In Wednesday's episode with Los Silva from eComPowerhouse, we talked about some of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make. That conversation is a great one, so check it out if you haven't already. And it got me thinking about the mistakes I've made along the way—and I couldn't help but start writing some of them down.
Don't get me wrong—I've made a ton of mistakes. In fact, we could talk for seven to eight hours about all the mistakes I've made in my business.
But this is a follow-up Friday episode, so I want to take fifteen minutes to talk about the five biggest mistakes I've made since embarking on my entrepreneurial career in 2008. I'm not going to talk about the little stumbling blocks, like using the wrong software tool, or things like that. No, today is about the big, juicy mistakes. The ones that can create forks in the road, and really teach you something valuable. We're keeping it to five, but know that there are definitely other big mistakes I've made that didn't make the cut. I've hired the wrong people before … and I have fired the wrong people before. But today we're making a list, and it only has five mistakes on it.
So if you're the kind of entrepreneur who's afraid of making mistakes as you build your business, this might be the perfect episode for you! Here's to the mistakes we all make and what we can learn from them.
SPI 524: The 5 Biggest Mistakes I've Made
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, his home office has the most individual items out of every room in the house put together: Pat Flynn.
So I've made a ton of mistakes. In fact, we could talk for seven to eight hours about just all the mistakes that I've ever made in my business. But today we're only going to talk for about 15, maybe 20 minutes, about five big mistakes. My top five mistakes that I've made since starting my entrepreneurial career, which happened in 2008. I'm not going to talk about the small little stumbling blocks, like using the wrong software, other things like that. And I still continue to make mistakes. I've hired the wrong people before. I have fired the wrong people before. And things like that happen all the time. But these were the five biggest things. And the reason I'm talking about this is, again, welcome to our Follow-Up Friday episodes. Our last episode with Los Silva from EcomPowerhouse in episode 523 was about the big mistakes that entrepreneurs make. And while we were discussing that, and through his lens, I couldn't help but just write so many things down that I made mistakes with that I wanted to share with you today.
So we're just going to get started.
My first biggest mistake, and this is more tactical. We're going to start more tactical and then go more head space. So first big mistake I made in business, this is a big one, is I didn't believe an email list was important. An email list, now, looking back, I realize this was a huge mistake, because having an email list is one of the most important things that you can have. It's a huge asset. And especially today. If you're listening to this and you have a YouTube channel or you have a Instagram following or a TikTok following, it doesn't matter, you have to realize that you are building your business off of somebody else's sandbox. You are building followers within somebody else's platform.
And at any moment's notice... And we've seen this before. I have a lot of friends who built businesses on Amazon, and then Amazon overnight, boom, commissions got cut from 8% to 1% overnight, almost without warning. People who had built businesses on MySpace: done. Right? Gone. People who were on Vine struggling because Vine was dead. And then Instagram Reels came around or Instagram Video, and then they were scrambling to figure things out. And so at any moment's notice this following that you're building could be inaccessible. And that's happened to me, actually, on Facebook, my Facebook fan page. Back when I started, Facebook fan pages were like the thing to build. You build a landing page there, you build a following there. Everybody's seeing every single message. And then Facebook was like, you know what? Even though they are following you, we don't want everybody to see your messages. We're going to use this algorithm to see if people want to respond to your stuff or not.
And I had 150K followers on there, and it basically became obsolete within a couple months. And now it's just like a Yellow Pages, right? Facebook fan pages, Facebook groups are where it's at now, or even bringing people into your own community. All that to be said, you need to build an email list, because when you have an email list, you have business insurance, you have security. The realization that no matter what happens out there in social media, no matter what happens with your followers on somebody else's playground, you are going to have the ability to take your group of people who you've gotten on your email list, because they want to hear from you, they're fans of yours, they know you have value to provide to them, you'll be able to take them anywhere.
The other thing, and this was like a “duh” moment now that I'm thinking about it, with my first business, which was helping people pass an architectural exam, I didn't build an email list. And when I had a product to sell, even though I had thousands of people visiting my website and I didn't believe in an email list, when I finally had a product, the only people that knew that product existed were the people who visited my website that day. If only I had built an email list of people who were interested, and I could've provided some free practice exams or free question examples or something, free study tips or whatever, just to bring people in, and then my guide would've come out, I would've made so much more money, so much more money and have been able to help a lot more people too. So don't make the same mistake as me. Build your email list, right? And there's a lot of resources on the YouTube channel, Smart Passive Income, to do that. You can look me up on... Actually, just go to SmartPassiveIncome.com. You'll find a lot of stuff there too.
That's a huge mistake because your time is valuable. Time is money, right? Time is even more important than money because money you can always make more of; time you cannot get back ever. And it took a lot of convincing. And I want to give credit to my buddy Chris Ducker, who finally got me about this because he said, "You know what? It's start small and start with the biggest pain points you have. What are some things that you wish you could just get rid of every single day that, okay, you're going to have to let go of, but it's going to mean so much more net positive on the other side?" So in 2011, 2012, I finally started experimenting with hiring people in the Philippines, actually, virtual assistants, thanks to Chris Ducker's help through his company, Virtual Staff Finder, to find people to help me with some day-to-day stuff, with some development-related things.
And that was amazing. Especially, this is going to sound crazy, but I hired a developer, a web developer in the Philippines for 40 hours a week for $700 a month. $700 a month for 40 hours. It almost felt like robbery. And I even offered this VA more money and he denied it. He didn't want more money. And I was like, “What's going on here?” And I eventually found out—and this makes sense because I'm actually half-Filipino myself—in the culture, in the Philippines, when you make too much money, you're a target now, and there's a lot of not so great things that happen over there to people who have a lot of money. So he just was comfortable laying low, providing for his family, and was working for me. And he was great. He was doing all the great things on time, and it was awesome.
So I wish I hired sooner because now I have thirteen people who work for me. Twelve or eleven are full-time. I have a CFO and a COO. I have a director of community experiences for SPI Pro. And it's so amazing because we can grow and scale, and there are certain things happening in the business where I'm not even involved anymore. And that feels so great, to find people that I could trust who I can see do things better than I could. The other reason why I didn't start was there was just a sense of pride, right? It was like I felt like I was a failure if I had somebody else touch my stuff. And I didn't even trust people too. That was another big thing that stopped me. I was like, "Oh, I don't trust you to do that, because I have to do it my own way." When I started hiring people, especially for editing my podcast, they would do it faster and better. And I only wish I hired sooner.
And this takes me to my third big mistake in business, which relates to hiring. And that was because I didn't trust people so much, initially, I micromanaged way too much, way too much. Meaning, I paid somebody to help me in my business, and I spent more time making sure they were helping me in the right way than I would've spent if I'd just done those things myself. So it's like, wow, you got to let go. You got to trust. And this is where what's called SOPs are very important. SOPs, or standard operating procedures. I always recommend everybody do everything on their own first because you can get your style, your way of doing things down. You understand how it works. And as you are doing this yourself, you should create, for your own benefit to optimize, to stay efficient with your work, to create your own SOP, an SOP, standard operating procedure, a list of how to do something.
So if you're editing a podcast and publishing it, just have every literal step, one by one, so A, you don't miss an anything, but B, when it comes time to hire, you just hand over that SOP to somebody, and they just have to follow the steps and that's it. And there's less room for error. Now, in the beginning, you will have to talk to people. You will have to do a little bit of micromanaging upfront, but that's more correction management in terms of, "Hey, we don't do it that way. It needs to be done this way," or, "Hey, that was a good attempt, but let's try one more time to see if we can get it right." And then once they get it right, you just back off. You trust them. When they see that you let go and they're getting a little bit more responsibility, that they see that their boss, if you will, or manager, is trusting them, they're actually going to do better work. They have more room.
And then if you empower them to improve those systems on their own, you might find that an SOP you give them, which is 40 steps, and you empower them, you say, "Hey, here are all the things we want to do. If you find a way to do this even faster and better, great. Go and find that and do it." And when you empower a person to figure that out that way, and they find a way to cut 40 steps down to 30, saving all of you time and resources that they can now use to something else, I mean, they're going to feel proud, and you can reward them and whatnot. So I wish I didn't spend so much time micromanaging because I just didn't trust people. You have to let go to grow, right? You have to let go to grow.
Mistake number four is my messy handwriting, because I'm literally looking at my Post-it Note right here, and I cannot read what I'm saying. It looks like camping. Camping was not a mistake. I haven't camped very much. So I'm going to go to number five and see if I... Oh, I know what it is now. I'm actually streaming this live on Instagram. Haven't gone BTS in a while, behind the scenes, so everybody on Instagram Live right now, what's up? Welcome in. We're just going to keep this in because it's raw right now and I'm not perfect, right? This is an episode about mistakes, and hey, we're going to roll with it.
So number four is playing the comparison game. Hugely, hugely distracting, hugely, hugely deflating, and definitely something you shouldn't do, with one exception. Now what do I mean by the comparison game? This means you're paying attention to somebody else in your space. Maybe they recently launched a blog, and you have launched years—a couple years ago, and they get all this notoriety and success. And you go, "Wow. Why them and not me? I've been working even harder. This person just got lucky, and maybe I'm not cut out for this. Maybe I'm not the right person." Or your friend who is in business as well, launches a product, and they make six figures. And your biggest launch wasn't even close to that. And you go, "Man, if only I had your team, if only I had those resources, if only I had a better audience, if only I had a better email list, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
We as human beings, like to find reasons for things, right? So when you play the comparison game and you see somebody else out there who's doing something bigger, better, faster, whatever the case may be, more profitable, we just are programmed to go, "Well, there must be a reason." Oftentimes that reason is self-deprecating. That reason is self-doubt. That reason is now going to turn into procrastination. It's going to turn into us not bringing enough energy into the next launch that we do. It's going to downward-spiral. We have to have a careful balance between who we follow, what we see, and what that means. And you have to realize that when somebody does something great, number one, try to flip the script and go, "Wow, that was amazing. That is possible. They did it. That proves that this is possible." That's number one. Number two, reach out to them and congratulate them. Be a part of that story and see if you can learn from them. What did you do that worked really well? And this is why mastermind groups are absolutely key.
And then number three, you have to remember that they are them and you are you. And when you realize that, that you are on completely different timelines, that they have a certain set of experiences that have led up to that point, a certain set of education, a certain set of circumstances, certain set of relationships, and you have a completely different path. And yes, you are in the same moment of time right now. But when you compare your timeline to somebody else's timeline and all the different variables and functions that were a part of that, it's obvious that these are two completely different things that we're comparing. But we don't see that because we see the two things that are similar. They have a course. I have a course. Theirs is better than mine. They get more customers. I'm not making as much money. I'm struggling. Something must be wrong.
The one exception to all this is the comparison game that you need to play versus yourself. Chris Ducker in the house, by the way. What's up, Chris? Again, we're streaming this live on Instagram while I'm recording and doing some behind the scenes here. Welcome. The one exception to playing the comparison game, and the only comparison game that you should play, is you versus you. You today versus you last week, you today versus you last month, you today versus you last year, you today versus you five years ago. How are you bettering yourself? How are you making improvements?
And even small improvements over time make a huge difference. James Clear said in his book Atomic Habits... James Clear, a good friend, speaking at Audience Driven. By the way, it's going to be awesome. If you're listening to this when this is being published, I'm sorry, Audience Driven has already come out. But check it out. AudienceDriven.co, that's our first event. And it would've already been done by the time everybody's listening to this, except for you who are live on Instagram right now, @PatFlynn, getting the behind the scenes. James says, "One percent atomic improvements compound over time. You get exponential growth." So that's why when I do a second launch, I go, "Okay, what did we do great the first time that we might be able to do even better? What worked so we can try that again and optimize? What didn't work last time so we don't do that again? And what can we potentially experiment with so we can try to make some improvements in things that maybe we didn't even think about before?" So compare yourself to yourself.
And finally, the fifth and final big mistake that I made in my entrepreneurial journey. How do I say this? We entrepreneurs, we have a weird way of doing math. Hear me out. The number negative one is greater than a hundred, than a thousand, in this regard. One negative comment seems to always outweigh the hundreds of positive comments that we receive. And there was a moment in time, back in the early 2010s, where there was a hater, a troll, who was working really hard to get under my skin. And guess what? It worked. He had posted all of his things about me, not just on my blog, but he copy and pasted it and put it on everywhere on the internet, forums, blogs podcast comment sections, where I was featured, to talk about how I was a con artist, a scammer, how I was a fake, these numbers that I was sharing online were completely made up.
And I kept reading it everywhere, and reading the responses and people even agreeing with this person, knowing that that stuff wasn't true. But then also then going, "Well, what if it is true? Maybe he's right," which is totally blasphemy. But in the moment when you have a hater and troll mess with your mind like that, you start thinking things that aren't healthy. And I was feeling very, very, very, very in a deep, deep, dark hole at that point, where I started... I quit. I stopped creating content for a whole month, and I put myself in a hole. One person had that effect on me.
And it wasn't until, and a big shoutout to Derek Halpern from Social Triggers, who said to me, "Pat, every second you're wasting on this hater is a second you're taking away from the hundreds of people who A, have already told you that they enjoy and value what you do, and B, who need you. You are letting them down." And Derek from New York, he's just very straightforward, like that. Very loud, straightforward like that. So I heard him, and he was right. Every second that I was thinking about and wasting on this hater was a second that I was taking away from people who enjoyed my stuff. And that's the weird entrepreneurial math we have. I think that's just people math, is it not? That's just people math. We hear one negative comment, and it completely outweighs all the good stuff that we hear, right?
And so I learned eventually that hurt people hurt people. People who are hurt out there tend to hurt others. And when you receive hurt from somewhere, some person, it can be okay to go, "Wow, there must be something going on in that person's life. I hope they're okay." And that's the position I take now. I try to have empathy for that person, because that person wouldn't say that if things were good. I eventually reached out to this person. Many of you have probably heard this story before, but I eventually calmed down, got back on the saddle, and rode my way to success.
But on the way, I reached back out to this person, I asked him, "Well, why did you do that? That was really hurtful. Don't do that because you can hurt others too." And he said, "Well, I thought it was just an easy way to get traffic to my website." What? I was just disgusted at that point. I was like, "Yo, if you had reached out and said, 'Pat, I need some help. I've been trying really hard to build this business and I need to know how to get more traffic to my website,'" I would've helped him. That's what I told him. I said, "You could have asked me for help, and I would've genuinely helped you do that. And now I don't want to have anything to do with you ever." So at least it's become a great story that I can tell and hopefully share with you so that you don't fall under those same traps.
So we talked about five things, five big mistakes that I have made as a business owner. Mistake number one, not starting an email list soon enough. Number two, not hiring soon enough, and big shoutout again to Chris Ducker for helping me understand that that was actually a good thing, to let go to grow. Number three, micromanaging. When I finally got comfortable with the idea of hiring people, I went all in with just trying to micromanage in a way where it was actually taking more time than if I were to do those things myself. Number four, the comparison game, not cool. It's going to be tough if you compare yourself to others; you got to compare yourself to you previously. And then number five, the weird entrepreneur math, one negative comment outweighing a hundred positive comments. There are people out there in this world who need you, and I hope that you remember that.
So thank you again for listening in on our Follow-Up Friday show. And I hope you enjoy the episode with Los Silva in the previous episode where we go over some big mistakes that most entrepreneurs make. These were the specific ones to me that I know many of you perhaps have made and hopefully can avoid if you haven't yet, but go ahead and listen to that one. We have another episode coming next week for you that I guarantee you're going to enjoy. And thank you. Thank you to everybody watching live on Instagram right now. If you want to follow me on Instagram in case you want to catch me doing this every once in a while, I will be doing it more because it provides a nice space for me to just be on it. Right? Once I turn the camera on, it's like, “Okay, well, I got to record now.” And that forces me to step up. So thank you, and thank you, the listener. Make sure to subscribe, and I'll see you in the next episode next Wednesday. Cheers, peace out, take care. And as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Thanks for listening to this Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.