When Andrew graduated from college, he founded Bradford & Reed, a company that ran a collection of start-ups. After he sold the last big chuck of that start-up, he took a long vacation, spending his days cycling and traveling. Now, Andrew runs Mixergy.com, where he invites proven Entrepreneurs to teach how they built their startups. On Mixergy, he has had the founders of Wikipedia, Groupon, LivingSocial, LinkedIn, and over 600 other fascinating start-ups.
- “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill click to tweet!
- When Andrew started Mixergy, he didn’t know where he was going or how he was going to get there. He stayed the course, dedicated himself to his vision, embraced failure, and created success.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Andrew Warner is a true Entrepreneur in every sense of the word. You definitely want to take notes for this AHA moment.
- Andrew believes strongly in building a community and providing value to them every day. Listen to how he does just that with Mixergy Premium.
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John Lee Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply thrilled to introduce my guest today, Andrew Warner. Andrew, are you prepared to ignite?
Andrew Warner: Hell yes!
John Lee Dumas: Alright! When Andrew graduated from college, he founded Bradford & Reed, a company that ran a collection of startups. After he sold the last big chunk of that startup, he took a long vacation, spending his days cycling and traveling. Now, Andrew runs Mixergy.com where he invites proven entrepreneurs to teach how they built their startups. On Mixergy, he’s had the founders of Wikipedia, Groupon, LivingSocial, LinkedIn, and over 600 other fascinating startups. Wow!
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, Andrew, but why don’t you take it from here and tell us who you are and what you do?
Andrew Warner: I run a site where proven entrepreneurs come on to talk openly about how they built their businesses. The revenue comes – since a lot of people in the audience would probably wonder – the revenue comes from charging a monthly membership fee for access to courses that are also taught by those entrepreneurs.
John Lee Dumas: Yes, and I am one of the members of Mixergy Premium, and those courses are simply phenomenal.
Andrew Warner: Oh, thank you.
John Lee Dumas: So let’s just kick right into this, Andrew, and gets the show rolling with our success quote because at EntrepreneurOnFire, we start every show off with a success quote from our guest to kind of get the motivational ball rolling and to really get our listeners excited for this awesome content that you have for us. What do you have for us today?
Andrew Warner: A great one that I remember hearing and loving when I was a kid is “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” That’s by Napoleon Hill. By the way, that’s worked for me both on the up and the down. I remember even basic things, that if my thought that I was not going to do well, would blow up in my face like I was a big dork. I would imagine that if I went off and talked to a girl, that she would just roll her eyes, she would turn away and talk to her friends and so on. Sure enough, when I did it, when I went and talked to them, they would do that. They would go talk to someone else, they would look right through me, they would look over my shoulder. Then of course, once I got confidence and started to believe that I didn’t have to be that dork, that there was something else inside me, then conversations with women, with men, with anybody, ended up just working out. So whatever you think, if you walk into a situation thinking you’re going to be a big failure, you end up falling down on your face. If you walk in feeling confidence and good and feeling like you can achieve it, you end up doing better. You’re at your best.
John Lee Dumas: I love that quote. Thank you for sharing how you’ve actually applied that way back in your life. Can you give us an example of how recently, at some point, maybe in the last couple of years, that you’ve applied the mentality of that quote and how it’s changed your business?
Andrew Warner: Yes. I’ll give you both. I’m really shy. I’m uncomfortable talking on mic, even though all I do now is do interviews on mic. So I decided a few years ago, I’m going to go do Toastmasters. Toastmasters lets you speak in front of a big audience. So I said before I go to speak in front of this big Toastmaster event in front of a big audience, I’m going to do everything right. So I went out and I bought CDs on how to give presentations.
One of the things the CDs said is if you’re going to give a presentation at the big Toastmasters event, go to all the local ones. So I went to all the local ones and I practiced my speech there. Then another thing the CD said is before going up on stage, walk the stage for a little bit without anyone in the audience. Just sneak in and walk the stage. So I walked the stage. Then they said show up early so you can meet people. So I walked in early and I met people. Then I fell flat on my face at the event. I mean I just bombed.
I had to analyze it afterwards and say, I did everything right. Why did I bomb? Then I remembered, oh yes, you showed up early, but when you looked at the big room full of people, you said all these people in your head – I said this. All these people are going to laugh at you when you fail. They’re all going to feel like, hey, this guy doesn’t belong up on stage. When you walk the stage to get a feel for it, like the CD said, when you are alone privately walking the stage, yes, you did everything you’re supposed to, but in your head you said, “Oh, this is the point where I’m probably going to fail. Oh, I don’t belong up here. Oh those people are really expert speakers because they’re Toastmasters.” So everything that I did was right, but my head, my thoughts, were completely wrong, and that’s where I’ve experienced it badly.
Now walking into these interviews, walking into my own interviews, walking into conferences, I spend as much time thinking about my mission, thinking about what I want to go well, as I do about the actual substance. If my mind ever wants to go to oh, you’re going to bomb, oh, you’re going to embarrass yourself in front of the tech community, oh, you’re about to do an interview with a guy who’s in your audience who’s a premium member, and now if you bomb, he’s going to be embarrassed to having been your customer, if my mind goes to those places, I stop because I understand how damaging it could be. I used to think thoughts are nothing, but when you see how damaging it could be, you start to really respect them, both how powerful they can be in the good sense, and also how destructive they can be.
John Lee Dumas: Thank you for sharing that. That is just a great mentality and a great look back into your journey. We’ll use that now to transition to our next topic, which is failure. As an entrepreneur, we experience failure on so many levels every day, every week, every month, and it’s really how we react to that that really defines us as people, as entrepreneurs. I’m really excited to hear what you have for us and the Fire Nation audience.
Andrew Warner: [Laughs] So you guys want to hear about my failure. You know what? Here’s one. I moved to Argentina to focus on Mixergy, to really develop this passion project. I remember going in to work, and I rented an office because I wanted to take work seriously. So I rented an office, I was on a train going in to work and I thought, oh boy, this thing is just not going anywhere. I have an audience of people who I told about my past business success. I have now done interviews with dozens of people. That’s how many it was back then. Today, it’s 700+, but I said, there are dozens of people I did interviews with about how to build a successful company, and still, Mixergy is going nowhere. How can I hold my head up high and say that I’m a successful entrepreneur in the past and walk around with a shameful failure today? How can I say that the audience needs to listen to my interviews with successful entrepreneurs when Mixergy is a failed entrepreneurial experience?
I was just going in to work, dragging myself, feeling embarrassed that if anyone me going in to work, they would laugh and go, “Huh, look at this guy. He rented an office for a podcast? He rented an office for a blog? This guy just is so out of touch. He doesn’t know how much of a failure he is. He doesn’t understand that blogging is for little kids. Podcasting if for amateur wannabe real broadcasters.” I still would get up every day, and literally at five days a week, go into the office, I never missed a day, and just worked despite that. I actually feel that that really is the mark of separation. What separates someone who’s really going to make it and who’s really serious about life from someone who just is a wannabe.
Actually, I kind of heard this. I forget where. Back in college, I had a good boss who gave me a lot of great stuff to read. One was with an ad agency. The founder of the ad agency said, “Anyone can be creative when they’re inspired. I’m not looking to hire people like that because you can’t build a business based on those people. Instead, what I want is the guy who can look at a blank piece of paper that’s intimidating that has nothing on it, that has no inspiration in his head, and still fill it up with creative ideas. I just always took that really seriously. I said anyone can go to work in a new country and into their new office and be inspired on day one. Anyone can be positive when life is going well, but if you can still feel bad and continue to work, if you can feel uninspired and continue to produce, that’s the mark of a real success story.
John Lee Dumas: I love that failure and just the whole story of how you’ve turned it around, and it’s so applicable to me and my current situation because I launched EntrepreneurOnFire on September 21st. I have a very similar model to what you have. I’m audio only, about 30 minutes every single day, five days a week. You obviously do video, approximately an hour exchanges. So we definitely have different niches in some areas, but I’m going through very similar thought processes that you were going through back when you started. What would you say to an entrepreneur like myself, like Fire Nation, like our listeners, the thousands of people that are downloading this podcast every day that are looking to start a business or have just started a business and are struggling with those same issues that you were grappling with, how do I really make myself feel like I’m doing something worthwhile?
Andrew Warner: You know what? I did one thing that actually brought in revenue into Mixergy enough that I can hire a team of people to help me, that I was able to hire people to take on more work and make the site better. Now we have pre-interviews, now we have editors. There’s one thing that I did that brought revenue and turned everything around. I’ll tell you about it in a moment, but first I need to tell you what you can’t do. What we can’t allow ourselves to get into.
See, I would say all of my friends knew me as someone who wanted to make it big in this world, even going back to elementary school. All the people who I was broadcasting to heard me say that I didn’t just want to be another guy with a website. I want to leave my mark on this world. I told my wife about my ambition. I told my friends about it. Everyone knew me that way.
When it was time for me to add a revenue model to Mixergy, when it was time for me to start selling something, all of that – I’m not boasting, but all of that confidence came back to haunt me because I said, “Oh, what if I sell something and nobody buys? I’m going to be so embarrassed.” My wife, who knew me as this great businessperson, is going to see, oh, this guy doesn’t know anything. My friends from high school who are watching me, because now everyone watches everyone on Facebook, online, we’re all cyber stalkers. Then they say, “Huh, look at this guy. He completely fell flat on his face. He’s an embarrassment. He doesn’t even know how to sell. He doesn’t even know how to make something work. I’m looking at this and the first version is really crappy.”
So I didn’t, and I didn’t launch anything, I didn’t sell anything. If I did, I don’t remember it, and I’m sure it would have been really weak because there wasn’t any passion or confidence or any pride in it. That’s the thing we have to get past. We are all, if we’re entrepreneurs, if anyone’s listening to this, we’ve told the world and we’ve certainly told ourselves that we’re meant for some kind of greatness. The problem is that if we’re worried that the first thing we launch is not going to be great, then it’s going to build this whole façade of greatness down. It’s going to make it all fall down.
So we have to get past it. We have to be willing to fail. We have to be proud of our failure, proud of the first version that just bombed. Actually, what I ended up doing was I said on the site – that anyone can go search for on Mixergy Testing Tuesdays – I said essentially I don’t know how to make a revenue model work, but I’m going to try every Tuesday to sell you guys something, and eventually I’m going to hit on it. And I said openly that this was going to bomb. That it’s not going to work at first. But I need to go through that in order to get to what will work.
That’s the way we have to be. We have to be willing to put aside that pride that works for us in so many different ways, but can hurt us here, and then we have to just test and learn and try and fail. If we want to really lift a lot of weights at the gym and be great bodybuilders, we have to be willing to start off with just the barbell and know that someone in the gym is going to laugh at us, and then add 20 pounds to each side and know that someone at the gym is going to go home feeling proud of themselves because they’re not as weak as us, and then we build and we build and we build.
That’s the way I became a marathon runner. That’s the way I generated revenue for Mixergy. So what I suggest to you is find a way to just keep selling on your site so that you can bring in revenue, because revenue is going to be the water, it’s going to be nourishment, it’s going to be the lifeblood of your business.
John Lee Dumas: So what were a couple of things specifically that bombed at the beginning, and then what was that one thing that finally clicked that led you on the path?
Andrew Warner: Just doing interviews in a membership site didn’t do well. People are not going to pay for something that’s just interviews. They might be happy to continue to pay for a product that has interviews in it, but the mind doesn’t think that that’s something you should be paying for. People just don’t feel that way. So that bombed. Not terribly. It still produced money, but it wasn’t success at all.
Then I tried creating guides based on past interviews. That did so, so. Then I started doing live courses. That did okay, but the connection was so bad that I can’t really call that a success. Plus, if it’s live and you’re off by a little bit, you basically let people down. Then I moved to recorded courses. In those cases, I let the entrepreneur just record whatever he wanted. That was okay, but we needed to give them some guidance, and then the way we sold it one-off was not a very effective way to sell courses because if you sell one-off courses, you have to keep trying to sell people over and over again. If I sell one-off courses with an entrepreneur, I feel bad saying, “Hey, everyone, pay me for access to this entrepreneur,” but I’m not paying the entrepreneur for doing it. If I offer him money, the entrepreneur is going to feel a little insulted, “Hey, I’m running this successful business. Would you give me 500 bucks to come and appear?” It’s like giving your friend 100 bucks to help you move. They won’t do it, but they’ll do it for free.
Then eventually, what I hit on was courses taught by real entrepreneurs who were experienced and proven at a certain aspect of business, like how to get traffic. Those courses did well. We helped the course leaders prepare those courses so there’s no pressure on them to do all the work by themselves, and then selling it via a membership site. That worked.
John Lee Dumas: I love that. Let’s use that to move to the next topic, which is the aha moment. You’ve just hit upon a great aha moment that you had through a series of failures or challenges that you did overcome. Can you take us back to some point in your journey – not the specific aha moment that you just shared with us that was a super important one, and thank you for that – but a light bulb that came on at some point that just really changed your direction or just propelled you forward in a direction that you were moving that resonated so well with your audience, with your clients, with yourself?
Andrew Warner: Yes. Here’s one. Actually, I know exactly when it came. It came to me when I had a conversation with Derek Sivers about his book, and I said, “Derek, in your book, you tell people they need to systemize their businesses, but I don’t think people want to work. I mean I don’t think a company works when all the people in there are operating based on systems. They feel unchallenged, they feel uncreative,” and we went back and forth on that. He eventually persuaded me to at least try systemizing my business, and so I started doing it.
I started doing it in things like, well, if I’m going to have a guest on, why should one interview be a huge hit that works well, and another interview be a bomb? It shouldn’t just be left up to the chance of the encounter. We should find a system that will make those interviews do well. Then I thought, alright, let’s create an outline that will work for interviews. The outline that I used is Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” where it’s the same story. You’ll notice that inspirational stories tend to have a certain arc. So I said, “Let’s put the major plot points of that arc down on a piece of paper. That will be the outline of our interviews, and when we talk to people, we will look for their stories that fit within that arc.”
At first, it felt a little weird, but then it worked, and it worked better. We twisted, we changed the outline points and we adjusted, and we eventually even came up with questions that are new that aren’t part of Joseph Campbell’s process. Like we pre-interview our guests. We walk them through this outline. We fill in the blanks of this outline, and then I have an outline of where the interview is going. The guest knows where it’s going and we’re sure because we’ve worked ahead of time. We’re sure that the interview is going to go well. That it will be interesting, that it will not have missed the key points of the entrepreneur’s story. That it touches the audience in a certain way because there are certain ways of telling stories that will inspire an audience.
So we have all that, and then at the end, we learned – this was Jeremy Wise, our producer, who said, “Hey, you know what? Let me try asking guests what’s the one thing I should’ve asked you and didn’t?” Then he started adding that to the process because the answers we were getting were fantastic. Someone would tell us about how one of his employees accidentally chopped off a finger and what they did to recover from that. All those things then go to improve the system and make it better and better, and now a large part of our business is systemized.
One of the first things we do when you come onboard if you come to work at Mixergy is we say, “Here’s the work you’re going to be doing and here’s the system we created for it. Try this system out, feel comfortable, feel confident, and then we can adjust it together. We can improve it.”
John Lee Dumas: So Andrew, have you had an I’ve it moment?
Andrew Warner: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes! For a long time at Bradford & Reed, all I did was sit at the office. In fact, when we got the nice, new floor of office space in the middle of Manhattan which was all built out for us, I kind of felt like I had made it, but I also mostly felt like this was just another step in the process and I didn’t take a step back and appreciate it.
Then I think soon before we sold the last big piece of the business, I went to the Caribbean. I remember just getting on jet skis for the first time and having a hell of a good time. Then when the session was over, I remember just going to the guy who ran the jet skis and said, “I want to go another hour. I’ll pay you to just hang out here while I go for another hour,” and I thought, this is what life is like. I don’t have to think about if this would fit in my budget. I don’t have to think about is this okay? I don’t have to think about do I have to be at work? I don’t have to think about permission. I said, “This is what I want. To just have anything I want. I just want it to be accessible to me.”
I liked that after I got off the jet ski, I was able to sit down by the beach and have room service come to the beach and deliver food to me because I rented this house that was attached to a hotel that had room service. I felt like, yes, this is the superficial stuff. This isn’t the big meaning of life, but it’s meaningful. I want to have – well, I don’t want to look at the world and say, “Is this in my budget?” I don’t want to look in the world and say, “[He is so impressive] for having that.” I want to stand up and say, “Hey, I’m living here and there are certain things that I want, and I’m not going to be embarrassed to want them.”
John Lee Dumas: I love that, Andrew, and I think you need to coin that phrase, “It’s not the meaning of life, but it’s meaningful.” I love that. I’m going to write that down right now. It’s going to go in the quote board. So thank you for that.
Let’s move on now to the next topic, which is your current business. You have a lot of things going on. You have your systems in place. You have Mixergy Premium. You have amazing guests coming on all the time. What’s one thing that’s really exciting you about your business right now?
Andrew Warner: You know what? I have to say I still love the interviews. I love that I get to talk to people who I admire. I mean anyone who’s listening to us who enjoys reading a biography has to understand that it would be so much more fun to listen to the entrepreneur, listen to the person who you’re reading about tell you the story. It’s so much more meaningful to come back and ask questions. I didn’t want to just read Derek Siver’s book. I wanted to come back and challenge him a little bit and bring up my concerns or bring up my questions about his ideas so that I can really see if they fit my life and how.
Actually, there’s one other thing. So right now I’m in Washington D.C. I told you I lived in Argentina before this. I told you I lived in Santa Monica before that. I’m by no means a nomad, but I have gotten to move a lot, and I’m going to go to San Francisco next and I’m really excited about being in a brand new city, about discovering the new coffee shops, about discovering my new running path, about discovering everything. Everything is so new and so interesting when you’re moving to a new city.
John Lee Dumas: I love that, and just real quick as a side note because I’m always curious, I’ve lived in a lot of different places in my life. First, when I was in the Army as an officer, and then afterwards. I just did a lot of traveling to a lot of different great cities. What brought you to Washington D.C., and then what’s bringing you out to San Francisco?
Andrew Warner: Well, Washington D.C. was for my wife’s work. We’re really flexible in that I can work from anywhere and I’m pretty open to new cities. So she picked Argentina and I loved it. She didn’t go there for work. She just went there because we were looking for some place new. Then she picked D.C., and then I picked San Francisco because I feel like San Francisco has a nice mix of relaxed, hippie type people and creative business type people, entrepreneurs, who I want to be around.
John Lee Dumas: So Andrew, you’ve shared with us the fact that you’re pretty location-independent, which is very exciting, and you have a lot of good things going on currently in your business. What is your vision for the future of Andrew Warner?
Andrew Warner: I want to pull more meaning out of the interviews. Right now, I have I think incredible interviews and I’m seeing a lot of compliments in the audience where they used to really give me a hard time about the way I ask questions, about the kinds of questions I ask. Now, the feedback is much more complimentary because I’ve gotten more experienced. What I think I need to do next is draw some meaning out of it. To combine what I’ve learned from all these interviews and make it into something that will help other people see results.
John Lee Dumas: I love that. Andrew, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I provide you with a series of questions, and you come back with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Andrew Warner: I think I could do it.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] I knew you could. What was the number one thing holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Andrew Warner: Nothing. I was an entrepreneur from a kid, from as far back as I could think.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! I love the honesty. What is the best business advice that you ever received?
Andrew Warner: When you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. I got that feedback from the head of the Wall Street firm that I worked for in college. I worked like mad to get a meeting with this guy. It was so tough to get. Ace Greenberg. When I finally got in, we chatted for a bit and I said, “What’s the one thing that I should take away from this?” and that’s exactly what he told me. This is a guy who, when the stock market went down, did like a fake golf swing in the office, looked happy, had a smile on his face. He still loved life, and he bounced back from it.
John Lee Dumas: Great! Now you’ve shared a lot of awesome insights with us, but what’s one thing that’s really working for you or Mixergy right now?
Andrew Warner: You know what, I’ve given you so much about systems, about charging, so let me go a little bit outside of business and say that running in to work had been fantastic for me.
John Lee Dumas: Cool.
Andrew Warner: Imagine you [stay] with an accomplishment. One that doesn’t depend on other people, one that you can’t screw up if you’re not feeling at your best. You just put one foot in front of the other. I don’t care about speed so much at all actually. So any time that I go from home to work on my feet, even if it’s really slow, I feel a sense of accomplishment, I feel a sense of pride, and that’s a great way to start the day.
John Lee Dumas: Now during this jog, are you listening to music, a podcast, or just nature?
Andrew Warner: Mostly podcasts. Sometimes audio books on the short runs into work. Occasionally, music. Hardly ever nature.
John Lee Dumas: Can I encourage you to listen to EntrepreneurOnFire at least one time?
Andrew Warner: I don’t even find this thing. Actually, I hear you’re Top 5 already on iTunes. I don’t know what you did to get so high up on iTunes, but I have never moved anywhere on iTunes, and you’re just in there.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. When I launched, I was very fortunate. I’m just getting a lot of downloads, a lot of reviews. Currently, I already have over 80 reviews. Really, just asking people to support this free content, which is very valuable to a lot of people. So I’d love to have you take a listen. I’d love your feedback.
Andrew Warner: Alright. I love your work and you have really good people on.
John Lee Dumas: So Andrew, you’re pretty cutting edge. Do you have an Internet resource that you’re in love with like an Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Andrew Warner: I do love Evernote, and I can show you so many things that you could do with Evernote that people don’t even know they can, but it’s more visual. So I’m going to hold off on talking about Evernote now and give you another tool. Actually, two other tools, if I could.
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
Andrew Warner: One is Pipedrive. Anything that you do that’s systemized, especially actually it’s meant for sales, put it up in Pipedrive. You say, “Here are the steps that we accomplished as a team to get this done.” You can watch as you do it yourself, and then later on as you hire people as they take this process step to step to step. So if it’s sales, it’s what do we do to get a prospect? Let’s make that into a step. What do we do to turn a lead into a prospect, and so on. You just put all those steps down. That’s really effective for me.
Another thing that’s been really good for me is – if you own a Mac, there’s a program called Cobook. I’ve tried so many different CRMs for keeping up with people, and they’re all just way too complicated. Cobook is dead simple. It just works with the address book that’s already in your system. It’s easy to add notes to it. It pulls in people’s social network information so if I add you, I can also see your photo on Facebook, I can see your history on LinkedIn. I’m obsessive about taking notes when I talk to people, so now I take notes directly in Cobook. That way, the next time I talk to you, I can say, “Yes you broke your foot. How is it now?” or if you tell me about your wife, we’re going to talk about that. I could come back to that conversation next time.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! That’s great timing because I have been searching high and low for just that – dead simple, very effective. I will be looking into that today. Andrew, what’s the best business book that you’ve read in the last six months?
Andrew Warner: I can’t think of one that’s business, but there’s an interesting book that I read recently called “Empire of the Summer Moon.” It’s about what happened with the Native Americans and the European Americans in Texas and out in the Wild West. Why is it that Americans were invited to settle in Texas by the Mexicans? Why did the Mexicans lose Texas? What happened to the command chiefs that allowed them to take over for a while, and then why did they lose to the white man? It’s so interesting to take a step back and see strategies unfold and to see failures and understand why they failed to get some strategy away from business that you can apply to business that will give you an understanding of world events and give you an understanding of why some people win and other people get essentially demolished.
John Lee Dumas: So this next question is a first on the Lightning Round, and I will probably make it a consistent question because I just love it and it’s here all because of you. What’s the one thing I should’ve asked you that I didn’t?
Andrew Warner: [Laughs] You didn’t ask about what my revenues were, which considering how I ask a lot of other people about revenue, would be good. You didn’t ask that one really – I won’t say the word, but let’s call it gutsy question that you shouldn’t even have permission to ask, but you’ve got to. Then you ask it and then you’re quiet.
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Well, I’m not going to ask that second one because that would be too much right now, but what is your revenue?
Andrew Warner: [Laughs] So my answer is I actually will not say what my revenue is right now. I don’t think that entrepreneurs, with few exceptions, should talk about their revenues in public while they’re still building their businesses. So I’ll tell you about my early day revenue, and when we’re past Mixergy, I’ll tell you about Mixergy’s revenue, but I shouldn’t tell you, I don’t think, what our revenues are today.
John Lee Dumas: I do notice that that question is always asked by you. It is very rare that you get a real response. You get a lot of people kind of stuttering and hemming and hawing, even though obviously they know it’s coming, which is pretty funny now. But you had Billy from Bluefire Poker on and he was pretty open about his revenue. That must have been a nice change.
Andrew Warner: Actually, I think we get a lot of revenue. I’ll look on the website right now and we’ll see. Erik from Peer2Peer Tutors, who’s the last interview that I put up, he gave us $1 million revenue, but I should’ve actually asked him, is that $1 million for your company or the combined revenue of your company, Eric, and the company you sold too? I hate that I didn’t ask that question. Clay Collins gave his revenue, and then clarified it in the comments. Chris of Broadcast.com I think gave a little bit of his revenue, but basically, Broadcast.com sold. So I pushed him for how much his share of the company was worth, and I think I got a pretty accurate number. I can’t say that 100%. Justin Roff-Marsh not only gave his revenue, but at the end of the interview, he said, “I would have wanted it to be higher and for you to have interviewed me when the revenue was higher, but this is where we are today,” and so he did his revenue. I thought it was $1.5 million. Ron Douglas gave his revenue from Recipe Secrets. I’m just working down all these interviews. I do get people to give their revenue.
I also get a lot of people after the interview say, “Andrew, can you please edit that out because I shouldn’t have said it,” and we don’t, yes.
John Lee Dumas: That’s great stuff. Now, you’re not going to give Fire Nation your overall revenue right now, and I understand that. Will you give us the revenue that you get from each of your sponsors every episode?
Andrew Warner: Yes. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think it’s either $650.00 per half month or $750 per half month. I forget the exact number. Frankly, I should be increasing those rates, but I haven’t because I’m not as – and I even turn away sponsors and run ads for my audience instead like give freebies to my audience because I’m not that inspired by advertising. I’m so much more inspired by the membership revenue because I feel like I can grow that better because I feel like that’s more dependable. I feel that membership revenue also is a way for the audience to say you’re on the right track. So I’m much more inspired by that.
The only reason I keep doing advertising is because I want to diversify a little bit. I don’t want to ever not be able to pay my people or reach in my own pocket to pay my people. I remember when I first started Mixergy, I would reach in my pocket to pay for everything, and that was just a way to lose money over and over. It was a way to not be in touch with what people really want, but feel like you’re big manning everything.
John Lee Dumas: Well, you have had very similar or the same sponsors for quite some time now. How did you initially go out and find them?
Andrew Warner: I’ve sold ads essentially my whole adult life, and the way that I found to get a new advertiser is there are two ways. Either you find like an affiliate program and you just do a bang-up job getting them a lot of customers that they have to come out to you and say, “Who are you? Why are you doing this? How can we work out a better partnership so you can do even more for us?” or to just call up potential sponsors, call up my competitor’s sponsors and say, “I see that you’re advertising on this one website. In the future, I want to start selling ads to you and I’m trying to learn why you bought that ad. What you get out of it.”
I actually called up FreshBooks because they were advertising everywhere when I was thinking of doing that, and I said, “Why do I see you here? Why are you advertising there?” You know what? The ad buyer at FreshBooks did what many ad buyers would be willing to do. He took me for a tour of all the ad spots that he bought. He showed me roughly what he was paying for each site. He told me which ones are doing well. He told me which ones weren’t doing well. The reason that he gave me all these information is because he needs to buy more ads. He wants me to duplicate what’s working for him and he wants me to stay away from what’s not working for him. He has an incentive to buy more ads because the more ads that he buys profitably, the more his business is going to grow.
So I did that with him. I then said to him, “Can I sell you an ad and guarantee the results? I know how much you need to pay per user. I’ll guarantee you’ll get enough users to make your ad buy with me worthwhile. All I need from you is to know, after how many runs did this ad work for you? How effective was it? What’s my audience like over time? I’ll give you essentially a guaranteed win, but I need some information from you.” So he said yes, and then the ad worked well. He gave me some feedback that helped me price it. Then I sold him again and again and again and again, and then I took the price that I gave him and offered it to other sponsors. Then I started slowly increasing the prices on ads.
John Lee Dumas: Very interesting. So Andrew, this last question is my favorite, but it’s kind of a tricky one so you can take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with an answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning and you still had all of the experience, knowledge and money that you currently have right now, but your business had completely disappeared, forcing you to start with a clean slate, which is where many Fire Nation listeners find themselves right now, what would you do?
Andrew Warner: I just love the whole idea of Mixergy that I would just reproduce it, but I’d probably reproduce it smarter. What I would probably do is if I had to do it again, I’d say, “Mixergy is a private community where entrepreneurs talk about how they built their businesses. If you want to listen to these private conversations, you have to apply.” The reason I would ask for an application is to price it because when we’re starting out, we’re so desperate for people that we’re practically begging, “Please listen, please buy, please be my customer,” and that’s just no way to get anyone to be excited about doing business with you.
So I would say you have to apply. Basically, I would accept everyone, but I would want them to apply. Then the other benefit of asking them to apply for membership is that when they’re members, they give me their email address and they give me an opportunity to continue to stay in touch with them, and it creates a bond that just putting stuff on the web and saying, “Please come to my site” does not do.
The other thing I would do is I would start selling much earlier and with much more confidence and much more willingness to fail as I started to sell.
John Lee Dumas: You definitely have a unique setup with Mixergy.com where you go to www.mixergy.com, and immediately a splash page comes up, requesting your email to proceed forward. When you instituted that change, what kind of results did you see?
Andrew Warner: A lot of email addresses came in. I also had a skip button so that people can say I don’t want to give you my email address and go on. I discovered that I only show it the first time people come to the site and I cookie them. I discovered that a lot of people in my audience do private browsing, which means then that the cookie can’t stay on their system, or they delete their cookies on a regular basis. Who knew? Geeks use the web different from the rest of the world.
So I discovered that happens a lot, and I accept it. That’s just part of doing business. I’m giving you something that I think is useful and I can’t give you everything you want. There has to be a little bit of what I need too in order to make this thing work. Anyone who’s a geek enough that they would delete their cookies on a regular basis is smart enough to know how to just put in a URL that would get them that thing in the future. It’s not that tough. You just go to Mixergy.com/interviews and you see nothing but interviews, for example, with no request for an email.
I would even do it differently. I would not only say you have to give me your email address. I’d say you have to apply for membership in order to get access to this. I remember doing an interview with the founder of JackThreads and he was running a store online selling clothes to men. Men don’t buy clothes much, right? And I’m enthused about it. You can’t get people to come to a store as easily as you can get them to come to a free interview site.
So he had a much harder time than I ever would, and what he did was he put that wall up that said you have to apply for membership in my site in order to buy these great products at these great discounts, and then he did something else. He went to bloggers and he said, “I will give you a special code that will keep your people from having to even apply. Your people are automatically accepted.”
If I were starting Mixergy again, I would do that right away. I would get five guys to do interviews with me right away, and then I’d go to all the different entrepreneur blogs out there and entrepreneur Twitters out there and startup Twitters. All these people, I’d have them in a big list, and I’d go to them and say, “I’m starting a membership only site. People are going to have to apply, but I trust you and your followers. I’m going to give you a special discount code you can give to your people so they can bypass the application process. They just put in their email address, and bang they’re in.” Those guys would feel a sense of pride to pass it on. It would give them an excuse to promote you. You end up with all these email addresses and all these people in your community.
Price it for the audience. Make them feel like what you have is the price that they need to earn. Then also for the guest, make them feel like the audience they’re reaching is not just anyone online. It’s an audience that’s prized that they would be proud to be a part of.
John Lee Dumas: That is great advice. How would you find the entrepreneurs?
Andrew Warner: Really easy. There’s a way to search. I think it’s related [Unintelligible] and site name on Google, but there’s a way on Google. Anyone could figure out how to do it, just to find sites that are related to the one site that you know. So you might say I’m going to type in Mixergy, and then look for related sites to Mixergy. I’m going to type in the words “startup” into these Twitter search boxes and see who’s talking about startups. I would have to know the space a little bit to know that Brad Feld is an important person, to know that Jason Calacanis is a well-known guy in this space. Through that, I’ll know who else I can talk to. If I don’t know those people, if I don’t know the maiden sites, I don’t deserve to be there.
By the way, the other thing I would do is I would stay away from startups. Startups are not where the revenue is. I’m in the startup world because I’m passionate about this. It’s not the place to really earn a lot of money because startups, by definition, don’t have a lot of money to spend. I would do this exact same thing for businesses, for really established businesses. I would say, what do these really big businesses need? Oh, they need to understand how to get their employees happy. They need to understand how to hire. They need to understand how to do – whatever it is that businesses need, I would look for some angle on them because businesses have a lot of money.
If I did Mixergy for established bigger companies instead of startups, not only would I be able to sell the monthly membership at more than a couple of bucks a month, but I’d be able to sell them several licenses and say, “You should have a license for all your employees.” That would just be way, way bigger than Mixergy. Then I would say, “You know what? This is going to be just for the HR world” maybe or this is going to be just for management training, or I don’t know what. But I would pick one small group and go after them and then do the same thing I talked about. Price it by saying it’s not free to everyone. You have to apply for membership to get access. I would find the top people who were in the space and give them ways to let their people get past the line.
John Lee Dumas: Great insights! So Andrew, you’ve just been giving us phenomenal insights and actionable advice this entire interview, and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Andrew Warner: Okay. The last thing, as I always say in my interviews, is this. Don’t be a freaking passive observer of life. If you watch this interview or listen to it, or if you read something online, don’t just say, “Ha, this is great,” and move on. Find a way to say thank you to the person. I have actually said thank you to someone – I forget who it was – years ago after reading his blog post. Then when I needed to connect with him later on to get him to do an interview, here’s what I did. I didn’t just shoot him a cold email. I went back and I found that initial thank you email that I sent him and the response that I got back from him, and I hit reply on that and said, “Hey, would you come to do an interview on Mixergy?” So now he knows, “Hey, this is the guy who was so nice to me a couple of years ago when he didn’t want anything, and he’s asking for something. He’s not just here to take.”
Start those relationships. Find a way to not just be passive and take things in, but say thank you or I saw you or it was good or it was useful, fun, or whatever it is. If you watch it, send a quick ping. It starts off the relationship that could then build into something way bigger than you imagined.
John Lee Dumas: Wonderful! So give Mixergy a plug.
Andrew Warner: M-I-X-E-R-G-Y.com. Go check us out.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome, Andrew. Well, once again, thank you for your time, and I am personally thanking you. Fire Nation, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.