Greg Smith was practicing corporate law when he launched an online course as a side project. Revenues from his course soon surpassed his legal salary and he jumped into online education full time.
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3 Key Points:
- Learn to segment things out.
- There’s always going to need to be that one person who is the captain.
- Create a family and cherish it in both work and business.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:34] – Value Bomb Drop: Never overlook the value of team building and the importance of deciding who you’re going to work with—keep a clear scorecard for all your employees and in-company peers
- [02:37] – When you’re being interviewed, don’t shy away from asking the interviewer key questions
- [04:03] – What is something you’ve changed your mind about in the last 6 months? “Live videos—suddenly, they’re something I’ve become very dedicated to”
- [04:40] – When you’re willing to do live videos, sales happen!
- [05:11] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: “I had a big fight with my business partner, who happens to be my brother”
- [06:28] – The fight taught us the importance of segmentation and parceling
- [07:26] – In every company, there is always going to need to be that ONE person who is the true captain
- [08:49] – Entrepreneurial AH–HA Moment: When we figured out a sustainable pricing model
- [10:12] – That was the trigger for our exponential growth
- [11:57] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? My community and family
- [12:39] – Create a family in work and business
- [13:30] – What is your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur? Always being willing to help and a bad habit of saying “yes”
- [16:41] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Success as a lawyer”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “That’s nice, but it’s never going to scale”
- What’s the personal habit that contributes to your success? “I celebrate every success”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Brain Fm
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – “Who”
- [18:41] – Parting piece of guidance: “Take a stab at our program, look at one of your passions through a course”
- [19:44] – Get Greg’s course on pricing for FREE!
Greg: I am stoked. I’m very prepared to ignite.
John: Yes. Greg was practicing corporate law when he launched an online course just as a side project. Revenues from that course soon surpassed his legal salary, and so what did he do? He jumped into online education full time. Greg, take a minute. Fill some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Greg: Yeah, sure. Happy to. I’ve done so much on the entrepreneurial side, from little clothing business, I had a tourism one. I got into national outdoor digital advertising network, but then I’d say the courses and online courses is what really took off for me in getting involved in Thinkific where we’ve got a SAS platform, and that was really the big one, but I’ve got a bit of a similar history to you is that I was in law and corporate finance before as well.
John: Well, hey, sometimes you just gotta go through that to get to the good. Greg, I wanna talk about your area of expertise. So expound upon an area that you think that you really have some expertise in, and then drop two value bombs on us. Give us two things that you really think that we should know about, something that you know.
Greg: Well, definitely, for me lately, it’s been team building, and I’ve got a history through all the companies I’ve been with of helping build the teams. But at the company I’m at now, we’ve been growing our team very quickly over the last few years, and for me, people is the fundamental pillar of any business, whether that’s the part time VA that you’re hiring online or a whole team of people that are working in an office with you. So, for me, the big bombs on the value side that I’ve learned recently around building teams is how you actually go about deciding who to work with, and I think, as entrepreneurs, we’re super positive.
I always look for the best in people, and I wanna hire everyone I meet or work with them, but I’ve learned to actually think the opposite way of look for reasons why you should say no because they’ll come up later, and the sooner you can see that, then you just end up working with only the most amazing people that are a perfect fit for you. It doesn’t mean that they’re not perfect or not great, just maybe not a perfect fit for working with you. What I do is when I’m interviewing them or meeting with people, I ask a few really key questions. One, I start off, “What are your goals?” I wanna see lots of passion and ambition. Then I actually asked a really specific question, and it’s – I tell them that I’m gonna do a reference check on all their references, and I say, “When I call them, what will they say about you if I ask them to rate you from one to ten?” It’s not if I call them, it’s not what might they say; it’s I’m going to call them, and when I do, what will they say? It’s funny how people just flip and they become super honest. They get out of interview mode, and they tell you the truth.
John: That’s a great question. I love that. So what’s number two?
Greg: Number two would really be having a clear scorecard for everyone that you’re working with, and I do this, actually, even as part of the working with someone.
The funny thing is, I’ve even applied this process to hiring contractors or nannies or other people in my life, but have a clear scorecard, even, of what you expect them to perform and do, even with numbers on it and those success metrics and set them high, maybe even a little bit higher than you need them to be because what’ll it’ll do is it it’ll actually scare away the B players and really attract those A players to you because they’ll think, “Wow, this person’s setting some amazing goals.” I wanna be a part of that, and that’s the kind of person I think you wanna attract.
John: Look for reasons you should say no, fire nation, and then have a clear scorecard. You gotta know the game. You gotta know the score. These are two huge value bombs. Now, Greg, you’re in the game. You finish on the pulse. What’s something that you’ve changed your mind about in the last six months? What’s something that you used to believe six months ago that you just don’t believe anymore, and what’s the reason why?
Greg: The big one for me lately is live video. Six months ago – well, actually, more like a year ago – I played around it, some YouTube live. I had a bunch of lag issues. We couldn’t really get it to work for us, and just in the last six months, I’ve come full circle, and I am so dedicated to it. We’re doing Facebook live. We’re getting on live video as much as we can, and it’s just such an amazing opportunity to engage with people. There was that woman with the Wookie mask video and the biggest video on the internet now, and I laughed and laughed watching that and, yeah, simple, simple Facebook live.
John: Oh, so funny. I’ve said this before, fire nation. I’ll this again. Sales happen on live videos and, specifically for me, live webinars, so you gotta get on there. If you’re looking to generate revenue with your business, then it’s live videos, it’s live webinars. It’s that interaction. Greg, you’ve had the ups, you’ve had the downs, brother. Obviously, we went to law school. We know how just grueling that can be on so many levels – heart wrenching, soul crushing. What would you say your worst entrepreneurial moment is to date? Take us to that moment, Greg. Tell us that story.
Greg: Well, I’ve had a few bumps along the way, and it’s kind of – I’m pushing myself a little to answer this one publicly.
Greg: Pushing a little bit to answer this one publicly, but early days of my business, my business partner was my brother. We started the business together, and we had a big blow up, big fight, and he’s family, so I really knew how to push his buttons. He’s my little bro, so I pushed that button a few too many times, said some stupid things, and he stormed off. I thought that was it, and he said, “Oh, we’re done. We’re not going forward.”
The thing is, the business was going pretty well. It was early days, but it was a rough couple of days, for sure. We hashed it out. We said everything we wanted to say – all the stuff that was bugging us, and, in the end, I think it came down to we were two ship captains trying to pilot the same ship and slightly – we wanted to get to the same destination, but we were trying to go in two slightly different routes to get there.
John: That’s a good visual. What I wanna dive into now is there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are either gonna go into business with their friends, with their family, with their significant others – whatever that might mean. What is something that you wanna make sure that fire nation just knows going into it before they make the same mistakes that you did?
Greg: For me, definitely working with my brother was the best thing I ever did, but I think what we learned was to segment things out and say, “Look, you’ve got –,” especially with any co-founder, even if it’s not family, you’re gonna have stuff that you’re super passionate about. You’re probably a strong personality with a big vision. You really wanna make this dream happen. So what we had to do to really make it work for us it say, “Okay, that’s your area. This is my area. Ask me for advice when you want it, but I’m gonna go kill it in my area. You kill it in your area, and in the end, we’ll – you might not do things the way I want them to be done, but, at the end of the day, as long we’re going towards the same final goal, then you work on your stuff, I’ll work on my stuff. We’ll talk lots and communicate and give each other advice,” but split it up so you get to captain your own ships.
John: Yeah, and I think there’s something to be said, though, about even having two captains, even if you’re on two separate ships, and even if you’re trying to do your own thing in your own area, you’re still gonna run into those issues because there’s always gonna be areas you have to come together one. I always think that, in a perfect scenario, there’s always going to be that one person who is the captain. Like, yes, there might be somebody that’s just right below, like ship’s master’s mate, if we wanted to keep up this analogy.
Whatever it is, that person is incredibly valuable, and they have a ton of input, but when it comes down to it, I truly believe you do need that one person that’s gonna make that final decision. You need that Steve Jobs, that Warren Buffet who’s making that final, final decision and just says, “Listen, I heard you. I value your input, but this is how it’s gonna be, and that’s it. This is. This is only a single decision to be made. We have to make that one decision.”
Frankly, that’s why I think EO Fire works so well because I started EO Fire. Six months later, Kate came on, and she’s been an incredibly important and valuable role in building the business, but when it comes down to the final, final decision, she knows that I’m taking all of her advice incredibly seriously, but I’m making that final decision about which way we’re gonna go, what we’re gonna spend most of our time on, and that’s allowed us to continue to grow and be agile and really be cohesive moving forward.
Greg, I wanna shift for you, now, and talk about an ah-ha moment. That shift from the worst moment to an ah-ha moment, it’s a good one because this is gonna be something that you’re excited about. This is a lightbulb that went on and that idea you are just running with. Take us to one of your greatest ideas and talk us through that sequence.
Greg: Yeah. Well, my ah-ha moment was a bit of a slow burn. I definitely had big moments. I had one where we figured out our pricing, finally, and I fell down on the floor and did a little floor dance.
John: Can you take us through that, actually? I would find that really fascinating.
Greg: Yeah. I think pricing is often over looked. I think a lot of time –
John: So tough.
Greg: Especially if people are starting out, they throw something out there, they get it up, they just gotta get it down, and that’s kinda how we started, too, but over time, we really studied the numbers. We really talked to people, and there’s so many different pricing metrics you can look at and ways you can research it, but we finally pulled all of that data together. We ran a bunch of experiments, and we came down to, “Okay, here are the things –,” in the end of the day, we didn’t really get any feedback on exactly what the numbers should be, but on what was scaring people about certain elements of our pricing and even how we described it.
John: What was scaring people? What were some things?
Greg: One thing, when we first started out, we were actually taking a percentage of people’s course sales, so we’re a platform. They sell their course, and we were starting to take a cut because we figured, “Hey, we don’t make money until you make money,” but what that was doing was scaring off the really successful people. If I said to you, John, “I want a cut of all your future revenue,” even if it’s one percent, you’re gonna say, “Forget it. I’ll build it myself or I’ll go pay a monthly fee.” So we moved, for the successful people, to more of a monthly fee, and part of that – that was a big, big part of that pricing shift.
Greg: When we launched it, I saw this little inflection point in our revenue curve, and it wasn’t much, but it was the beginning of an exponential growth curve, and that was – I saw it, and I knew what was happening, and I hit the floor and did the –
John: Feels so good.
Greg: Waving my arms around, wow kinda moment, yeah.
John: I love that. It is so tough. Pricing is so hard, fire nation. One thing that I wanna say – and this is actually gonna be coming out after – we actually just have announced a huge change in the podcaster’s paradise pricing model, and so, to be honest, when I’m talking to you, Greg, I have no idea how it’s going to – how people are gonna react to it and how it’s gonna take and if it’s gonna work and if it’s gonna not work, but we – like you, we’ve looked at the numbers, and we’ve talked to the people. We’ve decided, “Hey, this current pricing model that we have for podcaster’s paradise is no longer working for these reasons. We have the feedback. This is what we need to do going forward,” but at the same time, you have to take care of the people. For us, we have over 3,000 members of podcaster’s paradise.
John: We gotta take care of them and make sure that our past members realize that we took care of them first, and, now, we’re looking forward to do what’s best for our future members only after that. It’ll be pretty interesting to see how that comes. It’s gonna be coming within the next month. This interview, actually, will be coming a month after that, so I’m kinda curious, which is why I was really digging into you for some specifics because this is so tough.
Again, fire nation, I’ve been doing podcaster’s paradise now coming up on three years. This is something you never really figure out. You just continue to test, to check, to keep your finger on the pulse, and to see which way you go forward. Just realize this is a game that you’re gonna have to keep on playing. Now, Greg, you’re obviously fired up about that and about some other things – about your exponential growth – but what’s the one thing that you’re the most fired up about today?
Greg: I’d say, today, it’s really our community. For me, personally, family’s always been a huge thing. I’ve got ten kids in my family, eight brothers and one sister, and we have Sunday dinners together every week.
John: Oh, so you just got into a fight with one of your brothers. You have seven others. It’s no big deal.
Greg: I’ve got all the rest, right? No, we’re tight now. To the one ship thing, he actually started his own business. We sorted things out, we worked on it, we grew the business, and, now, he’s got his own thing. He started later.com, which is his own awesome social media tool. Now, he’s got his ship, and I’ve got mine, and we share advice.
John: So cool.
Greg: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, so the family thing’s been big, but, now, we’ve got this community around what we’re doing, and so I really feel like I’ve created a family around work, both in terms of the people in the office that I get to work with, but also the client base, and it’s something I’ve really never had in business before, and it’s such that amazing feeling. It takes a while to build, but you know what it’s like. You’ve got the fire nation. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling.
Even ten years ago when I first got into courses, I used a lot of social media. I posted on Facebook, had the blog, did all these things, but I never really engaged. I had very few comments. I never really went out and built relationships, but, now, I feel like there’s people in our Facebook group and in our community that I know that we’re friends with that I can help out, and they can help me, and they help each other. Just that overall feeling of building that community around the business has just been super powerful and amazing, and it obviously benefits everybody involved in it.
John: Greg, what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Greg: Well, my brother would tell you, especially early days, is I just said yes to too much stuff, even stuff outside the business. I’d have a friend call up and say, “Can you draft a contract for me?” I’d say, “Sure, yeah, I’ll do it this weekend.” I think I’ve –
John: In fact, I’ll do it right, no problem.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’d see me running out of the office to go help someone. He’s like, “Man, it’s great that you help people, but we gotta focus,” so we created a shiny object drawer where we’d put all these ideas that we wanted to spend other time on and say, “Yeah, we’ll get there when we have time.”
John: Say yes to something fire nation; it means you’re saying no to everything else. Sometimes, that’s okay because you should be saying yes to certain things, but you just better realize that that yes has to be valuable because you are saying not to everything else that could be happening. Also realize there can be a season that you go through – you have a season of yes’s. When I started EO Fire, I was saying yes to everything because I had to get my name, my brand, my momentum going, and that’s okay, and then I shifted into season two, and now season three where I, essentially, say no to everything, and that’s just how I progressed. That is a progression that you can be going through. Greg, we have a lot of awesomeness coming up in the lightening rounds, so don’t you go anywhere. Fire nation, don’t you go anywhere. We’re gonna take a quick minute to thank our sponsor’s. Greg, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Greg: I’m ready.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Greg: Success and I mean that in that I always had this successful career of being a lawyer that I could fall back on, and so many times I think that held me back from just taking the next plunge.
John: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Greg: All the worst stuff. We had this angel investor that we would pitch regularly, not so much for investment, but just for feedback, and he would tear us apart. One day, he just looked at one of our business models and say, “You know what, that’s nice, but it’s not gonna scale,” and that changed everything we were doing.
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Greg: I celebrate every success. I think we’re hard on ourselves as entrepreneurs, and I know I am all the time. So early days, whenever we made a sale, we would play the Rocky theme song, Eye of the Tiger, and dance around the office. We moved into a co-working space, and it kind of started to upset people around us, but we just did it anyway. We were happy. We were making sales, so I think you just gotta celebrate the little wins.
John: I’m just still picturing you doing your happy floor dance. That’s a pretty good visual.
John: Great, can you share an internet resource, like Evernote with, fire nation?
Greg: Sure. Brain.fm. I think it’s Brain.fm, and it’s just focus music. I put it on, and I get in the zone, and go.
John: Love that. I actually use [email protected], which is very similar, but I’m looking for a little change.
Greg: [email protected]
John: Yeah, [email protected] – little at symbol – will, will. I interviewed the founder. His name is actually Will, which is pretty cool, so it’s [email protected] I’ll check out Brain.fm, you check out [email protected], and let’s get back to each other.
Greg: I will. Cool.
John: Greg, one book that’d you recommend and why.
Greg: That’s a tough one. There’s so many, but I’m gonna go with based on what I said with building a team, Who, by Jeffrey. It’s a team about building – that whole process outline comes from Who, and it’s about building a team, hiring, and working with people.
John: Greg, I wanna end this interview on fire, which is how we started, so give us a parting piece of guidance. Share with us the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Greg: All right, piece of guidance. My big space right now with Thinkific is courses and has been for about five years now, and I just see this amazing convergence of it being really cool and sexy to be an entrepreneur. It didn’t used to be that way. You were kinda the guy who was outta work, and, also, this acceptance of online learning and everybody having a desire to be their own boss, be a freelancer, get in and do their own thing and learn new skills online for things they can actually do, as opposed to just education for the sake of learning.
That convergence in courses just is – I see it creating opportunities in every space, and I know you’re already capitalizing on it, and there are so many other people, but it’s not just for the likes of the JLD’s, and the Lewis Howes. I see people, literally, in their 80s or 18 year olds creating courses. I think it’s a great place, whether you’re a coach or a trainer or you got your own podcast, or you’re running your own software business. That’s probably my big thing is to take a stab at it, look at, maybe, sharing your passion in a course.
In terms of getting in touch with me or finding out more about me or what we can offer your audience, we can set up some free usage of Thinkific, so we can put a free month on our business plan, which gives them all the features we have. Actually, you know what, we were talking about pricing. I actually did a huge research project and did millions of dollars in online product sales and put together a course on that, so we can put that in there for free.
John: Oh, cool.
Greg: Yeah, so that should help people with that, and happy to share that with you, although, I think you’ve already figured out your pricing on some of the new stuff.
John: No. I’m always learning.
Greg: Awesome. Then we’ve got a 30 in 30 program I’ll throw in there as well, which is a great marketing program that walks you through building sales pages all the way through to marketing channels. We can put that all at get.thinkific.com/fire.
John: Wow, love that, fire nation. Hope you are taking action on that and more. Fire nation, you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. You’ve been having out with GS and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com and just type Greg in the search bar. This show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve talking about – business, advice, links. We’re talking timestamps of everything we’ve talked about – you name it. And, of course, go directly to get.thinkfic.com/fire. Did I get that right, Greg?
Greg: You got it. Get.thinkific.com/fire.
John: Boom. Get over there. You’re gonna get all those goodies and that free – is it a free month, Greg?
John: All those goodies, a free month, all that jazz. Check it out over at get.thinkific.com/fire. Greg, thank you, brother, for sharing your journey with fire nation today. For that, we just salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Greg: Thanks. I appreciate being here. It was awesome.
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