Creating an Accidental 6-Figure Business [Travis Brown]
Starting a 6-figure business can seem like a long shot. But sometimes all it takes is persistent action to uncover opportunities that you didn’t even know existed. Travis Brown is here to talk about how he stumbled on his idea for PodDecks by accident and ended up turning it into a 6-figure company.
Nick (00:01): This is the Nine-Five Podcast. And I'm your host, Nick Nalbach. Where we get into the minds of entrepreneurs and people just like you. So you can start, build and grow your own online business.
Nick (00:18): Welcome back to the Nine-Five Podcast. I'm your host Nick Nalbach and this is the show where we bring on entrepreneurs and business owners to help you start and grow your own business. And today on the Nine-Five Podcasts, I have Travis Brown. Travis, welcome to the Nine-Five Podcast.
Travis (00:33): Hey Nick, thanks for having me.
Nick (00:34): We actually connected through Wildcast, which if you remember a few episodes back, I actually interviewed the CEO of Wildcast Madison, and we were kind of talking about how she created this platform and how it all came about. And that's where we connected. And I was really excited when I saw you on there because I've seen PodDecks all over the place. Since I started this podcast, I was like, Oh my God, no way.
Travis (00:55): Awesome. Yeah, I know Madison. She's great. And I love what they're doing at Wildcast. I think it's really, really an excellent tool for the community to connect with other podcasters for, for guesting and hosting. So that's, uh, one of my favorite platforms.
Nick (01:08): Yeah, I've, I've had way, I've tried some of the other platforms, a bunch of other softwares out there that are kind of doing the same thing, but I have not had nearly the kind of success and interaction on any of those that I've had on Wildcast. That's, it's been an awesome platform so far. So getting into our episode here, why don't before we get into everything, why don't you give the listeners a little bit of an idea of who you are and what it is you do?
Travis (01:30): Sure. So, um, my name's Travis and most people know me as the guy who runs poddecks.com. So, uh, PodDecks, if you don't know what they are, they're, it's a tool for content creators for podcasters to spark your next great conversation. So in the form of decks of cards and in the form of a mobile app, um, we create decks, uh, with different questions to spark your next great conversation and add products. I pride myself on curating questions that allow you to have fresh content all the time, but to actually have a deeper conversation. So the entire business was an accident. Um, I am a podcast producer and I sell my time. So at some point as an entrepreneur, you can't sell any more time because you only have so much of it. So I built a course. I spent six weeks making a very extensive course on podcasting.
Travis (02:21): And I thought as a gift to people who bought my premium course, I would actually make this deck of cards. And I had this list of questions for a long time, uh, of, of, of unique questions that you could use to start becoming a better interviewer. So I press these decks of cards. I launched my course sold a few, but most people were emailing me saying, I don't really want your course, but what are those cards you keep showing? And so after about the fifth email, I said, okay, this seems like something that people are actually interested in buying. So I quickly named it PodDecks. It was the first thing I could think of. I built a website and started selling projects. And here I am a year later going from a, an accidental deck business to now having a mobile app and a tech business. So it's been, it's been an amazing journey. Um, I've been in podcasting for almost 10 years, but never expected to have this aspect be the catalyst that connected me with so many podcasters and allowed me to help people take their podcasts to the next level.
Nick (03:20): That is really cool. I didn't realize it was completely accidental in that sense. That's, that's pretty awesome. Yeah.
Travis (03:27): Yeah. It's, it's proof that, uh, you know, one of the lessons I try to share with other entrepreneurs is, you know, pre-sell everything right before you build that course, test your audience. Is it something that they actually want? Because, you know, I spent hours and hours and hours filming, video making content and I, and I've, I've sold the course and it's helped people podcast, but, uh, PodDecks, uh, you SERP that, you know, a hundred times over because the marketplace told me what they wanted. They told me what they didn't want, which was the course. And then they told me what they did want. And I created more of that. And, you know, I can share how I actually, um, built the company with you if you're interested, uh, from a minimal viable product standpoint, the old MVP, right? So I think what most people tend to think when they start a business is that they need to run out and like press thousands of shirts or thousands of product.
Travis (04:21): And they need to have all this inventory. I started PodDecks by pressing 10 decks of my product. And I did that specifically. I paid a lot of money because it was such a low threshold for my manufacturer, but I wasn't going to risk, you know, investing, you know, tens of thousands of dollars on a product that I wasn't sure that was going to go the extra mile. So I always tell people, if you're thinking about starting a product, make one, show it to people and see if people actually put their credit card in your website to buy it from you. Because there's a big difference between people saying like, Oh yeah, I would definitely buy that. And then when it comes time to actually purchasing it. And so by doing that, I set myself up to just slowly scale the business up and buy in bigger quantities and then eventually make that profit as opposed to like accidentally sitting on thousands of decks that nobody wanted. Does that make sense?
Nick (05:14): Absolutely. And I'm really glad you said that because I've been getting ready to start a course. I wanted to launch some digital courses on myself and I kind of had that same mindset because I was like, okay, I can spend hours and hours doing the video, the editing, all this stuff to put this course together. And then I was like, what if nobody buys it?
Travis (05:31): Yup, exactly. Exactly. So I do this with everything. Now I do this with, I make t-shirts podcast or t-shirts, I make hats. I don't make anything until somebody pays me for it because there's too much risk as an early entrepreneur and investing too much money in something that you're not a hundred percent sure people are going to take action on. And I think it's very important for anybody to lower their risk and test. Like I've had many businesses over my lifetime, many of which have failed and you it's okay. Like, I'm super cool with it. I'm like, Hey, I learned a little from this a little from this, that's taken me here, but don't be afraid to get out there and test things on the marketplace before you invest. And, you know, everyone runs out and makes a business card, right? You need a business card. Well, you need customers before you need a business card. That's sort of the thought process there.
Nick (06:21): Yeah. And this, this, everything that we're talking about here is such incredible timing because I actually just started reading the lean startup. And that's a lot of what that book talks about is testing that, that minimal viable product, get something out the door. It doesn't have to be your finished product. It's going to change. And I literally just started that book today. So that's really cool.
Travis (06:40): That's great. It's a great read. You'll love it. And the idea behind that book is that you ship early, right? Meaning you ship a product early and then you let the marketplace tell you what they want improvements on. Instead of trying to figure everything out and make a perfect product, just ship it and then have people, you know, I get feedback all the time. Hey, your sheet shrink, wrapped too tight. Your, um, can I get them digitally? You know, all these things. And then that makes me think, okay, great. How do, how can I get this to people digitally? Great. Everyone has a phone, let's make a mobile app. Right? So it allows you to grow with the business instead of trying to build this perfect business all at once. It's over.
Nick (07:17): Yeah, no, that's, that's exactly it. And I think a lot of people, when they start this business, they have an idea. They're trying to build a complete product. They're trying to make it perfect. And it's never perfect. So then you continue building, you continue building and you never release anything. And then all of a sudden you release it and it's a total bust. And it's like, why isn't anybody buying this? I made sure that this thing was perfect. And exactly what you're seeing is what, um, back in, I think it's episode 18 with Ray Blakeney. He mentioned, I think it was Jack Dorsey with Twitter. He said something to the effect of if your first iteration of your product doesn't suck, then you waited too long to launch. Yep, exactly. I heard that. That just like stuck with me. It's like, yeah, you just need to get something out the door and get feedback because the market's going to tell you exactly where to go. But if you don't have anything to launch, you don't, you don't have anywhere to get feedback on.
Travis (08:04): Exactly. And feedback is everything like with podcasting, you know, I coach a lot of podcasters with business. The audience is the most important part. And like, if you think that your, your product should be a pink bicycle, but everyone wants a black bicycle, but you love that pink bicycle. You're not thinking with the right. And that's a terrible analogy by the way. Um, you're not thinking with the right mindset, your product isn't you. And I do believe that you should make things that you want to use, but in some capacity, unless you're going to buy all of it, you need to listen to what the marketplace wants. Yes.
Nick (08:37): I love it. So, okay. We know PodDecks was kind of an accident you got this course released, the PodDecks is hot item. It's been requested a lot. What was the process like starting to actually create this? Like what was the, I guess first iteration of the PodDecks that were really wanting and then where did you advance from there? Yeah. So I started out with,
Travis (09:01): Um, a single deck. So I had, I used to work at Apple and Apple has a sales process. It's super easy to sell Apple computers cause everyone does wants it, but they want you to do a specific process, which is approach probe, present, listen, and end with a warm welcome. It spells Apple right. Easy to remember. And so I was very hungry. I wanted to be one of the top salespeople. So I was ripping through sales. People come in, they want a computer, bring it out, sell them, get the next guy. So I got pulled into the manager's office. They said to me, your numbers are great, but you're not doing the process. You're not probing. You're not doing all this stuff. So, um, not that I was introverted in any way, but there was a, there was this weird lull when someone actually decided which computer they want.
Travis (09:42): And then the guy from the back brought it out where you had to have this like interaction. So I made a list of questions called friend questions. And so what I would do is after we had completed their choice of computer, I would pull out this phone and ask people these questions and I will use them at dinner parties and everywhere I went, I just started to ask people questions and people loved it. They started to come in and ask for the question guy. Okay. So what happened was my sales number went down because then all my interactions were taking too long because we were having these long form conversations about all these questions. And then the managers pulling in the office and said, now your numbers down and you're taking way too long. And so eventually I left Apple, uh, but I had this list of questions on my phone.
Travis (10:23): So I just took that, that those questions. I found a manufacturer that would make me a custom deck of cards. And I just print, I just got the highest quality card. I, I could find at a reasonable price because part of what I wanted to do is make sure that the product that I sent them would hold up, that could be used. It could be shared. That could be transferred and wouldn't be cheap, right? I didn't want to give them a cheap product. And I just started with one deck and I made an ad on my phone and I put that ad on Instagram. I just, I didn't know anything about social media advertising. I mean, I knew it existed. Didn't know how to do it at all. And the quickest way, if you want to learn a social media advertising is to just do it through Instagram because they had the process of creating an ad is like super simple. You pick how much money you want to spend and who your target audience is and how long you want to throw in for us. I literally started this with like a hundred dollars ad account and I made it, made the ad myself on my desk, just kind of shuffling through the cards, press publish. And I sold those 10 decks in like five minutes. So my first thought as an entrepreneur, as running an accidental business was that was a fluke. I must have, you know,
Nick (11:31): The right audience or something. Right. And so I took that, the money
Travis (11:34): I got and I ordered more decks and I ran the same ad and I sold out in like a day. And so I said, okay, there's definitely something here. And that's when I really started to plan out the business, planning out, how much does this cost me? What is the threshold of where I can buy more decks to make more profit and enroll it out from there. And then I really spend a lot of time focusing on the presentation. So if you've ever ordered PodDecks, the envelope is very elaborate. It's a bright orange bubble mailer. And then when you open it, there's extra inclusions. You're not just getting the decks. I really wanted it to be an experience that people, when they got something in the mail, they didn't just get some white, plain envelope in the mail. It was an exciting day. And, um, and I think that really helped me, um, grow the company by, you know, again, starting small and then really thinking about the end, result, the person getting into the mail, how are they going to feel?
Travis (12:26): What is it going to feel like when they open their mailbox? And there's this bright orange envelope they're going to get excited about the product, right? I put a sticker on the back that says you should do an unboxing video. And then people started to share that on Instagram, furthering the brand because PodDecks are what we'll call a blue, a blue ocean idea, right there wasn't anything really like that for podcasters before podcasters buy a mic, they buy headphones and a hosting thing, and then they're done. So I'm not saying that, uh, giving people unique questions to ask is isn't an inventive idea, but there wasn't anything like this before. So I needed help getting the word out. And the best way to get the word out is for, from happy customers. Right? So I recommend if you're going to ship a product that you really spend some time thinking about what the person's going to feel like and, uh, how it's presented to them. Once they get the package,
Nick (13:17): I really liked that. I like how conscious you are of this whole experience, because that's what you're selling. You're not just selling them a product. You're selling them an entire experience and in a world where we're constantly getting stuff thrown at us, something like that is definitely going to stand out to you. Versus like you said, getting an envelope or a box in the mail. It's just like, okay, just like everything else. But what you're doing is you're going above and beyond. I like that.
Travis (13:39): If you can incorporate empathy, like, so I am a person who orders things online and I've ordered things from an Instagram ad that showed up three weeks later, directly from China in some weird plastic bag. It was not an experience. It was actually something that I was like, am I ever even going to get this product? So you have to think about what do you like, like when you order something, do you like to get an instant confirmation that tells you that it's packed and ready to ship? Do you like to get a tracking number? So these are all the things that I thought about because when somebody buys your product, and this is my first e-commerce business, I've been running digital businesses since 2006, and this was my first physical product. So there was some learning curves for me, as far as pipeline, getting physical products, dealing with the United States, post office, you know, returns, questions, things like that. But I really think that if you imagine that you're buying this product, how would you, you know, the golden rule, how would you want it to be presented to you? And that can really elevate your brand. And I paid attention to the companies that did things like that. Was there a thank you note in the, in the box, what did their packaging look like? And did it just feel like a transaction or did it actually feel like I purchased into the community? I purchased something greater than a white plastic bag on my porch. Right?
Nick (14:57): Right. No, I love that. That's, that's a really smart thinking. I, I think everybody listening here, if you're thinking about selling a product, I mean, I'm, I'm just thinking when I get to selling a course, you can even run that same kind of mindset on there. It's like, okay, when you get this digital course, what is this going to look like? Yep, absolutely. Yeah. You got my mind kind of spinning here.
Travis (15:16): Yeah, no. I mean, one of the things that PodDecks provides for content creators, whether you're a podcaster or a Twitch streamer or a YouTube, or you just want to grow your social media is, uh, having great questions that will elicit some type of either a emotional response or, or B just get the conversation started, emotions are everything right? So you want to like people buy based on emotion. They don't buy the Mercedes-Benz because it has a six cylinder engine and whatever the tech specs are, they buy it because it's a status symbol. They buy it from an emotional standpoint. So I think from a business aspect, if you can put the emotional, like, for instance, your course, right? If you could explain to people the emotion they're going to feel, if they don't buy your course, you will sell more because people understand that if I don't buy this course, I'm not going to feel X.
Travis (16:06): Right? So emotions are one of the biggest reasons. People buy things. We buy things because we buy things because it makes us feel good. We buy things for status symbols. We buy things. Oftentimes without reading a lot of the texts we spend all this time on are we use, we have an emotional response, we push the button, right? So I think that the emotional response is definitely something that needs to be incorporated into your business plan. At some point, how will my product make this person feel? How will it change their lives? And how can I express that to them? Yeah.
Nick (16:34): That's, that's excellent, man. So we, with that, getting that into that emotional side of it, that your products specifically, we were talking about how, when they get that product in their hand, there's kind of that prestige or kind of, it feels good. You're like, Oh wow, check this out. What about before they even get the product in their hand? What are you doing to kind of get them on the front end to make that purchase?
Travis (16:55): So the first thing that I did was I, uh, incorporated, uh, social proof on my website. So I use an app called FOMO that basically will show. If you go to poddecks.com, it'll show you like the last 10 people who have purchased the product, their name, the city they live in. Okay. Social proofs, big because no one wants to be the first person to buy that product. Right. They, you don't want to be the, for the Guinea pig. You want to be part of something. That's like, Oh, this is, this is something people are using secondarily as a consumer myself, when I buy something and I don't hear from the company or get a confirmation or even like a tracking number, it drives me crazy because then I start to think, Oh, did I make a mistake that I buy from the wrong company?
Travis (17:34): Will this show up? It creates extra work for me. I have to then send them an email and ask them for a tracking number. So I use something called AfterShip that immediately sends them an email that says your order has been received. When it's packed, you'll get a tracking number. Then once the shipping label prints, it sends them the tracking number. Then once it's in transit, it sends them another email that says your, your PodDecks are on the way. Right. So get ready. And now, additionally, while I have the app, I, I, anybody who buys PodDecks, I give them the digital version of those decks for free on the app. So I say, go download the app, put in your order number, here's your order number. And they'll, you can start using your PodDecks right now. And then of course, when they arrive, they get a notification that their order has arrived.
Travis (18:16): And I put a little message in there just saying like great day, great mail day, check your mailbox. And that carries them from the, the emotional I've purchased this product. It gives them a journey to actually getting the product itself. So, um, again, this is what I like when I buy something, when I spend my hard earned dollars and I want to reciprocate that to my customers. I want them to know at every point, like your order's coming. And I think that's also important because it saves you a lot of followup emails. It saves you angry customers, bad reviews, returns, things like that. Yeah,
Nick (18:50): No, I can definitely relate to that. I've been on that end. Exactly what you're saying. You're like, Oh, well, is this coming here? Is that ever going to get here?
Travis (18:59): And that's no fun. Right?
Nick (19:00): So I, I really liked that. You just saying it again, you're selling an experience. It's an overall experience, not just a product, which I think is that's so awesome. That's why it's been successful. I, in my opinion, absolutely. So with the, with the ads, once you started running these ads, obviously that's been a huge part of your strategy has been ads because I feel like I've seen your guys' ads all over the place. And I was like, what is this PodDecks? Like, it's gotta be something good. And it was funny when we were getting ready to do this, it was like, just the end of last week, I saw an ad pop up and I was like, Oh, I should get a, I should get one of those decks. And I should start reading back some of the questions to Travis. See if he picks up the question.
Travis (19:41): Well, I know all the answers. No. The cool thing about PodDecks is the questions may be the same, but the answers you get will always be different. So, yeah. So, uh, expanding upon what I said earlier, I started with Instagram ads, which was the easiest entry-level for me as somebody who had no experience with social media advertising. And then I spent a little bit of time learning, uh, Facebook advertising, which is a different interface. It's a different animal. If you've ever run social media ads for Facebook, the interface is really cloogy and ugly because it was in, it was an internal tool that they eventually released to the public. So I think, um, if it scares you, you should do it. Right. So as soon as I get in there, I'm like, I'm overwhelmed. I'm not sure I don't want to waste money. And so, um, there is a lot of things I think, led to my success with Facebook ads.
Travis (20:28): Uh, I use the same strategy. I used the launch, the business. I would run ads to individual audiences. So let's say, uh, for this example, I would run an ad to people who like Gary V or people who liked podcasting or people who like the specific podcast. And I would do these individual ad that I would spend $10 on and I'd run that for a week. And they're always being outlier, right? The Gary V numbers went up, but the other ones didn't. So then I knew, okay, that's a good art audience to target. And so instead of dumping a thousand dollars in just guessing and trying to figure it out, you can figure out who your target audience is. And who's going to respond to those ads by just dipping your toe into the water and then scaling the ones that work. So again, PodDecks is a new concept for people and podcasters are all in all different places of their journey, whether they're brand new or whether they're just burnt out.
Travis (21:20): And so I basically slowly started doing that monitoring what was working, and then I scaled that to be able to reach more and more people. And when you're doing advertising, you know, you have to remember that people don't always buy on the first try. And the sales process, people generally say no, six or seven times before they say yes. So by constantly having that shown, you may not buy it the first time. The second time you may go to the website, getting more information by the fifth time, you may think, okay, this might be right for me. So it's a, it's a, a strategy that takes capital. But if you can run the right ads and look at the numbers, your return on ad sells. I mean, basically you can turn money into money, right? You can turn an investment into sales. So, uh, the advertising piece has really helped me because it's a new concept.
Travis (22:07): Nobody really knew what PodDecks were. The second thing I did aside of advertising was I, again, put myself in a podcast or shoes. Now I am a podcast or, and I've been podcasting for a long time, but I started to watch what podcasters were talking about on the internet. And everybody wanted to know, how do I get a sponsor? How do I get a sponsor? How do I get a sponsor? So I set up a program called power by PodDecks, where anybody who purchased PodDecks would get a card in their package that said, I want to be your first sponsor. You apply here. I will give you a coupon code, a unique coupon code to your show that you can promote on your show. I'll give you some marketing assets and I'll give you 5% of everything that comes through that coupon code. So basically what I did was I took a want from the marketplace. I gave it to them also helping them make money and hopefully extending their podcasting career. And additionally promoting the product without advertising, right? Like without having to pay for an advertiser, I use the network in the community to bring them up, to elevate them for the sponsorship that also promoted the brand.
Nick (23:04): That's smart and very when listening, I mean, that's, that's another instance where Travis is looking at the market and seeing what's needed inside the market and what people are wanting and he's making adjustments to a product that's already working. But yeah. So, so with that, where you, where you marketing the PodDecks with that included, or was that something that when they opened up the deck, it was just like, Oh wow, check this out.
Travis (23:27): It's just a surprise. Right? So, you know, the journey is that you purchase this product. You're notified where it is when it's coming to you, you get this beautiful package, you open up the package and the product that you ordered is inside, but there's also extra stuff. Right? I put stickers, I put a mobile phone wallet that says, ask me about my podcast, uh, things that they could use, right? And then in that mobile wallet, I put some, some just little business cards that I made that told them more about me. They could join my Facebook community. I want to be your first sponsor. Here's 10% off your new order. So instead of just getting this stark package, that just kind of, you know, has what I ordered in it. You can continue the journey with me, right? You can go, Oh, Hey, I need a sponsor.
Travis (24:05): I like these enough that I would want to promote them. And then that's the next leg of your journey? Or maybe you join my Facebook group and you become part of my community. The community aspect of any product, I think is key. Your course will need to have a community, Nick, because people want, listen, we can go on YouTube right now and figure out how to do anything. I could change a toilet. I could figure out whatever's in your course. But we like emotionally to be a part of a tribe. We're, we're hardwired that way. Biologically, we want to be a part of a tribe because if we're not part of a tribe, we're going to die. Right. We don't have enough food. So biologically you want to be a part of something. And I could literally, I do this all the time. I tell people the exact steps to take, to start a podcast, grow a podcast, but people will still buy a course because they want to be a part of something. So the community aspect for your business, no matter what kind of business you're running, look at Tesla, you know, Tesla, it's like being in the club, right. Or Apple or Android, or, um, you know, um, some other examples are escaping me at this point, but look for the communities in those. And you're probably a part of a bunch of them that you don't even realize that like, by buying this product, you're a part of that community.
Nick (25:14): Yeah. That's, that is an excellent point. That is something that I, I was really going to set focus on with that digital course, just because like you said, I am a part of some of these communities and it is, I don't know, you have a connection with these people through the product or the course or working together kind of like in a mastermind setting. And yeah, there is that I don't know, feeling of welcomeness that you share with everyone else that, so is that how you started getting feedback on the PodDecks? Like after you started getting them out there where you kind of bringing people into the community and able to ask questions at that point, or how were you actually getting the feedback to say, okay, this is what everyone wants.
Travis (25:52): Ask anyone who bought pod dogs. Hey, what do you love about it? What do you, how could this be improved? How could I make your life better? Do you want this product? Does this product look cool? You would you buy this? Um, I just expanded from there. I, I, I think a lot of us as entrepreneurs are probably free spirits, creative, and sometimes getting feedback feels like a, an attack on what you've done. But you have to look at, you know, first of all, you have to look at who's giving you feedback and why are they giving it to you? Right. Some people are just haters. I get trolls all day long. They want to tell me whatever they want to tell me. It doesn't matter to me. Right? The feedback that you want is from people who are genuinely like, I wish I could, I wish I could do this with your product, right?
Travis (26:32): That's the kind of feedback that you take. Everybody kept asking me, can I buy these digitally? I don't want the physical cards. And so after awhile I decided this is a want, this is something people need. And that's when I decided to build the mobile app. Um, I didn't expect that that would be the case because this was an accidental business. But without that feedback, without people emailing me saying, can I get these digitally? And I had to say to them, no, you can't. They're only physical right now. But I kept note of the things people would ask. I just had a guy email me yesterday, a blind podcaster. He said, will your app eventually have accessibility? And it was just something I didn't think of when we were building this app. I didn't think about accessibility, but now we can build that in so we can support those podcasters, uh, without sight. Right? And if you take feedback as an attack on you, you'll never grow it's you just have to take it and say, what can I apply to make my customer's lives better? Right? How can I expand upon my product? And it's just part of the game, right? Feedback. Whether you're is in your marriage, your girlfriend, your job, you have to learn how to take that and not get emotional about it and look for what you can approve. Improve.
Nick (27:38): Yeah. I, I completely agree if you think about it, getting good feedback on something that you're doing is great. It makes you feel good. You're like, yeah, chicken here, but really you want some of that negative feedback because you want to know what's wrong with your product. And like we were talking about, at the beginning of here, you have to get that feedback to hear what the market's wanting from your product. If everyone's telling you it's good. It's good. It's good. And there's all these problems with it. I mean, your product's probably not going to last very long that does you no. Good. So it I've been very conscious of that with everything that I've been doing too. Like, I, I will literally ask somebody, what do you find wrong with this? Is there anything that you don't like about what's happening here? And that's the kind of feedback I want because I know a lot of people that I reach out to, they're not going to want to tell me that something's bad. Just like outright say, yeah, I hate this. They're going to try and tell you. Okay. Yeah, no, I love it. It's really good. Okay. But, but really what what's wrong with it?
Travis (28:30): And it's difficult because we often times look to our inner circle for feedback. And those people are going to always handle us, handle us with delicate hands. Right. Uh, when I launched the app, I said, I reached out to as many people that I didn't know personally and said, break this app, tell me what you hate about it. And I would still get wonderful feedback. I'm like, that's great. But what do you absolutely want to change about this app? Because now is the time I'm going to be able to do that. When I launched PodDecks, I shipped them. They were just shrink wrapped cards. There was no, there was no thing to put them into. And people kept saying like, is there, do you sell a case? Do you sell a, and so I upgraded the packaging. I spent more money. So there'd be a nice package to put it into.
Travis (29:09): If I would've gotten upset about it, I wouldn't evolve. Right. And I just think that it's, it's difficult. You know, I keep a feel-good file and a feedback file when someone sends me an email and they're giving me feedback, I put it in that folder. When someone gives me a compliment, I put it in the field. Good fold. If I'm feeling down about business, I go look at those feel-good emails and when I'm ready to optimize and improve, I go through the feedback full. And it's a great way to keep things separated. It's a great way to remind yourself that if people are giving you feedback, they're using your product and they're trying, they're, they're basically helping you for, they're giving you what they want.
Nick (29:43): Um, I'm curious with, so obviously you're implementing a lot of the stuff that you're getting feedback on. Do you have people coming back to you after the fact after you've implemented these changes and like personally,
Travis (29:56): Not as much as when people have, you know, you know, it's like you go on a restaurants, uh, Google reviews and you know, you'll tell the people that they, they didn't have a good time. Like I never review a restaurant that I loved, but if I have a bad experience, I'll go leave them a review. Right. And that's I say that in jest, because it's not something I do, but that's what people will, will speak when they're unhappy. They, when they're satiated, they don't necessarily give it. So I do get some really great feedback for that feel-good file, but the feedback isn't as much and on the backend, it's more on the front-end in my experience. Yeah.
Nick (30:31): I mean, I have to imagine there's, even if it's not expressed the fact that you're going out and you're making changes that people are asking for that's, that's gotta be good. That's gotta look good on your part. And everyone else in the community is thinking, wow, like I presented this thing and now he implemented this. That's awesome. Like, he actually cares about his customers. He's not just trying to push products to us. Right.
Travis (30:53): My customers, aren't a transaction. They're, they're a part of my community. And you know, if you live by that, and you're true to that, people will notice, right? Like there's companies that just want a transaction, right. Cheeseburgers or whatever. Right. And there's companies that want to send you a white envelope because you're just another sale on the Excel spreadsheet. And then there's other companies that include you in their community. And they're going to nurture you for the long-term. I believe from a business standpoint that you only need a handful of customers that you keep selling over and over. Right. I don't need a million customers. You know, I need 10,000 that love me. You know, it's much better to me that, and then I have a close connection with them and I can keep building things they want. So it really comes down to your personal preference. Like everyone wants to have these huge giant megalith companies, but you can do the same amount of damage with a smaller community. Okay.
Nick (31:37): Absolutely. I, I completely agree with that because if you are this massive company, you can't have a real close connection with your customers, with your audience, your community. Whereas if you are a small company and this is especially true for anybody, that's just starting out and you don't have a massive following here, you need to be focusing on nurturing the people that you do have there because you have the ability to reach every single one of these people being a smaller company. Whereas you have a massive company now you're spread so thin. He might be able to show a little bit outreach here and there, but you can't hit everybody. That's
Travis (32:12): Use the garden analogy, right? You plant a bunch of plants. They start to grow. You plant more, you keep watering the new ones, but you forget to water the initial ones, what happens? They die. You know, you got to keep water in that garden and make sure the soil is good for new people to come in. And, and honestly like, if you're thinking about starting a business right now, and it freaks you out, you should definitely do it, but just go get one customer, don't build a website. You don't just sell one person your idea, and then slowly keep building it. But this critical mass in. And unfortunately there's a lot of gurus out there. There's a lot of experts. There's a lot of people telling you six, figure this seven, figure, this eight figure, this, that stuff all comes in time. But if you don't build a foundation for your business, it will crumble and you will run into problems.
Travis (32:53): And I just think that entrepreneurship doesn't have to be that hard. There's a, there's a PDF by a guy named Kevin Kelly called a thousand true fans. What he says in this book. And I'll just summarize it for you. So you don't even have to read it. You don't need millions of followers to make a living as a creator. You need a thousand true fans that basically will give you about a hundred dollars a year. And you're making a hundred thousand dollars a year, right? And then after taxes, you're still making a pretty sizable income to live on. And if you think about that, there's 8 billion people on the planet and you only need a thousand to like fall in love with you. Your odds are pretty good at that. If you really care about them and you're really building what they want a thousand is not out of the realm of possibility at all, whether you're doing an Etsy shop or you're doing a grilled cheese food truck, or you're, you know what I mean? Like you just have to get a thousand people to believe in your mission and your cause and the experience, and to continue to buy from you and you're, and you're, you're a business you're a successful business.
Nick (33:52): And that, that all happens. One person at a time starting out. I mean,
Travis (33:56): I think so. I mean, I think that, you know, you have to start with want, like w you know, one person buying your product proves that you've got something, five people means you're onto something. And then you just slowly scale. I mean, what I like to what I like to sell, uh, all my inventory today, not really because then I'm going to be sold out. And then I can't serve as the people that are excited. Like it's a slow build. It's just like, what we forget is that the journey is the destination. Right. If I get to a hundred thousand, I want to want 500,000. When I get to 500,000, I want a meal it'll never end. Right. So if you don't enjoy it on the way up, you're, you're not going to ever again.
Nick (34:33): I love that, man. Okay. So PodDecks, you started, you had that one deck. I know. Now you guys have, you have a bunch of different decks now, is that right? So I have five physical decks now. Yeah. Okay.
Travis (34:45): Yeah. We have five physical decks. We have a couple of different t-shirts, uh, some hats and a, and a coffee mug. Um, yeah.
Nick (34:51): What's are there any future plans for PodDecks? Do you have anything coming up with PodDecks that you're getting excited about?
Travis (34:58): So right now I'm really excited about the mobile app, because it's, it's allowing me to, uh, do a couple things. One, you can basically instantaneously start using PodDecks, right? It's allowing me to create more fresh content for you without having to go through manufacturing. So I can release two new decks a month, which I do. Um, and I don't have the overhead of having to produce physical products. At the current moment. I do have five new decks that we'll be rolling out this year and I'll be phasing out the first five. So it gives it a little bit of that sort of limited edition factor. Like the people that got them, got them. And then there'll be a new batch. I'm working on more software stuff right now for podcasters. But I think we're also going to have like a podcast planning journal, um, which again, I'm experimenting with my audience.
Travis (35:46): I asked them in my Facebook group the other day, I want to make you a podcast planner. Cause I want you to be successful. Do you want this in the app? Do you want it on a webpage or would you prefer a notebook? 90% of the people said, I'd prefer it on a notebook. Now I could have jammed it into the app, but I want some, I want to make something that someone's going to actually use. Now, if that requires me to make an actual physical notebook, I will, because that's what my audience wants. So again, testing, what will you actually use? Right? And then it'll come to the point, where do you want to pre-order this? You know, because it's easy to say, yeah, I want that right. Again, it's easy to say. Yeah, I'll take that, but no, give me your credit card and I'll put you on the list. It's going to ship in three weeks or six weeks or whatever. And then it's a low-risk way to create a new product.
Nick (36:29): That's awesome. I really want to challenge the listeners here. If starting a business is something that you are serious about wanting to do, get that minimum viable product and get it out the door. Um, I, I guess I'm curious what you would think of this with that first stage product. I would maybe even recommend getting it out to people just to get it in their hands, give it to them for free. Just a few people to say, Hey, take a look at this. Let me know what you think. Give me the bads and the goods and not just the goods, but just to kind of get it in someone's hands and get them, seeing it. Maybe talking about it, maybe telling their friends about it. I think that'd be a, just get something going.
Travis (37:07): Yeah, absolutely. I mean some beats none, and it's always gonna, you know, there's a lot of people that they get worried. Someone's gonna steal my idea, right. Or they want you to sign an NDA and idea is completely worthless. It's the execution that the value lives within. Right? So if you have a great idea, I mean, I came up with the idea for Instagram stories 10 years ago, but I didn't do anything about it. So I can't blame Instagram for making that, you know, I had an idea for an app called the night of my life, where you posted and it showed where you were. It's the whole, I have it all written out. I invented Instagram stories. Am I mad at Instagram? No, because I didn't do anything with it. Right. But they did. So they win. And you know, let's just use an example.
Travis (37:45): Like you want to start a business. Let's just say, it's you want to start doing a coffee mug of the month. We'll check this out. You don't have to make any coffee mugs. Yet you come up with a design, you go to a website, like place it.net, where you can put your logo on any product t-shirt hoodie, hat, mug. You make, you make a version of the mug and you post it and say, I'm running a pre-order for the mug of the month club. It's 20 bucks. And every month I'm going to send you a new mug and get people to send you 20 bucks. And however many people do it pre print that many, you know, and start to build your business slowly. It doesn't have to be this crazy. I have to order 10,000 mugs to get the best price in the beginning.
Travis (38:26): Cause profit, I think in the beginning of any business is a myth. Okay? The first year of your business, you should be, you should be reallocating as many funds from profit back into the business because eventually that will be built up to the point where you will be profitable. And there will be money to take out as a member draw as the owner of your company. But like people do stupid stuff. Like they'll make their first $500 in profit. And then they go buy something dumb, like a, I don't know, something, something they don't need that doesn't serve their business. Instead of reallocating that money in back into the business or educating yourself, take a course, learn how to do Facebook ads. What's the next level of your business. And what's it going to take to get, hire a mentor, hire a coach. Right. So, um, and I see this all the time. I see people make their first money and then all the sudden they get a new tattoo and I'm like, cool. Is that tattoo making your business any money? No. Great. Well then you just wasted, you know, you're wasting profit and then, you know, three years down the line, they're out of business because they spend all that profit instead of reallocating it or at least some of it back into the business to grow.
Nick (39:27): Yeah. I love that. That was hell it was on YouTube. I think this guy went through the entire process. He wanted to make a hundred thousand dollars in a year. And he started with like 20 bucks. And he basically, I think he pre-sold t-shirts he kind of made the, t-shirt had the idea out, sent it out, let everybody try to pre-order these t-shirts and he had the money in, made the t-shirts sold it. And he just kept kind of building up slowly from there. I think he started investing money in influencer marketing. Now he sold more t-shirts and then he invested in that Facebook ads and he sold even more. And then he started expanding products. And within the year, I think he even beat the year. He made us a hundred thousand dollars, but it all started with one small step that, that first sale that he was able to send that first t-shirt out.
Travis (40:12): Yeah. And the cool thing is, is like, you know, a lot of us, if you don't have a job right now, like I have a lot of empathy for you for what's going on in the world. But if you do have a job right now, and you're like, you know, I don't really love my job. I really love to work for myself. Starting small actually gives you the opportunity to keep your job for now and build this thing until you're until you make enough money to meet your monthly expenses. Right? So it's a no risk way. If you want to wake up a little earlier and stay up a little later to work on this business, that you can do this without having to quit your job. And, and, and honestly like entrepreneurship is awesome, but it's also, you as an entrepreneur have to deal with all of the, the non-fun stuff.
Travis (40:51): And so taking that low risk opportunity by starting small, you don't have to quit your job. You don't have to come up with capital. You don't have to do any, like you can start and check this out. You can fail and that's okay. And then you wake up and what you do, you come up with another idea and you try that. And every single entrepreneur that you follow or look up to has had many failures, but if you don't try, you can't fail. And if you don't build something slowly, you can't keep that day job until you're ready to jump and make a, what I consider a responsible decision as an entrepreneur, instead of risking your, you know, your assets, your family, or whatever it is. And it's just, it's fun. You start a side hustle, you watch it grow, build slow, watch Rick grow have fun.
Travis (41:35): And you know, like I said, I'm running a six figure accidental business, right. And at one point I thought, God, is this going to be like my last good idea? And then of course we have the app now and I'm like, great, what's next? You know, what's going to be the next thing. There's always going to be a next thing, right. If you're really listening and thinking, and I really think that you should have fun with it and make it a fun process, make it a fun thing for you because there's not enough days in the year to be unhappy. Right. You need to have like, have some fun with it. That's the whole point of entrepreneurship in my opinion.
Nick (42:08): Yeah. I love it, man. You are bringing all of the wisdom today. I love it.
Travis (42:16): I hope it helps. I hope it helps one person. You know, like if one person decides today, like, Hey, cool, I'm actually going to execute on this, this widget ID I had, or, um, I'm going to start drop shipping or whatever, you know, whatever your thing is that you want to do. If one person takes action, then we win Nick because that's all that this is about.
Nick (42:34): I want, okay, for everyone listening, and maybe I'm going to, I'm going to up the stakes for this. I want, if this episode today has hit home or resided with you in any way, I want you to comment on the show notes to this episode, and I'm going to take my two favorite answers and maybe I'll get with Travis here too. I'm gonna take my two favorite answers and I'm going to give them a, a deck, a PodDecks. Yeah. Let's do have to comment and you have to let me know or let myself and Travis know what you're the most inspiring part of this entire episode was for you love
Travis (43:09): It. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with.
Nick (43:11): Absolutely. I'm writing it down. So I don't forget this two answers, the most inspiring thing from this episode. So,
Travis (43:19): And D and DM me on Instagram at PodDecks. Let me know. I want to know what you thought or if you need advice, uh, hit me up. I'm very active on Instagram. Perfect.
Nick (43:28): Uh, decks. I will put, I'll put the link to that in the show notes as well, so that you can get in contact and it's just at PodDecks. So it's pretty simple. But in case you don't have a chance or you need to come back and remember the show notes, we'll have those links and all the links to Travis and how to get in touch with him and get your hand on some PodDecks. But before we wrap up here, we we've been talking about podcasting. We've been talking about the PodDecks, which is a product for podcasters, but we didn't talk about your podcasts at all. So before we wrap this thing up, let's what is your podcast about like, give us a little information on this year.
Travis (44:00): Sure. So, um, I've had many podcasts over the years and, uh, what happened was I would get more clients for my podcast editing agency and then I would have to spend the time working on their podcast. So I had to keep pushing my podcasts to the side. So, um, you know, now that that business is, is autonomous and running on its own. Uh, and I started PodDecks. I thought now's my chance to start podcasting again. So I started a podcast called podcast therapy now, um, there's a lot of podcasts about podcasting, but I wanted to take the angle of sort of like your, your therapist, right? I'm not a doctor, but I like to help people overcome the obstacles that make them quit podcasting. So what I'm doing in my podcast is I am sharing actionable tips, giving you challenges, sharing what I'm testing and what's working.
Travis (44:47): So you can apply it to your own show. I have guests on from, uh, experts from all around the podcasting industry. I actually have some of my community come on and we do podcast therapy where they tell me what's wrong. And I try to help them work through those obstacles. So if you're a podcaster and you just, you know, maybe you're just not feeling it, or maybe you need a boost of inspiration. You can check out podcasts therapy anywhere that you listen to podcasts. I do a weekly episode and I'm having so much fun doing it because it's, it's getting me back to that, that thing that got me here in the first place, which was my love of audio. I love podcasting. And I get to express myself. Obviously you can tell I'm not a man of that short of words, so I don't have any trouble podcasting, but, uh, yeah, it just, I, I feel like it's another aspect of my business where I could help people keep going and have the podcast.
Nick (45:36): Fantastic, man, last but not least, I guess we have two more things here before we completely wrap this thing up. What would be some final tips or advice that you'd want to leave the listeners with here? As we kind of close up this episode, I would say regarding business, like starting a business, they they're thinking entrepreneurship is something that they want to do. What would be some, some advice that you'd want to give them as they get ready to enter this next journey?
Travis (46:02): I got you. Okay. So the first thing that, that makes you, so as people thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, there's going to be something that pops into your head that tells you like you can't do this, or it's too complicated, or you don't know about this, or should I get an LLC or should I get a trademark? Should I do this? None of that stuff matters, right? Start small. And either mock up a product or build something that you want to use, make the art you want to see in the world. And until you, until you make your first dollar, don't even think about starting an LLC or getting a business card. If you need a domain, obviously like do that. Don't spend $5,000 on a website. You can build a website in 10 minutes on Squarespace. That'll cost you, I don't know, 10 bucks a month or something.
Travis (46:43): Right. And if you go, Oh, I gotta start to invest in this. Then entrepreneurship is not for you. If you're not willing to invest 10 bucks in a domain and 10 bucks a month for a website, then it's not going to be for you. Right. Um, alternatively, you know, like I said, experiment with Instagram, take a picture of your product on Instagram and run an ad. Uh, and have people DM you to send you money on PayPal. Like if you want to really minimally viably prove your concept, but all the other stuff, all the voices in your head, all the hoops you think you're going to have to go through taxes, bookkeeper, all this stuff. None of it's going to matter until you make money. You don't really have a business. So start there. The other thing I would challenge you to do, um, and this is something that I stole from Noah Kagan, who is one of my favorite entrepreneurs.
Travis (47:27): He has a podcast called okay. Dork and a called AppSumo. He has this challenge. So he had me do this challenge, uh, way back in the day when I started talking to him and he said, it's the coffee, coffee shop challenge, everywhere you go. And I know we're not going as many places right now. Everything you buy in person, when you get to the cash register, ask that person, if you can have a discount, okay. And chances are the person at the register is going to say, no, okay. Get used to people saying no, like everywhere you go, can I get 10% off? Can I get 10% off? Can I, they will eventually you'll hit one. They'll say, okay, I'll give you 10% off, but build up the callus of people telling you no, because the world of entrepreneurship is going to be no, no, no, no, no.
Travis (48:09): And if you can build up a resistance to that and I can give you an example, I'm working on partnerships for PodDecks, the app, right? And John Lee Dumas is the number one podcasting guru in the world. I shipped him PodDecks. I wrote him a handwritten letter. I, and when they arrived, I followed up with an email, no response. I followed up with another email and I think two weeks later, no response followed up with another email. Four weeks later, I basically Dennis, Dennis, the medicine, this guy, I sent him, I believe it was 11 emails before I got a response. When he said, Oh cool. What did you ship me? Right. Followed up again, followed up. It took, I think 23 emails to get a collaboration with him where he shared my product with his audience. But if I would have given up at two, three, five, seven, nine, I'm out of the game, but I don't care what people say. No, I'm just going to be, you are in the driver's seat of your life. No, one's coming to save you. If somebody says no to you, move on to the next, until you get a yes. So I guess those are my two tips. Start small and, and, and, and get used to people saying no. Does that help?
Nick (49:14): Yeah. I absolutely love that. I hope all the listeners were paying attention because that is, it's such a simple thing. There's not a lot that has to be done there just right. Get started, get started. And don't be afraid to get rejected because like you said, it's likely going to happen now
Travis (49:31): Real fast. And often, I mean, it's like, if I'm going to fail, I want to do it quick and I want to get it over with, and I want to move on to the next thing. And when something's working, you will know in your heart, in your gut, you'll know it's working. And then, then, then you go all in. But just too many people are sitting on the fence and they're worried, like, what if this doesn't work well here? Here's what you gotta do when it doesn't work, stop doing it and do something else. And that's it. That's the key to everything
Nick (49:55): New. This, this was amazing.
Travis (49:58): Thanks for giving me a soapbox to stand on.
Nick (50:03): So, okay. Thank you for that. That was, that was awesome. Finally, the last thing that we have to do, how can people get in contact with you or get their hands on these PodDecks?
Travis (50:13): Yeah, absolutely. Very easy. So you can go to pod, dex.com and check out my website. It's got a lot of information about the products you can go to the Apple store or the Google play store and download the poddecks app right now, free and check that out. Or you can DM me on Instagram. I spend 90% of my time on social media on Instagram. So if you'd send me a direct message, I will respond to you. I don't really, I'm not a big Facebook guy. I'm not a Tik TOK guy. I'm too old for that. I am also on clubhouse. Uh, so I do rooms on clubhouse. So, uh, if you ever see me in a room clubhouse, come say, Hey, and, uh, I'm a very approachable person. I love meeting new people. It's just part of what I love about the world. And I would love to hear from you.
Nick (50:58): Awesome, man. Well, I would just want to thank you for coming on the show. I had a blast here talking with you and you drop some gems today. So thank you very much for coming on the show, man.
Travis (51:08): Well, thank you, Nick. And I just got to say, I want to give you a big compliment because we had scheduled this interview. I had a little obstacle. I got sick. Uh, you were kindly rescheduled before the interview. You sent me a nice email saying, is everything good? You were, you were the consummate podcaster. So I implore you to keep doing what you're doing because you're doing a very good job. And I expect that, uh, all the success in the world for you. I appreciate that, man.
Nick (51:32): Thank you very much. And I'm glad you guys are doing well.
Travis (51:36): Yeah, absolutely. Any and everybody who's listening before I go go right now and go give Nick a five star review on your favorite podcast podcast app. Uh, I, you think I'd be able to say podcasts by now, but go give them a five star review right now and uh, make next day.
Nick (51:54): Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Well, you take care, stay safe and we'll, we'll definitely be in touch and I'm definitely gonna follow you on clubhouse right now. And everyone listening should do that as well.
Travis (52:05): Sounds good. See you soon.
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Hosts & Guests
Host – Nick Nalbach
Guest – Travis Brown
Links & Resources
Note: Some of the links listed below may be affiliate links. This means I will receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you choose to purchase through them.
Connect with Travis
- Follow PodDecks on Instagram
- Visit PodDecks.com
- Download the PodDecks Mobile App (IOS)
- Download the PodDecks Mobile App (Android)
- Listen to Travis’ Podcast – Podcast Builder Club
Additional Resources and Links Mentioned
- “If your product doesn’t suck at the beginning, you waited too long to release it.” – From Episode 19 with Ray Blakney
- Read the Article 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly
- Read the Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Take part in Noah Kagen’s Coffee Challenge
If you haven’t done this already, go leave a review of the Nine-Five Podcast over on iTunes!
Travis Brown is today’s guest and he has a pretty amazing story to share with us today.
Travis is the creator and owner of a company called PodDecks. PodDecks, in it’s simplest form, are decks of cards with questions geared towards podcasters to help you “interview like a legend.”
What’s so crazy about Travis’ story is that PodDecks happened by accident, and now it is a 6-figure business.
Key Takeaways and Topics from the Interview
Travis covered a lot of really great topics in this episode that led to the growth of PodDecks, but one of the biggest takeaways is the need to get started.
PodDecks spawned from another product that Travis was trying to sell. The idea for the deck of question cards was initially just a free bonus for students of his course. If Travis wouldn’t have started his course idea, PodDecks would likely not exist today.
Here are a few other key takeaways from the interview:
- Start with a MVP (minimum viable product) – what you offer right now could change in the next couple of weeks or months. You need to be willing to recognize what your audience actually wants and make adjustments, but that all comes from creating something first.
- Don’t just create a product, create an experience – when people buy products, there is a level of emotion attached to that purchase. As a creator, you shouldn’t just be worried about delivering the product, but providing that customer with an experience that only comes from purchasing your product.
- Utilize Instagram ads, but start small – you don’t have to pump thousands of dollars into ads at the beginning. Travis would run ads with a $10 budget while he was testing his ads. Once you find the right combination of audience and creative, double down on what works.
- The sooner you get started, the better – this ties in with the MVP mentioned above, but if you spend all your time trying to create the perfect product you will likely be very disappointed at the end result. Get something in the hands of your audience now, and adjust later.
Travis has absolutely been crushing it and seems to be doing all the things right. But it didn’t start out that way.
His 6-figure business came from a “failed” product. However, that failed product opened up the door of possibilities.
If there’s one thing I want you to get out of this episode, it’s that you should not be afraid to fail. Everyone does it, and you never know what opportunities could develop from your next idea. Start now!
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Nine-Five Podcast. Thank you so much for listening!
What’s holding you back from simply starting something?
Leave a comment below and let me know!
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"The value you provide to others directly correlates to your success. The more value you provide, the more successful you become. Focus on the value!"
- Nick Nalbach
I am an entrepreneur and adventure enthusiast, looking to break free from the Nine-Five grind. I'll show you what has worked and is currently working for me, as well as what hasn't worked so well.