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SPI 485: Making Major Business Decisions during a Major Crisis with Chris Ducker

The pandemic has taught all of us about the importance of flexibility. We have to — especially as entrepreneurs and leaders — be continually learning and ready to pivot. Chris Ducker, a great friend of mine, is here to tell us his experience, how his business is doing, and what he’s learned making major business decisions in these times.

Chris was riding high and getting ready to launch another in-person event when the pandemic hit. Not only that, the natural slowing down and zooming out that the pandemic caused gave him an opportunity to reevaluate his membership offering as well. Coming out on the other side, Chris has a lot to tell us.

How we respond to major shifts like these are often the ultimate test of ourselves and our businesses. Chris’s key learnings can help us all better plan for the future and cultivate the right mindset for the next big pivot. There are some amazing nuggets on this episode — don’t miss it!

Today’s Guest

Chris Ducker

Chris is a serial entrepreneur and author of the bestselling books, Virtual Freedom and Rise of the Youpreneur. Based in Cambridge, England, he owns and operates several businesses, including the VA recruiting hub VirtualStaffFinder.com and the personal brand education company Youpreneur.com that combined house over 350 full-time employees. Nowadays he spends most of his time coaching and mentoring successful entrepreneurs, as well as investing in and advising startup companies.

ChrisDucker.com
Youpreneur.com

You’ll Learn


SPI 485: Making Major Business Decisions during a Major Crisis with Chris Ducker

Pat Flynn:
It’s been over a year since the pandemic has hit, and as we all know, we’ve had to make a lot of different decisions during this time, especially when it comes to our businesses. And as we are starting to seemingly get out of the craziness and back into some sort of normalcy, what’s going to be interesting is that it’s not going to be the same normal, especially for many businesses. Many businesses, including the business of our special guest today, have made major shifts as a result of the pandemic.

We’ve heard a lot of things of people, for example, who have a lot more remote workers now. But this person who we brought on the show today has made some major business shifts, an online digital marketer, somebody who I’m really, really excited to bring back on the show, one of my best friends, Chris Ducker, my brother from another mother. I’m really excited to have him on because he, in fact, has made several major decisions that are on the surface like, “How did you make that decision? How did you know that that was the right decision? How are you going to plan for the future as a result of things that we can’t really go back to, or at least not right now?”

That’s what we’re going to dive into today. This is an example of one of several people out there who have made major life and business changes and how we plan for the future through major crises like this. So I’m excited to share all the ins and outs and all the business changes that Chris has made. Let’s hit the intro.

Announcer:
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host – he thinks The Queen’s Gambit is the best thing to ever happen on Netflix – Pat Flynn!

Pat:
What’s up everybody, Pat Flynn here, welcome to session 485 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Really excited to bring one of my best friends back on the show, Chris Ducker. And this is important because you might have to make some major decisions and changes in your business. Whether there’s a crisis or not, it’s going to be a crisis or decision for you. And so we’re going to talk through the decision-making process, looking deep into somebody else’s business and their thought process, what was going through their mind and how we’re going to plan for the future. So hopefully you can take away many things from this episode.

I know, as the person who’s conducted this interview, there’s so many golden nuggets in this episode, as Chris always brings. So let’s just dive right in. Here he is, Chris Ducker from Youpreneur.com.

Chris, welcome back for, I don’t know, the hundredth time here on the show? No, it’s not been that much.

Chris Ducker:
No, you don’t love me that much.

Pat:
I’m always so grateful for you coming on the show because you have always so much to share. And it’s been a while, I feel like, so we have a lot to cover, of course. The last time we chatted, obviously it was before the pandemic and I know you’ve made a lot of changes. Anyway, just how are things over there in the UK for you?

Chris:
Well, good, man. We were talking before you hit the record button, we’re both blessed guys, we’ve got great wives and great kids, and we’re lucky to live in nice, comfortable houses with some gardens to get the kids to go wear themselves out and so they’re not driving us nuts all day long. We’re okay. Business wise, it’s been a bit of a challenge in a number of different ways, like anybody else. The really big challenge, though, has been on the other side of the world, has been in the Philippines with our call center and with Virtual Staff Finder over there.

We’re still floating around 350, 370 staff. We haven’t lost any business, which is phenomenal. We’re very, very lucky to be in that scenario in the service-related industry. But margins, profits have dropped quite considerably because of the, should we say the activities that we’ve had to incorporate into our day-to-day life as a corporation to keep our people safe, to keep them coming to work and all that kind of stuff. So although revenue is still phenomenal, margins, not so.

And that is where redundancy comes into play, because where the call center gets into that type of scenario – and we’ll get out of it, we’ll survive it and we’ll get out of it and happy days again, Virtual Staff Finder has grown more in the last year than it probably has done year on year for the last three or four years. That’s now an eleven-year-old business as well. And Youpreneur obviously is another redundancy built into the whole overall group of companies. So, blessed, dude. We’re blessed to have all of that plugged in.

Pat:
I almost forgot that you have that company in the Philippines and you had just recently moved… Not recently, but a few years ago, you moved from the Philippines, where you had easy control over that company. You were there a few times a week going in through the office saying hello to people. And now you’re still managing that company, owning that company, but now you’re not in the same country. How are you actually managing that company from remote like that? That’s a huge company, that’s people in person, how are you doing that?

Chris:
Dude, honestly, I wasn’t personally all that involved in that business for the last few years of even living in the Philippines. When the pandemic hit, my big joke was that I’d been socially distancing and isolating for a decade already. So it’s different to the point where I can’t go in. You know what I miss about it more than anything? I miss going in and just seeing my people, seeing my staff. I miss Mersha, I miss my executive assistant. She’s been with me for so many years. She’s like a daughter, an unadopted daughter to me, almost. I miss seeing my management team. I miss walking around the floor and seeing all these people that I get to say I’m helping them with their own careers and their aspirations and things. I miss the people more so than the office and that type of thing.

But in terms of managing it, not much has changed, bro. We get a weekly report from my GM on the site. He is still based there. He is an American, still based there full-time. I do a monthly call with the entire management team, which is now at about 20 or so people. And then I do a biweekly 20-minute soon catch up with Jerry, who runs the Virtual Staff Finder team for me. Other than that, everything else is in Asana and Slack.

Pat:
That’s cool.

Chris:
Even then, I try and avoid that stuff as much as I can.

Pat:
I think that speaks to the power of you having a team and people that you can rely on, which you’ve built over time, which I know that you are the one of a few who have helped me and inspired me earlier on to build my team and have others that I can have support from and trust, aka SPI Media right now, a lot of things are happening without me having to have a direct line into those things, and I can take more of a director role, like you have with your Philippines business, so that you can focus on other things. And that was something that I had to learn about and adapt to for where I was in my business. Now, I know your business outside of the Philippines with Youpreneur and you have your event, the Youpreneur Summit, which has been affected by the pandemic and some other things.

Let’s go down the line on each of those parts of your business because I know you’ve made specific and conscious decisions about how to adapt and be flexible during this time. So, why don’t we start with something that I know that you were very focused on right before we hit the pandemic, which was your mastermind; something that you had envisioned bringing people together in person to help each other out and you’ve had to make big changes on that. Tell us what was planned and then how you’ve had to adapt.

Chris:
I’ve been running masterminds… The first ever mastermind that I ran was in 2011. And it was six people around a hotel conference room table for the day. I charged $200. Just saying it out loud now compared to where we are now. There was always something about bringing people together in person that I really, really, really enjoyed. You and I have talked about this for hours over our, well, 11, 12 years of friendship, right?

Pat:
Yeah. We’ve done it together with 1 Day Business Breakthrough a couple of times, but it was a little bit different. It’s like 50 people or 25 people in a room, but bringing people together is really important. And I knew that this was going to be a big part of your business and then everything happened and you had to make some decisions.

Chris:
Yeah. So, we did Youpreneur Summit, inaugural event was in November, 2017. Did it again in 2018, did it again in 2019. And at 2019, based off the feedback directly from the attendees of those first couple of years, we launched, from the stage, the Youpreneur Incubator coaching and mastermind program. This was their opportunity to become part of a very intimate community of people to learn more directly from me and from my very smart friends, like yourself, you’re guesting this month as part of our mastermind, and a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

But I wanted, at least for the first year or two, I wanted to do it in person. Even though everybody I spoke to said, “Dude, you’re going to be just closing the door on so much opportunity from the United States and Canada and Australia and all over Europe. Do you really want to do it in person in the UK? You’re leaving money on the table, ultimately.

Pat:
So it’s UK only to start?

Chris:
It was based in the UK, but we did have a whole bunch of people coming in from Europe as well. So they’re traveling… Who doesn’t want to come to London for a few days? It’s the best city in the world.

Pat:
It’s beautiful. I was there recently.

Chris:
I know you were. So we said, “We’ll do it in person.” So we launch it. Our target was 50 people. So we can get 50 people to sign up for this thing? That would be incredible for the first year. We had almost 70 people sign up. And so we’re over the moon. And this is November, 2019. January, 2020 is our first mastermind. We do a quarterly mastermind, every 90 days, meet in person, plan deep, go through one big strategy that everybody has to implement, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We do the January mastermind. Amy Landino flies in, she’s our special guest speaker, and everybody loves it. It’s great. And then the pandemic hits weeks before we’re due to do our quarter two in April. So we’re like, “Well, clearly we can’t do this in person in April.”

And like yourself, you started the Income Stream, a lot of other people doing things that they wouldn’t usually do because of the pandemic, we looked at it as an opportunity… Well, look, ultimately, we were going to go virtual with this in some capacity at some point in the next year or two. This is our chance to try it out and see what that would feel like. We did not think, going into April last year, that we would turn it into a virtual coaching and mastermind program immediately. We didn’t know that was going to happen. We thought we’d do April and we’re back in London in July for the next one. And then the one after that is the day before the summit, that kind of thing.

And so we went virtual with it. Everybody loved it. Some people even said that it was better than doing it in person because you had the opportunity to just check out if you wanted to, and just walk away from the computer for a bit. Can’t really do that in an in person scenario. Some people said that they actually met more people through our little mini breakouts than they would have done through the breaks themselves at an in person event. So all of the feedback was pretty much a hundred percent positive, but again, we didn’t think that we would only be doing it just that… We thought we’d only be doing it once, not this was going to be, and I hate using this term now, “the new normal.”

Pat:
And then come back in person.

Chris:
Right.

Pat:
Right.

Chris:
So we thought, “Great, awesome. That’s fantastic. Let’s rock it out. See you guys in London in July.” And then May comes around. End of May, beginning of June, it’s clear that this is not going to happen. And then the really big elephant in the room for us as a business was, “Holy moly, what are we going to do about our conference?” It was relatively simple to pivot the Incubator program through an online program because we were planning to do that at some point anyway.

So now we’re forced into doing that, but to the point where we embrace it because it was going to be what we were going to do, people loved it, we’d just tell them outright, “We’re swapping to virtual. If you guys want a refund, that’s all good. We’ll give you a partial refund for the rest of the year.” Nobody wanted refunds. “No, I’m in it for the year. I want to stick around.” Great. But the big one was the event, bro, because you and I both know I love holding events. And I let that get the best of me, I think not only headspace wise, mental bandwidth wise, but also emotionally as well because I’m invested emotionally in my events.

Pat:
I do want to get to Youpreneur Summit and how you’ve dealt with that and the feelings that you were feeling at that time. But I want to go back to when the pandemic hit after the first round of your incubator. You make it sound like it was immediately you and your team were like, “Hey, this is great. We can go online now.” Was there not any sense of, “Oh man, this changes everything?” What were those meetings like? What was discussed before making that transition to online? It sounds like it worked out, for sure. But were there any, like, “Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen?” Any scrambling that happened in the beginning?

Chris:
Trust me, man, there was plenty of scrambling.

Pat:
Okay. That’s what I want to know about.

Chris:
Yeah, of course you do, because that’s who you are. The big thing was not necessarily, at that early point April, May, it wasn’t necessarily, “We don’t get to do this in person now.” The big thing was that, I’m not the best with tech, as you well know. And I didn’t want the quality… This was the really big thing, I didn’t want the quality of that overall experience to be anything but what everybody expected that they would get when they signed up and invested in themselves for the program. And so I’m like, “I can’t have anybody come to my house to set this stuff up. What am I going to do?” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And it was you, and it was Luria over at Live Streaming Pros, and a couple of other folks that I lent on and said, “What kind of camera do I get? What kind of lens do I get? What kind of mics do I get?” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Thinking back, I was already ahead of the curve a little with the RØDECaster Pro, which you set up for me in my office when you were visiting-

Pat:
Yeah, in person.

Chris:
… Yeah. In, what was it? July or August, right, 2019.

Pat:
August, 2019.

Chris:
So you helped me get that set up, but then we were like, “Well…” That was for me, bro, honestly, that was the biggest scary part of it all. It was all the tech side of things and Zoom and breakout rooms and how… Because it’s easy. When you’re on stage and you’ve got 10 tables and there’s six people at every table, it’s easy to say, “Everybody’s on the same… Stay on the same table. We’re going to do 30 minutes hot seats each and we’ll take a break after 2:00 and then we’ll come back and do…” It’s easy when you’re in person.

And the great thing about doing in person events from a presenter perspective, as you well know, if you’re in an environment at a venue who do this every single day for people across a variety of different industries, you know the AV team have got your back. They’re going to make sure your mic is sounding great, they’re going to make sure the stage presence is fantastic, they’re going to make sure the right music is played when you rock up, they’re going to make sure that the camera work, that the camera guys doing for the recordings is going to be top-notch.

We can’t do that in a virtual setting, particularly when you’re doing it all on your own. I didn’t have the… I was the AV guy all of a sudden. So, the tech stuff was the big scrambling. And I’m lucky to have a team of incredible staff to handle the rest of this stuff. But it was scary at first, but it was just more the fear of the unknown. It wasn’t really super uncomfortable. It was just like, “I don’t want to look like an idiot and I don’t want to not show up for the folks that are paying.”

Pat:
For sure. That’s a huge burden, having not ever really done that before, to push that forward, thinking you have a year to plan this and get all the tech ready and stuff and now it’s just a couple of months.

Chris:
Right. No, we had literally two weeks, or two weeks, we’re not doing it in person, cancel your hotel rooms, do what you need to do kind of thing. It’s crazy.

Pat:
What are the things that were done in the online scenario to ensure that it still had that incredible experience that one might have in person? I know you thought a lot about that. What are some of those things?

Chris:
We did a couple of things. First and foremost, in January, we gave everybody this really cool leather portfolio, zip-able binder.

Pat:
You actually sent it to them.

Chris:
No, no. We gave it to everybody in January in person.

Pat:
Oh, in person. Right, right.

Chris:
Yeah. With inserts for that particular quarterly mastermind. So what we did was like, well, instead of just having these designed by our designer and giving them the PDF versions, first things first, for the rest of the year, we’re sending these things out in the mail, no matter where they are. We’re at about 65 percent UK, the rest of it was Europe. But not only do we send out the worksheets, we send out tea bags; have your tea break on us. And a door hanger that said, “Go away, I’m hustling,” or, “Go away. I’m working on my business.”

Pat:
That’s a good idea.

Chris:
And all that kind of stuff, right?

Pat:
Yeah.

Chris:
And so we did all these things and people loved it. They absolutely loved it. And stickers and silly photos from the summit that will hopefully try and bring memories back to people and stuff like that. And it really worked. It really worked. That was the first thing. The second thing from an online perspective was that I’m known for the music and the breakout dance breaks and all that kind of stuff. So we did that as well. We have music playing when people turned up and music at break times. And not boring, yoga, think-about-your-life music. We have Bruno Mars rocking and James Brown or these kinds of… And then Erse would do… As you know, she’s a yoga instructor. So she would do two minute stretch breaks with people after their hot seats and all this kind of stuff. And it worked, bro. It really worked.

And I think that, and the combination of strong slides, making sure that visually our designer did what he needed to do to create the environment of, “This might be online. We’re not sitting on chairs in the same room, but this is still really high quality stuff that I’m getting here.” And I’ll be frank with you, I worked harder on my own content, my own coaching, my own strategies, my own training material last year than I ever have done as a coach. Period. Because I knew I needed to show up.

The analogy I used, actually, at that first mastermind that we went virtual within April was, to use a Star Wars analogy, stop trying to be Luke Skywalker. Don’t be the hero. Instead, turn yourself into Obi-Wan and be the guide. Guide your clients, guide your customers through this thing. Be the mind of reason and the voice of reason. Don’t try to be the hero and trying to look all cool and all that kind of stuff. Show up for your people more than you ever have done before. And we added in weekly breakout calls and office hour calls and a ton of stuff that they didn’t invest in, ton of stuff that they didn’t expect to get. And we added it all in because I had to be Obi-Wan, bro. I had to be Obi-Wan.

Pat:
I like that. I think especially at that time to offer that advice to your clients or your members who have their clients of their own in a time when everybody’s freaking out is really smart.

Chris:
Yeah. I did a YouTube video that was entitled, “Be Proactive, not Reactive.” I shared it into our private group and pretty much everybody shared it with their communities because it was a voice that needed to be heard at the time, you know.

Pat:
Yeah. That’s great. Well, thank you for that insight on how you’ve managed the Incubator. You had started to touch on Youpreneur Summit. Let’s go there. You know that you have to do something with this event because it’s not going to go the way it was planned. What’s going through your head?

Chris:
It was a struggle, I’m not going to lie. Even just talking about it just now.

Pat:
What was the struggle? What was the push and pull?

Chris:
Because I had made the decision prior to moving to the UK, which we did in… Well, actually, we bought the place in early 2017. We moved mid 2018 to the UK. And prior to moving here back from the Philippines, I had made the decision that I was going to do way less traveling. And as you well know, I would come to the U.S. three, four times a year when we first became buddies and we would hang out with each other in San Diego a lot. And then maybe last four or five years has been once a year, maybe twice a year, on the off chance.

And the whole thing in my mind to balance that as a guy who loves being around people, that is very much an extrovert, that wants to love on his people and provide value and all that kind of stuff, the balance was I get to do my own event in my hometown for 400 people in the Queen Elizabeth Conference Center. Are you serious? This is a dream come true! And we do it three years in a row and it sells out; three years in a row. And you know what it’s like, you got to build that momentum, right?

Pat:
Mm-hmm.

Chris:
And then all of a sudden, I’m in a position where we had 140 or something tickets pre-sold for 2020. We usually went live with tickets because it’s a slow burner, selling event tickets. Super early bird price, you’ll always get a good number of people jump on to save a couple of hundred bucks, whatever it is. But we usually go live with tickets around March, pandemic was everything in March. I’m not going to go live with tickets. No one’s going to be buying tickets to a live event in March, 2020. So I hold off for a month. End of April comes around. What are we going to do? Holy moly. It’s too uncertain. Let’s hold off. Okay.

May comes around. Now I’m in the hole with the venue because I’ve gone past the point of no return, deposit-wise. So now I’m even more reluctant to cancel. And we’re not talking a ridiculous amount of money, it was like 20 grand. It wasn’t a stupid amount of money, but it ain’t chump change either. 20,000 bucks is still a lot of cash when you think about what you could do as a business with $20,000, right?

Pat:
For sure.

Chris:
And then now I’m in April. Now I’m into May and I’m now going to have to call it because this is stupid. I need to make a decision now. And my issue was, from a very, very selfish perspective, I didn’t want to cancel it because I didn’t want to not do the event for my own reasons, for the reasons inside of me, for the exact same reason that I started it in the first place. I want to bring my community…

This is my community here, first and foremost. I want to bring them together, I want to rock out, I want to have some fun, I want to hangout with all my buddies, all the speakers and whatnot that come into town. And it’s mid-November, it’s Memorial Sunday weekend that we do it on. That way, everybody goes out for a morning break and they get to see the Queen go by in a car and all that kind of stuff. And it was all these things, all these things. It was an emotional roller coaster. You and I love… We talked about it so many times, right?

Pat:
Well, I had a lot of the same feelings with FlynnCon that I have-

Chris:
Of course you did.

Pat:
Very, very similar decisions and emotions for sure, especially having just finally run my first event the year prior very successfully, having pre-sold a number of tickets also being 50K in the hole with the venue, so what made you finally make your decision, and what was your decision?

Chris:
Well, we looked at the numbers. I always say, “Men lie, women lie, children lie, but the numbers never lie. Numbers never lie.” And as a business owner, you avoid your numbers or you ignore your numbers at your own financial peril, plain and simple. So we had to look at the numbers. And when you look at it over the three years that we ran it, 47 percent, almost half of our attendees, were from outside of the UK. So even if we were to put the event on, international travel is pretty much off. So that would mean we’d have to work twice, maybe three times, maybe four times as hard to make up that lack of international visitors. Secondly was, also, if I’m to be honest, I was worried about my own health. I’ve had asthma since my childhood, I’m classed here in the UK with the NHS as clinically vulnerable, which is why I got my first vaccine earlier than even some people twice my age.

So, you put all those things into play, the fact that… There is a bigger picture here. I’m a father, I’m a husband. I’m also responsible for almost 400 other people’s livelihoods on the other side of the world. I can’t not take this seriously. And so we had to make the call and we canceled it and it was tough. It was really tough, without a doubt, but the absolute right thing to do. And we’ve postponed it for this year as well, because it’s still a level of uncertainty, even though things look like where the smoke is starting to part a little bit, it’s irresponsible to hold a large event in 2021, in my mind. If anybody tries to do it, then genuinely, may god be with you, in my mind, because I just look at it as just an unnecessary health risk, if nothing else, you know?

Pat:
Yeah. No, I agree. We made the same decisions for FlynnCon and that was tough, but it’s definitely the right move.

Chris:
Yeah. And you crushed your first event. That must’ve been hard. That being said, though, you had an incredible MC that first event as well.

Pat:
I don’t even remember who that was.

Chris:
That definitely helped.

Pat:
I don’t even remember who that was. It was you.

Chris:
The guy was pretty… He’s pretty forgettable, that guy, right?

Pat:
Never. That was awesome. Thanks for taking us into your mind with relation to that tough decision, but I think it obviously makes sense now looking back, but in the moment, it can be very difficult to make those kinds of decisions. And like you said, look at the numbers, get outside help and perspective. A lot of times our emotions can get in the way of making the right decision. And I think that also trying to be proactive even in a reactive situation is really important, like you said.

Chris:
Yeah. And I think also when you go through something like that – I’ve been building businesses for 16 years now. There are half a dozen blips on that journey map. That was definitely a big one for us, mainly because of my own emotional element. I’ll be the first to admit it: I wear my heart on my sleeve, you know what I mean? But once you go through these little blips and you look at it more from a productive perspective, a positive perspective, and that is man, I learned a big lesson there. I shouldn’t have led with my heart, I should’ve looked at the numbers a lot sooner on, I should have… I read a 32-page medical report on COVID so I can get more educated on this thing. I took it really seriously, but I took it seriously two, maybe even three months, almost three months too late.

If I had done it earlier, not only would I save some money, I would have saved a lot of sleepless nights and all that sort of stuff as well. But with that being said, it enabled me at the beginning of this year to make the call, A, a lot sooner and, B, a lot easier, which not only did it save me a ton of money, but it also saved me a ton of time; and that’s your most valuable commodity as a business owner. So, made things easier this year, going through it last year. Simple as that.

Pat:
Nice. Thank you. Let’s talk about one more thing that I know has changed, and this is an interesting one to me because you were literally in this office, where I’m recording this right now, where the term Youpreneur was born. We were in the same room together and that term was coined and it became your membership. Your community came later, the Youpreneur Summit, but also this amazing group of people that you’ve had and have taught and have held accountable and have helped people get results with. And you decided this year to also make a change with relation to that. What happened and why?

Chris:
Again, we looked at the numbers. The one thing last year, dude, is that Youpreneur started off in your office, like you say. I remember, dude, it’s July 4. It was 4th of July. Do you remember 4th of July in your backyard?

Pat:
Yeah. You knocked April in the head with a water balloon, I remember that.

Chris:
Oh my god, I can’t-

Pat:
I’ll never forgive you for that.

Chris:
For the record, for everybody tuning in, yes, I did pelt Pat’s beautiful wife in the face with a water balloon. But let me tell you something, she didn’t sit down on that. She came after me hard core and got her revenge, trust me on that. And afternoon was when that term, Youpreneur, was born. Initially, going back to what we’re up to, we had already been running Tropical Think Tank for a couple of years, which was our intimate live event in the Philippines, which you came to in the first year. And again, it was all about community, it was all about community.

And so when we launched that as a membership, I’m just amazed, to be honest with you, at how quickly it took off. We had like 200 and something members in the first month join that thing. And it grew again in the second year, and then it plateaued in the third year, 2018, it plateaued out a little bit. And then we did some promos and the numbers went back up again. And then it plateaued again in 2019. And I was like…

And then obviously prior to that, there wasn’t a lot of these online entrepreneurship type memberships out there. There were a certain amount, but there wasn’t a lot. There’s way more now. And that’s why the business view, that P2P element, that people to people element that I teach, is even more so important and should be embraced today more so than ever before, because people will join the community for the leaders, I believe, more so now than ever. And they’ll stick around more so now for the leaders of that community as well.

So when we first launched it, I was a little bit surprised at how quickly it grew. But then, because we had that early growth, I was equally surprised that the numbers started dropping off and we couldn’t get them back. And so middle of last year, we started really looking at things from a business angle. The actual incubator had already gone virtual. So we knew that that was a big change we’d done. We weren’t going to do the summit. So we had some extra time on our hands from a team perspective to be able to double down on the incubator experience as well as look at the other areas in our business. So we spent time cleaning up our marketing funnels, we spent time developing new opt-ins and testing them from a lead-gen perspective. And then we really started crunching the numbers inside of the academy.

The numbers just backed it all up. People were not sticking around as long as they used to. We were on this… And this was the big thing; we as a team were on this consistent content hamster wheel of, “You charge every month, you got to show up every month.”

Pat:
Yeah, for sure.

Chris:
And it was one of those things where it started to become a chore to create the content that we needed to create for our members. And the moment that that starts happening for me personally, you’ve got to start looking at the reasons why you continue to do something. If something is a chore, if it’s not fun, if it’s not enjoyable, then there’s a crack there, something’s broken there, and you’ve got to start looking at what it was.

We decided to ultimately survey our members and find out… Not only the members that were still current, but also our past members as well, and find out the reasons why did you cancel? What can we do to make it better? What did you think of the… Dude, it was a 25-question survey that we went into them with. We had about a 30 percent return rate, which I thought was very good, even including the folks that had canceled.

Pat:
Especially for a longer survey, yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. They’re not part of the community, but they’re still finding the 10, 15 minutes it took to fill it out and get it back to us, which was awesome. And the one thing that really became very, very clear was that even with the newer members that come on board, they turn up, there’s a great onboarding process that we fine-tuned beautifully over the four, five years or so. But what happened was they felt like there was a certain level of overwhelm. There was so much in there from the last five years, there was so much content that they could consume.

Even though we had a roadmap in there in terms of what they should do first, what they should do next, where they should look to get in six months, nine months, that kind of thing, it was just the level of overwhelm and time that people were not really ultimately willing to invest in it. And that’s one of the main reasons why they were dropping off or they weren’t active in there anymore and they just carried on getting billed every month. And I don’t want anybody to pay for something unless they’re using it, genuinely.

Pat:
That’s such a common response too for, “Hey, why’d you leave our membership community?” It’s just overwhelm. So that if you have a membership of any kind, gotta make it easy for people to come in there and understand what parts of it are useful, and you got to get it to a point where people can’t help but think, “Wow, I can’t imagine life without this.” That’s the feeling that you want, versus, “Why do I even have this at all?”

Chris:
Exactly. Yeah, absolutely. “Why am I paying for this? I see it on my credit card statement. It’s only $50 bucks a month, but, hey, that’s $50 bucks. That’s a lot of Starbucks right there,” kind of thing. And so I think that the big thing for us was that once we got those survey results back, and we really spent time as a team breaking them down and really… I did an open Zoom session for two hours with the active members to figure out what we could do to “try and save it.” Even though they didn’t know that we were in this mindset of, “Do we need to swap things or change things or shut things down entirely?” For them, it was all about just a discovery call and how we can make things better and serve them better, et cetera, et cetera.

Dude, we talked about not providing replays to live coaching calls. If you want it, you got to turn up live. Now we’ve got one less video going into the portal for those guys, one less thing to contribute to that shiny object syndrome, one less thing for them to be less overwhelmed about et cetera, et cetera. But everything just came back to wanting to provide a very simple, effective, time saving way to be able to learn how to build and market and monetize a business based around your experience and your passion and your expertise.

And so we started looking at the core content that had been in there since day one, which helped ultimately write the book, Rise of the Youpreneur, which helped me put together The Business of YOU keynote and all the rest of it, and we just went back to the core build, market, monetize framework that I developed as part of the initial launch all those years ago. And then we started building out the really important lessons for each of those three modules. And before we knew what was happening, we had the course: 18 videos, an average of five to eight minutes per video, a 50-page workbook, three modules, two hours or so of content. And this will get you from A to, not Z, but A to J, right?

Pat:
Yeah.

Chris:
It’ll get you there. It’s the foundational requirements for getting on the road of building the business of you. We package it as a course, we sell it as a one-time fee of $497. It’s like a MBA in personal brand business and people have been loving it. So what we did is for anybody who is still an active member, we gave them free access to the course for life, cancel all their recurring payments.

Pat:
That’s nice.

Chris:
And actually, one week from now of date of recording, April 8th recording, April 15, the doors of the old membership close for good and everybody’s already in the course doing what they’re doing inside of the course. And you know they’re watching because I see those video stats, you know what I’m saying?

Pat:
Yeah.

Chris:
And the feedback that we’ve had is, “You make it easy for me to go through this content. I don’t feel overwhelmed, and I don’t feel like I’ve got to allot a massive amount of time to be able to go through a lesson because when I open it up and I see the lesson is nine minutes long, maybe 20 minutes with me doing a little homework in the workbook, I realize that actually, I could spend a morning, a week, for four weeks in a row and I’m done. I’m ready to roll. And people are just… The feedback’s been, actually honestly, quite humbling, bro.

Pat:
That’s cool, man.

Chris:
Because we put a lot of work into it.

Pat:
Congratulations. That’s a big decision too, because that’s way different than what a membership is, right, which has a community.

Chris:
Yes.

Pat:
Does the course still have a community component?

Chris:
Yes. There’s a Facebook group. There’s a Facebook group. The other thing was, with the membership prior, as you well know, we had the private forum in there and it works really well, really, really well at first, for a couple years. But then I felt like we were swimming up against the current because everybody else wanted a Facebook group. I’m like, “Nah, I don’t want to do Facebook, too many distractions,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

But then eventually it got to the point where forum just wasn’t working for us. So we went to the Facebook group thing. That’s still there. People are still in there. When they buy the course, they get access to that group. And I think it’s just… The big difference is this, and understand something, when you close one book, you have to pick up another book and start reading immediately if you’re a leader.

I often say, if you’re a leader, you’ve got to continue to learn in order to continue to lead. You have to. And so that’s why we have this crossover of the membership wrapping up and the course already being live. And what that did was two fold. Number one, it was not an abrupt stop where everyone was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what’s going on? What’s happening? What’s happening?” Everybody knew what was going on. We communicated it in several emails and live videos, et cetera, et cetera. There was no big shock. It was, “This is what’s going to happen. This is how you’re going to navigate it,” et cetera, et cetera, No questions. Everybody knew what was going on.

The other thing was, and this is a big one from a monetary perspective, and that is that when you’re building a membership, and you notice now with SPI Pro, when you’re building a membership, there are two words that come to that type of business, and they’re beautiful words from a business ownership perspective. Number one, recurring. You get recurring revenue every single month, every quarter, every year, however you’re billing. So you get that recurring revenue. And secondly, genuinely, it allows you to actually predict how your business is going to grow. It’s predictable and it’s recurring.

So we knew that by shutting off everybody’s recurring income, we as a business were going to take an initial hit because now we’ve got used to making X amount of money for charging those recurring memberships. If we just turn that off, it was like, “Holy moly, where’s that money gone?” But the course is already live, we’ve already soft launched it, it’s already selling, it’s already in our autoresponder, we’re already mentioning it on the podcast, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And because of that, we actually had almost a month of double the amount of revenue because we still had the membership going on for the last time and the core stuff coming in for the first time.

I think in terms of making that pivot, I don’t feel like the pandemic forced us to do it. We could have carried on, but I think what the pandemic did, it provided us an opportunity to look at that side of our business much, much closer. And I think that as business owners, particularly when you’re building in a number of different revenue sources into your business and that redundancy, you can get complacent, you can start seeing that revenue coming in every month and it’s a given that it’s going to be there, but you don’t look into how it’s happening or why it’s not growing because you’re working on other things.

The pandemic allowed us, it gave us the time, the breathing space to be able to look at that membership and what wasn’t working. And I feel more confident about the course after a month of having it available than I did after five years of running the membership, fact, in terms of the way it’s going to serve our people.

Pat:
How long were people staying in the membership at the tail end there? How many months?

Chris:
That’s a good question. In the tail end, an average of about six to seven months, which is not bad, industry standard-wise, but at first, the first three years, dude, I think the average was 18 months. So it had diminished quite sincerely.

Pat:
Right, right. So the price point becomes something that allows for several months, just in one fell swoop in the beginning with a single time payment to make up for that?

Chris:
Yeah.

Pat:
That’s cool. That’s cool. I think that, like you said, this is not something you were forced into, but the pandemic, I think for everybody, has allowed us to slow down, zoom out a little bit and go, “Hey, what is going on here? When we come out of this, what do we want things to look like?” And that’s been true for our businesses, and I know that’s been true for just our personal lives as well. I’ve made decisions to travel less and do more things at home even when we get out of this.

So I do agree. I think again, it’s that, what does this make possible question now. And you’ve definitely tackled that very well. Thank you, Chris, for letting us in on your brain and what’s been going on over the last year and a half or so since the last time you were on, and I just appreciate it. Where should people go if they want to check out some of the things that you have going on, your course and summit when it eventually comes back? Where should people go?

Chris:
Everything Youpreneur-wise lives over at Youpreneur.com. If they want to check out the course, they just have to go to Youpreneur.com/academy. All the info is right there and they can buy in. There’s no open and close scenario, it’s open all the time. And just hit me up on the socials @ChrisDucker. Love to have a chat.

Pat:
Thank you, man. Appreciate you for coming on, as always.

Chris:
Right back at you, bro.

Pat:
All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Chris Ducker. Again, you can find him at Youpreneur.com or his academy at Youpreneur.com/academy. If you want the show notes and resources for this episode, all you have to do is go to SmartPassiveIncome.com/session485. And it will be really exciting to get Chris back on in, I don’t know, maybe another year, we’ll see, to see how things have gone since these major decisions. And I hope that you are able to better manage your decisions moving forward as a result of this as well.

So thank you so much, Chris. I appreciate you. Thank you to everybody who’s listening in. The comments have been so fantastic this year, especially with… The followup episodes too come in Friday. So make sure, if you haven’t figured this out by now, every Friday, we have a follow-up episode to the interview that we have on Wednesday and the follow-ups are on Friday where it’s just you and me. We chat a little bit more deeply about specific things that happen and specific themes and topics that we cover on the interview, and I hope you’ll join me this coming Friday or in the next episode for that.

Thanks so much. I appreciate you. Take care, and as always, team Flynn for the win. Peace.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound design and editing by Paul Grigoras. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess, our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.


Smart Passive Income Podcast

with Pat Flynn

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