- Lifestyle Business Podcast
- Tropical MBA
- Tropical Workforce
- AuditShark Compliance Software
- HitTail Keyword Tool
[0:00:00] Rob : This is start ups for the rest of us, episode 59.
[0:00:14] Rob : Welcome to startups for the rest of us podcast for developers, designers and entrepreneurs, the ultimate software launching product. Whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
[0:00:22] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[0:00:23] Rob : And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes that we’ve made. What’s the word this week Mike?
[0:00:28] Mike: Well I spent most of this past weekend completely rewriting the guts of the Windows service that customers are going to install for Audit Shark and the reason I rewrote it is because I started putting together the installation instructions for it. And it was a lot more difficult to get it installed that I thought because obviously you know I need customers to be able to install it and I did it on my development machine and I was doing some I’d say kind of funky things to get it installed. And I got to the point where I said this is just going, this experience is going to suck for the customer. So I basically re wrote it so that the installation is literally just a single command line, you know you can unzip the Zip file that’s got all the files and stuff and you put it wherever it is that you want. You call the executable with the install parameter and that’s pretty much the end of it. It would just work, it installs itself as a Windows service and you just from there.
[0:01:23] Rob : Nice. See that’s, and that’s like iteration, it’s like you get the thing to Alpha and then you realize there is this early step that you’ve kind of forgotten about because you probably haven’t installed it for months because you know just in dev environment. And I don’t know fixing that feels like a nice step towards getting this thing ready to go in customer machines so that’s pretty cool.
[0:01:42] Mike: Yes it was really cool to see it actually work because all of the stuff that I had in place it’s sort of works but there were some funky things that kind of happen, it’s just not going to work for the customer. It’s not going to present the experience that I want the customers to see.
[0:01:57] Rob : Cool I think, I want to talk a little bit about Hit Tail because I’ve gotten several emails like people asking, like so what is Hit Tail, what does it do? And I feel like it’s funny I kind of talked about it early on yeah its SEO Keyword tool. But like people don’t really get the idea and it’s a super simple idea and I can almost say in one or two sentences. Hit Tail which is the app that I’ve acquired it’s a software it’s a service app, all it is at its purest form is a way to find out the keywords that you should be targeting on your website. So the SEO keywords you should be targeting. And the way it does that is it doesn’t use the Google data that everyone else uses. Like Google keyword tool you can plug into that and you can do all types of analysis.
[0:02:37] And that’s what Market Samurai uses, that’s Micro Niche Finder uses, that’s what all the tools that you do keyword research with essentially use that same corpus. It’s basically all just conjecture based on what people think people are searching for. It’s reasonably accurate, it’s a good estimate. What Hit Tail does is you install a snippet or Java script on your website like Google Analytics and so Hit Tail is able to see all of the keywords and all the traffic you’re getting. And it actually looks at the proprietary actual real time information in your traffic. And then it analyzes it and it says, these are the keywords that you’re going to rank easily, they have enough traffic you should write a blog post or you know write an article about this and you’ll appear on the first page of Google for this terms.
[0:03:25] That’s what it is. That’s all it is. So really the whole app could be one page. You install a Java script and the whole app could just be this list of keywords that you should then either write about or hire a writer. I have writers I can recommend, that I do recommend to Hit Tail customers. So that’s it. Now the app is more than one page because we have, there is a long tail diagram and there’s real time refers and there’s you know other stuff that we give you. But the bottom line is it’s all about the keywords that no other tool can tell you and at this, the recommendation algorithm has analyzed 1.2 billion keywords.
[0:04:00] I was looking at it, I thought it was 700 million and I looked in the database last week and it’s billion. You and are both accused of not selling hard enough, like we don’t plug our products, we don’t talk about the academy very much. And it’s just not kind of not our way right? We’re just more mellow dudes. So I’m not like trying to push Hit Tail on people but I genuinely believe in the value of this thing. I mean this is why I bought it. I’ve been a customer of it for five years and you know there are several thousands, there’s actually about,40,000 people who’ve tried Hit Tail that are in the database. And I have like raving fans who you know were really frustrated with the old ownership because it kept going down.
[0:04:34] I do truly believe there is value for people here. You know it doesn’t work for everybody, you need at least, between three and five thousand visits a month. You probably want at least 15, 20 of content on your site. But once you have that it can definitely provide value of the price. Its 10 bucks a month at the lowest plan and it goes up from there. So any questions?
[0:04:53] Mike: Not really, I mean I’ve looked at it before so I know…
[0:04:56] Rob :So you know what…yeah.
[0:04:57] Mike: I know what’s got yeah.
[0:04:57] Rob :The website right now as of this recording you know doesn’t do a good job of conveying what I’ve just said. It’s hard to…
[0:05:03] Mike: It really doesn’t.
[0:05:04] Rob :No. And even the app itself when you, if you log you got an account you don’t know what to do. It took me a long time to figure out the app is not very usable. So that’s why I’ve been talking about it, the whole website is being redesigned, the app is being redesigned to basically underscore what I’ve just said. You know to tell you how to use and how to go about getting the most out of it.
[0:05:22] Mike: It’s interesting that you mention the app is being partly redesigned just to help people or help new customers get the most out of it because right now I’m in the process of pursuing a copy of early customers for Audit Shark and that’s exactly what I’m zeroing in on and asking them for feedback on is, does this stuff make sense to you? Do you even know what to do, what sort of things are missing from the UI, to basically help you make sense of what you’re even looking at because that’s important. I mean that first impression is going to be what they see and if they don’t have a good impression of your software when they first log in, they’re never going to log in again.
[0:05:59] Rob :Yeah I agree. I think it’s a huge piece that’s often overlooked but you can have a great you know marketing and sales funnel and get people to your trial and basically if that first user experience, that first run experience is crappy you’re going to have a leaky funnel and people are going to be falling out of the bottom of it. For great first time experiences you can look at Apple. Anytime you’ve opened an iPod, an iPhone you just this amazing magic feeling when you open it. And 37 Signals does it great with software. That even when you sign up for the trial and they’re basically guide you through what you should do. They’ll often have some sample data populated so when you get to this page, the first page is not blank like a lot of apps are when you first log in. they actually give you some data so you know what stuff is supposed to look like.
[0:06:42] Mike: Wow that’s a great idea. Actually I’m glad you said that because that was something I was wondering about for Audit Shark and that’s something that I’ll probably put ads like my list of things to do is to basically give them a flag that says enable or disable sample data and it basically will just show them data that they could look at that you know isn’t necessarily their data but can show them, this is what the application could look after it’s been populated. So you know kind of what you’re looking at and you don’t see all these blank charts and everything. That’s a great idea.
[0:07:13] Rob :Yeah. There’s two good ways to do it, one is just like you said where you have some sample data that they can add a flag on or off or they can just delete, easily delete all of it when they start. The other way that I’ve seen is to just have, it’s almost like a light image as the background of the page. And the image is of a fully populated data set. And so if you look you can see it but it’s kind of light it’s almost like a watermark. And then as soon as you start entering stuff that image changes to you know more of a white background. So that’s kind of a tricky way to do it but it means you don’t have to deal with you know actually data in their database. But then they can’t sort it, it’s all static and stuff.
[0:07:51] Mike: Right, right. I’ve seen that done before too but I think that just having fake sample data in there will probably be the quickest and easiest way to get it done.
[0:07:57] Rob :I think for you… yeah I do too.
[0:08:01] Rob :Today we have a very special guest. Dan Andrews for the Lifestyle Business Podcast. You’re going to learn all about how to hire interns, why the line should be blurred between employees, VAs, contractors and interns and basically hear a lot of knowledge from Dan who has 11 folks working for him and has basically bootstrapped $1 million product business. Not software but actual physical products over the past couple of years with his co-founder. So Mike and I had the pleasure of interviewing him, he’s in Bali and he stayed up late to talk to us. So I guess let’s divert into that interview.
[0:08:41] Rob :So today Mike and I are here with Dan Andrews of the Lifestyle Business Podcast. You’ve actually heard me give me shout outs several times in the past. And I’ve been listening to Lifestyle Business Podcast which I’m going to refer to as LBP from now on. I’ve been listening to it since somewhere around episode four and they’re now on, what are you now on Dan, episode…
[0:08:58] Dan: 83.
[0:09:00] Rob :83 yeah. So they go weekly in there. Why don’t you say hi to the audience Dan?
[0:09:04] Dan: Hey everybody. It’s good to be on the other side of the mike this time I guess. I’m usually on the ear buds doing this show.
[0:09:11] Rob :Nice. So in about a week you’ll get to listen back to this.
[0:09:14] Dan: Yeah.
[0:09:14] Rob :So why don’t you give folks an idea, you know there’s probably a lot of folks who haven’t listened to the LBP. Give them an idea of what it’s about, what you’re about, just kind of get them introduced.
[0:09:25] Dan: Sure. So I’m a four hour work a week so like I had a job, a 9:00 to 5:00 guy and that book really influenced me. I was running a manufacturing company at the time and I read the book and it just like hit me like a ton of bricks I was like yes. You know because my passion was always to travel and I really never saw it as a possibility for me. And immediately after having read that book I sat down I thought well what could I do with a business that would allow me to start to free up some of my like you guys are talking about location independence. I scoped out with my friend and business partner Ian who is my co host as well an e commerce company.
[0:10:00] And we just got started like absolutely from square one with a Yahoo Store and put it up and started selling some products and here we are four years later and it’s just been an amazing ride. I think about halfway through we decided to start podcasting about all the stuff we were learning and sort of build up a community around what we were doing. And here we are four years later it’s not, so I’m in Bali right now, Ian’s visiting me for six weeks and that’s been an incredible ride.
[0:10:27] Rob :Yeah and I haven’t told you this before but what I like about your podcast is that you guys are legit. You’re not information marketers trying to sell people want to know how to make money online. You guys have started, essentially it’s an online business or several online businesses that self physical products. So one of your lines of business is cat furniture right?
[0:10:45] Dan: Unfortunately…
[0:10:48] Rob :Unfortunately?
[0:10:48] Dan: Yes tough market. I wouldn’t recommend it.
[0:10:51] Rob :You also sell stuff related to hotel, servicing hotels is that right? I mean I don’t actually, you don’t actually talk specifically about it I’ve just heard you mention it.
[0:10:59] Dan: Sure we sell key boxes, we sell security like safes and stuff, we sell portable bars for conventions and hotels It’s kind of like a hodgepodge, it’s similar to your approach, you guys take the software. I mean we buy into markets based on key terms, based on maybe a passion that we have. So we’re probably actively involved in six or seven e commerce markets right now.
[0:11:25] Rob :Got it. And some of the them Ian actually designs or you guys design products and have them manufactured and you deal with manufacturing in China and that’s a lot of the stuff you’ve talked about in the podcast. And then others I assume you resell, you don’t design all the lockboxes and all that.
[0:11:39] Dan: That’s right we do a lot of drop shipping as well.
[0:11:40] Rob :Right very cool. So Mike and I wanted to have you on to talk about finding staff cheaply because it’s something that you’ve talked a lot about on the LBP, you’ve talked about getting interns. I know the Tropical MBA if people haven’t heard about it, it’s a way that you’ve convinced some really bright folks to come on board for basically a lesson they would make as a salaried employee. But you fly them around the world to the Philippines or Bali where you’re living now. You put them up in a house and you get this genius, I’ll say kids because I’m 36.
[0:12:13] Dan: [Laughs]
[0:12:13] Rob :I know they’re like in their 20s but they’re like genius kids to help you out all kinds of crazy stuff. And you guys are running, you did a million bucks this year huh?
[0:12:20]Dan: We did a, actually probably I think this week we just clicked over to a million bucks so.
[0:12:27] Rob :Congratulations man.
[0:12:28] Dan: Crazy, thank you.
0:12:28] Rob :Yeah. So today we’re going to talk about how to find staff cheaply. And I guess I want to start by maybe introducing the four kinds that I have in mind. We’ll probably wind up covering all of them. As you know we don’t tend to do straight up interviews, we tend to do more like interactive discussions because Mike and I have experience with this stuff as well. But I think you have a unique lens to put to this because like I’ve never hired an intern and I actually some specific questions about how you might go about doing that.
[0:12:56] So I’m going to get started with the four kinds of staff. The first is employees, and that’s what a lot of people think of you know when they’re thinking about starting a business. I know that Mike hired employees, you hired several employees in Philippines Dan. And then I have for myself I don’t think I have, maybe I’ve hired one employee in the past ten years. So the second kind is contractors and that’s what I’ve tended to stick with and I’m sure we’ll all have some insight on that. The next is a virtual assistance and then the final is interns.
[0:13:25] And so we’re going to kind of cover each of those. I’m sure there are going to be a lot of overlap and similarities and such. Mike you’ve been pretty quiet so far, sorry about that, talk briefly about which of these have you had experience hiring.
[0:13:38] Mike: For me it’s been employees, contractors and virtual assistants. I’ve never hired an intern, I looked around a little bit for an intern a while back, had somebody in for an interview but it was, I knew the person kind of peripherally through some you know links I had back to college. So it wasn’t like he was a complete unknown and he ended up going to get an internship at Google instead so [Laughs]
[0:14:03] Dan: [Laughs].
[0:14:05] Rob :How about you Dan? Have you covered all the, all four of those?
[0:14:09] Dan: Yeah currently I think we’ve got all four.
[0:14:11] Rob :Like I said so I’ve definitely hired a lot of contractors and VAs. I think I’ve hired one employee although I’m trying to think it might have been myself that I hired. You know when you set up an LOC like hire yourself. And then but I have, I did hire quite a few, probably 10 or 15 developers at a previous job and I gave a couple of hundred interviews over the course of a couple of years. So I definitely have experience in that realm. So it seems like Dan has the unique intern hiring experience here.
[0:14:38] Dan: Well I can, I can share my big fat principle. So for everybody who’s sitting there saying like, ah I don’t want to listen to this joker talker. Like arguing, that’s development stuff. So this is the one message I will leave to the audience. It is as entrepreneurs, as people who have businesses, by like travelling around the world and meeting so many people that are both aspiring to do this and have managed to pull it off, we are in such a unique position and it’s one that aspiring entrepreneurs. Like when I was 22 years old and had a crappy job I was just praying that some guy would you know put an ad up on Craigslist and say, follow me around with a notepad and do my crap work, I’ll teach you how to be an entrepreneur.
[0:15:16] And that opportunity just did not present itself. And now with things like you know the blogosphere, you can do that, you can present those opportunities to other people and people are just dying to learn directly from people who have business. So I think that’s the number one thing that entrepreneurs undervalue, they’re not, they sort of get caught up in their own world and they forget how meaningful that information is to other people. And by now having nine interns through the Tropical MBA program and a bunch of employees I’ve realized how valuable that experience is for them to actually learn and work directly with people.
[0:15:50] So I think I constantly see entrepreneurs sort of just second guessing themselves, maybe not being so confident about it. But I just want to reassure the entrepreneurs out there how valuable that is to other people that are aspiring to do that, even if you don’t feel that successful yourself.
[0:16:07] Rob :Right and that’s a good point. If you have experience it’s like you said basically by offering to share that you can get really smart people to come work for you as interns or you know one of your other types. And thinking about the intern question because that’s kind of the big thing on my mind, you’ve like I said some really smart kids to come work for you by sharing your knowledge. Why do you then continue to have employees, contractors and VAs? What role do they fill that the interns don’t?
[0:16:33] Dan: Well the interns get hired. So that’s sort of what ended up happening and I didn’t really expect that because at the beginning I was like well if you come work for me for six months I’ll help you get your own business off the ground because that’s sort of the whole reason they wanted to work for me in the first place. But what I realized and you know remembering back to my own experience is that it takes longer than six months to launch a business generally. So they ended up wanting to stick around longer. And so I just brought them on the payroll and that was that.
[0:17:02] And so I think one of the things is that the lines between these things are very unclear for me because it’s not so clear what an intern is versus a VA or what an employee is versus a VA. And like you know it’s my Drupal developer in Manila a VA or an employee? It’s not quite clear in our organization. What ended up happening with the interns in particular the people I brought on to be mentored, a lot of them I ended up hiring. That’s been great. In fact we’ve run unpaid internships more classical type internships through our California office. We do industrial design out of that office.
[0:17:37] And you know those interns have come and work for free for college credits and then we’ve ended up hiring two candidates who’ve done that. So we see internships as a springboard into employment in our company.
[0:17:48] Rob :Got it. So I find it interesting that you kind of blur the line between employee, contractor and VA. Do you still have all kind of four types working for you?
[0:17:59] Dan: Why are we blurring the lines? [Laughs]
[0:18:00] Rob :Yeah I mean why do you, why would you have employees and contractors still? Is it just for short term stuff that you hire contractors or have you thought about moving everyone to W2?
[0:18:11] Dan: A lot of it is so caught up in like the story of our business. So basically I started using my location independence to start chasing down more cost employees. So first I went to Vietnam and then I went to the Philippines. You know everybody has heard about the Philippines and the VAs there. And then I decided wow people want to travel with me so then I started inviting interns over. And when I hired those interns it wasn’t like I was going to put them on the payroll of my California company. So what we ended up doing was opening up offshore companies and the paying them out like contractors. And obviously there are much lower rates than what you traditionally think of an employee.
[0:18:48] So we’ve got people in California back at like at the classic, they’ve got the 401K and they’ve got their health insurance and all that kind of stuff. But the guys that are sort of traveling the world doing my ad words and PPC and SEO and all that kind of stuff, those guys are paid out just like contractors would be. Does that make more sense?
[0:19:04] Rob : Yeah it does yeah.
[0:19:05] Dan: So it’s crazy, it’s totally illegible [laughs].
[0:19:08] Rob :Yeah but what’s funny is it sounds like it’s brought on more like government red tape or regulation or just it’s the specifics of bureaucracy that force you to do that rather than like you, it sounds like you view everyone as just part of your team and it doesn’t really matter if they’re a contractor or an employee, that just a designation you have to make to satisfy government taxes and such.
[0:19:28] Dan: Exactly. And that’s my philosophical way of you know just managing the business in general. If I’m paying you a 150 bucks to do a gig for me welcome to the team you know. And that’s the way I look at it and also that’s the way I do management because I find it so creatively draining to delegate. And so what I need to do is infuse sort of the vision of the business into these people around me so that they can take care of it for me and they can sort of lead themselves.
[0:19:56] That’s why yeah this whole idea of the classic, oh you have a VA and there is a Rip sheets and they’re just like follow the 15 steps on that sheet and then voila you’ve made your money on your VA, I’ve never done that. It’s never worked for me.
[0:20:10] Rob :Right. I have about seven or eight different contractors who work for me. Several of them I would classify as VAs and then see I classify developers and database administrators kind of technical people differently just maybe because I am one but I don’t call them VAs. But I do have VAs who basically do tier one email support and it’s mostly a process. Like it mostly is a Google doc and a Screen Cast that gets them started and then they have these snippets to reply. It’s not all robotic, I mean I still have to hire good people who are fluent in English and all that stuff.
[0:20:40] But they’re more like, I guess a VA in a company they’re more like the people in the call center who are a bit removed from the core team building the product. And that maybe a detriment to what I’m doing. I mean I guess, what’s your perspective on that? Like do you, when you have people doing admin work and you also have people doing hardcore technical SEO, building products and stuff do they interact and they all know each other and they really are part of cohesive team or is there separation there?
[0:21:07] Dan: On the one hand it can be business specific. So we don’t have like, I’m kind of jealous of businesses like that. I think our business is kind of haywire and it might be a reflection of who I am. But mostly what I would do is instruct the people on the team to go hire out contractors from either people in our personal network because generally we do or people on Elance or Odesk or something like that. So often times it’s kind of like admin tasks, nobody on the team wants to do that stuff because we very much have this kind of like upper route feel in the company. People, you know we encourage people to push things forward and be creative.
[0:21:40] So when you put a bunch of admin work on their desk they’re kind of like, eh not so much. We take contractors on outside countries from either Odesk or Elance to do a lot of that kind of stuff.
[0:21:49] Rob :Got it. Okay. So you know we have a lot of folks who listen to this who listen to our podcast, who are probably you know either just building an app or have launched or thinking, wow when do I hire someone and what do I hire? You know do I try to look for an intern first? Do I look for a VA? Do I look for a contractor? Mike give me some perspective on your thoughts on that. Like at what point does someone need to start thinking about getting outside help and maybe what should their first step be when they start.
[0:22:18] Mike: I think that the time you start looking for help is about the time that you kind of get to this point the business can actually support having it so you have to have a business first. I mean if you’re hiring in advance of the need then you’re, I won’t say you’re throwing money down the drain but you’re basically taking a risk. The business that you expect to come may not come at all. At which point you are paying somebody money which essentially becomes a money sink which you somehow have to support that but because the business isn’t there you can’t sustain that for very long.
[0:22:50] So you have to make sure that the business is able to financially support that and I’ve made that mistake in the past and I know others who’ve made that mistake, but if you’re hiring in advance of the needs then that’s just a bad idea.
[0:23:02] Dan: My hand was raised when you said I know others have done that. And I’ve done it a bunch of times and a lot of times what I do is I hire because I want to avoid the emotional labor. So if it’s like I know there is money over here somewhere right? And alright well I know I can hire someone in the Philippines for $400. So I’ll hire them and I’ll like sort of push them in that direction and say go make the money.
[0:23:24] And that’s like the worst strategy ever. It always just loses you $400 a month [laughs]. That’s why like you know cut the suspense for you, that’s what’s going to happen. So yeah I mean you’ve got to go and identify a repeatable scalable source of income or at least a sustainable one and you have to forge that yourself. I mean that’s what entrepreneurs do. You have to build that, you have to talk to the first clients and then plug somebody in. I tend to plug people in super fast. Like when I find out that source of income is going to pay for itself I will immediately hire.
[0:23:56] Rob :I guess that leads us to kind of the first steps to how to find an employee, contractor, VA or intern. Dan in your experience is it similar for all those four types? I imagine the intern process might be different than the other three. What would you say?
[0:24:10] Dan: First of let me talk about a bit of an opportunity that I’m trying to spearhead on the web which was sort of based on how to I wanted to live. So there is this phenomenon called Location independent entrepreneurs or location independent freelancers. And this has just been gangbusters for our business is identifying young people, generally young people but it’s not limited to them who want to travel the world as they work. And this is just an incredible subset of people and if you can tap into them I used to be backpacker. And that’s where like all this wanderlust came from. And the magic number for backpackers is 1000 bucks a month.
[0:24:47]And a lot of our websites need you know incredible amounts of, we need to do a promotion every day but plus we do customer service plus we need to do this, we need to do that, it’s tough to find a Filipino VA to do all that. But it’s really to find like a recent college grad who is in a really tough job market who wants to hang out in Thailand and do all that stuff for you and essentially that’s like the market that I’ve been trying to put my hiring fingers into to incredible results.
[0:25:15] Rob :Got it and that’s what Tropical MBA program right? Where you bring folks around the world and…
[0:25:20] Dan: Right. So I’ll shamelessly plug a free service which I’m trying to get off the ground, it’s called Tropical Workforce which is basically just a job board and it’s free. Anybody, a listener on this show wants to post a gig or an internship there you’re more than welcome to I’ll help you with that. And yeah it’s a bit of an experiment right now. We just started it a couple of weeks ago. But the idea is basically take the idea of the Tropical MBA and extend to other entrepreneurs. You know all my entrepreneurial friends are basically like, oh I want to do a Tropical MBA I want to do it, I want to do it. So this is sort of our task with that.
[0:25:52] So that’s to back up and that’s basically something that I’m really excited about because you know this websites, there’s a lot of moving parts, there’s a lot of not so just…I’ve tried the whole Filipino VA thing, you know I lived there for a year and a half. I thought it was going to make me rich, I thought I was going to sit in Manila, get 20 agents for my business and it was going to be gangbusters and no bueno. So the, what I found is that the travel those are amazing and because you’re offering them the opportunity to travel which is deeply deeply core motivation for them, they really deliver well.
[0:26:27] Rob :So how would that apply to someone like me who lives in Fresno California, you know wife, a couple of kids so I’m not going to be able to move around the world. Does that still apply to me even though I don’t live in Thailand or Bali?
[0:26:38] Dan: Well like I said like my right hand man who you know does all of my social media websites, all podcasts, in fact he manages two contractors. He would just jump ship if you offered him a job tomorrow [laughs].
[0:26:51] Rob :Got it. I see.
[0:26:54] Dan: But yeah I don’t think you need to, you don’t need to be traveling at all. I think you just need to extend the mentorship and you need to input in the time, that’s the biggest thing is they want to be able to work with you and see the vision and see how it works from the inside.
[0:27:09] Rob :So it seems like you have kind of a funnel going on where you attract people, you attract really smart younger people into this internship program and you can essentially you know it’s like you said you pay them 1000 bucks a month and they’re able to travel. They’re able to learn from you the mentorship that they require, but they also giving back a lot more than you can get from maybe from a $400 a month VA like you said. And then if they work out, I imagine some of them are phenomenal and those just fit right into your kind of your employee funnel. And if they don’t work out then you know you part ways. That’s how you’re finding people these days?
[0:27:42] Dan: Yeah and they all become evangelists too. So like a lot of my top blog refers are successful bloggers that sort of came out of the program as well. So there’s all kinds of side benefits and everybody is getting together and doing stuff. I think when I step back and look at our whole business it’s just giant hack to try to get staff involved cheaply. And maybe that’s because you know we’re not developers and so we were always a bit hamstrung especially when it came to our development efforts
[0:28:09] You know it’s just so tricky for non developers to hire developers and so always trying to hack that situation. We’ve used bonus incentives, we use commissions so we have guys in China that work for us on commission only. We’ve used outsourcing, we’ve used in sourcing which is this whole I live in Bali I invite guys to come to my house and then we use the mentorship thing. So there’s sort of a broad range of these morphed our organization like you said to turn into a funnel. Because for me that’s the process, I don’t build scalable software platforms like I have to have something. My platform is my people, the team.
[0:28:42] Rob :Right. How many folks do you have working for you?
[0:28:45] Dan: It depends how you count. We have 11 and one is a business partner by the way. You know I want to make sure that I mention the captain. He’s, it all goes down because of my wonderful business partner Ian, also the most expensive employee. Just found out the other day he costs 50 cents on every dollar I make.
[0:29:02] Rob :How cool [Laughs]. Nice.
[0:29:05] Dan: So we have 11 people full time right now.
[0:29:08] Rob :Got it. Wow.
[0:29:10] Dan: And that’s kind of amazing for a company that’s the size of ours. For us that’s how we feel like we grow things, it’s by growing the team.
[0:29:16] Mike: But Dan, Dan I have question for you. When you brought in some of these people as interns and I know you set forth kind of the expectation that they work for you for six months and then maybe they go off and do their own business. But and then you turn around and you said, hey I’m going to hire you full time and whether that’s, you know whatever label you put on that as either employee or contractor, I think it’s kind immaterial. But what are your thoughts around the longevity of that person sticking around? I mean do you not offer somebody a job if they’re really gung ho about building their own company and leaving? I mean do you decide to not bring them on fulltime or do you say, hey that’s cool whenever you decide to do it? What are your thoughts around that?
[0:29:59] Dan: The way that we do it is I can kind of have always have an image in my head is like every person they want to get somewhere. Like they have their own personal idea of where they’re trying to get with their life. And I try to figure out how my business can sort of be a superhighway for them. So if this person like I just know he wants to travel and I’m not going to get off the travel bug. So I want to figure out how I can help him travel better than he could do it on his own. That way I’m going to get his best energy.
[0:30:26] Another way to answer the question is just to say we try to understand what their core motivations are. Our first intern Sean Ogle who is now a successful blogger, internet marketer. I just knew his passion was with his own projects and so what I did was supported him full stop and basically pushed him, you know pushed him out as hard as I could and said you have to do this. And so I think you know we get pretty up close and personal with really what they want to do and try to deliver that to them.
[0:30:53] So you know of the things that has never worked for as an employee, as a manager is trying to be possessive or try to control people. So I try to do the opposite which is try to push them. So if that’s going towards their own projects I’m offering them you know mentorship, I’m offering them investment, I’m offering them whatever it takes to get out of the door and what it is they want to do.
[0:31:17] Rob :I wanted to find out if there is anything else, I mean I feel like you have so much knowledge on this topic that you could kind of riff on it for hours. But is there anything that I’ve missed or anything you’d like to tell, anything you’d like to share with them about this topic that I haven’t asked about.
[0:31:30] Dan: I think there is one element to team building that we haven’t touched on yet which is masterminding. The cheapest way to get somebody on your team is to I guess maybe get a partner. It’s cheap in the short run, expensive in the long run. Maybe even cheaper than that is just to put together a mastermind group and I know you guys talk about that on the program. And that’s the simplest way just to get started with this idea of working with others.
[0:31:54] And for me masterminds have just, it seems so simple. It’s like such a simple thing right, like put up a blog post and say, here is who I want to talk with on the phone every week and here is you know here is the profile and are you out there? And if you manage to get those people on the phone, my experience has been profound, like absolutely light years ahead in the business. That’s a great way to get started, if you’re a solopreneur it’s to reach out and try to have a mastermind.
[0:32:18] Rob :You know that’s really good advice. It’s actually something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while because I’m now involved, I’m involved in person mastermind and then I’m just starting a Skype mastermind with different kind of folks.
[0:32:29] Dan: Oh cool.
[0:32:30] Rob :And something, a question I get a lot is I’m a solo entrepreneur should I find a co founder? And I tend to say you know unless you really know someone and you really you know essentially going to get married to them I would say go solo. Mike and I recommend that approach as a rule. Unless you do have a partner who’s likeminded and you know there is a lot of stuff that comes together.
[0:32:49] But then the next follow up question someone always asks is well I need someone to bounce ideas off of, I need someone to support me and to talk me through stuff. And that’s, I realized that answer is a mastermind. Someone doesn’t need equity to support you and give you feedback and understand your business. I think that’s my new thing is like masterminds are substitute for co founders or can be if you find the right people.
[0:33:10] Dan: I’m in locks up with you guys on this point. And we even have a name for it, we call it an accountability partner. So people are just really mess things up by jumping into partnerships way to early in the process. Absolutely agree to get an accountability partner, a lot of people in my immediate network have done this and they’re on the phone every Friday night at 8:30 pm and it’s stastic. And it really really helps.
[0:33:34]Rob : Yeah something I’m starting to see when folks do that, when they do an accountability partner over time if they are a crappy accountability partner then you guys tend to drift apart. And if they are really good, you tend to drift towards starting a business with them which I think is, an accountability partner is a good way to vet them maybe as a potential partner over the long run. You know you spend a year being accountable to each other and then once you start the marriage it’s kind of like you’ve been dating for a year and you know each other pretty well.
[0:34:02] Dan: No question. It’s great advice, it’s great advice. Partnership is a sinking ship [laughs]
[0:34:10] Rob :Well Dan really appreciate you coming on the show. Where can people find out about you? Where would you like to send folks?
[0:34:16] Dan: Sure the best place to catch me is the tropicalmba.com. That’s my personal blog and I do a podcast there as well. That’s the best place to find me. Also we do the lifestylebusinesspodcast.com if you’re interested in podcasts so…
[0:34:29] Rob :Yeah I would definitely…
[0:34:29] Dan: It’s 2:00 in the morning [laughs]
[0:34:32] Rob :Yeah, hit iTunes, go Lifestyle Business Podcast, highly recommended. Thanks again Dan.
[0:34:39] Dan: Thanks guys.
[0:34:39] Rob :Alright.
[0:34:40] Mike: Thanks Dan.
[0:34:44] Mike: If you have a question or a comment you can call it into our voicemail number at…
[0:34:48] Rob :1-888-801-9690.
[0:34:51] Mike: Or you can email in text or MP3 format your questions at startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an expert from Moot used under creative commons.
[0:35:01] Rob :If you enjoyed this podcast please consider writing a review on iTunes and you can subscribe to us in iTunes or via RSS at our website. A full transcript of the podcast is available at our website, startupsfortherestofus.com.
[0:35:12] Mike: Thanks for listening we’ll see you next time.