What does it mean to be a lonely entrepreneur?

Joining me is someone who teaches entrepreneurs how to build their businesses. And I have to be honest with you, I was skeptical.

And then I started to read up on his background and I talked to our producer about his background. He had this company that had a mission of helping people stay healthy. And it seems like one of these altruistic missions that actually won’t go anywhere, and it actually did go somewhere.

But that’s not the end of the story. We’ll find out what happened in this interview. Michael Dermer is the founder of LonelyEntrepreneur.com, an extensive online learning platform that provides a framework for entrepreneurs to learn what they need to know.

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Michael Dermer

Michael Dermer

Lonely Entrepreneur

Michael Dermer is the founder of LonelyEntrepreneur.com, an extensive online learning platform that provides a framework for entrepreneurs to learn what they need to know.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is someone who teaches entrepreneurs how to build their businesses. And I have to be honest with you, when I first found out that that’s what he did, I was skeptical. I said, “Well, why do we need a guy on who’s teaching entrepreneur . . . ” I don’t even know that this actually makes sense. Not that it doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t make sense for him to be on here.

And then I started to read up on his background a little bit and I talked to our producer about his background. He had this company that they had a mission of helping people stay healthy. And it seems like one of these altruistic missions that actually won’t go anywhere, and it actually did go somewhere. And he was doing well. And then the whole economy wasn’t doing well. I’m watching you wince, Michael, as I say this. Am I on the right track here or are you wincing because it was painful for you to experience it or because I’m getting some of the facts wrong? Be open with me.

Michael: No, you’re getting it right and the gory details.

Andrew: All right. You were on the right track, things were going well for you, and then the economy was off track and as a result, you guys nearly lost everything. And I thought that’s where things ended, but it turns out, you managed to turn things around one last time, sold the company and now you’re teaching entrepreneurs. Do I have that right?

Michael: Yeah. I’m happy to kind of give people the background. I started as a corporate lawyer in New York, but really wanted to start a business and I was looking for that business to start and I stumbled upon it. Somebody said to me, you know, for every 10 pregnant women that don’t follow their prenatal care, it costs the healthcare system $1 million.

Andrew: Just randomly said that to you.

Michael: Just in a conversation.

Andrew: And I should introduce you, by the way, as Michael Dermer, and the company that we’re going to be talking about is IncentOne. And we also should mention that today the company that you’re using to help entrepreneurs build their companies is called Lonely Entrepreneur and since I’m throwing a bunch of companies at people, this interview, full disclosure, is sponsored by ClickFunnels and HostGator. So, somebody just randomly said that little fact to you and you said what?

Michael: And I said, “Well, wait a minute. If it costs the healthcare system $1 million, why wouldn’t we just ride with these 10 women with $10,000 and the system would save 900 grand?”

Andrew: To do what? Give them $10,000 and get them to start to do what?

Michael: To basically get them to follow their prenatal care.

Andrew: That if they do exactly what they’re supposed to, what their doctor tells them to do, we will pay the money and then we’re going to save money. It feels a little bit like we’re giving away too much, but in reality, we’re saving a lot of money. That’s your idea.

Michael: If those 10 women didn’t do it, it costs the system $1 million.

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: So why not give them 10 grand each? We can do the math pretty quickly. And then I was like, “Wow.” And I started talking to healthcare people. Remember, I was a corporate lawyer. I didn’t know anything about healthcare. I started to talk to healthcare people and I said, “Is this true for every condition?” And they said, “We know exactly what we want to get people to do, people have heart disease, diabetes, backpain . . . We just can’t get them to do it. If we could get them to do it, the system would save tons of money.”

And that was as many entrepreneurs know, the beginning of the end. I left my big corporate law job and went from a pretty prestigious job to working in a basement and bootstrapping it and built up. But for the very . . . The first five years, Andrew, this was a really new concept. And not only was it non-existent, it was offensive. It was offensive to go to the healthcare industry and say, “We’re going to reward people for doing the things they should be doing on their own.”

Andrew: Why did you offend the health industry to say that to them?

Michael: Because they were like, “Listen, why wouldn’t the pregnant women do what they should be doing and why shouldn’t the diabetic go get their tests every year? We’re giving them all the services. Why should we pay them to do it?” And we’re like, “It’s just math.” Right.

Andrew: Right. Right. By the way . . .

Michael: So we essentially started this company called IncentOne.

Andrew: You’re someone who always wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time was looking for an idea. Why did you become a corporate lawyer?

Michael: My dad said to me, “Listen, you’re going to run your own shop one day.” He goes, “If you don’t know what you want to do, go play corporate lawyer. Learn how deals get done and money moves and it’ll give you an incredible background to try to do the types of things that you want to do.”

Andrew: And did you actually learn anything?

Michael: Sure. I mean, I worked . . .

Andrew: What did you learn?

Michael: . . . in a prestigious New York law firm doing M&A. I mean, what you really learn is number one you watch. When big M&A happens, you see CEOs, COOs, CFOs of public companies when you’re 25 and you’re in those boardrooms and you watch them move and operate. And you also see strategy. You see why people do $1 billion deals.

Andrew: Like what? Be more specific. One of the things that I learned by having friends who are at the M&A departments of some of these bigger companies was that they were kind of cheating too. I always thought they play straight, they’re nice guys. It turns out this suspicion of some entrepreneurs have which is the M&A department goes and finds out a bunch of information about a company that’s supposed to be an acquisition target, and then when they don’t close the deal, they take the information about that startup and they go and say, “Here’s how you compete with them.” That’s one of the things that I learned.

Michael: Yeah. This was more big company buying . . .

Andrew: So, give me some of the big company stuff. What are some of the big company things that you learned like that?

Michael: Yeah. So, I happened to work on a couple of the telecom mergers, when MCI and some of the people MSF, so much and people in that industry UUNET got scooped up. Some of big the telecom stuff I worked on stuff for Loral, big companies . . .

Andrew: Yeah. So be specific. What are some of the things that you learned that they saw that we can take away from that?

Michael: Well, you learned a lot about negotiation and leverage. You see two big companies come to the table, a lot of them have a lot of gravitas and pull and why are you able to negotiate something for you and something not for them.

Andrew: Why?

Michael: And you really . . . You started to understand it all comes down from leverage. Who has leverage over someone else? Which is something that many entrepreneurs don’t have, and so you actually have to create leverage for yourself as an entrepreneur.

Andrew: Like how?

Michael: When you have two big companies, they both have it. So for example, in the healthcare industry, if I wanted to get Aetna to do something, I’m a tiny, little startup. What I learned was big healthcare companies like Aetna do things because the big companies they insure ask them to do things. So if they assure Federal Express and Mass Mutual, when they want something. So I said, “I’m a little startup. I’m going to Aetna, a multi-billion dollar company, how do I get them to do something?”

Andrew: Got it. You have no leverage. You’re just Michael. They’re way too big. So you say, “Well, who does have leverage on them? That’s who I go and talk to. That’s . . . ” Got it. And so what you noticed when you were watching these bigger companies operate is they needed leverage, you said, “I may not have it, but I can get it anyway.” Got it. And when you decided . . .

Michael: Exactly.

Andrew: . . . that you were going to start a company, did you quit the corporate law firm right away?

Michael: No. I took about six months of kind of business planning, researching because when you hear this idea of rewarding people for being healthy, you saw reward programs in every other industry, so you say to yourself like a lot of entrepreneurs say, “Why hasn’t this been done already? Like, this just makes too much sense. What am I missing?” And so I’m a pretty deliberate guy, and so I took about six months and planned and I asked and talked and prepared and went after in six months . . .

Andrew: Who do you even talk to about that to understand what you’re missing and whether you can actually pull this off?

Michael: Well, first of all, I talk to a bunch of healthcare people and said, we’re trying to get people to do a bunch of stuff. And they said, what I said before, “We know exactly what we want to get them to do. We know the economics of it.” So there was clearly a business value there.

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: And then you start to talk to people, you know, for example, at health plans, at pharmaceutical companies, and you ask them, “What are the techniques that they’re using to try to get people to change their behavior?” And nobody was doing rewards. And then we realized that that . . .

Andrew: When you say we, do you mean you doing this?

Michael: Well, in the beginning, it was just me.

Andrew: It was just you. And you would what? Go look up on LinkedIn and see who’s working at these companies?

Michael: Yeah. You would find people, talk to people, you may have . . . Fortunately, I had a bunch of relationships that I can use that I can talk to people and people . . .

Andrew: Like what? What kind of friendships? Because I don’t picture you, a corporate lawyer sitting down at your phone and saying, especially now. When were we talking about this? We’re looking at . . . oh, 1998.

Michael: 2000.

Andrew: 2000. So LinkedIn didn’t exist at the time.

Michael: Not really.

Andrew: I don’t picture you going and just like blindly searching to see who can I call up and how do I find people. It was you working on your network saying, “Does anybody know somebody who works at one of these companies?” Is that right?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: That is it.

Michael: I mean, listen, I went to Bucknell, I went to Northwestern law school, I worked at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, very prestigious law firms. And you have contacts and relationships of people that are doing big things that you can tap into.

Andrew: Got it. And so you’re checking in with them and saying . . . and just starting to get feedback from them. What’s the most legitimate piece of feedback that you heard that made you say, “You know what? Maybe this actually doesn’t make sense”?

Michael: That there were huge companies in the industry, not in healthcare. So for example, everybody has credit card loyalty programs, airline loyalty programs, bank loyalty programs. The companies that run those programs are multi-multi-billion dollar companies. So you go to yourself and, “Well, wait a minute. Why wouldn’t they just kind of snap their fingers after I’m going to build something from scratch and turn to this?” So that was the biggest thing, you’re like, “Why are we going to win this when there’s already reward programs out there?”

Andrew: But why would those reward programs get into this, into rewarding people for being healthy? What’s their connection to the health industry where they would get paid for doing this?

Michael: There’s one out of every $6 in the country is being spent on healthcare, right? So if you had an opportunity to get into a market where you could say . . . Think about the value about my one example. You have a pregnant woman, it costs you 1 million bucks, right? There’s $900,000 of value to be had there. So this would be an enormous market much bigger than credit card or airline or bank loyalty programs. You would be creating incredible cost savings for these healthcare company. So if anybody really opened their eyes, they would be like, “Whoa, this is a bigger market than even those markets.”

Andrew: Got it. Okay. Just because the opportunity is there, they’ve got some of the structure in place. But working with insurance companies is a completely different beast, isn’t it?

Michael: It is, but remember, these companies that were running the big bank and airline and hotel loyalty companies had relationships with expertise about working with Citibank and Bank of America. I mean, they already had a sophisticated structure, so for them to go to Aetna while it would be different, right? They were sophisticated big companies.

Andrew: Got it. Got it. All right. And so you spent a few months, you did your research and you said, “I think I’m onto something here.” What’s the first step you took?

Michael: Well, the first thing I did was I started to look at who might be a good partner? Is this something where you go to American Express or you go to Visa or you go to MasterCard and do it? And what I found was they had dipped their toes in the healthcare space and scared them. And they had gone in and gone out and gone in and out. And so, you know, you start to do what a lot of entrepreneurs do, right? You start to prioritize and plan. So, we said, “Hey, we had to build technology.” Right? So we started to go out and kind of vet technology partners to do it. We were committed to doing it offshore. So we got . . . We knew we needed a lot of resources and didn’t have a lot of capital.

Andrew: Technology to do what?

Michael: If you think about your loyalty program, like when you go and find an airline, there’s a whole system, right? You fly in a plane and data moves and you get 100 points for miles in your account. There’s that whole technology to do that. Ours was another level because that had to be wired up to when you get a biometric screening or use a Fitbit or you go to your local doctor, so whole technology component.

Andrew: To make sure that people were actually living up to what they said they were going to do.

Michael: Yep. Yep.

Andrew: What about this? How do you know who to bribe? I’m thinking about my house. If you gave me and my wife an assignment to do something for our health, she would do it, I wouldn’t do it. You couldn’t tell just by looking at us. We’re in the same house, same socio-economic, this and that. How do you figure out she’s the one that does not need to be bribed, you waste your money on her. I’m the one that does?

Michael: That’s part of the value, right? So, if you can bring those analytics to the table and you can help people like the healthcare companies the world know, I need to give this much to a woman or this much to a man or this much for this particular behavior and this much for that behavior. That is part of the value we were providing. Just giving them the [inaudible 00:11:48].

Andrew: You were going to figure that out, understand it and as a result, that’s . . . I got it. All right.

Michael: And it fed itself, right? It fed itself because every time we ran programs, we were getting the date on what was working, what was not working.

Andrew: Okay. By the way, is this weird? My son’s school is just calling. Hang on. I’m going to do it with us on the call here.

Michael: Of course.

Andrew: Hello? No, I’m not going to listen to . . . It’s recording. Even they do robocalls. I thought maybe my kid is in trouble. I’m interrupting everything for my kid.

Michael: I’m surprised it wasn’t a call trying to get you to go to the gym for $25.

Andrew: You know what? I’m the person you don’t need to pay to go to the gym. I would pay you to go to the gym, right?

Michael: That’s right.

Andrew: Okay. So, you said, “I’m going to get the software up and running.” Back then we’re talking the year 2000. First of all, the economy was kind of tanking already, wasn’t it?

Michael: No. It was okay. I mean, it wasn’t great.

Andrew: This is after the big dot-com bust. Nobody cared about technology anymore. Everyone believed that the internet was doomed.

Michael: But remember, while [inaudible 00:12:45] doomed and that was San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the healthcare industry was running away. Right? So that particular industry was growing, huge profitability in that industry, big company, so there was plenty of opportunity to kind of go after it.

Andrew: Okay. And so you had money for technology from where? Your own personal money?

Michael: We put some real money into it.

Andrew: So, again, when you say we, you mean you personally?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: At the time this was still just you. How much of your own money did you put into it?

Michael: About 100 grand.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Is that significant share of your savings?

Michael: It wasn’t, but 100 grand.

Andrew: Yeah. And you were also quitting your job, and so you’re putting 100,000 in from your job.

Michael: Yeah. You’re quitting your job.

Andrew: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah. For anybody that knows corporate lawyers, I mean, I think the first job I ever had was $175,000 a year, right? So it’s more so you’re going to do that for a startup which is now normal, back then abnormal to some . . .

Andrew: And what made you say, “I’ve got to do this”?

Michael: When you talk to the opportunity and you look at the economic value that it would create, there’s just massive, massive savings. If you looked at . . . When we looked at one condition, just pregnant women, you’re talking about multi-billion dollar savings. So that’s the thing that really made me feel like I can do it.

Andrew: By the way, I’ve never asked this in an interview even though I’ve thought about it at a time. How the hell do you look so good? I would have thought you’re way younger not old enough to have had a corporate job by the year 2000 for that long. What is this?

Michael: Just immature for my age. That’s all.

Andrew: You look like you just like walked off a college campus.

Michael: I played two sports in college. I always worked out probably every single day of my life. I can’t remember a day I haven’t worked out and I just take care of myself.

Andrew: What’s your workout?

Michael: Believe it or not, I’m a sweat on the Stairmaster guy and a little bit of yoga. When I played baseball in college, they put us on the Stairmaster for an hour at the highest level and say, “Go.”

Andrew: And so every day you’re doing the Stairmaster.

Michael: Every day for an hour and if they’re like if you make it to 57 minutes and you puke, get back on there, do it again.

Andrew: Wow. The Stairmaster is one of the most intense . . . I never think to use that. That’s intense. You know why? It’s scary because if I’m not paying attention because I’m exhausted after being on it for half an hour, I could fall and just cracked my head on that thing.

Michael: Yeah. You’re on. Like, when you fall . . . Like you’re on an interview right now, you’re on.

Andrew: Yeah.

Michael: And then I do a ton of yoga too. I happen to be really flexible. And so those two things together, but I mostly just sweating.

Andrew: So how long are you on the Stairmaster now?

Michael: Forty-five minutes.

Andrew: Good Lord. Imagine like the Peloton of Stairmaster. We totally forgot about the power of Stairmaster.

Michael: It’s definitely you against the Stairmaster when you get on there.

Andrew: I should do that next time I’m at the gym. All right. So you’re up and running, you’ve got your software, it’s time for you to go get leverage so you can get your first client. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor, and then we’re going to continue on with this. How’s the interview going for you so far? Enough curveballs.

Michael: Real good.

Andrew: You’re okay with it, right?

Michael: The more curveballs, the better.

Andrew: Why? Why are you comfortable with curveballs?

Michael: Now, listen, that’s what it’s like being an entrepreneur, right? We can’t talk the talk unless we’re willing to deal with the chaos and that’s the way it is.

Andrew: All right. I’m going to . . . Since you like curveballs, I’m going to tell you something. I feel like your website does not do justice to your past. I feel like what you’ve got on your website . . . Is this too wrong for me to do it? Tell me if this is insulting because I don’t want to be a dick.

Michael: No.

Andrew: All right. I feel that your website has got a lot going for it, a lot of interesting content, but it just doesn’t look great and it’s not leading me to even sign up. Like, I wanted to find out a little bit more about you. It was a little hard for me to find. I wanted to see a website that looked right on my screen and there’s a bunch of little things. I feel like you could have gotten me in your world a lot better if you had a ClickFunnels account.

Here’s what I like about ClickFunnels. They have these templates that are so easy to put together that are so easy. You just pick a design that you like, you pick a goal and your goal might be get somebody to sign up for your email. So in fact, I’m going to go in right now that I see where I sign up. They would have actually told . . . They would have picked a layout that would have made it clearer for me about where I need to put my email address.

Then what happens on your site when I type in my email address, I get an alert that says, “Thank you.” Oh, I see it. Now it’s taking me to some . . . Got it. And then it pops me into another page and then it says, “Try it for free.” So I’m going to try it for free. Got it. Where you’re taking me to Teachable. All of this could have been done cleanly in ClickFunnels. And one of the things that I like about ClickFunnels is I wouldn’t have to enter my email address again after I entered it on your page. Once you get me to buy something, you could have started off with a free trial and then up-sold me from there.

Not doing good. Speaking of bad, this is one of the crappiest ads I’ve ever done because I’m feeling intimidated on the fly judging your site and then I’m also realizing as I’m going through it, he’s actually a little further ahead than I realized. I think it’s the design that threw me off. All right. Here’s what I’m going to say. I’m going to talk about myself instead of you.

Michael: Awesome.

Andrew: I was going to travel the world and do a marathon on every continent. I realized that my design skills really suck. I was going to pick a design that worked and I said, “You know what? Let’s actually not pick a design. Let’s pick a goal. What is the goal? I want people to follow along with my journey.” So I went to ClickFunnels, I got a landing page that said, “I’m going to be doing a marathon on every continent. Bring your goal for 2019 with you and we’ll get on a monthly call and we’ll talk about it. All you have to do is enter your email address.”

People who came in were filling in that form and I think one out of every five. I don’t remember the exact number. I think one out of every five were filling in their email address because it’s all ClickFunnels. You just pick a page that they pick that works.

Someone on my team said, “Okay. Next page? Why don’t you sell something that way if we make some money, you can go and buy some ads?” I said, “Okay. What do we sell?” They said, “Well, you know what, Andrew? You wear these freaking beads all the time. Let’s sell the beads.” “Oh, how are we going to sell the beads? Do we need a Shopify store?” They said, “No.” They selected the right page for selling beads, they had a video of me explaining what these beads are and they said, “If you’re interested, put in your credit card information.” How did they get the credit information? You just drag a little box and put it in there. I said, “Okay. We’re going to draw a little box and put it in there.” So, we sold them.

And then I think they did like an order bump after that. That started getting me sales. And an order bump is after somebody enters your credit, you know what this is?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: I didn’t know what this was. You just drag a little thing and after somebody puts their credit card in, they could check a box that says, “Yes, I also want to buy this other stuff. I already put my credit card in. I might . . . ” Anyway, that’s what it is. I didn’t know any of this stuff until I went to ClickFunnels. And what I like about them is it’s all drag and drop, super simple. If you go to ClickFunnels . . .

Michael: Yeah. It’s a great company.

Andrew: You know them.

Michael: I do.

Andrew: Why aren’t you using ClickFunnels?

Michael: So, it’s all web strategy and design. For us, it’s partly about buying things, but it’s partly also just about engaging and providing value to the entrepreneur.

Andrew: Does it feel a little bit too much like it’s direct marketing, digital marketing stuff, and that’s not where your head is?

Michael: And I wouldn’t necessarily pick on ClickFunnels just for that. I think for us at the Lonely Entrepreneur, we’re trying to make people understand that we’re trying to help and even if you use our free resources or you see our video about our story and that helps you. So we are actually a brand and the funnel, if you will, is only part of that, right? We’ve got a nonprofit, we’re doing stuff. So I think that to your point, the best way to sell a product is to have a funnel, right? You go from A to B to C. We’re just doing something a little more broadly than that, and so we just approach it a little bit different. But I’m very familiar with them. It’s a great product.

Andrew: I didn’t like them for a long time because I felt that there was a little too much direct marketing, internet, digital marketing stuff. And then I realized, “You know what? They’re converting. I’m going to use the best of that.” Anyway, if anyone is out there who wants to give them a shot, they were beautiful, they’ve helped me close sales, they make my brand look good, go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy, you’ll get the funnels that have worked for me, and you’ll get to try them out for free. Clickfunnels.com/mixergy. I know that the founder is a fan. I know he’s going, “What am I paying Andrew for? This is the worst ad. He insulted the guy with no substance.” All right.

Michael: It’s all good.

Andrew: Thanks, Michael.

Michael: If that’s the worst you can insult me, I think we’re okay.

Andrew: Thanks. Sometimes you go down these rabbit holes in conversation you go, “Wait. Actually, how do I undo it?” This is why I admire writers. They get to just go hit the delete button and start fresh. In conversations, you don’t get to do that. What kind of media training . . . I’ve seen that you’ve done a lot of television. What kind of media training did you get before you went to talk on TV? Any at all?

Michael: I didn’t have any media training. My dad was head of investor relations for a public company and so he was always media and doing some stuff. But really more than anything when you’re the evangelist for not just a company but a concept like we were, you got to be comfortable with it. And so in many of the early years of my company IncentOne, I mean, we were out there evangelizing for this idea of rewarding for being healthy. So if you’re not comfortable with that, you shouldn’t be trying to create an industry that’s also a company.

Andrew: So, you had the technology, you had to go and get somebody who had leverage. How did you find the first company to partner up with?

Michael: Well, we decided . . . We made a decision to go after specific market. So one of the challenges that entrepreneurs face is we chase every market. We think, “We’ll go wherever from where money is.” Right? We made a specific decision to go after the health plans in America, the Aetna, the Cigna, the Blue Cross Blue Shield. And when we did B2B marketing, we went after typical stuff, trade shows back when trade shows were more prevalent as they are than they are now and started to engage. What we really did was we didn’t go and say, “We have a great product.” And we didn’t even go and say, “We’re going to save you a lot of money.” We went and said, “If you don’t do this, your competitor is going to do it.” Right? So, for example . . .

Andrew: And you said that to who?

Michael: To the health plans of the country. So, for example, if you go to . . .

Andrew: You would meet them at conferences and at booths? You’d have a booth and they would meet you there?

Michael: Yeah. Typical B2B marketing.

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: So, for example, in Pittsburgh, there’s two big health plans, Highmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield, one in Blue Cross Blue Shield companies and something called University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. And they hate each other.

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: So we’d go there and we would say, “We’re going to do this with one of you. One of you is going to be able to offer rewards to drive behavior and one of you isn’t.” So we were able to understand that in that market that’s how we’ve created leverage. In other markets, we went after their, like I said before, their employers. And we went to those employers and said, “Hey, do you think that the Aetna or Cigna should be providing this to you?” And they said, “Yes.” So what we did was we . . . Everybody told me that healthcare sales is slow and long and clunky and this is the way to do it. And my thought was, “Not being from healthcare. Why would you do it that way? If everybody says it’s low and slow and takes two years, why would that be your approach?” So our approach was, how do we get leverage that gives us the ability to move the sales cycles quicker?

Andrew: So the way you get leverage in one place is by talking to both companies and then pick and saying, “One of you is going to get it, the other isn’t.”

Michael: Right.

Andrew: For the first company, how did you get them?

Michael: I think probably for the first company our smaller wins, in the beginning, were more value, right? This is . . . You’re not getting pregnant women to do some, we’re going to give you a mechanism to do that. It’s done in every other consumer industry like credit cards and people got that. But our bigger wins were about, you know, healthcare just moves slow, and if you want to make them move fast, it’s got to be some kind of burning platform like that your big customers want it, your competitor is going to get it, you know, stuff that’s on that. What we always used to say is, “What’s on the CEO’s desk? What is on the desk of the CEO of United Healthcare?” Well, if the competitor is going to beat them or they’re going to lose a big client, that’s the stuff that’s on their desk and that’s how we try to create leverage. But to your point, my background as an M&A lawyer definitely helped me on that perspective.

Andrew: So did you start going after the businesses that were then working with the insurance companies and try to . . . You did. So do you remember one of the first businesses that was on your side and went to the insurance company and said, “We need this”?

Michael: Sure. Motorola.

Andrew: Motorola. How did you get in the door of Motorola?

Michael: Motorola had a company that was doing some of their health and wellness programs and they hired these health companies to do it. And we met them at a trade show and they said, “We’re really struggling with this and Motorola is really struggling with this,” and they can’t get their health plan to do it. And so we went to Motorola and said, “We can do this directly for you.” And not only did we get Motorola, but we ended up getting their health plan which was United Healthcare as a result of that.

Andrew: And what was the incentive for Motorola to do this? They would know that their health insurance prices would go down because people would be healthier because they did what they needed to do or was it something else?

Michael: Yeah. So when people . . . Most large employers are what they call self-insured. They actually bear the risk of the healthcare costs.

Andrew: Oh, got it. Okay.

Michael: So, if the pregnant women doesn’t follow her prenatal care, it’s their million dollars that go out the door.

Andrew: Got it.

Michael: So, they would actually result in real cost savings.

Andrew: So there is a much easier, yes, because you’re showing them, “We’re going to reduce your price. It’s just one company. They’re looking for cost savings.” And do you go . . . Is there a department that you go and talk to that spends time trying to reduce their health care costs?

Michael: Yeah. It’s usually compensation and benefits and sometimes it’s the CFO’s office because healthcare is such a big number. Remember to think about incentives is that you don’t give away the incentive until somebody does what you want them to do. So we were getting paid software license fees for them to run the software, but the biggest money they spent was on the actual incentive.

But let’s say you put out an incentive for $100 for these women to do it. If they never did it, they didn’t pay the $100. So it has almost a guarantee ROI to that. We were still getting paid our platform fees. So, it just made a lot of economic sense for them to go, “Okay. We can’t get these women to do it. We’re getting 10% of women to do it. What’s the downside? If we give away 100 and it doesn’t work, and then we go to 200, there’s all kind of a built-in return on investment. So that as you can imagine in the planning stage, I’m making it sound like, “Oh, yeah, we just came up with this in five minutes.” This is complicated stuff.

So you learn the nuances of what causes and creates actual leverage or real value creation, and then you build that into your sales process. And that’s super much, much easier, Andrew, as you know when it’s just you. It’s just you and you’ve spent, you know, two, three years working on and communicating that. It’s much harder when you hire sales teams and marketing teams and you have to get them to be able to enunciate that in a clear way.

Andrew: How long was it just you?

Michael: It wasn’t long. Probably about a year.

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: And then I hired a guy that I went to Bucknell with. And then it was just incremental hiring and chipping away and then the venture capital eventually and . . .

Andrew: At what point did you get venture capital?

Michael: About five years in.

Andrew: So by five years in, do you mean 2005 or I think I saw on your LinkedIn pro . . .

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: 2005. Okay.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: Got it. And then you grew. And talk to me about what happened in 2008 then.

Michael: So 2006, 2008, we grew like crazy. People had now bought into the concept. There were things that happen with Obamacare that helped it and we were off to the races. So by 2008, you know, we had really “made it.” We had tons of large companies, 40 health plans as customers, almost 500 employees. We had made it. And we were rocking and rolling and we were trying to decide what to do with the company. Are we going to continue to grow it, sell it?

And we literally almost got destroyed overnight by the financial crisis. All of our clients were the biggest companies in America. And when they went down, the last thing that they cared about was rewarding their employees for being healthy. So, take . . . So my three biggest clients were Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial and General Motors. Washington Mutual and Countrywide Financial don’t exist today. They were two of the biggest banks in the country. One went bankrupt, one got bought, right? And General Motors, we all know what was happening in 2008. So, as you can imagine, when General Motors are saying, “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to make cars.” The last thing they care about is their $6 million software license. So this thing that took us the better part of 10 years to build was literally cut in half in a week.

Andrew: Yeah. General Motors chapter 11 was in 2009.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: And so how bad did it get for you mentally, Michael?

Michael: You’ve got a lot of hands in the pot at that point. You have a couple of hundred employees, you have family [best 00:28:55] to invest, you’ve had, at that time venture and private equity that has invested. And also you’ve had a baby, right? You watch this baby grow. My view of it was always that it wasn’t really about me. I had asked all the people that I just named, including a lot of employees to follow the vision, right? And so, if I had asked them to follow the vision, it wasn’t about really how I felt about it, it was the responsibility that I had to investors, to my family, to employees to basically figure our way through it.

Andrew: But you didn’t get to a place where you said, “I can’t make it. I’m overwhelmed. I’ve got to . . . I wish this was done.” You didn’t turn to alcoholism or riding your bike for hours on end. Nothing like that?

Michael: Sweat at the gym every morning in 5:00 a.m. And I know a lot about bourbon.

Andrew: So gym at the morning and then bourbon at night and you were still ready for the next day for the gym?

Michael: Yeah. I mean, listen, no. Those words that you described, overwhelmed, those are just not me. That being said, I would be lying to you if I knew we were going to make it. When a tsunami is coming, a 500-person company is not prepared to deal with that. So, my philosophy was always, you know, there’s a famous Winston Churchill quote during World War Two when London was being bombed. And he says, “When you’re going through hell, you just keep going.” You really just focused on what can you do? What is it you can chip away at?

And one of the things that you had to do at that time because institutions were crumbling, is it did not matter what the rules were. There were no rules because, remember, people were ignoring contracts, they were ignoring payments, they didn’t have cash. Like, it was like, nothing mattered, so when you came to the table if you say, “I’ll follow the rules, like, listen, I had a private equity as an investor.” Normally you pick up a phone call them and say, “I need 10 million bucks and let’s negotiate value.” No, because they had . . . So, it was literally like cats and dogs living together, right? There’s no parameters and you basically go and you . . . What I used to say is like, I used to kicked between the legs about 10 times a day, I just stopped noticing.

Andrew: Just stop paying attention, shift your focus to continue and continue and continue. And then how did you figured out what you needed to do to figure your way out of this?

Michael: There wasn’t any formula, you just had to be really creative and you just did some super creative things and . . .

Andrew: Like what? What’s an example of a creative thing that you did?

Michael: So one of the biggest cash needs in the business was for us to give away rewards, like people would get things like gift cards and things like that. And we have on our balance sheet about 20 million of rewards that we had to give away. Right? But as the cash to the business starts to not work, you don’t have the cash to do that, so I’m like, “How are we going to support?” This is for stuff we’ve already sold, right? And so I went and found essentially a marketing program that gave you $100 in gift card value for $2. It was called restaurant.com.

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: So you could go to any restaurant in this network and it costs $2 to get $100 of value. Right?

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: And so we went through this very intricate program, went back to all of our people and said, “Listen, we’re not going to be able to give rewards to your employees. We’re having the same challenges as everybody else. But here’s what we’re going to do. If they’re entitled to $100 in Barnes and Noble gift cards, let’s say, we’re going to give them $200 in this restaurant where they can go to anyone of 20,000 restaurants.”

Andrew: Got it.

Michael: And so we reduce a, in my example, $100 liability to a $4 liability.

Andrew: Got it.

Michael: And that transformed our economics. It’s not like that just jump . . .

Andrew: Ninety-six percent off.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. It was $20 million . . .

Andrew: It’s not like that just jumped out of where?

Michael: No. I mean, I’m like just sat down, “Hey, how do I turn $20 million into 500,000?” It took a lot of creativity and we did that and we executed it. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever executed in my life, was the discipline to go to customers, to tell them a situation, to implement it, to tell them we’re going to give them not $100 that they’re due, but $200 to explain it to them in the midst of the world collapsing around you and we basically had customers to do it, so we turned a $20 million liability into about $0.5 million.

Andrew: I’m looking at an old article from 2009 that seems to say that you sold a piece of your business too. “Augeo Incent Acquires IncentOne’s Performance and Loyalty Division.” What’s that? What did you sell?

Michael: We had in addition to doing healthcare, we did stuff in performance and loyalty that was outside of healthcare. So in 2009, we sold off that piece. That was before the larger sale in 2013.

Andrew: Loyalty in exchange for what?

Michael: What’s that?

Andrew: What was it that you were giving . . . It seems like you were giving out gift cards, rewards, merchandise in exchange for what? What did . . . What was that business?

Michael: Typical loyalty programs like consumer brands, banks, airlines, trying to get people to buy services and goods. So typical loyalty stuff, but not in healthcare.

Andrew: Got it. So if somebody bought something from me, I would be able to give them some kind of incentive. The more they buy, the more points they get towards . . .

Michael: Just like Amazon rewards and now we have rewards and all that kind of stuff, but not in healthcare.

Andrew: So, I’m going to talk about my second sponsor. And I’ve got to be honest with you, Michael, in my head, I keep thinking about, “How did I just completely screw up my first sponsor?” Read. The second sponsor is HostGator. Do you ever get that, by the way, Michael? At this point in your life, are you still at a place where sometimes you have to say, “Stop. Stay focused on what you want. Stay focused on the future and not on this stupid thing that you said”? Do you get that way at all? No.

Michael: No. Listen, the experience that I went through was it’s hard to describe what that chaos is. This is all easy.

Andrew: Got it. You know what? I just saw this Twitter-like meme that went around. There was this guy who shot a video of himself as an entrepreneur giving his dad a eulogy. And what he says is . . . This is a really hard day. You know, not as hard as running a company, but it’s . . . It’s like super . . . It’s just absolutely the way that I feel about everything. A lot of my friends will complain about cleaning diapers, staying up for babies. This is nothing compared to running a company. I feel like running a company is the most difficult thing and it makes me insensitive to other people’s pain except, you know, like, homeless people, sick people, but the day-to-day pain is nothing in comparison.

Michael: Yeah. And listen, the time that that happened in 2009 to everybody was pretty once in a lifetime. I mean, even the dot-com boom was nothing compared to what happened in 2009. Right? So, when you’re dealing with the fact that the floor is not there and institutions are crumbling and the number of kind of decisions you have to make on the fly, I mean, that was pure chaos with a lot of people that I was very close to, family, friends and . . . So this . . .

Andrew: That is one of the best things about going through real business pain, like, coming so close to the end. I guess also health-wise and otherwise. When you get really close, when you come out the other side, nothing feels as bad, nothing gets that dangerous.

Michael: Yeah. And honestly, Andrew, just so incredibly proud of the people that were around me doing it. I mean, it was chaos. It was something that we watched our child get cut in half. And the people that stuck with it and worked hard and just plowed in every single day. I’m just incredibly proud of that group of people. And listen, I would be . . . If I was being completely honest with you at that time and somebody said a chance is out of 10 that you survive, I would have said one.

Andrew: Yeah.

Michael: The math just didn’t add up. It’s one thing if you have a two-person company, right? You can . . . When you have a 500-person company that the revenue disappears, and so it’s a . . . It was, I don’t want to say it was winning the lottery because it wasn’t that random, but it certainly felt like we needed a lot of things to go well and we just worked.

Andrew: All right. I’m going to talk about HostGator and then when I come back I want to find out what you did to grow to replace these three big customers who are no longer customers. A second company is a company called HostGator for hosting websites. Michael, I’m going to tell you about something that a listener of mine did without giving the person’s name as you’ll see why. He said, “You know what? I’ve got a leads business. I need to find a way to get lawyers who need leads for me.” And he said, “Well, if I call them up, they don’t want to talk to me because they’re talking to their clients and they don’t want me to sell them something. You’re doing these interviews. I’m going to do interviews too.”

So he got a website for himself, dedicated to just doing interviews with the lawyers, the specific types of lawyers that he wanted as clients and he said to them, “Can I interview you for my new website?” They said, “Yeah. Interview? Sure, absolutely.” So he interviewed them and part of the questions that he would ask is, “How do you get your leads? How do you get your new clients? How do you do your business?” and so on. And then by the end, he would say, “By the way,” after he’s done, “if you need somebody to do leads, we’ve had a good conversation here, you should always think of me.”

That ended up getting him a higher conversion rate that it was just calling and actually getting their attention for a sale. And this is how he’s getting his customers. One of the best uses for a website is to go and do interviews. And I always suggest do interviews. You can do it by audio like I am or hit up or you can just use . . . I use a service called Otter, otter.ai. Michael, I’m going to change your life with that. Anything that you need transcribed, you put it on otter.ai for free within minutes. So you just do it take a recording on Zoom the way we are. Transcribe it and put it up on your website, you get rid of some of the stuff that’s junkie like the mistakes that I made in this interview, keep it clean, and now you’ve got an easy interview site and another reason for you to go and talk to the people who you want to sell to.

I’ve seen interviews being used for biz dev so much. And one of the best sites to host your website on is one of the best services is HostGator because they’re inexpensive. In fact, if you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, you’ll get the lowest price that they have available. It’s super easy to set up, one-click install of WordPress, and it’ll scale with you. Beyond those inexpensive plans that they have, they also have these hire more like high touch plans. Hostgator.com/mixergy. You like that plan, right?

Michael: Yeah, totally.

Andrew: Biz dev, interviews with biz dev. Yeah.

Michael: Perfect.

Andrew: Great. What did you do to get more customers?

Michael: So during that time, the ’09 to ‘012 area, nobody was doing anything, right? Everybody was battening down the hatches trying to figure out if we’re going to have a banking system, stuff like that. So during that time, it was more about right-sizing, right? It was more about how do you get the cost of the business in the right way?

But when the economy started to at least stabilize a little bit, remember the same issue existed, you still had companies where healthcare costs were huge costs for them. So when they’re sitting going, “How do I cut . . . How do I survive?” Remember, it wasn’t just us. It was everybody in the economy is going, “How do I survive?” They’re cutting employees. But when you just look . . . When you’re a CFO and you look at a company, healthcare costs was at the top of the list, right? So we would go to them and say, “I understand that you’re in the process of cutting all of your costs. If you don’t cut healthcare costs, you’re not going to get where you need to get to.”

So we lined up to the fact that they really needed to cut costs, and we said, “Listen, if you get pregnant women, you have . . . ” the whole story from before.” So, we really, again, focused on what something the CEO cared about. It was incredibly difficult because you had to get people to pay attention to something and they didn’t want to certainly write checks. But we were able to . . . We had relationships with health plans, health plans were really being challenged by their employers to cut costs, and so we were . . . I don’t think we won business consistently, but we certainly won some business that enabled us to kind of stabilize and then start to grow again.

Andrew: Were you guys known as 1-800 gift certificate for a while?

Michael: Really, in the late 1990s when we originally started thinking about the business, we thought gift cards were going to be a really important value of type of reward that people would get on typical people.

Andrew: For following through with their healthcare plan.

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: Got it.

Michael: And we just happened to grab . . . We happen to grab that 800 number called 1-800 gifts just because it responded to 1-800 in the first eight letters are gift certificate. And this is back in 1990s, 1998.

Andrew: That seems like a really tough one to get ahold of. Didn’t it cost a lot of money to get that number?

Michael: There was a phenomenal story behind that that is long.

Andrew: What’s the story behind that?

Michael: It’s a long story. So I’ll send it to you afterwards. You can give it to your readers. It is an absolutely hilarious story.

Andrew: Okay. All right.

Michael: It’s long, but it’s funny.

Andrew: It seems like then you changed the name to the Employee Choice Award or was it trademarked?

Michael: That was just the product. Yeah.

Andrew: Got it. All right. I’m constantly going through. How did you end up deciding to sell the company to Welltok?

Michael: Well, what started to happen was in ‘011, ‘012, ‘013, it really ‘012, now that the economy had stabilized, everybody’s perspective was, “Oh, my God, we better fix healthcare because we ignored it prior to the crisis. During the crisis we completely ignored it.” And now CFOs are staring at their balance sheet going, “Oh, my God, we better fix healthcare.” So, all of a sudden when people kind of were peeled away, they started approaching us and going, “Everybody is going to do this. And now you guys have been doing it for 10 plus years. You have all this data, you have these customers.” And so we had known the CEO of Welltok from a previous healthcare company that kicked our tires way back when, got approached, did the normal investment banking thing and sold the company in the fall of 2013.

Andrew: Did you . . .

Michael: It was wild.

Andrew: You approach them?

Michael: It was mutual. I mean, we had known each other, and when this particular CEO went over to Welltok from his previous engagement, we kind of started to talk. We had been talking to other companies at the time. So, we went right from “saving the company” right into a kind of M&A experience and ended up selling it in 2013.

Andrew: Do you remember the day that deal happen that it went through?

Michael: Sure.

Andrew: What did you do? What was it like? Tell me about it.

Michael: I live on 39th and Lexington in New York City a couple of blocks from Grand Central Station. And I remember walking out of my apartment on a Saturday. And, you know, you have money in the bank and all this stuff and I said to myself, “You know what? I live a block from the New York Public Library, which is,” for anybody who’s from New York or been to New York it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. And I’m like, “I’ve never been in there.” And I went into New York Public Library and I just sat there and I just read for like five hours.

Andrew: Because you finally had . . .

Michael: It was the first time . . .

Andrew: Why? Because?

Michael: I actually had some brain space. It was the first time that I actually felt like I thought in 10 years. It’s almost like, if somebody would come and pull your hair and just be grabbed on your hair and then let go, like, that’s what it felt like. And listen, there’s a lot of pride and emotion that goes into that and I was just, you know, reflect on the journey a little bit. But it was an amazing accomplishment, but at that time, you’re just like, you go from this unbelievably intense literally five years and you just kind of decompress and breathe a little bit. I actually think that I actually didn’t use my brain at all for five years.

Andrew: What were you using instead?

Michael: Well, I felt . . . Afterwards when you know that pressure is off and you start to think clearly and calmly and deliberately. And I was like, “I wonder if I was really being as thoughtful and deliberate as I should’ve been . . .

Andrew: Was it being reactive? Is that what it was? There was just a lot of you . . .

Michael: No. I was pretty proactive guy about running a business, but I think it’s just more so the different factors like entrepreneurs. The difference . . . The ability to think strategically, thoughtfully and emotionally when there’s a lot of stuff going on is hard. And when you take away all of those things and you just get for thinking sake, it seems like a different experience.

Andrew: Do you happen to remember what book you read?

Michael: I do. It was my favorite book, which is “The Art of War.”

Andrew: Oh, wow.

Michael: All about strategy and how you . . . When you have left resources and how to win on the criteria you have to win on and very similar to the business stuff we’ve been talking about.

Andrew: I know I get a lot of pats on the back if I kept saying, “Well, how much did you sell it for?” and you kept saying, “No.” and then I kept asking you, and then you . . . And people would say, “Andrew, I like that you just keep pushing.” But the truth is, I’ve talked to you a little bit before we got started enough to know that I’m not going to get the number from you. Can we at least say, is it a few million dollars that you got from it?

Michael: There was plenty. You’re not going to get the number.

Andrew: Was it cash or stock?

Michael: You’re not going to get anything from me about the deal.

Andrew: Okay. All right. And I know . . .

Michael: You can ask me 10 different ways.

Andrew: Yeah. And I know how firm you are. I’m not looking to pretend that you’re suddenly going to slip and then aha I got it. I just want to know, like, how open you could be with it and it seems like you can’t. Why did you decide that you were going to now start helping entrepreneurs?

Michael: After that whole experience, I wasn’t looking to do anything. I was just hoping to chill. And the one thing that I was left with out of that experience is how personal it was. Right? But I didn’t want to do anything with that yet. I was like, I’m going to chill out, whatever. I had a consulting gig with a company that bought me, typical what happens to CEOs. And I literally was just for fun in New York sitting down with friends and friends of friends, entrepreneurs, anybody that wanted to talk about their business, have coffee, just for fun. And I was doing that. And what I started to notice was that I was like, “Wow, these people are really talented and have really good ideas and they’re really ill-equipped to do this.” And I was like, “Okay, fine, but that’s why I’m helping them.” And then one of them said to me, “Being an entrepreneur is really lonely.” And I was like, “Wow.” I was like, “That really captures the essence of what we all feel. We all feel . . . ”

Andrew: Can you help me understand that, Michael? I feel like you were bombarded with people, you felt like there were people pulling your hair, or something was pulling your hair. I feel like all I’ve got is appointments and meetings and answering to other people, to customers, to my team, to so many people. I never feel lonely, but I do see that maybe I’m not picking up on what that means to people. What does it mean to feel lonely as an entrepreneur?

Michael: So it’s not literally lonely.

Andrew: Yeah. What does it mean? I always think like, it feels like you’re alone and nobody loves you and no one’s around you, but it’s something different. What is it?

Michael: Well, listen, I mean, you could be sitting around 100 people in a room and you’d be like, “It’s all on me.” Right?

Andrew: That’s the thing. It’s on me and only me and I’ve got to figure it out, and sometimes I think there’s someone who’s got the answer, but they don’t. I’m either overburdening them by giving them all of my burdens, or I’m being a fool and thinking they’re the Messiah that’s going to save me from everything.

Michael: So when this person said to me, “Being an entrepreneur is really lonely,” I was telling a friend of mine this and he goes, “That’s amazing.” And I’m like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Watch this.” And we walked into a Starbucks in Union Square and he yelled, “Who here is a lonely entrepreneur?” and everybody raised their hand.

Andrew: Literally?

Michael: Literally. And . . .

Andrew: So what are they feeling when they . . . It’s the description of it’s all on you and your shoulders. That’s the part that feels lonely.

Michael: It’s all about the struggle. For some, it’s, “I don’t know what to do.” For some, it’s “I left corporate America where I had a big staff and now it’s just me.” For some, it’s, “Man, I got to figure out digital marketing.” For others, it’s like, “Is my idea going to work?” I mean, the list goes on and on and on. So it’s not a physically lonely thing, it’s just the number of things that you have to know, the number of emotional things you have to deal with, the fact that competition is coming from everywhere, dot, dot, dot, dot. All becomes the stew where people go low. And it really, especially at the early stages for entrepreneurs, it all falls on them to figure out and that’s mostly necessary it’s just purely lonely. It’s hard. And then that’s what the lonely entrepreneur really was.

Andrew: And then was it the WeWork panel that you did that helped you clarify your ideas?

Michael: No, no. That was . . . I mean, once we came up with the Lonely Entrepreneur one thing we noticed very quickly, but our whole thing was we wanted to give people a better chance of success. We had gone through what we had done . . .

Andrew: And by the way, our is, again, you’re using the royal we, giving people credit, but it’s you, your idea.

Michael: No. There’s more . . . Once I started out, then I started to bring more people on to grow . . .

Andrew: Who are the other people who you brought in?

Michael: New people, some people from my old company, just brought some people along.

Andrew: To help you create some kind of business around it and some kind of . . . Not even a business. To help you create something around it. As you mentioned, as a nonprofit, there are other things involved in the Lonely Entrepreneur.

Michael: Yeah. Well, very quickly, the only thing that I’m attracted to are things that are big, they have white space, they can help society, that can help people. Rewarding people for being healthy was that. And Lonely Entrepreneur felt the same thing for me. The one thing that everybody shared was the struggle and they’re bringing to life their passion and they’re using their money, and they’re putting their family at risk, and then . . . And what better way to wake up than to help people overcome that? But then we were like, “Well, what’s the business?” Like, I would never go into anything and say, “What’s the business?” I did not have a desire to write a book and do one-on-one coaching because I wanted to try to help all those people . . . There are so many more people who were being entrepreneurs. Right? And everybody was doing it and they were ill-equipped to do it. Well, we noticed pretty quickly was that while there were tons and tons of resources for entrepreneurs, they were all over the place. They were completely disorganized.

Even just think about ClickFunnels, right? How do I pick the right tool for ClickFunnels? I mean, there’s just tons of resources. So what we did was we built a technology platform which is a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs that basically anybody can have access to. And that’s what started. So we wrote the book to tell our story and we started getting people know who we were. But the core of what we were doing is we wanted to help people at scale very inexpensively. So we built this thing we call the Learning Community and that’s essentially the business.

Andrew: What is in the learning community? I’m on the website right now. It’s lonelyentrepreneur.com and I’m in the section called Learning Community. What’s involved in this?

Michael: So, basically, what we’re trying to solve is make it a one-stop-shop where you can solve the personal and business issues that you face. So you go all over the place from marketing, sales, finance, setting up a company, dealing with the stress. So first, it’s a framework that organizes that. It’s 250 learning modules that gives you tips and tricks about all those different things including like leverage and all that. It’s other things, functional things like tools and templates like business pen templates, reviews of vendors, like, here’s the top software vendors and vendors like ClickFunnels. And then there’s support in the form of an online community and weekly group coaching. But basically, what we’re trying to do is figure out a way to help a lot of people at scale very inexpensively.

Andrew: And so you’ve got . . . Is it all-paying customers? What was that number that I saw? Thirty-eight thousand network of entrepreneurs?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s paying customers?

Michael: So we have two parts of our business. One part is paying customers that pay $500 a year. And the other part is we license it to organizations.

Andrew: Sorry. The other part is what?

Michael: We license it to organizations, right?

Andrew: Okay.

Michael: So we go to a bank that’s trying to sell to an entrepreneur or an incubator that’s trying to empower entrepreneurs or on our nonprofit side, if there’s a group that’s trying to empower women, we say, “What better way to empower women than with entrepreneurial skills?” So they license it and then their members get access to it for free.

Andrew: Got it. I like how you think. Right, right. So the platform that you’re publishing this stuff on is Teachable, right?

Michael: Yeah.

Andrew: Most people who are on Teachable are thinking, “I’ve got my network. How do I sell this thing that I’m teaching to my network?” You’re thinking bigger. “How do I find people who have my audience and partner with them, have them pay and then give it to my audience?”

Michael: Yeah. I mean, we do both and then we do this also in the nonprofit space because there’s tons of people that need access to this but can’t afford it. And so in the nonprofit side, we’re giving it away either for free or for very heavily discounted rates to try to empower them.

Andrew: All right. I’m getting it. And so what’s the vision? If we look at this 5, 10 years from now, where are you going to be?

Michael: Lonely Entrepreneur TV show on Netflix telling the story, the journey from struggle to success for people throughout the world.

Andrew: Meaning following an entrepreneur. Is this something that you’ve got in the works right now or you’re envisioning? Can I say that you’re nodding your head? I want to say you’re nodding you head.

Michael: Yes.

Andrew: So that’s the thing, really? Congratulations. How did you get that?

Michael: It’s not done yet, but we believe that it is absolutely . . . You’ve heard my story. And I’ve alluded to the story about us getting the 800 number. Every single entrepreneur has these stories, has these journeys, has these first kisses when they get their first customer and then the day they don’t think they’re going to make it. And that is . . . If you’ve watched anybody tell that story, it’s heartfelt and compelling. And we just think that the entrepreneurs of the world will be helped if they see how people make the journey from struggle to success, and that’s what the TV show and other things we’re working on will serve to do.

Andrew: Well, congratulations. The website for anyone who wants to check it out is lonelyentrepreneur.com. And the book is on Amazon and everywhere else, but let’s face it, we’re all going to go to Amazon. It’s just called “The Lonely Entrepreneur: The Difference Between Success and Failure is Your Perspective.” Right? Did I miss anything?

Michael: You got it.

Andrew: I got it. All right. This interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first, really, don’t take the way that I did the ad as a representation of how good they are, ClickFunnels. Even somebody who’s a mush mouth like me sometimes and usually I’m very freaking articulate. So I’ve learned over the years how to sell. But even somebody like me can take my perfect best day of selling, put it up on a website and just clone my best self instead of randomly hoping that what I’m saying is going to sell. Really, that’s what’s amazing about ClickFunnels. Clone your best sales technique and just have it grow exponentially. And then second, if you need a website hosted, go to HostGator. So it’s clickfunnels.com/mixergy, hostgator.com/mixergy, and lonelyentrepreneur.com/ nothing. That’s it. Right? Easy-peasy. Thanks, Michael. Thanks for being here.

Michael: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: You bet. Thanks, everyone, for listening.

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