Today’s guest on The Membership Site Success podcast is Shane Melaugh!'You can determine the success of a business by the size of its folder!' - @shaneRQR Click To Tweet
Before I ever met Shane in person, I was already a big fan of his blog and his plugins. In fact, I use WPSharely (a social content locker plugin) on this site, and I used to use HybridConnect until the new and improved ThriveLeads replaced it.
In this episode, Shane shares what he believes to be the keys to his success including:
– How to earn an unflappable trust with your audience
– How to use video to connect with your prospects, build your brand and drive higher conversions
– The value of strategic business partnerships
– How to approach busy and influential people in a way that makes them want to do business with you
– The value of positive routines in business and in life as a whole
Please comment below and rate the podcast on iTunes (it helps me get more fantastic guests like Shane on the show).
You can connect with Shane on his Twitter, @shaneRQR.
Mentioned In This Episode:
1. Thrive Themes – Conversion-focused WordPress themes and plugins
2. Thrive Leads – Powerful opt-in plugin that allows you to A/B test your optin forms for increased conversions. Thrive Leads powers VicDorfman.com 🙂
3. IM Impact – Shane’s blog.
4. Clickbank – Marketplace to sell your own digital products or to sell others’ products as an affiliate.
5. Zapier – Zapier is a web-based service that allows you to connect different apps with a ‘zap’ when certain events occur in the origin app. For example, I use Zapier to automatically log all entries from my membership site survey in a Google Sheet for easy reading later on. There are countless uses for Zapier and it’s awesome because it’s making automation accessible to even the most non-technical entrepreneurs.
6. WPCurve.com – Dan Norriss’s unlimited WordPress Support service.
7. Ernesto Sirolli’s TED Talk:
8. JIRA – Plan, track, and release world-class software with the #1 software development tool used by agile teams.
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Vic: On today’s episode of the membership site success podcast I’m pleased to have Shane Melaugh from IMImpact.com and also well known for Thrive Leads and Thrive Themes which has become really popular in the online world recently. First of all, Shane is an incredibly, incredibly intelligent thoughtful guy, very successful business person and just a really cool guy.
I met him in a very strange way which you’ll hear about in the show. I met him in Bangkok in a very unusual way. He’s going to share what he’s learned in business over the years.
What he’s learned in terms of productivity and routines and systems to keep his business growing and functioning smoothly as it scales and grows outside of just himself. This is an interview that you’re really going to enjoy. It’s very casual and fun.
Make sure to stay tuned and listen and go ahead and leave your comments and ratings on iTunes and enjoy. The first question that I ask all of my guests is how did you get into online entrepreneurship?
Shane: I guess the short answer is reluctantly because I was actually intimidated by the technology aspect of it. I wanted to be an entrepreneur before I came online.
I remember my attitude being, “Oh, I guess it would be good to have a website, but that’s too complicated. I can’t build one myself and I can’t afford someone to build one for me.”
I just dismissed that out of hand in the beginning and only once I realized that this was really the missing aspect in what I was trying to do. I at the time was selling computer hardware.
It just became clear that … and I was selling it on eBay and stuff like that but it just became clear that without my own website this was never going to go anywhere. I finally started taking a closer look at how can I actually build my own website and found out that it’s not actually that difficult.
Then with that moved into this online marketing space and it’s also because, I guess I had a couple of attempts at businesses where it became clear to me that the missing thing was marketing. At some point I guess … having the next business idea wasn’t going to make any difference unless I acquired some marketing skills to actually get people’s attention to this business.
Vic: That’s when you … because I remember following your blog when it was first starting up. I think the thing that launched you into the public eye online anyway was your SEO course. Can you talk about that? How you got your kick start into this world?
Shane: The SEO course was one of those things that … it’s true, that was my first proper success at least as a … at the time I was the thing, I stopped selling computer hardware at that time and I was just building affiliate websites and doing SEO for them. I think at the time pretty much all of my income was coming from as an affiliate on ClickBank and I got commissions from these products I was promoting. I think at the time I was also still working a part time job. That’s what was going on at the time. I never planned to create a course on SEO. My blog at the time, my impact was also just … wasn’t really planned because the reason I started it was because I started learning all this marketing stuff. Like I said, I realized that that was necessary.
I just thought, “I’m learning all this marketing stuff. I might as well have a blog where I write about what’s going on,” because I was going to process this anyway, I tend to process things in writing. It was just like the rework principle where a product that happens anyway in your work you might as well publish it or turn that into something that other people can use. The blog was at first like, “I’m learning this stuff anyway. I’m going to write about it anyway. I might as well do it publically.” It was unexpectedly more successful than the other stuff I was doing. From the crowd I built around this, it was a very small crowd at the time, but I noticed that they were most interested in SEO, so I wrote more about that.
Then I noticed that there were some issues that just weren’t being addressed, that there were some very specific problems people had with SEO that nobody was addressing and that I could address in an information product. It just came out of … I started going this direction without really planning to have ever end up there, but I did end up there. When I’ve decide to make a product I try to do the best possible job I can do at creating a useful product and that worked out really well. Then it just kept going like that.
It’s also because I did affiliate sites at the time. I wasn’t really interested in most of these niches that my affiliate sites were on because it was just opportunity based like, “Oh, there’s a ClickBank product here that I think I can promote, so I’m going to build a website based about whatever the topic was .” I wasn’t actually interested in the topic. The thing that I was interested in was the marketing itself. The process of at the time SEО, I got into that, but also in general the process of how do you get someone on a website to pay attention. How do you connect with them? How do you get them to convert and deeper and deeper into all this marketing stuff. Then the affiliate stuff fell by the wayside. Now marketing is my thing.
Vic: I wonder how many of our listeners have had a parallel story, because my trajectory was very similar to yours. I started out with a keyword research course that I sold on the Warrior Forum and it was my first smashing success. I was like, “Oh, you can make money online, cool.” Nor am I particularly technical and I think a lot of people are probably intimidated by this “online thing” because, “Oh, I have to set up a website and there’s all this technical stuff involved. I’m not really technical. You’re not really technical yet you are building WordPress plugins and I’m helping people set up membership sites. It’s really I think just a matter of getting in there and doing something. Just taking some kind of positive action and some good will come out of it, even if it’s just learning how to fail.
Shane: It’s true that there are technical challenges, but I think there are a lot … it’s a lot easier than one might think before one actually starts doing it because there are so many systems and products and whatnot that you can use, services you can use that do all of the difficult stuff for you essentially. I think that’s become more true than when I started even.
Vic: Now we have Zapier and-
Shane: Even just WordPress, WordPress has become so much easier and so much more customizable, more flexible and so on. It’s really … like you say, I totally agree. The thing you have to do is you have to jump in and just start. That’s also something where I see a lot of people basically sitting on the sidelines for too long, waiting for the perfect opportunity when really the right opportunity is only going to arise when you’re in the trenches and actually doing something.
Vic: Definitely. Also one thing that’s struck me about your blog was how much I felt … and this ties into a question about video, about the use of video, but how much I felt like when I read your blog and watched your videos, how trustworthy you come across. I don’t know if that’s just your natural personality or if that’s deliberate, can you talk a little bit about why you think you give that impression? Do other people feel the same way or is it just me?
Shane: I do get that a lot. I think in part it’s … I believe that in part you probably can fake that to a certain degree because there is one aspect of this, is that … I think I’m literally incapable of doing certain things that would be typically trust breaking. If you’re reading someone’s marketing website one of the things that could happen that would be a trust breaker essentially is they promote a product they are super excited about and tell you, promise you the world about some product and send you off to buy it and the product turns out to be rubbish.
I’m incapable of doing that. I just cannot do that, I cannot do that. Let me explain like this. There have been many opportunities for me to make more money. If all I wanted to do was make more money there are … and there still are. There are so many opportunities, it’d be very easy. For example, not that I’m that well known, but I have a large enough audience and have enough authority behind me that I could easily create a super high priced coaching product of some sort where … and phone it in which a lot of people in this space do that kind of thing. Where you just say, “Let’s just do the launch first [inaudible 10:45] dollars for it. Then once we have all these customers, whatever, we’ll do some webinars, we’ll record some stuff. It’s just going to be me talking about marketing, whatever.”
Then maybe we’ll get 20% refunds or something, but we’ll still have made a million dollars. That’s something I could definitely do, no problem. I have enough of a platform to do that, but it’s just something I’m absolutely incapable of doing. I’m absolutely incapable of creating a product for the sake of grabbing someone’s mind. You can’t buy that from me even for a million dollars. Even if came along and told me, “This is a guaranteed way to put a million dollars in your pocket in the next 30 days.” I cannot do that, I absolutely cannot do that. I think that’s a factor where … that’s just how I am. I just can’t do this kind of thing. I think you can’t fake that.
I think the long term effect is that if you do follow my blog and if you do read my stuff and so on I never violate that trust. That’s something I can’t fake. There’s no, you can read, there’s no technique you can do this. There’s no way you can present yourself or way you can phrase something or magic words that you can use that make people trust you to the degree that someone has been following you for five years and you have never, ever violated their trust. I think that that’s a big…
Vic: It’s interesting too because when I watch your sales videos for your WordPress plugins or whatever it is that I’m watching, my impression is that you have taken all of the rules of direct response marketing for creating sales videos and absorbed them, but then kicked them out the window and did your own thing that’s more like … I don’t know. You videos have a formula that start out like, “Look, everything you’ve heard is bullshit and here’s the real deal and here’s why and here’s some proof. Now if you want this thing here it is. It’s going to work. If not, cool.” It’s very personal. Like when you meet somebody in person, they’re not trying to convince you of all the stuff. They’re just trying to get to know you a bit, show you the facts of a situation. If you want it, okay, if you don’t, okay. It’s very organic the way that you put those together. Which actually leads to my next question. Sorry, go ahead.
Shane: I would just say, one of the things that I remember doing deliberately when I started out with the selling was that I didn’t like sales messages that sounded desperate. A lot of sales messages if you take a step back and look at it, they’re very desperate. The guy doing the selling is so desperate to get your money. I don’t [inaudible 13:38] The way I see it the job of marketing … essentially now that other people are producing, I’m not a programmer, so other people on my team produce the products. The job of my developers is to create absolutely amazingly good products. The job of my marketing is not to try and push as many people into the top of the funnel as possible. It’s not to desperately try and get some kind of money out of you no matter what.
The job of my marketing is simply to tell the right people about what this product actually does. That’s all that’s needed. I think that’s also a big difference between … basically if you’re selling hopes and dreams then you’re desperate for people to buy your pitch and to give you money and hopefully not refund when they find out you can’t deliver. That’s not the situation I put myself in. What’s the point? I’m not trying to sell a lead generation plugin to someone, one that doesn’t have a … what’s the point? All I have to do is people who do have a website and know that building a mailing list is important, all they need to do is understand what in this case Thrive Leads actually does. That’s all they need. If they do understand that then [inaudible 15:05] because it is that good. I think that’s why, the thing you say about my sales messages. I avoid being very hyperbolous [sic] and I avoid a lot of the stuff that I guess we’re used to from marketing videos because it’s just not necessary.
Vic: I don’t know what you make, but I imagine that by using an honest strategy and just being yourself you still get to pay your bills. The interesting thing is too is the longer that you do something whether it’s business or an art or weightlifting, the more your personality starts to come out as an expression in that medium. In business you are the expression of your art, the art of who you are as a human being. Okay, that’s who you are and that’s how your sales message is going to manifest and that’s how your marketing is going to look, your attention to design, which is cool. You can look at people’s sites and know who they are a little bit on the inside. A big part of your marketing is video. Your use of video is really, in my opinion, the biggest part of your let’s say … it’s the part of your marketing that really catches me the most. Can you talk a little bit about your use of video and what role it plays in your business?
Shane: I’ve been doing video for a long time. Actually I recently realized that I think I got … I’ve forgotten how just a normal blog post that doesn’t have a video attached to it, I don’t really know how to do that anymore. Maybe I have to relearn that a bit. I can’t even really remember why I started doing video this much, but it is something that I very deliberately practiced for a long time and I still hone that as a craft. I try to make every video better than the last one in some way. One of the things I like about it is that it makes it easier to have a face level communication with someone because you can’t really talk to the camera … It’s one of the things I do now.
What I like about video is that it allows me to have … it makes it easier for me to have this face level communication with someone because I can sit down and talk to the camera like I would be talking to a person. That’s something I like. I like to have that vibe in my communication. Somehow, yeah, it just becomes media that I’m comfortable with doing. For certain things I do think it’s also more useful. Video is sometimes more powerful of a medium than written text. I really like it for things where you can just demonstrate something, demonstrate something on screen or something like that. For that it can be very useful, but apart from that … It’s just somehow a medium that I became comfortable with. Like I said, by now I can’t really remember why I started video this much. It’s just become my thing I guess.
Vic: I definitely agree that it emulates being in front of somebody and talking to them, person to person a little bit. Even all of the marketing benefits aside, just being on camera and bringing awareness to how you speak, all your little ticks, whether or not you’re annunciating, whether you’re using a bullshit filler words like uhm, like, whatever, just bringing that awareness to your communication is powerful professional development tool, all business purposes aside. Since we’re talking about the face to face communication I just wanted to take a second and mention the way that we met which is interesting in my opinion because … I was in Bangkok and I was staying at some hotel on Soy 10 or something, I don’t even remember the Soy … Somewhere in the main area.
I’m walking back with my laundry one night and I see you walking with some guy and you’re dressed in really nice clothing. You’re walking and I thought, “Is that that guy, that Shane Melaugh guy?” I’m like, “Shane, Shane Melaugh,” and you’re like, “What? Who is this?” I come up and I introduce myself and I tell you that I’m an internet marketer and you’re like, “Well we’re just on our way to get a bite to eat. Do you want to come join us?” Real quick I change my clothes, I came and joined you guys and I got to chat with you and your business partner and then there were a few other guys there as well. Where I’m going with this is how important do you think it is in business, obviously if we hadn’t met like that I probably wouldn’t be on this podcast with you right now. How important do you think it is to put in face time with important people, people in general?
Shane: I would say that’s very important. By the way, that was the first and only time that someone recognized me on the street so far. I believe with my … I think you usually have to have a way bigger audience than I have before that kind of thing happens. That was pretty funny. In terms of putting in face time this is something that I wish someone would have told me at some point in my life is just how important networking is essentially because networking is a bit of a dry term to use I guess. The people you know and how they feel towards you make such a huge difference in your life. This is something that I am not good at at all. This is not …
Vic: Are you an introvert or …
Shane: Yeah, I’m very, very introverted. I used to be that very shy introverted unpopular clumsy kid basically. I used to be that guy. Certainly I am much more relaxed in social situations and whatnot now, but I still essentially have that problem. Networking, if you want to put it that way, is one of my weaknesses. I’m terrible at … just all that. I’m not even sure what I’m bad at. That’s how bad I am. I have seen, many times, that the connections you make are so important. For example, one of my … basically I’ve had two business partners with whom I’ve launched two larger projects. The first one was SE Cockpit with Sam or Swiss Made Marketing I should say was the company name and now Thrive Themes with Paul.
In both cases these businesses would have not been possible at all without that other person, without Sam or Paul respectively. It’s just invaluable. Because it’s completely different from having an employee who does some work. It’s like having a business partners who really pulls their own weight and can really bring this unique value to a business. It’s just invaluable. You can’t buy that. Even for me where I definitely don’t have a big network and I basically don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to that, I can clearly see that the people you know and the people you can relate to and so on make the biggest difference because like Thrive Themes, like I said. Thrive Themes is amazing for me. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever worked on. It’s going really well. This would not even remotely be possible if I didn’t have Paul to basically do half the work.
I guess if you … That’s something I wish I would have known about sooner, if I had had any idea about this I would have. Because what I do is I tend to focus on things and invest a lot of time into something to get better at it and no doubt that can be done for the networking skill as well. I wish I would have invested some years of my life in that earlier on. Now I’m too busy.
Vic: I guess it worked out in the end because … Maybe the purpose of networking is to build your business, elevate each other’s lifestyles and provide each other value. I also want to point out too that I don’t go a lot of business conferences and I keep to myself. I don’t like going to co-working spaces. I find them distracting and just a lot of people are just sitting there talking about everything they’re going to do, but they’re not doing shit which bugs me. When you do go to these conferences or events or whatever and you meet people my policy has always been that I’m just going to be myself.
I’m not even going to talk about business. I’m just going to talk about … I don’t know, whatever is natural to you, music, girls, travel, weightlifting. You’re at a business invent, so invariably you’re going to get into business talk. Why force it? It’s like that desperation thing you’re talking about. Some guys are throwing business cards like ninjas. It just reeks of desperation. I think if you can just be yourself and you connect with somebody on a personal level then all of the business stuff will follow anyway because you want to do business with people you like.
Shane: That’s a really good point actually. That’s a really good point. I also actually notice that most of the contacts I have who are valuable contacts and who I am in touch with regularly usually started off not being about business. I think that also helps you stand out. For example, Gale from Authority Hacker who’s become a friend and who I met in Budapest, when he reached out to me I can’t really remember what the initial thing was, but one of the first things he did is he invited me to some festival. Just like, “Oh I have some extra tickets. Come to a festival.” It turned into a business thing later because we’re both entrepreneurs. Like you said, it’s inevitably going to happen. Yeah, that’s actually true for quite a lot of the connections I’ve made. A cynical way of saying that I think I’ve been played like that quite a lot with the ones where it’s worked out. That’s good, I’m going to remember that.
Vic: You mentioned business partners a second ago. I wasn’t going to ask this, I didn’t have it on my questions list. It’s come up in a lot of conversations I’ve had recently where I spoke with Dan Norris from WP Curve. He said something like, “I’d rather be a 50% owner of a million dollar business than 100% of 150,000 dollar business.” How important has been having a business partner for you? Some people are against it, some people are for it. It’s like a very dividing, polarizing question.
Shane: I quite like to … The question of partnership and the question of the people you work with are probably two different questions. I remember seeing a TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli who said that any successful business needs three people. It needs one person to make the product, one person to sell the product and one person to manage the money. Of course, that would scale so you’d have one person responsible for all of the people who create, one person responsible for all of the people who sell, one person responsible for all the financial stuff. In my experience that’s been very, very true. Trying to do it all by yourself I think destines you to fail, especially if you want to go to scale.
The lifestyle business type thing you can do by yourself. As an example, you have your blog, you build your blog audience, you sell an eBook and you make a couple of grand a month let’s say. At that scale you can definitely do it all yourself, no problem. But if we’re talking about a business that you want to scale to reach a large audience and to really fulfill its potential in the market you cannot do that by yourself, no way.
Vic: You handle the marketing aspect-
Shane: Yeah, that’s my role. In terms of the partnership the question becomes do you want to partner with people or do you just want to hire people. That’s a discussion by itself. Here’s the thing. Here’s one thing that I’ve realized, is that the skill level or the contribution that people can bring to the table in a company is … Let’s be very one dimensional about this and just let’s say how good is this person as an employee, let’s assume we have an employee. How good are they? How good divided by the value they bring to your company. You might imagine that there are people who aren’t very good and then there are people who are really good and it goes like this. The people that are really good are better than the people who aren’t really good. But really the distribution in my experience is on a power curve, is on an exponential curve, which is to say that the really excellent employee isn’t 20% better than the good employee. He’s 20 times better than the good employee.
Vic: It’s the star.
Shane: What we have is … If you find these rare people who are at the very top who can just produce so much more value than anyone else, they are worth partnering up with and they deserve to be partners in my opinion because there’s such a remarkable difference there. It’s rare to find these people. For me one of the things that I look for is essentially work ethic. There are some people who can just … they can just produce work output that goes above and beyond what almost anyone else you meet is capable of. Those are the people in both with Sam that was the case, with Paul that is the case, where that was the main criteria really why I decided to partner up with them. Because I saw, because they demonstrated to me that they are capability of just doing incredible amounts of work when it’s necessary. There’s also certain autonomy where you can give someone a task, they just run with it and you just know that they get it, that they’re going to do an amazing job. That is so rare to find that when you do find it you might as well make them a partner.
Vic: Very interesting. You mentioned a bit earlier too that there is a limit to how much we can do personally or even if you have a superstar partner who can output a lot of work, there’s still a limit to how many hours are in the day and how much energy you have to expend. I would like if you could please to talk about your business processes, your systems that you have in place, automation, delegation. The work the system frameworks that allow you to run smoothly as you scale and allow you to identify bottlenecks and point of failure in your business so you can continually improve.
Shane: Systems are very, very important. I’m totally a systems guy in my business and also in my personal life. Essentially … for me, I’m quite disorganized. I’ve just noticed in my life that anything that isn’t governed by a system that I’ve set up will just … it’s just chaos. I have systems for basically everything. I need to have systems-
Vic: Can you give an example?
Shane: As an example … for example for my nutrition. I follow a system that ensures that I eat healthy because I can easily just pig out on food. I can also, it goes to both extremes. If you put a packet of cookies in front of me I’m going to devour all of those cookies, no second thought. Also I tend to be a bit workaholic and I also go through phases where I forget to eat. This has happened to me where more than it should when I get up and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t have time for breakfast right now. I’ll just start work.” Next time I glance up my watch or at the time it’s 7:00 in the evening and I haven’t eaten anything.
Vic: You’ve had a nice little fast.
Shane: Yeah. Which is also not a great habit. If my goal is to eat well and to make sure that I have healthy nutrition and so on, the current system I’m following is that I have basically at the same time every day I have a large green smoothie. I also basically follow a system of how I create that smoothie. That’s one big meal that I have every day and that’s healthy that guarantees, “Okay, it’s one healthy meal a day.” Then the second one is that I have a [inaudible 34:12] and my system is, it also has to be simple. The system has to be simple so you can follow it. Basically I have a large green smoothie every day. I have a large salad every day. Then for the third meal I just have whatever else I want. By having these two points that are always the same in [inaudible 34:28] what I eat is healthy and I ensure that … Even if I do have an unhealthy third meal because I’ve already had all this food I’m not going to eat a huge quantity of unhealthy food because I just don’t have the appetite for it anymore.
Like I said, without a system governing my nutrition it just derails and I’m either eating really badly or eating really irregularly or I’m eating too much or I’m not eating enough or something goes wrong, but I have to have a system. I also have the same system to make sure that I get … that my sleep cycle stays more or less in line because it’s very easy for me to suddenly fall into the thing where I’m working until 5:00 in the morning and then I sleep in the … whatever. For that kind of thing I need systems.
In business what I’ve found is that I think you can, up to a team size of maybe five people, something around that, I think you can do quite well without … You do get to a point where you absolutely must have systems. For us for example, the development process that is hugely important. We have a very detailed system that makes sure that every product goes through all of the stages that it needs to go through for development like design, development, testing and so on. By now this is a very intricate system that we use to make sure … Also the same goes from make sure that all the support requests re fulfilled, make sure that all the bug reports come to the right person and are fixed if necessary and all that.
Vic: It’s all documented, right?
Shane: Quite an intricate system. It’s all documented and it’s all … we use a project … we use the JIRA product management system for this.
Vic: What is it?
Shane: JIRA, Atlassian JIRA.
Vic: JIRA, J-I-R-A?
Shane: Yes. This is specifically made for software development projects and that kind of thing. Not necessarily the first thing I would suggest starting with because it’s extremely complex, but at a certain stage it’s the right kind of thing. I’m also doing the same thing. Right now I have a couple of people here who are basically interning for me as marketers. It’s the same thing, we basically established systems for how we work, how we communicate, how we keep track of our tasks and so on.
I think, yeah, I think the main thing I can say is that you have to make sure, especially when you see things slipping [inaudible 37:15] things are slipping you have to put systems in place to govern those things because the mistake that most people make is that they say, “Oh, this isn’t good right now,” they go and rush to put out the fire. Then they say, “I’m going to try harder. To prevent this from happening I’m going to pay more attention to it or I’m going to try harder to prevent it from happening.” That never works. That never works. [Inaudible 37:45] solution in the first place. Things go wrong because, and if there’s no system to make sure that you keep track of it’s going to fall apart again. Just thinking that … If you think that I’m just going to try harder to prevent this from happening again you’re underestimating how much distraction and other important stuff is going to come up in the future.
Vic: You’re also underestimating the degree to which humans are governed by unconscious automatic processes. There’s even a whole subfield of study called automaticity which deals with the degree to which we’re unconscious essentially about all these habits that we have. I know I always put my key in the wrong part of my book bag as I’m leaving my house. Then later I’m looking for it and I’m like, “Where the hell did I put my key?” and inevitably it’s in the wrong pocket despite my best effort to put it in the little mesh pocket where it’s easily visible. It’s just those stupid little things, but on a business that could be-
Shane: That’s actually another example where also … Another system I have is that I have the same ritual for taking my keys and my wallet and whatnot. I put them in the same place every day. As soon as I come in I take them out of my pockets, I put them in the same place when I go out because if I don’t do that I’m going to be in the situation where, “Oh, I forgot my wallet and I don’t know where my keys are. I don’t know where I put my phone,” and so on. It’s also an example of where it’s such a tiny thing, but how many people are constantly complaining that they always lose their phone or their keys or whatever. The solution they propose is, “Well I’m going to try harder to remember next time.” No, no, you have to have a system for this. Even if it’s as small as that.
Vic: You brought up sleep and I just want to echo that for a second because a lot of these podcasts and business talks are focused solely on business, but I … I’m big into fitness, I know you are as well and nutrition. Without going to the gym, without having a sleep, hygiene routine on lock I wouldn’t be even a quarter as effective as I am. For me what I do as well with sleep is at a certain time all the lights go off, Flux goes on on my computer, magnesium oil gets slathered on my body, cold shower, all these little things. Then by the time you’re actually ready to sleep you’re just off and you wake up feeling refreshed. I see a lot of entrepreneurs neglect their physicality, their physical being. They think they’re doing more work because they’re putting in more hours, but I see that they’re actually short changing themselves. What do you think about that?
Shane: Absolutely, I totally agree. I also have the tendency to do this, but I think I have an advantage because for a long time the number one thing in my life was martial arts for a long time.
Vic: What kind?
Shane: I started with judo as a child, but then in my teens I was training wing chun and some other … actually quite a lot of other stuff as well. Basically I’d say for ten years of my life that was all I cared about. I think what that helped me with is get into the habit of exercising a lot so that even when I’m not … Even when I’m essentially neglecting that part of my life I’m still exercising. I basically almost never drop to zero. The very least I will do is maybe go to the gym three times a week. That’s the absolute least I will do. I think that’s something that … just because over such a long time I established a routine of exercising a lot every day it raised the bar of how bad it can get when you drop the ball.
I think that saved me a bit, but I also have this experience, I also have the workaholic tendency and the tendency to drop the lifestyle and health stuff in favor of work. But that’s also something I noticed and especially in the last 18 months or so I’ve been much more on top of that to make sure that that doesn’t happen, to make sure that I do take the time needed to stay in good shape and just make sure that I get my exercise and all that.
Because like you say, I think it’s essentially delusional because yes, you can do more work today by skipping the gym and chubbing some fast food in your mouth because you don’t have time to cook something proper and working until 3:00 in the morning. You can then … depending on how hardcore you are you can then sleep for two or three hours, get up again, do the whole thing again. You can do that maybe for three days, five days, ten days, but at some point this stops and your productivity is going to grind to a halt and you’re going to pay the price.
It’s one of those things … this is also a model through which I view the world. There are certain things where you can accomplish something by a great effort and there are other things where the main thing that matters is not how much effort’s put in right now, but … you are. A simple example of that is brushing your teeth. If you want to make sure that your teeth don’t rot and fall out and whatnot the solution isn’t to brush your teeth really hard for three hours now and then you’re good for the next five months. There is no amount of intensity or duration of brushing your teeth that you can put in today that will make it unnecessary to brush your teeth again tomorrow.
There’s just no way to increase the effort or intensity to compensate for the effects of consistency. With your productivity it is like that as well. Yeah, you can go hard today and maybe for a week like I said, but the thing that’s really going to make a difference over time, the thing that’s going to make a difference in a one year, five year, ten year span is your consistency. If you work a few hours less because you’re going to the gym and you take more time to make sure you have a healthy nutrition and you sleep eight hours a day and you keep that up until every day let’s say you’re working two hours less than the other guy, but you’re keeping your lifestyle, you’re keeping that intact, over one year, five years, ten years you’ll be leaving the other guy behind by a huge margin. That’s something I totally believe in.
Vic: Consistency, persistence. I’m glad you brought that up too because I don’t know about you but I never work really … I can never do more than four hours of real concentrated productive work per day. That’s my max output. I could sit on a computer and answer emails and do all these bullshit menial tasks because that doesn’t require any real energy, any real soul, but if we’re talking about actual, high level business tasks four hours and that’s it. I’m burned out. I need to go to the gym, to the beach. I don’t know how people do more than that. Maybe I’m just weak in that regard, but doing it day after day, having a good solid routine where you wake up refreshed and you’re ready to go, I’d rather put in those four hours than put in eight shitty hours.
Shane: I think it’s also … This is another thing where you’ve found that to be your thing, that four hours you can do, and if you build a life where … you make sure you organize your life in a way where you can do those four hours of great work every day then that’s awesome. You basically find what works for you and you follow that. That’s not going to be the same for everyone. I can easily work way more than that, but it’s dangerous because I have had periods where I’m just working ten or 12 hours day like a maniac. That might be good for a period of time, that might be good for my business even, but it’s bad for everything else in my life.
I think that the important point is that you have to find a thing that works for you and build your lifestyle around that. For me it’s more that I have to reign in this tendency to just get lost in work and forget about everything else. I need a system to ensure that that stays boxed in. I also have to say of course, it’s also true that one of the problems is that one the one hand there’s a lot of high level important work that you have to do, but it’s also very easy to get dragged into this more menial stuff and spend all day doing that which is another thing that you have to get under control.
Vic: I also wanted to circle back real quick to the idea of systems in your business and specifically as it relates to your content marketing. When I read your blog … there’s a difference between a blogger and a content marketer. The blogger is writing articles hoping something will stick. The content marketer is creating content that attracts people, engages and leads somehow through some eventual path to a sale. My question for you is how do you automate, if you do, your content marketing? What are your systems around content? Because I know you’re big on writing, I know you’re big on video, but it’s hard to produce consistent quality of highly engaging content. How do you manage that?
Shane: Actually that’s one of the things that I’m still working on, building a system for that because so far it’s been only me doing all the content. It’s always been a bit secondary to a lot of other stuff. The amount of content I’m putting out is usually dependent on just how much other stuff is going on. That isn’t governed by a real useful system, but now that I have more people working on the marketing front that’s something I’m working on improving. In terms of how do you create the content or how do you … I guess one of the systems I have is that I pay close attention to what people are saying.
A lot of the stuff I do is essentially based on feedback and a lot of the content I produce is based on questions. I’ll produce a piece of content and I’ll pay close attention to it. I always invite people to comment and I place very close attention to what are people saying in the comments. What kind of questions do they ask? What kind of messages do I get after I publish this piece? That gives me ideas to base my next piece of content around. I feel like that’s in one way the easiest way to do it and in another way also the easiest way to make sure that your output remains relevant and useful, is when you’re doing it, it’s almost like a dialogue. Rather than just me sitting there thinking, “Oh, what should I write about next.”
Vic: They’re telling you what to write about.
Vic: As you’re running your business you’re traveling around the world or are you staying put most of the time?
Shane: It’s a bit of both. I tend to stay for … I don’t hop from city to city. I tend to stay in every place I go to for several months. That way I actually get to live in a place and be there for a while before moving on somewhere else. That’s also something that doesn’t … One thing I notice, if I’m actually traveling, if I’m actually on the road and moving around, that really my productivity takes a serious hit. It’s much better for me to move to a different place and then be there and do work and all that for several months and then move do a different place again.
Vic: I think that pretty much wraps up … we’ve gone 50 minutes, so we’ve covered a lot of stuff. Is there any kind of bit of advice that you want to leave the audience with, just something from your heart relating to business? Words of wisdom from all of your days in the trenches.
Shane: For me the main thing is that … for me the most important realization that started this journey essentially is that I realized I can apply myself to something and if I do it, I go deep enough and I put in enough hours I get good at it. That’s been the most important thing because when I started this I was totally clueless. I had no idea about any of this internet business stuff. I was the least qualified person you’ve ever met to start or run a company. But the one thing I had is I had this strong belief that I could identify the skills that I needed to make something happen and that I could put in the hours and I could put in the work to become proficient at those skills. That’s been …
I sometimes say this is the only thing I know about life. It’s the only thing that I know about life, is that you identify the right skills, you put in enough work, you put in the practice and you will get good at it. That’s what takes you where you want to go. It’s also [inaudible 52:00] because having big dreams and visualizing them and believing in yourself and all that doesn’t matter. In my opinion, I’m very pragmatic, in my opinion it doesn’t matter at all. You might as well not do any of that. What matters is what are the skills you’re working on. What are you doing every single day to get better, to take you towards the most important thing that I think any entrepreneur can take on board?
Vic: That’s a very eastern European outlook, very mechanical pragmatic.
Shane: Is it?
Vic: I think so. I’m Ukrainian. My dad is a hard boiled soviet scientist and you bring up any of that new age stuff with him, he’ll shut you down man. Be like, “No, it’s all about hard work. It’s all about working smart, working hard, being competent and you can dream all the dreams you want, but if you’re a shmuck and you’re not putting your nose to the grindstone then you’re not going to accomplish anything. You’re just going to be a hippie basically.”
Shane: This is actually, if I can continue on this part for a second, one of the things I noticed is I have … on my computer I have a folder structure that I’ve been working on for years where basically every time I start a website or a project or a [inaudible 53:28] it goes in a folder. Then all of the stuff, all of the copy and images and content and videos and so on for that project are in that folder. One thing I noticed is that you can determine the success of the business by the size of the folder. If you look at [inaudible 53:52] more successful businesses you open the folder and there are hundreds of subfolders, just piles and piles of work, hundreds of videos, hundreds of posts. So much work has been put [inaudible 54:08] and lo and behold the business is successful. If you look at some of my less successful projects, you open the folder and there’s not a lot in there. To me that’s also a proof of this relation between the amount of work you put into something and the results you get out.
Vic: Deep, very deep. Shane, where can people find you online and what are you working on right now that you like people to know about?
Shane: You can go to ThriveThemes.com, that’s one word, ThriveThemes.com and that’s where you can find the WordPress plugins and themes. That’s my main line of products right now.