Entrepreneurship has been my jam for the past few years now, and while I love a good biz chat, I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want the Pursuit With Purpose podcast to be only about business advice, tactics, and strategies.
If you know my story, (which I share more of in Episode 1), then you know I’m a huuuge supporter of prioritizing your personal growth and happiness first, because money and status will never be enough.
Today’s guest is James Schramko, an online business coach who’s helped over 2,000 of his students create and maintain 6, 7 and 8-figure businesses. Before running his own company, he gave up a multiple 6-figure income to strike out on his own. Crazy, right?
But James is all about creating a business that supports the lifestyle that he wants to live, rather than working himself into the ground, hustling to make more money. He’s found super smart, strategic ways to automate his income and create recurring income streams so that he now has more time to do whatever he wants.
In this episode, James shares exactly how he exited his corporate career and built a business while working a full-time job (even with a family of several kids)! He’s literally a living definition of “Work Less, Make More.”
If finding balance is important to you, then you HAVE to listen to this inspiring conversation with James Schramko.
Check out the episode below:
In this episode, you’ll hear about things like…
- What James’ work schedule looks like now (and how he’s been able to do it).
- How James prevents burnout and one major change you can make today to improve the balance in your own life.
- The invaluable lessons that James learned in his previous job that he’s applied to his own business.
- What James thinks about “hustle”…
- How what happened to James’ own father affected his mindset around money.
Some Questions I ask James…
- Take us back to when you were working as a General Manager at Mercedes Benz making a multiple six figure income. What made you want to leave that job when you were financially successful?
- You’ve created multi-million dollar businesses, and yet you say that you work only a few hours a week. How long did it take you to get to that point?
- You have a recurring revenue model in your business, and you talk about how helpful subscription models are for successful businesses. Can you tell us more about what that looks like and how you do that in your business?
Links from the interview:
- Super Fast Business
- 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More, by Perry Marshall
- Pursuit With Purpose Podcast: Episode 1: How I’m Infusing My Life and Business With More Purpose
What do you think?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Do you chase the hustle, or do you crave balance inside of your business?
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Thank you for listening!
TranscriptRead the Interview Transcription Here
Hey, Pursuit with Purpose family. So although I am an entrepreneur and I do some business coaching, I didn’t want this podcast to be about giving you tons of business advice, because if you know my story which I share more of in episode one, then you know how I’m a big proponent on prioritizing your personal growth and happiness first, and that money and status will never be enough. When I bring an entrepreneur on the show to talk business, you know they are a big freaking deal to me. Today’s guest, James Schramko is that kind of person. He’s an online business coach who’s helped over 2000 of his students create and maintain six, seven and eight figure businesses. Before running his own company, he gave up a multiple six figure income to strike out on his own. Something that I love about James and one of the big reasons that I wanted to have him on the show is that he is all about creating a business that supports the lifestyle he wants to live. So instead of working himself into the ground working 60 hours a week just to make more money, he’s found ways to automate his income and create recurring revenue streams so that he has more time to do, well, whatever he wants. In this interview, we talk about what his exit was like from a high paying corporate career, how he built his business with a full time job and a family of several kids, and literally how he’s been able to build a company around the mentality: work less, make more. So whether you dream of starting your own business one day or you have one that you’re running right now, if finding balance in your life is important to you, this episode is for you. Let’s dive in.
Melyssa Griffin: Hey, James. Welcome to the show.
James Schramko: Hey, thank you for having me.
Melyssa Griffin: Very excited to have you. I was checking out your book, “Work Less, Make More”. I think that’s a topic that a lot of people listening can definitely resonate with, including myself. I want to go back to something that you talked about in your book, which was that you didn’t always have your own business. You were actually working as the general manager of Mercedes-Benz and you were making a very high, multiple six figure income at that time. So I want to kind of like paint the picture for people who are listening. What made you leave a job that was so financially successful?
James Schramko: Well, a lot of people wonder about that. I think they thought I was a bit crazy when I quit, but in my mind, I was so far from that thinking. It was a bit of contrasting, a bit of finding out that there are people out there making a lot more money than I was with their own business. There was this—I was starting to get an uncomfortable feeling about the perilous situation of being paid by one person, which we call single point sensitivity. As you know, about 10 years ago there was—or even a little bit longer than that, there was a financial meltdown in the United States with the subprime lending. I was in a luxury car segment. So I was starting to have these sort of recollections of what happened to my father in the previous recession where he lost his job. I figured the safest thing to do was actually to create my own business and get paid by lots of different people, and to work in something that I’m more interested in, but also that I could sustain. I was really feeling like I’d topped out. I didn’t have anywhere else to go in that business. The industry itself is quite a difficult industry, full of cranky old men and powerful German companies, bureaucratic sort of tactics that used to make my blood boil. It was feeling* like each morning when I strapped on a certain tie and hopped into my car and drove off to work, I felt like I was in some kind of prison cell, some corporate hell. I didn’t want to do that for another 30 years, because 65 retirement age is a crazy idea when you’re in this pressure cooker. There were a lot of reasons for it.
Melyssa Griffin: Yeah. Oh, I totally get that. I think it’s almost bonkers to think that we should save our best years for the very end of our life when we’re like not as energized and don’t have that kind of mindset of wanting to do everything and see the world at that point. There’s something else that you said that I thought was really interesting. You talked about this in your book too, where you essentially feel like starting your own business has more job security than working in a corporate job, which is contrary to what a lot of people think when they think of starting on business. It sounds like this huge risk, but what I found too, is that actually if you work for somebody else, you are putting your life in their hands and hoping that they don’t fire you or lay you off. With a business, if you need to make more money, I mean you could just hustle and do that if need be, but you’re in control of your future. So I love that you talked about that. I think that’s a huge point.
James Schramko: Oh, yeah. There’s a quote that says something about if you don’t have a plan, then chances are you fit into someone else’s. I often watch a movie where there’s some kind of corporate involved and there’s some politics, and it actually makes me frustrated watching that. It reminds me of what it was like being told how I’m going to do this and told how I’m going to do that. It’s not so much that I’m an artist and need to have my own way, it’s just that you feel this sense of powerlessness, like you’re really just becoming part of a machine. I didn’t like that. I’ve worked really hard in my own business to create a much better environment for my employees than the environments I worked for. I put a whole chapter on team because that’s a vital factor in growing a business from a solopreneur to having an actual business that you might be able to sell one day, or that frees you up to have time off, which is really where part of that from the book came, because some people actually step out of a job into a worse situation where they’re working for themselves and they can be pretty difficult to work for if they don’t have the tools and resources to make that work well.
Melyssa Griffin: So true. Yeah, I like that you mention team too. I think looking back on my business too, I feel like that was one of the biggest things that helped us scale*, is just having the right people in place too. I want to hear a little bit more about you starting your business when you were working at this corporate job. Can you tell us a little more about that period of your life? Because you had this, I would assume, busy corporate job and you’re starting this full time business in your spare time. I think I read in the book that you worked from like 7AM to 9PM, came home and worked on your business from like 9PM to 3AM. I was like oh my God, how does he do that? So what was that period of time in your life like?
James Schramko: It was pretty stressful. I think it was about two and a half years where I was double dipping. I was working the day job and I was running a pretty substantial business. It was generating a revenue of over 50 million dollars a year. I had 70 people working below me that I was responsible for. So it was like I had to pay attention, but at the same time, I just didn’t want to be there are. All I wanted to do was to have my own business, but I wasn’t sure what it was. So there was this incredibly painful process of trying to figure out what my business would actually be. This was a gradual process of finding that. I was able to start building it and gain momentum. For a while there, I realized that I’d better make this work because I’m coming to the end of the tunnel and it’s a train. I was starting to break down physically. I was getting quite agitated and frustrated at how hard it was in the beginning, but also, I just felt like the noose was tightening on the job. I really did feel for the last year or so of my job, that every day that I went in there could be my last day. So I had this urgency about it. There was a clock counting down and I had to get out. Really, in my mind, there was no other option. I look back and think that was incredibly bold and brave and crazy all at the same time. I was 36 years old and I had 4 kids and a mortgage at that time. So it was not something that you’re doing as a 21 year old with no responsibilities. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Back then, I was probably working five years to everyone else’s one. Some of what people like Gary V talk about, is true. You can do an enormous amount if you just work most of the hours in the day, but it’s not sustainable. That’s really my message, that if you do that, you have a finite time that you can get away with that until things break. So make sure that it’s only a phase that you go through.
Melyssa Griffin: Right. I like that you said that because I think we hear that so much that we almost think that, oh, that’s how we’re going to be living for the rest of our lives. I like hearing that that’s just a phase that…
James Schramko: There’s actually a very toxic workaholic message out there in the corporate space. I’m really against that. I accept that in the beginning of my business, there was this really hard phase. I wrote my book because I don’t think people need to go through all of the things that I went through, if they could just pick that up. I dedicated the book to my kids because it’s the kind of thing that I wish I had someone put in my hands when I was a teenager, because if I could have skipped a few of the difficult chapters of my life, then I would’ve got there faster. You do see some young people now with what’s available on the internet, they get up and running pretty quickly. Some of them have actually never put on a certain tie or work for anyone else or run a team. So when they get to the point where their business grows, you also see some of them get ousted from their own business because they lack the training and the necessary experience to run a team. I think it was a necessary phase in my life, but we’ve got to reassess down the track. Every few years we should have a look at our life and think, do I still need to hustle and grind and work 19 hour days or is there a different way that I could live? It’s not for me to say someone should live a life that they’re happy with, but I think some people aren’t actually happy and they’re still working really hard. So it’s time to reassess.
Melyssa Griffin: Absolutely. I want to kind of go back to something you said. You mentioned a little bit ago that when you were running that Mercedes-Benz dealership, it was a 50 million dollar production that you were in charge of. Were there any lessons that you took away from that experience that you applied to your business?
James Schramko: Zillions of lessons. That’s where I learned all the stuff. When I came to the online world, I couldn’t believe that people didn’t know some of the things that they didn’t know. It was shocking how unprepared or at what amateur level they ran certain things. So I learned everything. I mean we had the highest priced accountants you can get, advising us with financial numbers and reporting. I learned a lot about stock, parts*. Even to have a dealership, I mean they’re very complicated machines. Some people think you just get cars and then you sell them and make a profit. Well that’s one element, but you also sell time. So service business where you are repair vehicles, you learn about selling time in throughput. If you have an agency or any kind of service business, then the experience from that would be useful. And then we have parts, at any time we had to parts on hand. So we had millions of dollars’ worth of stock, millions of dollars’ worth of vehicles, which are quite portable and they expire. So they’re kind of like milk in the fridge at the local 7-Eleven. They go off. They’ve got a date stamp on them and they get less and less attractive the older they get. We also sold money. A lot of people finance their vehicle. So I learned about intangibles.
And then some of the orders that people were placing weren’t for stock, they were for custom orders. So you learn about managing that custom experience. Someone plonks down a deposit and then they have to wait six months for their vehicle. You’ve got to follow up and stay in touch and reassure them that everything’s in place. And then I also learned how to handle negative situations because I did a lot of hiring and training and firing. We had every type of scenario you can experience from intense competitive environment, where a customer could hop in their car and within 20 minutes, they could be at one of any of our 7 direct competitors selling the same product and probably 50 other competitors selling different products in the same price category. So it’s ultra-competitive. I learned a lot from it and I’m grateful for it.
The second last job that I had, I probably learned the most because it was a bigger business and it was a more intense environment. It was more of a 100 million dollar a year business. It was also a Mercedes-Benz set up, where I had to turn that business around from a wreck to making it the number one business in the country for its category. The owners of that business, they were completely different. One was a spreadsheet junkie and loved these numbers. The other one didn’t even have an office and would write handwritten notes, wouldn’t read a spreadsheet. He ran off gut and intuition. Between those two and the two businesses that they owned, I felt I learned so much. I was kind of learning both sides of the equation. A lot of the things that I teach now are lessons that I learned from that dealership time.
Melyssa Griffin: That’s really interesting. It sounds like it almost encompasses every type of business that there could be, so you got a full spectrum of how to run any type of business that you wanted to. That’s cool. So I have—maybe this is a personal question, but I feel like for men, there is this unique pressure or this unique experience of feeling like you need to succeed with your business, especially because I think I remember reading that you had a family by the time you decided to start your business. Can you tell us a little bit about what that felt like from a man’s perspective, of what that pressure is like to make this thing successful to support your family and to live up maybe even to society’s pressures?
James Schramko: Well I think even before that, when I was 20, I was in a relationship that ended up becoming a marriage at 23. I had my first child at 24, and then I had to three more. My son now is 22. So we’re talking over two decades ago, my oldest son. My youngest son is 15 ½. Back then, I mean that is the reason I got into sales in the first place. I needed to double my income. I was the only breadwinner for the next 20 years basically. Everything fell onto my shoulders. There’s no social security or benefits coming my way. I’ve been a huge contributor to our taxation system here in Australia. It’s not cheap to live either. It’s luck* in the drawer*. It’s not being a snob or anything, it’s just that if you’re raised in a city like Sydney, it makes sense you want to stay in the place where you grow up. It’s at the same cost of living as London, Paris and New York. So where back then, 20 years ago, the average house price was over a million dollars, and now it’s—in the area that I live now, the average house price is over two million dollars.
Yeah, as a man, definitely I was the breadwinner of the family and I did not want to go home and explain to my kids that I’ve lost my job and we’re now going to move to a regional area or move in with parents—which frankly wasn’t really an option because there was a stage in my life where my parents, we grew up in a nice house, but then my dad lost his job and he lost his car. They had to sell their house. They were left with just a little bit, hardly anything. They moved into a two bedroom place. I said, “Where’s my room?” They said, “I’m sorry.” Pretty much, I was forced to go and live out of the house in my late teens. They actually moved into the backyard of my grandfather and we built a little one bedroom place with a bathroom. I lived in that for quite a while as I was doing some studying, starting my full time job. So I think I felt a lot of pressure probably from the age of about 18 through to about 5 years ago. Five years ago sort of marks the five years out of having my own job and into my own business, but I was really pedaling pretty hard in the first five years in setting things up. I’ve got things set up so well now that I really do live more like someone who’s retired. I love the way that my life works now. I was able to ease off that burden.
Here’s an interesting thing. I would say having come from being the number one BMW salesperson and number one Mercedes-Benz salesperson in the whole of Australia in my sales prime, and then the top sales manager and then top general manager, now surprisingly, I’m feeling the least competitive that I’ve ever felt. It’s part of what I do now in my top level coaching program. I’m coaching a lot of millionaires. The most frequently stated goal that they put to me when I take them on, they tell me they want 10 million dollars revenue. I question that, is that really the goal? Because I think once you’re reaching, say five million dollars a year or even three and a half, that’s generally enough to pay the food bills and electricity, and have a nice house, and travel, and whatever. Beyond that, that’s starting to be some other reason driving that. So the last five years, I’ve really been able to just pull back a bit and enjoy all of those difficult years of work and effort, and to be able to concentrate on sort of formulating what I’ve been able to achieve to get to that point and what I’ve seen with my students. Most importantly, it’s not just me that this works for, the people who I’m helping, have had dramatic changes in their lifestyle. I’ll encourage them to go to a movie during a week day. For a lot of them, when they start, that seems impossible. It sounds crazy, but the resistance that someone has around that is the key to them creating a better life because they start removing that guilt. They question why they feel shame in not earning more.
So whether you’re a man or a woman—and I coach plenty of women as well. I know some of them, even especially house moms who are balancing kids—and I’ve still got one kid who goes to school, so I’m still like a home dad in a way. I know the pressures involved in making lunches and pickups and drop offs, and dealing with all the fun things that come with raising kids. I can really relate to that because I’ve been at home for 10 years. I’ve got to experience both. I know there’s a lot of women who feel that responsibility to make it or break it. Quite often, they have their partner in the background questioning the next course they buy and going through the bills, and they’re wondering if it’s all going to work or if they’re just maxing out the credit card for a dream. So I think whether you’re a man or a woman, you have to be very responsible for your own destiny and you also have to have very strong self-belief that it can work, but you have to factor that with sensibility. I mean, there are ways that you can max out your credit card and not get a return if you’re foolish. Be wise and educate yourself. That’s why I really read a lot of books and they’re a cheap entry into education. Most of the books I bought were probably less than $20, and I’ve got thousands of them. If you add them all up, it’s still probably a bargain.
Melyssa Griffin: Yeah, absolutely. I like what you said that you have to be responsible for your own destiny. That’s huge. Just that ownership over your life is life changing. I’m kind of curious about something you mentioned, where your dad lost his job and your parents had to downsize everything, and your lifestyle changed a lot from that experience. What did that experience of seeing your dad, who had this great job, lose everything, do for you as an entrepreneur, just as a human I guess in general too?
James Schramko: It was hard on me because my dad was my superhero. He was smart. He knew everything, had amazing trivia, general knowledge. He was a top level executive. He was doing amazing things. He was buying land and now building out things like theme parks and buildings. We used to visit a place called Noosa in Australia, which was just a caravan park. There was nothing there. He bought the land that ended up becoming a Sheraton Hotel. When he lost it, it really affected him. It put him into a depression of some kind. They never really recovered. They’re fine now. I mean they’re still around and they’ve got their own place in a retirement village that they don’t have a loan on. They don’t have much else. Yeah, I think that drove me a lot, because having grown up—I guess, I went to a nice school and I lived in a nice house. They protected me from the pressures of life. I think I had a great upbringing. I was probably one of the poorer kids at the school that we went because it was a rich kids’ school, but I hated school. I was bullied. There were precocious, rude, confident kids. I was a bit too young for my year. I would pull up in a not as fancy a car. Later on, I’d catch a bus so I could see the girls on the way to school. When I pulled up, they’d tease me about my car, my dad, because we weren’t as rich as them. It was horrible, horrible kids.
So I think it deeply affected me because I had to quit study and go and get a full time job to contribute to the household budget. It’s a lot of responsibility. In saying that, my dad had it even worse than I did. I mean his dad was an authoritarian European. My dad worked, university and a job straight after school. He had to put himself—he was the youngest of four, and he had to put himself through a scholarship because they couldn’t afford his school fees. So he always had to be at the top of his class. He was always first or second. In fact, the whole way through school, there was always one kid who was like half a point better than him. So he was always second, sometimes…
Melyssa Griffin: Always works out that way, doesn’t it?
James Schramko: You could be unlucky and just come along in a time where there’s one person that’s a fraction better. You could name a lot of sports where that’s happened, where someone dominates, like in surfing, Kelly Slater with 11 World Championships. It’s just bad—it’s a bad decade to be around. So he had it pretty hard and then he really did well, and then had his wings clipped. I think that whole time when I was raising a family and going through that career, I had so much fear around losing my job that shortly after quitting my job—I quit my job about 10 years ago by the way, in terms of timeline. About six months after that, I was speaking at an event at the Gold Coast. I was making good money. I was already making $100,000 a month by this time, and I have done for the last 10 years straight.
Melyssa Griffin: Six months after quitting your job?
James Schramko: Yes, because my quit point was I had to replace my income. So I was already making 3 or $400,000 a year when I quit. I very quickly scaled it up to 100,000 a month because I didn’t have to go to work for 70 hours a week. I could sleep in and then work 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 hours a day on my own business. It gave me an enormous amount of capacity to crank things up. I remember I was speaking at this event and I went and had a shower after I’d presented, to get ready to go to dinner. I remember crying in the shower because I just felt this tension or relief when I realized that I couldn’t be sacked, that I can’t be told I’ve got no job. The pressure just released. Even to this day—and this this will sound crazy and I’ve verified this with some other people from the car industry, the only nightmare that I have now, which I probably have once a month or so—my nightmare is that I still work in the car industry. I’ve got a crappy boss and I can’t remember the model names, and I have to start selling from scratch again. I would say that the closest metaphor I could come up with, would be it’s some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder that I get. It has to be similar to what people from the military experience, where they’re in such an intense environment that there’s still some little memories clinging in there. It was one of the most ugly, difficult environments to work in that you can imagine. When you’re in it, it feels like there’s no escape. They wrap you up and make you feel like you’re in that system and you’re a prisoner to it. So that’s why I’m extra passionate about people busting out of that and doing what they want to do.
Melyssa Griffin: Wow. I appreciate that, like coming from someone who is a business coach and not just talking about the making money aspect of it, but the fact that you’re actually taking people out of a toxic environment that’s not good for their life, and that maybe a lot of people don’t even know that there’s a way out of. I think that’s really important. You said something else that was really interesting to me. You were just talking about your money mindset essentially, that came from watching your dad lose everything and also just your upbringing of not having as much money as the other kids at school. I appreciate you talking about that. I had a similar experience too, with my mom, where I grew up mainly with just my mom and she didn’t have very much money when I was growing up. She didn’t have a moment where she lost everything, it was kind of like we mostly just didn’t have anything to begin with. So it’s interesting to look back on our lives and what we grew up with, and to see how that plays out in our lives as adults and as entrepreneurs where I can see now that I work so hard because I don’t ever want to get to that position of feeling like I have nothing or feeling like everything is going to slip away. So I appreciate you bringing that up.
James Schramko: And it sucks, doesn’t it? I’ve had that twice as an adult where I’ve run out of money. It’s probably one of the most frightening things I can think of. A lot of the things that I’ve done are designed to protect you from that. One of probably the most popular courses that I ever published, was called “Own the Racecourse”. The whole concept is protecting yourself from single point sensitivity. The classic example is, everyone at the moment is upset with Facebook because they’ve built their whole business and their advertising and all their funnels and everything around it. They even leave* their group on there. They get upset when Facebook make changes. So my upbringing has trained me to not rely on anyone else having the power to pull the rug from you. Yeah, so I’ve actually—haven’t put many feet wrong financially in the whole time that I’ve had my own business because of what I’ve learned and how you can—you know like rock climbing, when you stick the belaying things in as you go up the face? So even if one pulls out, it’s going to save you. A lot of people are climbing without rope in their business. When I see that, I say, “Hey, you want to try this. Here’s a rope. Here’s some anchors. Stick them in on the way through because you can expect that one of them won’t—you’re going to slip at some point or someone will push you in life. So you need some protection against that.”
Melyssa Griffin: Right. Yeah, I appreciate you bringing that up. I think it’s so important because sometimes we get so attached to this idea of making money that we forget how to actually keep money and put those systems in place so we have that security in our businesses too. I’m very curious. You’ve created some multimillion dollar businesses and yet you say that you only work a few hours per week. How long did it take you to get there with your business?
James Schramko: Well I started my business in 2005, so it’s coming on probably 13 years. That being said, the dealerships that I was running, in the last four years of that, the guy who owned the business was almost entirely absent. I was running his business as if it was my business, and the same for the business before that I was running for four years. I was in positions of responsibility at a very young age. I mean even when I was 23 and started my sales job, I already had a lot of experience from the jobs that I’d done before. Within months, I was kind of getting the key and opening and closing and taking responsibility. It was only a few years into selling when I got promoted to being a manager, because I was responsible. I think responsibility is a huge thing. You know that Spiderman saying, “with great power comes great responsibility”? Well, then it also must be true that with great responsibility comes great power. I assumed a responsible role. I was a parent. In my 20s, I really was very responsible, and especially in my 30s. And then in my own business, I’ve employed over 60 people in the Philippines at one point when we had our SEO business and our website development business. So that is a big responsibility because each one of those people in that culture is likely to be supporting about five family members. They’re putting their siblings through school or their nieces or nephews, and they’re paying for their parents because that’s the way it works. It’s a family system. So you’re probably providing for 3 or 400 people if you employ 60 Filipinos. It’s interesting reflecting back on that. So hopefully, that sort of opens the window a little bit more into what’s going on.
I would say once I figured out how to make the online thing work and I was able to build up a team, I was able to eventually replicate what I had in the Mercedes dealership, but now I owned it. That was the big difference. It took years. If you’ve ever seen a course or an offer online promising that there’ll be automated riches while you’re sipping piña coladas from a hammock, it’s most likely not true. It’s appealing to the greedy nature of ours. I think we’ve reiterated earlier in this discussion that there will be a phase of intense effort and focus, and there will be a lot of pain. I learned plenty from my clients at Mercedes-Benz. I was so fortunate to be dealing with top level millionaires, billionaires, movie stars, politicians, sports stars, celebrities. They often had some fantastic lessons for me. A lot of the multi-millionaires had this recurring theme, and that was that they went through this phase. One of them called it crawling over broken glass, and the other one called it eating beans. There might be a phase where you have some kind of sacrifice or hardship to get through, and I certainly went through that to get to the other side. When you get there, there’s not many people there. So you live in a different universe. I really live in a parallel universe to most ordinary people because of all the things I don’t do. When we say I work a few hours a week, it should be clear, I think I’m around 20 hours a week, 20 to 25. For me, that sustains a seven figure business. That’s the level that I’m most happy with. When I travel, it will pull down to just a few hours a week, and that’s really just maintaining two phone calls and just a few minutes in my community each day. When I’m at home, I might ramp it up slightly and actually move the business forward. I think, like a farmer, we have on peak and off peak. There’s a time to plant seeds and there’s a time to harvest. It’s hard to do both all the time.
Melyssa Griffin: That’s a really good point. That’s a really good point because I think sometimes, and myself included, we’re trying to do both simultaneously; run the business and grow the business. It’s hard because you’re bouncing between two frames of thought and action. So that’s really helpful to hear…
James Schramko: …basically, just feel okay about having a rest from the business growth side of it or the tuning the business side. Sometimes I just go into delivery mode where I’m just fulfilling on my current customer base, because most of my business is recurring subscription. So my prime role is to just look after people that I already have. And then sometimes I’ll do innovations and set up things that get more customers or increase conversions, but that’s kind of optional at this point of my life. I’m not prepared to compromise my daily surf to make more money. That’s the point I’ve reached. If I could make an extra two million dollars a year, but I’m not allowed to surf every day, then it’s a no deal. It’s not even close. So you get to this point where money’s not the number one thing on the list. And then even you get to the point where time is not even the number one thing on the list, now it turns into relationships and passion, things that—then you start becoming more of an artist than a survivalist.
Melyssa Griffin: Yeah, I like that. I like the thought of really figuring out what’s the thing that’s driving you. Is it money? Because it almost, from my experience, feels like money’s great up until a certain point and then you’re like oh, what was I doing all of this for because this isn’t actually fulfilling me. And then you really have to figure out what are those things that are going to be meaningful for you if you grow your business. So I like that thought. For you, with your business, what do you do that only requires you to work 20 hours per week? What are some of the factors involved here that give you that freedom and space?
James Schramko: A team. You have to have a team because you can’t do everything. A lot of things are optional. Beyond that, I actually remove the unnecessary. This is where probably the most enjoyment I get, is when I can devise a system that has very few moving parts and just drop off components. For example, I’m not doing the things where a lot of owners are spending their time. This would be like time and energy bingo game, but I don’t have affiliates. I don’t do big, paid traffic funnels. I don’t have product launches. I don’t do a lot of physical made up events. I don’t consult customers face to face. I don’t do one to one. I don’t really sell one time products. So if you take them all off the list, what are you left with? It’s recurring subscriptions, focusing on delivering great value to the customer instead of obsessing about finding a new customer, attracting people who come to you instead of you having to go and chase them. My machine that I’ve built, delivers me customers pretty much every day on autopilot, without webinars, without running paid ads, and without even videos in some cases. I’ve basically found out, of all the marketing activities, which ones work really well for me, that I enjoy doing and I can sustain.
I’ve set up my recurring subscriptions at a price point in the market where I’m attracting better customers. So I don’t waste a lot of time and energy on the wrong fit customer and I’m not offering very low price point products that attract all kinds of headaches. For my high level programs, the starting point is $10,000. This is the interesting thing; I get fantastic customers and they are extremely attracted by the fact that it’s a $10,000 starting point because they want to mix with other people who find that attractive. That’s also the most enjoyable work from me, because people are doing interesting things. So there’s a few clues, like team*. Also, I’m not spending my world on Facebook like most adults. I’m not there very often at all. I think it’s a time suck, and people are now becoming aware of how devious it is. Taking control of your email, having strong filters as to where you spend your time and attention, building a team, having a subscription business model. Just simple, little things.
If you find that you stay up too late, then set an alarm for 10 PM. That’s a tools down alarm. Put down the electronic tools. Go and read a book or whatever. Do your wind down process. And then pick it up tomorrow. If you spend too much time on Facebook, take the app off your phone, perhaps, and just use it from your desktop. I don’t install tools on to my computer, I just use the browser version of thing so that I can just turn it all off. I do one thing at a time. In fact, if I’m going to sit down at my computer, I know what I want to achieve before I open it. I do it first and then after that, then I can reward myself; go and watch some surfing videos or something. For the first eight years, I didn’t even know that that’s what people do. They go and sit on YouTube and watch video after video after video. Apparently, people are doing that for six or seven hours a day. I didn’t realize that.
Melyssa Griffin: Yeah. Wow, interesting. I love the tip about knowing what you’re going to do before you sit down and open your computer. I liked something else that you said, which was getting rid of the waste in your business. I think that there’s a lot of pressure, and I feel this in my business too, of always needing more. We need to have a live event and a podcast, and all these different products and launches and funnels. Once you get everything in place, it’s like what else can we add to make it even better or more profitable. It’s easy to forget that the more stuff we add, the less time we have for anything else and the more stressful it becomes. So I appreciate you kind of just giving that permission to our listeners, to get rid of the things that they maybe don’t need in their business, that aren’t serving the lifestyle that they want.
James Schramko: Yeah. The more complexity you have, the more it owns you. So I often do that, that’s a filter of mine. Will adding this create more energy loss than it’s worth, even if there’s a small win*? Second*, people get obsessed about chatbots and all of this stuff. I hold off on those things for a while because I think if we’re going to get a chatbot, then it’s going to add more complexities, more team resources to run it because I’m certainly not going to figure it all out. And then for what are we going to create a more vomit worthy funnel for our customers to go, “Okay, yeah. It’s a robot. I get it.” Yes, no. I think we have to be careful when we add things. I’m really inspired by a couple of metaphors on this. The one that stands out for me was the way that the Russians approached the space program. Back when America and Russia were trying to compete to be the first in space, America was trying to build some pretty complex stuff and Russia just chucked up a little bowl with a prong on it called Sputnik. It was just extremely simple. It was those less moving parts. It had less tech, but it actually did—it got the job done. Kind of like that story about the space pen and the pencil. Sometimes a pencil’s going to be fine. There’s a great quote about perfection, is when there’s nothing left to take away. So I’m always trying to remove things. Understanding the 80/20 really helps empower you with the confidence to know that this is the case. It’s just true of everything. You’re probably wearing one or two of you T-shirts more than the other 15, so you could safely remove five and it wouldn’t change your life.
Melyssa Griffin: Right. Yeah, absolutely. The 80/20, I like that you mentioned that. In case anyone doesn’t know about it, is it’s that 20% of your efforts account for 80% of your results.
James Schramko: Here’s the thing. 4% of your efforts account for 64% of your results.
Melyssa Griffin: I remember seeing that in your book and you’re taking the 80/20 and factoring into itself. Is that right?
James Schramko: Yes. Well, I ran it passed Perry Marshall, who wrote a book on 80/20, because Richard Koch wrote the first one, is kind of his fan, his real sort of inspiration. He loved it. He said that was fantastic. He gave me a quote for my book about it, because it’s one of the most profound things to discover. Like most, people if you looked at the original versions of my online business, you would think you’re looking at the wiring diagram for space shuttle. It was very complicated. I had lines going everywhere and every kind of intelligent segmentation and tool. Now if you look at my business model, you could draw it on the back of a beer coaster. It’s super simple. It’s actually so simple that our human nature wants to try and make it more complicated because it just seems like it should be more complex, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be very simple.
Melyssa Griffin: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, our human nature tries to make it more complex. So you have this business that is doing really well and doesn’t take a lot of your energy right now. You’re not working 40 hour, 60 hour weeks. Looking back, was there ever a time running your business over the past decade or so, where you felt burned out? You were unmotivated, unproductive. You just felt burned out on your business. Did you ever go through that?
James Schramko: Yeah. I think for the phase when I was working a day job, I definitely hated the day job by the end. I didn’t get burnt out on it physically because I’d created so many systems that I’d almost made myself redundant, which was—that was the paradox that the more I did a good job as a general manager, the less they needed me. If I ran that business, I would have replaced me and said, “Thanks for all the systems and all of the great work you’ve done. You did well but you time is finished.” So I’ve always had a knack with timing and being conscious of how I’m feeling. I try and avoid that situation. I don’t want to be that bitter person who’s droning through something they don’t want to do. Over the last 10 years, my business has changed a lot because that’s something I embrace, change. So if I feel that I’m getting trapped or cornered or I’m likely to burn out, I just start to pull back and change direction because I want to keep it fresh. This is carried through to my passion now which is surfing. I’ve had a lot of surfboards and I experiment and innovate and test things. I think maybe that comes from driving a different car home every night for 20 years. I like variety. I think I’ve built fun into my life and rest and recuperation now, as a result of when I was pushing against that barrier feeling, I don’t like this.
I remember how I really hated driving off to work in the morning and I don’t ever want to feel that again. If you want to know what that’s like and you haven’t experienced it, the closest you get to that on a regular basis might be Sunday night, when you start feeling oh it’s Sunday, it’s the end of my weekend, I got to go to work tomorrow. People have all these names for, hump day-Wednesday, and all that sort of stuff. They’re tracking how much of the week’s done before they can get back to the weekend. What if you flip that on its head? Which is stacking my way to Tuesday and Wednesday. I actually give myself Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off for many appointments or outside interventions. It was a progressive process to get to that stage, but it’s most important to know you can get there. And yes, I’ve been exactly in that position where I felt stale or whatever. In some cases, I’ve stopped doing things for a while. I used to make videos every day between sort of eight to five years ago, and then I stopped—all before Facebook lives existed and you could do it all from your iPhone easily, and when it was much harder. And then I also stopped reading business books for a while, where I just had a break from it. Over the last few years, I’ve sort of got a black belt in Netflix, and just read things and watched things that aren’t business related, just to build out my storytelling abilities and to understand more about history and culture, and those sort of things that you learn when you’re watching series like Vikings. I think it’s important if you’re feeling to burned out, to make some changes as soon as you recognize it. Don’t be that bitter person, because there’s only one person responsible and you’re in the driver’s seat. So if you don’t like it, change it. That can sometimes involve relationships, the people around you especially. I’ve given some useful tips in the book on what sort of changes to make. One major change people could make is just limit your time on social media to an hour a day. You’ll probably become a much better person.
Melyssa Griffin: Seriously, that’s so true. I like that you mentioned that you’ve started taking Friday and Monday off from calls and meetings and things like that. We’ve been trying something similar too, because I felt like I had meetings every day of the week. So now, we just have our team meetings with different members on Tuesdays, and then I’ll have two or three days a month where it’s just blocked off for meetings with other people, but no other meetings or interviews or anything any other times during the month. One other thing that we’ve been trying, that’s kind of similar, is something called a vision day where two days out of the week, they’re usually on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I’ll have just a full day with no to-do list. I just kind of get the chance to vision and work creatively in my business versus just working from a list of tasks, which for me, has been really important.
James Schramko: That’s very smart. I don’t even have a task list anymore. So I don’t use that kind of system. Yeah, and it’s good to get—like for me, I do a lot of my thinking when I’m walking down to the beach or just surfing. I come up with great ideas from nowhere because I’ve relaxed the reins a bit and I’ve got time to think. There’s a number of articles online that you can research, that will point to top level CEOs needing at least half their time thinking about things in the future and planning and doing strategy. It’s like if you’re not spending half your time out of your external appointments and stuff, then it’s time to make some rearrangements because that’s why you feel overwhelmed and overloaded. You keep adding complexity because you’re not resting the fields*. Give them some time off.
Melyssa Griffin: Right. I 100% agree. James, this has been so great to chat with you. I have one more question that I love to ask all of my guests. That is, what do you feel like people could do to live a more meaningful and fulfilled life? What’s one thing that you’d recommend?
James Schramko: I keep a little placard somewhere around here, called—it’s over there. It says question everything. I think to be specific to your question, I would just think about whose life are you actually living. I would ensure that you haven’t just got a bit of a pattern or a track from your early childhood or living your parent’s life, because we do get sort of conditioned a bit through the school system, through some cultures, especially North America, very religious based culture; sends a lot of church messages pushed on to people. And then there’s your parents, who love you and care about you for the most part, if you’ve got good ones. They came from a different era. My parents don’t really understand my kids love of gaming. They think it’s the devil. Much like their parents probably thought rock and roll was sinful. So sometimes we need to just let go. I did a lot of work in my 20s through reading books and thinking about things to detach myself from the thought patterns that had been pushed on to me. I started living my life. I’d say again, it sort of comes faster later, because I’m in my 40s now and I feel like I’ve really gotten a handle on who I am, but I had no clue and I was 20. I was living other people’s lives and just being the flotsam and jetsam in that. Start being deeper on so the questions you ask yourself. Why is this important to me? Whose goal is this and what else could I do instead? Should I continue to accept what I’m accepting now? Is there a better way? Could somebody help me? Should I journal every day? This sort of stuff, just let it out and explore, I think, because no one really taught me that. I had to find out for myself.
I do say to my kids—they are somewhat more maverick than I was as a kid, and I think that’s part my fault. I love seeing them pursue their passions and interests. They’ve gone down such different paths. They’re more truly aligned. Like I said to them from a very early age, “I don’t mind what you do, as long as you’re happy. If you live a healthy, happy life, that would be my best goal for you. I’m not saying you have to go to university or become a doctor or all this, the usual stuff, or marry this person.” In some cultures, that’s how it works. I feel that’s—it’s hard to understand that, but I’m sure it’s normal for them. So that’s the thing; what’s normal for some people is not normal for others. My message really, is there is a different way; if you’re feeling like the way that you’ve got it now is not the way that you’re happy with, then keep tagging on that handkerchief coming out of the magician’s pocket for the happier way, because there is actually some cool stuff around the corner if you want to explore.
Melyssa Griffin: I love that. That’s beautiful. It’s really like the quest to becoming who you really are.
James Schramko: Yes, a mirror can be helpful. Yeah, it’s like one of the greatest tools. That is the key to everything. I remember reading a book and there was a line in there about your outside world is a reflection of the inside world, which basically means, however you think is what you’re going to end up with in your life. It sorts of fits with all those other categories of you attract what you think about and blah, blah, blah. When people externalize, they’re really just reflecting what’s going on in their head. So I think working on that internal dialogue with yourself is super important.
Melyssa Griffin: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much James. Where can people go to learn more about you and your book?
James Schramko: Well, you can grab the book on Amazon. It’s called “Work Less, Make More”. My website is superfastbusiness.com. There’s lots and lots of podcasts there, which would be a good starting point I think. Probably every topic that we’ve talked about, there’ll be several podcasts on each.
Melyssa Griffin: Perfect. Amazing. We’ll link all those up at pursuitwithpurpose.com. Thank you so much James.
James Schramko: Thanks, Melyssa.
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