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Unlock the Secrets to Scaling Your Business: Ryan Deiss Shares his Expert Advice

Today’s episode of the podcast is an interview with Ryan Deiss, where we are talking all about how to scale your business for true freedom and growth.

Ryan kindly shares his very honest stories of scaling his own businesses to achieve huge success, how he had to get out of his own way, and the conflicts he experienced between building a business and sacrificing family time.

Ryan Deiss is a serial entrepreneur, author, and investor, and according to Shark Tank star Daymond John, “His companies practically own the internet.” He is the Founder and CEO of The Scalable Company (Scalable.co), DigitalMarketer.com, and a Founding Partner at Scalable Equity, LLC, an equity accelerator that builds, acquires, and invests inB2B media, services, and software brands.

Ryan is also the founder and host of the Traffic & Conversion Summit, the largest digital marketing conference in North America. He also quite literally wrote the book on modern marketing, Digital Marketing For Dummies (Wiley), which is now in its second edition.

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS COVERED IN THE PODCAST

  1. The evolution of online marketing and adapting to changing times
  2. The key differences between growing your business and scaling your business
  3. How to define your target audience for effective marketing

If you enjoyed this episode then please feel free to go and share it on your social media or head over to iTunes and give me a review, I would be so very grateful.

 

LINKS TO RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY’S EPISODE

Buy Ryan's Book, ‘Get Scalable: The Operating System Your Business Needs To Run and Scale Without You'

Connect with Ryan on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn

Connect with Scalable.co through their website, Instagram or Facebook

Connect with Teresa on Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook

 

Transcript

Teresa: Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the Your Dream Business Podcast. I hope you're doing well. So this week I have another interview and I'm very excited and honored to do this week's episode. It's always lovely when I get asked to interview someone when I've not reached out to them and their name is pretty big and I know it and I'm like, Oh wow, they're asking to come on my show.

And this week's guest is exactly that type of person. This week I'm interviewing the amazing Ryan Deiss. Ryan Deiss is a serial entrepreneur, author, investor, and according to the Shark Tank star, Damon John, his company practically owns the internet. Ryan is the founder and CEO of scalable company, digitalmarketer. com.

That's probably where you know his name from. And the founding partner of Scalable Equity LLC, which is an equity accelerator that builds, acquires, and invests in B2B media services and software brands. Ryan is also the founder and host of Traffic and Conversion Summit, which I've attended and seen him speak at.

The largest marketing conference, digital marketing conference in North America. He's also quite literally wrote the book on modern marketing, digital marketing for dummies, and which is now in its second edition. He is a sought after speaker. Ryan has shared the stage with top business leaders and celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuk, Sarah Blakely, Martha Stewart, Tim Ferriss, Damon John, and Dave Ramsey.

I mean, that is a hell of a like bio. So I am super excited that this week I get to bring to the podcast, the amazing Ryan Deiss. I am so very delighted to welcome to the podcast, Ryan Deiss. Ryan, how are you doing?

Ryan: I am doing amazingly well. Thank you so much for having me.

Teresa: I am very pleased. I was just saying that in the intro that it's so lovely when I get, I get lots of requests to come on the podcast, which is awesome.

And then when I see a name that I'm like, Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah. No, this person is definitely coming on. So it was great to speak to your team and get you on. It's been, it's been something that I'm really, really pleased about. So I'm excited about today's conversation.

Ryan: Yeah. Likewise. And it's an honor to be here.

So thank you.

Teresa: So I want to start with where people, certainly where I know you from. So I know you from digital marketer, trafficking conversion, but I want to go back a bit because I'm not sure that I've ever really looked into or found out how you got to do that. And then we can talk about what we're doing today.

Ryan: Aha, it's not a story I tell very often, actually, and not because it's like a bad story. It's just I've been doing this now for 25 years. It just winds up becoming a long story. So I'm going to try to give you the short, short version if that's okay. But let's go all the way back to 1999. I was a freshman at the University of Texas.

In Austin, so my 1st year at university and and the Internet was brand new and that year I met the spring semester. I was always entrepreneurial. I always wanted to make money. I didn't have any of it, but I was in college. You're supposed to be broke. It's fine. You know, it wasn't that big a deal, but kind of towards the end of my 1st semester, I met a girl.

And I, I knew in my heart of hearts, this is the woman that I'm going to marry. I like to say I didn't tell her that because I knew that that was creepy, but I just knew I really did. And, and so in that moment, I was like, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm broken. That's bad. I need to figure out a way to make some money. And, you know, at the university of Texas, people told stories about Michael Dell.

Who started Dell computer out of his dorm room, which was literally his dorm room was across the street from my dorm room. And so I'm like, I could be the next Michael Dell. I'm going to start a business. And I had no idea what I was going to do, but I figured I could teach myself web design. So my actually, my very 1st company was a web design company.

I was terrible at web design. Absolutely completely terrible, but I had, a student version of Adobe go live and Microsoft front page. People now have no idea what those even were, but that was how websites were built 100 years ago. And I marketed myself as a web designer, and the only client I got, and this is a bit funny, was a lactation consultant.

Now, I have 4 kids. And my wife, you know, nurse breastfed all of our, all of our kids. So I have nothing but love for lactation consultants. I can tell you at 19 years old and building a website for a lactation consultant was a bit awkward. But built a website and it was, you know, it was going okay. And but unfortunately her husband wound up losing her job.

We had a bit of a recession, husband lost, lost his job. She had to go back to work. She had to. You know, shutter her lactation consulting business, and she no longer had a need for a website, and she no longer had the ability to pay me. But this one was really, really sharp. Because she did something that I bet a lot of your other listeners have done.

She wrote an ebook. She was smart. She realized as a lactation consultant, her clients, if she did her job, were eventually not going to need her. You know, they were going to figure it out on your own, then eventually the kids would wean. And so she actually said, I don't want to just be about lactation consulting.

I want to expand my niche into overall childhood nutrition. Really, really smart, right? Incredibly smart. So she wrote this ebook on how to make your own baby food. And because she couldn't pay me, she said, look, I've got this ebook on how to make your own baby food. I want you to have it. Maybe you can sell it and make some money since I can't afford to pay you.

And I'm thinking at the time, the heck am I going to do with like a 38 page PDF on how to make your own baby food? But again, back then, 1999, the, the cop, there was no Amazon. Google is a science fair project. And I did some research and I found, you know, there's actually a lot of people searching for how to make your own baby food and there's nothing out there on it.

So my very first business was selling an ebook on my very first online business was selling an ebook on how to make your own baby food from a simple one page website. I charged $17 for it, which, and I remember I came up with the price because. It was basically less than 0. 50 per page. And I marketed that and for me, for whatever reason, that seemed like a deal.

But a few years later, everybody told me you can never sell an ebook online for $17. Nobody will ever buy it. Thankfully, by the time people were telling me I couldn't do it, I've been doing it for years and making, you know, good money off of it. But that began what started off as kind of my entrepreneurial journey.

I had this one ebook. It sold a couple of copies a day, which was enough for me to, you know, make some extra money. I thought, what if I had 10 of these and so I did and and my goal was just if I can make 10, 000 to buy this girl, I met a ring saving up some money. That'd be great. Fast forward a couple years and got the ring, got the girl and a little side hustle turned into a real publishing company.

And that that truly is where it all began.

Teresa: That's amazing. I think there are some people, and I do not class myself as one of them, that entrepreneurship is just inbuilt in them. Like, like you said, straight off the bat, what can I do? How can I earn money? And I don't, do you think that's down to, were your parents?

Business owners, do you, were you surrounded by business owners? Was that a thing that you saw and then thought I can replicate that? Or do you just have that switch in your head?

Ryan: You know, funny, it wasn't my mom was a school teacher. My dad was an electrician, you know, came from a family of farmers, which I guess there's some entrepreneurial grit there maybe, but, but no, I didn't see entrepreneurs and I, and I, I remember going to college, I remember going to university and finding people who were majoring in business.

And I, and I asked him, I was like, what is that? Like, what, how does one major in business, like business is a, is a thing. Like I don't, I don't even know how you do that. I, so I don't know where it comes from. I do believe that entrepreneurial, like entrepreneurship is a calling. I think that there are some people who they are just willing to put in that extra work and that extra risk for that extra outcome.

And I think a lot of this. Probably comes from a degree of like trauma and brokenness, you know, where it's like, you can't tell me what to do kind of thing. Yeah. But, you know, I think it's there and it's funny. I've got four kids and I look at my own kids and I, I'm not trying to push my kids into being entrepreneurs.

Cause I know how hard it is. And I just want them to find their calling. I want them to find kind of their place and I want them to feel like, you know, pressure to quote unquote, following my footsteps. But it's obvious like some of my kids are more entrepreneurial than others and we'll see where that comes from.

So no, I didn't really see an example. I'll tell you what I did have though. My parents got divorced when I was three years old. Okay. Not a big sob story by the way. They were very mature about it. Got along great. I'd spend two weeks at my mom's house, two weeks at my dad's house. They agreed to live close.

So, you know, Same school, you know, same friend group, all that other stuff. But when I stayed at my dad's house, he would drop me off at my mom's house at just the crack of dawn. He had to be at work at 6. 30am, 6. 30 in the morning. So he dropped me off very early at my mom's house so I could catch the bus.

But what's the only thing on? I don't know if this is the case in the, you know, in the UK and around the world, but certainly in the States, certainly back in the, you know, 80s and 90s, the only thing on at the crack of dawn is infomercials. And so I grew up watching infomercials every single morning. So while I don't think I necessarily got a education or I got to witness entrepreneurialism, I definitely got to witness a good, solid, direct response marketing.

Teresa: Yeah. I just think about this woman who had the like. The foresight to go, here's an ebook. Like I can speak to people now who still wouldn't know what that is. And I'm sure, you know, when you're not in your world, it's the same. Cause I do think the, sometimes I don't even try and explain that I have a membership or I sell courses online, or I speak online, or I teach to people who are not in the same country as me.

Even now they don't get it. So to have that thought and to give it you and go see what you can do with it and for you to take it in a subject and this where, you know, anybody listening to this, like I love that when people have a passion about something and when it's their thing that they adore and then they sell it, I love that.

But you took something that was so far from your comfort zone and still found a way to sell it and still find a way to make money with it, which. blows my mind. That's just amazing.

Ryan: Yeah. I want to, I want to speak to that because I think there's a point there that, that, that your listeners need to hear, but I just got to say, one of my biggest regrets in life is that I forgot this woman's name, my client, my first client's name. I can't remember her name. I've actually tried to Google and research of like, cause I always felt like if I, you know, if I remember and recognize it, even after, you know, our kids were born, I was like Googling lactation consultants in Austin, trying to see if I could find her to come full circle and to tell her.

You know, she was my first business mentor, right? She was truly the probably the first real entrepreneur I ever saw. And what I saw was somebody who failed. Right. Her business, she had to shut her business down. So by the normal world standards, she failed. But she, she didn't look at it as like a personal failure.

She just saw it as like, these are my circumstances right now. I'll come back and try it again. And there was just so much wisdom, so much insight, so much strength there. And I owe that woman, more than I owe, well, just about every mentor that I've probably paid tens, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars too.

So I just wanted to make sure that was said for posterity's sake. Maybe 1 day, she'll hear this and remember hiring some, you know, stupid idiot kid at 19 years old to build a website and a connection will be made. So I'm just putting it out there.

Teresa: Maybe she'll find you. Maybe she'll go. Oh, my God. Look at what happened to that guy.

That is insane.

Ryan: Keep waiting for it. Like, so far, and again, that was what almost 25 years ago. So, so far. Not so good. Oh, okay. The point though about taking a book that you know nothing about and selling it. We have a term for that. That's called publishing. And, and I think this is really, really important for, you know, for your listeners, keep in mind, if you identify as an expert, you know, or as an author, That's wonderful, right?

That's good. I always chose to identify as a publisher because as a publisher, I choose to publish my own stuff, but I can also choose to publish other people's stuff. And I think a lot of times we limit ourselves and our ability to, scalar companies to launch new companies because we put ourselves in the box of us.

Everything we do is limited to what we can do to what we know. And if you think about it, you go, no, no, no, like I'm a publisher. I know some stuff, but so to other people, the publishers make more money than the authors in general, you know, the owners of sports clubs make more money than the players. So I think it's worth just being really thoughtful about how you identify in this business.

Teresa: Yeah. And, and that shows with what you then went on to create the fact that you, and I guess, unlike most of the digital entrepreneurs, online businesses, we sell what we're good at and we sell what we're passionate about. But then that limits us to us as the business, whereas you took that and, and sold that.

And then like, look at the businesses you've grown, like digital markets the traffic conversion summit, like these are huge businesses. So I guess. In my head, I was going to ask the question, you know, did you envisage that you would grow things to that size? But part of me, as I say, it is like, well, you started off selling something that wasn't yours kind of.

So if you carried on doing it, then presumably that's why you grew and how you grew.

Ryan: I'll tell you, I never in a million years. Could have imagined building a business at the scale that we are at today. So the last, you know, in 2023 combined, our portfolio companies did in excess of $200 million in revenue, right?

That's pretty big. Now, keep in mind, we've sold a lot of businesses. So in 2018 and 2019, I sold the vast majority of the companies that I owned. So picking back up on the, you know, on the story, I had all these different businesses. You know, when I graduated and got married, my wife and I, we. I did, like I said, I got the ring.

I got the girl. We dated throughout college, you know, got engaged our junior year, got married the weekend after we graduated from, from university and, you know, started our, started our life together. And I just kept doing what I was doing. And those businesses just kind of, they would change and they would morph and obviously models change and new technology happened, new ad platforms.

But all I was doing was starting businesses based on there's a need out there in the marketplace that is currently unmet. I don't have to be the person to meet it. I just need to be the person who's willing to connect the experts with the people who need the information. Right? That is kind of basic commerce.

That that was my that was my business. And I just I decided that I was going to start an email newsletter. To talk about what I was doing and the only reason I did that is I was invited to speak at a marketing event and I was the only person this marketing event. I had no idea how to market. I should have this event.

I'd never been to 1, but it turned out that the way marketing events worked at least back then is a speaker would come up. They would give 30 to 45 minutes of ish content. That was really designed just to pitch their thing. And it was just like rotating pitch fast. One person after another selling stuff.

I didn't know this was the game. And I had nothing to sell because I was building my other businesses, right? Nobody wanted to buy a thing on how to roll your own sushi or make your own, you know, baby food. So I just went up there and taught. And when I was done, I was done. It's like, thank you. Good night.

And I got this massive rush of people saying, what's your product? What can I buy from you? I didn't have anything. So do you have a book? Got a lot of them, but nothing on this. And, and the only thing I could think of in the moment, I said, I'm going to go buy the domain name, profit diary, which I don't even own that.

I don't even know where that is anymore. I was like, I'm going to buy this domain. I'm going to do an email newsletter, go sign up for that. And you can be on my email list. And so I created an email newsletter and once a week, I would send a newsletter about what I had done in my quote, unquote, real businesses.

And then if I had figured something out that was cool, I would create a little course and I would sell it to this list. But the only reason I did that was to generate revenue to fund again, my quote, unquote, real businesses, we did traffic and conversion summit. A lot of people don't know this, but traffic and conversion summit is three years older than digital marketer.

Side of business partner, he was like, we should do an event. I was like, I don't want to do an event. They're crappy pitch fests. I don't want to do that. And he's like, well, let's do one that's all content. I was like, fine. I'm in. We can do an all content event. I don't know how we'll make money, but we'll figure it out. Spoiler. We didn't make money.

We lost like a couple hundred grand the first year of that. That's a different story. So we did this event and the first year had about 300 the next year had about 500 the year after that had 800 and it was year three of traffic and conversion summit where I said this might be a thing I should maybe treat this like a real business that was when they bought the domain name digitalmarketer. com brought everything into that one banner but that was 2010 when that decision was made before I treat it like a real business.

Teresa: These dates are like crazy, like how, and obviously I came into, I've had my business 10 years now and I came in to the online space probably a couple of years after I started my business.

And one of the first places I spoke was at lead pages at their conference and like did stuff over there. And. And like, I remember coming in thinking this is new and still now thinking there are people I speak to in the UK that aren't getting it, but like you were in and you were doing this stuff like, and you were always around.

And for me, it felt like digital marketer was always around as well, but like you were doing this stuff so early, like, how do you, how do you stay? Like current and interested and, and, and have you seen things changed dramatically or is it just growing as the industry's growing?

Ryan: It's changed dramatically and it hasn't.

Right. And so to say that when I first got started online, the way that you got traffic there, again, there were no paid channels available. There was, there was no Google ads. It didn't exist. Like, Google was not even the search engine we were optimizing for. I was trying to appear on AltaVista and Dogpile and stuff that people haven't even heard about anymore.

And to appear on these search engines, all you had to do, the big growth hack back then, was you take the keyword you wanted to rank for, and you put it at the bottom of the page, and you, you just copy and paste it over and over and over again. And the big, like, Mind blowing growth act was you'd make it the text the same color as the background.

So people couldn't see it, right? So to see it go from that to remembering when go to dot com first came out, which I think was 2002 2003 that was the first pay per click search engine that ultimately became Overture which became the Yahoo search network. The original founding team was poached away by Google to build it AdWords, which is now Google ads.

So I saw that then in 2007 to see Facebook ads launch, then mobile and all this. So I've seen tremendous change without a doubt. The means and the channels of connecting with the audience has changed dramatically. The things that haven't changed though, is that still the offer is everything copywriting.

And the need to be able to present and I think that's why I've always been able to stay relevant is because I could go back to those infomercials that I watched when I was, you know, 8, 9 years old as a kid, that stuff still worked. And so I love Jeff Bezos has a quote, he says, everybody asks me what's going to change what's going to change.

And he said, it's a good question, but I think a far better question, a far more interesting question, a far more insightful question is what's not going to change. Right. What if we focus on the things that won't change? And I've spent the bulk of my career doubling down on the things that won't change.

And because of that, I don't feel the need to ever be the first to something. I was not the first on Facebook ads, you know, and I've always kind of sat back and I've said, let's let everybody else go first. And I'll do my own testing. I'll do my own. Whatever, I'll, I'll try to figure it out and if I get good results, then I'll go all in.

But I think about people who've gone all in on platforms that didn't last because they were new. What a tremendous waste of time. What I've seen is there's, there will always be another new platform. And so, yeah, do it. You need to stay current. Never, ever bury your head in the sand. I mean, right now I'm all in on AI.

Because it's, it's obviously a thing, but AI isn't new, you know, by, by internet standards anymore. And yet only now are we really starting to go all in and integrate it. We've been dabbling for the last year, but I want to see what's going to stick and what won't. Yeah. So I think change is important. I think change creates awesome opportunities.

I think you're better off focusing on the things that don't change and avoiding the trends right off the bat.

Teresa: And I think that's. I did a degree in marketing, spent my three, four years at university learning all about marketing, like literally 20 years ago, the first 10 years before I started my own business, I worked, I was head of corporate marketing for Land Rover and did really cool marketing jobs.

And like, what's so funny is. Like you said, those basics don't change. Like when I was at university, we were barely having websites. Like, you know, when I first started working in businesses, people would go, Oh, do we need a website? Like, and then obviously that changed. Do we really need social media to then do we really need like all these other things?

So But for me, like you said, understanding the customer, understanding, you know, how and why they buy and then the format in which you use to reach them and to do that, that changes. I'm just really interested because it sounds like when you started and obviously been in this industry for a while, like you, you did things where they were new and people had just started doing them.

So like, like you said, the, you know, SEO of like being able to cheat it, which obviously you definitely could not do for a very long time, but like. Do you feel that it's harder now or easier now? So let's say someone wants to start today in the online world, digital marketing world, harder or easier than it was when you started?

Ryan: I believe that it is easier to get To take a product to market, whatever required to, to build a website and to just set up a merchant account. I mean, the hoops I had to jump through to get a merchant account, my very first merchant account. I had to convince a bank that I had a retail location. I had a terminal, so sales would come through.

I would write down the credit card numbers and hand enter them in for my first subscription business. Wow. Like, because we didn't have things like Stripe, for example, even PayPal, I watched kind of come out of nowhere. And that was sort of just an eBay thing. Nobody took that seriously. So the fact that you can now spin up a website in no time, connect all the payments, all the automations that you can do today, I think it's never been easier to get started.

But breaking through the noise, I think it's never been harder. Yeah, to break through the noise. It's so noisy because because it is so easy to get started. That's no longer where the advantage lies. And the advantage, you know, for me, I won because I was there and nobody else was, yeah, I was, I won by default.

The other team didn't show up and I was there. So I won, you know, I wasn't doing anything extraordinary other than showing up. And for a long time, that was enough. Today, I don't think that the game winning the game is about trying to be everything everywhere all at once. Right? I see people looking at, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk and Alex Ramosi.

I mean, two, two guys that I respect very much that are personal friends of mine. Right? Hang out with love them to death. And yet I think it's the exact opposite strategy that most people should deploy for trying to get noticed. I don't believe, especially in a post AI world that quantity is going to be the game.

I really do think it's going to shift back to quality. I think it's going to ship back to narrow niches. And instead of being everywhere all at once, the name of the game is to be missed when you're gone. So you have to show up enough to be noticed, but you have to be good enough when you're there to be missed.

I think that's going to separate a lot of folks, but it really is going to be less about the tactics, less about the brute force and more about just getting good.

Teresa: Yeah. And that's really interesting because even in my, you know, 10 years of being in my business, you're like you said, you know, To begin with, it was like people don't know these things and you're trying to, like, get them out there and do those things and, and therefore you're being seen for that.

And now, like you said, it's never been easier. You know, we can go to a system that you have to have no tech ability whatsoever, create everything you need to create. You know, there is. a plethora of information that's free out there for you to go if you want to spend all that time and go and find it and look at it and search it, which again, you wouldn't have had.

However, when you're out there, it is so noisy, like so, so, so noisy. So to try and stand out in some way. And I think I've never really niched or hadn't done for a very long time because I'd worked in every, like I've marketed things from sliding system things that, you know, you pull out when you have like big massive servers to processed chicken.

Like I literally have marketed so many different things that actually I liked not having a niche. I liked one minute, my brain thinking of one thing and then having to go to another and I'm slowly moving over to the okay. No, I really have got to because it's just too big and too wide.

And There's too many people to try and talk to and too many things. And actually honing down, I think is something that, that we're probably going to see a lot more of, and people are going to become big in their own little space. And that's great because you know, you are going to be seen and people are going to buy from you.

I love it.

Ryan: Yeah. I try to tell people go two levels deeper. So whatever you think your market is. Then you're like, I can serve because we'll ask people, okay, who's your market, who's your audience, who, you know, who can you serve? And it'll be like everybody. Okay. That's adorable. But now really like who, who is it really?

And then I'll get an answer. Now invariably that answer is still too broad. So what I'll say is, okay, great. Go two levels deeper from that. So if you're saying, let me give you an example. So digital marketer company business, we've still own, it doesn't just target marketers. Right. It targets growth, like growth minded, entrepreneurial marketers.

So entrepreneurial marketers, we would define as marketers who are either entrepreneurs themselves doing their own marketing agencies and consultants and, or marketers working within entrepreneurial companies, right? So those are kind of the three avatars, but you can see we're not just business. We're not just marketing.

It's digital marketing is one level deeper. And then below that. We have entrepreneurial digital marketers, so marketing is a broad category. Digital marketing is just below. Entrepreneurial, digital marketers is the third level. So what I tell people to do is, and it's hopefully helpful for all your listeners, brand message around level two.

So all of our messaging is talking to that entrepreneurial digital marketer, that in the trenches person who, you know, they're, they're out there trying to make the cash register rain. That's what the messaging is to some message to level two brand to level one, that one, that, that first level deeper, it's not ground level, right?

But that level just below it brand to that, because that gives you room to expand as your audience expands. And as you introduce more products. But if we were just called marketer. com, well, yeah, like that's too broad. You know, digital marketer is still big, but our messaging is one level deeper. So you don't have to, that's kind of a way to hedge your bets.

Give yourself room to expand.

Teresa: Yeah. I love that. And I think. And interestingly enough, I am a marketer in the digital space and I'm an entrepreneur. So it's not a surprise that you guys are in my world and I've seen you and I know who you are and I know what digital marketer is and I've done some of your courses like, you know, it fit perfectly with who I am and what I do.

So yeah, that's awesome. Okay. So one thing that you have been uber successful with, which I think most people think is the dream. And for lots of us, it is scaling your businesses to huge businesses. And this is the idea or the lean in, I guess, to the next thing that you've got coming out, which is your new book.

So yeah. And tell us about that.

Ryan: Sure. So. The book is Get Scalable, and as the title suggests, it is there to help you get scalable. And the reason is, is because I think a lot of businesses, a lot of entrepreneurs try to scale before their wait for it, scalable, right? And I've seen it and I've done it. I've been there.

Back in 2016, I had three of our portfolio companies simultaneously on the Inc 500 or 5000 list of fastest growing companies in the United States. Three. So not one company three years in a row. Three different companies in our portfolio group, same year. Now that sounds cool. And when I get introduced to speak at stages, they'll talk to him about being a three time Inc 500, you know, founder, but let me tell you the dirty backstory.

You know, of this, one of those businesses, the, cause it was a portfolio company. So I didn't run the day to day. We had a CEO, a co founder that ran the day to day that co founder never really could get out of his own way. And so even though it scaled to seven figures very, very, very quickly, it's why I hit the list mid seven figures, like a good solid, like I think it was doing six or 7 million when it, when it made the list, CEO never really could get out of his own way.

It felt like he had to do absolutely everything. You know, no hire was quite good enough. He had to be involved in the product and the marketing and the business completely stagnated. This was a business that had a massive mode, had exclusives on data contracts and things like that that none of the other competitors had and just let it all go away because this person and us as well didn't know what it meant to truly be a scalable business.

That company kind of floundered along for a while and two years ago sold at essentially a fire sale to its number one competitor. And kind of, we all sort of made our money back, but not really, you know, so that was 1 of the 3 businesses that hit the list. Another business within 6 weeks of appearing on the list was near bankrupt.

This business went from doing 300, 000 the first year, 3 million the next year, all the way up to almost 30 million in year three, but it grew at all costs, including this pesky thing called profit. And so, when kind of, you know, couldn't keep all the plates spinning, it became clear that, like, okay, this isn't good, lost about 2 million dollars in 1 month in a business where we were just kind of churning through cash and.

Like I said, within a few weeks of appearing on that list, we had to go in and lay off 180 people from that company that just made the 500 list. 1 of the businesses went on to do almost 20 million dollars in revenue, had a significant spin off and exit and is still going strong today. And what I realized my takeaway from that is that number 1 growth isn't everything.

Yeah, right growth is not everything at some point. You got to figure out the game of scale. Another thing happened that year in 2016. I was not having fun. Yeah, I was not. I was not happy. I mean, if you would have looked certainly earlier that year, if you would have looked at me and asked me how things were going, I would have said great because all of the businesses were crushing.

I put 3 companies on the Inc 500 list. Like, I was, you know, from the outside looking in, I look like I was you know, on top of the world, the problem is, is I left most mornings before my wife and kids are awake. I got home after they were in bed. I missed more soccer games and dance recitals than I care to imagine.

It was a miracle that I made it home for dinner for family dinner. And remember, this is the same woman who was my inspiration to start the business and the kids that followed were my inspiration to grow the business. Right? And yet now I was basically trading in this time with them and their, their happiness so that I could go and build this business for what?

You know, for what? And it wasn't until I came home really late one night. My wife said, she was like, look, you can keep doing what you're doing. I know who I married, but you can't pretend like you're doing it for us anymore. That was like the wake up call that I needed. And so this book is the book I wish I had going into 2016, all the hard earned lessons from yep, growth is good, but growth is not everything.

What does it mean to actually scale a business? Because growth and scale are not the same thing. Yeah. The roadmap to growth is not the roadmap to scale. In fact. Everything that kind of made you great during the startup and early growth phase will hold you back. And so it's laying out, this is the operating system that we install now in all the businesses.

So you don't just have growth and scale. You have freedom. And that's my goal with the book.

Teresa: And I love your honesty. I honestly really, really appreciate that because I think in this beautiful world that we're in where Instagram shows lovely pictures and we aspire to be like these amazing business owners, especially as entrepreneurs that we follow and we dream that we can have what they have, I think it's really important that there are still very honest conversations about one, this is hard, two you, there's always a way up, there's always a trade and you were creating what was deemed Uber successful over here.

But at the cost of your family and at the cost of your relationship with your wife and being a good dad or feeling like whether you're a good dad or not, like that was the cost of weighing it up. And then also I love the honesty around the growth and the profit because again, you know, we're in a digital marketing world where.

You know, everyone talks about six for the launches and seven figure launches and best year ever. And it's like, yeah, that's amazing. And that's awesome. And don't get me wrong. If I could have a seven figure, I'd take a six for the launch right now, to be honest, like if I could get any launch six or seven figures, I'll go with it.

Like I would have it in a heartbeat, but I think sometimes we're expecting. As business owners, we're looking at these other people thinking they've got it all sussed. It's all done and not understanding what's going into it. Either the hard work or actually, yes, we can turn this amount of money, but that doesn't always equate to now you're living on a beach working from your laptop, watching the money roll in.

Like that isn't always the thing. So, so I really appreciate you sharing about those businesses and the fact of on paper. Wow. Ryan, you are amazing. but actually in reality it felt very different. So just talk to me a little bit about The idea of the scalability, like, what is it that, what didn't those businesses have?

And what do you define as the difference in growth and scale?

Ryan: So the businesses that stall out tend to stall out because they're operating on what we refer to as a U operating system, meaning the founder, the CEO, they are the operating system and the operating system is them. And so we talked about earlier how this, this can impact you from a, from a product, or a services perspective.

If you believe your business and your ability to serve your customers and your clients, your patients is limited to just you and your abilities. That is a constraint that is going to constrain growth. It's also going to prevent you from having any real true freedom. And so we see that show up there first and foremost, and this is especially true again with freelancers, with consultants.

They're the ones that first get stuck. So I love freelancing. I think freelancing is, is great. But there's not freedom there. The more money you make, the less time you have, it goes back to that trade off. And so at some point you don't want to be the product, right? You don't want to be the racehorse. And if you can't give something to a client, then guess what?

You're the product. Yeah. You just are. And so that's where it shows up first, but it also shows up in sales and in marketing. Because for many of us, we're like, why? I'm an entrepreneur first and foremost. Why did I become a marketer? Because I was the only one here. I didn't have a marketing team. It was me in a dorm room.

So I had to learn marketing. Now, fortunately, I was pretty good at it. But there's been other businesses we've launched where I also needed to do sales. Now, I hate sales. I'm terrified to talk to people. I hate rejection. I want people to like me. Right? I'm not particularly good at it. But I did it because, wait for it, I was the only one.

That is the entrepreneurial experience. And in the beginning, it's great. In the beginning, but one of the worst things you can do to a business is to over systemize it. Yeah, one of the worst things you can do to a business in the startup stage is saying is to say, oh, but that won't scale. I don't care from 0 to 7 figures.

Do all the unscalable stuff at least a half a million dollars in revenue and do the unscalable. Right. But if you desire to build, you know, a business that can scale beyond you at some point, once you have some proof there, now we got to talk about scaling. We got to talk about pivoting from a you operating system to what we refer to as a scalable operating system.

And what this simply means is documenting how does this company create value? And this is going to come all companies create value in two ways. We get customers, we serve customers, like asset, right? That's what we do. We make stuff, we sell stuff, right? We fulfill the stuff we made. This is what all businesses make.

So our system, our process starts from there. Our operating system does not start with goal setting. I think goal setting is great, but every business book I ever read chapter one was like setting goals. Yeah, like, what is your 10 year plan was like, screw all of that. I don't know. Like what I know is I'm burnt out and I'm freaking frustrated, like, give me some relief.

So step one is not goal setting. Step one is not to hire a bunch of people for everybody's like, Oh, every problem is a people problem. Well, no, sometimes it's a systems problem. If you keep hiring people for the same role, and they're all failing, it's probably not on them. Yeah. Right? Probably not. So, you know, we like to say, good people don't fix broken systems, broken systems break good people.

So, you have to start with systems first. You've got to start by visualizing how to clients happen. How does it happen? How do they, where do they come from? Do we run ads? Great. Then where do they go? Oh, they go to this landing page. Amazing. Then what happens? And we work with our clients and talk about this in the book, work with our portfolio companies to visualize the flow of how customers or how clients happen.

We then do the same thing for the fulfillment process. Great. They bought now what? Once you visualize the entirety of the customer journey, you can answer the question of, this is how we create value. Not just explain it, you can show it to people. Now it exists separate from you. It's not this idea in your head of what to do, it's separated from you.

That's the foundation. Then we can begin to ask questions like, okay, well, how do we do these different steps? You know, now that's where we create the checklists, the playbooks and the SOPs. Yeah. Okay. Who does these different steps? Well, now we're thinking about hiring. What are the things that I'm doing that I don't want to do anymore? Yeah.

Now that I have a playbook, you can say, how do we know this is working? That's where scorecards come into play, right? When should we talk about this stuff? That's what meetings come into play. And then the last piece of the puzzle is the goal setting. But everything begins with the visualization of value creation.

Before that, nothing else matters.

Teresa: It's so interesting because I think one of the things that we're taught as entrepreneurs is, you know, you bring in a VA, like as soon as you can, you bring in a VA, you have someone help you with things. And I get it. And I, I, you know, I'm pretty for that, but the amount of people I've spoken to are like, well, I don't know what they do.

So it's almost like, surely like, that's where we need to think about those things. So you mentioned the figure there, you sort of said, you know, Half a million, a million. That's when you're looking at scaling. Is this something they should be, you know, should they be buying the book and reading about it before that point?

With the idea of. That point might come or is it something that they wait and then they do it.

Ryan: If you have plans to scale a business to 7 figures and beyond, I would read the book sooner rather later. So you have a context of where you're going. That sounds like a selfish, I mean, obviously, I would say that because I want people to buy my book, but, but it also has the added benefit of being true.

It's helpful to know what's coming around the corner before you get there. Now. If your goal is to remain a solo freelancer, and you want to have a handful of clients in a boutique business, and you just want to serve them, and you never, ever, ever want to scale and have a team, you never want to go beyond that, and you're very cool having a quarter million, you know, 300, 000, 400, 000, 500, 000 as a solo, I want to tell you, that's awesome, and I applaud you, and don't let anybody You know, chastise you or talk, talk down or say, Ooh, well, that's just a lifestyle business.

Screw all of that. I don't get into any of that, that noise. I've never made more money than it was just me running my little business doing about a million to 2 million a year. Because I kept just about all of it. And when I made the decision to scale, because I wanted to build something that was ultimately exitable, that could live beyond me.

That is when I turned around. It's like, it seems like the more money the company makes, the less money I make. That happens, by the way, between about 2 million and 8 million, 7 million revenue, 6 million, depending on what systems you have in place. That's the swamp of scale. That time period sucks and the way that you get through it is by upgrading your operating system.

And so I do believe that as a solo, you can get a business to about a million. I've known people who've got it to about 2 million a year without deploying some of the things in this book, a lot of people are, they're intelligent. They're smart. They'll do a lot of the stuff on their own. If you want to scale though and have a life at a million to 2 million, if you want to build a seven figure business, yeah, I'd probably read it sooner rather than later.

Teresa: Yeah. Yeah. And do you think if I know questions, I'm really conscious of your time. Do you think anybody can scale and any business can scale?

Ryan: I have not come across a person yet who had scaled really big businesses, and I've been privileged to hang out and spend real quality time with some of the best known, most famous entrepreneurs in the world down to folks who nobody's heard of, but they still have built massive 8 and 9 figure businesses.

And every single time I meet 1 of these entrepreneurs names that you would recognize. I am thoroughly, completely unimpressed and I say that so that you can be confident and know that there is nothing these people have that you don't have. Really? I mean, it's not you. I've not met always. He was like, well, obviously they're crushing it.

I don't think anybody who meets me thinks that, well, obviously that guy, no, like for a lot of us, it's that we kept showing up when other people would have quit. It's that we've been doing it a little bit longer. I think, I think people who expect to win and hit a million dollar business in their first year, people who are, I think the kind of people who can't are people who are greedy and impatient.

I think if you're greedy and impatient, no, I don't believe you can build a scalable business, but I believe if you're patient, if you've got grit, if you genuinely and sincerely care to know what your customers and clients want, which means you're curious. And that shows there is no doubt scale is really just a matter of time because the skills are out there and they're not, you know, none of us are doing like, my, my oldest is taking high level calculus stuff right now.

I believe there are people who can't do what he does. Yeah, myself, including for what it's worth what we're doing here. I truly believe that anybody can, but I think it's hard. I think it's really freaking hard. And it's why most people don't and you should be glad that it's hard because if it were easy, everybody would have and it wouldn't be, it would by definition be valueless because everybody would so can they won't hopefully your listeners do.

Teresa: I love it. Ryan, I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. It's been an  absolute pleasure to have you on. I liked you anyway, but I am like, you're amazing. I honestly, I've sat here a little bit in awe of you and everything you said. So thank you so very much. I really appreciate you being a guest on the podcast.

Ryan: It has really been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me and thank you for giving me a platform to be that old man telling old, old war stories. I felt like kind of the old guy yelling at clouds from time to time, but, but it was really fun and therapeutic. So thank you for that.

Teresa: Anytime.