ones that we’d planned on, at which point it was time to do the full launch.

What I’d Do Differently
We tried to be way too professional with our production and ended up in this awkward middle between casual and professional, which made some parts a little weird. I wouldn’t focus on trying to make it look like a studio made it; I’d just focus on awesome useful information.

Key Takeaways
Things will take longer than expected, so be ready to adapt your schedule.
Focus on quality of content, not necessarily the quality of appearance. It’s important to look good, but people will forgive roughness around the edges for awesome material.
Use a simple system for hosting your content, like Teachable.
Step 8: Launching the Course
Now that we had the first version of the course done, and some people in it leaving feedback, we had to launch the full thing to our entire list.

Designing the Landing Page
The landing page, or sales page, is the most important point of contact that you’ll have with your potential customers. It needs to convey everything covered in the course, and show them why it’s a good decision to invest in what will likely be a non-trivial purchase.

Justin and I did the copy, and Adil Majid did the design and layout. We had hired another copywriter originally but ended up not being happy with their work and did it ourselves.

Then, once again, we sent the landing page around to some friends for feedback. We tweaked the copy, plugged in prices, and we were good to go.

For pricing… we just made it up. I’d love to say we came up with some crazy formula or method, but we didn’t. We just picked some numbers that sounded good.

Sales Emails
Next up was writing out the sales emails. We used Jeff Walker’s “Launch” strategy from his book by the same name, with a few inspirations from Bryan Harris’s first launch article to round it out.

These emails broke out into (you can get the exact emails we used in the bonus material):

One announcement email, asking people to respond with what they’d want to see in the course
Three pPre-sale emails, with bonus lessons on technical marketing. These were the first video lessons anyone received too, which made them more exciting
One email announcing the sale was about to start, with an early bird discount.
One email at the start of the early bird window
One at the end
One the next day announcing more bonuses for the next few days
One at the end of the few day “extra bonuses” window
Another one announcing the course would stop being for sale in a few days
One last day warning one
One last few hours one
And then we sent an email after it had “closed” to everyone who clicked on the link to buy, but didn’t buy, offering them a special payment plan where they paid over 6 months instead of 4.
Writing these ended up being incredibly difficult. Good sales copy is hard, and I’m not sure we’ve put that much time into writing emails since then. It completely burned both of us out and isn’t something anyone should take lightly.

And, Launch!
Then on the date we’d chosen, we opened the cart, and the emails started going out.

Over the next 10 days, we made $48,150 in sales, some people paying up front and others paying out over 4-6 months.

What I’d Do Differently
For pricing, I would have tested it a lot more, using the method in Bryan Harris’s article. That would have given us a better idea of what was reasonable before doing the pre-sale.

I also wouldn’t have done quite as aggressively long of a sale. Our readers were burned out by the end, and ~15% of our list unsubscribed. I would shorten it to 5-7 days, or just send fewer emails. Most people bought at the deadlines with hardly anyone buying in-between them, so I bet we could have sandwiched the deadlines together.

Key Takeaways

Step 9: Automation
After the cart had been closed for a while, we decided to add some of the sales emails to our drip, and let the paid course promotion happen automatically as well.

I think of all the places we messed up, we messed up most by not doing this sooner. We waited almost 6 months to automate the sales funnel (for not great reasons) and I wish we had done it right away.

This way whenever someone joined the list, they would get the 7 lessons, then 3 bonus lessons and be sold on the course. This now brings in ~$3,000 in non-sale months with 0 work, which is a great small passive income source.

If we want to do a big sale in the future, all we have to do is turn off that part of the funnel for a month. And the people who don’t buy can always be re-engaged, too. I did a one-day sale a couple months ago just to see how engaged the list still was, and it sold over $18,000.

Key Takeaways
Automate your sales funnel sooner rather than later, you can always sell to people again.Occasionally test interest by doing small sales.

Step 10: More than Just the Course
The whole asset of “Programming for Marketers” has provided revenue opportunities beyond just the course, too.

We have affiliate deals with BlueHost and Elegant Themes which pay out $100 and $45 respectively, and we’ve been able to promote other people’s launches, courses, and products that are relevant to the list.

We have a Kindle eBook, a mini course on SQL for Marketers, a couple Udemy courses… There are lots of little ways to get extra monetization from a site and product like this.

If you’re going to build a lifestyle business, think beyond just your main income stream. There will likely be one big one, but there will also be lots of little other ways you can earn revenue from it.

Key Takeaways
Think about other ways you can provide value to your list beyond just sending them more of your own content.
Get creative with your monetization, don’t rely on just one channel.
Your Turn (and epic bonuses)
Going from idea to $58,150 took roughly 5 months for Programming for Marketers, and I didn’t have a resource like this article to help me.

If you’ve kicked around the idea of doing your own lifestyle business, just go for it. Set some stakes, get a partner if you want one, and figure out how you can test whatever idea you have. Once you know there’s interest and have people waiting for more, it only gets easier.

And to make it even easier, make sure you get all the bonus content for this article. I’m giving you:

The 15 emails we used to pre-sell and launch the course
The 16 tools I used to build P4M (and that I’d use now)
The Become a Technical Marketer eBook
The 17 automation hacks you can do today
And a $100 discount on Become a Technical Marketer if you want to take the course
Click here to get it.

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No More “Struggle Porn”

Alan Trapulionis
Aug 19 · 4 min read

Image for post
Tobias Lütke. Wikimedia commons image
As a kid, Tobias Lütke suffered from dyslexia and, possibly, ADHD. He was the type of kid to deconstruct his teachers’ questions instead of giving them a straight answer.
By college, Tobias had learned to skim through courses by attending the minimum number of hours required to pass.
With his authority problems, it’s unsurprising that Tobias’s first professional role model became a programmer named “Jürgen Starr.”
“He would always come to work on his BMW motorcycle and he would have long hair and he wasn’t wearing a suit like he was supposed to. Like a total rebel,” said Lütke.
How does a graduate programmer with rebellious tendencies build a multi-billion dollar empire?
Part of the answer lies in the books he read, which he told about on his Tim Ferriss show appearance. These are the top two books that shaped Tobias’s understanding of business.
“Influence” by Robert Cialdini
Many programmers choose their career path because they’re better off interacting with a logical computer, rather than an emotional human.
It’s not surprising that Influence by Robert Cialdini was one of Tobias’s cornerstone books as a budding entrepreneur. The book explains the science of persuasion as a combination of five elements:
Reciprocation refers to the human need to return the favor. For example, Hare Krishna members always give passers-by a flower before asking for donations — this makes them more likely to donate.
Consistency refers to the human need to “save face” in front of others. In human societies, we respect people who do not change their stance. So, for example, if you build personal rapport with a prospect by genuinely asking how they’re doing, they’re going to feel motivated to consider your offer later — simply because they’ve already been nice to you before.
Social proof is the bread and butter for entrepreneurs. All animal species have largely evolved via imitation — long before articulate human thoughts were born. That’s why TV shows use canned laughter, and why bartenders put a few dollars into the tip jar before the customers walk in.
Liking refers to an old truism that “we do business with people we like.” Here, the author refers to less-revolutionary truths that we often make business decisions based on someone’s looks and familiarity with us.
Lastly, the author reminds us that authority plays a major role in business. Highlighting things like titles and money may seem wrong and inaccurate to a logical person, but they do work on a subconscious level. For example, someone introduced as a professor seems taller than someone introduced as a graduate student. Also, car drivers wait longer before honking on a luxury car than an old car.
Influence may also be called Humans 101 for all the pearls you can find in it. It’s not surprising that Tobias remembers Influence as the most influential (pun intended) book he’d ever read.
Tobias spent his teenage years with “computers, not humans,” and his wife often calls him “an immigrant to the human condition.”
As he said himself, Influence was
“…just the most mind-bending book you can imagine. Because it essentially told you all the ways humans are flawed and easily influenced.”
“High Output Management” by Andrew Grove
Tobias describes High Output Management as the perfect book for non-entrepreneurs. A book that simplifies the world of business into basic principles.
In the book, the author compares being a manager to being a waiter. As a waiter, you constantly have to prioritize tasks. Do you bring the menu to the couple that just walked in, or do you serve the boiled egg that’s been waiting in the kitchen for three minutes already?
He continues with the metaphor, offering five key performance indicators:
Sales forecasts answer the question: how many customers are you expecting to serve today? This has direct implications on how many staff and inventory do you need to keep the customers satisfied.
Inventory levels seem like an obvious parameter to watch but is so often forgotten by inexperienced managers. CEOs who fail to evaluate their inventory levels fail to fulfil orders, and that is about the worst customer experience there is.
Condition of the equipment refers to your production instruments. As a waiter, have you checked whether the toaster is working today? The customers won’t care if “it’s not your fault.” They’ll simply choose another place next time.
Workforce indicators are needed to keep track of your staff. Just like it’s your responsibility as a manager to make sure the toaster is working, you need to check if any of your kitchen staff called in sick today. In that case, you’ll need an urgent replacement.
Quality indicators are often forgotten by managers. Did the customers like the breakfast? Will they come back again? Companies that fail to learn go bankrupt, and Tobias learned this lesson without having to fail himself.
All of these things may seem unimportant before you make your first sale. Once you get a few orders, you’ll run into management problems really quickly.
High Output Management explains core business concepts in rigid logical terms, which is perfect for engineers who want to take their career a decisive step further.
After reading the book, Tobias remembers realizing that
“…basically, at the end of the day, creating a business is an engineering exercise. That made the whole thing about becoming a CEO significantly less scary to me because I understand engineering.”
It’s Not About How Many Books You Read — It’s About What Books You Read
In Tobias’s case, he was highly adept in programming but lacking psychology and business skills. Instead of deepening his coding knowledge, he chose to read about areas of life that he knew nothing about.
The result is Shopify, and it needs no introduction.
Entrepreneur’s Handbook
How to succeed in entrepreneurship; feat.


Thanks to Michael Thompson.
7.9K claps

42 responses

Alan Trapulionis

Alan Trapulionis
In quest of understanding how humans work. I also ghostwrite for my heroes.
Entrepreneur’s Handbook
Entrepreneur’s Handbook
How to succeed in entrepreneurship; feat. founder stories, design articles, and startup deep dives that inspire your entrepreneurial journey.

21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
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Eat That Frog Book Review By Saimadhu Polamuri
[ Start ]
Everything in this world has to be move, or change, or transform to the other state, which was different from the current state.
Even though we are not able to identify or feel the movement of the earth, still earth is rotating to experience different temperature levels from the same source called “Sun”. Early mornings, high temperature afternoons, beautiful sunsets, cooler and the darker nights.
Ideally, In our day to day life we have only two positions/stages to keep any task.
But we are well versed to give “N” reasons to craft the middle stage. Which is decently nearer to the start stage and slightly far away from the end stage.
Below are the “N” reasons.
Not in a mood to work.
Feeling bored to turn the book pages.
Internet speed is too slow or internet is not working.
It’s Friday evening or Monday morning.
Instead of doing this, the other one is quite simpler one.
Keeping something in middle to argue with friends to believe your foolish beliefs in WhatsApp groups.
What ever the reason, its became the blockage to keep us away from the end stage. Funnily we enjoy giving these reasons quite often. If we summarise all the reasons to a single word. It is procrastination.
The dictionary meaning of the word procrastination is “the action of delaying or postponing something”. However, the real meaning is “the creative reason you are showcasing, for not finishing something”.
The quick response from our mind is, if procrastinating is bad thing to do, how can we over come it. That’s where this book “Eat that Frog” which was written by Brain Tracy helps.
[Author introduction]
Brain Tracy is a Canadian-American motivational speaker, who has written 70+ books on self development. His top 3 books are
Earn what you’re really worth.
Eat that frog.
The Psychology of Achievement.
In all his motivational speeches, he addresses with the same question, Why only few people are successful?
When the number of hours in day and the resources to taste the success is equal for all.
[ Book introduction ]
Eat that frog is one of the best book in self-development which address how to overcome procrastination. The book list downs 21 different way to get away from procrastination.
[ Story from the book ]
There is a story of a little girl who goes to her mother and asks, “Mommy, why does daddy bring a briefcase full of work home each night and never spends any time with the family?”
The mother replies sympathetically, “Well honey, you have to understand, daddy can’t get his work done at the office so he has to bring it home and get caught up here.”
The little girl then asks, “If that’s the case, why don’t they put him in a slower class?”
[ Frog rules from the book ]
The first rule of frog-eating is: “If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”
The second rule of frog-eating is: “If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.”
80/20 Rule to everything: Twenty percent of your activities will account for eighty percent of your results. Always concentrate your efforts on that top twenty percent;
10/90 rule: This rule says that the first 10% of time that you spend planning and organizing your work, before you begin, will save you as much as 90% of the time in getting the job done once you get started.
[Quick takeaways from the book]
The book starts with the below quote
“You cannot teach a person something he does not already know; you can only bring what he does know to his awareness.”
The book explains 21 key ways to stop procrastinating. Even though we feel these rules/techniques well know to us, it’s worth revisiting them.
Below are the summary of these 21 key ways.
Set the table: Decide exactly what you want. Clarity is essential. Write out your goals and objectives before you begin.
2. Plan every day in advance: Think on paper. Every minute you spend in planning can save you five or ten minutes in execution.
3. Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything: Twenty percent of your activities will account for eighty percent of your results. Always concentrate your efforts on that top twenty percent.
4. Consider the consequences: Your most important tasks and priorities are those that can have the most serious consequences,positive or negative, on your life or work. Focus on these above all else.
5. Practice creative procrastination: Since you can’t do everything, you must learn to deliberately put off those tasks that are of low value so that you have enough time to do the few things that really count.
6. Use the ABCDE Method continually: Before you begin work on a list of tasks, take a few moments to organize them by value and priority so you can be sure of working on your most important activities.
7. Focus on key result areas: Identify and determine those results that you absolutely, positively have to get to do your job well, and work on them all day long.
8. The Law of Three: Identify the three things you do in your work that account for 90% of your contribution and focus on getting them done before anything else. You will then have more time for your family and personal life.
9. Prepare thoroughly before you begin: have everything you need at hand before you start. Assemble all papers, information, tools, work materials and numbers so that you can get started and keep going.
10. Take it one oil barrel at a time: You can accomplish the biggest and most complicated job if you just complete it one step at a time.
11. Upgrade your key skills: The more knowledgeable and skilled you become at your key tasks, the faster you start them and the sooner you get them done.
12. Leverage your special talents: Determine exactly what it is that you are very good at doing, or could be very good at, and throw your whole heart into doing those specific things very, very well.
13. Identify your key constraints: Determine the bottlenecks or chokepoints, internally or externally, that set the speed at which you achieve your most important goals and focus on alleviating them.
14. Put the pressure on yourself: Imagine that you have to leave town for a month and work as if you had to get all your major tasks completed before you left.
15. Maximize your personal powers: Identify your periods of highest mental and physical energy each day and structure your most important and demanding tasks around these times. Get lots of rest so you can perform at your best.
16. Motivate yourself into action: Be your own cheerleader. Look for the good in every situation. Focus on the solution rather than the problem. Always be optimistic and constructive.
17. Get Out of The Technological Time Sinks: Use technology to improve the quality of your communications, but do not allow yourself to become a slave to. Learn to occasionally turn things off, and leave them off.
18. Slice and dice the task: Break large, complex tasks down into bite sized pieces and then just do one small part of the task to get started.
19. Create large chunks of time: Organize your days around large blocks of time where you can concentrate for extended periods on your most important tasks.
20. Develop a sense of urgency: Make a habit of moving fast on your key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well.
21. Single handle every task: Set clear priorities, start immediately on your most important task and then work without stopping until the job is 100% complete. This is the real key to high performance and maximum personal productivity.
[ Key points from the book ]
The Three D’s of New Habit Formation
You need three key qualities to develop the habits of focus and concentration. They are all learnable. They are
There is a powerful formula for setting and achieving goals that you can use for the rest of your life. It consists of seven simple steps.
Step One: Decide exactly what you want.
Step Two: Write it down.
Step Three: Set a deadline on your goal. Set sub-deadlines if necessary.
Step Four: Make a list of everything that you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal.
Step Five: Organize the list into a plan.
Step Six: Take action on your plan immediately.
Step Seven: Resolve to do something every single day that moves you toward your major goal.
Three Questions for Maximum Productivity
The first question is “What are my highest value activities?”
The second question you can ask continually is, “What can I and only I do, that if done well, will make a real difference?”
The third question you can ask is “What is the most valuable use of my time, right now?”
Six “P” Formula. It says,
“Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”
[ Rating & Review ]
My rating for the book is 4. The techniques explained in the book were good enough to motivate, making them great needs, how we apply them in our day to day life 🙂
[ Notes& Highlights ]
“Before you begin scrambling up the ladder of success, make sure that it is leaning against the right building.”
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.”
“Failures do what istension relieving while winners do what is goal achieving.”
“By the yard it’s hard; but inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”
“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
“Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”
“One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all.”
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.”
“Getting in requires getting out. Picking up means putting down.”
“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”
“It is quality of time at work that counts and quantity of time at home that matters.”
“The sad fact is that almost done probably meant not yet started. Don’t let this happen to you.”
“You should never share your problems with others because 80% of people don’t care about them anyway, and the other 20% are kind of glad that you’ve got them in the first place.”
“you become what you think about most of the time. Be sure that you are thinking and talking about the things you want rather than the things you don’t want.”
The book ends with this nice quote.
The world is full of people who are waiting for someone to come along and motivate them to be the kind of people they wish they could be. The problem is that, “No one is coming to the rescue.”
[ End ]

So you want to host an interview podcast. You know what you want to podcast about and the ‘why’ behind your show, but how do you find guests? And why would they want to come on your show? I cover how to find great podcast guests — and how to get them to say yes to coming on your show — on episode 9 of Podcasting Step by Step. ( subscribe to Podcasting Step by Step for free)

What do you want your listeners to learn?
Before you get lost in a Google search, ask yourself what your ideal listener wants to learn. What excites them? What scares them? What are they struggling with? Spend 20 minutes brainstorming ideas. Then start looking for guests who can speak to what your ideal listener wants to hear about.

Finding podcast guests
Listen to other podcasts. I’ve booked several podcast guests after hearing them on my favorite shows. This is one of the best ways to find podcast guests because you’ve already listened to them and know that they’re interesting and can deliver value. You also know that they are up for coming on podcasts. On your phone, keep a running list of people you’d like to invite to be on your show as you come across them.

Facebook Groups. Who’s moderating your favorite Facebook Groups related to your audience? They might make good guests and would likely share the interview with the entire group. Or, a member of the group might share a story that really resonates with you and you think could really serve your audience. There are Facebook Groups dedicated to podcasting, such as She Podcasts, that have specific days in which podcasters can pitch themselves to be on shows.

Read articles. Subscribe to newsletters that offer a round up of interesting general news and news related to your podcast. Who is being interviewed? Make a list of people you want to reach out to, and save the links to the articles. If the guest agrees to come on your show, you can use the articles to help craft some interview questions. This website has a free and paid version that helps hosts and guests find each other.

Authors. Look up books related to your topic on Amazon. This is a great resource to find experts in their field who are usually happy to promote their work.

Friends. If you have a dream guest, do you have six degrees of separation to them? Maybe you can level up by interviewing their friends or former colleagues. PS, your first interview shouldn’t be with your dream guest. You’ll be too nervous! Get some practice first.

Your podcast guests. When you start interviewing people, at the end, ask them who else you should talk to. They might have friends in a related field who’d be great for your show.

How to pitch podcast guests
OK, you have a list of people you want to come on your show. How do you get them to say yes? In a brief email, no more than 2-3 short paragraphs:

introduce who you are, what your podcast is about, and what your listeners get out of it.

tell them how you discovered them (article, podcasts, etc); why you think they’d be perfect for a specific episode on your show; and a brief sentence about what you’d talk about.

share a little more background on yourself that builds your credibility. This can be about your podcast, or your career, or your experience with a hobby if that’s what your show is about. It’s totally OK if you’re new to podcasting, or haven’t launched your show yet. This is an opportunity to showcase who you are and what’s driving you to do your show.

finally, make the ask. Give the potential guest something to say yes to. This can be as simple as, “So what do you say? Are you up for coming on the podcast?” End your email with something like this.

How to find email addresses
If your potential guest has a website, it’s likely there. Failing that, I’ve direct messaged people on Instagram, on Facebook, and have also connected with them on LinkedIn. There’s also a website called that helps you find the email addresses of people who work at companies. This isn’t always 100% accurate, but it’s a free and could help you find the address you need. Lusha can also help you find business email addresses.

Scheduling your podcast guest
Once your podcast guest says yes, it’s time to book them in! Until recently, I managed all my podcast invites through Google Calendar and it worked perfectly fine. I’ve heard a number of people say they struggled with back and forth to schedule interviews but for whatever reason, I didn’t have that problem. However, I’m trying out Acuity because someone sent me an invite that way and I liked how slick it was. They have a free and a paid version that lets you set up certain hours of availability that your guests can choose from. It also lets you create a form for them to fill out with useful information like their Skype handle, social media handles, and whatever else you want to get from them up front. You can also include info you want them to know, like top tips to record quality audio with Skype. Acuity will automatically send your guest a reminder about the interview 24 hours in advance.

And that’s it. Podcasting is very hot right now and people are quite keen to be interviewed on podcasts. Chances are not everyone will say yes to you, but many of them will, especially if you did your homework to explore what your ideal listener wants to hear about and then found guests who want to speak to them and can provide a lot of value.

By Larry Alton

If you peer into the future of small business growth and tech trends, you’ll see tips on topics ranging from responsive Web design to richer website animation. Among the most important of these trends, you’ll find business processing automation. This is a powerful tool that makes it possible for businesses to streamline the growth of their business through reduced overhead and increased customer satisfaction.

According to Jeff Haden of, automation is the only way for small businesses to remain competitive in the future. Haden states that if you aren’t willing to take the time to automate now, “someone else will automate you out of business.”

Many tasks within a business structure are vital but also quite time consuming. This poses a major problem for small business owners who lack the manpower or ability to pay for extended man hours. Automating your business processes is the solution, and with these seven small business automation tips will help you turn your business into a well-oiled, productivity machine.

Small Business Automation Tips: Start Small
Automating business processes rates as a pretty significant change for your business; it’s best to ease into it slowly. Begin by automating your smallest, easiest process. Haden uses the example of Automic, (formerly UC4), a process automation company. It helped one of its customers to reduce the time it took them to provision new smartphones from 20 minutes to two minutes.

Focus on just one time-sucking process that you can improve, and then move onto another function. It’s always smart to start with a process with a high ROI. It gives you the absolute best results from maximizing your efficiencies. After a few successes, you’ll be well on your way to a culture of streamlining operations.

Small Business Automation Tips

Small Business Automation Tips: Reduce the Number of Processes
Automation can reveal business processes that you can do without. Oftentimes, automating a task consolidates several processes into one. It becomes evident that tasks you previously believed played an integral role in your business structure actually only supported a more important process.

Once you automate that process, the other supporting processes become obsolete. In terms of finances, time, and manual labor, this step will save you significantly.

Small Business Automation Tips: Build an Automation Culture
Humans don’t always feel kindly toward automation. When companies start automating, many employees worry it will push them out of a job. In reality, automation can remove some jobs, but it will also create other jobs. It develops an all-around culture of higher efficiencies and higher-paying jobs.

When speaking to employees about why they should appreciate automation, point out how the system will benefit the employees. As long as you can get employees on your side, in-house automation will be a breeze.

Small Business Automation Tips: Hire Automation Experts
After a certain point, the automation process will become too much for you and your current employees. You’ll have to bring in outside automation experts who can analyze each of your business processes and find ways to increase those efficiencies.

These outside experts bring experience that can boost your leadership initiatives and help your employees to see the big picture. Organizational change as vast as this requires some expert attention, even if it means adding to your team from the outside.

Small Business Automation Tips: Rely on Automation Tools
The benefits of automating in today’s society are that you have a large collection of tools at your disposal to complete the process. From automating your digital marketing presence to facilitating your customer service needs, having the right tools makes the procedure simple.

For example, the highly recommended Hootsuite automates your social media engagement. It connects to more than 35 global social networks so that you can monitor and post to all of your social media accounts all from a single dashboard. MailChimp, another useful tool, lets you automate your email marketing; and the best part: it’s free.

Small Business Automation Tips: Focus on Email and Social Media
As mentioned previously, it’s important to automate the easiest process that generates the most ROI. Your email and your social media marketing campaigns probably fit the bill. Although you can’t automate real-time replies on social media, you can schedule updates, posts, and alerts.

You can also send automated-response messages to customers when they contact you, or you can create a schedule to enhance your email marketing strategy. It’s a great way to generate leads without working overtime.

Small Business Automation Tips: Let Data Come to You
Data collection plays a very important part in small business automation. Large, big-budget businesses can hire entire departments to gather, sort, and analyze data about their customers and company performance. Small businesses don’t have that luxury.

Fortunately, small businesses can improve their data analysis processes through an automated system. Tools such as IBM Watson Analytics, Google Analytics, and Qualtrics can monitor and analyze numbers and information from a variety of sources. These include social media, customer support, tech, sales, finance, marketing, and more. By automating data analysis, you can collect hours of data in just minutes.

As Haden points out, a small business today cannot remain competitive and continue to grow if it doesn’t embrace automation. With the number of free automation tools and services available, small businesses have no excuse to ignore automating their business processes.

The sooner small business owners realize the need for automation—and instill that change in their company culture—the sooner they will reap increased efficiencies, more customers, and better profits.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the Forums. Join the discussion today!
This article was originally published on April 21, 2016

There is no doubt that one of the most challenging aspects of business for any startup or entrepreneur is growth. You can have the most amazing product or service in the world, but if you can’t drive exposure to it, you’ll never grow your company.

For many, much of the marketing of their business is directed at their website. This is why automating your website to be a constant source of leads and/or sales is a focus that every small business should invest in.

Let’s look at three ways you can turn your website into a growth engine along with some great examples that you can emulate.

What is Website Marketing Automation?
Before setting up your website to automate certain tasks, it pays to know what website marketing automation is. Marketing automation refers to setting up software and funnels that allow companies to capture leads, nurture them, and turn prospects into paying customers.

Automating your website to accomplish these goals will involve some investment in software, but it is an investment that can be easily justified by the returns you’ll gain once it is all setup.

Now that we understand what marketing automation is, let’s look at three examples.

Implement lead capture popups that provide value in exchange for an email address
Capturing the email of your website visitors is a marketing asset that can’t be overlooked. In fact, using an email for marketing purposes yields an ROI of 4,300 percent for businesses in the U.S.

However, website visitors won’t generally provide their email address without receiving something of value in return. Think of the email subscriptions you have signed up for; it’s likely that you did so because the brands offered some kind of coupon, savings, amazing offer or some other incentive that you deemed worthy of in exchange for your email.

On my website, Fitness Mentors, I use an automated popup (using software from Thrive Themes) that incentivizes visitors to get a free guide in exchange for their email (see image below). A secondary part of this automation is retaining the email within my email client (I use Aweber but other services like MailChimp, Constant Contact or Emma also work well), and the third part is automatically sending the visitor to the page where the guide we advertised in the popup can be found.

1. Implement lead capture popups that provide value

At this point my website has done a few things effectively:

Captured a hugely powerful marketing tool – an email
Automatically added my new contact to my email marketing software, opening up the opportunity for future communication
Provided my visitor something of value, leading to further trust
Of course, the above alone does not always generate a sale. This is why what we do with that email is very important and brings us to our next point.

More resources on growing your email list

5 Ways to Grow Your Email List Today

30 Ways to Increase Your Email List

Automate email nurture campaigns
Let’s assume that the email lead capture tools you setup begin to work well and you start to collect five or 10 new emails a day. Nice work!

The next marketing automation step we want to take is setting up what is called an email nurture campaign. The word nurture means to cultivate, foster or encourage, and that is exactly what the goal of your email nurture campaign should be with the goal of building brand trust and generating product/service sales.

All email software has the ability to setup automated email campaigns and this is what you’ll want to do to build trust with your new lead as well as introduce them to more products or services.

In an earlier blog on Creately titled 6 Ways to Market Your Startup with Email, some tips for effectively generating a successful email marketing campaign include:

Setting up emails on a consistent schedule
Keeping a timely message
Including quality content
Giving subscribers exclusive content
Below is a screenshot of the first five emails in our email nurture campaign along with the posting schedule.

2. Automate email nurture campaigns

There is, of course, a small learning curve when getting used to the email software you choose as well as learning what types of messages work best. For Fitness Mentors, one of our most popular emails was one that led visitors to our free practice tests page, one of the most highly sought after resources we offer that resonates with our clients.

Leading visitors to resources segues nicely to our next talking point, automating emails to blogs.

Automate blog emails to above lists
Now you know that you can grow your email list by offering visitors an incentive and lead them to a sale by setting up an email nurture campaign, you’ll want to keep hitting these subscribers with great content.

For many small businesses, great content comes in the form of a blog. When utilizing your email list you generally don’t want to always be promoting products or services, you’ll want the overwhelming mix of emails to be of value.

This is why we at Fitness Mentors like to send our email subscribers a blog post each time we publish one. The focus of our blog posts is to help our clients grow their businesses so we’d like to think we are providing some nice value with this content.

The other thing is we see that these blog subscribers are some of our most loyal clients and our software (Google Analytics) tells us that they tend to spend the most money on our products. Constantly providing value to email subscribers keeps your brand top-of-mind and helps you close more deals in the long run.

For whatever email marketing software you use, be sure to learn how to automate blogs so that they are sent to your email list to help keep these visitors engaged and to generate a sizeable chunk of your website traffic. Each software has different setup requirements, but there’s nothing a quick Google search can’t find.

Setup Your Website for Marketing Automation Today!
Setting up automated marketing within your website takes some investment of time and money. After that, you can focus on improving your product or spend more time on other marketing efforts such as driving more traffic to your website.

To recap, you’ll first want to have some sort of content that is of value to your website visitors and that you can use as an incentive to collect their email. Once you have this content, you’ll want to setup up a popup that displays your offer and collects emails and then automatically sends your visitor the content you promised them.

Next, you’ll want to continue to market to these email leads via an email nurture campaign. Finally, automate your blog so that your email subscribers will continue to get valuable content and be encouraged to return to your site on a frequent basis.

Be sure to set a clear path for your automated marketing efforts with a clearly diagrammed process so you know the exact paths you’ll want your campaigns to take.

Author Bio

Eddie Lester is a personal trainer, serial entrepreneur and fitness educator in Manhattan Beach, California and is the founder of Fitness Mentors, a personal training education website for all stages of your career. He can be found at the beach playing volleyball or surfing, or at the gym training for performance and drumming up new marketing ideas for his sites.

11 Ways to Automate Your Business and Boost Efficiency

Image credit: Mary Delaney | The Oracles
Grow Your Business,
Not Your Inbox

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
January 11, 2018 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Too often, repetition, waste, and unnecessary bureaucracy slow down business. Members of The Oracles share their systems to streamline your business to run like a Swiss watch.

Patrick Byrne
Image credit: The Oracles
1. Implement AI and machine learning.
It’s now possible to convert your business metrics into data points and then turn those data points over to an artificial intelligence engine that optimizes many things like price and digital marketing spend. Getting familiar with artificial intelligence and machine learning is crucial.

Get your company on the Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. Google Cloud has built-in tools for automation and you’ll automatically get the latest advancements as Google regularly updates it. Microsoft Azure is coming along right behind them and is priced competitively. With the right machine-learning tools, you can achieve maximum efficiency and turbocharge your business. —Patrick Byrne, CEO of and tZERO

Grant Cardone
Image credit: The Oracles
2. Create both a sales cycle and business cycle.
A sales cycle starts when a customer shows interest and ends when they buy. With a business cycle, you market and drive people toward your product or service. Most people don’t have the money to establish a business cycle when starting out. Big corporations live in the business cycle. They spend money creating traffic. To automate, you need a business cycle that gets constant eyeballs on your business. —Grant Cardone, top sales expert who has built a $500-million real estate empire, and NYT-bestselling author; follow Grant on Facebook or YouTube

Tim Draper
Image credit: The Oracles
3. Look for repetition.
To find missed automation opportunities, I get my team together to discuss what we’re doing that is repetitive. Then, we look for an automated solution that can perform the task as well or better, while delivering exceptional service. We’ve had great success in taking menial tasks like sorting and responding to emails and automating them. This enhanced rather than harmed the customer experience. —Tim Draper, VC, founder of Draper Associates and DFJ

Rob Kosberg
Image credit: The Oracles
4. Make it simple and repeatable.
Automation does not need to be complicated to be effective. A complicated system requires more maintenance and is vulnerable to breaking. Each day, people apply to our program and book a call with one of our author development coaches. Our author liaison matches the applications with appointments, so calls are distributed fairly, and appointments are booked quickly. —Rob Kosberg, #1 bestselling author and CEO of Best Seller Publishing, whose strategies have positioned U.S. Ambassadors, professional athletes, and CEOs as thought leaders

Tai Lopez
Image credit: The Oracles
5. Have a nuclear team, plus ninja contractors.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, said, “The best management style is not to micromanage or be completely hands-off; it’s to look over the shoulder.”

No one does everything well so I hire a fleet of super-specialized “ninja contractors” for specific tasks like social media, email marketing, and copywriting. Meanwhile, my small team of full-time team manages everything else, with me looking over their shoulder.

Automation means building the most efficient team around you. By outsourcing specific tasks to contractors, you cut costs. And since you’re not their only income source, they don’t drag things out. —Tai Lopez, investor and advisor to multiple multimillion-dollar businesses, who has built an eight-figure online empire; connect with Tai on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube

Jared Goetz
Image credit: The Oracles
6. Only work 20 minutes a day.
I set my e-commerce business up so I only need to contribute 20 minutes per day to keep things running. At first, I ran everything, then gradually replaced myself. My obstacle was trusting other people to do my job. But when you invest time and money into others, they often become even better than you!

It’s essential to train new people and create standard operating procedures, so your team knows how to handle problems. For my first customer support agent, I copied all my email threads into a document. At that point, I’d answered every question a customer could have, so when an inquiry came in, she knew exactly how to respond. —Jared Goetz, serial entrepreneur and e-commerce expert; co-founder of four multimillion-dollar companies in five years

LeNae Goolsby
Image credit: The Oracles
7. Empower, educate, and outsource.
Having a team that takes ownership of your business is paramount. Set clear policies and procedures, and encourage their input. Educate your team by providing supportive, ongoing mentorship coupled with knowledge assessments via the Socratic method (which focuses on asking questions instead of providing answers).

Then, outsource the necessities with trusted experts in areas like marketing, sales, billing, collections, bookkeeping, and incoming calls. This keeps the business running. —LeNae Goolsby, cofounder of Infinite Health and founder of Empowered Medicine TV

Joshua Harris
Image credit: The Oracles
8. Streamline task management and communication.
We use Slack and Trello to centralize communications and tasks so nothing slips through the cracks.

With that in place, create defined roles so a virtual assistant can route tasks to the appropriate team member. Tools like ScheduleOnce can automate appointments.

When making systems for employees, I use a two-step process: film yourself doing a task with a tool like Loom, then break that video down into a checklist of steps. —Joshua Harris, founder of Agency Growth Secrets; teaches entrepreneurs how to use machine learning and AI to produce unbeatable client results

Danny Morel
Image credit: The Oracles
9. Commit to a five-step plan.
One, learn everything yourself. Learn the ins and outs of the most critical positions so you can replace yourself. Two, don’t spend company money. Pay yourself a salary and only spend that. Three, know your weakness. Hiring a COO was the smartest investment I ever made. He took my weakness (documenting procedures) and made it a strength of our organization. Four, know the mental makeup that every position requires and hire for that. Five, let it go! There are people much better than you at a particular function in your business. Trust them to do their job. —Danny Morel, author of “The Resilience Roadmap” and founder of M.PIRE university; connect with Danny on Facebook and Instagram

Ken Lebovic
Image credit: The Oracles
10. Be patient, with a human touch.
Unless your new business is an app, most businesses require personal attention and a “human touch” to start. A new business can’t be automated out of the box.

Be patient. Take the time to make sure your business is working smoothly, and keep bringing a personal, human touch as you grow. Over time, figure a way to automate just those areas of your business that won’t affect the customer getting excellent service.

You don’t want to lose a first-time customer in a new business by not having your process personally tailored to their experience. —Ken Lebovic, president of North Shore Holdings; built a real estate empire acquiring thousands of properties in 20 years

Sharran Srivatsaa
Image credit: The Oracles
11. Commit to delivering consistent delight.
When I first met Issy Sharp, founder of Four Seasons Hotels, he told me something that stuck with me: “Systematize the predictable. Humanize the exceptional.”

I force one particular question regularly upon all the entrepreneurs that I mentor: “How can you create once and delight many times?” High-achiever personalities feel like they need to be intimately involved with every touchpoint with clients to delight. This is a fallacy and operationally frustrating.

Email automation is one of the simplest ways to automate “humanly.” I’ve used platforms like Emma and ConvertKit to deliver “sequences” of pre-written emails that don’t take away authenticity and consistently deliver delight. —Sharran Srivatsaa, angel investor and president of brokerage (western region) at Douglas Elliman; grew Teles Properties 10X in five years

Thanks to reader Nathaniel Amanor for this topic suggestion!

Want to share your insights like those above in a future column? If you’re an experienced entrepreneur, please get in touch here.

Want to suggest a future topic for these entrepreneurs to answer? Email and it’s very possible we’ll make your suggestion the focus of a future article!

Follow The Oracles on Facebook.

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GuruFocus.comAugust 27, 2020
– By James Li

According to top 10 holdings statistics, a Premium feature of GuruFocus, the top five holdings of Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio)’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A)(NYSE:BRK.B) as of the second quarter were Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC), Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE:KO), American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP) and The Kraft Heinz Co. (NASDAQ:KHC).

Warning! GuruFocus has detected 8 Warning Sign with AAPL. Click here to check it out.
AAPL 15-Year Financial Data
The intrinsic value of AAPL
Peter Lynch Chart of AAPL

Buffett, who is celebrating his 90th birthday on Aug. 30, studied under the legendary Benjamin Graham at Columbia University in 1951. The “Oracle of Omaha” purchased Berkshire Hathaway, which was then a textile manufacturing company, during the 1960s. Under his leadership, shares of Berkshire averaged a 21.4% compounded annual gain in book value per share from 1965 to 2006. The Omaha, Nebraska-based insurance conglomerate’s market cap stood at approximately $519 billion on Thursday.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
Buffett follows a value investing strategy based on his mentor’s approach. The legendary guru and his co-manager, Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio), seek companies using a four-criterion approach to investing: understandable business, favorable long-term prospects, operated by honest and competent people and available at a very attractive price.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
As of the June-quarter filing date, Berkshire’s $202.41 billion equity portfolio contains 44 stocks, with one new position and a turnover ratio of 1%. The top three sectors in terms of weight are technology, financial services and consumer defensive, representing 45.76%, 31.72% and 15.01% of the equity portfolio.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter

Berkshire owns 245,155,566 shares of Apple, unchanged from the first-quarter filing. Shares occupy 44.18% of the equity portfolio, up from the previous quarter’s weight of 35.52%.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
On Thursday, shares of the Cupertino, California-based tech giant closed at $500.04, down 1.20% from Wednesday’s close of $506.09. Berkshire has gained over $80 billion in its investment in Apple since initially buying shares during the first quarter of 2016.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
GuruFocus ranks Apple’s profitability 10 out of 10 on several positive investing signs, which include a 4.5-star business predictability rank and margins and returns that are outperforming over 95% of global competitors. Despite this, Apple’s valuation ranks 1 out of 10 on several signs of overvaluation, which include price-book and price-sales ratios near 10-year highs and are underperforming over 90% of global hardware companies.

Bank of America

According to GuruFocus Real-Time Picks, a Premium feature, Berkshire owns 1,032,852,006 shares of Bank of America as of Aug. 4, giving the stake 14.57% weight in the equity portfolio.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
GuruFocus ranks the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank’s financial strength rank 3 out of 10 on the back of debt ratios underperforming over 64% of global competitors despite equity-to-asset ratios outperforming over 56% of global banks.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter

Berkshire owns 400 million shares of Coca-Cola, giving the position 8.83% weight in the equity portfolio.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
GuruFocus ranks the Atlanta-based beverage giant’s financial strength 5 out of 10, weighed down by debt-to-equity ratios near 3 and underperforming 94% of global competitors despite a strong Altman Z-score of 3.43.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
American Express

Berkshire owns 151,610,700 shares of American Express, giving the holding 7.13% weight in the equity portfolio.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
GuruFocus ranks the New York-based credit card company’s financial strength 3 out of 10, weighed down by equity-to-asset and debt-to-equity ratios underperforming over 68% of global competitors.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
Kraft Heinz

Berkshire owns 325,634,818 shares of Kraft Heinz, giving the position 5.13% weight in the equity portfolio.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
GuruFocus ranks Kraft Heinz’s financial strength 4 out of 10 on several warning signs, which include a weak Altman Z-score of 0.79 and debt ratios that are underperforming over 60% of global competitors.

Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd QuarterView photos
Warren Buffett’s Top 5 Holdings as of the 2nd Quarter
See also

The following video summarizes Berkshire’s top holdings.

Disclosure: The author is long Apple as of this writing. The mention of holdings in this article reflect data as of the June filing and does not include trades made in July-August.

Read more here:

Warren Buffett Scores $80 Billion Gain on Top Holding Apple
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New GuruFocus Screener Feature: Historical Data Screener

Warren Buffett: Signals a Huge Market Crash Is Coming
The Motley Fool
Christopher Liew, CFA
The Motley FoolAugust 27, 2020
Tired or stressed businessman sitting on the walkway in panic digital stock market financial background
Tired or stressed businessman sitting on the walkway in panic digital stock market financial background
Are investors falling into a trap with the stock market stalking new highs? The highs seem to suggest uncertainty no longer dominates the investment landscape. But if you were to look at Warren Buffett’s recent moves, the GOAT (greatest of all time) of investing is preparing for something else — a huge market crash.

The chief at Berkshire Hathaway was never charmed by the glitter of gold. However, Buffett made a turnaround and took a position in Barrick Gold. His conglomerate bought $21 million shares of the gold producer from Canada. Simultaneously, he ditched his entire stock holdings in an investment banking giant and trimmed his stakes in bank stocks.

New reality
Some experts warn the stock market rally is not a reflection of the broader economy anymore. Canada’s economy remains in a precarious state, despite recouping 50% of jobs lost in March and April 2020. If Warren Buffett is undergoing a conversion and shifting to gold stocks, it signals unique risks.

Buffett’s sudden change in stance appears directed to a new reality. Expensive stimulus packages are pushing deficits to unprecedented levels and swelling national debts. Canada is on track to post a $343 billion deficit this year, and the government projects federal debt to top $1.1 trillion in 2020-21.

Buffett’s stock holdings
Buffett’s investing process is on full display, although some of his moves are surprising. As of June 30, 2020, gone are his holdings in Goldman Sachs and Canadian quick-service restaurant chain Restaurant Brands International. Berkshire added more Bank of America shares and reduced stakes in J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Berkshire also bought $5.1 billion worth of its own stock — a record amount and the most ever in a single period. Barrick Gold is the only new addition to Buffett’s portfolio. The gold stock also replaces Restaurant Brands as one of only two Canadian stocks in the basket.

Bellwether energy stock
Suncor Energy (TSX:SU)(NYSE:SU), the $31.86 billion integrated energy company from Calgary, remains in Buffett’s stock portfolio, despite the continued underperformance in 2020. This energy stock is struggling and losing 49.68% year to date, while Restaurant Brands is down by 12.34%.

Many ask if Suncor is due for a breakout. The oil sands king posted consecutive quarterly losses in 2020. In Q1, the company reported $309 million in operating losses compared with $1.2 billion operating earnings in Q1 2019. For Q2, the net loss was $1.489 billion versus the $1.25 billion net profit in Q2 2019.

Management said the low demand for crude oil and refined products plus the OPEC+ increase in supply caused a significant decline in commodity prices. However, Suncor made considerable progress in reducing operating and capital costs in Q2 2020. It remains on track to achieve the $1 billion operating cost reduction and $1.9 billion capital cost-reduction targets by year-end.

Losing value
The former bellwether energy stock recently cut its dividend by 55% as a prudent move. Suncor is paying a 3.84% dividend, although it’s a high-risk investment prospect. With plunging oil prices and deteriorating global demand, Buffett might dump Suncor next, as he re-balances his portfolio before the next market crash.

The post Warren Buffett: Signals a Huge Market Crash Is Coming appeared first on The Motley Fool Canada.

More reading

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Podcast Keyword Strategies explained
The Fine Art of SEO Keyword Strategies
Keyword strategies fail if you select keyphrases that are too popular. In this post I’m covering some SEO tips and research strategies that have emerged from discussions we’ve had with many of our blogging, content marketing and podcast production clients. The good news, unlike in years past, is that almost all of our clients consider SEO a “must have” component of running a podcast or blog. And for many, their blog or podcast serves as the central inbound marketing component for their site, driving traffic and increasing their e-mail lists.

But understanding of SEO keywords strategies and finding good keyphrases often starts with this mis-conception:

I just need to find a popular keyword that lots of people are looking for, and then optimize my post for it.

1.) The dangers of being too popular
It might seem quite easy to imagine a popular keyword that you want to be found for. Why not try and optimize a podcast episode for the keyword “podcast” for example? A popular term, 350K searches a month. Would that not drive lots of traffic to your site?

The answer is yes, but only if your site can rank in the top 50 search results for this keyword.

An example of a futile keyword strategySuggestion: Click here to do a search for the word “podcast” on google right now, and look at the top 10 results. Who are the sites ranking in the top 10? That’s right, Wikipedia, Apple, NPR, The Atlantic, etc. In other words hugely popular sites.

Now ask yourself, on which page of the search results do you think your own post would show up?

That’s right, page 200+ or something like this, unless you have a massively popular site. And when was the last time you looked at or clicked on anything beyond page 2 of a google search result?

The lessons and implications are this:

Do not try to rank for hugely popular keywords. You will not be in the top 50 search results, and therefore your post will not generate any organic search traffic to your site.
You need to research keywords and keyphrases in order to know if they are in fact “too popular” for your post to rank for them.
You need to have an idea about how your site ranks, in other words who it can compete with. Without this information, you are flying blind
No worries though, we will cover all of these considerations in this blog series.

2.) Is there such a thing as being “too niche”?
OK, so in our previous example, the keyword “podcast” seems very generic, and we’ve realized it’s unlikely we can rank our post for it. So what about the other extreme? Maybe it will be easier to rank for a key-phrase that is very specific?

keyword strategies example using Google AdWordsAssume for a minute we optimize a post for the term “health tips for dads”. And a few days or weeks after we published the post, HOORAY, we are ranking on the top 1-2 pages for this post!

Mission accomplished? Well no, hang on…

How many people a month do you think are looking for this term? Oh, sorry, a quick peek at Google Adwords reveals that this term is searched for 0 times a month, which is exactly how much traffic this keyword choice will generate.

The lessons and implications are this:

You may rank in the top 10 search engine results, but that does not mean you will get traffic from a keyphrase that is too niche.
3.) So what’s the answer then?
Finding the right fit for your keyword strategies The answer is finding a fit: To identify keywords and key-phrases commensurate with the search engine power of your site overall.

Some rules of thumb we follow for keyword research success:

The rule of thumb we follow is that if you have a brand new site with little traffic (Under 2000 sessions a month), try and find key-phrases that have at least 70 searches a month, but stay under 300 searches a month.
If you have a popular site at least 1-2 years old with 5000+ month visitor sessions, perhaps you can rank for key-phrases with 300+ searches a month.
But to rank for content that has 1000+ searches a month, you need your site to have both a lot more traffic.
Ask yourself, is it better to be on page 100 for a keyword that is popular, or on page 1 or 2 for a keyword that is un-popular, but that people are still looking for 100 times a month?

4.) Some other ways to determine your overall site rank

Have a look at Alexa rankings, there you can look up your site’s rank for free. Keep in mind, these are my personal educated guesses based on our experience, I would love to hear from you if you manage to “break the ceiling” of these rather cautionary numbers.

Alexa is a great toolset, and if you sign up for the free version you can create charts and comparison graphs to track your site’s rank vs your competitors.

Our “educated guess” rules of thumb here are as follows:

New sites are typically ranked 5million or higher. If you are, stay with key-phrases that are searched for at most 70-100 times a month.
If your site is ranked above 1.5Million on Alexa, you can likely rank for key-phrases that have 300 monthly searches and above.
If your site is ranked above 500K on Alexa, you can likely rank for more popular search terms and key-phrases that have 1000 monthly searches or more.
5.) How can you tell the number of searches a month for any given key-phrase?
Using Google AdWords for keyword strategiesNotice that earlier we mentioned checking up on how many times a month people search for a specific key-phrase. This is super valuable information, but how do you do this? The answer is Google AdWords. If you have not ever placed any pay-per-click ads with Google before, you may be unfamiliar with the platform, but it is free to use and has the best keyword research tools available for free.

Our advice on this one: sign up for an AdWords account, even if you don’t intend to do paid advertising

The sign-up process is a pain, as it requires a credit card and the only way you can sign up is to launch your own initial PPC ad, but you can simply pause the ad as soon as you launch it, and it won’t cost you a cent. The process may be scary, but it is definelty worth it.
6.) The Concept Of Keyword Difficulty
Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is a data concept and score that shows you exactly how hard it is going to be to rank in the top 10 search results on Google or other search engines. It does so by investigating the sites that show up in the top 10 results of google, and then comparing their SEO maturity and rank to your own. So a low keyword difficulty score is better, it means that you are more likely to be able to compete with the sites in the top 10 search results. A high score means that the top 10 search results are occupied by popular sites that you will have difficulty competing with.

Keyword difficulty tools we use provide a range of information about your competitor sites that currently occupy the top 10 search results. Domain age, # of incoming links, Alexa ranking and social signals are all able to pinpoint “weak competitors” currently showing up in the top 10 search results. Using these tools as part of our SEO services, and selecting “the right” keywords using the keyword strategies outlined above, we can often quickly accurately create a recipe that places a post or podcast episode into the top 10 search results on Google and other search engines.

Giving away all our secrets, but here are some of the keyword difficulty tools we use for this:

Here is the Link Assistant Keyword Difficulty Tool I use
Here is SEMRush’s keyword difficulty tool
All in one approach to keyword strategiesAre there any “All In One Solutions” ?

My Favorite new tool here to tie all the above elements together is KW Finder
The KW platform is an all-in-one solution that allows you to conduct research for your keyword strategies. You get insights into keyword difficulty and competition all in one place. See a screenshot in the image:

A Word About App Store Optimization
When we’ve been talking about keyword optimization, it’s been largely about being found on the web. What about being found on the app store? This is generally called ASO or app store optimization.

Within Apple Podcasts, there are only limited places where you can ensure that people can find your show.

The title of the podcast is the most important one, but keywords are difficult to embed there unless the title of your show lends itself to this. Keywords within the description of the podcast are not indexed, and therefore people cannot easily find you with these on Apple Podcasts. However, and often overlooked place to embed keywords relevant to your show is the Author Title Tag.

Tip: Use the author title tag to embed keywords for your title.

Here is an example of a podcast we produce called “The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show”. Notice how the name of the podcast host includes keywords that are significant for her business.

Spending just a little time on learning the above keyword research tips can have a major impact on your site traffic. It may seem overwhelming at first, but studying this for an hour or two a week is all it takes.

What are some keyword research approaches that are working well for you?
We would love to hear from you about what is and what isn’t working for you.

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