Recently, I spoke at the Millionaire Fastlane Summit put on by author and business master MJ DeMarco. It’s a yearly conference that MJ hosts in his home town of Scottsdale, AZ.
By applying the principles in the book, it took me from a dorky kind-of-freelance-guy to becoming a real business owner. It changed my entire mindset.
MJ himself is one of the smartest people I know when it comes to business and money. In fact, pretty much all of the other “make money” books got thrown out the window after I read this book.
No more “latte factor” or “max out 401k” crap for me. It was all about changing my mindset to create a real asset that worked for me while I was still young enough to enjoy it.
On a quick side note about MJ – the dude is kind of done with money. He’s made it.
His mission now is really to cut through the B.S. of all of the people making money by teaching how to save a dollar a day and hopefully by the time you’re 65 you can finally enjoy your life.
I love his super real approach and I know he doesn’t have some ulterior motive of getting you to spend $20k on some weekend round table retreat.
That said, I wish he would work harder to get the message out – and I told him that when I met him!
He’s relied a lot on word-of-mouth and the fact that the cream rises to the top.
His book has a crazy amount of positive reviews and there’s a reason why – the dude speaks the truth.
Millionaire Fastlane Summit – Speaking to a Group of Cool People
Most of the people that attend this summit are active in the Millionaire Fastlane Forum that MJ created. I joined the forum a long time ago (2011) but didn’t get super active in it because I suck at that kind of thing.
BUT, it’s super valuable. I mean, there’s some freaken gold in that forum! People have literally started businesses with the knowledge that people have shared on there.
This was my first time attending the summit and I had no idea what to expect. Because I was selected to speak, I prepared for a TED style speech. I mean, I freakin memorized the thing!!
After the first day however, I decided to dial it back because this summit was much more casual than I expected. Some guys were literally reading off of their slides.
But that’s exactly what I loved about it.
People were real. They gave awesome information. They were approachable. There wasn’t any ego. It was cool people all helping each other out.
At the end of the summit, we finished with a speakers panel and everyone who spoke got up front and took questions from the audience.
It was real-live people giving straight up advice. It was great.
I will definitely put this as part of my yearly schedule and just make it something I do.
How To Create a Lifestyle Business
I didn’t have the chance to record my presentation but I wanted to make sure I put the same material up here on Family Rocketship. So I did a little version of it just sitting here in my house.
It doesn’t have all of the pizzazz that my real speech did (or at least I think I had!!) but it’s all the same info.
I go over some of the details of our own story and then most importantly, what it takes to create a lifestyle business. I talk about discovering your values, finding a model, making sales, and so forth.
It’s a little long at 38 minutes but be sure to check it out!
OR, YOU CAN READ IT!
If you’re like me, you might want to just zip through the info. So, I give you my presentation word-for-word.
I’d like to start off by talking about a fax machine. Let me just share with you a brief conversation I had with my wife about 8 years ago.
“What is that?” my wife said.
“Well it’s a fax machine” I said with a tone that was kind of like “duh!”
“But WHY did you buy a fax machine? I just don’t get it!”
My wife was upset and she was ruining the thrill that you get when you unwrap a shiny new electronic toy from its packaging.
“I just don’t understand, when we have like zero money, how you can justify buying a fax machine?”
“I told you already. I need it so that clients can fax me their contracts!”
“But you don’t have any clients! You haven’t even made a single sale!”
She was right. I knew she was right and it was a huge wake up call.
You want to know why I bought the fax machine? I wanted to be a… wait for it… a life coach. Yep, but not just any life coach! A professional, “certified” life coach. In fact, I already spent $2500 of borrowed money to pay for a certification and yet I came out of it with no business plan and no paying clients whatsoever.
But I did what I thought I was supposed to do! In my mind, I was already a hugely successful professional, certified, life coach. Now all I had to do was to create the space and the business would follow. Right? So I got busy setting up an office for myself. I bought a brand new desk, telephone (yes, a landline), pens & pencils, business cards, and even a freaking fax machine… for $230… that we didn’t have.
I had the entrepreneurial desire. I just didn’t have any skills to back it up.
Fast forward 3 miserable months…still no clients and still living on borrowed money. With my tail between my legs, and a 2nd kid on the way, I went out and got a job.
With the new job, something marvelous happened. I learned two very important things:
1 – I just wasn’t cut out to have a job – my personal freedom was way too precious for me to give up
2 – I needed to learn how to create a real, profitable business
Fast forward 2 ½ years.
I finally started my own business and this time I knew exactly what I needed to do. I already spent every spare moment I had learning general business skills with a huge focus on sales & marketing. If you don’t have sales, you don’t have anything.
I wasn’t interested in creating the next Google. I didn’t want investors. I didn’t even want to make millions of dollars… I just wanted a lifestyle. I wanted to do what I wanted, whenever I wanted, with whomever I wanted. And I wanted a business to pay for it. So that’s what I did.
I got started by selling services to real paying clients. I scaled it. I got on top of it. And then I took off to live in the Caribbean for 2 1/2 years together with my family. After that, we even spent half a year in Europe… just for fun. And now we’re back where it all began in Southern California.
At this summit, we’re learning a bunch of really cool stuff – outsourcing, scaling, getting to market, etc. I’m going to share my own story and a cool business formula that fits into anyone’s lifestyle. I’ll give you some reasons on WHY I feel it’s a good business model and of course, HOW to do it all.
But before there was all of this (point at pictures) there was this (click to box). Just a simple box.
It was around noon on a weekday when I walked up to the front door of my home in Orange County. I was carrying a box full of stuff from my office and I took a deep breath.
I opened the door and saw my wife playing with our kids in the front room. She looked at me, then looked at the box, and then back at me and said, “What happened?”
“I got laid off” I said. And then I just kind of stood there.
For a second, it looked like she was going to cry… But then something happened… Her whole face and posture just kind of changed. Then she said, “That’s it! You’re not getting another job. Jobs aren’t helping us get any closer to our dreams. This is it. It’s go time!”
Deep down I knew she was right. But what was I going to do? I mean, I had permission from my wife to NOT have to look for a job BUT we also wanted to travel and even live abroad as a family. So the question was, how? How would we make money in a way that would still allow us to do all we wanted to do?
The answer, obviously, was to create a lifestyle business. We created a vision, whipped up a game plan based on my own work experience, and then, we got busy.
When we first started, I didn’t even know the business we created had a label. In fact, early on, I met up with an old high school buddy who founded a very successful lending company up in Seattle. When I described what I was doing with my business and our goals to live abroad he said, “Oh, so you got yourself a lifestyle business”.
At that moment, I had no clue what he was talking about! 🙂 I’d never even heard the word before! But I quickly kind of put it together. Lifestyle… business… a business that pays for a lifestyle and a lifestyle that works with the business. So I just said, “Yep! That’s what I’ve got! A lifestyle business!”
That was in 2010 and ever since then, I’ve learned more about WHAT a lifestyle business actually is so let’s look at that first.
LIFESTYLE BUSINESS NAMES
There’s a ton of ways to describe this kind of business. Money hacking, micro business, freedom business and a whole bunch of other trendy, cutesy names that all probably come out of Portland, Oregon. For me, lifestyle business works just fine.
In a nutshell, it’s a business that you create that solves a real need and then scale up quickly with systems and a team AND its primary purpose is to pay for your desired lifestyle. You structure it so you could sell it one day… if you wish. But it’s not the central focus.
I should note here that we’re not trying to find your “life purpose”or “do what you love” or your “dream career” or whatever. You can do that after you’re making 6 figures working only 5 hours a month.
LIFESTYLE BUSINESS COMPONENTS
It’s really about finding a paying market and providing a fast, scalable solution with little or no start-up capital. And when it lines up with your core values, then you’ve struck gold.
I want to add that while the goal is to make money quickly and scale fast, that’s not to say it doesn’t take a lot of hard work. It does. Nothing is going to happen without a lot of hustle. But if you work it, the payoff is huge.
So let’s talk about the payoff. WHY would you start a lifestyle business?
Well, while we were in Spain this last year, I met a man whose name was Monday. He was from Nigeria and had moved to Spain for a better life. He told me that his dream country to live in was Canada. I said, “Canada! That’s cool. Are you making plans to move there?”
He said, “Well, I’ll go if I can get a job there.” For me, his words struck a nerve. I talked about it with my wife and realized we had done the exact opposite of Monday. We created our own income and THEN decided to do whatever we wanted. At that moment, it meant living in Spain.
At a fundamental level it’s all about freedom. It’s about creating a scalable income source to pay for what you want to. It’s the freedom to live how you want to live.
For me, I’m a big family guy. I’m not doing this so that in 5 years I can hopefully sell out to Google and THEN have time for family. I’m making them a priority right now and all along the way. It’s business life and family life happily coexisting together. And it allows us to do some really cool stuff like swimming in the Caribbean and exploring castles in Europe.
When we were in Mexico and then Europe, we met a lot of people who were on vacation. When they found out we weren’t on vacation, they would always say, “Oh, I’d love to do what you guys are doing!” And then I’d always say, “Well you can!” This is what a lifestyle business is all about!
We’ve talked about WHAT a lifestyle business is and WHY. Let’s get to the meat & potatoes and talk about HOW. How to start a lifestyle business.
IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
The first step is to identify your values. Your positive core values are what make you the most happy. With those values in place, then you can make goals and identify a business that has an actual paying market that will achieve those goals.
When you make your values a priority from the start, you set yourself up for success right away. You’re not just working towards a profit (you are), but you’re also working towards happiness. Now I know that sounds a little “life coachy” but it’s true. A lifestyle business is centered around your values.
Obviously, if you’re married, you need to work with your spouse and get in the same page. You can’t have a goal of exploring Tibet if your spouse just wants to golf in Texas. If you have kids, you gotta take them into account as well.
I’M HAPPIEST WHEN…
It can be a little tricky figuring out what you deep down really want. One way to get to your core values, is to just ask yourself… What do you enjoy the most in your life? What makes you happy? Or just complete the sentence, “I am happiest when…”
For us, mobility is a big deal. We wanted to live abroad and go where we wanted to. So our business had to be internet-based.
This picture, I took it with my iPhone not too far from where we used to live in Mexico. I’m not trying to brag. It’s just that I used to have pictures like this hanging in my cubicle at my job. Because of this business, I was able to live it myself. I was able to live my values.
CREATE A VISION
Next, you need to create a vision. It may seem a bit obvious but this is to identify what you’re fighting for and why you’re doing it.
You’ve probably already heard about creating a vision board or cutting out pictures from a magazine or posting something on your mirror or whatever. Do whatever works for you. For my wife & I, we just talk about our vision. Now that we’re back in the states, we’re already planning our next adventure. We don’t need a vision board because we talk about it all the time!
Do whatever works for you – just get really clear on what you want and most importantly, why.
TAKE AN INVENTORY
The next step is to take an inventory. This is an inventory of your strengths, skills, experience, assets, etc
You could think of it as if you were dropped in a new city and weren’t allowed to get a job, what would you do to make money? You might have to get creative. Now think, is what you’re doing scalable? Could you create a system for doing it? Could you plug other people into that system?
In my case, I had already spent the previous 2+ years learning online marketing. I knew there was a huge need for it. I knew I could scale it. And it was online so we could be mobile. So that’s what I did. I created an online marketing agency and it worked out really well.
FIND A MODEL
Next, you’ve got to find a model. Someone who is already doing what you want to do. The reason is because it saves a LOT of time. You don’t need to be original or do any product testing or market research. Your model has already proven there’s a paying market because they’ve got a thriving business.
Your values are about what YOU want and now this is about what the MARKET wants. This is where you find real people that will really pay you real money for your product or service.
Ideally, this model follows all of MJ’s commandments. There’s got to be a need, there’s got to be somewhat of a barrier to entry, you’ve got to have control, and you’ve got to be able to scale and separate your time from the money making.
In my case, I took a course from a girl who called herself a social media guru and her course was all based on her own successful business. I then, just modeled her business. The success I’ve had isn’t because I’m some super smart original guy. I just copied someone else’s model and got busy making sales in my own business! In fact, I’ve even taught others my exact business model and now they’re doing what I’m doing! Find a working model and it will save you a ton of time & money & you can grow the business that much faster.
At this point, you need a plan. But it’s not some 100 page thing you’re showing investors or a bank. You need to take 5 minutes and write down the answers to: What solution are you selling? To whom? How much are you charging? And how are you actually selling? You can also ask, what makes you different from the herd? (USP)
Then you create a revenue model. For example, I want to sell 5 new $500 packages a month, every month. Period. It’s really that simple. This gives you a goal AND something you can measure each month.
And that’s it. If you have any questions, you just go back to your model. How are they making money? You can reverse engineer what they’re doing & do it yourself.
I want to just kind of slow down here because this is the most important part. Just execute. In business, this means making a sale. I’m a big believer in getting a sale first and THEN scrambling to set everything up. Why? Because first you’ve got proof that it sells AND second, you know that you yourself can actually make a sale. Once you do that, THEN you can create the system, get a team, & so forth.
In my first week, I sold a website for $1250. I thought it was such a huge amount. Then about a week later I sold a monthly package for $400. Then the following day I sold another $400 package. In my first month, I sold, I executed, & I made $2050. Not a bad start.
Another part of execution is committing. You’ve got to commit. You’ve got to do what it takes.
In our case, we kind of burned the ships as they say. We sold all of our stuff & left our home in Orange County behind. The rule was, if it didn’t fit in the car, it didn’t come with us. We got a little storage unit for our wedding photos and stuff like that but we just went for it.
We first went to Seattle for a year and then we went to the San Francisco Bay Area and lived in a small 2 bedroom apartment for a year. We literally slept on air mattresses. I know even some of our friends didn’t quite understand what we were doing. In fact, one of our friends insisted that we needed a TV and dropped off his TV for a while until we just gave it back. We just didn’t care because we were committed to our vision. Once we moved to Cozumel and our friends & family started seeing our pics on Facebook, then I think it started to sink in. We weren’t on vacation… We were living there. After 2 years of sacrifice and kind of weird living, we were now living our dream lifestyle.
Whatever it means for you to grow your business, you’ve got to commit to it. Burn your ships. Wake up early. Stay up late. Sell all your crap and move if you have to. Do what it takes.
Another key element of a lifestyle business is that you can bootstrap the entire thing. You don’t need investors. You don’t need a small business loan. You just get started with what you’ve got.
In my case, I was already paying $8 a month for web hosting and I spent like $20 on some business cards from VistaPrint and that was it. I didn’t buy pens. I didn’t buy car magnets. And I certainly didn’t buy a freaken fax machine!
Again, you just get started with what you’ve got. Even in my very first month, I was in the black and have never taken a loan or gone into debt for anything. I’ve never needed to!
Almost immediately, you can scale. Once you start hustling, you build a lot of momentum & can get on top of your business right from the start.
You do it with 3 things: Mindset, Systems, & Teams.
To get your head right, you’ve got to think like a business owner. Basically it means going from, “What work do I have to do today?” to “Who’s doing the work today?” It’s harder than most people think – especially for entrepreneurs who tend to want to do everything themselves.
In the first year of my own business a guy in a networking group I went to told me about a book. He said, “Sean, you gotta check out this book! It’s written by this guy who loves Lamborghinis. It’s hands-down the best book on money & business I’ve ever read. You gotta check it out.” So I did!
I wanna just take a quick time-out here and personally and publicly thank MJ for writing this book. I can honestly say it changed the course of my business and my life. We’re all here in one way or another because MJ wrote this book. For me, it helped me to rethink my business. It wasn’t until I applied some of the principles in the book that I really started to scale & get my head right.
We all know the story of McDonalds and how they owe their success to the systems they have in place. Because their process is so dialed in, they can have a teenager in Kansas create the exact same burger as an 82 year old in Beijing. In fact, every successful business I know has a set process for getting stuff done. Even if it’s just you, and all you’re using is a checklist, you’ve got to have a system that you follow to get everything done.
When you build a system, you can then get other people to do everything for you. You can just plug them into your process. When I first started building a team, I thought I needed to create a huge operations manual. Then I discovered project collaboration software. I didn’t need to explain the philosophy of everything, I just needed someone to get the work done.
At first I used Basecamp but then transitioned to Asana because it was just as good and it was free (at least starting out). At any time, I can check in on my team and see what’s happening and when. Besides Asana, the only other tools we use are Dropbox, email, and Skype – that’s it. Simple always wins.
BUILDING A TEAM
With a system in place, it’s now a matter of plugging people in. Creating a system is kind of easy. Building a team? That’s actually kind of challenging. I could spend the entire time talking about this.
When I first started out, I used Odesk which is now Upwork. It’s a great starting place to find good talent. When you want to have more control, you need to get your own staff in place. I’ve had great success with Chris Ducker’s Virtual Staff Finder. I think it’s like $500 now but it’s worth it. But you don’t need to drop a lot of money to find good people. Some of my friends have had good luck just posting on Craigslist and even LinkedIn.
The key is just having a process that you follow and can teach your team members. This is going to take some work. This is one of the biggest challenges in the business. You’re going to have to hire and fire people until you get your dream team in place and make it all run smoothly. But, of course, it’s entirely worth it.
And that’s it. I know I moved kind of fast on this but I can tell you that creating a lifestyle business really works. I’m living proof! It really all boils down to knowing your values, creating a vision, find a working model, and then going for it. You build, scale, and refine the process as you go.
My friend the fax machine.
When I think back to that fax machine and the Sean that thought he needed it to make money, I gotta admit, I’m a little embarrassed. But at the same time, I’m grateful for the journey it put me on. That brutal conversation with my wife set me up to work hard towards a dream lifestyle. And now, we’ve never been happier. And we’ve never had more freedom.
So here’s to creating a business quickly, scaling the crap out of it, and doing whatever the heck you want to do. Here’s to your freedom.