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EFP 133: Why We’re Building Our Business Abroad

Justin Cooke April 16, 2015

When are you coming back to the US?

Why do you guys spend so much time abroad?

Wouldn’t it be better to build your business in the US?

We get this questions quite often and thought it would be fun to do a podcast episode explaining exactly why we’re building our business offshore and why we’ve chosen the “expat entrepreneurial lifestyle”.

Why Work Remote and the Benefits of an Exotic Locale

To be clear – we have a US-based, California corporation, pay our taxes, and aren’t banned, wanted, or otherwise refused entry into the US, etc. There are just some business and personal advantages that come with being elsewhere that make a lot of sense to us.

If you’re interested in hearing what it’s like, want to know why we do it, or are looking to make the jump yourself…this episode is for you!

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week:

  • Disadvantages to building you business abroad
  • Networking & Opportunities with other expat entrepreneurs
  • Advantages to building a team abroad
  • The Business Value
  • Personal benefits of living abroad
  • Reason’s we’d consider giving up our expat lifestyle


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Spread the Love:

“We want to build the business that WE want to own.” – Justin – Tweet This!

“It’s important that you write down your goals before you start your business.” – Joe – Tweet This!

“Building a team abroad, there’s a sense of shared value and interest.” – Justin – Tweet This!

So – are you interested in building your business abroad? Still not sure why we’re doing it? Let us know in the comments!


Justin:                   Welcome to the Empire Podcast, episode 133. We don’t always talk about it but Joe and I have made a conscious decision to build and grow our business abroad. In today’s episode, we’ll get into the reasoning there, both personal and professional and explain the immense opportunity we see for location independent businesses. You could find the show notes and all links discussed in this episode on All right, 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 and Joe.

Justin:                   I got an email for a potential customer the other day, Joe, asking if we could set up a call when we get back from Vietnam. I thought that was pretty interesting. I wondered, do you think some of our customers think we’re on some kind of world tour when we get on the call?

Joe:                        Nevermind customers, I get this from vendors all the time, Justin. I’ll be on the phone with the bank or somebody else and they’ll say, oh yeah, well just when you get back from Vietnam, give me a call and I’m like, I’m not coming back.

Justin:                   That’s a weird thing and before we even get into this episode, we should probably preface, we’re not on the run for bank robbery. We pay our taxes. We’re all good in the US and we did go back last year for a conference and we’ll go back for other events and that sort of thing but we have no real intention to go back and live in the US or build our business in the US and we’re going to get into kind of why that is and how we’re able to work through it even with the difficulties in this episode. Now, both you and I had plenty of international travel before we started our business. I was in the navy, so I traveled around quite a bit and done a bit of traveling on my own. You spent quite a bit of time traveling. You actually lived in Brazil for almost a year, I think it was, right?

Joe:                        Yeah, I lived in Brazil for a year. Italy for a couple of months and then we did some traveling in Thailand together for a month but yeah, absolutely. I would say, if you’re going to live overseas, having some international travel helps.

Justin:                   And we’re going to talk about some of the downsides that come with building a business abroad in this episode. Uncover some of the maybe more obvious issues but some of the non obvious issues as well. To kind of skip to the punchline here, we want to build a business that we want to have and we’re pretty happy with what we got right now. We’ve got a good business going, we’ve got a strong team out here and we see nothing but our company going up.

Joe:                        Yeah, there’s always the grass is greener thing, right? Where you wish you could have it this way or wish you could have it that way but you don’t really know what it would be like and I have to say, the way life and business is going right now is pretty damn good and I can’t see exchanging that for something back in the states.

Justin:                   All right, before we get into this week’s episode, it’s time to pay the bills with hot moneys, featured listing of the week. What you got for us, buddy?

Joe:                        We’re talking about listing number 40197. This is a big one. It’s listed for a little over 380 thousand dollars. We’re talking about an affiliate network. This is actually a network of both publishers and advertisers. It’s the company that connects the two of these people. The company is based out of India and the advertisers and the publishers are in India but it does have a consistent track record of success. It does have very steady sort of recurring revenue every month and it does come with employees that handle most of the relationships. So there’s not much for the owner to do. I mean it’s not exactly completely hands off but it’s something the owner is definitely willing to work on with the new buyer but I definitely think this is something, if somebody is in the affiliate area or has some affiliate networking experience, they could take this to the next level by expanding it to the US.

Justin:                   Yeah, so I did a seller interview with this guy who’s based out of India and one of the things I should mention is that it’s not just publishers and advertisers in India. There are people around the world, although I’d say the largest portion of their market is in India and one of his challenges or struggles was that he just wasn’t able to break into the US market and they’ve done really well in India and other parts of the world but weren’t able to kind of break it in in the US. It’s got a really good domain name, really great brand, a really nice business. They had actually raised some money to get this thing off the ground and they did really well there and done well for their investors. So they’re looking to offload this because they’re just not able to break into the US but they see a lot of opportunity for someone who’s able to do it. So it’s a really interesting business. If you’re at all interested in potentially purchasing an affiliate network, I think this is a really good one to look at.

Joe:                        Yeah, just talk about some numbers here, we’re talking about net profit of about $15,000, top line revenue of about $21,000 with expenses of about $6,000 and a lot of that is those employees and some other expenses in there. The traffic, not that the traffic really matters that much because it’s really a relationship business but it does get about 26 thousand page views in the last 30 days. So those are really good solid numbers and I think it could be a great springboard to someone who has the experience in order to expand it into other markets.

Justin:                   All right man, enough about that, let’s dig into the heart of this week’s episode.

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

Justin:                   All right, Joe, so we’re talking about why we’re building our business abroad and let’s just dive right into some of the disadvantages off the git go, I mean the first one is pretty clear. We’ve got some time zone difficulties and this includes partners, contractors, and customers and dealing with them in different time zones.

Joe:                        I don’t want to get cute here but I’m going to say that honestly, I think the time zone could definitely be an advantage. If you schedule your day right, you get up early, you go to bed not too late, you can break up your day with two separate little work pieces and a nice bit of free time in the middle that I think, I’ve been working this schedule now for a few years and I love it. It really gives me a lot of flexibility and it’s an interesting way to approach work and it does allow me enough time to talk to people when I need to. Now that said, when someone wants to call me at two o’clock in the afternoon east coast time, yes, that’s not going to work and there always is that little bit of a difficulty when people just want to offhand, have a call with you and not schedule something. So I guess there is a little bit of negativity there.

Justin:                   I think it makes phone calls, and you mentioned this, the afternoon phone calls, makes it really difficult from Asian to the US, in particular. It’s great for Australia, by the way. We talk to Australians all day but it’s really more difficult in the US and I think that can be frustrating for someone who has their free time in the afternoon or early evening, let’s say. There’s also a delay, I’ve noticed. Even though we have a team that works 24 hours a day basically, five, six days a week, there can be a delay between contacting us and getting the information from the buyer contacting us and getting that information over to the seller and making that work out, there can be some delays and sometimes, I’ve found when working with contractors in the US, that I send something and I have to wait for them to wake up and they send it back and the email communication takes a day back and forth and that can be a bit of a pain in the ass.

Joe:                        Yeah, I agree with that. Definitely it seems to extent the cycle a little bit because of the time zone difficulties and that can be very frustrating when working with someone internationally on an important project.

Justin:                   You know what though, man? I mean we have sellers and buyers around the world, right? I mean whether it’s Africa, Australia, Asia, South America, in North America, we have customers all over, so I’m not sure exactly we’d get around all of the time zone differences but that’s just being in the US. It would be better for most of our buyers because our buyers are mostly in the US, so it’d be better dealing with them but it wouldn’t help our problem with sellers I think.

Joe:                        Yeah, talk about Africa. Man, if I have to send another wire to Africa, that is just a horrible place to send money to.

Justin:                   This is a whole aside but I actually put a tweet out about that recently. Trying to send a wire to Nigeria is like the worst thing in hell. I don’t know if you, as a listener, are familiar with 419 scams and the Nigerian prince scams but it’s a big thing online and a bunch of people have been scammed. Little old ladies in the US get scammed by these Nigerians pretending to catfish or do whatever. Anyway, trying to send real money into the country for people really doing business, is just absolutely ridiculous, the hoops they have to jump through. I can’t imagine being a legit Nigerian trying to do business online. It would be the worst thing in the world.

Joe:                        And their local banks are not easy to deal with either, so if you take those two factors into account and it just makes it a nightmare but anyway.

Justin:                   That kind of leads into our second point which is about cultural barriers and inefficiencies. You run into and this is maybe a cultural thing for me in the US, where I’m used to things just being quick and everything being flawless but in other countries, especially like island countries like the Philippines, for example, Indonesia, it’s kind of a take your time culture. Ah, it’s fine. No need to rush. You go to the gas station, you’re waiting in line at the cashiers and it’s like, ah it’s fine. They’re just talking and hanging out and they’re not in any kind of rush and they don’t expect you to be either and so that can be a little frustrating and disappointing. You can get a little frustrated with the whole deal.

Joe:                        This was probably my biggest frustration, Justin, and my biggest adjustment is that, I guess, especially in the Philippines, because the English is so prevalent, because they know Americans so well because our countries are so closely aligned, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a foreign country and that there are large cultural differences and you definitely have to keep that in mind that people just don’t do things the way you do them back home and you have to adjust to their way of doing things. If you want to get things done using personnel overseas.

Justin:                   I hear this a lot from Americans or Australians or whatever that are trying to work with Filipino VAs or Indian VAs and they go, they just don’t understand and they tell me this. They’re lying to me about this, that, and the other and I think most of that comes down to them not understanding the culture and the fact that they won’t just tell you straight up when something is wrong. That’s considered extremely rude and that kind of thing, so they dance around it because that’s culturally the way that you handle these things and some people get really frustrated or angry about it and I think they really need to look internally about the way that they’re doing business and look, I’m no pro at dealing with Philippines culture, I mean there are people that are way better at that than I am but just from the things that I’ve learned, I think I operate much much better than I did when we first got there. I know you do, Joe, because you were Mr. Frustrated the first year, year and a half, in the Philippines. You couldn’t get anything done. You were so pissed off about the whole thing at the time and at some point, you realized it’s just kind of, I’ve got to roll with it or something. I don’t know.,

Joe:                        Yeah, 2009, 2010, maybe even 2008, were definitely frustrating years for me in terms of working in the Philippines but I’ve learned a lot and learned to adjust to it and learned that it can be managed if you approach it in the correct manner.

Justin:                   When you’re building your business abroad, there are some difficulties in settling into routine. I think this is particularly true and critical when you’re traveling quite a bit, when you’re popping here for a month, going there for a month, when you’re constantly popping in and out of a routine, it’s really hard to kind of get back into that rhythm and kind of get back into knowing where things are, having all your stuff together and being able to put your head down and get into business.

Joe:                        I think this is so important. I mean I’ve been really good about this, especially the last couple of years, even when I travel, I try to get up early, do some work, do as much work as I can before 12, take the afternoon off, and then maybe do a few hours at night. I mean obviously Friday’s and Saturday’s, that’s not happening but I think that that’s a good thing to stick to and whatever your schedule may be, even if you are moving around a lot, it’s important to stick to it.

Justin:                   This is something that, you didn’t mention it but in some of our team calls or some of our just private calls you and I, I could sense that you were like, are you okay? Because I was traveling. I was going here for a week and there for two weeks or whatever and you were really worried about whether I’d be able to get anything done. I had the advantage of traveling with my maid though, who makes things really easy. I land at a spot and she can go take care of everything for me, get me all set up, and my quickness to assimilate with the local area is much much better I think than if I was just traveling alone.

Joe:                        Yeah, we’ll get into that a little bit later but some of the adjusting can be definitely made a lot easier because of the low cost of outsourcing.

Justin:                   All right man, last point I want to talk about with regard to difficulties, the coconut cash problem and you see this, especially I’d say with the younger kind of expat entrepreneurs that come to Southeast Asia or South America and they go, look, I don’t need to earn that much. I was trying to charge 50 bucks an hour, I can charge 20 bucks an hour, 15 bucks an hour and live fine. I’m living here on the beach. I’m drinking my coconuts and my fruity drinks, I’m good man. I don’t need to charge that much money and the problem is is that they go from living a nice lifestyle, making pretty good money, to making less and less and less and they go, it’s okay. My lifestyle is good and they make it more about the lifestyle and not the business.

Joe:                        Definitely I’ve seen this a lot before and I think it’s important that you write down your goals before you start the business and if those start to drift over time, you should go back to them and see if that’s something you really want to keep in mind because it’s okay to have a lifestyle business and something that just supports you but if you originally wanted to get up and go and get after it and you just change that only because you’re more comfortable now, I think that’s weak sauce.

Justin:                   All right man, so those are some of the disadvantages. Let’s get into why we like building our business abroad. I mean the first one or the first main point I want to mention is kind of the networking and the opportunities that present themselves when you’re overseas with other expat entrepreneurs and we’ve been really lucky in that we found a really strong sense of community through places like the the Dynamite Circle, which is a membership or community that [inaudible 00:13:50] MBA guys set up. There’s other things like hashtag nomads that you can basically pop into any city in the world and find other people that are doing something similar and then we’ve just been lucky enough to meet up with blog and podcast readers and listers of Empire Flippers and a lot of the cities we’ve gone to. We just kind of reached out on Twitter, on Facebook, and people connected with us. So it’s been a great way for us to connect with other people.

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean Dan Andrews has done a great job of setting that Dynamite Circle up so that you land, you get in touch with people that are clued into the community and on the ground and know what’s up. So I think that that’s an awesome thing that we’re working on and involved with.

Justin:                   I think there’s also the sense of, we’re foreigners in a foreign land kind of thing and so there is just a community for expats in a particular country where you do kind of come together and you do have more social gatherings just for anyone who is a foreigner visiting or living there and so just the fact that you’re foreigners kind of brings you together in a way that’s kind of interesting and that you just don’t get back at home. Another thing is, we’ve got a whole bunch of people that we’ve worked with here or around here. I mean, our designer, John Myers, is here in Saigon, right?

Our developer, Dan, is here in Saigon. Our on site SEO guy that we’re working with, Nico, is in Da Nang, just met with him recently and then there’s a couple that we’re looking at working with to help us out with some of our seller videos, they’re here in Saigon as well. So we’re doing business with a lot of the people that we’ve met here locally and I think that’s … There are some really creative and talented people that, ultimately, end up moving abroad and we’re getting the opportunity to work with them in the city.

Joe:                        Definitely brings them closer in because they’re going through the same things that you’re going through in terms of like you were saying before, being a foreigner in a foreign land and it makes it easier to do business with them.

Justin:                   And for our business in particular, we’ve found is that many website builders and sellers are actually digital nomads. So I mentioned earlier that a lot of our buyers are in the US, a lot of our sellers, well they’re from all over the place and so we’re in this kind of digital nomad or expat entrepreneur community and in these communities, we’ve found a ton of people that want to sell their websites, that want to sell their online businesses and it really helps us keep our supply side strong, which is an important part of our business.

Joe:                        Yeah, I don’t know how other brokers are doing it but definitely us being around in this sort of digital nomad community and actually meeting sellers has brought a lot of listing to the table for us.

Justin:                   One thing I’ve noticed about being in Saigon and other places, that there’s a lot of business connections and opportunities that just kind of pop up here, that don’t seem to happen back home.

Joe:                        Yeah, I wonder if that’s true though. I mean I think if you’re in some place in rural America or some place in suburban America, that may not be the case but if you’re in a New York or an LA, San Francisco, I think if you’re in the bigger cities, definitely you’re going to have the opportunity to network and have these kind of business opportunities pop up, don’t you think?

Justin:                   I don’t know man. I’m not entirely sure because if you’re in New York, unless you’re making personally, a hundred thousand the first month, you’re making a million dollars a year, what level are you playing at, right? So in New York, you’re not playing a level that’s of any interest, where here you would be making six figures a year.

Joe:                        Yeah, I see what you’re saying. You can definitely make higher level connections at a lower monetary level here but I still think that that might be overwhelmed with the fact that you can find highly talented people just hanging out at the bar that might be the perfect fit for your organization, right?

Justin:                   Maybe, in terms of like hiring our contractors I see an opportunity but in terms of talking to other entrepreneurs, I think it’s very unlikely. I think if you’re hanging out at the bar in New York or you’re kind of hitting the lunch spots or whatever, you’re not running into a bunch of entrepreneurial people there. You’re running into a ton of people that work for companies, that work for businesses, that are blue collar, white collar, they’re not in the same position and I think being over here, you end up running into a hell of a lot more entrepreneurs. The ratio is much higher toward entrepreneurship.

Joe:                        Definitely in our circles.

Justin:                   All right man, there are some advantages to building a team abroad that we wanted to cover. I mean, the first one is that it’s just cheaper to scale, right? We’re in a position to where we’ve worked with people in the Philippines for quite a while and it means that we’re able to overstaff a bit. So we’re able to have a little more staff than we actually need all the time, so that we can handle those surges of incoming tickets or customers and if we start to blow up, we can quickly scale the business, where that might be a bit more difficult if we were back in the US.

Joe:                        I love this part of the business advantage of scaling teams overseas. It’s definitely one of the reasons why we moved to the Philippines and one of the reasons why we continue to live in Asia because growing that team quickly and cheaply is very easy from this side of the world.

Justin:                   Well the other thing too is man, it’s not just our team in the Philippines. We offer a pretty interesting value proposition for aspiring expat entrepreneurs, people that would like to kind of live and be a part of the lifestyle and community that we’re a part of. So whenever we do these apprenticeships, right, and we’re offering them to people in Australia, US, UK, whatever, and they kind of see the opportunity. They’re interested in that. They jump at the chance, right? Because they’re like, wow, that’s really interesting. I’d love to go out there and work with them in this kind of interesting country and be a part of it and so I think there’s an excitement level about the opportunity we’re able to provide to potential team members and apprentices that we wouldn’t have if we were like, hey, come to Sacramento and work with us.

Joe:                        Yeah, no I absolutely agree. I mean, the new apprentice is living right downstairs from me. The last apprentice was living in my house in the Philippines and that sort of close knit live work relationship really helps you foster a working relationship that’s undeniably better than any relationship I’ve had back in the US.

Justin:                   Whoa buddy, so I was talking about value proposition. You started saying, yeah, they get to live with me. They get to live in my home, right. I’m just giving you shit man. I hear what you’re saying. You’re saying that you get to be close to the people that you’re working with and really learn from them in an apprentice model, that really makes sense. I just had to laugh about that buddy. That was pretty funny. Yeah, you get to touch the hem a little. That’s really good.

There’s also, I think with building a team abroad, there’s kind of a sense of shared values and interests. So the apprentices that we bring out, I mean they value an expat entrepreneurial lifestyle because we all have that shared interest and that’s one of the reasons that they’re out here. So we’re all on the same team in terms of the type of business we want to build whereas, if we were building a business of … We had employees, let’s say back in the US, they may not value some of the same things that we value and so it’s easy to build … I think it might be easier to build a culture to our business that way.

Joe:                        Yeah, absolutely. The way we approach business is better for us to have people come out here. I would hate to have an office back in the US and have to hire the random assistant girl or someone that really didn’t care much about our business at all but was just somebody we needed to have on staff, the office manager, that sort of person, really not interested in having those kind of people work for me.

Justin:                   It’s interesting that we’re talking about this because recently, you and I had a conversation about whether or not we’re going to need to hire a team of brokers to work for us in the US and you were saying, I don’t know man, at the end of 2015, into 2016, we might have to build a team in the US and we talked about it and thought about that a little bit and I think where you were coming from is like, what if that were better for our business? What if that were going to allow us to grow and do these amazing things and ultimately, I mean, what if it was? But what if we could build a team out here that was very similar and do the same thing or better? We just don’t know. So because we don’t know, we might as well build the business that we prefer, the one that we like. I mean we don’t have to build a business for anyone, right? This is actually ours. We can do whatever the hell we like and if someone doesn’t like it, go screw.

Joe:                        Yeah, absolutely. I mean my tact in that conversation that we were having was more of a, we would absolutely have to be guaranteed success in order for me to do that, in order for me to uproot my life and move to somewhere like Austin, open an office and hire guys, I’d have to have very high guarantee of success that it was going to work out big for us.

Justin:                   Well if you’re looking for a guarantee of success Joe, you’re in the wrong damn business because there’s no guarantee of success. I hear your point man. Let’s talk a little bit about the business value that we get from being over here. I mean for me personally, I can say that kind of having a new or exciting environment can really draw out my creativity. So if I’m kind of stuck in a rut, I can quickly change the scenery and be in a position to where I’m like, wow, okay I can write or I can create new podcast episodes or come up with new content because it just helps me do that.

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean I would say from a business standpoint and it’s hard for me to really separate the personal area from this and I know we’re going to get into this in a minute but I feel like I can clear my plate and clear my head much easier over here and focus just on work.

Justin:                   I think a lot of the people that are in Southeast Asia right now, that are in some of these hubs in Southeast Asia, come from diverse backgrounds and it’s easy to hang out with them, get masterminds together, and you’re going to get the value of their diversity when it comes to bringing creative solution to problems. So if you get into a mastermind with them, they’re going to be able to share some things that maybe you hadn’t thought of, come from a position that you just don’t understand or aren’t capable of kind of coming up with, really help you grow your business and I think there’s real value in that diversity.

Joe:                        Yeah, absolutely agree. I mean I think that that’s somebody … Those are people that we probably wouldn’t be exposed to back home.

Justin:                   Being in the kind of situation we’re in as expats and foreigners before land, we kind of are hanging out because we’re in the same social circles and I get to know him or her and like, wow, this person is super sharp. They have really interesting perspectives and I think it really … It’s kind of cheesy or cliché to say it but it broadens your horizons, it helps you understand where other people are coming from and it’s been really helpful for me and that kind of leads us into some of the personal benefits of living abroad and one of the things that you and I talk about a lot man is how we just outsource everything in our lives.

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean the automation and outsourcing of everything is very very powerful. The service department that I have here in Saigon, people would even probably think it’s over the top. I mean the maid literally comes three times a day to drop off the laundry, pick up the laundry, and then clean the place. So I see her a lot and she gets everything done that I need to have done. I haven’t picked up a dish or cleaned a dish in five years. So that’s pretty good stuff. That leaves a lot of free time on my plate.

Justin:                   I was talking to our buddy, Damian, who’s in Austin right now. He was saying one of the benefits of being in Austin is they have a lot of these kind of monthly service things. So they have a maid that comes once a week, not three times a day, but once a week and they have all the food service stuff. So they can order from any restaurant and they’ll deliver to them. Now it comes at a much higher cost but at least those services are available and we have things like that here too. Vietnam, and they’ll order or deliver almost anything from any restaurant you need. So that’s kind of nice and we talk about this too, in terms of like working out and having someone that can guide you in terms of your workouts and a dietician to help you decide what you need to eat, all those things that are amazing and things that you can have done pretty easily in places like Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, et cetera.

Joe:                        Yeah. I read an article about the shut in lifestyle, I forget what it was, where it was, but about this apartment building in San Francisco where people are using these services basically so they never have to leave their home. One of these new services that just came out is called, Basically, someone will meet with you, size you up, get to know your style, and then buy all your clothes for you. So yeah, these services are starting to be introduced in the US but they’re really expensive and when you start adding it up, you better be making good money, where that sort of cost savings is absolutely here on the ground right now in Southeast Asia.

Justin:                   Yeah and so those cost savings here, you’re either able to roll that up in your business, you’re able to stock some of that money away, or just live like a baller if that’s what you want to do as well. We’re in a position to where all of our time is either devoted to work or play. There’s no kind of routine tasks, unless you want to, unless you want to cook or you have some interest in washing laundry or something, you just … You don’t have to do any of that stuff. So it’s literally work or play for us. I really like the fact that everything is new, odd, different. It takes me probably a good three or four months until I start to feel normal in a country. So if I’m just kind of bouncing around from country to country, it’s all kind of new and fresh and interesting and it just feels good to me. It feels electric to me when I’m walking down the street and people are selling banh mi over here and they’ve got some stew cooking over here and I like that, it’s exciting to me.

Joe:                        Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. I mean today I went for Korean food that was just out of this world. Something I probably could find in a New York or a San Francisco but it’s awesome and really sort of ethnic Asian in Asia kind of thing. So pretty exciting stuff.

Justin:                   I also like the fact that you can bounce between a baller and a base liner lifestyle pretty easily and it’s one of the reasons that I love Hong Kong, is because I see that opportunity to do that all the time. You can go really really high end for dinner and just have an amazing night out and then the next night, you can do street food and keep it cheap, right? And so that’s the case all over Asia, where you just don’t have that as much in the US. I mean, [inaudible 00:27:35] in San Diego. If you’re in San Diego, can you go crazy baller and then kind of go slumming it or make it cheap really quick? Either unaffordable or ridiculously expensive.

Joe:                        Yeah man, I think the biggest thing that takes you down there is going to be rent and it’s going to be hard to get out of a long term lease in the United States and hard to get into a short term, cheap lease. So either one of those is very easy to find in Asia and it’s something you can just pick up and get.

Justin:                   Yeah and the other thing, I mean if you’re going out or whatever, going out to party and hang out with people, I mean if you have a customer here come visit you in Saigon, I mean we can go to one of the nicest clubs in town, pop a couple of bottles for that customer and a bunch of friends and spend all night, a couple hundred bucks, 300 bucks or something, and that’s just outrageously cheap for some of the high end clubs and kind of party lifestyle kind of stuff here and it’s fantastic honestly.

Joe:                        All these benefits, I definitely think there are a couple of personal drawbacks to living here. I mean the distance between old friends and family, which I’m not seeing as much anymore after being here almost six years but I think that that could definitely be a negative and I think the other negative, some of the technology and some of the services that are coming out in the US, I feel a little envy for. I mean I do miss Amazon. I miss being able to go on there and buy a new pair of shoes or some little small piece of computer equipment and have it delivered in less than 24 hours. So I don’t know if those services are going to come Southeast Asia anytime soon but there are some drawbacks to living out here.

Justin:                   I’m going to be jealous when they get those drones man, delivering your Amazon goods. They just pop into your house three hours later. Thank you. Here you go. Yeah man, I hear what you’re saying regarding missing some things in the US. I feel the same way. There are some things that I miss definitely but I’d say that the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages to being here but that kind of leads into the last thing I want to talk about buddy, is what are some reasons you might consider giving up the expat lifestyle? I mean I know it’s not likely, right? We’re building the business we want to be a part of and we want to own and being expats is a part of that, but what if you thought the business may grow faster with you in the US? Would you be willing to go? Under what conditions would you want to go back and stay permanently?

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean I think for the business, like I said before, I would need some level of “guarantee.” Yes, I know there’s nothing guaranteed but some level of guarantee of success. So I’m not going to gamble it all on moving and opening up an office and spending all this money when I could just do that here and Asia, live a much better lifestyle, and probably have just as much success, maybe a little less, but have a much better life.

Justin:                   Let me unpack that a little bit buddy because I’m still confused on what you mean by that. I think maybe some of the listeners might be too. What do you mean … I was teasing you earlier about like a guaranteed level of success but what do you mean by that exactly?

Joe:                        Well let me give you an example, another large brokerage comes along and wants to buy Empire Flippers and says, we’re giving you this money up front and you’re going to get some sort of cash on an ongoing basis as long as you hit these reasonable type numbers-

Justin:                   And we want you to spend 12 or 24 months growing it in the US or something?

Joe:                        Right, yeah. Those kind of things, I think if we got to an income level on our own where the only way to get to the next level would be by spending a nominal amount of cash in terms of … at that point because we were making so much money, that opening an office in the US really wouldn’t cost us that much in terms of percentage. It’s a small risk, so it’s something that I would be willing to do and my lifestyle would be so good in the US because I’d be making so much more money.

Justin:                   Okay, I get you with the buying us out thing, right? So we’re bought out and there’s an earn out and we get some kind of retained equity or some piece of it long term but they want us to go to the US and build the business there for a year or two, get them up to speed and then we bounce or something. Okay, I get that. I’m with you on that. Yes, I’m doing it for crazy money. We’re out but let me ask you, I don’t understand what you mean about if it were a smaller percentage of our revenue or whatever. I mean, break that down in terms of numbers because we’re doing, let’s say, on average right now, 30 thousand, 40 thousand a month in revenue. What revenue level do we have to be at to go and build that office in the US to where you think it would be a good move?

Joe:                        Well a number that sticks out in my head is 10 times. So if our business is 10 times as big and we’re making, personally, 10 times … 8 to 10 times as much, then I could probably afford a very good lifestyle in the US and the risk to the business by opening an office overseas … Well, I guess it would be back home but-

Justin:                   Onshore, yeah.

Joe:                        Onshore. The risk level would be relatively low.

Justin:                   But the impact level would be pretty low too, right? That wouldn’t … I’m thinking, I’m guessing that it wouldn’t really move the needle. If we’re only willing to spend 10% of our gross revenue … Let’s say on opening an office, what does that even matter? It’s not even a big deal.

Joe:                        Yeah, I don’t know. I mean we’d have to take a look at those numbers when we came up with it but in terms of … That wasn’t the question that was asked. The question asked is, why would I move? I would move because it wouldn’t affect me personally and it wouldn’t impact the business in such a high risk scenario.

Justin:                   Got you. So if we’re doing 500 thousand a month in revenue, right, and making let’s say, 100 thousand dollars a month each, then we’ll move back to the US. Okay buddy, you heard it here. We’ve got our goals man. We’ve got our … I don’t know man. Even then dude, no way man. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m not likely to do it. I mean I’ll go back to visit, go back for conferences, I’ll go back for that, but staying long term … I mean even last year, we went back for a week, eight, nine days and I was fine and then we stayed around another four or five days and like, I don’t know man. I’m sick of here. I want to go home. I want to go home to Asia. I’m done with the US for now. I’ll be back again but I’m out for now.

Joe:                        Definitely when I got to LA, I was ready to go. I mean I don’t know if you remember, I went and stayed at the airport because I was ready to go home.

Justin:                   Yeah, you were just hanging around the airport. Get me the hell out of here. Yeah, I hear you. So okay, that’s interesting. I mean I get you on the buy out, not so sure on the 10X the money we’re making now. I don’t know. I mean obviously, Joe, let’s say in the next two years, three years, if we were to 10X what we’re doing right now, I want to keep doing that because it sounds like whatever we did is absolutely crushing it. So let’s keep heading down that path, whatever that path may be. All right man, let’s do some news and updates.

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

Justin:                   First thing buddy, is we’ve got a quarterly strategy meeting coming up this Friday, April 17th, in Saigon. This will be a first for the new apprentice and the first in our own office.

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean I think it’s going to be pretty cool, our own office being a very small little place that we have at a coworking place but it is legitimately an office and I think we do … We are ready for the review, so I’m excited.

Justin:                   Yeah, it’s been a little over three months, it’s time for us to do a quarterly review. This will be our first for the newest apprentice. I’ve got to tell you though man, Joe, can I be honest with you? Can I level with you?

Joe:                        Sure.

Justin:                   I don’t know about that office man. I don’t know. Basically we’ve got a couple of tables, we’ve got some outlets. I guess that’s good but it’s just … It’s not blowing my mind. We’ve got a white board that we don’t really use. We’ll see what happens in the strategy meeting. At least it’s a place we can all get together and do some work and kind of knock out a meeting.

Joe:                        Hey for 400 dollars, you can’t complain and it has fast Internet and you can make phone calls from there.

Justin:                   It is cheap but I like coffee shops man. I can do a coffee shop. Me and Andrew get together at a coffee shop, me and Mike get together, do a little work together, coffee shop. I don’t know man. I don’t see it. I don’t see the need.

Joe:                        Phone calls. It all comes down to phone calls.

Justin:                   That’s true. That’s true. All right man, second thing is we’ve got our new apprentice, Andrew. We’ve got him almost trained and ready to go. So we’ve been getting him up to speed for about a month now and I think it’s finally starting to come together. He’s going to start getting his hands dirty and get into some tickets and helping out some of our customers. We should talk a little bit about his role man. So we brought him out as an account manager. He’ll mostly be helping out sellers once they have decided to list their site and kind of getting them through the vetting process, working with them to get all the information, and then helping them sort and sift the deals and the offers that come in and then helping both the buyer and the seller during the migration process. So he’ll mostly be on the sell side, whereas Mike, our previous apprentice, will be mostly on the buy side.

Joe:                        Yeah, that’s definitely how I see his role evolving and then helping us to put out customer service fires and improve efficiency on the customer service end. So if you do have an issue, I could see escalations going to Andrew.

Justin:                   All right man, let’s do some listener shouts, also know as the indulgent ego boosting social proof segment. So we’ve got a nice mention over from these guys at RogueStartups and so I responded to one of their podcast episodes with a couple of tweets. They responded, thanks so much for the information. I love that you guys are building very high quality stuff, which I know takes a lot of work and they followed up with, I’ve waited too long on a few of your listings. Won’t let that happen again. You’re definitely cornering the market on trust. So I thought that was kind of interesting, kind of cool of them to say. I know the guy there is looking … He’s got his wife is letting him spend five grand to invest in a website. I think that’s a little low. He was struggling to find any with some of the other brokers. There are some with us but they do tend to get snatched up pretty quickly.

Joe:                        Yeah, well if he does want to talk about it, I’d be willing to sit down with him and go over some targets of things he should look for and how to make a faster decision but definitely at that level, the listings go quick.

Justin:                   Got Christopher Robins on Twitter said, why are people suddenly rediscovering Q&A websites or in particular, I think he was responding to my mad dash on Quora responses recently. I have it automatically tweet and go to Facebook and I just saw a bunch of questions that were dealing with buying and selling websites and thought I’d get involved in the conversation. Thought I’d help out and answer some questions and add some comments there. So I’ve always been a fan of Quora. I really like Quora. So it’s just been a while since I’ve done anything there and thought I’d get back into it.

Joe:                        Yeah, you blew me up though on my Facebook timeline, Jesus.

Justin:                   So we talked a little bit about how we got scammed by some Russians and I recently tweeted about how difficult it is to send money to Nigeria and so Quentin [inaudible 00:38:00] on Twitter said, at first the Russians and now the Nigerians, do you guys get around when it comes to business deals? It is kind of crazy man. I mean we do business deals all around the world, literally all around the world and our podcast audience, people listening to this right now are in probably, I don’t know, more than 100 different countries. I mean it’s crazy. We’re literally all over the place, which is pretty cool. It’s a little stressful on the time zone thing as we talked about earlier, can be a bit of a bitch but I like it man.

Joe:                        Yeah, I mean I’ve said this before but every time I call the bank, they think I’m an international arms dealer or something with all the wires that are going through our account. So it’s pretty amazing.

Justin:                   With all the Nigerian problems we’re talking about earlier, Robbie [inaudible 00:38:40] mentioned, I used to live or work in Nigeria, it’s rough. My first start up was a web host for Nigerian companies because they couldn’t buy elsewhere. I believe it. It’s funny, whenever you have countries that are difficult to work in or work with, I think there are a lot of opportunities. So probably if … This sounds crazy but if you could figure out a way to make it easier for legitimate businesses in Nigeria to accept and receive, send payments, I think you’d probably do pretty well. Now, good luck dealing with that because that’d be really really difficult but it’d be interesting.

We got interesting feedback from a buyer in [inaudible 00:39:14] buddy, Joey said, Patrick was great. David, the seller, was easy to work with. Hot money put me at ease and make this purchase possible. One suggestion I have is that it would help perspective buyers if you would put together an after sale suggestions of things to do following the sale. For example, changing hosting passwords and updating user profile information in WordPress blogs. Not a critical thing but it would be something that might give buyers a little more confidence in themselves. I think, Joe, if we probably … and first off, thanks Joey, I really appreciate it but Joe, I was thinking if we could share maybe some podcast episodes where we go through that or maybe a checklist of things they can do in terms of checking the site and then also growing the site would probably be pretty helpful.

Joe:                        Yeah, I think we’ve done a podcast on how best to grow sites after buying them but we definitely haven’t done a checklist of like technical things you could just do to make sure your site is secure and under your control. Our team is pretty good about checking that for you and assisting but definitely going over the possible risks there would be a good idea.

Justin:                   We got a couple of mentions. First, I did a podcast interview over at the Active Marketer, with Barry Moore. It was about segmenting your email list. I think it was a really fun interview and if you want to check that out, I’ll put a link in the show notes. We got a mention from Neil Patel over at The article was about building trust with your audience of customers and he used us as an example. We’ve also got [inaudible 00:40:38] mentioned us over at Web Retailer as guys he admires in business. He liked us because we’re actually doing what we talk about. The funny thing is, Will’s name kind of stuck out to me. So I did a quick Google search and I found an email about him, maybe it was about two years ago, he was just finishing college and he was thinking about helping out with the family business and selling some of their products on Amazon and so I gave him a little bit of advice and he’s not absolutely crushing it. He’s done several million dollars in Amazon sales last year, like four or five million dollars in sales or something, doing really really well.

So he’s now getting interviewed on his own and he gave us a nice mention. I thought that was kind of cool. So I reached out to him, I was like, hey buddy, seems like you’re kind of crushing it there and he laughed about it and sent me an email back and he had a question. He said, I’m considering shrinking down my company and becoming location independent by 2016, I know most people see going location independent as the tough road most would not take. I’m feeling the opposite. I’m only 24 and I feel like I’m taking the easy road by retiring and traveling. The hard thing would be to take my business from seven to eight figures. The easy thing is to quit my business and start a new one. Am I crazy thinking this? Feel free to use any of this on the podcast if needed.

Joe:                        I think he’s a bit crazy. I mean, I’m not going to say that you can’t do it again but if you’re having something that’s having so much success, seven digit success, taking that to eight figures is going to be a lot easier. Restarting the engine is tough. Whenever you just take off and I don’t know if that’s the plan here, Will, maybe I misunderstand it but if your plan is just to wind down the business or just sell the business, walk away and then go do some independent consulting from your laptop while you sip coconuts, I don’t know. I think you’re young, you have a great start. I would push it to the limit and try to make it happen for another five years before I did that and automate your business and get some people in place, hire some people, and then be the absentee owner, the shareholder basically, who takes the dividends every month.

Justin:                   So Joe, I totally agree with your advice. I’m totally on board. I think that he should stick around probably for a couple of years. I mean he’s only 24-years-old. So that extra experience of actually being there on the ground, getting it done, I think would be fantastic. Now, you mentioned seven figures but remember, this is seven figures in e-commerce, so your margins aren’t nearly as big. So he’s got a good business but I think for him to go to eight figures, it would really blow up and by the time he gets to eight figures, he’s going to need that people and process in place.

That’s going to allow him to become the absentee owner anyway, right? So he’s going to have the people and processes in place just to get to eight figures, that he’s going to need to be the absentee owner. So if he continues down that path, I can see within a year or two, getting there. Now if he absolutely can’t stand it, well take off. I mean get out of there but I think if you can, if you’re just kind of wondering, you’re getting the itch to travel, I would say put your head down, stick it out for another couple of years and then it’ll be easy to take off and be the absentee owner that Joe mentioned.

Joe:                        Totally agree.

Justin:                   That’s it for episode 133 of the Empire Podcast. Thanks for sticking with us. We’ll be back next week with another show and you can find the show notes for this episode and more at and make sure to follow us on Twitter at Empire Flippers. 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 for more. That’s Thanks for listening.


  • Shola says:

    that’s Europe is such a cool locale – it’s in between Asia and North America – very strategic for calls, travel and the like

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