Growthink: From One Awful Logo To 5000 Clients – with Dave Lavinsky

How do you build a profitable business by helping entrepreneurs?

Dave Lavinsky is the co-founder of Growthink, a company that helps entrepreneurs and business owners to start, grow and exit their businesses.

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About Dave Lavinsky

Dave Lavinsky is the co-founder of Growthink, a company that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners to start, grow and exit their businesses.

Raw transcript

Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Before we get started, tell me if you’ve got this problem: You’ve got a great product, but you’re not getting people to even try it, let alone buy it. Well, the problem is probably that you’ve got too much text on your site, but check out what these start ups have done.

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All right. I’ve talked too fast and far too long. Let’s get right into the program.

Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you build a profitable business by helping entrepreneurs?

Dave Lavinsky is the co-founder of Growthink, a company that helps entrepreneurs start, grow and exit their companies. Dave, welcome.

Dave: Thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: So, you guys started out as a consulting firm doing business plans and other work for entrepreneurs and then you built products. The consulting firm, which is still going on, how many clients have you had there?

Dave: So, our consulting firm, we focus on developing business plans and raising capital for our clients. We’ve worked with over 2,000 clients over the past 12 years in specifically doing that ‚Äìwriting their business plan and helping a number of them shop it to investors.

Andrew: OK. I know that you also have products like Growthink University now, where people can sign up. On Growthink University, for the audience that hasn’t been on the site, what is it?

Dave: Growthink University is a membership site where we focus raising capital. That’s our primary focus on how do you raise capital? What are all the forms of raising capital? What are all of the questions that you need to understand in order to successfully raise capital?

Andrew: How many entrepreneurs have you guys helped there?

Dave: We’ve helped about 5,000 entrepreneurs through Growthink University over the last year or two.

Andrew: 5,000 entrepreneurs.

Dave: 5,000, correct.

Andrew: OK. When you say that you’ve helped 5,000 entrepreneurs, does that mean that there are 5,000 entrepreneurs that are paying you, I think your monthly rate is $97 a month?

Dave: Correct.

Andrew: Oh, really?

Dave: Not at one time. Capital raising is, I don’t know the right word for it, but it is generally a one-time need or a periodic need. So, there’s not 5,000 people in the site right now. Generally it’s like a graduating class, so at any one time, there could be up to 1,000 members of Growthink University. People stay for a certain period of time and then most people, at some point, drop off.

Andrew: But, over time, 5,000 people have paid at least one $97 bill?

Dave: That’s correct.

Andrew: All right. That’s impressive. In a world where people don’t feel like they have to spend for anything online it’s impressive that you even were able to get 1,000 people, or one person, getting 5,000 is especially impressive.

All right. I want to go back in time and find out how you built up your business, hear the story behind the company, and get some lessons, like how do you get people to sign up for a subscription business? How do you help strangers create business plans and then ensure that they get funded? I want to know about all that, but let me challenge you on this, Dave.

Dave: OK.

Andrew: What’s the point of a business plan anymore? In fact, I was doing research online to see which venture capitalists were looking for business plans, and I found one guy, Mark Suster [SP] who said absolutely. Abso-freakin-lutely, I think is what he said. You have to have a business plan. And I read deeply into it, and he said, but it shouldn’t be a 40 page document or even a 12 page PowerPoint, it should be a well-developed spreadsheet. And I thought, well, then that pretty much, if the one guy who’s advocating it is basically saying it should be a spreadsheet, doesn’t that mean that the business plan is dead?

Dave: Yes, yes and no.

Andrew: What a way for us to start out this conversation, huh?

Dave: I appreciate you putting me on the defensive. I like it. So, what people need to understand is that when you talk to a venture capitalist, first of all, venture capital is just one form of capital, OK, which, when push comes to shove, is the wrong form of capital for most companies, OK. Even you look at a company like Google, Google failed dramatically when it first tried to raise venture capital and would have never raised venture capital had it not raised angel funding and bank loans to put itself in a position to raise venture capital.

So, first off, venture capitalists have one perspective and they’re not the only form of funding. Secondly, when you look at venture capitalists, for the people that are probably watching this and for the vast majority of the people that are looking for venture capital, you probably don’t have these tight relationships with venture capitalists. So, probably half of who venture capitalists fund are entrepreneurs that they’ve funded in the past that took their companies public or sold them and made the VC’s millions upon millions of dollars.

Now those folks, they don’t need a business plan. They have the operational expertise, they have the track record and credibility. They’ve been there, they’ve done it and the VC’s are betting on them. We talk about, you know, betting on the horse, the jockey and not the horse with the entrepreneur being the jockey. And so, what you got to understand is when VC’s talk, they’re looking towards funding entrepreneurs who’ve been there and done that. So for those who of you who haven’t taken a company public or sold a company for tens of millions of dollars, you need to, you know, take that with a grain of salt and realize you need a business plan.

Now even when a venture capitalist doesn’t need a business plan, and I’ve raised money for companies that, from venture capitalists, time and time again, what’s going to happen is this. A, you need to start by doing your business plan because the process of doing your business plan forces you to go through all of the questions that they’re going to ask you. They’re going to ask you, you know, who are your top five competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Who is an indirect competitor? You know, what does your financial model look like? So they’re going to ask you all these questions.

So, do you need to lay it out in a 50 page plan? No. But do you need to go through the process of answering all those questions? Yes. Also, likewise, your PowerPoint presentation, when you’re presenting to investors, you need to take your 50 page or 20 page business plan and condense that down and the best quote I’ve ever heard was Mark Twain, the famous writer who said, you know, I would’ve made it shorter if I had more time. Which is all about, it’s very easy to create a 50 page document, just spewing all the information out of your head and doing all the research. What the key is, is taking all that information and [??] it down into a concise presentation.

Now for a lot of investors, venture capitalists included, you need that 20, 25 page business plan. But even if the VC says, all I want to see is a two page executive summary. Even if all they want to see is a 20 slide PowerPoint, you need to start with your business plan that has all the answers to all of the key questions, and then figure out, OK, what is it about those 20 pages of text, what are the key 20 selling points that are going to convince the investor to write you a check, so I always say…

Andrew: All right, all right, all right.

Dave: …start big, [??] your business plan. You may or may not need it for venture capitalists, but you’re always going to need that information.

Andrew: All right. I don’t want this interview to be about the plusses and minuses of business plans. I’m going to save that for business school. But I have to ask a little bit about this now, and just because I know it’s going to be on people’s minds, and then I promise we’re going to go back and make this into a biographical interview. And my promise isn’t necessarily to you because I know that you’ve heard all these questions a million times and you’ve got answers for them. My promise is to the audience.

This isn’t a debate, this is me hunting for as much useful and actionable information as possible and I don’t believe that debates are the best way to do that. But let’s stay on this for just a moment here. I was just talking to Eric Ries whose book, The Lean Start-up I spent a lot of time reading, and the philosophy that he has is, put a little test out into the marketplace, get feedback, and then based on that, adjust and then create another test and measure, and you know, and adjust and adjust and adjust.

That kind of model would not give you enough time, essentially, to create a business plan. And it just says build something in the time that you’re supposed to create a business plan and get feedback, and then build and build and build. And that, plus sites like and services like Angel List where the priority isn’t on business plans. I don’t even think Angel List has a place where you can upload a business plan, though I could be wrong and just haven’t seen it, but I know that there’s a place for traction and if you can show this is the traction that I’ve gotten through iterative cycles, that’s what, never mind venture capitalists, but that’s what investors as a whole, really prize, isn’t it?

Dave: I totally agree. I think what we’re going to be talking about here is a semantic issue, which is, what is a business plan? Business plan, really, the key with a business plan is organize your thoughts, to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

With what Eric Ries is saying, I totally agree, which is that OK, I have this idea, this concept for a new business. When I’m talking about putting the business plan together, I’m talking about . . . some of it’s feasibility. Does this make sense?

I think you really always need to know, who is our ideal customer? Who’s your target customer? What’s our unique selling proposition? What are the competing products and services? What is our marketing plan to get there? What type of resources do we need to grow this venture?

I’m not saying you have to spend 200 hours creating the perfect business plan, because it’s going to change. You need to start with something. Part of your business plan is that operational milestone plan, which says, right now we’re here. In a month we need to get here, two months here, and so on and so forth.

That business plan is a living, breathing document, so you have something, this outline of where you want to be. Then [??], go out there, you got to test it. You’ve got to get this into the marketplace and see what feedback customers give you, because it’s going to be different. There’s no way you’re going to get it right in the business plan.

Business plan’s a great document for getting your thoughts on a paper, getting your action plan and your to do lists down, and getting your [gan] chart with your milestones so that you can follow a plan and you’re not shooting in the dark.

Then when you need to raise capital, then you spend more time normalizing that so that you can present it in the best possible form.

Andrew: I think for this medium, I’ve done as much as I think is necessary, maybe even a little bit more than is necessary, for covering this topic.

Now, let’s move on past it and find out how you built up this business where you’re able to interact with so many entrepreneurs and build up a profitable business on this. Going back, you launched this company in 1999, do I have this right?

Dave: That’s correct.

Andrew: What was the original vision for Growthink? And actually, what was the original name, too?

Dave: The original name, the original vision, is a little bit different than it is today. Like a lot of companies, the original Growthink company wasn’t fully thought out. It was more accidental. What it was was that I was running a different business that was pre-revenue business.

My wife was working at the time, and she was generating the revenues for us, and she came home from the doctor and said she was pregnant. We had to make some decisions. What I did was, I had just graduated from business school at UCLA in summer 1999.

I said, well, I have this great skillset of writing business plans. I’d taken business plan classes; I’d won this business plan competition. I said, I can do this for others while I continue to run my venture in order to bring in revenue so my wife can focus on having the baby.

What happened was, I was graduating business school, a lot of my colleagues, my classmates, were also starting companies. They also worked pre-revenue, and they were trying to bootstrap and get their companies along. What I did was, I assembled a group of recently graduated media students, and I pitched a few media sources on what we were doing.

I called it “Best Biz,” that was the initial name., had a very cheesy logo; I think the ‘i’ in biz was like a dollar sign. Wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world. I pitched a few media sources, including the LA Times, and the LA Times picked up the story.

They ran a story in their small business section on Dave in Best Biz Plan is writing business plans for emerging entrepreneurs. This was in the Internet hey-day, and right when that story came out, 100 emails, 100 phone calls, and the business was born that way.

I actually ran that business by myself initially for about three months, where I was working literally 18 hour days, seven days a week, writing business plans, writing business plans, writing business plans. I did have some help from my colleagues, but it was mostly me doing the work.

Then I sat back . . .

Andrew: Let me pause the story. I want to dig into everything you’ve said so far; I can’t let this story get away too far from me.

You start out, I see the opportunity, and especially in 1999 where it feels like everyone with a business plan gets funding and ends up building this multi-million dollar company and goes public on NASDAQ within a year. I can see the time period and I see the opportunity.

The first people you pitched, though, were classmates? Before the newspaper article came out about you, were you selling to classmates first?

Dave: No, I was not. I was pitching classmates to join me in the venture . . .

Andrew: Oh, I see.

Dave: . . . to do the work. I wanted to, even though I knew for the most part I was going to do most of the work, it was more exciting to pitch to the media that hey, not just one guy’s doing it but a group of graduating MBA students were doing it.

Andrew: I see. If you were to just talk to the media and say, ‘Hey, I’m basically one guy in a bedroom at home with a wife who’s pregnant, trying to make this business go wouldn’t sound like the dependable place that an entrepreneur would want to take his idea. By saying we’ve got this team, you’re able to get the publicity that you need. Did you have any clients before the article came out or was that the seminal moment for you?

Dave: No, that was it. It was an idea that I conceived, and that was it. If I never got the media, I probably wouldn’t be here today talking about it.

Andrew: I have a feeling you’d be here with a whole other business, if not this one, but you’d definitely be here from what I’ve heard about you. But let me dig into that then. How does a guy who is fresh out of school who doesn’t have any clients, who doesn’t have an office, who doesn’t have a reputation and logos on his website, and a dollar sign for the ‘I’ in his logo, seriously how do you get such important press mention?

Dave: I think it was that once you get the press, the potential clients have that credibility. Really it was just like everything else. It was very interesting. Pitching to the media is just like pitching to investors. What they’re looking for, and what the hook is.

What they’re looking for is they have a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners reading their news, and this was pitched as a low cost, fast, efficient way to solve a real need, which is business planning. Also, I had a unique angle which was that not only did we have the expertise because we had just graduated business school and took business planning courses, but we were all real world entrepreneurs.

We weren’t consultants in suits, we were real world entrepreneurs that could also be [??] consultants. We were living the life. It was a unique angle to solving a real problem.

Andrew: I see. How did you meet the reporter? Was this someone who you met at a networking event or just a cold email?

Dave: It was a cold email and a follow-up phone call.

Andrew: Do you remember the reporter’s name by chance? I don’t want to put you on the spot.

Dave: No, I don’t. What was very interesting was that at the time after the reporter did the interview I was going to send a nice thank you gift, and I was told that you’re not supposed to do that. Actually, now I’ve learned that you are supposed to do that it’s just how you do it. You can’t make it seem like it’s a cash payoff. You should send them a nice note or possibly even flowers or something cool. I didn’t know at the time. I just cold called and sent emails and was successful in doing that.

Andrew: All right. So now you’re suddenly getting flooded with business plans. Professional writers will say that writing is hard. Even cyclist Lance Armstrong will say that cycling is so easy that sometimes it feels like there’s no chain on his bike, he’s just flying almost. But writers, even professionals, will say writing is hard.

Here you had to write other people’s ideas down and you had to help them sort it through. How do you do that? How do you make that work? I see my video froze, but frankly I can’t imagine that people are looking to watch me here so we’ll let this conversation go with me in my frozen pose there and I’ll come back and fix it in a moment, but how do you do it?

Dave: The good news is that your frozen pose is OK. It’s not like you’re squinting or anything. How do you do it for other people? Actually it’s a lot easier to have somebody do it for you than to do it yourself, and here’s why. The biggest mistake of some business plans is that a business plan is a marketing document. I talked about earlier how it’s good to organize your ideas.

When you present your business plan to somebody else, it’s a marketing document just like we talked about with PR. You need a hook. You need a pitch. You need to figure out what is going to get the reader excited about your venture. From an outside perspective it’s very easy to play investor, particularly if you’ve been on that side of the table and looking at ventures, you can say, OK, here are the ten things that investors are going to ask.

Then in the business plan you should preempt that. You should basically answer the key burning questions that they have to get them excited because the purpose of the business plan is to get the meaning. Or, if you’ve already gotten the meaning, for them to look at it and dot their i’s and cross their t’s to make sure that your business plan is a good reflection of you and your company.

It’s relatively straight forward to do that type of work if you’ve sat in the investor’s shoes. Initially I had not done any Angel investing, but I had spent a lot of time with Angel investors and venture capitalists from the entrepreneurial side in terms of business planning competitions and spending time with them in business school to understand how they look at the world and sitting in on a lot of those meetings.

Once again, the process is figuring out how do you best market this company to investors through the business plans. What are the key points? How do you want to want to position the company in order to do that, and how do you then document that? You mentioned that writing is hard. It is challenging. How do you stream on that? How do you say in one paragraph what the normal entrepreneur is going to take a page to two pages to do? How do you boil it down to the key [??]?

Andrew: It takes skill and it takes some kind of system because if every time you sat down you had to figure out how to write the document from the beginning…Sorry, without a system I feel like it’s going to be tough and I’m looking for a way to express that. Maybe the best way to express it is to say to my audience, when I start my interviews here I don’t keep thinking of a new way to explain who the guest is because I don’t have time everyday to plan out how I’m going to introduce you.

What I do is introduce everyone with a question. How do you do, fill in the blank with what this amazing entrepreneur has done. Then I say the entrepreneur’s name is the co-founder of company name, which has done blah, blah blah, and that’s pretty much what I use for an intro. If I had to write it down everyday, I’d have writer’s block for hours and I’d be wasting time. Did you have processes like that that would help you get through all the business plans that you had thrown at you in the beginning?

Dave: We created a template. Just like you mentioned a template that you used, and you probably don’t have it written down, you’ve just done enough interviews that you know the template. We started with a template as well to make sure that we were able to convey the right message.

The most important question that we have on the first page of our business plan template is, ‘ we are uniquely qualified to succeed because…’ and then we have examples. What is it about your [??], what is it about your opportunity, what is it about your competitive position, what is it about this and that, to make sure that key question is answered in your business plan.

Likewise, we have 3-4 different exercises for your one line company description.

Andrew: Oh, what is an exercise for that? I was going to ask you about that because there are certain challenges that we all have. For me, it’s getting specific examples from guests. I keep trying to find ways to get them to be specific and to give illustrative examples.

You must have had some. You just gave one example of an issue that you had. What were the exercises you had to help an entrepreneur come up with that one sentence?

Dave: OK. One exercise is starting with, do you know how it’s such a pain when, and then you insert the problem. What we do is, blank, insert solution. Like, don’t you know it’s a pain when your car breaks down on the highway, what we do is OnStar. We press a button and will come pick you up.

That’s one great very, very easy formula that may or may not work for your business. Every business is different. One of my favorite ones that I teach is the high concept pitch. You mentioned Angel List before, and this one was given to me when I spoke to [??] years ago, when he told me about what he likes to use as a high concept pitch, which came out of Hollywood.

When Aliens came out, they said we’re Jaws in space. You’re basically leveraging another company with this high concept pitch. One of my favorite ones is Book Swim which says we are ‘Netflix for books.’ In three words you know exactly what they do. You know that they rent books online. Netflix for books. When investors look at that, not only do they understand immediately what they do, they say in their minds, at least subconsciously, ‘well, Netflix is really successful, this might be really successful too.’

The high concept pitch, and we have examples of that, so using those templates and exercises and formulas you can convey your business in a very, very positive light.

Andrew: All right. Gotcha. I can see how this would be useful for an entrepreneur who has to do this essentially one time, or this is their first time. If they have to do it again, that’s something different. Their first time doing it, sitting there with a blank page is rough. Having you there to coach it out of them is very helpful and I see the value there.

Now, you’ve got all these customers coming in to you, they’re paying you, what’s next?

Dave: what’s next in terms of our business growth?

Andrew: Yeah. You were about to tell me earlier what happened next in your story and I interrupted you because I had all these filler questions like how did you get press. I had to find out about all those steps. So yeah, what was next?

Dave: We went through the initial 3-4 month phase where it was just pretty much me doing 99% of the work. Then it slowed down a little bit and I said, well we have a business here, I think I should focus on this full-time and make a business out of it. What I did next was look at infrastructure and systematization.

How do you build out a business from a one man shop and what we had just done was we had just tested the concept, like you talked about earlier. We got the concept out there that we write business plans, and the market responded very favorably and positively. What I did was start to build infrastructure.

The first thing I did was take on a co-founder, a friend of mine named Jay Turo, we went to business school together, a very, very bright guy. He was an entrepreneur, and he had run a lot of his own ventures. I told him about what I was doing and he joined me, and his background fits very, very nicely with my background. I’m much more, you know, marketing, market research, tight background. His background’s much more financial modeling, financial sales and presenting to investors. So, I definitely highly recommend, in terms of like, partnerships, finding a partner or people that compliment your skill sets. He’s much better at negotiating, to turn things that I don’t like to do.

So the first thing I did was bring on a co-founder and then we started building up the team and figuring out, OK, what resources we need, what types of people do we want? We wanted financial modeling people, people that knew how to write, people that knew how to research and we built out our team and then in the process of doing that we re-branded as GrowThink, the word grow and the word think. Originally it was called and then after the internet heyday, we dropped the .com from our final name. So, really it was a process of, you know, systemization and professionalization. How do you build out an organization based on a real need that we identified?

Andrew: And you started to staff-up soon after you launched? I mean it was essentially partner and grow the business with more people?

Dave: Yeah, so what we did was we went from me to four months later being two of us, to about 12 months later being 20 of us. Now this was in early 2000 when life was good and this was pre-internet bubble bursting. So we went through that massive pain when the bubble burst and we had a staff of 20 people and $100,000 plus a month payroll to, you know, the rug being taken from under us, so…

Andrew: From all of us.

Dave: …a nice lesson to learn.

Andrew: I see, so building up to 20 people though, that was no outside funding. It was just revenue coming in from entrepreneurs who needed business plans ASAP so that they could take them out to venture capitalists and like I said earlier, go out on NASDAQ. That was the whole model, you were part of the piece, you were part of that process for them.

Dave: That’s correct.

Andrew: Wow, so that’s impressive to get to be that big. When the rug gets pulled out from under you, I’ve often said in my interviews how when that happened to me in my business, how I felt, I was like sleepwalking through the day, I was constantly hearing in my head the number that I was offered for my business and thinking of the revenue that I had at the height. When that happened to you, go deep with me and tell me what was it like for you? How did you, as a human being, as a personal, not as a business. How did you handle it?

Dave: Well, for me, the good news was that I had, you know, personally I had my wife and we had our son, but we were still, you know, renting a relatively small apartment. I didn’t have, you know, the lifestyle that I have now with the mortgage and the older kids and the ski vacations and all the things I’ve blown the money on today. I had a much smaller, you know, payment that I had to make every month. So, for me, my rich profile was a lot bigger back then. And so, it was a lot, you know, easier for me to handle. Clearly, there’s a whole bunch of stress and things going through your mind, and part of the, the good and the best, with ego is that we entrepreneurs, where we have big egos.

Andrew: Right.

Dave: We think that we can do it all, and that’s good and bad. The bad was that in my mind, I said I’m going to figure this out. I’m smart enough. I can do this, you know, I’m super entrepreneur. I can figure out how to keep all of our staff, and we’re going to get through this and we’re going to grow, et cetera. And we held onto a lot of staff a lot longer than we should have and incurred debt because of that.

Andrew: I see.

Dave: And so that’s something that we shouldn’t have done, but in terms of my mindset was always like, you know, we have a real business, we’re solving a real need. We have this grand vision of the success we’re going to achieve. Were just going to do it. We’re going to [??]

Andrew: I remember Donald Trump, when he went through his bad period he pointed to his girlfriend at the time, one of the women who became one of his many wives, but he pointed to, he said to her: look at that homeless man right here on 5th Avenue. That guy is richer than me because he’s at zero and I’m deep in debt.

Dave: Right.

Andrew: And his ego was clearly affected by it and you get hurt by it and you start to question yourself. Before you rebounded, talk to me about how you personally dealt with that low moment.

Dave: I guess I’m pretty positive. I look at myself as an asset. I’m always looking at assets and when building a business, I’m always looking at, OK, what asset can we build today that we can leverage tomorrow? So, I just looked, I always looked at myself as an asset which is that during the first year or two of growing the business, I built myself into an incredible asset with what I knew, with what I understood, with the systems we’d put in place and I felt very, I always maintained a very positive outlook that…

Andrew: What do you mean by asset? Like I think of myself here and I say I’m an asset only to this business as it is, but if I had to go from here and say, work at GrowThink, that’d be really challenging for me to take my interviewing skills and find a way to wedge them into your business and ditto for so many other companies. As entrepreneurs, you become so specialized that you’re almost built only to be the guy who’s running and only running your company. Take you out of there and you’re just a fish out of water.

You didn’t feel that way. Why? How did you feel, what made you feel like, ‘I’m a real asset apart from this company and apart from this one vision that’s now wobbling’?

Dave: I think it’s part of stubborn entrepreneurship and understanding that my belief that I’m going to be successful. I think that, you know, take you out of Mixergy. You have this entrepreneurial skill set and experience that, we could put you in a Peaches shop and you’ll figure out how to make it successful.

That’s the mindset that I have. Which is that, not only am I building assets to be a business plan consulting firm. But I’m building an asset in me as an entrepreneur. Everything I learn in the first year or two of Growthink, on how to deal with that, how to deal with this. This made me feel that if it doesn’t work out for some reason, I’ll launch something else.

I was getting pressure from my wife and other family members at that time, when the business was crumbling around me. “Hey, why don’t you take a job?” That’s what everyone was saying. “Why don’t you get a job, you’ll make more money, you’ll be more successful.” And I would’ve made money during that period. But I wouldn’t be following my passion. I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, a part of it is, we all stumble. We all stumble as entrepreneurs. We always look at these other entrepreneurs and how successful they are. It seems like they were always successful. It’s never like that. There’s always these times, these grey moments.

One of my favorite stories of an entrepreneur was the guy that actually took Snapple. This guy by the name of Bob Brew took Snapple to Southern California. He was running a 7-Eleven in New York and he met the founders.

Why I love this story is that he basically went in Orange County, California from [Peaches] shop to [Peaches] shop, trying to sell Snapple. It was a series of highs and lows. One day he would make a big sale and was, like, “Oh, we’re going to big rich.” The next day, he would go over twenty. “Oh, we’re going down. We’re going bankrupt.”

It’s just a series of highs and lows. As an entrepreneur, we have to balance that out. We can’t always be up here in these clouds. We can’t always be on the bottom. We’ve got to balance it out and take the good with the bad.

I think I’ve learned to temper myself over the years. The more you do it, the more you realize, “Hey, this is just a bump in the road.” So, it was a big bump in the road, but I realized then that it was just a bump in the road.

Andrew: You know, the more I do these interviews, the more I recognize the value of understanding how entrepreneurs get through that, how they deal with it. “Hey, life is great. We’re on top of the world,” one day and then the next day, “Oh, my god, I’m now nothing. Things are going to pot.”

If I would have done this fresh out of school and I heard someone say this is an issue that should be brought up in interviews, I would have said, “No way, whoever has this issue, needs a good swift kick in the butt and maybe shouldn’t even be an entrepreneur.” Because it’s something we’re supposed to all handle.

I think that’s because we talk about just the positive. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t say it and talk with my people here and say, “Guys, I thought yesterday we were going to go bankrupt.” Or, “I’m about to send you in this one direction, but, and I’m going to be really cheerful about it.” I’m going to say, “This is the way we’re supposed to go. But really, it could all bomb tomorrow.” You know. It’s really hard to express it. And because we don’t express it, we don’t recognize that there are others who feel that way.

All right. I’m doing too much of the talking here. Let me go back to your story and let you have more control of this mike. You go through this low. And you bounce back. Talk to me about that bounce back period. What go you back, up on the right track?

Dave: The bounce back period actually took several years. What happened was that we scaled down dramatically. I mentioned that I had taken on a partner running the business.

We started to make some progress, upward momentum, but it was slow. 2001, 2002, it was just very, very slow times in our business.

So I actually used that opportunity to start a couple of businesses on the side on my own. It actually worked out well. Around that time, I actually moved back to New York. I was in Los Angeles, my [??] of time.

I moved back to New York to start my family here. My kids were getting a little bit older. I launched a couple of ventures on the side. A couple of which took off. So I was actually more of a board member [??] and for a two or three year period. I was not actively involved on a day-to-day basis, let my partner run it a little bit.

Then I came back a few years later, fully refreshed. Then we started taking the company and we’ve grown tremendously since then. So I sort of took a sabbatical.

Andrew: When you take a step back, what’s the incentive for your business partner to continue building this company without you there day-to-day? Why not just go and create his own thing? Or buy you out? Or somehow feel resentful?

Dave: It’s a great question. I’ve read a lot about how do you choose a co-founder. I just got lucky. You can call me a genius for finding the guy I did, but it was just lucky. The partner that I found, a guy by the name of Jay Turo, is just a great human being. There’s only so many of those people that you come across in your lifetime. I knew he was a great guy, I spent two years in school with him. I just knew about him that he was a solid individual, and because of that we were able to talk about, OK what’s going to happen when you run the business without me?

One of the things we did was that originally I was the president and he was the chief operating officer. During that period he became the CEO. He’s still the CEO because I gave him more equity in the company, more power in the company because of that. I still participated. I was still involved in coaching him and working with him, and growing the company, but he grew the company, but he was compensated for that and he was getting revenue from the company when I was not.

Andrew: I see. OK. And you guys from what I remember from living in Southern California, you guys are in Southern California in Los Angeles?

Dave: Correct.

Andrew: OK. But you are in New York?

Dave: I am now in New York, correct. I’ve been here for the last eight years.

Andrew: All right. He’s running the business, things get back on track, there was a period there where you were doing other things that I was hoping I could get into in this interview but I’m pressed for time. There’s so much that I want to cover in the [??] story, so maybe we’ll come back and do a second interview about what happened in this in-between period because I know that there’s some interesting experiences there.

Let’s continue then with the narrative of this business of Grow Think. What’s the next step? You’re back now, what do you do?

Dave: When I was on my sabbatical I learned a lot about internet marketing and creating products. What we learned in our business was that for every, I’m just going to throw general numbers, let’s say 1,000 entrepreneurs that come to our website looking for a business plan, maybe there’s 1% or 10% or so that are qualified for business plan consulting services.

Let’s say that our business plan consulting services start at $5,000, then most entrepreneurs say, well I need a business plan but I don’t have $5,000. I need to either get free information, or do it myself, or some other option. Recognizing that and understanding my internet marketing skills and the need for products, I created a products division of Grow Think.

The first key product I created, in addition to Grow Think University, was our Grow Think’s ultimate business plan template. I created a template, a $97 product, to satisfy the demand for the entrepreneur’s that we were already paying to come to our site anyway, so we basically created that product and we launched the product’s division.

That allowed me a new entrepreneur in Grow Think and reinvent the company, and run what is really a separate division from our consulting division.

Andrew: There’s so many sentences that you’ve uttered here in this interview that made me want to say, ‘I want to do a whole interview just on that.’ I’ll scale back the questions that I have, but I do want to dig into this. First, just so I understand this, did you build Grow Think University at the same time that you created the template.

Dave: Yeah. Initially I created them exactly at the same time.

Andrew: The template is one product that people pay for one time, they’re going to get this template, create their business plan on their own, and of course if they want to come back and get the $5,000 plus product or service, and I’m also going to create this membership site online where people create recurring revenue, recurring fee and they get access on a continuous basis.

Before I dig into those and ask questions, there’s something that you said that I’ve got to ask you about. You said, ‘we were already paying to get these customers to the site.’ I’ve got to find out how did you get all these customers that helped revive the business and gave you an opportunity to sell auxiliary products, so how did you get those customers?

Dave: What we did is, in my learning in online marketing I learned a lot about [??]. I learned a lot about paper click advertising. I learned a bit about social media marketing. Really the online marketing avenues just started getting involved online and doing online marketing.

I’ve written hundreds of articles that have been syndicated throughout the web, so basically thousands upon thousands of links to our website. Really, anywhere I could get the name out, I went online and I did it. We generated a lot of buzz online, a lot of paper click advertising and SCO.

Andrew: Let me understand your marketing, the SCO and paper click, by understanding how you do it today. I think I see you guys on Facebook, right? You were one of the first advertisers on Facebook, and definitely one of the smartest advertisers. What do you do today? What is most effective? SCO or pay-per-click like Facebook and Google ads?

Dave: It’s hard to say what’s more effective because what you want to do is you want to do everything. You don’t want to do everything at once, but you need to use multiple channels. You can’t just put all your eggs in one basket because things will fluctuate. We’re very good at pay-per-click and being very good at pay-per-click is about choosing the right keywords, managing the right bids and methodically testing everything.

It’s just the numbers game. It’s basically trying to say, ‘I’m going to pay a dollar for traffic and for every dollar I pay I need to make a $1.10 or $1.20′ or whatever it is and then methodically, I mean every day, running numbers and make sure it works. SEO is a longer term play, which is that you can do work for months and may not see any benefit, but if you do it’s really building an asset.

Andrew: How much money do you guys pay on a monthly basis for pay-per-click ads?

Dave: We spend $100,000 a month.

Andrew: $100,000 a month.

Dave: We’re a pretty big advertiser.

Andrew: You do it on your own personal card? Or have you over the years? You must have a ton of miles.

Dave: Yeah. Well we did and over the years I was doing all the fancy vacations with my family. Then we did a direct billing with Google. So you get better terms, in terms of spreading out your payments, but you don’t get your miles. So it’s a trade off.

Andrew: What’s the most number of miles you had one time?

Dave: I had over 1,000,000 at one time and I was doing the Ritz Carlton, used to accept like 60,000 miles a night. So I was going on the greatest vacation, staying at the Ritz, with my wife and kids. They thought I was the greatest. [laughter] Ran out a couple years ago.

Andrew: In some ways, even though it’s a better deal to work with Google directly and have them take the money out, it’s a funner deal before. I had a million with my brother and we split it up, over a million. We split it up and the last trip that I took was I think to Argentina, first class, when you’re going 17 miles and moving to Argentina with a dog and cat and going first class and be treated so royally for that long made the whole spend worthwhile. Take all the money just to give you that one fun experience.

I’m going to come back to marketing in a minute, because I want to learn how you did it right. But the products. When you say you created a template. This was, if I remember right, this was basically, was it Word document template? Or did I just assume that? It was.

Dave: There’s two pieces. There’s a Word document portion that leads you through a series of questions to complete your business plan. There’s also an Excel portion of it that leads you through a series of questions. How much are you going to charge for a product, how many products are you going to sell, or services, what your growth rate is, what your rent is, etc. That you fill in the numbers in your Excel spreadsheet and it creates your five year financial model and then the two documents are correlated. They’re integrated so that once you hit GO, you’re financials go into your Word documents with your charts and everything.

Andrew: And this is macros essentially?

Dave: Essentially, yes.

Andrew: I see. So what you guys created, was very sophisticated because their are macros and you’re coding things up. So that when you put in a number here it pops into a spreadsheet. But you’re selling two templates for Excel and Word. That’s frickin’ genius, isn’t it?

Dave: Well that’s what we’re doing.

Andrew: You can be humble and maybe you can’t be this excited as I am externally, because you have to let people know this is worth $97. It’s not just an Excel spreadsheet, it’s not just a Word document, but for me and my audience, that’s pretty impressive to even think of that. Where did that come from? I mean where did the idea come from where you say, ‘I understand the market needs a simpler way of creating business plans’, but many of us in order to justify the price, in order to justify the creation, would build a whole website that did this. Would build way over-kill software that did it and you said, “I’m keeping it simple. Word and Excel, everyone has this. I’m going to trust that they’re going to be able to use this.” Talk to me about how you came up with that.

Dave: We looked at software and no matter how you splice it, software is going to be a lot harder to create. And it’s also harder to use. I mean when you open up our business plan template in Word, you already know Word. If you don’t know Word, you’re not going to survive as an entrepreneur, so it’s just answering questions that are right there with sample answers. You can just type over it and you’re done. You don’t have to go through any sort of wissy-wig templates in software and answer all these useless questions.

The key is in the Word template, is understanding what are the key things investors care about. So we’ve identified those and put those in an easy to use form. I didn’t want to make it more complicated than it was. What we have done is we have a general business plan template. We also created specialized ones for certain sectors. So we have one for restaurants, one for software companies and etc.

The goal was to not have a complicated piece of software that’s going to take you eight hours to really understand the features. I want you to really understand your business plan in eight hours. So that’s the key. We were talking about earlier. Let’s finish your business plan, let’s get done with it. That’s what we tried to do. Make it as simple as possible. Open up a Word document you know how to use, answer the questions, move on. So we’ve had a lot of entrepreneurs finish your business plan in eight hours, send it off and get funding. That’s what we’re after here. We’re not after 200 hours. We’re after eight hours just to learn how to use the software.

Andrew: How’d you come up with $97? Why not $9.95? Why not $200? Where did 97 come from?

Dave: And this is a lot of our success in internet marketing. Everything’s tested. So, I know nothing. The market knows everything. So we’ve tested 37, 47, 49, 39, 99, 89, 79, 149, 199, 197. Those are ones, there’s eight or so that I know off the top of my head that we’ve tested and just run the numbers. And that’s the number that worked out the best for us in terms of up-maximizing profits.

Andrew: All right, you’ve also created a membership product, GrowThink University, as I mentioned earlier. What was in the first version of this membership site?

Dave: The first version, actually, I’m going to answer one question that you alluded to earlier which is selling membership. Relatively few people go to GrowThink University and join. We get a fair amount because it’s a dollar trial membership, but a lot of people that join buy one of our other products like our business plan template and then trial GrowThink University. So in terms of getting people to a membership, it’s a very good strategy to use a product that solves a specific short term need and use that to link them into membership.

Andrew: I see. So it’s not that they come in here and say, I need a new university to help me become a better entrepreneur. No, they say I need this one product which is a business plan creator, and then that feeds in. Does the product go beyond that? I know, I actually saw the whole video that you created, you’re the face of the business. I saw you created a whole video where you walked people through what’s in GrowThink University, all these different things. To be honest with you, I can’t list two of them because there’s so many. I couldn’t even write them down. I just said, when I talk to Dave, I’m just going to say there are a lot, instead of mentioning a few. But, do those individual items that are part of the membership program, are they the kinds of products that you’re referring to as hooks for getting people in to sign up?

Dave: Correct. So we have hooks, or what we call front-end products. So a front-end product would be our GrowThink Business Plan Template. A front-end product would be our Venture Capital Pitch Formula which is a product just to raise venture capital. We have a product called Angel Investor Funding Formula just to raise Angel funding. So each of our front-end products that solve specific needs, like my need to raise Angel funding, then when people buy that, we say would you also like to get GrowThink University, and within GrowThink University, you’re going to get, you know, interviews with Angel investors and venture capitalists. You’re going to get real time support to our Ask the Experts feature, et cetera. So we have features that our front-end products solve a specific need, GrowThink University is to solve the bigger need, which is your developing a business plan so you could raise capital and grow a successful business. GrowThink University is that back-end, we’re going to guide from where you are here to where you need to go.

Andrew: Gotcha. I got it; I see what you’re saying. All right. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Like I said earlier, I’m not here to be a debater, I’m not here to battle back and forth and give people the drama of that. I’m much more into, let’s see if we can give them actionable information based on your personal experience. So I went through the process of creating an account. You do a lot of things that Ann Holland [SP], the woman who teaches people how to, you know her, the woman who teaches people conversions and membership sites, you do a lot that she says not enough people do. Like, for example, when I click the sign-up page, the first thing you showed me was, I’ll say it. I’m hogging the mic too much here, Dave. I apologize. But, you ask for an email address. Why an email address first and not hey, hey.

Dave: And not, I’m sorry…

Andrew: Why do you ask for the email address first?

Dave: Right.

Andrew: Instead of saying, you want this product, here’s the price. You say, you want this product? Give me your name and email, and get started. And then when they hit the get started, they say great, now the next step in the process is your credit card information and it’ll only be and we’ll talk about that.

Dave: Yeah, it’s interesting. If you follow that some top internet marketers, they do things a lot differently than a large, you know, e-commerce site would do. The reason why we do that, it’s called hot-listing. So, everyone knows there’s going to be a huge shopping cart abandonment. So, if on my page I say, you know, after the cart you click that and the first thing I do is say, step one, give me your email address, most people, or x% of people will do that and then get to the next page. I know that y% of the people are going to abandon the shopping cart, but now, for a certain percentage of them, I have their email address. So now I could start emailing to them and say, I realized you didn’t buy my product. Now, why didn’t they buy the product? Well, they don’t know me. They don’t trust me. They don’t have, you know, it’s really trust at the end of the day because it’s the internet, you know? It’s that they’ve never seen me, they don’t know who I am. I could be, you know, some guy in some random country somewhere doing whatever. You use the emails then to say, “Hey, I appreciate you come to our website. Sorry it wasn’t right for you now, but let me start giving you some information. Here’s an article I wrote, here’s an interview I did. Here are some testimonials from some satisfied customers.” And I do that over time, educate them why they should buy from me.

I can’t think of any other business that shouldn’t be doing this. I’m actually a member of your membership site because I’ve watched a lot of your interviews and I said, ‘Well this is great stuff.’ I didn’t just come to your site and say, ‘Hey I’ll give this a shot.’ I don’t know this Andrew guy, maybe there’s good and maybe there’s bad. You’ve worked on developing credibility, trust, quality content, and then I bought.

It’s the same thing which is that most people come to anyone’s website for the first time and you haven’t established that trust. That’s why you really, always want to capture that email address and use email marketing to develop that rapport, that trust, that bond.

Andrew: OK. Can I tell you something? First of all thanks for being a premium member. When I started doing interviews, if I’d ask a question and somebody said, “Great question.” I’d be like, “Yeah I’m doing a good job, great.”

And now you said it earlier and I still felt the same, like, “All right Dave thinks I’m asking good questions.” To a lesser degree, now I feel where it is you said, “I signed up for your program and I liked it.” I go, “Dave likes it. Like this is great, he didn’t just sign up just to check it out. He liked it.”

I don’t really know how that helps the audience any more than a debate does, but I have to acknowledge what I was feeling there. Thank you, thank you for saying that.

All right the next part is, you don’t say, “Sign up for the full price, you say $1.” Talk to me a little about that and what experiment did you run to get it.

By the way, before you do, why don’t you see me as a competitor? Why don’t you say, “Hey Andrew, I’m not here to teach you how to improve Mixergy premium. Shove off. You want to know what’s great about my business. I’ll tell you, but if you want to know specifically about how to learn to do a membership site, go learn it and suffer the way that I did and if you want your audience to do it I don’t need all of them coming at me. Let them go suffer. I’ll tell you about all the great stuff behind the membership, not how I do it.” Why don’t you feel that way?

Dave: There are a couple reasons I don’t feel that way. The key is that we have a mission. I’m sure at your companies you have a mission. Our mission is to help entrepreneurs succeed. We want entrepreneurs to succeed. When entrepreneurs succeed, we succeed. It just works out that way. If you can help an entrepreneur succeed, whether they would have paid me but now they’re paying you, I’m happy, because the more successful entrepreneurs there are, the more the whole market grows.

We always hear about these people afraid of their competition. Generally the more competition there is, the whole market grows. We want, probably what you want, is more successful entrepreneurs. It’s good for our country, it’s good for the world and so that’s what I want. That’s the most important thing. I get jazzed and excited when I hear this guy doing that and this woman doing this, the great things entrepreneurs are doing every day. It’s cool, I love to be a part of it. That’s why I want you to succeed and I want all entrepreneurs to succeed.

Another thing is that, is that we’re not direct competitors. An entrepreneur’s not sitting there going, “Should I join Mixergy or should I join Growth, Inc. University because I only have so much . . .

Andrew: What if somebody in my audience is a direct competitor with Dave and saying, “Ah Dave is doing an interview. I’m so obsessed with him because this guy gets marketing so right. I’m going to go listen to the whole interview five times and read the transcript every night before I go to sleep and I’m going to steal the essence of Dave’s business.”

Dave: The key, however, is that not only do you have to know what I’m doing, but you have to reiterate all the time. We’re constantly iterating. I’m very big into numbers and testing. What works right now, today, may not work next month. So we’re constantly testing new things, figuring out what’s going to work now. You know, changing the color of the page from blue to green, you don’t know what it was last month, unless you’ve been tracking me for months and months. So we’re changing a lot of things.

Like, I’m going back to your question of the $1 signup, we tested that for Growth, Inc. University. For other products, we don’t do that, but for Growth, Inc. University we had $1 sign up and we tested it. What is it when we do full price $97? What is it when we do half-price? We just tested that over time.

Now for our business, for Growth, Inc. University, $1 works the most, the best. For you, for Mixergy, for competitors, it may not work. I don’t know if it’s going to work because there’s going to be a lot of different variables. So they still have to test.

Andrew: I see.

Dave: They can learn what I’m doing, but they still can’t just replicate it without thinking through it, without testing. You’ve still got to always test.

Andrew: You know what that’s one of the frustrations I have with entrepreneurship, that there is no one way to do it and if you work really hard to do it just that way. You do great. I don’t know much about ballet, so this could be a terrible analogy. I imagine if you want to be a great ballerina, it’s just about getting the moves perfectly right and you can train all day long to get those moves right, but at least you know what the goal is and you know that it’s not changing, and you have to just keep working until you get that.

Here, Dave can tell me exactly what the moves are, but they will only work for Dave, even if I duplicate them exactly. It’s not going to work for me, and it drives me nuts. It means that I have to take a step back and understand your thinking, and not try and duplicate your actions, and man is that harder and sometimes that makes you feel like you’re feeling your way blindly through the world. But if that’s the way the world works, then I got to operate this way. I’m not a ballerina; I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve got to accept the reality of this.

Alright, I spent a lot of time talking here, let’s wrap it up by saying, what are you proudest of with the business here? I mean you’ve done so much, you’ve suffered through the years to build it here. I’m here to suck up all the juice of what you’ve done and all the [??] possible. But from all of it, what are you proudest of?

Dave: I think I’m most proud of, A. is assets. I’ll always come back to assets. I think entrepreneurs don’t spend enough time thinking about the assets that they’ve built. I’m very proud of the asset that we’ve built in terms of, we have a team of entrepreneurs on our team that know how to work with other entrepreneurs. They know how to make them succeed. I’m very proud of the products that we built and the infrastructure and systems that we’ve created.

I’m probably equal if not more proud of the entrepreneurs we’ve helped. And so, people would say, who have you worked with? I can’t say, well, I worked with the Google guys in the early days, and because of me-, I don’t have it. But I do have companies like Integron[sp] that came to Growthink years ago with four people, and now they have 2000 employees, over 100 million in revenue, etc. Fathead, a lot of people know Fathead, the big wall decals, a lot of sports decals. They came to us early on, [??] the business plan, they sold their company for a gazillion dollars, so that’s really satisfying.

The big one is Integron. To see a company come to us with 4 people and go to 2000 people and you see that, and wonder is it based on what we did? No, I mean, we guide them, we help them. Obviously it was a quality entrepreneur that knew the right questions, knew how to execute, but we were able to guide them and help them, and I love that. I love seeing entrepreneurs come back saying, he we raised, whatever they raised, could be a half million dollar loan, could be 5 million venture capital, and use that to create jobs, be successful. We’ve had a lot of entrepreneurs that fulfilled their dreams, which is growing a company, sell it, and, you know, taking the vacations that you talked about, but paying cash for it.

It’s really exciting to see entrepreneurs achieving the dream. It’s very frustrating not to [??] not to achieve the success that you want to achieve, and we’re able to help entrepreneurs

Andrew: I admire how you don’t take credit for their whole success. I feel like it’s part of our world that you don’t just-, here’s what I mean: I listen to Howard Stern, and I guess at one time, years and years ago, Howard said to Ozzie Osbourne and his wife, “You guys have such a fascinating life, you guys should be on TV.” Well ever since they were on TV with their reality TV show, all I hear Howard say in relation to them is, I’m the one who told them to come up with the reality TV show, they should thank me every day. I’m the guy who did it.

And here, you helped the business by putting together their thinking about their plan, about putting together their vision for their future. You go, I’m not the guy who did it all for them. I was a piece of it.

Let me do a quick plug, I’m going to ask you a question then follow up with a question, then follow up by asking you where people could connect with you because I see there are a couple of different places we could send them.

So the plug that I’m going to say is, you heard Dave talk about the Mixergy Premium program. Every time I mention it people go and sign up and they thank me for actually having the guts to finally stand up and promote my own products. You know, sales is really still a challenge for everybody, for me. You know, I shouldn’t say for everyone, I shouldn’t speak for everyone; I should speak just for myself. I thought I was a great salesperson, but apparently I’ve been too shy to talk about the premium program and these interviews, and people are egging me on to do it, so I will.

So if you go to, if you’re already a member you are going to get, what I’m about to add is, Noah Fleming talking about how to get members of your paid premium content site. Or if you run a SAAS product and you’re charging on a monthly basis, and you want people to stick around in both those cases, Noah Fleming has a tactic-packed course on how to do it. Full of actionable tactics, I’m about to put that on the site. If you’re a Mixergy Premium member, go to and get it. If you’re not, I hope you, like Dave here (thanks for giving this testimonial which feeds perfectly into my plug) If you’re not, I hope like Dave you join us by going to

Before I ask where people can connect with you, Dave, what’s one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs who want to recognize themselves as assets because I feel you got that, and I want to give that to my audience. What’s one piece of advice that we can give them that will help them see themselves the way that you did, especially at their lowest moments?

Dave: Well, this advice is that every day you should be thinking about how are you creating yourself as a greater asset than the day before. And really what I do is every day, week and month I write down my goals. What am I going to accomplish this month, and I’m very, very clear. I calendar out every hour of every day in order to make sure to do that to make sure that I have created assets every month, to make sure that the business is in a better place a month from today than it is right now.

What happens with most entrepreneurs is they set some of these goals, but they don’t stick to them. What happens is that they just run the business every day, they deal with the fires, and they don’t make the progress and they don’t create these assets. What I really want you to think about is: where’s your business today; where would you like to be just a month from today. What’s the one asset that you would like to create, maybe it’s a new product, maybe it’s a new system and then just make sure you create it. Then, make sure you’re always progressing. If you just do one asset per month, that’s 12 per year, and you have something great.

Now, I need to tie that into the assets and help plug yourself with the assets you’ve created on Mixergy as a premium member. Not only do I love your interviews, but as I mentioned before, I spent over $100,000 on advertising. We went through your ad buying course in the premium section, and I got a ton of ads, and I’ve been doing this for years, spent over a million dollars a year. We got a ton of key pointers from your ad buying course so that is something that you should definitely check out. It was great.

Andrew: I’m going to be like walking on cloud nine going home. I’m telling you, this feels great. This is the reason I’m here. Look at the smile you put on my face. This is the reason I’m here on this earth to be able to help people, and I think: do experienced people find value in this? Am I missing the meat of this?

I went from being able to talk so much and suddenly not being able to talk. I appreciate you saying it. People, where can they go connect with you, and…

Dave: And So growthink, G-R-O-W-T-H-I-N-K dotcom, and actually if you go to there’s links to our consulting, our investment banking, all of our products and to So, really our central site is

Andrew: All right. I want to say this. Even if you have no interest in getting a business plan and even if you came down on my side in this little mini debate, I still think you’ve got to check out the site because of the way that you present information, Dave, and the way that you market. I never miss clicking on your ad. I apologize. I’m sure I must have cost you ten, 20 bucks in clicks, maybe even more. I don’t know, but I always click over because you did jump on Facebook ads early. You do jump on other ads and do them well. I’m just curious about what’s Dave doing, how he’s building this up.

And, of course, I’ve had friends who worked for you, including Neal Lujan [sp] in southern California. I guess you hire a bunch of MBAs to come in and create a business plan so I’ve known about your company for a long time, and I appreciate you doing the interview here.

Dave: Thank you.

Andrew: Thank you. Thank you all for watching.

Sponsors I mentioned

Revolution Productions – Do you have a great product, but people aren’t trying it? You might have too much text on your site. Video, more than text, helps people understand what you’ve created and convinces them to buy it. I recommend you go to When you do, talk directly to the founder, Anish Patel, and tell him I sent you. He’ll make sure you have a great video that convinces people to buy your product.

Walker Corporate Law – Scott Edward Walker is the lawyer entrepreneurs turn to when they want to raise money or sell their companies, but if you’re just getting started, his firm will help you launch properly. Watch this video to learn about him.

Shopify – Remember the interview I did about how the founder of DODOCase sold about $1 mil worth of iPad cases in a few months? He used Shopify. It’s dead simple and very effective. To get a longer free trial, use this code: Mixergy


  • Chris Brisson

    Dave… great interview! Great course of raising capital.

  • Andrew Warner

    Thanks for saying that.

  • Jason McKee

    Gold star to Dave for advocating the use of a business plan. I think that startup community is building up a dangerous belief that they’re no longer necessary. Still useful if only to get all the ducks in a row for future success

  • Billy

    Hi – MP3 file appears to be empty

  • Cristian

    Yes, Andrew can you fixed please?.

  • DK

    MP3 file is not downloading.  It is only 231 bytes due to the AccessDenied error.  Please fix the link.  Thanks in advance

  • Whitney

    You should just hang up on entrepreneurs that claim they weren’t emotionally effected by debt or failure or blah blah blah. If he’s willing to lie at minute 29, he could have easily lied throughout the entire interview.

    “I think I’m just a positive guy….”

  • Balaji

    Hey Dave, Thanks for an excellent interview. Wish we had more people with a mission to help entrepreneurs like you do. 

    Andrew, great questions as always. As soon as I heard 97$ for the business plan tool I am sitting here thinking of writing an email to Dave to ask how he came up with that number and you blew me away asking that. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Andrew, this one now belongs to my “exceeded initial expectations” group of your interviews. Once you two got going…..and with your encouragement…..Dave really “brung it”. Thank you to you both!

    One question for you, Andrew…..and this one’s genesis is in how Dave characterized (very complimentary!) his partner at Growthink. You’ve mentioned the myriad benefits you realized by having your brother as a partner in Bradford & Reed (was he Bradford….or Reed? Ha! Just Kidding!). So that’s two data points (n=2 ain’t a great sample size, but still…) offered by the two people involved in this interview that both confirm the benefit of having somebody on your team who you can absolutely and totally depend on and to whom you feel a reciprocal duty to be equally dependable for them.

    I’ve heard several mentions from you of Mixergy’s very trusted internal business advisors (many are also interview alumni)…..and I know I can’t even imagine the total value they have delivered to you as your personal / business advisors. That said, do you have a true “right hand (wo)man” at Mixergy? Not necessarily even a “partner”….but a “Tonto” (you: Lone Ranger) of sorts…..a “Robin” (you:Batman)…….a “Tyler Crowley” (you: Jason Calacanis)? If not….and given how incredibly personable you seem to be….is it fair to say it’s a conscious choice made by you to not bring on, allow in, or seek out such a person? Would you consider discussing the “right hand (wo)man” aspect at some point in one of your interviews and perhaps get feedback from your guests as to whether or not this has been (or something in hindsight they wish would have been) a part of their team as they grew? (Just to be clear….”right hand (wo)man” doesn’t have to mean “CEO”, or “President”, or any other fancy title. Tonto, Robin….and Tyler Crowley were all perfect in the role…….and none were awarded anything like a C-Suite in terms of title or trappings.)

    I hope this comment isn’t too long to be a worthwhile read. Thank you in advance if you made it to the end.