Mike Michalowicz Interview – The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur
Let Mike Michalowicz, ‘The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur’ Educate And Guide You Through What It Really Takes To Become A Successful Modern-Day Entrepreneur…
If you are looking for a fun interview to brighten your day and make you laugh, look no further! Once again, I am very proud to present to you, yet another fantastic and entertaining audio interview with a truly fascinating entrepreneur, who was just so easy to talk to that I am certain you really are going to love listening to this interview.
Similar to some of our previous guests, Mike is not only an inspiration and yet another guest on Blogtrepreneur who provides a whole wealth of valuable information, but he is very honest. To elaborate…
He also teaches you some of the most effective techniques he has used to stay on track on his path to success – that is from blindly quitting his original 9 to 5 at a young age, to founding a fortune 500. The beauty of this is that some of the most easy tasks can have such a huge impact on the success of your business, tasks that Mike has tried and tested throughout his 15+ years in business.
Branding himself as ‘The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur’ it is quite clear that Mike knows about personal branding – learn what it takes to effectively brand yourself to becoming a success in the world of business by applying some of the most valuable tips I have heard to date!
What I personally LOVE about Mike and about this interview, is that Mike is not only honest but he is very ‘against the grain’ and outspoken – he expands on this in the interview but he doesn’t agree with the boring side of business but instead results to teaching in a fun and innovative way with the intention of igniting the ‘inner-entrepreneur’ in every single one of his listeners or readers.
One piece of advice from me would be to use this interview as I have and that’s to listen to it over and over again, make notes from what Mike is saying as you would at a seminar, and put each of his tips into place when starting your business – allowing you to go from a regular business person to becoming a focused and determined entrepreneur.
I’ll leave you with a great quote from this interview, and it came when speaking about those thinking about starting a business and wondering where to begin…
“Just pick the one that resonates with you the most and try it, just try it”
I wish you all the best with your future business ventures!
“The Interview Guy” at Blogtrepreneur.com
Mike Michalowicz Interview (Audio Transcription)
Luke Etheridge: Hi, guys, I’m Luke Etheridge from Blogtrepreneur.com, it gives me great pleasure to introduce our next guest to the interview series here at blogtrepreneur. His name is Mike Michalowicz, who, you may have heard of as the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, has been a guest on many television programs. He’s started his own business at the tender age of just 24 years old, and he is the author of a very successful self-titled book called “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur”.
Welcome to Blogtrepreneur, Mike.
Mike: Hey, Luke, thanks for having me.
Luke: I mean, I gave a brief introduction there, but I’m going to start off by asking you to, sort of, educate our readers in actually what you do online and how you’ve actually sort of become to be so successful.
Mike: Yeah, sure. I kind of hate, I’ll gladly do, I kind of hate to, though, because people are like, “Oh, here comes the ego trip. Here comes the guy pounding his chest.”
Luke: No, this is the, I’m asking you to, you can do it without any Hassle.
Mike: All right, I’ll tell you some stuff. But maybe I’ll tell you the bullet points, and I’ll tell you kind of the story line behind it.
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
Mike: So, I’ve, yeah, I started my first business at 24, I’ve grown three multimillion dollar businesses. Two of them I sold. One I sold to some private investors, the second one I sold to a Fortune 500 in New York City, and the third one I’m currently operating, and it’s going through a change now, in what we’re doing.
And, but the one thing I thought was interesting as I was building these businesses, was that I, so many entrepreneurs are coming to me and saying, “Oh my god, I’m going to be an entrepreneur, too, because you just, whatever you do, you touch, it turns to gold. You become rich instantly. I’ve read all the magazine covers, and I get to be the next Mark Zuckerberg and become a billionaire by age 18.”
So, that actually kind of incited me to write the book, “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur”. Because it’s an effing struggle. And that’s why I hate saying, “Oh, I built all these successful things, ” and stuff. I did, but I worked my ass off.
And there’s been some very dark days, too, when I didn’t think I was going to be able to pull it through, or lawsuits. Or the big customer I knew was going to sign up, and then they said, “No. You’re not a fit for us anymore.”
And it’s like, it just makes, takes the wind out of your.
So, what my book is about, is all about the real story of entrepreneurship, and the analogy, the Toilet Paper Entrepreneurs, kind of like when you’re in the restroom and you look over and there’s just three sheets. And you’re like, oh my god. Oh my god, why didn’t I look earlier?
And what happens in that moment, is we don’t give up, we don’t say, I’m going to sit here for the rest of my life, we root through the garbage can, we find some stuff there that may help us out.
Mike: And, what I find funny about that is, entrepreneurship is similar. Like, no one talks about the bathroom experience, you just go in, you do your thing, you come out. Well, entrepreneurship is just like that. And there’s a lot of times where you’re caught short handed and you have that same mentality of rooting through, kind of, the dumpster of life, if you will, pulling out the stuff that will help you succeed. And if you have that mentality, you can succeed.
Luke: So you sort of make do with what you’ve got, is that what you’re saying?
Mike: Yeah, more than they do with what you’ve got, that is definitely the base of it. But really become innovative. I mean, there’s countless examples. You can advertise, you can get huge amounts of advertising space for free, if you simply think outside of the box, for example. So, it’s about using the few scraps thrown to us, but using them in a way they’ve never been used before.
Luke: I mean, I’m really, really glad you’ve just touched on such a strong point for me. I think that so many online entrepreneurs, or so called gurus, which you’ve probably come across as well. They seem to tell people and teach people that it’s an overnight success, and aw, you can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, and within the next month you can be pulling in $20, 000 a month, and all that kind of thing.
You know, how do you feel about those kinds of people when you come across them? I mean, I just try to laugh it off. But it does get to me sometimes, when I see these people who are advertising these get rich quick schemes.
Mike: Yeah, it used to really frustrate me, because it’s such a lie. It’s such a lie. But now, I think the consumer out there has become wise to it. There’s so much of this get rich that’s been around, that I think this, enough consumers are smart enough to say, that’s bull, it doesn’t work.
Anyone that calls themselves a guru, I think, is nonsense. Yeah, there’s one guru and he sits on top of a mountaintop somewhere and practices some form of religion, but I think all of us are still learning that the dynamics of the Internet are changing so fast, so much, that no one can be masterful of it. You can only stay on top of the curve. So watch out for gurus.
Luke: I think it’s that whole word, “guru.” It’s corny isn’t it? It just doesn’t…
Mike: It is corny.
Luke: You just said earlier that you started your first business at 24. One thing that comes to mind is that obviously many people at 24 are too busy socializing and spending the little money that they have. What actually made you decide to start your own business? What created that desire to want to do it?
Mike: For me it was throwing back some beers that actually did it. I was working at a computer store and in the US there was a store called CompUSA. It’s out of business now but I worked for basically a competitor of theirs. I was this greasy little kid that you would come and try to buy a computer and I was trying to push a printer on you because I got a five-dollar commission if I sold a printer to you.
One night after working there for a couple of years I went out for drinks with another guy that worked on the floor with me, and we were like, “Oh it sucks working for the boss! He’s a jackass and he’s not that smart, we work so hard and he just sits back and he’s probably a millionaire!”
Luke: Everyone’s said this before, this is all too familiar.
Mike: Yeah right? I’m so much smarter then him! But, I was throwing back some cold ones and after like four or five beers, I was like, “Oh man I’m so much smarter than this guy, I’m going to start my own business tomorrow, screw him!” And my friend who was with me is like, “Get some balls on you, start a business!” And I was like, “I’m going to!” Basically, he egged me on…
Luke: You watch me, I’m going to do it! You watch me!
Mike: So I resigned the next morning hung over like a banshee, I mean I was screwed. So I quit the next morning and I started the business. But, also, I got a very early start on life. I was already married and had a three-year-old by then, so I got a real early start. So for me the first business was coming home to my wife and saying, “I’ve got good news and bad news. I don’t work at the computer store, which is probably pretty good, but I have no idea how we’re going to make money.”
And ironically, because I jumped off the cliff… Booze helped me to do that… But once I landed and had to start building a business, I had more than just my own ego to satisfy. A lot of us start up a business and it’s just us and if it doesn’t work we can get a job. I had a family to start feeding immediately, and a crappy two bedroom apartment to pay for. I just started working like a mad dog, and that’s how it started.
Luke: Do you think maybe that fueled your drive to succeed? Having the family thing, do you think that can actually be a good thing?
Mike: Yeah. I call it “burn the boats.” There’s a story about… I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the “burn the boats” thing…
Mike: There’s this young military commander who’s country is at war with another country, and they say to him, “This is a pinnacle campaign you’re about to go on, and if we lose this battle we’re going to lose our country, and if we win this battle this could be the turning point of the war.”
So they send this young general out, he lands on his enemy’s shoreline, he unloads his men, and he tells the guys, “Before we take a single step forward and start our assault, we’re going to burn our boats.” And the soldiers, being loyal soldiers, say, “Yes General!” and they burn the boats. And then he looks back at his army and says, “There’s now no retreat. The only way off this island where we landed is victory.” And they won, and they won!
It’s a similar concept. When you go into a situation where you can only succeed, where your quote-unquote life is at stake, you’re going to succeed. So I don’t recommend finding the next girl you see and marrying her just so you can start a business. But, the more your success matters, the more you have skin in the game, the more likely you’ll be successful.
Luke: Did failure ever cross your mind on your path? Did it ever get you down?
Mike: Oh yeah! Every single day. But, it’s what got me going because I’m like “Oh my God I might fail, I might this, I might that.” Constant “I might.”
But it spun on fear and I think for a while fear is very important.
I think none of you will talk about this in business but the early stage of business, the emotional stage is really fear and because you’re afraid of failure, because you’re afraid of the disastrous consequences, it gets you running, it gets you up in the morning. Because you don’t have any customers calling, the phones aren’t ringing, you don’t have anything you’re selling. So the anything that gets you going is “I got to get out there and make this happen otherwise I’m done, I’m afraid.’
And so fear, in the beginning is important. The only caveat or trap is if you stay in that fear mode of ‘I’ve got to make this work’, I mean this work for years and years or longer, the stress will start getting to you and that will start tearing you apart.
So you’ve got to start reduce fear to get you running to a certain point. You need to get your business to a point where it becomes aspirational instead of being pushed by fear, you’re being pulled by aspiration.
Luke: OK, yeah, that’s a good point to make. I think a lot of people they probably do potter around a bit too much with, you know with certain task that aren’t actually going to take their business forward. But they, you know, it’s kind of, just the fear and I think, you know, they sort of put their eggs their wrong basket, if you know what I mean.
They focus on the wrong things in business. And I think that some people when they first start out, they can sort of run in the wrong direction. I think it’s probably quite important to step back sometimes, chill out and access what you’re going to do and aspire to you know, have objectives. I think objectives are also a good idea. Would you say that?
Mike: Oh yeah. So I think a lot of people who’re being busy to being productive and these are totally different things. So I know and I myself do it. Unfortunately, still at times, come in to the office and I’m surfing the Internet and I’m doing work to work research and I’m uploading, downloading, doing all the stuff. But at the end of the day, I haven’t really brought in extra money or produce more revenue by doing what I was doing. So I was busy, I wasn’t productive.
So the key is to get to productive. I’ll tell you they’re two tricks to doing it. One is to recognize that people speak the truth through their wallets. What I mean by that is when someone says they love your pride, I love your webs, I love what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean anything.
What really means something is when they put money in your pocket. When they pay you, that is representation of how much they really value your business. So, in your business, look for customers that are paying you money and do more of that. Don’t listen just to the kind words you’re hearing, that’s not nearly enough. Watch their wallets and respond to that.
But the other little trick I have is, I think we all have our ‘to do’ list either on our mind or written down. One of the big written down to do list, anytime a thought to mind, I’m always writing down, I should do this, I need to do that, I need to do this.
But then this is the trick, we go back to the list, and I’ll put a dollar sign next to the items on the list that I know I can generate revenue from the next thirty to ninety days, next few months. And the dollar sign next to it, those are the priorities items and I priortize my list not by their due dates, not by keeping myself busy but by which ones will generate money in the near term, inevitably my business grows everytime.
Luke: OK. I mean I’m a massive fan of the ‘to do’ list as well. I think that they’re kind of a, they’re kind of a smaller version objectives aren’t they? They do play a big part in everyday life, don’t they?
Mike: Oh, they do. And it keeps us on track because, you know, it’s constant in eruptions. There’s the phone ringing, email chimes, someone walks in or your mind just drifts. I mean all of these things happen and if you don’t have it recorded, you forget it or you spend your time trying to remember.
So a simple ‘ to do’ list and I keep it, a clip board and a pen and paper and a marker. I’m sorry a pen and paper and a highlighter and that’s it and I highlight the task I’m working on in the moment and when it’s done, I cross it out and I go what’s the next task, I highlight it and if I get distracted, very quickly I can go back and say, ‘ah, this is what I was doing’. I’m back to the highlighted task.
Luke: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s an important point to make. I think it’s so, so easy especially nowadays with things like social network and all that kind of thing, it’s very easy to get distracted, isn’t it?
Mike: Oh god! You are constantly bumbled by distractions.
Luke: Emails especially and all that kind of things.
Mike: Yeah, just for me you get on the phone today, there are our emails back and forth, and if you think about it, one email, it takes you twenty seconds to write it. It takes me, about twenty seconds to respond.You still have to think about it. Then you have to go back after you thought about it and you write it and send it. Then you have to go back and say what was I just doing. It’s this constant jumping back and forth you get no traction.
I was reading this one article this morning, this one guy, he says he has one room in his house, where he.Its crazy, he put in, it’s called faraway metal, which prevents any WiFi from getting in. So he goes in there and closes the door and his wireless laptop gets disconnected. He can’t get on the Internet.He says he’s not disciplined enough to turn it off himself and stay off it, so he goes in that room and he can’t get on.
Luke: This is brilliant. I’ve never heard of that before. That sounds like a great idea. That just shows you doesn’t it. Just shows you how powerful the Internet can be. Because the Internet, while being unbelievably innovative and cutting edge, it is a pain in the backside, isn’t it.
Mike: It really is.
Luke: So I mean, you touched on it, emails then, you said it could take you twenty seconds to write the email. How do you actually construct your emails? A lot of people like to write long emails. Do you think it’s even worth doing that? Or do you think it’s better to get straight to the point with a few sentences? Is there a way that you do that?
Mike: Yeah, now are you talking just for business communication or are you talking about for selling or what?
Luke: Well, business, yeah. In business, say someone was interested in advertising on your website and you want to get back to them. Would you give them a whole reel of information and spend a little bit of time, say three or four minutes on it, or would you just give them a quick snippet?
Mike: Yeah, that’s a great question. When it comes to a business communication, particularly where there’s a potential client, so someone reaches out and says “Hey, I want to learn more about your business. Can we get on the phone together or something like that?”
The first thing I do when it comes to prospective clients specifically is I will do a little test. Basically, there are people that are I call them fluffing the pillows. They’re just checking it out and playing around. Then there’s other ones that are ready to get in bed with you, those are the ones that are much more committed.
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
Mike: To separate those out, I respond and say, “Hey thank you for your interest in our company. For me to properly prepare for the phone call I need you to answer these ten questions.” Now, I have five to ten questions that I’ve predetermined with two goals. One is to get more information about them, but one is also that it requires them to commit a significant amount of thinking and effort before you get on the phone with them.
The reason is it is very easy for someone to send an email in twenty seconds saying “Hey I want to check out your business, tell me more about it.”
I can get maybe ten of these emails a day and now I do ten calls. Each call can go for a half hour and these people are just fluffing the pillows. When I respond saying I need to prepare for our call and ask these questions, out of those ten people that email me, only one out of ten will respond with the answers thought through. When I get on the phone with them, inevitably they’re really strong prospects.
So, it’s a little filtering technique I use when it comes to business communications to filter out clients that are serious and ready to get in bed versus the pillow fluffers.
Luke: I tell you, it’s a great point to make in the way that I don’t know whether you get it with having a blog. You get some emails that seem quite automated, don’t you. You get these ones where, “I’m checking out your website, blah, blah, blah.” Or I’ve got this affiliate product and I’m thinking about using you guys as a guinea pig and please trial it. I think it would be very relevant for your readers. You get all those sentences in there.
I think just sending out that “Well wait a minute, answer these questions, ” I think that’s probably quite a good idea to get rid of those people because they just won’t put the effort in because they don’t care about that, they want an answer.
Mike: No you’re right. I get the same thing, I must get a dozen, well it feels like a dozen emails a day, maybe not that many. But, many emails a day. I can see where they insert my website where your website is inserted. So they’ll come, they’ll say blogtrepreneur.com where mine says toiletpaperentrepreneur.com. I was checking out your website toiletpaperentrepreneur.com.
You know, it’s such bull. So whenever I get that stuff I personally just delete it or I do that form response I was telling you with the questions.
Host: Yeah, you do get them. I’m glad you have that opinion as well. They make me laugh when they think that we’re not going to assess the fact that they’ve just inserted the url in there.
Mike: Yeah, exactly.
Luke: Madness. Just going off topic slightly and back onto another topic. I think it’s quite fair to say your teachings in your book are quite against the grain of your traditional business lecture.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
Luke: That you’d find at college or university which I know you’ve lectured at or been a guest lecturer at these kinds of places.
Luke: I’ve read some statements, like “Why a business plan is a total waste of time”, and how to find and exploit resources that no one else knows about. Stuff like that.
Luke: I mean, do you think that that kind of outspoken and bold approach has been the reason behind the success of the book?
Mike: Absolutely. I mean, there’s no question about it. I really believe, Luke, that if you want to be noticed, if you want to be successful, you have to be very opinionated. And you’ve got to accentuate the personalities or the components that make you unique.
So, when I wrote “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur”, we all like to joke around, stuff like that, and I really like it. I notice that no other business books have that kind of joking around mentality. Yet, all my friends and I like to joke around. So, I was like, I’ve got to really accentuate that part of my personality, because that will distinguish me from the rest.
The second thing is, I know controversy sells books, so what were the things that I believe in emphatically that are also controversial? And that should be the emphasis. So, one of the things was, I think business plans are a total waste.
So, I made that statement, and sure enough, when the book came out, here’s this guy that, he’s using some strong language but in a funny way, and he’s saying very controversial things. And it got picked up immediately. And it got put on TV immediately.
Where, there’s lots of other books out there, and I’m sure there’s some really good content in the books. But they’re so freaking boring!
Mike: You want to put a bullet through your head.
So, and I recognize my book might not be the best book ever written, but I really believe in its content, and I think the way I delivered it made it a very noticeable book.
Luke: Do you think it’s quite an inspirational book? Do you think it sort of gives that kind of enthusiasm to somebody that’s reading it?
Mike: I hope so. I mean, that’s what I really wanted to do. I wanted to, someone that was starting a business, or maybe had started a business but was just struggling along, to get reinspired, or if they’re starting a new business, to get inspired and fired up for it.
Because that’s what I believe. I believe entrepreneurship allows you to do the things that nothing else in the business world will allow you to do.
I mean, having a job working for someone else, you do what they say. But as an entrepreneur, yes, the clients are your bosses, and yes, they’ll give you direction, but how you deliver it is totally up to you. You don’t have to answer to anyone else. It’s the total freedom.
So, I wrote the book, really, to get that inspiration back to people, but then also give them the tools and the shortcuts that a lot of people don’t think about.
Luke: Yeah, yeah, and I think in this day and age, I think a lot of people look at, turn to say, people like you, people who have been successful online or, had their sort of success, and they do expect a lot from them.
And I think, I’ve read a few reviews of your book on Amazon, and if you don’t mind me saying, there’s a few just, not a lot, but there’s very good, very, very good ones, I’m sure you know of them. But there’s a few that say, “Oh, you know, that same old rubbish, that same old fluff.”
And I think what happens with these kind of people, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me, is they literally want you to take them by the hand and pass them $20, 000 or something, and say, “Here you go, ” so.
And that really, really winds me up, and people have got to realize that it’s up to them. And the book is only going to be, at the end of the day, it’s however much it is. You know, it’s only going to be 10 to 20 dollars worth of books, so you’re never going to be able to get a proper business plan out of that book. I think you have to make it happen, don’t you? I think that’s quite an important, important point.
Mike: Yeah, you the reader has to make it happen, so, you’re right, people are looking for what I call the blue pill. And the blue pill is, you know, Viagra, no one even wants to work for an erection nowadays.
You know, what’s going on?
Mike: You’ve got to work at something. So, people want the blue pill. I just want to take it, and I got it.
But, that doesn’t exist. To grow a business, there is no business out of the box. If it was really that simple, literally, everyone would be doing it. So, my book is all my guidance, it’s the same thing as sitting down with me and me shaking you, saying, you can do it, but ultimately, you have to do it.
The funny thing is, just may be reviews and maybe this is a little tip people could use. I have, I don’t know, 230, 240 reviews of the book on Amazon, but it’s the 10 or 11 one star reviews that get all the attention.
Mike: So, there’s, you know. And that’s, I think, something important to know, that as we grow our businesses, that the negative stuff is the stuff that gets attention. Just like in the news.
Man 1: Yeah.
Mike: The news is the highlight, oh, great say! They talk about the murders and the crime going on, the negative stuff because it catches our attention. So, when we develop our businesses, we are to recognize that negative reviews are going to get our attention. When we get a negative review, how we handle that, or maybe you can choose to ignore, but how we handle it is really what’s important because that gets all the attention.
Luke: Yeah. Yeah, I completely agree with you. I mean, I went to see an Internet marketer over here, a guy named Andrew Reynolds. And he even went to the extent to say, “Don’t watch the news.” He said …
Luke: … because it is so negative. And people do, they focus on negative energy. They focus on the downturn of the economy. Well, what are you going to do to get out of it? But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Don’t think about, you know, it’s all about this whole mindset of you should never say can’t and all that kind of thing.
Well, if the economy’s so bad, why don’t you do something? Why don’t you go that extra mile to get yourself out of it?
Mike: You’re so right, you’re so right. I actually stopped watching the news, this goes back about four years ago, which is funny because they’re … even if you don’t watch the news you still get it. So, I come into work and I go into the little kitchenette here we have and the news comes up. The really important stuff still comes up.
Or my wife will call me and say, “Oh, my God! You will not believe this happened!” Or an email from a friend of mine saying, “I just can’t believe this is happening!” So, the funny thing is, the really important news, even if you ruled it out of your life, still gets to you.
Mike: And all the other negative trash that there’s nothing for you, you don’t even have to worry about it.
Luke: I’ll tell you what I did like and you might have seen it, you may not have. But that guy Ted Williams? The homeless guy?
Mike: Yeah, yeah! The paper.
Luke: I mean, that … that’s the news I want to hear. I want to hear that kind of thing, I want to hear about this guy that’s come out of nowhere! So, I think that’s the good news but then, it’s just so rare to get that kind of news, isn’t it?
Mike: Yeah, it is rare and he’s funny. I didn’t know anything about Ted Williams until my wife said, “Oh, my God! You got to see this guy, he’s on … I don’t know, on Jay Leno or one of those shows.”
Luke: Show just about everybody.
Mike: Yeah! So, then I think, “Oh! I got to check him out!” So, I knew about him just like when everyone else did. But all other disasters and trash records and all the other crap that’s on the news – don’t know about it, don’t care about it.
Luke: It’s a good way to be.
Luke: And then your … I’ve worked it out because I looked it up but I think you’re 39 now, are you?
Mike: Yeah, I’m 39.
Luke: So, that would make it 15 years ago that you’ve been in the business, you know, 15 years ago that you’ve started your first business at 24.
Mike: That’s right.
Luke: What do you think has changed since starting your first business? Is it easier to start your own business now or is it harder?
Mike: It’s easier to start your own business, it’s easier to get that initial exposure. But I think it’s harder than ever to compete because there’s so many startups, there’s so many businesses. So, when I first started, believe it or not, the Internet was barely … it was there, right? ’96 was when the Internet started going.
But it wasn’t, you know, it was barely even at all. So, when you start a business you need to get exposure. You got to do traditional mailings, you’re stuffing envelopes and saying stuff that will get people’s attention. And it was hardly noticed but when you did, it was hardly that competition was clawing your back.
What’s changed to today is that if you start your business, and that’s not a toilet paper entrepreneur. The first day I opened the website when went live I got 18, 000 visitors according to my Google Analytics, and you know, 18, 000 unique visitors that day.
Because I reached out to all my friends, all my contacts, said, “Hey, I’m opening a new site. Would you send through a list and most people are obligated, people felt obligated and did it or may people just out of generosity shared it and tons of people came onto my site! And it’s tons of exposure!
So, that’s the great thing. The downside is, the next morning a competitor’s website popped up and everyone went there! And the next day everyone else was somewhere else!
Mike: So, though it’s easy to get people’s attention, it’s very hard today to keep their attention for more than two seconds. So, that’s the challenge we’re facing.
Luke: Do you think in that respect you should put quite a lot of pressure on yourself to supply decent content? Do you think that content is king in that sense, so that if they enjoy your site they should hopefully either join your list, so therefore they become … Now they go from just being a normal reader to a follower. Is it important to focus on great content?
Mike: Yeah. No, you’re right. That is, content is king now and we have the obligation really, to help our visitors to come to our websites and our businesses. It used to be not that way, it used to be where our job was to educate them how great we are. And a lot of the old school businesses are still doing it that way.
You come to my site and this is why I’m great. But really what it’s turned to is, you come to my site and here’s everything I know in my power that will help you.
Mike: And why that works, because that was crazy because you’re giving away all the goods, you’re giving away the Key to the Kingdom. But why it works is two things. One is what’s called reciprocity. The more people that benefit from you, the bigger they have an appreciation for you and the more they want to give back to you or participate.
One example is Christmas time, if I send you a Christmas card, this next Christmas you will be, “Oh, my God! I did one interview with that guy and he sent me a Christmas card! I have to send him one back.” That was a surprise to you, you feel an obligation to respond in kind.
Mike: So, rule number one is, the more you give to the community, the more likely that they’ll give back. But the other benefit of helping and showing and sharing everything that you know, is the fact that some people will take that knowledge and run with it.
But most people don’t have the time, they’ve got their own stuff. They want the Blue Pill, the want the fix because they have all their other things they’re trying to take care of.
Mike: So, once they find that you are the knowledgeable source, they have the trust to come to you and say, “You know what? I need this, I know you’ve taught me how to do it on my own but quite frankly I don’t want to spend the time doing it on my own. Would you please do it for me?” And that’s how you make your money.
Luke: OK. I mean, that’s quite a good strategy to put in place. I think that that’s kind of quite a blogging strategy, sorry. That a lot of bloggers have where you give away a lot for free and then when it comes to the stage of actually releasing a product, people would actually more than happily get their wallet out and actually pay you for your product. Because they’ve learnt so much from what you gave away for free. I mean, I think that’s quite a good strategy. Do you agree?
Mike: Yeah, well …
Luke: I think you’re cracking up there, Mike.
Mike: Yeah, we are breaking up a little bit.
Luke: You’re OK now, we’re back.
Mike: OK, OK. So, just to build on what you were saying is, when you do introduce a product while you’ve given away knowledge, your product … the best products introduces something that does something for them. So, a lot of people try to sell more knowledge. I give you all this knowledge on my website and now I’ll sell you more knowledge.
You know what? That doesn’t sell as well as a fix. So, instead you develop an application that does something for people. Develop a service that can get something done for them and people will be highly likely to consume that because they don’t have to learn anything else, they just get the benefit.
Luke: So, going again slightly off track, not too much. But there was a book released by Yanik Silver you may have heard of, you probably have heard of, called “Moonlighting On The Internet”.
Which is, for me that’s a brilliant, brilliant title for a book. I mean, do you have any words of encouragement for those sort of people who are struggling to focus on their online business due to other commitments? Due to working a nine to five and having to slug away at nighttime?
Mike: Yeah, I think it’s a great way to start a business. First of all, if Yanik says it, I’ll go with it. Yanik and I are … we’re good friends now for quite a few years. I was just out to dinner with him a couple of weeks ago and Yankik’s a funny guy! I was over at his house, this was maybe six months ago, and I came up with a concept.
And I was like, “Hey!” I was talking to him on the phone and I said, “Why don’t you come down for dinner?” He said, “No, I’m in the Washington DC area.” I’m in New York. He said, “Stay with me at my house and we’ll talk about it.”
And what he does is, I get down there, he makes this nice dinner and then he brings out the booze …
Mike: … and he starts drinking a little bit and he’s like, “Hey, let’s go play some pool!” It’s in his basement, it’s a finished basement, he’s got a nice poolroom down there. And then he really starts loading you up with liquor and then he listens to everything, he milks you for all your knowledge!
Mike: He’s taking notes and stuff, it’s very funny!
Luke: This is a brilliant plan! I’m putting this into place.
Mike: He is brilliant! And he does it all with getting you drunk. So …
Luke: He’s going to love to hear this!
Mike: Yeah! He’s awesome! I’m probably one of his biggest, biggest fans. I mean, what a knowledgeable guy!
Mike: And I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Yanik.
Luke: Again, someone like that, he’s been in it for so long that he’s managed to build up that knowledge.
Mike: Ah, so knowledgeable. But what he says, I agree is absolutely true, is that the Internet gives you the opportunity to moonlight. And it used to be that if you were starting a business, you’ve got to quit your job and start immediately, and you’ve got to work 24 hours, because you have to get the word out.
Because the first phase of every business is getting the word out, getting potential consumers hearing about you. And that took a lot of effort before the Internet. Now, the Internet’s so far along that you can stream video over, you can you all this stuff, you can have all these forms, that you literally can get noticed overnight, and you can do it during the night. So, come home from work, then you go to your Internet business and get the word out.
The trick is, at a certain point, once you get the notoriety, is the retention phase, right? Because the next comparison will come out, and if you don’t keep their attention, they’ll go elsewhere. That is now where all the effort has to go. And that becomes, from my experience, a full time job.
So, once you get the word out, moonlight at night to spread the word and get attention, once you start getting some traction, some people buying some attention, that is where you’ve got to kind of kick it in second gear, and often, I think, is where you have to now become full time at the business.
Luke: Yeah, yeah, I think, that on its own highlights just how hard it is, when it makes that transition from, you can moonlight at the beginning, and then you get to a stage where you actually have to jack in the job. I think that’s quite, that’s quite clear to me that, just how hard it is, becoming an online entrepreneur.
Because people, and we said it at the beginning, people seem to think that it’s easy, and it’s an overnight success, and you can make so much money a month. But, you can only do that if you actually put in the hours.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, if you think about it, competition still exists on the Internet, just like it does everywhere else. And there’s definitely someone out there putting in the full time. And, every day, they may not be beating every day, but they’re doing a little bit more everyday. And that starts accumulating.
They start getting a little bigger prizes, they start doing the extra things that you’re not doing, and ultimately that turns someone from just being a standard competitor to the elite competitor, and they take off.
So, the only advantage I see, and I agree with Yonick is, in the old days, if you’re going to start a business, from day one you’ve got to be full time, because you’ve got to be promoting it. Today, that cut over to the full time gets delayed, because you can get the word out. But you do still have to cut over full time if you’re really going to make a go at it, my opinion.
Luke: OK. OK. I’ve heard in a few interviews with you, where you’ve mentioned branding quite a lot, you’re quite strong on that side of things, and that side of action. Obviously, being the toilet paper entrepreneur. You’ve managed to brand yourself very, very well.
Mike: Thank you.
Luke: Why the toilet paper entrepreneur? I know you briefly touched on it earlier, but, and why did you think that name is cool, and so well?
Mike: Yeah, so branding is everything. And one thing I think people miss about brand is what I call tonality. And tonality is the style that you use your voice. And when I say use your voice, it’s not just more speaking on the phone. But when you do video, or when you write, or when there’s advertisements, or any kind of interface a customer has with you, what’s the tone you’re taking on?
So, the toilet paper entrepreneur, what I decided was, I looked at my competition, all the other business authors out there, and looked at their tone. And I found very academic ones. I found very inspirational types, I found the “down in the trenches and how I turned around my life” types. I didn’t see anyone that was just, kind of, really raw and edgy and funny.
So I said, ooh, that’s the opportunity for my tone. And that’s naturally part of me, but I’ve really got to ramp it up in everything I do, to make my brand strong.
The second thing is, I said, where can I run an analogy that no one’s done before, but once you hear it, it’s sticky? You understand it, and ideally, associates to something that you do every single day. So, I could be, kind of, the back of the paper napkin entrepreneur. But it’s, you’ve heard that before, and how often are you writing business plans on the back of a paper napkin, or thoughts?
I’m like, you know, that’s not that good. And it hit me, once I started asking myself this question, what do we use every day that can run this connection? One day, not so ironically, when I was in the bathroom, I was like, “Holy cow. This is it.”
We do this every day, every time you see toilet paper, if I’m the first one to call myself the toilet paper guy, you wouldn’t use the bathroom and there’s just three sheets sitting there, you’re going to think of me. You can’t help it, because you experience every single day.
And that’s, so once you take tonality, the way you have a voice, and in a, tied into some unique kind of new association. So, entrepreneurship, like, and then a toilet paper, new unique association that’s very sticky, means something that we touch on every single day, I think you’ll have a very powerful brand.
Mike: How important do you think that the design and logo and color scheme and all that kind of thing plays in branding?
Luke: I think it plays, but to me, there isn’t really a logo. I mean I shall only have for Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. Some people think it’s toilet paper, but there’s no official logo. Color isn’t kind of important. But really, what it boils down to is consistency. So every experience that someone has with me, they are somehow “toilet paper” associated with it.
Every time you come to my website there is, in my book too, there is an off-blue or an egg-robin blue, or a little bit of a darker blue. So it’s consistency. There reason is, I know because it’s going to take me 5, 10, 15 experiences of someone running into me before they say, “Oh my God, I see this guy everywhere! I know this guy.” And if I’m not 100 per cent consistent in every touch, that you have with me, I’m basically starting from scratch.
So whatever colors and stuff, I think, one of the listeners right now may pick for their brand, I think you’re pretty much OK with whatever you like. But the rule is, you have to be consistent forever.
Man 2: So use it in every area that you do business.
Mike: OK, OK. I mean being an author of your own book… Sort of just to wrap this up a little bit, it’s a sort of a bit more fun question, off-topic kind of question. But, being an author of your own book, do you actually read yourself? Do you read much at all? Do you have a favorite or almost influential book that you have ever read, that you can recommend?
Luke: Yeah, as I read constantly, I love to read. I have right now… I’ve ordered about 30 books that are sitting on my desk that are my queue to read.
Luke: One of my all-time favorites… I’ll give you some that you’ve probably never heard of before that are great. Because I’m sure you’ve heard of “Think and Grow Rich”, and it was just great. I’m sure you’ve heard “From Good to Great”, which is great. But I’ll give you a couple, you probably haven’t heard of, that are phenomenal.
One is called “Raising the Bar”, and “Raising the Bar” is a book by Gary Erickson – he’s the founder of Clif Bar. And how he took a company from in his garage and grew it to… It’s about 100 million plus U.S. now, maybe 200 million, by just doing his passion, which was bike-riding and making protein bars.
Luke: So that is an outrageously good book. “Meatball Sundae” by Seth Godin, you may have heard of that one, love that one. Here’s one, “Blast from the Past” that’s really good. “Poor Richard’s Almanack” – I have that sitting on my desk and look into it. Little, short phrases and tips that are just real, significant intelligence. You open any page and it’s like “Huh, that’s pretty smart.”
Luke: I just open it up, it says, “Who is rich? He who rejoices what he loves.” So there you go, there’s a little tip from “Poor Richard’s Almanack”.
Mike: And now the book I just finished reading today, is called “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Cables. This was written back in the ’60s, maybe even in the ’50s. And it’s all these different tests they ran in advertising. And while this was written so long ago, you’d think it would be stale, it’s actually very current.
It’s very fresh, because all these tactics are coming back to life. Short advertising which used to just run in the newspapers, are now the same advertising you are running in pay-per-clicks. So this stuff is highly applicable. So that’s what I’m reading.
Luke: Cook, thanks for that. So there’s plenty of books there for all of our readers to get stuck into if they feel the need to.
Luke: Lastly, I’ve got a question that I’d like to ask quite a few of our guests. Pretty much all of them. But it’s not a very nice one, in the way that I like to take you back to when you didn’t have the wealth and success that you’ve got today. And obviously, thinking back, you probably think back to when you actually lost. When you actually jumped off a cliff, and you got rid of that job and you had your family behind you.
If that happened to you today, if you were 24 again, and you had to do it all over again, what would you actually do differently. What would you set out to do? Where would you focus?
Mike: The only thing I would change in retrospect was I don’t know if I would have sold my companies. The funny thing is that when I started the business, the phrase “pump and dump” was always around. “Oh, Bill, the business is pump and dump, ” become a millionaire overnight. And there’s truth to it if you can pull it off, and I was fortunate I did. The downside is, the hardest part of every business is starting it. And it becomes tiring, it becomes exhausting. So, every starting through businesses, I’m just tired of it.
Luke: You did the hard bit , and then you passed it on.
Mike: It’s, yeah the hard, the early day is the hard day and the payoffs come at the end so I sold them and I did well. I really liked them and I, in retrospect, the only thing I would change is, I would, and I’m doing it with my current business, I’m building it, I have no intentions of ever selling. I want to see this through ’til, ’til I’m in the graveyard. That’s my plan.
Luke: That’s, I think that’s such a good, you know a very important point to make. Because you know I think that a lot of people they would do exactly what you did. They would build it up, they would realize that it’s making money, get some interest off of someone and then dump it. So I think that’s, that’s not, I think that’s probably quite a common thing to actually happen. But do you think that if you’d have stuck around, did you stick around there long enough to reap benefits from the business or do you think you’d be reaping more benefits nowadays if you still had them?
Mike: I think I’d be reaping more. You know one of the companies I sold continues on today and is doing very well. And I think I would reap more benefits. And it’s not just the financial benefits. I mean I did really well, but it’s the emotional too. It’s really tough starting from scratch. So I think there is some emotional gains. My second business, it was acquired by a Fortune Five Hundred, they destroyed the company, it doesn’t exist anymore, it’s done, it’s gone.
Luke: So that’s even worse in some respects.
Mike: It is. ‘Cause you build something, you’re really proud of what you’ve built and then they buy it and they just step on it and crush it. It’s like, “Oh God, ” it’s just, it seems like it’s all for waste. So that one in particular I wish I had just held onto that and just kept running it myself.
Luke: You must’ve thought that when you passed it onto the Fortune Five Hundred that things were going to go fine because obviously they had experience to take it to places that maybe you couldn’t so it was probably quite weird to see.
Mike: You’d think.
Luke: That they didn’t actually and that you could have probably done a better job.
Mike: It was so weird because the company was, it was growing, we were on a run for seven and a half million in revenue on our own account and they’re going to buy us and we’re like, “Well we’re going to go to fifteen million this year just because they acquired us and give us access to all these new clients.” And then thirty million, a hundred million, I mean it’s going to be the next kind of Facebook story.
Mike: And they bought us and within days they started unwinding the company. Because the problem wasn’t because they were bad people or dumb, they had a certain bureaucracy, a certain way of doing things that this young, fresh, aggressively growing company didn’t fit into this big machine.
And they made us, it’s like, if you think about what a small gear spinning a thousand miles an hour, and there’s a huge gear that’s barely moving, when you blend those two together it just stripped and, stripped us apart. And within a year the company was done and we were basically scrap metal. And that was, that sucked to see. But I will tell you one thing, the check that came before it was very nice and got me through that problem.
Luke: Yeah, that softens the blow.
Mike: A lot, a lot.
Luke: Yeah, but I believe that’s everything Mike, thanks so much for agreeing to do the interview today. And I’m sure our readers have enjoyed your words of wisdom and the stuff that you’ve been able to give away, the value you’ve been able to, you know give to our readers. So thanks for that Mike.
Mike: Well thank you, I really enjoyed it.
Luke: So you know hopefully people use it, you know put it to good use. We’re getting out of the rat race and there are a lot of people out there, it’s just quite a common thing at the moment with people looking for alternative ways to make money online and all that kind of thing, so hopefully they do use this kind of interview to inspire them to follow in your footsteps.
Mike: I well I hope so, I appreciate that, I hope so. And if there’s one kind of little point or thought, whoever’s listening in and just, one thing if you learned one thing today or if you learned a hundred things, it doesn’t matter. Just pick the one that resonates with you the most and try it, just try it.
Instead of, I think a lot of people hear all these great ideas and they’re like, “I have ten things to try tomorrow that I haven’t done yet, ” that becomes overwhelming. So just pick one thing from today’s call or the other interviews you’ve done, just pick one thing and start with that, give it time to mature and then go on to the next.
Luke: Yeah, very important. Yeah, don’t put too much stress on yourself. Focus on the one passion that you have and then if that doesn’t work move on and maybe try something else.
Mike: There you go.
Luke: So, yeah, to everybody else, let us know what you think of Mike, what you thought of him. Even if you didn’t like him, tell us if you hate him.
Mike: Yeah, I want to hear that.
Luke: I’m sure he’s used to that kind of thing as well, not that it happens often, I’m sure it doesn’t. But yeah, yeah, we love to hear from you all so please just give us some comments in the comments section below. And I’m sure Mike will pop back in now and again just to see, see what you guys have to say about him and he might even comment if you’re lucky. He may have to comment just to defend himself.
Luke: I’m sure he won’t. Anyway, it’s a pleasure to meet you Mike and once again, thanks for your time, thanks so much. And I hope you have a nice day, buddy.
Mike: You too Luke, thanks.