Ryan Levesque is leading a revolution. For the last ten years, he’s run a $10 million per year business helping people find winning business ideas and launch companies of their own. His book, ASK, was called a must-read by both Inc. and Entrepreneur.
On today’s episode and in his new book, Choose: The Single Most Important Decision Before Starting Your Business, he teaches you how to create a foundation to build a successful business, find a business model that plays to your unique strengths, and discover the sweet spot where your business can thrive.
Launching my own business was the greatest decision I ever made. I’m able to do meaningful work that positively impacts people, have no ceiling on my income, and have many freedoms that come with being an entrepreneur. After this podcast, if you’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, you may be ready to take the plunge. And if you’ve never even thought about starting your own business before, today’s episode may change your mind.
Today, Ryan joins the podcast to explain why most of the conventional wisdom surrounding business is wrong, how he went from wantrepreneur to $10 million a year running his own business, how to intelligently choose your market, and the steps you can take to find – and launch – a powerful, transformative business of your own.
- Why Ryan quit a very high-paying job in finance in 2008 to teach people how to make jewelry using Scrabble tiles and origami paper – and what he and his wife did when their business suddenly dropped off a cliff.
- The reasons education and expertise – selling ideas – are the best services you can offer as an entrepreneur.
- What Ryan did when aspiring entrepreneurs told him that the methods and strategies in ASK didn’t work for them – and how it led him to discover the biggest flaw that set businesses up to fail.
- The four types of people who want to start their own business – and what to watch out for in each one.
- Why your first business doesn’t need to be your forever business.
RYAN LEVESQUE SAID IT… CLICK TO TWEET
When you start a business, it’s like tossing your boat in a river. If you put your boat in the river facing the wrong direction or you put your boat in a river that doesn’t have any water in it, you’re never going to get to your destination no matter how hard you row, no matter how awesome your equipment is, no matter how much planning you put in place. That one critical thing makes all the difference in the world.” – Ryan Levesque
You don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going. But the best time to get it going is right here, right now, today.” – Ryan Levesque
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Hal: Welcome to the Achieve Your Goals Podcast and this the first episode that is not a Miracle Equation series episode in like seven or eight weeks. So, I was a little sad about that like that came into conclusion last week but I’m also really excited because, yeah, just want to switch gears and it was needed. The feedback from all the Miracle Equation episodes I think we did six or seven of them over the last six or seven weeks and, yeah, listen to those. Go back and listen, I mean, I got feedback from a lot of long-term loyal Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners and just saying, “Hal, like this series has been the most valuable content that you ever put out.” So, yes, we’re going to try to top that today with Ryan Levesque, my guest, but if you haven’t listened to those episodes, go ahead and head back and listen to the Miracle Equation series which starts episode, gosh, I don’t know 263-ish, something like that.
So, if you are an entrepreneur or a wantrepreneur or if you have no interest in being an entrepreneur or wantrepreneur, I still think you should consider it. Like after today’s episode, you may have a change of heart and I know for me I never even considered being an entrepreneur when I was young and then it’s the greatest decision I ever made because now I have freedom to live life on my terms and there’s no ceiling on my income and I’m able to do work that really makes a difference and impacts people and our guest today is on the forefront of leading really a revolutionary movement in helping people to identify which business they should choose. In fact, that’s the name of his new book, Choose, which business to choose, how to choose it, how to choose your niche, how to choose your target market, on and on and on. He’s an expert and he personally runs a $10-million-a-year business. I shouldn’t say business. It’s an entire orchestra of various businesses that all kind of complement and support each other. So, for the past 10 years, Inc 500 CEO and number one national best-selling author, Ryan Levesque, spelled L-E-V-E-S-Q-U-E. I thought it was Ryan Levesque for a long time. I’m sure he gets that a lot.
But his work’s featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and Entrepreneur and Ryan has guided thousands of entrepreneurs through the journey of answering the question, “What type of business should you start?” And one of the biggest reasons why so many new businesses fail is because in the quest to decide what business to start, most of the conventional wisdom is wrong and I can attest to that. Instead of obsessing over what as in what should you sell or what should you build, you should first be asking who as in who should you serve? The what is a logical question that will come soon enough but choosing who is the foundation from which all other things are built and that’s what Ryan’s expertise is, one of his expertise is, and it’s what this book, his new book, Choose, is all about. If you ever had the dream to start your own business, become your own boss or do your own thing, but you’ve been afraid to take the leap and screw up your already good life, this is the book and Ryan is the man that you want to listen to and again it’s Choose, the single most important decision before starting your business with my new friend.
Hal: We’ve been hanging out. We’ll talk about that. We got back from a dad’s retreat working on being better dads for our kids and better husbands for our family and that’s where we got to connect deeper and that’s where I said, “Buddy, I am such a fan of your first book, Ask, and I love to have you on the podcast and, yeah. So, Ryan, welcome my friend.
Ryan: Hal, it’s an honor to be here and I really appreciate that very generous and incredibly accurate introduction.
Hal: Got it, man. I’m not known for my accuracy so maybe you’re bringing out the best in me, brother.
Ryan: I appreciate you, man. No. Hal and I for you all listening right now, Hal was going to pull a 180 on me and do a fake intro and he decided to do it with the real thing, so I appreciate you, man, and it’s an honor to be here.
Hal: Absolutely. Well, let’s just start at the beginning. For those of you that don’t know you and actually before I ask you the question, I do want to pause because I read your first book, Ask. What was the subtitle of that one? I’m not looking at it.
Ryan: It’s a long one. It’s the counter…
Hal: I love long subtitles. You’re the man of my own heart. Go ahead.
Ryan: It’s like I’m going to make sure I get this right. It’s The Counterintuitive Online Method to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level.
Hal: Dude, you trumped me in long subtitles.
Ryan: I told you it’s a long one.
Hal: That’s incredible, man, and I’m looking at 636 reviews on Amazon. In case you didn’t know, I was going to Amazon real quick to be able to find it and give you the accurate answer but you nailed it. So, yeah, I read that book. It was a game changer. In fact, Chip Franks, my chief miracle worker and I are going to head out and do some consulting with you here in the next probably few weeks and actually have you run us through implementing the Ask Method for people. I know it’s not what we’re going to talk about today but if anybody hasn’t checked, if you don’t know that book and you are an entrepreneur with a business, go check out the Ask Method. It’s really how to ask your customers, your prospects, your community, what do they want? What do they need? So, you could not just make a product or service or program that you think they might like, but you actually let them tell you and inform that process.
That was your first genius and if that’s all you kind of like The Miracle Morning like if we just left it at that, it was a holistic solution for millions of people and then now you’ve got this book, Choose. Before we get into the book, though, I just want to let our listeners get to know you. Tell us how you got started. How you go from one entrepreneur to running now a $10 million business? What was a beginning story or the origin story of this?
Ryan: Like you, I was listening to you tell a little bit about your story and I didn’t think I was going to become an entrepreneur like it wasn’t something that I set out to do growing up. I grew up in a very blue-collar background. Neither my parents went to college. My dad worked nights my entire life. My mom cut hair in the basement of our house to earn extra money and when I went to college I was the first of my family to go to college and I went to had the privilege and honor of getting into an Ivy League school of Brown University, and I studied Neuroscience and Chinese. That’s what I studied in school.
Hal: Wow. Quite the combo.
Ryan: Yeah. Exactly. Naturally, when I got out of school, I decided to work on Wall Street. That’s like the natural path one goes through. I went to school. I thought I was going to become a doctor. My parents were very disappointed to find out that I did not, I decided not to pursue that, worked on Wall Street and then eventually had a job after college and it took me to China in finance. My wife and I spent five years in Asia, and I had a job whereas opening up sales offices for the insurance company AIG across China. So, I was traveling to all these different cities. I was on an airplane every week. I was living in hotels and in my mid-20s I had this quarter life crisis where I said, “I don’t want to do this for the rest my life,” like there’s got to be more. I wrote this big long letter to my parents, to my mom that my editor convinced me to reveal and publish in my first book, Ask. It was very embarrassing. It was something I never expected to see the light of day and years later it’s like millions of people seeing this letter.
And basically, I kind of chronicled that. I felt really empty inside. I felt like I had much more to give and I said if I don’t do this now, I don’t know when I’m ever going to do it. So, I wanted to assure my parents that I wasn’t crazy, but I decided in 2008 to quit a very high-paying job, quit my job and do it to, you’re going to laugh at this, teach people how to make jewelry using Scrabble tiles and origami paper. That was my first business. Literally, my parents think I was going to become a neurosurgeon to working in Wall Street to selling e-books online. It was a very steep and precipitous fall and it didn’t get much better after that. So, that was the first business that we started and I quit my job in 2008.
Hal: When you say we, did you start that with your wife?
Ryan: I did start with my wife. So, people was wondering like how did you arrive at that niche? Well, you can imagine in for any spouses listening to this right now, I’m sure you appreciate this. If you got a spouse who dreams of becoming their own boss, starting their own thing, there are many, many, many a dinner conversation where I was telling my wife about some harebrained idea I had and what about this and how about we do this? And let’s open for franchise and how about teaching people Chinese? Like, all the millions of ideas that I have and eventually I think she basically said, “Ryan, you just got to pick a damn idea and go with it.” So, she brought this idea to me after right around the time when I quit my job where there’s this new website that had just come out and the website was Etsy.com. Now, Etsy today is huge, right? It’s a new name for handmade goods but at the time, this is like, whatever, 2007, 2008, it just come out.
And so, she says, “There’s this jewelry that’s selling like crazy and it uses origami paper and Scrabble tiles and take a look,” and her argument was, “Listen, we’re in China. We have access to all the origami paper we would ever want in Asia. We have access to inexpensive labor. We can set up a little mini factory in Southern China and we can manufacture the jewelry and import it into the United States.” That was like the idea and I said, “Honey, like the whole reason we’re starting this business is so we can travel the world and be location-dependent and have freedom and like always you talk about.” So, I didn’t want to be chained to a factory in Southern China and so I dismissed the idea and then a few weeks later, she brings the idea back up and I said, “Honey, I thought we closed the book on the Scrabble tiling.” She says, “No, no, no, time out. Time out. Take a look at this woman’s shop.” She took out her computer and she showed me Etsy. She went to Etsy. She said, “Take a look at this woman’s shop.”
Now the thing about Etsy is you can see a person’s sales history. So, she said, “Look at this woman. She’s not selling the jewelry. She’s teaching people how to make the jewelry.” So, this woman was selling a tutorial on Etsy on how to make the Scrabble tile jewelry and we looked at it and she said, “Take a look at how much she’s making,” and she was selling about 30 copies a day of this PDF tutorial that she was selling for $30. So, $30 at 30 sales a day, we did the math. We went back in her sales history. This woman was making like $10,000 a month selling this tutorial. And my wife bought it.
Hal: 10,000 a month.
Ryan: Yeah. It’s like not very good. It was like typos and like made with Microsoft Word. It’s very homemade and she said, “I’m going to learn how to make this jewelry. Let’s do a tutorial. Let’s build a better mousetrap.” So, we did that. First month we made like a few sales then eventually we kind of get things that went a few hundred dollars, $1,000, $2,000, $4,000. We eventually make $8,000 a month and I’m thinking to myself. I remember I had a day where I turned to my wife and said, “Honey, we’re going to be rich. We’re going to be rich. This is crazy.”
Hal: Now, what were you earning in the job that you work in?
Ryan: Oh, gosh. I had to look back at what I was making. I was making probably about $200,000 a year in my AIG job plus as an expat, you have almost no living expenses because my apartment was paid for. I had a car and driver. I was traveling all the time, so I didn’t have any meal expenses or anything like that. I had what they call an IE so like a servant in our apartment that was cooking for us and cleaning. It was like, I mean, you are like whatever you’re making and then they give you cost-of-living adjustment when you’re like living overseas, I was basically like it was a good life.
Hal: So, I see why you took the job. It was pretty, dang, appealing, right?
Ryan: It was very appealing. Now, it’s like I had to work at my first job out of college and made $42,000 a year like I had to work my way up to it. So, it wasn’t like I was, you know, there was a lot of work to get there but the point is I was making good money, gave it all up, and we would star this business. And so, we start this business and it’s just going up and then literally the next month after, like that peak month, sales dropped off a cliff. I remember we kind of looked at each other, had that moment or looked at my wife and we said like, “Oh, crap. Now what?” We had gone through like a pretty good chunk of our savings at this point. My wife was in grad school, so she wasn’t making any money. I quit my job. I had no income coming in and we had this moment we said like, “All right. What are we going to do?’ And it was at that moment that she decided she was going to finish her Ph.D. program early. We moved back to the United States. We sold and donated everything that we owned except for one suitcase each. We moved to Brownsville, Texas which is a border city right on the Mexico, Texas border.
Hal: So, China to Texas?
Ryan: China to Texas.
Hal: Slight difference there.
Ryan: Yeah. And she got a job as a museum curator, which is what she went to school for that paid $36,000 a year and we started at ground zero. We got an apartment, 400 square-foot apartment, bars on the windows. We got two lawn chairs. That was our living room furniture and you know how we got those lawn chairs? When you open up a bank account, they give you a free gift? The free gift was like soccer chairs like the chairs that you sit in when you’re like on the side of the soccer field.
Hal: Yeah. With like cupholders and everything.
Ryan: Yeah. Exactly. My wife was a good negotiator and she asked, “Could we have a second one please?” And they gave us a second one. So, we got two of those, mattress on the floor, and a $400 laptop that my…
Hal: Your wife sounds pretty savvy, man. I’ve not met your wife but…
Ryan: Yeah. She’s incredible. And so, that’s how we started, and we started back to ground zero and then I learned in that first business the importance. That was one of the first times I learned the lesson of the importance of choosing a good market, choosing the right market and I learned in that Scrabble business that you can’t go into a fad market. And so, the next business that I started, I didn’t want to go into another business that was going to fall off a cliff like that. So, I started doing research on what the longest lasting hobbies, the oldest hobbies in America are. Any guesses on what the oldest hobby in America is? It’s like number one and number two every year for like the last 100 years.
Hal: I don’t know. I should know.
Hal: Okay. I’ve heard that. Yes, I’ve heard that.
Ryan: So, it makes sense, right? I mean, like we probably know like even if you don’t garden, you probably know someone in your life that they do some form of gardening and so I started doing research for different niches within the garden space. I wanted a market that wasn’t going to disappear like the Scrabble tile market did where the fad just kind of just ended. We were left with nothing. So, that’s how we arrived at our next business which was in the orchid space. So, teaching people how to care for their orchids and so we looked at Brownsville, took that business from nothing to $25,000 a month in about 18 months. It gave my confidence…
Hal: And selling the information, selling teaching people.
Ryan: Teaching people and that was like one of the key lessons I learned is that you’ve heard it before. Who made all the money in the gold rush to California?
Hal: Yeah. The people that sold the…
Ryan: Picks and shovels, yeah, the tools on how to find gold. Not necessarily that those who sought after the gold themselves. And so, there are lessons in history that we can learn and what I’ve discovered now is that there’s no better business to go into than selling what we describe as education and expertise. So, teaching people some form of knowledge and it’s really, I mean, your business is predicated on this model, right? You’ve reached millions of people around the world selling ideas, selling ideas and educating people and giving them knowledge in very important areas of their life. So, don’t quote me on the exact stat. I saw it recently. It’s crazy how high it is but do you realize that there’s something like $800 million a day is spent on education online.
Hal: $800 million a day. Yeah. I never heard that stat. Wow.
Ryan: People always say, but wait, education? Isn’t there like everything is free? Like, can you just Google anything for free? Now, see, when I went to college, I went to an expensive school. When I went to college, tuition was like about $40,000 a year or something like that. It’s more than doubled in the last 15 years. It’s over $80,000 a year for the same education in 15 years. Think about things that you buy in your life. The price of those things have not doubled. Like the computer you bought 15 years ago, it hasn’t doubled in cost.
Hal: Yeah. In fact, with a lot of things, the price has come down.
Hal: You think education would be the one that it would come down. That’s interesting.
Ryan: People are spending more. Now, information is everywhere, but wisdom is not and that’s where you get people. Like, there’s information everywhere but you offer people wisdom that is unique and specialized knowledge. So, whether you went to college yourself or it’s something that you can learn like I knew nothing about Scrabble tile jewelry. I knew nothing about orchids when we went into that market but there are literally millions of people around the world who would die for the opportunity to share their expertise and you can hire people, you can partner with people, you can learn the topic or the skill yourself. And we got a combination of all these things in the 23 different niche markets that we’ve gone into in the last 10 years.
Hal: So, now the orchid, how to care for orchids business, is that still running?
Ryan: You can go to it today. OrchidsMadeEasy.com. It’s not a plug for the business. I mean, you can buy our stuff if you want but just to show you that it’s still around. So, it’s crazy. We took that business to over half a million dollars a year and here we are over ten years later, and that business still pays for most of our living expenses, a business that we built over a decade ago and here’s the kind of thing I’m a little bit hesitant to admit this but I spend less than 10 hours a year on that business.
Hal: Yeah. I’m looking at the website, OrchidsMadeEasy.com, and that website’s not very pretty so I think it should be…
Ryan: Why are you mean, Hal?
Hal: Anyone that thinks your website sucks, go to OrchidsMadeEasy.com.
Ryan: What’s funny is years ago we did a lot of testing in this business. What we found is that the more homemade hobby-look that we apply to the site, the better it actually performed. We did our site, we designed…
Hal: I read that before.
Ryan: Slick and fancy and everything like that and it just kind of everything stopped performing as well.
Hal: That’s interesting. I read that before. Yeah. In a lot of industries when sites look basic and not flashy, they perform better which is counterintuitive for sure.
Ryan: It’s totally counterintuitive but, yeah, so that business still exists today. And so, I learned one of the things I talked about in the book, Choose, is the keys that you’re looking for in every market. And so, after Ask, you know this, right, because you have multiple books. You’ve gotten so much amazing feedback from people who have read your books but one of the things that people don’t talk about as much is when you write a book, you get all those great letters and emails and Facebook messages and everything like that but at least for me, I can’t speak for you but at least for me, I also got messages and emails and letters from people who wrote in and said, “Ryan, I followed your exact process and it didn’t work for me like I followed everything you teach in Ask and it didn’t work.” And it kind of led me down this path to figure, well, what was I missing? Was I leading people in the wrong direction? What mistake was I making? And it kind of took me down this rabbit hole which eventually became a three-year research project to identify what was it that separated the businesses that the people, readers, and students and business owners who are successful from those who failed?
And what kept coming up over and over again was one thing, those who approach the Ask Method, followed it to the letter and still failed, the single thing that they all have in common is that they had chosen bad markets. And when I realize that, what I didn’t teach in Ask, I taught the methodology which you’re familiar with that we used to enter these 23 different niche markets, one right after the other but what I didn’t teach was how we chose those markets in the first place. Like of the million markets out there why those 23? Why them specifically? And so, I started looking at our most successful markets, the ones that were wildly successful and those that were just kind of like just singles. They weren’t home runs. I did the same thing with our students. I did the same thing with our clients and customers. What I found is that there are seven factors, seven key factors that you are looking for that you need to make sure are in your market before you launch your business, start your side hustle, launch your own thing, become your own boss. You need to make sure that you can check off these seven boxes and that is what this book is all about.
Hal: Got it and you answered the question. I was going to ask the next question was based on the subtitle of the book being the single most important decision before starting your business. My question is going to be, well, what’s the single biggest mistake people make before starting your business? And you just answered that. So, I mean, I know the answer to this next question, but I just want to ask you because I want to make sure that we’re really, really clear, we being me and whomever is listening, I hope somebody’s listening to this, right? But who’s this book for? Like, who would you say who is the perfect if you’re listening going, well, like I am an entrepreneur or like I’m kind of an entrepreneur or I want to be an entrepreneur, which stage on the entrepreneurial journey is the person at that this book is perfect for?
Ryan: It’s funny you ask that question. I have a dedication at the front of the book that I think answers that exactly. I say if you’ve ever had the crazy dream to start your own business. If you ever dreamed of doing your own thing, if you ever failed or lost it all on something in the quest to shake the status quo, if you have something right now that is changing the world, but you don’t know where to take it next or if you’re simply trying to figure out what you want to do and who you want to be when you grow up, this is the book I wish someone had written when I was where you are right now. In short, this book right here is for you. So, if you’re in any of those situations whether you’re thinking about starting a business, but don’t know where to begin. If you have a business right now that maybe you’re feeling it’s like you’re pushing a boulder uphill because the metaphor that I use in the book that I think is really helpful in certain like this. It’s like when you start a business, it’s like tossing your boat in a river. Now, that river you expect it’s going to get you to a destination much in the same way that your business you expect is going to create a lifestyle for you and your family and have the impact that you want to make and leave a legacy and all the things that are what inspire you to start your business.
And so, what I saw was people that they spent all their time getting the best possible boat they could buy. In some cases, hiring the best possible crew. They row and bust their butt 18 hours a day in that boat, paddling, paddling, paddling, but here’s the thing. If you put your boat in the river facing the wrong direction or you put your boat in a river that doesn’t have any water in it, you’re never going to get to your destination no matter how hard you row, no matter how awesome your equipment is, no matter how much planning you put in place. That one critical thing makes all the difference in the world. And so, this book is about finding the right river for you, a river that has a current behind your back, that propels you forward, one that’s not too small, one that’s also not too big. You don’t want to get swallowed up whole and one that takes you to that destination in a way that most people never experienced, and it makes all the difference in the world. If you’ve ever been in a boat before and you’ve paddled against the current or with the current, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Hal: Absolutely. And I know that in the book and I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read, you sent me an overview, four types of people who want to start their own business. Can you go over those four types?
Ryan: Yeah. In my research, the three-year research project, I noticed that there are different – people start businesses for different reasons and I found that there are kind of four types of entrepreneurs. The first type of entrepreneur is what we call a mission-based entrepreneur. So, mission-based entrepreneurs are people who have I like to say a cause that you would die on the hill for. So, something that you are very much drawn to the mission of yours. So, I talk about Christy Kennedy in the book and her mission to eliminate bullying in elementary schools because her son who has autism was bullied and like really, really bad and so it inspired her to do something about it in his school and then to the school in the town next door and all the schools in the state and now she’s in something like thousands of schools around the country, a program that she developed. And so, it’s been a mission of hers but not everybody’s wired that way. Not everybody has that like that mission that they’re drawn to.
Another type of entrepreneur is what we call the passion-based entrepreneur. Now, the passion-based entrepreneurs typically have a hobby or something that they love that they want to make into their vocation, whether it’s gardening or playing the guitar or their art. It’s something that you love that you want to find a way to make money out of and they’re very different from one another, mission-based and passion-based. Mission-based entrepreneurs want to move the world away from something negative. Passion-based entrepreneurs want to move the world toward something positive. Now, that’s in contrast to the third type of entrepreneur which is the opportunity-based entrepreneur. Not everybody has a passion or mission that they are drawn to. Opportunity-based entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs in the most classic sense of the word. They’re the type of person that looks around, see something and wonders how is it that nobody has solved this problem before? Like why is there not a solution to this thing? And they oftentimes find an opportunity that they had no intent on doing something about it that they transform into a business.
So, I talk about Dana Obleman and her husband Mike who started a business called Sleep Sense and Dana and Mike like so many parents like you think back, Hal, to when you guys, when your kids were just newborns and how little sleep you’re getting like how no one gets sleep in the house. Well, they were in that same situation and they started doing research online like how do I get that one child, in particular, that was really like had a real hard time sleeping at night and Dana started doing research and there was like nothing out there on how to get an infant, a newborn to sleep. And so, she tried everything. Nothing was working. And finally, she started diving into the medical and scientific research and she was able to get her child to sleep. Friends of theirs came over complaining about the same issues. She said, “Oh, have you tried this thing yet?” and she helped this couple get their child to sleep and they couldn’t believe it. And before you knew it, she started becoming like the sleep whisperer for young newborns. It wasn’t anything that she ever intended on creating. It wasn’t a mission or passion of hers. It was this opportunity that she came about. And fast forward to today and she’s been on Good Morning America and The Today Show and she and her husband have helped like hundreds of thousands of young couples, celebrities like, I mean, it’s crazy and just like she basically solved the problem and found an opportunity that no one else has filled and built an entire business around it with literally decades later. So, that’s the third type.
Now, there’s a fourth type, which is actually the bucket I was in when I started my business, which was the undecided entrepreneur. Now, the undecided entrepreneur is the type of person that you know you want to start your business or at least you know you want to do your own thing. You love to be your own boss, whatever that means to you. You just don’t know what type of business you want to start. And I was in that exact situation when we started our business. Now, what’s interesting about these four types and if you’re listening to this right now, I encourage you to kind of reflect on which of those four types maybe most sounds like you? Or maybe you’re a combination of more than one. But here’s the thing. There’s a light side and a shadow side to every single one. So, if you’re a mission-based entrepreneur, here’s the thing you need to watch out for. Mission-based entrepreneurs tend to be so drawn to their calling, to their mission that they can oftentimes struggle to make money doing their thing.
Passion-based entrepreneurs need to watch out for transforming something that was once passionate for them into something that becomes work and a job. There’s nothing that will lead you to become dispassionate toward something that you once love than for it to become a chore, for it to become work. That’s what you need to be careful of. Opportunity-based entrepreneurs needs to watch out that you’re not just building a business that fills your bank account, but also fuels your soul because if you build a business that is all about making money because it’s an opportunity that you saw, but it isn’t connected to you in some way, well, you’re going to wake up one day and have this hollow feeling in your heart wondering, “What did I just spend the last 10 years of my life doing?” And the undecided entrepreneur, you need to watch out for costly staying in that dreamer mode where you’re dreaming of what business you might start. And so, for the undecided entrepreneur, I recommend doing exactly what I did, which is to start what I call a practice business. Start a practice business.
Your practice business, your first business doesn’t have to be your forever business just like when you think about when you first learn how to drive a car. The first car that you learn how to drive in probably wasn’t your dream car for most of us but you learn how to drive, you learn how to park, you learn how to do all the things and it’s a skill that served you for the rest of your life in the same way by using your practice business as a vehicle to learn all the things, setting up a website, writing emails, doing Facebook, all the things you need to learn, you can take those skills and then to transfer the skills into your forever business. And so, for me, my orchid business, the scrabble, those weren’t forever businesses. Those are practice business. So, I learned the skills, I learned the ropes that have served me now as an entrepreneur and a business that has much more ties to my passion into my mission in life.
Hal: I’m with you. I look at everything I do is practice like when I read the book on Failing Forward by John Maxwell and he kind of talked about that you can’t fail, you just learn, or you grow and that sort of thing. Yeah, the fear was gone. Now, everything I do I’m like if I fail, I’m like, “That’s how practice went. On this one, I got to adjust, change course, and move forward.” So, what you shared that’s just brilliant perspective on those various types of business owners, and I can relate I think to all of them in some way. So, I think that you could be more than one. I think there could be some overlap for sure. What are some of the other mistakes people make when choosing a market because that’s what this whole book is about is choosing your market, making sure you got the right one. So, what are some of the other mistakes that people are making when they’re starting out?
Ryan: Yeah. So, there’s two sides to this process. The first side is an introspective process so identifying what your entrepreneur type is. There are a number of factors that I guide the reader through in the book to really understand yourself to the journey of self-discovery. That’s the first side of the equation. The second side of the equation is to make sure that you are building a business and entering into a market that is going to fill your bank account. So, it’s to fuel your soul part and then to fill your bank account part. And one of the things that I mentioned that there are seven factors that we discovered in this research separating the most successful businesses and those that failed. And one of those factors is something that I call the five market must-haves. Now, I talked about the lesson I learned in the Scrabble business, going into a market that had longevity. It wasn’t a fad. That’s actually market must-have number one. It’s what I call an evergreen market. Evergreen market is a market that was relevant 10 years ago. It’s going to be relevant 10 years from now. You see people make this mistake time and time again. So, a few years ago there was a craze that happened and if you got young kids, you probably remember this. Remember the fidget spinners, the fidget spinner craze from like a few years ago?
Ryan: It’s like everyone has a stupid fidget spinner and if you look at the search volume on Google it went like through the moon and then dropped off a cliff. More recently, I’ll give you another one. What about bitcoin? How many people do you know in your life that got on the bitcoin train?
Hal: Now, Ryan, be careful. I’ve seen there’s a lot of bitcoin enthusiasts that are still fully invested, engaged, believing. If you keep going, I just want to say.
Ryan: Yeah. But what’s interesting, there was a time not that long ago when you could not turn the corner, right? Like I got my haircut once and all the hairstylists were talking about bitcoin and that’s like classic sign that you’re looking for where there’s a bubble happening. And I remember happen. I’ve seen that and if you look at the search volume on Google, if you go to a tool called Google Trends. It’s a free tool. You go to Google Trends, you type in bitcoin, you’ll see that the search volume, the number of people online every single day that searched for the term bitcoin went up, up, up, up, up, up, up, spikes up and then drops off a cliff and then it’s almost nothing. So, you want to be in a market that that’s not going to happen. Compare that to for example orchids and you’ll see that orchids the keyword volume for the orchids market is consistent year after year after year. So, that’s the first thing, you want an evergreen market. Second mistake that people make is not going into what I call an enthusiast market.
Now, an enthusiast market is in contrast to a problem solution market. Problem solution market is a market like a flooded basement market. If you have flooding in your basement, you’re going to call up one of those companies. They’re going to remove the flooding. They’re going to help repair all the damage and then you’re going to move on with your life like you’re not signing up for any Facebook groups. You’re not like signing up for any email newsletters. You’re not like joining any clubs. That’s it like you’re done. Now compare that to something like you guys are into boating. Like, boating is a perfect example of an enthusiast market. You think about people who are into boating, there are clubs, there are groups online, there are meetups, there’s all the equipment that you buy and you want to be in a market like that because unlike a problem-solution market, when you’re in an enthusiast market, you can find a customer once and sell to the customer over and over and over again in the same market. So, that’s what you’re looking for.
So, number three is it’s not enough to be an evergreen and an enthusiast market. You need to solve what’s called an urgent problem in the context of that evergreen and enthusiast market. So, classic example of an enthusiast market I always use is the dog market. You’ve got dogs and you know people who have dogs then you know that dog owners are enthusiasts like by definition, right? People have dogs for years. Many times, like their entire life they’ve got one or more dogs in their life. And the mistake that people make is they go into the dog market and they try to start selling something like doggy mugs or Christmas ornaments or something like that. Instead, what you need to look, no one wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat says, “Honey, we got to get a doggy mug like tomorrow.” It just kind of one of those like things that lingers in the background. Instead, you want to solve an urgent problem. So, an example of an urgent problem would be as follows.
So, I know this market a little bit because recently we got a puppy a little four-and-a-half-pound Chihuahua puppy rescue that they found on the side of the highway that we took in and I know the problems that are associated with bringing a young puppy in the house. So, one of the problems is potty training your dog. So, when you bring a dog in the house, the dog pees on the rug and pees on the sofa and pees on the laundry and pees on the floor and pees on the bed and pees on all these different places and it is an example of a problem where you finally turn at some point, one day you turn to your spouse, you say, “Honey, like we’ve got to solve this today.” And when you found a problem like that, you’re not going online to try to price shop and save 5% or 10%, right? You are like, “We got to solve this, no matter what,” and so all price sensitivity goes out the window and it’s an example of a problem that you basically pay any amount of money to solve this thing immediately. That’s the type of problem you’re looking to solve in your market.
And there are examples of these problems in virtually every market. In the orchid market, an example is people wake up in the morning and they have their beautiful orchid that was on their kitchen table the night before. They wake up in the morning and all the blooms have fallen off suddenly. All the flowers in the orchid have fallen off sitting there on the table and they’re thinking to themselves, what did I do wrong? I killed the plant like overnight. That’s an example of an urgent problem that people frantically go to Google and say, “What did I do? My son bought me this orchid for Mother’s Day and he’s coming over for dinner like I can’t kill the plant. What did I do wrong?” So, those are examples of urgent problems that people need to solve right away. So, it’s number three.
Now, number four that you’re looking for is a market that not just has an urgent problem that you can solve but future problems as well. What I mean by that is when you solve an urgent problem for someone, you have the opportunity to become their trusted advisor for life like you can help someone get their infant to finally sleep at night after staying awake all night or getting their orchid to rebloom after they’ve tried everything or getting their dog to no longer pee on the rug, you can become their trusted advisor for life. And the next time they have a problem or challenge or question in that market, they turn to you. In the dog market, it might be, “All right. This is great but how do I get my dog to stop barking or stop biting or to stop pulling on a leash or to come when she’s called like how I do all those things?” You can become the dog whisperer, the baby whisperer, the orchid whisper for someone. So, you’re looking for a market that has future problems and the real key is a market where when you help someone solve a problem like you generate success for that person, that success in and of itself leads to another problem.
Classic example I always use is imagine you’re in a market where you help people negotiate a better salary. So, you help people negotiate a better salary. You have a client that you’ve helped. You help them negotiate an extra $10,000 in their salary. They come to you and they say, “I got this problem.” “What’s the problem? You made an extra $10,000.” “But, yeah, I’ve never had money, enough money to invest because I always have to live paycheck to paycheck. Where do I invest my money? What should I do? Should I put in my 401(k)? Should I set up an IRA? Should I do a Roth or traditional?” All these questions. See, now that’s a good problem that didn’t yet exist until you solve that first problem. That’s the type of space that you want to be in. And the fifth and final one is a market that’s filled with what we call PWMs, players with money. You can’t sell to broke people. It’s a big thing that people forget about. You can’t sell to broke people and I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
You need to find a market where people, not a market filled with millionaires and billionaires necessarily, but a market filled with people who spend a disproportionate amount of their income in that area of their life. And we all know people like this, right? You probably have an area of your life that you spend more money in that area of your life, and you have other areas of your life that you don’t spend in. Like for me, I get a haircut that cost me like $10 but I buy a new Lego set practically every single week. The amount of money we spent on Lego is ridiculous because Lego’s is like…
Hal: I forgot to tell everybody Ryan’s 12, everyone.
Ryan: I am. I really am my childhood fantasy.
Hal: Actually, you and Pat Flynn, have you guys got together and build Lego sets together?
Ryan: We haven’t. But Lego is like huge. We have an entire Lego room in our house like, yeah, I’ve incorporated Lego into my keynote. I mean, you saw me speak recently in corporate and Lego is in the keynotes, our live events like Lego is a huge thing for me. That’s like my silly little addiction that I spent a lot of money on. So, when it comes to Lego that’s like an area of my life but if you were to try to sell me an expensive haircut, I spend like $10, $15 on a haircut so we all have these areas of our life that we spend a disproportionate amount of money. What you’re looking for is a market with that demonstrated situation and the boating or yachting market is a perfect example because the barrier to entry into that market is to buy a boat versus like the chess market, you can buy a chess set at Walmart for $20 and you can keep that chess set for the next 20 years and never spend another penny in that market. Versus the boating market, I mean, I don’t even want to know the amount in maintenance and fuel and getting the next boat and docking fees and like everything that’s involved with that, that’s an example of a market that’s filled with PWMs.
Hal: Have you created them?
Hal: Sorry. The picks and shovels for that market, right? You know you’re creating the picks, the shovels, the tools, the services, the products that are targeted toward people that have lots of expendable cash, right?
Ryan: Exactly. And are willing to spend that money. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a ton of cash. It just means that they’re willing to spend like the dog market’s a perfect example. They’re willing to spend crazy amounts of money on their dog but won’t have any money to invest anywhere else in their life because that’s what they choose. They choose to invest and spend their money in that specific area of their life. So, that’s what you’re looking for. Yes, I’m a huge advocate in selling education and expertise in these markets. So, those are the five big mistakes of what I call the five market must-haves being an evergreen, enthusiast, urgent problem, future problems, and PWMs, players with money.
Hal: I love it, so I’m sold. I mean, I love your first book, Ask. I mean, you delivered so much value today, but I’m sold because I know your expertise from Ask, from what we heard today. I’m going to read Choose. I run a multimillion-dollar business. So, if somebody’s whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seven-figure entrepreneur anywhere in between I think all of Ryan’s content and this book, in particular, is relevant. How do people get a copy of the book? I know you’re doing some sort of free offer deal with it. I saw some rumblings on Facebook or something like that so is that still available? How does that work?
Ryan: Well, you’re one of my brothers, man, so I wanted to hook anyone up who is one of your listeners with something super, super special and that’s this. Anyone of your listeners, I’m going to hook them up with a free hardcover copy of the book. All I ask is that they pay a few dollars shipping and handling and I will ship it to you anywhere in the world like I don’t care where you are. I’ll ship it to your doorstep and to make it a no-brainer. I’m also including over $200 in free bonuses. I’m including the audiobook. So, if you’re like a lot of my listeners love listening to audiobooks, I’m going to hook you with the audiobook. I read the book myself, so I was trapped in the studio without food and water for an entire week reading this thing. So, I read the entire book, so you get that. People always want to know like can you give any examples of markets and niches that check off those boxes that you mentioned that have all those, that meet all those criteria? I’m hooking you up with my private list of the top 25 niches for 2019. So, I’ve gone on to 23 markets. These are the markets I would be going into next if I wasn’t focused on this book and teaching other entrepreneurs, so I’m handing that list on a silver platter. There’s a mindset training course that accompanies the book that I’m hooking you up with for free. And so, I mentioned I studied neuroscience and Chinese in college. I give you…
Hal: You’re teaching Chinese?
Ryan: It’s Chinese. That’s the trick. It’s 17 mental hacks for overcoming all the head trash that I see people run into when you’re starting your own thing, fear of failure, overcoming self-doubt, self-confidence, analysis paralysis, all of those things that kind of cloud our thinking when we’re trying to do our own thing. I give you 17 mental hacks to overcome all that. So, over $200 in free bonuses. All you need to do is go to the link, ChooseTheBook.com/Achieve for Achieve Your Goals. So, that’s ChooseTheBook.com/Achieve, and I’ll give you the free hardcover copy of the book and ship it to you anywhere in the world.
Hal: You’re giving away a lot of stuff. So, I’m going to do a little my book launch or I’m a little bit ahead of you. I just did this and, yeah, man, that’s really great. I’m excited. I’m going to go get the free book. I’ll take advantage of the free book and all the free bonuses. Ryan, I would love to leave our listeners some of your wisdom or more of your wisdom. Do you have a final piece of advice or anything that you can leave us with?
Ryan: Yeah. I’ll share something that one of my mentors shared with me early in my career and it’s had a huge impact on my thinking. It’s something I share with every single one of our students and it’s this. Listen, you don’t have to get it perfect in business. You don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going, but the best time to get it going is right here, right now today. So, whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do that thing that you know is inside of you that you want to get out there, whatever thing that is, now and today is the time to do it so go out there and change the world.
Hal: I love it, brother. I think that’s for your next book. You’ve got Ask, Choose, and Now. I think that’s your next one.
Ryan: I love it.
Hal: Awesome. Well, you’ve been super generous with your time and your wisdom and that the offer is great. If you’re an Achieve Your Goals Podcast listener, go to ChooseTheBook.com/Achieve. Pay a few bucks of shipping, get the free book, and all the awesome bonuses that Ryan’s mentioned. So, Ryan, well, I appreciate you man and most importantly, I’m so grateful to be in the Front Row Dads with you and to be working together on not just business stuff but becoming the best fathers and the best husbands because I think as we both agreed when we connect with the retreat a couple of weeks ago that that is our number one priority each of us respect so appreciate it, man.
Ryan: Amen to that. It’s what it’s all about. I’m right there with you, brother.
Hal: Awesome. Well, goal achievers. I love you. I hope you enjoyed the first non-Miracle Equation episode. Some of you are probably like, “Oh, I miss The Miracle Equation series,” and some of you are like, “Finally. Finally. An episode not talking about miracles.” I get it. So, either way, I love you, I appreciate you. Thank you for being a listener of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. It really does mean so, so much to me and hope it means something significant to you too because I appreciate you. Talk to you next week, everybody. Take care.
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