James Schramko lives in Sydney and runs a business called SuperFastBusiness. Lifestyle is very important to James, and he focuses on having fun with his family, looking after his health, visiting new places and growing his business.
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- Your Big Idea: Successful Entrepreneurs have One Big Idea. Follow JLD’s FREE training & you’ll discover Your Big Idea in less than an hour!
- “Be Like water.” – Sun Tzu
- James has quite a story to tell, and it starts with his failure. Sometimes all you need is a little push to get the wheels of Entrepreneurship moving!
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- James realized something no one else at his car dealership realized, and it propelled him to the #1 position in the first 12 months. He shares this insights with Fire Nation.
- James is all about scalability and leverage now. He is going to bring SuperFastBusiness to 8 figures by 2014… and he shares how.
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- Evernote: Remember everything
- Standard Apple Applications
Best Business Book
- Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham
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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, James Schramko. James, are you prepared to ignite?
James Schramko: I am prepared to ignite, John.
John Lee Dumas: Oh, my man! Thank you. James lives in Sydney and runs a business called SuperFastBusiness. Lifestyle is very important to James and he focuses on having fun with the family, looking after his health, visiting new places and growing his business.
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, James, but why don’t you take a minute. Tell us about you personally. We want to get to know you. And then tell us what’s up with your business.
James Schramko: Okay, John. Well, SuperFastBusiness is primarily an Internet-based business. So I operate from home by myself and I’ve got a team offshore who are fantastic. We offer services, doing things such as Search Engine Optimization, website development, and on the other side of the business is information marketing and business coaching, which is pretty much my side of the business. So I’ve got this equally split business that does separate things, but we have a lot of crossover with the same customer. I’ve been doing this since about 2005, although I only quit my job about halfway through this. So I had this transition phase from my old job of running a Mercedes Benz dealership as the General Manager and working my way into that entrepreneurial situation of having my own business.
John Lee Dumas: Very cool, James. Well, I’m looking forward to delving more into that later because I also work alone in my studio here, so I know what you’re going through, and I also have a team that’s virtual. My team’s in the Philippines. So I’d love to talk more later in the interview about your team and how you set that up because I just find that very interesting and fascinating stuff. But before we do, we always start EntrepreneurOnFire off with a success quote. It gets the motivational ball rolling, it gets our listeners pumped up for the content that you have for us today. So James, what do you have for us?
James Schramko: My favorite success quote would have to be “Be like water,” which is from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It’s an ancient Chinese proverb. The reason it’s my favorite is it’s gotten me out of more problems than anything else because I came from an extremely different industry. The motor industry is very mature, extremely competitive and there are some pretty hardcore personalities in there, probably much like your military background. So I found that that was a good quote for me.
John Lee Dumas: That sounds like a great quote. I actually download audible books every so often to kind of have playing in the background when I’m doing my more mindless tasks, and I just downloaded the Sun Tzu one so I’m really excited to go through that and have that kicking because it just has, like you said, points like that throughout the entire book that are just good tidbits that I can kind of stop what I’m doing and make note of it, but James, how do you actually apply that quote to your everyday life, to your mentality?
James Schramko: Well, the original time that I read that book was a tough transitional point. I had an extremely difficult boss. Like I call him the “lunatic millionaire.” I even made a whole product about the things that I learned from him, and a lot of them are hand me downs from General Patton. He was so difficult that I literally bought this book. I took my family away to a holiday house for a week. I read the book from cover to cover, I made detailed notes, and then I went back. It was like I had my suit of armor. So whenever things get difficult, I just imagine water. It just goes around. It goes above, it turns into vapor, it comes back down later. You can freeze it, it’s a glacier, it’ll come back later on. It’s just unstoppable, and I think that persistence is definitely an ingredient in getting things that other people aren’t prepared to get.
John Lee Dumas: Before we move on, because that’s just a great way to explain be like water, before we do move on though, can you just share with us one crazy story about this lunatic millionaire? I know I want to hear one.
James Schramko: [Laughs] Okay. Well, just to give you an idea how this guy operated, he used to give me required training materials, which was in one instance I had to go home and watch Patton the movie. So he would give me the DVD, or back then it was the VHS tape. I’d have to go home and watch it, the whole thing, and he wouldn’t give me any other instruction. And then he would come back, and there’s this scene in the movie where a donkey is on the bridge and it’s holding up all of the troops and they’re getting shot at from the other side of the valley. And he just goes down around past the whole cavalcade right down to the bridge where the donkey is, pulls out the revolver, shoots it in the head and pushes it off the bridge. So the next day I’m at work and he finds this salesperson who he’s not with. He comes over to me, looks me in the eye and just like with gritted teeth sort of screams, but softly, “Donkey on the bridge!”
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
James Schramko: Which means get rid of this guy [Laughs]. So that was his way of saying this guy is holding up the business, you have to get rid of him. That’s your job. Make it happen.
John Lee Dumas: Well, you are right, James. Being a military guy myself and having that background of being an officer for eight years, four years active and four years in the reserves, man, I can put a face to who you’re describing right now, and a personality because those people are out there, left and right. But let’s transition now into our next topic, and that’s failure. That is challenges or obstacles that, as entrepreneurs, we face throughout our journey. Can you take us back to some point in your journey, James, when you faced failure or a challenge or an obstacle that you had to overcome? And then share with us how you overcame that obstacle.
James Schramko: Okay. Well I think the biggest challenge I had was when I was 23 years old. I got married and on our honeymoon, my wife got sick. She went to Bali and she somehow picked up some dysentery thing. Anyway, a long story short, her contraception didn’t work so well and we ended up we were going to have a baby about like a year from the day that we got married, our first child was due, and at the time we were both on a salary of $35,000. So combined, it was two people living on $70,000 and we had this absolute deadline looming that in nine months or seven or eight months from when I knew we were going to be three people living off a $35,000 single income.
John Lee Dumas: Man!
James Schramko: That was inevitable, it was inescapable and there was absolutely no choice. So I thought that was quite a big challenge and it was all still quite overwhelming, even just being married quite young and having this responsibility now of bringing a baby into the world.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! That is incredible. So continue on that journey and how did you overcome that. So when the baby did come and you were faced with being the sole bread earner, what steps did you take to make it happen?
James Schramko: Well at the time I was in an administration job and I worked in an elite sales team, but they were the salespeople and I was just an administrator.
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
James Schramko: So I was in charge of stock and finances and ordering stationary for the team. The salespeople would go out of the office and make sales, but they would have customers phoning in to the office, and I ended up taking these phone calls and I started making sales over the phone, and it turned out that I was actually selling more from the phone sales than what they were doing out in the field. God knows what they’re actually doing, but the thing is I knew that sales was a way that I could make a lot more money. These guys were getting paid double my salary. So I actually went out and I pretty much canvassed the local car dealerships and got myself a job selling cars. I had no sales experience as such and I had no proven record of selling anything, and I convinced this BMW dealership that they must give me a job on one condition, and the condition was that I had to be able to make at least $70,000 a year, and if I couldn’t make that much, I wasn’t even remotely interested in the job. I convinced this guy to take me to the dealer principal, which is the head person in the whole dealership. And then I convinced that guy that I should absolutely be working in that dealership and he took me on. Within 12 months, I was the number one BMW salesperson in the whole of Australia.
John Lee Dumas: So real quick, James, what made you decide that in sales, you want to get into car sales?
James Schramko: One of my criteria was what magazines do I buy? What am I actually naturally interested in?
John Lee Dumas: Okay.
James Schramko: Does that give me an advantage in terms of the product knowledge and passion because I figured that if I’m at least interested in it, I could talk about it every day and I would have a lot less of a learning curve than having to go into a completely new industry. So I worked with my strengths. The only strength I had was that I knew a fair bit about cars and I was interested in them. I was interested in selling but didn’t really understand about it and I had some tough lessons to come around the sales side of things.
John Lee Dumas: So James, if you had to just pinpoint the key to your success in becoming the number one salesperson in that 12 month span, what is that key to success?
James Schramko: Well, this will sound pretty harsh, but it was something that I was doing without realizing it, and then I became aware of it, but people act selfishly. For the most part, people only ever buy if they think they’ll be better off. That’s why I had to get the sales job, because selfishly, I needed more income. So I had a need first and I was sort of starting to learn the distinction between a [way in] towards motivation. I mean had no choice but to increase my income, so I selfishly sought out a job that would enable that. And then I realized that all these people buying cars are selfish as well. They’re buying a car because they think they’ll be better off, and unless you could make them see that they’re better off, it was a tough sale.
John Lee Dumas: Man, what a great realization! That’s an aha moment of sorts, and that is a perfect lead in to our next topic, which is an aha moment, which are light bulbs that just come on at certain points in your journey. James, can you take us back to a time when a light bulb came on at some point in your journey, and then walk us through how you turned that moment, that aha moment, into success.
James Schramko: Okay. As you know, I had a job and I worked my way through sales management, general sales management and general management, and I ended up in the situation where I was running these dealerships and there was nowhere else to go except for buying into it or taking some kind of equity slice or getting my own dealership and they are rather expensive to get into and difficult. So I felt this need to have my own business and I started up my Internet thing on the side. It was developing, but gee it was frustrating, and I kept having this lure of the online dream of income working from home and not having to build someone else’s business, but it was such a struggle putting all the parts together. But I had some success with an affiliate promotion that I started and I ended up getting that developed to the point where I had my own information product and I launched this information product one night, and immediately, this thing just took off.
Actually, at the same time, I was moving house that week. So I had a week off work. I had to shift my whole family from house to house, but during that week, I was at home, I was surrounded by cardboard boxes, and every single day for that whole week I made a thousand dollars in sales each day. That was an aha moment. That was actually the first moment that I believed that I could actually do this fulltime because that was exactly what my salary was. More or less, I was on about a thousand dollars a day with my salary, and to have a thousand dollars a day coming in somewhere other than my single source-dependent income was extremely inspirational and I figured, if I could just do this every day, I wouldn’t have to go to work.
John Lee Dumas: So you had this great aha moment and you realized, hey, this is something I would potentially prefer doing than going to work every single day. So how did you take that initial success and turn it into what you have now – SuperFastBusiness?
James Schramko: Well once I had that seed, then I took on my be like water determination and drive and I burnt the candle at both ends. I worked my butt off, basically. I would come home from work, I would have a shower, I would have something to eat, I would get dressed into my tracksuit pants and my hoodie and I would go to my computer and I’d spend between about [9:30] at night through to [3:00] or [4:00] in the morning on my own business. It was just me building this thing from scratch. And then I would wake up again at [7:30], go off to work for another 8,9, 10, 12 hours and do the whole thing. It was like Groundhog Day. I literally had a whiteboard where I’d have to write down where I was up to because I had so much going on, I would actually forget by the next time that I was sitting at the computer. Even in my lunch break, I would phone up and I’d be speaking to my wife over the telephone, doing support for what emails had come in.
And so I had to just leverage this business up, moving from my email box to a support desk, hiring a part time content writer to save me having to write the articles. So it’s just this little chess move by chess move, night by night, and it did take a few years. But in the last six months, I had very little sleep, but I could see the finished line. I just knew that it was possible to get there and no one’s going to stop me, and it was probably beyond healthy. I mean if I had kept going, I may not even be here. Something had to happen, something had to give, and it was the job that fell to the wayside on the theory that if I could just meet my income with my home business, then I could let go of the job and that extra 8 to 10 hours a day would give me enough extra capacity to be able to scale it up.
John Lee Dumas: So you make that leap, and it wasn’t an easy one because you were living quite a – I don’t want to say cushy job because it probably wasn’t cushy – but a job that was bringing in a lot of money, up to $365,000 a year, if my math is right and you’re making a thousand dollars a day. So that was obviously quite a paycheck to walk away from. What actually made you make that final leap and tell us what that first couple of weeks or couple of months were like when you actually were waking up and you had no job to go to besides what you created online?
James Schramko: Oh well, I’ll answer the last part first. Every day I would wake up after I quit my job – like quitting my job was the most exciting and scariest thing that I’ve ever done in life [Laughs].
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
James Schramko: Walking into that office and saying, “Thank you very much. Here are the two keys for those Mercedes Benz. I don’t need the salary anymore. I’m going to go out on my own,” and I got looks of disbelief. Like what could you possibly be doing that is going to sustain that? The thing that led up to that was actually a trip to the United States. I had been trying to catch up and get close to the knowledge curve, and much like you, you go straight to the call phase. I mean you interview these people directly now. I was getting interviews secondhand and buying up courses. I’d sit down and just consume them all in my holidays. Like my one week with the family at the beach holiday, we’d go to the beach during the day. I’d then watch every single DVD, listen to every CD and work my butt off every single night during the holidays.
I decided just to book a plane ticket, go to America, attend a conference and just get close to the action. I made good contacts at that conference which actually propelled me forward. I even won a prize. There was a competition which I entered and I won this prize and it was the ability to be in a mastermind, but I still had to come back 6 weeks later, which was extremely inconvenient. It’s quite expensive to fly over there and accommodate myself when I’m doing this. I still had over a million dollars in geared mortgages and shares and all that sort of stuff, so I didn’t have a lot of room to move financially, I didn’t have any time available, I just didn’t. I’d literally go there for the three days of the conference, fly back, arrive at Sydney at [7:30] in the morning and go straight to work.
So it was a big sacrifice, but the contacts that I made and the knowledge that I got allowed me to come back and just relook at things that I had and I was able to find an easy win, and that was that I’d been building websites for customers privately because they’d heard about my ability to have things ranking on Google and word-of-mouth kicked in, but I hadn’t actually done anything beyond that. That was a one-time payment. So I went back to these two customers who I’d recently built websites for and I said, “Look, I’m going to do this fulltime. Would you like to have a recurring maintenance package where I’ll look after your website and I’ll set up your pay per click campaigns and I’ll keep your website up-to-date with content and I’ll have it rank on Google and we’ll do lots of cool stuff, and they said yes. With each of them saying yes, each contract was worth about five-and-a-half thousand dollars, so that gave me an extra hundred thousand dollars a year and my existing online business was making around about $150,000 a year at that time. So I, overnight, jumped into that 300K bracket and that was it. I just thought, this is it. It’s now or never. I’m going to have to make this step.
John Lee Dumas: Man! That is a perfect lead in, James, to my next question. Have you had an I’ve made it moment?
James Schramko: Definitely! [Laughs] It’s usually when I’m in business class on the airplane when I’m just looking around thinking, well, I’m traveling on my own dime here and it’s part of what I do now. It’s okay to fly overseas to make contacts, to develop my business. Our government here even gives you a little bit of support for export marketing development and it’s something that is creating value and legitimate and that I created myself. So I really do think, and there’s the whole lead up to that. When it’s time to travel, the limousine waits at the front gate and I walk out to the front gate. I live on five acres so I walk down this long driveway with my bag, I hop in the limo, I get chauffeured to the airport, I fly business class, I do what I want, when I want, when I’m at my destination, and that level of freedom was something that I had dreamed of when I was sitting at the desk and had not been able to articulate. But being able to do that, I definitely feel fortunate and it’s most certainly I really do feel like I have achieved far more than I could have expected even just going back maybe 5 or 6 years ago. It wouldn’t have seem possible. In fact, even 10 years ago before the Internet, I don’t know how this lifestyle would be possible.
John Lee Dumas: Oh, tell me about it. So James, you have a lot of exciting stuff going on right now in multiple different arenas. If you could just pick out one thing that’s really exciting you right now, what would that be?
James Schramko: Well I think that it’s still I still feel like I’m in my apprenticeship phase. I actually have a positive expectation about where things can go. Like I don’t feel like I’ve maxed out. I feel like I’m on the cusp of the next stage of growth and I really celebrate change and growth because I think that’s definitely been my secret, is my ability to change and to accept new things and to monopolize them fast. So I actually feel really positive about what’s around the corner. I’m certainly living in the now, but what’s about to come is pretty exciting as well.
John Lee Dumas: Can you give us a little glimpse about what your vision is for the future of SuperFastBusiness or just James Schramko?
James Schramko: Well the business is going to get into the eight figure zone in a reasonable timeframe. I’m talking about probably within two years, we’ll hit that $10 million mark. I’m excited about that because that automatically means that it floats all the boats. If our business goes up, it means all of our customers are having a good business and all of the people who we hire within our within our business are able to have a better lifestyle as well. So that value creation mechanism is bigger. So I’m excited about that. I am actually financially-driven and I don’t hold that back. I still got things I want to achieve and realize. I lock those things in and I’m pretty determined about it, but there are good byproducts for others.
John Lee Dumas: There’s still an island out there that needs to be named “Schramko Island.”
James Schramko: I want an island. I seriously do. You can pick up a pretty good island from $3 million or $4 million up north in Australia. So it’s definitely on my to do list.
John Lee Dumas: That is great stuff! So James, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I get to ask you a series of questions and you come back at us, Fire Nation, with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
James Schramko: Yes. It’s no pressure at all.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
James Schramko: [Laughs]
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
James Schramko: The system. I was in the system. You do have all the odds stacked against you. You go to a traditional school which was set up to teach people how to run textile machines and to obey instructions and not think. You get pushed into an education system that wants to hold you in. There’s everyone with antiquated belief systems that are instilled in you before you have a chance to have your own mind. So I had to escape that before I could be an entrepreneur, and then I had to let go of all the traditional shackles of having a mortgage and get debts and a salary. Like that single source dependency was a killer. Having all your eggs in one basket is such a bad idea, but it is promoted as being safe and the thing to do. When you actually sit up and say, “Why is that the thing to do? That doesn’t make sense. I want to get paid by hundreds or thousands of people so that I don’t have compromise in my life.”
John Lee Dumas: Beautiful. What is the best business advice you ever received?
James Schramko: Question everything because you eliminate assumptions. You can just get to the core of something much faster and you can realize if you’re heading down the wrong track much earlier if you just keep checking in. Just like an airplane on autopilot, you still got to check in, are we still on track? Is this where I want to go? When I get there, what will I do? Does it have enough options for me? So thinking things through in advance can save you doing them in the first place.
John Lee Dumas: James, if you could choose two websites to obtain all the information you needed to succeed, what would those two websites be and why?
James Schramko: Google, because I think it’s ultimately still an amazing resource. There’s hardly anything you can’t find on Google, whether it’s how to set your camera settings or business podcasting. You can type it in and it still brings up pretty relative results. So that would be my number one resource. My second one, I’d probably choose “The Gary Halbert Letter” because I feel that offers tremendous value for an extremely low cost and it’s a great online resource for anyone in business. I’ve hardly met a successful businessperson who hasn’t either mastered or got good access to great sales and salesmanship and copywriting ability.
John Lee Dumas: Splendid! So James, do you have an Internet resource like an Evernote that you’re just in love with that you can share with Fire Nation?
James Schramko: I’m not sure if this will count, but it’s an app that I’ve been using lately. I do use Evernote, but I’m actually getting more joy from the Reminders app which comes standard on Apple Macs and iPads and iPhones. It is such a simple tool because you can treat it like a task list or a brainstorm tool. You can just add things and then drag them into order. So it really works well with the way that I do things, which is lay out all my options, then prioritize them, and then just implement. So it does those things really, really well. I’ve started building a library of frameworks or checklists or templates that I can actually reference instantly from any device that I have, and any time I update it, it synchronizes across all my machines. So that is unbelievable if you’re doing any kind of mentoring or repeated process or you go and visit your team and you want to go through a framework, it’s right there.
John Lee Dumas: Simple is beautiful. James, if you could recommend a book for Fire Nation, what would it be?
James Schramko: Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham. It is a masterful classic and it was definitely one of the best instruction guides I had that gave me the confidence to build my own business, especially the last chapter, which instructs people to figure out what work they actually want to do and to shortlist it, and then actually ask them, which I think has pretty much been your approach for this podcast. And even though it was probably written before the Internet – I’m not sure, but it may have been – the idea of that was hey, I actually have a choice and I can be proactive rather than just sit here and be sitting inside the system. I can take control of it with my own preferences and make stuff happen all on my own.
John Lee Dumas: You got it too. You are correct. So James, this is the last question. It’s my favorite, but it’s kind of tricky. So take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with an answer. 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?
James Schramko: I would simply make a video with my laptop because of them have a camera.
John Lee Dumas: Yes.
James Schramko: I would load that up to Wistia because it streams videos beautifully, and for the $500 I would just get hosting and a domain name and build a one-page website with a video on it and a payment button where I would have a very compelling sales offer where I’d offer business growth services where my specialty would be extremely targeted to help six figure business owners build a seven figure business and seven figure business owners build an eight figure business. I would make it compelling and of tremendous value, and I think that that would be enough to bring in revenue that could fuel my next project, whatever that would be.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! That’s tremendous. That is actionable, actionable content, James. You provided us with actionable content this entire interview and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then share how we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
James Schramko: Okay. Well, I think one of the best pieces of advice I had was from Peter Drucker, even though I never met him, but I’ve read every single book that he’s put out. His thing is about doing the right things and it’s such a lesson in effectiveness rather than efficiency. A lot of people are busy taking action, but if you are in the desert and you need water and you walk the wrong way from the waterhole, that action is not going to get you anywhere except for it’s just going to kill you quicker. So the two main parts of that are doing, which you definitely have to do stuff and implement, and then the right things. So you really have to figure out what the right things are and you can pretty much forget everything else. If you’re doing the right things even a little bit, you’re a lot closer to the target. So that’s my parting piece of advice, and the action item for that would be sit down and identify perhaps with a whiteboard what are all the options you have, and of those, which ones are the right ones for you that get the result you want. Once you’ve predetermined that, then just circle that and just focus on that right now with a single determined focus.
Where people can find out about me, simply go to SuperFastBusiness.com. It has a great video newsletter, but it also has a list of products and services that may help the typical listener if they have any kind of online business or presence. We do things such as help them get more exposure.
John Lee Dumas: Great stuff, James. Thank you for being so generous with your time, your expertise, your experience. Fire Nation salutes you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.