From the archive: This episode was originally recorded and published in 2018. Our interviews on Entrepreneurs On Fire are meant to be evergreen, and we do our best to confirm that all offers and URL’s in these archive episodes are still relevant.
Ken Jacobus is the founder of Good Start Packaging, a supplier of compostable takeout containers for restaurants based in New Hampshire. You might recognize him from Capital One’s latest ad campaign!
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Good Start Packaging – Beautiful Food, Beautiful Packaging. (Sorry! This link was active when this episode was first published in 2018 but is no longer an active offer.)
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Capital One – Spark Business
3 Value Bombs
1) The only way to change to the world is to change yourself. Work on yourself. Always be better.
2) Struggle is a good thing when it means overcoming your fears and your limiting beliefs.
3) The big, early win is sweet. But it’s going to take a lot of rejections leading up to that – before you get that first big win that can start your momentum to building something very special.
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**Click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.
Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: How Ken Jacobus used his 2 percent cash back to offer health insurance to his employees
[01:00] – Ken shares something interesting about himself that most people don’t know.
- His career ambition was to be the director of The David Letterman Show.
[02:45] – Do good by the world and by your employees — this is Ken’s approach to business. Tune in to hear why…
- Treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Always being empathetic has helped Ken big time when it comes to being successful in sales.
- By only acting with integrity and only doing the right thing by all the stakeholders in our business, whether they be suppliers, employees, or clients – that’s how I succeed.
[04:09] – What does Ken think about being humble?
- The reason behind the company’s name “Good Start Packaging”? Humility.
- The business is called Good Start Packaging because Ken wanted to something for the environment, for businesses, for health. Every single day is what matters, and that’s what generates momentum. They don’t pretend to have the best solution. But they do believe that for a lot of people, they are a step in the right direction.
- People are starving for messages that are transparent and honest – not ones full of hyperbole.
[05:56] – Don’t do one big thing. Do a thousand little things and you’ll get that edge.
- Most people are successful over time because they do lots of small things that collectively add up to a lot of things.
- We don’t have any patents, secret sauce, or venture capital that helped buy our way into the market place. It is doing a thousand little things really well.
[08:28] – Entrepreneurs’ businesses aren’t running out of ideas, nor enthusiasm. They’re running out of money and time. Ken talks about how he uses credit cards to help his business and employees.
- They make things a lot easier. They extend payment terms, which definitely helps when you’re running a small business.
- They allow you to download transactions straight into accounting, which saves a ton of labor.
- They offer free cards to employees, and this allows Ken’s team to manage expenses really well.
[13:53] – What does Ken’s business do, and how’d he come up with the idea?
- One day, he decided to go to a Green Business conference; it completely inspired him to quit his job.
- He knew he wanted to do something that transitioned from dealing with large companies, managers, attorneys – things like that – into small business owners and help them be successful.
- He knew that he cared for the environment, and local businesses especially. He wanted to figure out how he could combine these interests with a fairly small amount of capital to do something that would make a difference.
[18:45] – What was Ken’s early big win that got his business up and rolling?
- It takes a lot of people a long time to change behavior.
- The big early win is sweet. But it’s going to take a lot of rejections leading up to that before you get to that point of where you’re going to get that first big win that can start the momentum to build something very special.
[22:14] – When it came time for you to choose an actual business credit card, what process did you go through?
- He looked at traditional credit cards that had mileage and other rewards attached to it.
- The company they chose is one of the only companies that offers 2% cash back in every single category.
[23:34] – How did Ken get involved with the Capital One’s advertising campaign, and what was it about?
- Ken and his company fit the profile and got contacted and interviewed by Capital One to find out more about how they use the card, what kind of small business they are, etc. Capital One was looking for real businesses that had real stories to inspire people to take initiative and get the card.
- Ken had an opportunity to tell their story and get people excited about what they do.
[26:02] – Ken’s parting piece of guidance
- The only way to change the world is to change yourself. Work on yourself. Always be better. You will inspire people to make a difference.
Shake the room Fire Nation. JLD here and welcome to Entrepreneurs On Fire brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network with great shows like My First Million. Today, we're pulling a timeless EOFire classic episode from the archives, and we'll be breaking down. How Ken Jacobus use his 2% cash back to offer health insurance to his employees? Now, Ken is the founder of Good Star Packaging, a supplier of compostable takeout containers for restaurants based in New Hampshire. You might recognize him from Capital One's latest ad campaign. And today Fire Nation, we'll talk about changing the world. You can only change a world when you change yourself. We'll talk about why struggle's a good thing when it means overcoming your fears, the limiting beliefs and the big early wind is sweet and how you can get that Fire Nation and so much more. When we get back from thanking our sponsors VistaCreate is a graphic design platform where anyone can easily craft professional and unique visual content for social media and digital marketing in minutes. Visit VistaCreate.com today to try it for free and see how easy it really is. The remarkable people podcast hosted by guy Kawasaki and brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network helps you better understand the changing world with interviews from Thought Leaders Legends, and Iconic Class like Jenn Lim, Happiness Evangelist and author of Beyond Happiness. Listen to the remarkable people podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. So Ken say what's up to a Fire Nation and share something interesting about yourself that most people don't know.
1 (1m 34s):
Sure. Thanks for having me on the show, John. Hello, Fire Nation. Something unusual about me. Well, I had 330 kids in my high school graduating class. And one of the only things that all those people knew about me in high school was that my career ambition was to be the director of the David Letterman show. And I always wanted to be behind the scenes and kind of not stand out. And I think probably the reason that people didn't know much about me was because I was really, really shy. In fact, I was voted the shyest person in the class. So for years I was really embarrassed about that. Mostly because of all the opportunities I felt like I missed a connect with people and for them to get to know me, but really I think in the end it was probably a gift because the pain that was associated with that title really forced me to struggle outside my comfort zone.
1 (2m 28s):
And I think, I think it was that recognition that, you know, struggle is a good thing when it means overcoming our fears and our limiting beliefs. And that was really, probably one of the things that really led me to start my own business.
0 (2m 41s):
Well, that was a great and interesting share and a great life lesson as well. So I definitely appreciate you sharing that Ken and Fire Nation. As I mentioned briefly in the intro, we're going to be giving an incredible audio masterclass today on using credit cards to get an edge for your business. We're going to be talking about some really important things. So I don't want to waste any time with any fluff I want to dive right in. And Ken, one thing that I really love that comes from your mouth very often is do good by the world and by your employees. This is your approach to business. Tell us why this is your approach and why it works.
1 (3m 22s):
It's really simple. It's always been a simple thing from a, and that is just treat people the way that you want to be treated. And everything really always works out that way. I've always been very empathetic. I think that's a skill that has gone has, has helped me be successful in sales. I'm always empathetic with other people. I spend a lot of time thinking about how other people feel and kind of putting myself in their shoes. And so for me, you know, succeeding by only acting with integrity and doing the right thing by all the stakeholders in our business, whether they be suppliers or employees or clients is really the only way I want to be successful. So it was kind of like a no brainer for me,
0 (4m 1s):
Do good by the world and by your employees. It's just think about that Fire Nation and something that I think goes along nicely with this is be humble. Be happy for me when I was growing up. I can always remember my uncle saying those words to me. And I was just like, I didn't really get it, but I always kind of associated being humble with being happy. I'm like, well, if I want to be happy, my uncle says I need to be humble. And so that humbleness was really a big part of me growing up and kind of maturing through the army through corporate finance and then now running my own business, be humble, be happy. So going along with what you just shared, as your thoughts behind that, what do you think Ken about being humble? Does that play a part in what you do at all?
1 (4m 43s):
Oh my God. It's so resonates with what our company's about. And in fact, that's the reason behind calling the company. Good start packaging is really having some humility and w we started, we call it good start packaging because we really feel like I'm doing something, you know, for the environment or business or for yourself or your health every single day is what matters. And that's what generates momentum. We don't pretend as a company that we have the best solution ever out there. We are ultimately about disposable products. We are about compostable disposable products. So we think they are for a lot of people, a step in the right direction. But I think people are, you know, in this age of all the advertising messages and politicians and so forth, there's so much hyperbole out there and there's so much cynicism and distress as a result in consumer's mind.
1 (5m 31s):
I think people are starving for messages that are just, you know, are transparent and honest and not full of hyperbole and that are humbled. So it really does kind of put me a lot.
0 (5m 43s):
Well, be humble, be happy, feel free, Ken, to use that phrase at any point, just give me credit the first few times you use it, but then it's yours for life. Be humble, be happy. Now, one of your philosophies that I really do love, and this is for you Fire Nation, this is success as a small business owner. This philosophy is don't do one big thing, do a thousand little things to get an edge. Now I want to talk about this because you hear a lot of people just say, focus on one thing, just do one thing. Then, you know, you're hearing other people say, well, be a Renaissance man or a woman, and do a thousand little things. And again, I want to kind of rephrase what your philosophy is. And then have you expound upon that? Don't do one big thing, do a thousand little things to get an edge.
0 (6m 26s):
What does that mean?
1 (6m 27s):
I think that some of the inertia for a lot of people behind doing anything that they consider big, like starting a business or getting in shape or whatever it is because they think of it as this monumental thing. And they have to be incredibly successful at one big huge thing. But the truth is I think that most people are successful over time by doing lots of small things that collectively to a lot of things. And that's ultimately what again, good packages means about listening. It's about, it's not just about the cup, if you will, the disposable cup in our case, it's about the consciousness around that and inspiring other people to do more. And when you do a little bit, you actually get excited and say, gosh, what else can I do? And so a lot of the things that we do are really centered around that kind of philosophy.
1 (7m 7s):
A lot of the success that we've had over time is not due to any one specific, big thing. We don't have any patents. We don't have any secret sauce. We don't have venture capital that has helped us, you know, kind of buy our way into the marketplace. It's doing a thousand little things really, really well, whether it's, you know, programs for our employees, for programs, for our clients, improving our website, or, you know, one of the things that we believe heavily in is finding opportunities to not just increase our top line revenue, but finding creative ways to reduce our costs in ways that, you know, don't take a lot of resources. And one of the things that we've done in recent years, for example, it was, we started getting educated about rewards credit cards.
1 (7m 50s):
And we came upon this credit card called the spark card from Capital One and it's credit card that we use quite extensively for our business, because it gives a 2% cash backs and unlimited cash back on everything that you bought. And we buy a lot of stuff for our business charge as much stuff as we can on this car. And it adds up to a lot of money. And I think, you know, a lot of businesses leave a lot of money on the table. Just little things like that, that actually ended up being a big convenience for us. But that 2% where the recharging, you know, lunches out with our employees or travel or our cost of goods, you know, last year was $36,000.
1 (8m 30s):
This year added up to 50 is going to add up to $51,000. That goes right to our bottom line. And that's made a huge impact for us as a small business. You know, we use those funds towards pretty much exclusively towards giving back to our employees, continue to invest in our employees, whether it be through, you know, additional benefits, health insurance, and bonus programs as well.
0 (8m 51s):
This is one thing we talk about quite a bit Fire Nation on the show is entrepreneurs businesses. You know, they're not running out of ideas. You know, they're not running out of enthusiasm and excitement. They're running out of money and they're running out of time. So whatever you can do in your business to elongate that time to increase that dollar, that's going to elongate that time. You need to be doing these type of things. And one thing that we talked a little bit about in the intro was your company can, which is Good Star Packaging. You know, you're a supplier of compostable takeout, containers, restaurants based around New Hampshire. I don't think you probably know this, but I'm actually a Mainer Kenny bunk for the win.
0 (9m 31s):
So I definitely love the tri-state area. And you have been using for your company credit cards to help your business out, as you mentioned, I mean over $50,000 that would not have been coming back into your pocket is now coming back as a result of you wisely using spark as a rewards card. So talk about maybe one or two other ways that you're using credit cards to really help your business and your employees.
1 (9m 59s):
Sure. So credit cards had done a lot for us. First of all, they make things a lot easier. They of course extend your payment terms, which definitely helps us as a small business. They also have a lot of technology integrations into accounting systems and things like that. So they allow you to automatically download transactions into accounting, which saves a ton of labor. So we're able to operate with, you know, very little overhead internally to be able to process thousands and thousands of transactions. Every month, we literally charged hundreds of thousands of hours on our card every month. And they offer, you know, free cards to employees or employees use the cards as well. So it allows us to manage expenses really well, or, you know, everything from sales travel and things like that to everyday, you know, cost of goods.
1 (10m 42s):
A big part of our business is shipping. We charge quite a bit of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in, you know, paying for FedEx and other carriers and things like that. So that all goes on the card as well.
0 (10m 56s):
And these are just a few ways that you need to be arming your business. I mean, we're always talking about as entrepreneurs. Like you need to be armed or ready to go. You need a lot of things. You need a website, you need different types of software. You need potentially employees for how big your business is going to be in. Hopefully growing. You need a lot of different things and you also need to have capital. You need to have ways that you can track expenses. You need to have ways you can actually invest in things you need to invest in. And that is just one of the many reasons and many impacts of credit cards and have on your business going forward. Now we're going to be having some really cool things we're going to be chatting about when we get back from thanking our sponsors. So don't get back because we will be right back.
0 (11m 36s):
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0 (12m 19s):
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0 (14m 40s):
So Ken we're back. And again, we think of the talk too much about exactly what your company is and what it does. I mean, Good Start Packaging based out of New Hampshire, a lot of awesome stuff going on up there. Talk to us about what your business does. Like how did the idea come from? I want a little bit of your origin story to kind of go in with everything you have going on right now today and how you run your business.
1 (15m 2s):
Sure. Yeah, so we are based in New Hampshire, but I started the business about nine and a half years ago in San Francisco bay area, where I was living for about 17 years. I had a pretty successful sales career in high-tech and one day decided to go to a green business conference and I just got completely inspired by some people there and just decided on the spot to quit my job. And so I quit my job a couple months later cause I was sales, get my bonus, but it was, I looked at my job and didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to do something that really transitioned from dealing with large companies and purchasing managers and attorneys and things like that into, you know, real people, if you will.
1 (15m 43s):
I wanted to, I wanted to work with small business owners and make them successful. I knew I cared about the environment. I knew I cared about local businesses, specially I loved food. And so I wanted to figure out how I could combine those interests with fairly small amount of capital startup capital to do something that made the difference. And so I started researching plastic. I got to get educated about at the time, even at the time, what a huge problem, an unsustainable problem that we have with our use of disposable plastic, how it's going into our oceans and our land and so forth. And we just are running out of places to put it in. And it's causing a lot of pollution, a lot of problems in our environment, but at the same time, there's these innovative companies that are making alternatives to plastic specifically around the food service industry, which uses tens of millions of tons of plastic every year.
1 (16m 33s):
Most of that going to landfill because there just isn't a market for it. And some of these companies were making products that are made from renewable resources, plants, whether they be sugar cane or corn or bulrush, lots of different, really interesting materials that are oftentimes not even grown for this purpose are grown for food. And this is a byproduct of the production that they are able to actually monetize and in. So doing help farmers and make a product that is just as good, if not better than a traditional plastic. And so I basically started this company as a distributor, went door to door selling physical product because I came from high tech selling software and intellectual property. And so forth, knew very little about the restaurant industry.
1 (17m 15s):
I just went door to door in the San Francisco area and restaurants, restaurants, and one understand how they buy packaging and what they think about sustainability and try to, you know, try to operate more sustainably and using compostable packaging and introduced them to this products and, you know, went from there. And it's been an incredible, exciting ride San Francisco market. As you can imagine, this was somewhat of the kind of low-hanging fruit. These are a lot of books that were either already doing this kind of thing before or knew about it and were very, very interested in that. So we became successful there for a couple of years and I decided to relocate the business to these coasts in part because of family and so forth, but also because I really wanted to make an impact to the rest of the country.
1 (17m 60s):
And I wanted to inspire people that they can make a difference. And this is one of those areas that everybody can make a difference. That's really easy because almost everybody uses disposable plastic, almost everybody eats out and we can all collectively make a huge impact. And I think people kind of were starving for that. And so I located out on the east coast, near New Hampshire. Now we have warehouses still in multiple places in the country, including the services carrier, but we we've been pleasantly surprised in how the business has just exploded even on the east coast and then increasingly internationally as well. There was an appetite for this stuff. People are really concerned about environmental issues and pollution.
1 (18m 40s):
That's involved with plastic. And so some of our biggest markets now are actually on the east coast and it's been actually really challenging to, to keep our businesses growing 60% year over year, over the last three or four years this year, we're up 52%. We continue to add employees. It's really frankly challenging just to keep up with the growth and you know, my job as the CEO finally, after all these years of kind of working in the business really more and more work on the business. And I, I really consider my job to be kind of a resource allocator. If you will. I'm always looking for an edge and like talked about every little thing, analyzing our business, looking for ways that we can be more efficient and do more with less.
1 (19m 25s):
And so it's been pretty exciting ride and we're, it's the growth industry it's doing incredibly well. And next year we expect to continue to grow
0 (19m 35s):
Now every entrepreneurial venture. I mean, there's a lot of rejection at the beginning. And you mentioned knocking on doors to try to get some initial interest and get the word out. What was one early big win that you had can take us to like a door that you knocked on or a business that you talked to like a specific story of a specific wind that got your business up and rolling
1 (19m 57s):
A lot of good experience getting educated. I actually got a little bit of luck and a little bit just, just hard grunt work. We often get called even today for people that are, I think they're looking for, let's say a point solution. And we ended up working our way in a very large solution. So we got caught, I got contacted first few months of the business by what has become a large chain on the west coast of restaurants. And they were just looking for like a small little solution, one, one little product. And as I continue to work with them and really hustle and get answered a lot of their questions and they knew how passionate I was about the environment that they really couldn't find, frankly, another distributor that was as knowledgeable and hustled, as much as I did to, to get the business that they started giving me more and more projects.
1 (20m 44s):
And what ended up starting out as probably, I don't know, the five or $10,000 project ended up being a $300,000. And that kind of put me on the map. I was pretty, pretty exciting within the first few months getting a a hundred thousand dollars deposit check. And that felt like, you know, I had a real business. So, so that was pretty exciting, but it definitely, those are few and far between opportunities sometimes to get the, to get to those, you oftentimes do have to deal with a lot of rejection and it takes, you know, it takes a long time. I think one of the things that I've learned in this business is patience. You know, everything that I think is obvious and kind of a no brainer. It takes a lot of people, a lot of people, a long time sometimes to really change behavior.
1 (21m 29s):
And especially in an industry like ours, which has been historically considered kind of a commodity industry and kind of a necessary evil, not too exciting to be consultative in your selling, to sell in a way that ultimately gives value more value than just simply selling at the lowest price to customers that are used to that used to dealing with packaging suppliers like a commodity and change that whole game. It takes, it takes time. People are kind of not ready for that. And sometimes that takes a little more time than you expect. So that's probably one of the biggest things I learned is that having not known anything about this industry to set all kinds of wild expectations about what revenue I was going to be making and what my profits are going to be, I was going to be able to start making.
0 (22m 17s):
So Ken, that's just like a really sweet story and I'm really glad you shared it. You know, about the whole process of that big win, that a hundred thousand dollars that validating of the idea and then kind of the momentum that you continue to push forward with after you get that. And you know, the, the lessons you shared after that of course were super important as well. And Fire Nation. That's really one big thing I want you to remember and take away from this is, you know, that big, early win that's sweet. I mean, sometimes there's no sweeter win than that for the rest of your career, the rest of your time as the founder of that company. But it's so crucial to realize that it's going to take a lot of rejections leading up to that before you get to that point of where you're going to get that first big wind that can start that momentum to build something very special.
0 (23m 1s):
Now, Ken, as you mentioned, you're growing a lot 60% year over year, but let's be honest, you're spending a lot of money doing so. I mean, that's what happens when businesses grow. So when it came time for you to choose an actual business credit card, what process did you personally go through
1 (23m 19s):
To the number of different options, including a lot of the traditional rewards credit cards that have, you know, mileage and other rewards attached to it, particularly as a small business, of course, cash is really important. And I think I'm more analytical than most people and truly analyzing the true value of a lot of different types of rewards. And there's nothing better than 2% cash back out there for any, any size business. It's a really great reward. The company is turns out a company that we chose is one of the only ones that, that offers on limited 2% cash back on every single category. But it's also a company that we really believe in. They actually are very much despite their back, that they're a big company. They've got a lot of the same philosophies about that.
1 (24m 1s):
We do kind of a Maverick philosophy, do things way different, kind of reinvent the business and treat people with respect, everything. Everybody I've ever dealt with Capital One. And we have to call in fairly routinely for various things need always very professional, always taking ownership, high integrity, not passing the buck on somebody. Else's good, good people. And so that really mattered to us as well, but the 2% cash back, you know, it goes right to the bottom line. That was certainly the driving.
0 (24m 29s):
Yeah, you can't beat the best. So let's talk about the Capital One advertising campaign. I mean, how did you initially get involved and what is it all been about?
1 (24m 40s):
Fairly heavy user of the card? So I think we probably spent a profile and they contacted us last fall to kind of interview us, find out more about how we use the car, what kind of business we are. And they, their marketing people really started to resonate with our message. They were looking for, I think, real businesses that have real stories to kind of inspire people, to take initiative and actually get a rewards card because a lot of business owners I've seen advertisements actors, but they wanted to get real stories about how the 2% can really add up. And so I liked the fact that we used the card a lot of course, but they also liked the fact that we really associated it with our largely our ability to offer health insurance to her employees for the first time.
1 (25m 24s):
Because the cost of that at the time was pretty prohibitive, right? A thousand dollars or so per year, that happened to be the cash back on, on one of the first years that we used the card. And so it really did make the difference. So they liked our story. They asked us to be in a, the time were pretty limited commercial, I think for the internet. And it was pretty wild. They had a whole production company, the Hampshire office, we had like 40 people running around and you know, I've only got nine employees and they had 40 people around the country, you know, set up with all kinds of trucks and things like that. It was pretty wild. Talk about getting a shy guy out of his.
1 (26m 9s):
It was just crazy. And it just kinda steamrolled from there. I guess it tested well with some of the focus groups and so forth. And so they said, we want to now do radio ad and you want to do social media. And then it became, we're going to go all in this fall and make this our national ad for the spark card. And now we're in like the world series or in football. It's just been unbelievable. It's been an incredible experience. And working with their team has been super fun as well, but it also has. It's turned out that it's been an incredible team building exercise for our employees too. We were, you know, where else in really, really heavy transaction business, people are really busy and to be able to break away and do something fun like this and see the impact that it's had.
1 (26m 53s):
I have an opportunity also to tell our story, to get people excited about what we do and what we're are, what we're trying to inspire in people.
0 (27m 0s):
So Ken, give us a final takeaway, something you want to make sure the listeners really walk away with from our chat today.
1 (27m 8s):
One of the people that initially inspired me, I talked about this green business conference. I went to years ago. There were a couple of people that really just got, just got me. I mean, they really got me some of the words that they said, and one of the people was Susan Susanka, she's an architect. Actually. She gave this talk and she said, the only way to change the world is to change yourself. And I thought that was pretty powerful. You know, work on yourself, always be better and you will find DePaul inspire other people to make a difference. And I really taken that to heart.
0 (27m 43s):
Well, Fire Nation, you heard it from the man himself. Ken thank you for sharing your journey. Thank you for experience for sharing your experiences, you know, with how to use credits and how to actually leverage things like Capital One and of course, a spark card and do all of those things to make your business grow and expand, succeed in the way that I can. And of course, you're making the world a better place while you do it. I mean, that's one thing that I love about your business and I'm sure that's something that Capital One loved about your businesses that, you know, you did have an idea and that idea was, Hey, how can we make a successful business while at the same time making the world a better place? So Fire Nation, just remember, as you go about your day to day, that you're the average of those five people you spend the most time with in, you've been hanging out with KJ and JLD today.
0 (28m 30s):
So keep up the heat and as always head over to EOFire.com type Ken in the search bar has shown us page will pop up with everything that we've been talking about today. Timestamps links galore and Ken, thank you brother, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, for that we salute you and we'll catch you on the flip side. Hey, Fire Nation today's value bombs are brought to you by Ken and the Capital One team. And if you're ready to master productivity, discipline focus in a hundred days, well then you should be visiting the masteryjournal.com. So you can have the exact system to do just that use promo code podcast for a nice little discount, and I will catch you there, or I'll catch you on the flip side.
0 (29m 15s):
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