Lessons Learned from a $3.5 Million Boat Ride

Greg Elfrink Updated on February 29, 2020

Empire Retreat

The 2nd Empire Retreat has come and gone.

In the rolling hills of Phuket, Thailand overlooking the beautiful vistas of the ocean, we gathered our guests in two villas, and prepared them for a weekend of both fun and (what we hoped would be) amazing growth for their businesses.

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One of the most powerful things about these events is the idea of dissociative distance.

Basically, dissociative distance is the idea that the further removed you are from a problem you’re having, the more solutions you will be able to see around the problem.

It is hard to come up with a better way to distance yourself from your day-to-day than coming to a villa in the hills of Thailand, while surrounded by other high-level entrepreneurs that can cast a fresh set of eyes on the problems you’re facing.

Our itinerary was a bit longer than our last Empire Retreat; instead of three days, we had five planned out.

This would add more value for our guests by giving them more time with each other. One of the real values of these style of events is the intimate connections you can make with other high-level entrepreneurs.

Here’s the basic event itinerary:

  • Day 1 – Meet and greet
  • Day 2 – Masterminds
  • Day 3 – Boat ride to a remote island beach
  • Day 4 – Presentations and Halloween Bash
  • Day 5 – Checkout

So what happened? Was the event worthwhile for our guests (and us?!) The answer, if you just wanted to know, is a resounding yes.

It goes without saying whenever you throw an event of this kind, you’re going to run into challenges.

But the rewards can be pretty amazing.

For example, here’s my less than professional shot of how $3.5 million net worth looks like on a boat.


My Photography Skills Could Use Some Work… 🙂

You can almost feel the knowledge and expertise pulsing throughout the picture, right?

What Were the Results?

Mastermind Sessions are the Biggest Game Changers

It stands to reason that with a group of people whose combined net worth exceeds $3.5 million, the crowning achievement of our event would be the masterminds.

Masterminds are often the most effective way to improve your business. You open up “the books” and show people the scars, tribulations, and the struggles you’re facing. Your peers then offer you advice, strategies, and ideas that you may never had thought in a hundred years. Sometimes the ideas are so mind bogglingly simple, you kick yourself for not having thought of them yourself.

Out of those masterminds came new partnerships. People sharing resources, books, and even contacts that could help remedy some of the problems they were facing in their businesses (ranging from how to fix a painful SEO fluctuation due to the new Penguin rollout, to how to target an older demographic of people using various online marketing methods).

It helped that our masterminds were smaller than other, larger events might allow.

Every guest got an hour to talk about their business and talk through their problems with the group. To make the group even more intimate, we split the guests into two different groups based off their skill sets and business models.

We had mainly service and affiliate businesses in one group led by Joe Magnotti as seen below:

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And a second mastermind that was focused on Amazon FBA and physical products led by Mike Vranjkovic:

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While the masterminds were going, the work we do behind the scenes every day to assure the business moves smoothly along, was of course being done.

The Challenges

Yes. I sweat a lot. (I am from Alaska after all)

Our very first event was filled with people who were super fans of our brand. This was fantastic –– people were willing to buy a ticket right away. The second time around, we still had fans coming to our event, but it was a bit more difficult to promote.

Our “instant” ticket buyers had actually just come out to the first retreat a couple months back. Though we did have one repeat guest, we had to get a bit more creative to promote this event.

Another promotional challenge that happened for us was the fact we did this event right on the tails of DCBKK –– a huge event for the digital nomad community, that we also sponsored.

If you’ve never been to an event, then you might not realize just how draining they can be.

You go to these exotic locales, do amazing things, meet incredibly gifted entrepreneurs, and afterwards all you want to do is get back home, put the nose to the grindstone, and implement everything you learned.

Which poses a challenge when you’re asking everyone to instead come to another event.

It also didn’t help that the Canton Fair (a major event held every year in China that physical product sellers such as Amazon FBA sellers go to network with manufacturers) was happening right around the same time as our event. This actually caused a couple of people who wanted to come to our event tell us that they would have to give us a raincheck.


Despite all of this though, we were able to push through these hurdles get some amazing entrepreneurs out to our events. We ran Facebook ads promoting the trailers from our last event, we were able to send out an email blast to everyone attending the DCBKK event, and we used some direct sales promotions to get some more interest.

We Had a Great Turnout

While initial promotions were harder, the outcome brought in even higher-level guests. Many of our guests were not six-figure entrepreneurs, but rather seven-figure.

This kind of high-level gathering ended up providing some of the largest value to our guests. Many had told me afterwards that we charged too LITTLE though. Being a guy that is always somewhat stressed that we need to offer more value as far as content goes for these kind of events, that is always an AWESOME thing to hear!

Once the event actually started, everything became a lot easier. We had a “groove” already created on what to do from our previous event. Since we rented two villas that were right next to each other, our logistics issue from the last event was super easy. We already knew the perfect place for the event dinner, night out, and the fun activity (an amazing boat ride to a remote beach island in Phuket, Thailand).

The event ran like a well-oiled machine.

Staying Productive

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It can be difficult to do normal day to day work during these events, but it is possible. Note Andrew working diligently on new listings, and a fairly cool picture of me checking email during a break from the mastermind.

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed during my sprint to create a relatively large piece of content while fueled by 40 minutes of sleep and far too many iced coffees (wouldn’t be overly photogenic, as you might imagine).

Though the effort was worth it, as we now had a full new presentation to do at our next event, along with another presentation I helped create, which has already gone on to become a recorded webinar.

From all the value our guests got, many had told me that we charged too LITTLE for the event. Being a guy that is always somewhat stressed that we need to offer more value as far as content goes for these kind of events, that is always an AWESOME thing to hear!

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Where We Hope to Improve

Empire Retreat 8

Throwing these Retreats is still an experiment for us. We now have two under our belts, and through the nitty-grittiness of experience we have come up with some ideas we want to play with and improve when we do our next Retreat.

First, this will likely become an annual event rather than once a quarter. Holding a successful event takes a lot of resources, and we want them to be special for our guests, as something really worthwhile that they will remember forever. We want it to be more than just a business experience, but a true fun lifelong memory of something really cool they did with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs.

By holding an event once a year rather than four times a year, it allows us to prep a lot more with far fewer decisions made in stress.

It also ensures we never make our Retreat between the dates of two other large events in our space. Rather, we want to choose a time that will work for the majority of people instead of having them go to event after event with little to any recovery time.

One big thing we’re looking forward to is improving the presentations. This time around we only had two presentations, due to one presenter having a personal emergency and the other presenter having to take care of a business emergency.

While the two presentations were awesome (one on implementing sales processes and the other on how to sell your Amazon FBA business for maximum value), we are looking forward to attracting larger influencers, thought leaders, and speakers in our space to come and present to our guests.

Not only will our guests see their presentations, but the speakers will also be in the masterminds, opening up their business and offering their insights to everyone else’s business. At least, that’s our plan.

When is the Next One?

The next event date has not yet been decided. If you scroll right underneath this post, you can join our mailing list, which will be the easiest way to find out once we have some set dates in mind.

As always, the event will only be open to entrepreneurs with six figure and seven figure online businesses. If you have yet to achieve this status yourself, then you’ve got some time on your hands.

My advice?

Get out there and grind, build something, and stick to it. You’d be surprised what you can do in as little as nine to ten months.

Our last two events were in Phuket, Thailand, which is likely where the next one will be.

There is something magical that happens when you have a group of like minded, high-powered entrepreneurs all together in one place. Sometimes all you need is just one golden nugget, one sound piece of wisdom, and the face of your entire business can change for the better.

That is why we are throwing these events, to open up doors that would otherwise be closed by inviting our audience to come and hangout with us.

What should you do if you want to come to our next event?

Work hard, pay attention to our emails for when we announce the next event, and maybe we’ll see you on the next million-dollar boat ride!

Photo credit: Empire Retreat

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