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EFP 122: Our Successes and Failures in 2014

Justin Cooke January 8, 2015

While we were really hoping 2014 would be a growth year, we ended up making a lot of transitional changes that were required to take our business where we want to go.

Breaking Down Our Accomplishments and Failures

In this episode, Joe and I sit down to candidly look at some of our successes and failures in 2014 and share some of our lessons learned in the process. We’re really excited about expanding our business in the new year, but it usually makes sense to reassess where you’ve been so that you can plan for where you’re headed.

We hope these learned lessons help you as you continue to grow your own business.

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

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Topics Discussed This Week:

  • Narrowing down our focus to the marketplace only
  • Selling our outsourcing company
  • Exploring marketing channels
  • Finding more sites and sellers in 2014
  • Expanding our range up to $500K websites
  • Rebranding & Redesign
  • Workshops & Live Events
  • Steak dinners and 1-on-1 meetups
  • Team communication + process
  • Making decisions and getting things done quickly
  • Hitting monetary goals

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“We need to start relating marketing projects to exactly how much they make us” – Joe – Tweet This!

How did your 2014 turn out? What plans do you have for your business in the new year? Let us know in the comments!

 

Justin:                   Welcome to the Empire Podcast episode 122. It’s been an interesting year for us over here at Empire Flippers, we’ve totally revamped our company, we’ve dropped off or sold all of our side projects, we’ve doubled down on our marketing, our market place and our branding.

                                We’ve had some successes and failures in 2014, and I want to share with you some of the insights that we’ve had on both. You can find the show notes and all links discussed in this episode at empireflippers.com/2014. Alright, let’s do this.

Speaker 2:           Sick of listening to entrepreneurial advice from guys with day jobs? Want to hear about the real successes and failures that come with building an online empire? You are not alone. From San Diego to Tokyo, New York to Bangkok, join thousands of entrepreneurs and investors who are prioritizing wealth and personal freedom over the oppression of an office cubicle. Check out the Empire podcast. And now your hosts, Justin ad Joe.

Justin:                   It’s been a really interesting year for us Joe, we started off the year and we both agreed to not increase our salaries and to really reinvest in growth. So, we kind of expected 2014 to be a growth year. We really wanted some growth in the business, when in fact it turned out to be a bit more transitional than we expected.

Joe:                        Yeah, the best plans are those plans that are adapted, so I think that it was a winding road in 2014, but I’m really comfortable where we’re at and I really think we’re set up for success in 2015. And I like where the business is at.

Justin:                   This episode is a little self indulgent in that we’re going to be talking about our business and our success and failures but the real idea behind this was that, hopefully in sharing some of the behind the scenes and what worked for us and what didn’t, you can take some of the things that- some of the learning experience we had and apply it to your own business as you head into 2015.

Joe:                        I would just say two things; don’t be too hard on yourself for your failures in 2014, and also don’t pat yourself on the back too much for your successes, because those kind of things are sometimes a little bit of luck, sometimes it’s a little bit of planning. And it’s good to keep a steady, even keel when going into 2015.

Justin:                   Yeah [inaudible 00:02:09] as we go through these I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on which ones you thought were luck and which ones you thought were due to some amazing planning we did or didn’t do, with our failures. You’re right though in that, sometime you just get lucky, sometimes it’s just right timing. I do think though by proper planning and operating your business accordingly you can better set yourself up for those lucky circumstances that come along.

Joe:                        Yeah, if you don’t play the game you’re never going to get lucky. So the more chances at that, the more chances you have just to get lucky. And if you approach it with the right kind of plan it just increases your chances that much more.

                                Cool, buddy. Let’s take a quick break to cover your feature listing of the week, what you got for us buddy?

Justin:                   Today we’re talking about listing #40127. It’s an Amazon affiliates site in the sports and hobbies niche. Specifically it’s about air rifles, I’m not a big gun guy, but I figure air rifles, BB guns, this is kind of acceptable. It’s listed for just under $39,000.00. It makes about $2000.00 net, and the only cost is really a $200.00 PBN monthly service, run by a guy we know Travis Jamison of Supremacy SEO, who absolutely has top quality SEO stuff. He’s not the seller, it’s one of his customers but it is a solid site. I really like it because it’s a passive site, you don’t even need to add content. So, it would definitely help if you had content but right now the only thing you need to do is pay for the PBN service to keep the links in place. It’s a perfect add for the portfolio type of person looking for more passive income, or somebody that may want to tinker with something that’s doing well that could also work.

Joe:                        I had an air rifle buddy. I bought it really randomly, I was at Walmart or Target or something and I saw one and was like, I want one of those. So I ended up buying it, used it- it was fun for a month or two. This is way back in the day me and my buddy Ryan, you know Ryan. We were playing around with it for a couple of months and then just didn’t care about it anymore. It’s funny you mention guns or whatever. And this is kind of interesting, as brokers which sites can we sell and you told me you’re a little less hot on selling gun or gun accessories, especially for real guns. But we’ve done those right. I’m a little less hot on [inaudible 00:04:24] or networking type businesses but we’re doing and we’ve done those as well. So, you know if I had a real moral problem or ethical issue with the business, I wouldn’t do that. If it’s something that’s not my preference, well just because it’s not my preference doesn’t mean we can’t broker the deal right.

Justin:                   Yeah, I think we have to draw a line in the sand for things that are illegal, like hacking, there was a site that got submitted the other day for hacking techniques and electronic surveillance, illegal electronic surveillance. So I had to say no to that site. I would also say porn and gambling are probably on the edge of something we wouldn’t do depending on what kind of sites they have.

Joe:                        Yeah we looked at some gambling sites, that was kind of interesting. Why not porn? It’s not like porn is illegal. And you know, I’m just putting this out there, I think there’s a huge market for buying and selling porn sites. I think there’s enough of a niche in there to really carve it up. Because the major brokers aren’t touching porn sites, how do they do business, how do they buy and sell websites or online businesses?

Justin:                   I just think that porn and gambling is a whole different animal. Especially with the type of people that you’re dealing with. The type of people you’re dealing with, the business owners, unfortunately have a stigma whether it’s true or not, that they’re shady characters.

Joe:                        I’ve met some real professionals that have been in porn. I hear what you saying first off, but I’ve met some real professionals that have been in the porn industry, from a business perspective, not consuming their own content or in their own content or whatever.

                                But you’re right, what’s interesting is- you’re right in that it’s a different animal in terms of the model. And so I think we’d struggle a bit on the vetting, we’d struggle a bit on understanding the industry and being able to provide value there. So I think you’re probably right there, but I do think there’s a market there, I do think there’s an opportunity.

Justin:                   Anyway but this site, this air rifle site, is a great site for someone looking to get into the Amazon affiliate play, a traditional content type site that’s very passive and for under $40,000.00.

Joe:                        Why you bringing us back on track? We’re talking about porn, we’re talking about the porn business, it’s way more fun that air rifles. Alright man, enough about that. Let’s take another heart in this weeks episode.

Speaker 2:           Now for the heart of this week’s episode.

Justin:                   Alright Joe, so talking about successes and failures, we’ve got a lot to go through, we’ve got eleven here listed. So, we’re going to go through them pretty quickly and give some learning lessons from each. The first one we’ve got is narrowing down our focus to the market place only, and I brand this as a success in 2014.

Joe:                        Yeah, I made this speech to so many people this year. We talked about it in DC, VKK/BKK, really I’m almost a little sick and tired of talking about it, but it definitely was a huge success, we got rid of everything including hosting customers, affiliate programs, everything else is gone. I guess Amazon is still paying us monthly for that book that we have, but really there is not operational expense there. It’s nice to be focused on just one thing because it really makes it easy for me to predict what our companies needs will be in the future.

Justin:                   I like this too. Having all these side projects out of our hair is a lot less hassle, it’s a lot less distraction from our main core, which is brokering deals. I also like the fact that in previous strategy sessions we would have different sections for other areas of our business and it allows us to really determine what we can do best for our buyers and sellers, rather than talking about what can we do for the proxy services or how can we improve this, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. It let’s us really be the best in our niche, be the best in our area. I think in 2015, the question we’re going to ask ourself and our focus will be, does this directly impact our core offering, does it directly impact the buying, selling or investing in websites and online businesses. If it doesn’t, we don’t do it.

Joe:                        Yeah I love that, because that makes it so much clearer for 2015, what we should do. It makes it and easy question.

Justin:                   So the second one is selling our outsourcing company. While we did sell it, I’m going to call this one a failure man, I don’t think that this worked the way that we wanted it to. Now, we initially listed the site or listed the business, for $160,000.00 asking price and we ended up with what, $25,000.00 on the sale man?

Joe:                        Yeah, something like that, so I would definitely say that this was a failure as well and if we had only sold it in 2013 instead of 2014 we probably wound up walking away from about $100,000.00 worth of income.

Justin:                   I think we would have sold it for more if we’d sold it earlier. I also think that there are some inherent problems with how we built the business, the fact that we hadn’t focused on the business nearly as much. We didn’t have any channel driving new leads or new business in. I think there were quite a few mistakes or things in there that kept this from going for what we’d have liked to. But really, the question was to build that back up, maybe we could have built it up to $160-$200-$250,000.00. But would it have been worth it? Would it have been worth our time, effort and energy, when we’ve already got a positive growing trajectory with Empire Flippers. So, okay yes, let’s go fix our outsourcing company for the next two years so we can sell it off or do we continue with the one that’s already worth significantly more.

Joe:                        Look, I’m so glad that we were involved in outsourcing, that we figured that business out and we really know it fairly well. But I have to say I’m also glad to be out of that business as well. I feel like margins are being squeezed, it’s a tough sell, it’s becoming only more and more difficult as more do-it-yourself platforms come out online, like oDesk and Elance. So, I think that we got out of the business, we got some money out of it, it was a successful exit but in the end we should have exited a lot sooner. And this comes back to the whole Justin and Joe take too long to make a decision thing. It would have been nice if we had that on the-

Justin:                   Well, we can talk about that in just a bit. One of the things that was problematic was that we had a limited client base and we were heavily reliant on one. And then when we were looking to sell the company, one of the people that was interested in the company ended up reaching out to that client and they caused problems all the way around. So, the potential buyer didn’t end up with that contract, and we lost it. So it didn’t do either of us any good, but it definitely rocked the boat.

                                I think the big learning experience here from our perspective, is that when you start building cash flows and start building assets, so things that have longer term value, things that are sellable really. If you look at any other websites that are listed and sold on our marketplace those are sellable assets, not contract based work. I think looking back, Joe you’ve read the book Built to Sell, but our outsourcing company was absolutely not built on any of those platforms, right, it was not built with any of those strategies in mind.

Joe:                        Yeah, if I ever went back into the outsourcing category again I would definitely make it more of a narrow scope, this is the service we provide, there are three levels of it, that’s what it is take it or leave it and this is how much we pay every month.

Justin:                   I would [inaudible 00:11:19] particular industry too. And I also- I think you might be wrong about it being a dying industry, like I’m glad we got out or I don’t see any value, oDesk and Elance are going to own that, eat it up. I see what you’re saying, I see where you’re coming from with that, but I think that you’re just not thinking forward, right? You’re looking at where it used to be and saying well where it used to be is dead, yes I agree with you but I think there’s a new approach that you could take that would own, would do really well.

Joe:                        I think if you’re a small player in the market it becomes tough, a small general outsourcer, that’s where it’s really tough and that’s the business that I would not want to be in anymore. If you’re a niche player, if you have a good story, if you have you’re service levels set up right, then absolutely you’re going to be successful. Or, if you’re on the high end and you can live on very small margins because you have 1200 seats or something ridiculous like that, absolutely still a good business.

Justin:                   So the third point I want to cover is exploring marketing channels. And this would include things like testing through after offers, testing through remarketing, testing through Facebook ads. It would also include things like affiliates, like our affiliate program and I’d say overall is kind of a mixed bag here, wouldn’t you agree Joe?

Joe:                        Absolutely. I’m listening to this book called Traction, and they cover 19 different marketing channels in there. I really feel like we didn’t cover enough of the marketing channels that are outside of our skillset. Stuff that we could try, test, fairly cheaply, and make sure it was going to work or not. And I think that some of the stuff that would be a little bit more expensive, i.e; a few thousand dollars, we stayed away from because we were afraid of doing a test and losing that money. But man, something like ad words we never really tested with several thousand dollars, and we could probably open that channel up and make some money there.

Justin:                   I think we’re open to ad words this year. What we’re really focused on right now is Facebook, I think if we can really- because we’re looking at it and our valuation tool, the ROI on the lease we’re getting for that on a full fill out of the valuation tool is fantastic. It’s only going to cost somewhere between two and four dollars per. So it’s huge win. If we can scale that up, it’s a good channel then we can move onto other opportunities. Things like After Offers have been great for us. We’re getting close to a thousand e-mail subscribers a month. We know that they’re opening our e-mails, not quite the same rate as a regular subscriber but enough to where it looks like it viable. I think we need to go revisit that channel though, make sure that it’s translating to money ultimately.

                                I think with something like remarketing which did really, really well at first, because we’d had a couple of months of data right, so we’d built up this data over time where we were able to hit them with some ads and it did fantastic. And then over time, the ads got stale and then the audience got smaller because we’d already hit those people up. It wasn’t great long term in terms of us being able to grow that channel, a small spin per month made sense, but really growing it and scaling it out didn’t.

Joe:                        Yeah, I’m going to beat you up a little bit about the After Offers thing, because we definitely have to start relating these channels back to how much they’re making for us. Because even if it’s very cheap, it really comes down to not the sign ups, but how much they actually contribute to the bottom line. So, that’s to be determined but I think the remarketing- the other thing I’m hearing about re-marketing is a lot of people are starting to find it creepy. And people will say, oh you’re the Empire Flippers guys, you’re the guys that follow me around on Facebook. So, I wonder if some of the remarketing after a while when the ads get stale like you were saying, the creepiness factor starts to come into play and people really don’t like that as much.

Justin:                   Creepy marketer tales, very interesting. I hear in the After Offers stuff and we need to look at how much ultimately that’s making us. We have months of data now to really dig through. I’d also say though that it’s not directly about whether they bought and sold. For example, we have people that are in the builders phase, that have never bought or sold a website with is but that have a blog and talk to other people that are building websites. And they share us as a resource for people that are buying and selling websites. So, if it helps us get additional exposure that may be worth it, it’s hard to quantify that. But I think that’s a good residual benefit.

Joe:                        Yeah I’ll agree with you there.

Justin:                   The big failure I think this year was our affiliates channel. We were going to offer an affiliate platform for anyone that would bring us sellers and websites to sell. And we were offering a good piece, 50% of the listing fee and I launched it, I did a focus 55, I got it working, launched it and mentioned it a little bit and didn’t really push it. So, I don’t know, I’m not sold on the idea of affiliates and so I couldn’t whole heartedly go out there and really promote it. Because I’m not sure what I want people saying about our brand and about selling websites, I want them to understand us a bit more. I don’t know, what do you think Joe?

Joe:                        I think affiliates could be a good game to be in, but we have to be very careful the way we set it up, that it’s set up for success and not abuse. But I think that comes back to, we had too many channels going at the same time, and the point of this Traction book is to test three channels, take the winner and then test that against another two. And then try all the channels that you can in the course of a year or something like that. So it’s pretty interesting, if we were to limit the scope of the channels that we tried and really just focus on winners, winners, winners, winners.

Justin:                   We’re on that now, and we’ve got After Offers, we’ve done remarketing I think we may start that up again. We’re doing Facebook that’s going well, affiliates didn’t. I think we need to explore a couple more, I like you’re idea with ad words. I think you’re completely off though on the- you want to reach out too- I think it’s more of an ego thing for you than an actual lead thing. But you’re like, we should be on TV or we should be Forbes or something right? And you’re thinking that either that would magically bring us a bunch of business or it would just feel good, be cool to be on there. I kind of agree with you, for my ego it would be good too but I think there are better channels for us to drive outsource business.

Joe:                        No, I think the PR channel is something we’ve very underserved and under researched, and it’s something that could really do big business for us because no other broker is doing it effectively. If we had-

Justin:                   You got Jock doing it, he’s on Forbes but he’s not crushing it [crosstalk 00:17:43].

Joe:                        Yeah he’s not the leader, the market leader in those channels. I don’t turn on FOX News and here about alternative investments, I think he got a mention in Forbes or a mention in this kind of place, but not really a full feature article. And I think one of the channels we should focus on in 2015, it would be nice to test a PR channel and really have a whole article dedicated to us on Fast Company or Business Week or something like that.

Justin:                   Oh I’d love to have business week dedicate a full article toward us, but good thing I run the marketing and we probably won’t be heading in that direction. I could spend the next six months really focused on and maybe we get one of those articles, or we can actually work on channels that work like Facebook and driving us buyers and sellers. I think that’s [inaudible 00:18:26] good thing I run marketing. I’m vetoing that bullshit. Next point, actually one of the things we want to focus on in 2015, this is the last thing I’ll say about this is deal flow. So, we want the scalable channels where we can bring in more buyers and sellers and so you and I were talking about ways to reach out to people that may not interested in selling their sites and getting them to sell their sites. If we can solve that problem in our business that would be a huge, huge win, it’d be a huge win. So that’s something we’re really going to focus on in 2015, is deal flow by manually reaching out to sellers and see if we can get them to work with us.

Joe:                        Yeah, I think it’s something I’m working on already and it’s something that needs to be done as we move up the value chain.

Justin:                   So the next thing we looked at for 2014, was finding more sites and sellers and I would definitely call this a success. The message got out Joe in 2014, Empire Flippers get deals done. So I started seeing the chatter around the internet and people talking about where should I sell my site, and people were going Oh yeah dude, try over at Empire Flippers, they get deals done. I was really, really happy with how that turned out. Our increased focus, definitely in the second half of 2014, just brought in more clients. When we were distracted in the first six months and we weren’t distracted in the second six months, I really saw an improvement in the number of listings and sellers that came to our business.

Joe:                        I have to totally agree with you here. I think it becomes very easy when you’re focused on one thing, to bring in more clients and focus on getting deals done. People definitely respect that, if they know you as a broker that gets deals done, they’re going to come back to you with repeat business.

Justin:                   I looked at this show and between the first half of 2014, so January through June versus July through November, not even counting December which we crushed it in December, but we grew by 50% in terms of market place sales, 50% jump in one six month period to the next five months. If you include December, we’re probably 60% in growth which is fantastic. If we could do that for another two to three, six months periods, we would be absolutely crushing it. We’re going to be in really good shape.

                                The next thing I want to mention is expanding our range from ten thousand to one hundred thousand dollar sites, up to ten thousand to five thousand lower sites. And I’d say this one was a bit of a bust Joe. We started off limiting our range of sites from ten thousand, a hundred thousand from the start. We started the broke ridge, when we opened up Empire Flippers and transitions, we said this is our niche this is where we focus. I put out a heck of a lot of content and did interviews where we talked about that. So there’s still a ton of stuff out there saying how we do ten thousand, hundred thousand dollar sites, and it was hard to get past that. Content on the internet lasts for a long time and so I think that’s what we’re known for and we didn’t break past that in 2014.

Joe:                        Yeah, it really hurt me when people would say, oh you’re site is $85,000.00, definitely go to Empire Flippers. But then I would overhear conversations at a conference where people would go, Oh it’s a $200,000.00 site well you can’t really take it to Empire because they only do under a hundred thousand dollars. I definitely think that that limitation hurt us for some reason, but I’m not sure what we could do differently, I think we just got to up our customer level base and start talking to be people and make sure the word gets out. I’ve tried to correct it as much as I can on a one to one basis, but definitely I think things like this are the way we’re going to have to go.

Justin:                   So this is one of the issues that comes with nicheing right. When you niche, you’re putting content out there, you’re putting this message out there and it’s really hard to take that back. So the only way to change and expand out of that is to double and triple down on your methods, so you got to say it until you’re blue in the face. And that’s just the way that it works. We have to consistently say no, we can take $200,000.00 site, no we can take $300,000.00 sites. Keep letting people know in interviews, on our blog and through other channels that yes, this is something we can do. I’m not sure that I’d do it differently though. People ask do you think you niched down to far, did you get too specific? I don’t think so, I actually like the fact that we started off in a very subset of the market. You know that you’re going to have an uphill battle to expand beyond that once you’ve taken that on. It was much easier though to own and win in the ten thousand, hundred thousand dollar range than it would have been if we’d said, hey we’re brokers we’ll do everything.

Joe:                        The other thing too is that we’re definitely owning the sub-thirty thousand dollar range, there’s nobody out there that does that besides us. So, I wonder if just factor of time will make that number go up and up and up. And those deals are getting done fairly automatic now and I wonder if we’re start getting- seeing that in 2015 where instead of under thirty thousand, it’ll be under 60, or under 75. And those deals with become fairly automatic.

Justin:                   Yeah, I think so Joe. That’s kind of our plan. As we continue to reach up, you and I are putting more time into right now let’s say a $200,000.00 deal then we are a $20,000.00 deal. Right now we’ll continue to go up and as our team gets more clockwork on the 40, 50, $80,000.00 sites, both of those ranges will continue to climb up. I think that’s an interesting point.

                                The other point we want to mention is our rebranding and redesign. We really wanted to get away from the guy in the Hawaiian shirt on the beach, I liked him, I think a bunch of people liked him. I think we did a really good job there, I think it was a success for us.

Joe:                        Well, a hell of a lot of work went into it and a lot of money but yes, absolutely a success. I think it’s a great looking redesign. Everyone has told me that it’s great. There’s some minor flaws perhaps and some things that could be improved and we’re still looking to clean up that stuff but now it’s so much easier to work with the site in general.

Justin:                   It’s interesting how you would measure a rebranding, redesign in terms of success right. Because there are different metrics you can look at and if you looked at lets say, our e-mails opt-ins. This would be a big fat loss. We’ve lost opt-ins like a boss. We used to have big display banners, click here- learn how to buy and sell websites online and pop-up opt-ins that would come in. So we got our e-mail subscribers, it was much higher via the old website but the new branding makes it a lot easier as you said Joe, to talk to buyers and sellers on the phone, they feel much more comfortable doing business with us. It attracts the right types of buyers and sellers, especially for the 200, 300, $400,000.00 websites. And I can see us taking this all they way. I feel very comfortable with our brand and I can see us doing this in 2015, 16, 17, it’d be on.

Joe:                        I think there could be minor changes like our new listing pages can be revamped so we have some graphical representations of data and what not, some things like that. Maybe some minor improvements to blog posts or podcasts, but it’s so much easier to work with the site that we have now rather than the thing that we had patch-worked together.

Justin:                   Yeah, I think it much better matches our value, proposition and message today, which is interesting.

                                Next thing I want to bring up is the workshops and live events. We’ve been doing improv Flippers workshops, we did one in Chang Mai, we did one in Ho Chi Minh, we did one in Las Vegas. And we did some live events, we went to DC and Bangkok, we went to Rhodium Weekend in Las Vegas and that type of thing. And I’s say our results here are mixed Joe, would you agree with that? Mixed results.

Joe:                        Yeah I would. I really want this channel to work for us, I really want it to work. Because I want to go on trips and meet people and be the center of attention and stuff but it definitely seems like people go, people like to meet us, people like what we have to say, people say the content is great, but I’m not sure how much business we got out of it.

Justin:                   Yeah looking at it as best I could tell, we’ve only had one listing and two purchases that I can directly attribute to the workshops. So the three workshops we did we had one listing and two website purchases, which isn’t crushing it in terms of the workshops. It’s the coolest fun to do, and it’s great to get out there and go and meet people and hang out and it was awesome, but I’m not sure looking back over the last couple of months whether it was in the short term worth it or not. And the feedback was great, people had fun doing them, I’m just not sure that’s the best channel for us with the workshops. I’m willing to continue with it though just because it is something I like to do and I think it’s educational for the market, I think it gives us a good position in the market. I just don’t know if we can expect a direct ROI on that.

Joe:                        Well one thing we’re not factoring in is that one $500,000.00 deal could make years of going to conferences pay for themselves.

Justin:                   That’s a good point. Talking about conferences, we found that niche communities are good for us and this would include things like the Dynamite Circle, it would include things like eCommerce Fuel Forums, and those are very niche specific and they are people in our realm, there building sites, they have online businesses, they’re potentially looking to sell, they’d like more information on valuations. These are great communities for us. Communities like let’s say, a bigger community is Warrior Forum, Blackout World, it’s like a needle in a haystack. The right customer for us is in there but they’re just to hard to draw out that I don’t think we get a ton of value there.

Joe:                        Yeah, I have to agree with that too. Those big forums seem to attract more trolls as well and so you have to be very careful with your message, and you have to make sure that you’re emotionally not going to get involved in a battle with somebody that is out to get you.

Justin:                   We were looking around at the Dynamite Circle conference and just looking around the room, we could attribute more than $500,000.00 for the business?

Joe:                        Yeah, I think between four hundred and $500,000.00 with the business.

Justin:                   That was in the room with people we were hanging out with and we were like wow, that’s pretty significant. I definitely think there’s value in the smaller communities, we could probably do a bit more there, maybe join one or two more. The thing is though that you have to be engaged in those communities, it’s not like you just join and lurk, you have to be engaged and active. I think one mistake that people make with joining niche communities that are relevant to them, is they get in there and they do one or two posts then they go on this pitch-fest. This really aggressive signature and they’re trying to put any content in there so they can get their signature in so people would click it. I think that’s a bad way to do it. I think it’s better to just be present and engage with people, help people. Don’t do it from a I’ll help you but now I have a right to share my link with everyone else. No, no, no, just help.

Joe:                        I think the problem becomes that people see it as a free channel and they get desperate and that’s why they start overusing it that way. It should be used in conjunction with other channels to support your way of being followed, your reputation on the internet.

Justin:                   The next thing we’re going to talk about is the steak dinner and the one on one meet ups. From my leaving the Philippines and going to Thailand in September through Joe’s heading out to Ho Chi Minh in November, both of us including Mike and Vincent, have done a ton of one on one meet ups, we’ve done a ton of taking people out to lunch and coffee and a lot of local on the ground meet ups, and it’s been really successful for our business.

Joe:                        Very successful, I’m not sure of the exact ROI here but I’m not sure it’s something I really want to measure. You can tell that by meeting people face to face, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye and having a good business conversation over a meal, over some coffee goes aa long way with them being able to either work with you in the future or being able to recommend you to somebody else.

Justin:                   Just looking at the last I’d say 60 days, last two months Joe, for sure we’ve got an amazing ROI on that. Both from people listing and selling their sites with us, people buying websites with us, it’s really good for the cost of lunch or dinner, it’s not a big deal. I also like the- it does build up a crazy amount of trust right. When you’re sitting with someone, you’re having lunch or having coffee, you’re eating dinner or even some late night drinking sessions we’ve done, we’ve done some partying here in Ho Chi Minh and going out with people for four or five hours for the night, hanging out drinking together and getting to know each other and it’s been really effective.

Joe:                        I think that that’s just the nature of this business, the nature of the brokerage business is definitely one where you have to meet people, especially as it goes up the value chain and you get more and more expensive sites, people don’t buy or sell large businesses unless they know who they’re doing business with. They’re not just going to come to a website and click buy now, doesn’t happen.

Justin:                   Yeah, talking about the steak dinner thing, it was literally a steak dinner for one of our big buyers in the US. We took him out in Vegas, a really nice steak house and got to talk with him. I think it helped him with trust and to understand us better and it really helped us understand where he was coming from and it was just a really great meet up of [inaudible 00:31:29]. I remember out partying with Justin Gilchrist a little bit in Vegas, we were partying and staying out late, from my perspective I knew that he wrote some great blog posts and was influential in the space, but getting to know him on a personal level was just so much better, so much cooler.

Joe:                        Yeah, absolutely agree.

Justin:                   I think with these one on one meet ups though it’s important to not keep score, right. So you were talking about I’m not really sure if I know how many buyers and sellers we’re getting out of it, but I like it anyway. I think that’s a good way to approach it. It’s also a good way to approach it and not say, hey what can you do for me? Or hey have any sites to sell? Oh you don’t I’m going to tune you out and play with my phone. It’s important to say where are you at with your business, what are you working on, how can I use my network to help you? How can I put you on a path to do what you want to do and do it even better. If you’re coming at it from that perspective, it’s awesome.

Joe:                        I think the art of the charm kind of presentation works here. Where we are talking about networking with people, is how can you help them and they will naturally want to help you back. But you have to tell them how the can help you, that is one of the keys, is first you ask how you can help them but then at the end you also have to say, here’s how you can help me. If you do have a business for sale or you know anyone else that has a business for sale, that’s the kind thing that I’m looking for right now.

Justin:                   If you’re not familiar with Joe’s reference to the Autotron Podcast, with that guy named Jordan Harbinger, he’s a previous guest on the show. But he did a great presentation at Rhodium Weekend, my favorite of the entire event where he talked about networks and networking doesn’t have to be as miserable as you think it is. And I loved his presentation, the guy’s super sharp and talking about how to be supportive and help other people in your network it a really good way to build it and build it stronger and gain that trust that can really help you and your business in the long run. It’s a long ball play. So another thing we’re going to talk about in our business for 2014, is team communication and process. We had some really big wins, I think this was definitely successful and one of the big ones is a silly little software tool that we use all the time now, Slack. That’s been a huge one for us man.

Joe:                        I think we’ve talked about it before, I hate to beat a dead horse here but it’s probably cut down on e-mail by one third. I’m going to say I’m probably getting about 30% of the e-mail I used to get. It’s really increased our time to react to stuff in terms of emergencies and stuff like that. I’m able to find the agent that’s online quickly, get them the critical information that they need and put out fires pretty quickly. Beyond that, I think it helps our process too because it makes communication smoother, faster and more immediate, by also being a group sort of communication. So, if someone puts and answer to something in Slack that they normally would have communicated in an e-mail, that becomes searchable and see-able by all the other agents.

Justin:                   Yeah Joe, you just keep on beating that dead horse, I’m fine with it. I think Slack’s amazing. So, before it would be an e-mail- hey Justin is this the way we do it, and I reply to this one person and now one person knows it, the team isn’t getting the information. I think we did a great job too of training and preparing our team before we left the Philippines on customer service, on process and really having them dig in and understand where it is that we’re going, and transitioning them in 2014 from building niche websites to supporting our website buyers and sellers. Our whole team went from building out and managing websites to providing customer service for people who are buying and selling websites, that’s a big change.

Joe:                        It is and I think sweep process and the SOP’s that we set up were a huge factor in that. And getting everyone in the same room and going over the processes a number of times till they got it right, using the skill transfer process, that was an important part of our win there.

Justin:                   We were really focused on customer service in 2014 and I think we did well, we’re not quite where we want us to be, and I think we’ll never, ever actually fully be where I want us to be. It’s a constant battle, right. But it will continue to be a big focus for us in the first and second quarter of 2015 and beyond as we really improve out relationships with our buyers and sellers.

                                The next thing I want to talk about is making decisions and getting things done quickly. So, being able to go from okay, let’s do this to actually getting it started and then actually getting it completed, I’d say this is still a failure Joe, what do you think?

Joe:                        Man, I don’t know what it is with us. I almost feel like there should just be some overriding factor that we have to do in order to get something done. Something that makes us do it, I’m not sure what exactly that would be but if we had something where once we decide to get things done, we pass it off and then that person did it and then use feedback from us. That would be great where that became our main number one functionality or focus until it was done, you wouldn’t have to do any of your other tasks or abilities, that’s the kind of thing I think we need to do. But we really need to get better at this.

Justin:                   I think we’re better at it but we’re not great, we’re probably not even good. We were really bad before and we’re less bad today. I guess that’s a step in the right direction. I also think that Joe too, you were talking at the beginning of the episode, that you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much about 2014, I also think we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much about not making decisions quickly. Let me pose this to you buddy. We say hey I think we want to do this, right, and we say okay yeah, let’s do that. And then we don’t do it right away, we say okay, we’re going to do it later. And then it get dropped to the wayside or held behind other projects, why is that necessarily a bad thing? These other projects are higher priority, even though we do want to do this and we delay three months, or six months, I don’t think that’s horrible. So there is a weighing process going on and where on the totem pole does this priority lie. If it’s something we absolutely agree that we want to do but it’s lower priority, maybe it shouldn’t bother us that it takes us two months, or four moths, or six months to get to it, if there are things that are more important.

Joe:                        I hear what you’re saying.

Justin:                   I’m not sure, yeah.

Joe:                        There’s a theory called success through procrastination. You can use that for stock trading right. You say that you’re going to buy this stock but you don’t buy it for three days and it winds up going down and you get it at a cheaper price. Right, that kind of thing, where we would have decided to do something and maybe it turned out that wasn’t a good thing to do because there was something else better that came along in the meantime. But I have to say it seems like you have to weigh your options, I feel like if we had more people on our team that we could just hand these kind of projects to which is something we’re going to work on in 2015, that we would be able to get things done and make decisions a little bit faster.

Justin:                   But I think you’re dreaming buddy. So, I’m going to come up with the idea, right and I’m going to have this magical unicorn that I’m going to hand it off to you that it’s just going to knock it out and that’s going to do all the work. So I just come up with the idea and hand it to the unicorn and they do it for me and they report back how well it’s going.

Joe:                        No, you have to train the unicorn on how to do it. Which means that you have to do it yourself, which means that you have to have enough bandwidth to test these little unicorns out when you come up with them. So, yes you need to not have a lot on your plate that’s operational functionality. That needs to be done through SOP’s and staff members, cheaply employed staff members, bu then you have the guys that can help you with the big project stuff. I think that’s something we’re going to do well with in 2015, we’re already starting to move there by hiring more Westerners and getting these guys on our team. I think it’s something we’ll get better at.

Justin:                   I like what you’re saying there Joe. Also I think what’s interesting too, we talk about the priority level, you and I have that but even you and I aren’t always on the same page. The strategy sessions help with that, but maybe actually mapping out priority levels and having that be part of our strategy session where we talk about, okay here’s our priorities which ones are highest, which ones are lowest, I think that might help for our next session. And we’re doing that in a couple of weeks, so we may as well mention it now.

                                The last thing we want to mention about 2014 and Empire Flippers was hitting our monetary goals and I think this was a bit of a failure, due to all the reasons we’ve mentioned so far on the show. I really want to do two million in sales this year that didn’t happen, I think we’re at 1.4, don’t quote me on that. When I do our annual report I’ll write that up. We just weren’t there, we were really looking to scale and grow our business in 2014, that didn’t really happen because of all the transitions that happened. So, monetarily we’re not quite there, Joe, I’m not comfortable with where we’re at.

Joe:                        I’m not comfortable with where we’re at, but I love the growth and I love the way we’re set up for 2015, because we know what it takes in order to hit $3,000,000.00, which is where we want to be in 2015, right?

Justin:                   I think we got a shot at it.

Joe:                        I think we got a good shot, I think it’s an aggressive goal but it’s definitely an attainable goal. We know the things that have to happen in order for us to make it happen, and I think that we’re really in that good positions where the growth spurts are there to help us hit the new goal.

Justin:                   Yeah, I’m really looking forward to 2015, I think we’ve got a real shot.

                                I’d like to stop transitioning, I think we’ve done the transition. Our branding, our company, dumping all our side projects it’s all there, and now we just need to run with it. All the prep work, all the transitional stuff is out of the way and we can really just get down to business in 2015, I’m really looking forward to that.

Joe:                        Me too buddy.

Justin:                   Alright man, let’s do some news and updates.

Speaker 2:           You’ve been listening to the Empire Podcast. Now some news and updates.

Justin:                   Really got one, for you this week. We’ve got a new position opening up at Empire Flippers, it’s an account manager position. I just recently posted on the blog about it. But basically we need someone to come out here and work with us in Southeast Asia and more particularly Saigon and Vietnam. This position is going to be a customer love position. So they’re going to be doing the post sale, the hand over helping both buyer and seller walking through the process. They’re going to be running our team of virtual assistants in the Philippines, making sure that ticket flow is working, everyone’s working on their tickets, everything’s being handled- that’s sort of thing. I’m really looking forward to this position, getting someone out here relatively soon so we can get this up and running.

Joe:                        Yeah I think that Mike is going to be very happy about having this split off of his responsibilities as well, but yes, having a dedicated kind of farmer person and a dedicated hunter person, is absolutely critical to the success of our business in 2015. So that’s why I think this position- I can’t wait to get it filled.

Justin:                   What this really is, it’s kind of taking a portion of what Mike does and branching it off. Mike we’re putting on the front end so his goal is to drive buyers and sellers to the business. Really from the marketing aspect, he takes over, handles sales, get them through the deal and then hands off to the account manager. So we see his role branching out to being a bit more- filling two roles basically. So I’m really excited about the position I’m really excited to get someone out here, and get this going. It’s going to be good, someone’s going to be pretty excited to be out here in Southeast Asia hanging out with us I’m sure.

Joe:                        I think that we can get them here really cheaply and get them set up in a pretty nice place. The place that is right across the door from mine in Vietnam is a pretty sweet little place. Laundry every day, all that kind of stuff and would be totally inclusive, right in the heart of the city.

Justin:                   Plus Saigon is a really cool place for ex-pat entrepreneurs. I’ll link to the post but in there I link to a great article by our buddy John, a write up about Saigon as an entrepreneurial hub. There’s also a cool little video you can watch about driving a scooter through down town Saigon, if you’re interested at all in the place you’ll appreciate that.

Joe:                        One of the things we will probably do with this new person, not at first but definitely in the future, would be a trip down to Davao to see the six or seven agents that we have there.

Justin:                   That’s a great idea Joe, yeah I like that.

Joe:                        So, that would definitely be included in the package and something that would be nice for them to get to see another country.

Justin:                   Alright man, got any other updates or can I move into listener shouts?

Joe:                        Let’s do it, listener shouts.

Justin:                   Alright man. Indulgent, ego-boosting, social proof segment for us here. On Twitter, we’ve got Jim said ‘Do you guys still offer a guide to build a niche website?’ Well, we do, we have building a niche site empire, it’s on Amazon we also give it away for free on our site you can check it out, it’s dated though. It’s pretty old, it’s from when we were building niche sites ourselves. There was quite a bit of change, I’d say a lot of the link building stuff is out. I would probably look at expanding these sites out a bit more to be larger than the five page websites. But I’ll tell you the fundamentals in terms of picking a niche, making sure that it’s monetize-able, key work research, all that stuff is so good. I think it really gives you the fundamentals in an easy, concise way.

Joe:                        Yeah if you don’t know key word research that’s the place to start and I think that guide gives you a great overview of that.

Justin:                   So you’re going to have to take it with a grain of salt and understand that it’s a bit dated but I think in terms of learning the fundamentals it’s fantastic. If you’re wanting more physical product business or you’re more interested in the eCommerce side of things, I really think you can’t do much better than Anton’s (Kraly) Drop Ship Lifestyle course, we’ve mentioned this quite a bit. But I think that’s a real A to Z process for building out drop ship sites. Again, you can later branch out from that and maybe you can build your own brand and source your own goods and stuff but if you’re looking at the physical prog space, that’s a great course to take.

Joe:                        And if you want to know more about content websites, definitely Niche Pursuits with Spencer (Haws) is going to have a great overview of everything A to Z and it’s pretty up to date.

Justin:                   We have some positive feedback. We’ve got Mike, who was a brand new buyer said, ‘Sabine was great, very patient, this is my first website purchase so I’m going a bit slow, however once I get going I see three to four more buyers in my feature.’ Thanks Mike, really appreciate and glad to hear Sabine treated you right.

Joe:                        Yeah, thank you very much Mike.

Justin:                   Well that’s it for episode 122 on the Empire Podcast. Thanks for sticking with us, we’ll be back next week with another show. You can find the show notes for this episode and more at empireflippers.com/2014, again that’s empireflippers.com/2014.

                                Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EmpireFlippers, and we’ll see you next week.

Joe:                        Bye-bye everybody.

Speaker 2:           Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Empire Podcast, with Justin and Joe. Hit up empireflippers.com for more, that’s empireflippers.com. Thanks for listening.

 

Discussion

  • Chris says:

    Hi guys,
    I really enjoyed this podcast and it made me think about my own plans for this year and how I can expand my endeavors.
    One question for you. You mention Supremacy SEO as a PBN service you trust for sites that you list for sale. Are there other services out there that you would have a same level of trust in?

    Thanks,

    Chris

  • Jim says:

    Hi Justin / Joe,

    I found your site several months ago while following Spencer’s NichePursuit case studies. I live in the Boston area and listen to your Podcast each week. Uplifting, informative, and a great listen over coffee in the morning.

    Wanted to provide some feedback to your year-in-review Podcast.

    I think you guys are a great example of a dynamic growth business in a growth market.

    Hope the below feedback is helpful…

    -Jim

    1.Narrowing down our focus to the marketplace only
    – Amazing listen. Clear, honest, and relevant to any business not just the online industry.

    2.Selling our outsourcing company
    – I handled several M&A’s, as well as some fund raising, a few years back and had an identical situation happen with a local Adobe training company that was being sold. One of the potential buyers whose bid was rejected went after the customer base on a poaching spree. A nightmare. Additionally, the owners of the training company were “key employees” and without their relationships/knowledge base in the business going forward… the only value was “the customer base”… and when all was said and done the final deal became an asset buy (client list purchase), not a stock purchase.
    – Painful question ask, but a self-reflection question – what steps are the 2 of you taking to build EmpireFlippers into an Asset (for future acquisition)? I ask the question as some day in the distant future one of you may want to cash-out (retire) and share your net worth with someone other than the other founder – for example your decendants, family, friends, or charity you wish to help fund. How would a potential buyer of your business view EmpireFlippers in its current structure?
    – I bring this up so (down the road) you aren’t faced with a parallel situation to your prior Outsourcing biz sale and have “packaged” a clearly defined Asset to huck worth the investment interest of a larger capitalized entity) I know… how dare I mention “Exit strategy” in a blog post, but why not… you guys are gifted entrepreneurs and I am guessing this will become a larger topic on your radar screen as EmpireFlippers grows, a typical catalyst will be a call from one of your competitors or one of your previous customers (a site buyer) who wants the goose, not just the egg he purchased?

    3.Exploring marketing channels
    – It is hard to be in all places at once. I agree. A structured approach of pilot testing each marketing channel, then measuring/benchmarking the results is the way to go. Otherwise it’s shinny penny syndrome each month with lots of money spent and wondering what value you gained.

    4.Finding more sites and sellers in 2014
    – Your site (business model) reminds me of my folks real-estate business. They have been in real-estate in Northern New England since the 70’s. In the early days, many local farmers/homeowners sold their own property locally in the rural areas. As my parent’s business sold more property, word of mouth spread and more sellers starting coming to them ASKING them to list their property. Buyers were mostly from “out of town” (from the larger metros such as Boston MA, Hartford CT, and a few cities in southern NH). These buyers were looking for investments and “2nd homes”. Your business is identical in that I imagine that many of your buyers are looking for “2nd incomes” (2nd properties to own).
    – My suggestion is continue to be transparent with your sales (this will drive Sellers to you) and also continue to be transparent with your business practices (this will drive Buyers to you) as business minded individuals will gain confidence in your business approach and THEY are the ones with capital looking for side project “2nd incomes” via assets that generate rental or residual income as investments). When the two of you as business partners weigh the value of your Podcast, this is the value that is hard to track. The ability to share your voice, your tone, your business acumen. Influence is hard to track. For example, I have forwarded your Podcast links to 1/2 dozen business friends & family members. You are rising the tide of awareness of this emerging market with your Podcast and Blog post. Additionally, your website re-design was SPOT-ON well done and further promotes your professionalism. Yes, I am one who liked fun spirit of the Hawaii shirt dude… but the 1st impression was fun and vacation, not professional and business. The new site is pro… the Podcast you share adds character/depth so someone considering the 2nd income model has a sense what “these guys” are personally like. Also, glad you changed your intro. Yes, the professional female voice promote confidence – much like the airport voice that sounds confident in providing your passage/direction.

    5.Expanding our range up to $500K websites
    – Consider building a 2nd site (boutique site) to handle the higher end transactions as a wholely owned subsidiary of Empire Flippers, but branded as higher end like boutique like GoldmanSachs (or some name that).
    – Why?
    – Because you have done a terrific job branding EmpireFlippers in the $10k-$100k market.
    – Yes, your EmpireFlippers site will see more and more larger value deals over time (as my folks did with their real-estate biz — most of their deals in the 70’s were $20k-$100k, in 2000’s they were handling $120k-$300k deals – the economy grew over 40 years as did prices & values of property so did their sales “per transaction” increase). But… my folk’s business were not known for higher end deals and the $300k-$1M sellers never approached them to sell and they went with a local boutique name “Smyth & Briggs” who focused exclussively on higher end properties. The name sounded “S&B” like an investment or accounting firm and they promoted themselves that way. Their market focus/strategy worked. My folks always scratched their head wondering why they didn’t get these listings. They were (and still are) living in their past success.
    -Another avenue you discuss on your Podcast that I truly believe could explode your business to new heights -REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) are popular in the States… you should consider building 2-3 LLC’s or Inc’s, raise capital for each entity, sell shares, and then use the funds to buy 10-15 sites per LLC that you have done due diligence. Each pool (portfolio) LLC/Inc would be a passive income vehicle for the investor (you manage the pool) and they receive a capital income when the sites in the pool are resold 2-3 years later and the LLC is disolved. FYI – capital gains tax is a MUCH LOWER tax rate in the U.S. than the income tax rate. Equity vs Income trade-off. If the property (biz) is sold before 1 year, it qualifies as income. But the investment sold after 1 year, is viewed as capital gains (for tax purposes). I think your next big growth spirt for EmpireFlippers will come when you bridge from “1 off purchases” to “pool development” and develop an investment banking model. In effect, you could 10X your biz in 1 year if you developed/migrated to a capital pool model and moved towards a capital investment model for the “old money” demographic.

    6.Rebranding & Redesign
    – Well done. Great investment you made.

    7.Workshops & Live Events
    – Fun to visit, fun to meet new people, but niche events provide more fruit.
    – For example, if you want to find buyers, go to accounting events. Boring – hell yes! But accountants know high net worth individuals. They won’t give you their names, but they just might mention you to one of their clients and say “hey, I met these guys at XYZ conference, they seem legit, they sell sites with good cash-flow, you might want to give them a call…”

    8.Steak dinners and 1-on-1 meetups
    – Nothing says “I value your time” like a 1-on-1 face to face, especially with existing customers. Too many managers these days think email/internet is a substitute for a face to face laugh and hand shake. Wrong! Pressing the flesh always wins over pressing the keyboard.

    9.Team communication + process
    – I agree. Develop processes provides direction and simplifies communications.

    10.Making decisions and getting things done quickly
    – I find “talk” is just talk. Write down what you agree on and it becomes “real”. Funny how if I ask my kids to do something, they magically forget 10 minutes later. Yet… if I ask THEM to write it down, have them initial the note in pen and then I initial the note also… stuff gets done. A document takes an idea or a request from theory to “oh crap this needs to get done”. By them writing it down and intially it, they accept ownership of the task. Plus this eliminates misunderstandings when things aren’t done. I am a big fan of transparency and accountability – in life and in business.
    – Say what you are gonna do, do it, then say what you did (re-enforcing your commitment to success).

    11.Hitting monetary goals
    – same as above.

    Justin/Joe – I hope 2015 brings you both great success!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Jim,

      Wow – quite possibly the most helpful, in-depth comment we’ve ever had. I really, really appreciate your taking the time to put your thoughts down here – much appreciated.

      I’m going to go through each and share mine as well.

      Overall, though, you absolutely hit the money on most of our thoughts, concerns, and questions regarding growth and the opportunity we have here.

      1. Focus

      Awesome – thank you!

      2. Selling Outsourcing Company

      – Ouch. Yes, we were quite frustrated with how this turned out. Knowing what we do today, we would have definitely setup and ran this company differently. (More on that below)

      – Great question. We’re moving more in the direction of being brand focused instead of Justin/Joe focused. While content marketing (blog, podcast, etc.) is still our main marketing channel, we’ll be exploring other (scalable) channels to provide deal flow. If we can make our personal voices (posts, podcast episodes, etc.) a (still important but) smaller % of our funnel, I think that significantly improves EF’s attractiveness to potential acquisition partners.

      I think that’s working, actually. We still have a strong base of readers/listeners, but many come to the site and aren’t bothered with they content – they’re just looking to sell sites, purchase sites, etc. If we can make it easy for them to get what they want and have the blog/podcast as an inbound funnel, I think we’ll do really well. (As opposed to having the EF brand really be a content publishing company – probably closer to what we were before)

      There’s another option we’ve discussed – we NEVER sell the EF brand. Instead, we fraction off things like the investment company (hopefully…if it does well), the (premium?) higher-end side of our brokering company, etc. This idea is losing steam, though, to the one I mentioned above, for reasons I’ll get into below.

      – It’s pretty early to be looking at selling EF, especially since we feel we still have so much to do. Your point rings true, though. We do need to be putting the pieces in place today to make sure that remains an opportunity or option in the future. While we originally considered these offers or discussions might come from the competition (Flippa? Another brokerage?) I think you’re right about the customer option. As we move into selling larger sites and (in particular) discussing the investor program, we’re running into some serious HNW individuals who might be interested in something like that. (Or at least putting us in contact with others who would be)

      3. Marketing Channels

      Yep – we’re tightening this up and exploring it with some budget in 2015.

      4. Finding More Sites/Sellers

      – That’s exactly right. Usually they’re employed with mid-high earnings, independently wealthy, or do this for a living. (or on their way)

      – You’re spot-on regarding our current method for attracting buyers/sellers. Man, you really know our business, eh? I felt that way reading your comment overall, but this section really hit it on the mark, I thought. Some have mentioned we should tighten up the way we speak on the podcast, but I’d prefer to be a bit raw – it just feels more honest to me and accurately reflects who we are. And that’s the thing – we want customers (buyers/sellers) who dig that too. While I did kinda like the guy on the beach, I agree – we definitely have a more professional look/feel today. I think that matters when you first run across us, too.

      5a. Rebrand For Larger Site Brokerage

      This is definitely something we’ve bounced around. This would also help with something mentioned above – it would be a separate entity that would (likely) be in a much better position to sell sometime down the road. Additionally, we could tighten up the language on that separate brand and, you know, “keep it classy”. 🙂

      Here’s the problem with that, though:

      1. It’s really, really difficult to build/grow a new brand from scratch.

      2. It’s similarly difficult to put your heart/soul into separate brands.

      I just don’t think I have the bandwidth to market and promote both brands as effectively as I can one. Ultimately, I think it will be easier to adjust our current brand image upmarket than it would be to try from scratch. I’m not convinced, but that’s my best guess and argument for now…

      5b. REIT/Investment Model

      Yes. 100% Yes. We’ve had some time to think this through and have had the opportunity to speak to many smart (and wealthy) potential investors about this. There are several different ways to go about this investment model and, with so much interest, we think it’s best to attack it from the higher end of the market and work our way down. It’s much, much more difficult to deal with dozens of $5K – $10K investors than it is to deal with just a few $100K+ investors to start.

      Our plan is to target this as a high risk/reward investment for the HNW, “old money” crowd that is either tech savvy or wants to be. Something they can show off to their friends in smoky cigar lounges if they have ridiculously high returns and simply ignore if they don’t. Once we’ve tested through this, we can look at packaging these up and expanding the investor pool to include those with less capital. (Possibly…if it works out extremely well with the old money crowd, this may take quite some time, right?)

      7. Live Events

      Funny you mention this! We were recently discussing how accountants may be the linchpins/gatekeepers for the crowd we need to introduced to. It’s a less direct approach, but one we should definitely consider and I’ll bring up in our next strategy meeting. (this week)

      8. Face Time

      Totally agreed. In addition, I’d like to explore other “Customer Love” approaches we can dig into in 2015. What if you (randomly) got a cool NFL jersey from your favorite team – just as thanks? Nevermind the fact we stalked you on FB to figure it out, you’d likely think that was pretty cool and we’d definitely come up in conversation, eh? 🙂

      Really, really appreciate your thoughts, Jim. Sharing with Joe to have him review as well.

      • Jim says:

        Justin,

        I’m a big fan of what you/Joe have accomplished, so am glad to hear my post was well received.

        I enjoy the high energy of fast growth companies and have participated in (2) Inc 500 companies (one was 52nd a few years back). Both were a fun ride.

        If you develop the investment pool model, I believe the two of you will find explosive growth in the next 3 years and you will be approached by a HNW person looking to fuel your growth or outright acquire a majority stake in your business with a capital infusion.

        Enjoy the ride!

        -Jim

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