Dan Corkill is the Co-founder of Follow Up Boss, a software system that helps real estate agents and their teams master online lead conversion.
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John Lee Dumas: Hold on to those afterburners, Fire Nation. John Lee Dumas here and I’m fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Dan Corkill. Dan, are you prepared to ignite?
Dan Corkill: Absolutely.
John Lee Dumas: Yes! Dan is the cofounder of Follow Up Boss, a software system that helps real estate agents and teams master online lead conversion. Dan, giving Fire Nation just a little insight, share about more about you personally. Expound upon the biz.
Dan Corkill: I’m an Aussie, living in Sydney at the moment. I got into this idea of I don’t wanna have a traditional sort of job working for someone else about five or six years ago. Right now, working on Follow Up Boss. It’s basically a software app we created after going through the Foundation course. We’re a bootstrap company. There’s about eight of us working full time on it now. We help real estate teams in the US follow up with leads. What’s interesting and more common these days but all our customers are actually in the United States. We’re not, basically, I’m in Sydney. We built the whole company remotely, and we all still work completely remotely.
John Lee Dumas: Today we’re going to talk about a lot that has to do with your journey getting into Follow Up Boss and all of that jazz. But first, you are No. 3 of five Foundation interviews. Just take a second, maybe a couple seconds, and share with us, No. 1, how did you find out about the Foundation? No. 2, what was your experience? Then we’ll dive into your journey.
Dan Corkill: It was from a Mixergy interview, actually. I think Dane was just doing an interview on there and he didn’t have a website or anything like that. I think after the interview, he was like, “Everyone, just go and fill out a Google Doc form if you’re interested.”
John Lee Dumas: Minimally viable product. I love it.
Dan Corkill: Exactly. There wasn’t a website or any of that jazz. That was called the software round table, and I think that was 2011. That’s how I found out about it and got connected up with Dane. It came at a good time for us because we didn’t really know what we were doing with starting a software business. It helped us take those first steps in defining customers and stuff like that. It was really great from that perspective.
John Lee Dumas: You are the second of three Foundation members who have pointed to Mixergy as the place you heard about Dane first. It speaks volumes to me about the power of podcasting. I don’t know about you, Fire Nation, but it’s pretty awesome. Dan, we’re gonna talk about your journey, my friend. We’re gonna get into the depths of an ah-hah moment that you’ve had, of something that fires you up right now. But first, we’re gonna talk about your worst entrepreneurial moment. And Dan, I don’t want this vague theory of what failure is. I want you to take us to that moment that you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. Take us to that moment in time. Tell us that story. Go.
Dan Corkill: The first time I went out and tried to create a business, I did all those things which I guess are more like action-faking and more like not really that great. I thought people are buying websites. I could see people selling websites for 5,000 each. I thought most people were getting some open source software like WordPress, which is free, and getting a theme from somewhere like ThemeForest, combining that together and selling someone a website. I thought, “Great. This’ll be easy. I can quit my job and go and do this. It’s gonna be great because I can probably put this together in a week. I’m working all month to make this.”
Anyway, I thought it’d be easy. I did all those things like getting a domain name, website, designing business cards, stuff like that. I did get a few clients through that business through friends and family and stuff like that. Eventually, I realized I didn’t learn anything about what I’m doing, about sales or marketing. The most painful thing I can still remember is I found out this isn’t gonna work. I’m running out of money. I’m gonna have to go get another job. I remember a friend saying to me, “O well, you gave it a shot and you failed.”
Those words, “You failed,” really hit me. I’m like, “Oh man, this sucks.” This is a sucky feeling because you’ve gone and told people you’re doing all these things and you’ve had to come back and face reality a little bit.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, I want to talk about this for a second because I think it’s so powerful and such a powerful concept for Fire Nation. Any time we think that things are going to be easy, E-A-S-Y, it’s time to pause and reflect because if it was easy, Fire Nation, everybody would be doing it because guess what? That’s the definition of easy. It means everybody can do it. That’s a reality of life. So, take a pause, reflect.
There’s a great quote that I hear from time to time about podcasting, specifically. A lot of people are saying, “I’m gonna flock into podcasting. It’s so easy.” The biggest blessing about podcasting is that it is easy to start a podcast, but it’s also a curse. Even though it’s easy to start a podcast, it’s not easy to have a successful podcast. The same thing about being a web designer. The same thing about creating an app or running a brick and mortar business. All of these things, the execution of a successful business is never going to be easy.
That’s my biggest takeaway, Dan, from your worst entrepreneurial moment, when your friend just slugged you in the stomach and said, “You’re a failure, buddy. Deal with it.” What is your takeaway that you want our listeners to walk away with?
Dan Corkill: That’s right, if everyone could do it, there wouldn’t be anything special about being able to start a business and having these kind of skills. It is a good thing that this is hard and valued by everyone. You don’t want everyone to be like you. I think most entrepreneurs want to be different and do something different to everyone else. It’s good that things are hard, as well.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, let’s sink into this next question. I’m doing a little bit of a shift here. You told us about a tough time, an experience that you had that didn’t work out. You know what? That’s okay. But what I want you talk about now is another moment in time, another part of your journey. An ah-hah moment, an epiphany, a light bulb, my friend, that went on. Tell us that story. Take us to that moment. Paint the picture for us. Walk us through the steps that you, Dan, took to turn that idea into success.
Dan Corkill: I guess the different way of going about it. Rather than doing all those things that didn’t matter up front, like getting business cards and stuff like that, is this approach that’s taught in the Foundation. Instead of you trying to sell what you want to sell to someone, actually find out what their problems are first and create a solution around that.
I’m going through that process, and I ended up speaking with a real estate broker in the US named Marty. I’d had a few conversations with him already. This was our third conversation or something. He was like, “Dan, my biggest problem is I’m paying for all of these leads, and I’m sitting here all day sending them out to my agents, and I have no idea what happens after that.” He’s telling me things like he’s in bed at night forwarding out leads to his agents and stuff. He’s on his mobile phone, his wife’s probably next to him and that kind of thing. He’s telling me how much he’s spending every month, and I’m like, “Oh, man, this sounds painful. You’re doing this every single day, right?”
It’s costing him money, as well. It’s also the money he’s losing by not closing those leads. That was a big shift in this – trying to listen and find out people’s problems as opposed to coming up with my air quotes “brilliant idea” and trying to sell that to people.
From there, I ended up trying to find similar people who had the same kind of problem. Real estate agents are, thankfully, really easy to get in touch with. They’ve got their numbers online. They’re in forums. They’re on Facebook, stuff like that. I ended up finding someone else on a forum complaining about the same problem. I just messaged him and he said, “Yeah, man. Sure, I’ll talk to you.” I’m talking to this guy, and he’s like, “I’m paying $500 a month for some software to help me solve this at the moment.” I’m like, “How’s that working out for you?” He’s like, “Well, I hate it. I don’t even use it.”
I’m like, wow. This guy – this is really painful enough that this guy is paying $500 a month, which to me at the time, that was my total expenses for the month. I was living in Germany, so this is a lot of money starting out. I’m like, if we can create something people don’t hate and they use, we can probably solve this problem. There’s a really big shift in terms of – I think the key lessons are you wanna get that idea from your customers. You wanna front load the risk of finding out if people wanna buy, as opposed to spending six to 12 months of your life on something and finding out later that they don’t want to buy.
If they don’t want to buy or they don’t want to buy right now, ask them why so you can learn what that reason is and understand them better. That shift of finding out from people what their problems are is, I would say, definitely the biggest change in my approach, and the thing that led to the most success.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, all the time I get emails and questions and tweets that say, “But, John, I don’t know what products and services to create for my customers, for my clients, for my future customers or future clients or followers or listeners.” And my response is always the same: did you ask? Did you ask what they want? Or are you just trying to recreate the wheel yourself? Because you aren’t going to sit there and create a product that you think somebody’s going to want with as much success as going to that person, having a real conversation with them.
Don’t be terrified about these one-on-one conversations, Fire Nation. We all want to do things that scale, scale, scale, leverage, leverage, leverage. Have a 15-minute Skype call with somebody that you know could potentially be a customer, and just break it down. Say “What is your biggest pain point? What’s your struggle? What are your obstacles? What keep you up at night? What wakes you up early in the morning when you want to sleep in?” Then you can find the solutions for them and present them to these people on a silver platter.
Dan, that’s my major takeaway from this and I know you agree with this because it’s the Foundation’s teaching. But what can you add to this? What can you bring full circle for our listeners right now?
Dan Corkill: That’s another one of those things which it can be hard to do. You can have some fear around doing it. It’s just one of the things that make a difference. Once you do that, you really understand people and what they want. If you understand them at a deep level, you’ll understand them better than all your competitors. It means that everything’s gonna be easier from there. Sales, marketing, product creation, all those things are gonna become way easier if you do this work up front of understanding people.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, we’re moving along here. We’re gonna start talking about what I like to call the one-minute mindset. This is where I’m gonna dig into your mind. Five specific insights into your brain. You have about a minute for each, give or take sixty seconds. Let’s start off with the first one, which is, ideally, what are the first sixty minutes of your day look like?
Dan Corkill: This is a terrible question for me because with the Australian and US time zones, I am all over the place with sleep. It’s ten a.m. here at the moment, but…Just try to have a really good breakfast is key because that gives me energy. Ideally, I think I wouldn’t be checking emails and doing that kind of stuff in the first 60 minutes, but I find myself doing that a lot because of the reality of the time zone differences. That’s it.
John Lee Dumas: Ideally, Dan, let’s get a little more detailed here. This is in your ideal world.
Dan Corkill: I think in the ideal world I’d also do some exercise, look at doing a seven-minute workout or something like that.
John Lee Dumas: I’ve heard of this seven-minute workout a couple times. Is that a specific app?
Dan Corkill: There is a couple of apps for it. You get it on your iPhone and there’s one that’s really funny. There’s this fat guy exercising that’s kind of like you’re at. He’s doing all the exercises, and he’s telling you things like “Come on, fatso –”
John Lee Dumas: “Come on, fatty, if I can do it, you better be doing it.”
Dan Corkill: Yeah. That’s a really good thing. I like doing that. Obviously, everyone has seven minutes, so you just pop it on.
John Lee Dumas: What’s your biggest weakness, Dan, as an entrepreneur?
Dan Corkill: I would say my biggest weakness right now is we’re making this transition from – to a team, where there’s a lot more people involved in the business. I think my biggest weakness is being a manager and providing all the things which people need as opposed to just being the generalist and the person that does it all. I think that’s what I’m trying to work on right now. How do I make that transition to be more of a business owner, less working in the business, and more of providing my team with what they need to be awesome, as opposed to trying to solve everything myself.
John Lee Dumas: What’s your biggest strength?
Dan Corkill: I think seeing the big picture, being able to look at some of these strategic things in our marketplace. And being a bit of a generalist because it’s something – you need that to get a business off the ground. You need someone that can tackle all these different areas like marketing, sales, product creation. Being flexible and being able to learn new things is definitely a strength.
John Lee Dumas: What is a habit that you wish you had?
Dan Corkill: Going to the gym more regularly, and also taking more time off work. There’s definitely a diminishing return. You get a lot less productive when you’ve been working 80 hours a week. You do that too many weeks in a row your tank will be on empty. Trying to have a bit better lifestyle balance.
John Lee Dumas: You don’t wanna end up like that Eagles’ song, “Running on empty.” I’m not even positive that’s the Eagles, but we’re gonna go with it for now, Fire Nation. Feel free to correct me.
Dan, of all the things that you’re fired up about right now, what is the number one thing that has you most fired up?
Dan Corkill: The technology is getting more and more awesome. The world is getting more connected. The fact that you can go online right now and you can take a course for free about how to build a self-driving car or how to build some farm equipment for your farm or something. I think everything’s getting better all the time. People especially that don’t have a lot of money or resources and stuff, as they become online and can use this information to help themselves, I think that’s a really exciting time to be part of.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, we are about to enter the lightning round, my friends, so don’t go anywhere. Hang on to those afterburners. Let’s take a minute first to thank our sponsors.
Dan, welcome to the lightning round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Dan Corkill: Sounds good.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Dan Corkill: Trying to be too clever about everything. Coming up with elaborate plans and schemes about software or services to sell, instead of just getting out there and facing some fears and taking real action, talking to people.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dan Corkill: Treat people how you want to be treated. A saying that got drilled into me when I was a kid, and I can’t say I’d always followed that. I think it’s super important, obviously, in your personal life and also in business to treat your customers really well.
John Lee Dumas: Oh, I almost forgot that while the sponsorship break was happening, I did go to Google and it’s actually Jackson Browne who sings the song Running on Empty. So, there you go, Dan.
Dan Corkill: Awesome.
John Lee Dumas: Share a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success.
Dan Corkill: Persistence. I can see you’ve done 900 episodes almost of Entrepreneur on Fire. I think it’s almost a required attribute for an entrepreneur, and it’s definitely saying I don’t think I’m smarter than anyone or better at all these certain skills, but I’m gonna keep doing something until I’m successful. You can’t really fail unless you quit. I think persistence is something…
John Lee Dumas: I can’t remember the boxer’s name, but they asked him, “Why did you have such a long career? How were you always ranked so high?” He looked at the camera and goes, “I just got up more times than I was knocked down.” He did not have that accent which I do not know where that came from.
Dan, do you have an Internet resource like Evernotes that you can share with our listeners?
Dan Corkill: I think Zapya.com lets you connect different apps to each other, like CRMs and email marketing platforms and all different kinds of stuff. That’s pretty badass if you’re trying to automate stuff in your business, or potentially, you’re also putting together some small product to sell to other people and solve a problem by linking a few services together with Zapya.
John Lee Dumas: If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Dan Corkill: Yes. If you wanted a quick, easy read, I read Startup Land recently, which is a story about three guys in their 30s from Denmark who built Zendesk, which is now a company that’s worth about 2 billion dollars. That’s a good quick read. It’s fun as well.
John Lee Dumas: Cool. Well, Fire Nation, I know you love you audio, so I teamed up with Audible. If you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audiobook for free at eofirebook.com. Dan, this next question’s the last of the lightning round but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Dan Corkill: I love this question. I think the most important thing would probably be to make some friends. I’d probably go to a website like Meetup.com and go to some meetups I was interested in. Then, to make money and get rolling, I’d start calling businesses and asking about their problems, and probably try to sell them some kind of lead gen website leads and sales process. From there, probably go to other businesses in the same nation, try and sell them the same thing.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, my friends, let’s end this interview on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, then we’ll say goodbye.
Dan Corkill: Awesome. I’m on Twitter, twitter.com/buzzDan, I think is my handle.
John Lee Dumas: You think or is that your handle?
Dan Corkill: That should be it, although – just double check it in the show notes.
John Lee Dumas: Or we’ll just follow some random dude, no worries.
Dan Corkill: Just hit that guy up and he’ll point you in the right…That’s it, I just checked it. And also, just get out there and take action. That’s the thing that could be holding you back. If you’re just starting out, try and work out what you’re most afraid of and go and do that.
The other thing is we’re gonna do this ask me anything with the other Foundation guests from this week. That’s gonna be really fun. You can come along and ask us any kind of question you want to. If you go to thefoundation.com/fire, there’s a form there where you can put in the question you want to ask. There’s also some other things they’re giving away on that page, like a guide that is about how to do idea extraction and find these profitable software ideas.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with Dan and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Type Dan in the search bar. His [inaudible] [00:21:45] page will pop right up. And, of course, the foundation.com/fire, a bunch of cool giveaways from the guys from Foundation. And that ask-me-anything live hangout that’s gonna be happening in about a month from now – get the dates for that. Anything else on the /fire, Dan?
Dan Corkill: There’s also a question which you’ll need to find profitable software ideas and how to use that. There’s a lot of good stuff there. Check it out.
John Lee Dumas: Dan, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, my friend, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Dan Corkill: Thanks, John. Keep up the good work, man.
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