What to Focus on in a Recession with Brad Morrison

With everything happening during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession, it's easy to panic, cut costs, and coast until this all blows over. But that can kill your business. Instead we need to adapt, and in today's episode, Brad Morrison tells us what his agency is doing to work through what will be a seemingly tough economy. We talk about our experiences with the last recession, what's different, and what you can do to adapt.


How A Podcast Can Replace A Live Event

Events are some of the best ways to learn, network, and engage with a community of people. With most in-person events being cancelled for the foreseeable future, we’re looking for a replacement – someplace to learn, grow, and meet new people.

Virtual Events seems to be the most popular, and they’re fantastic! But they also take a lot of work. Replacing, or at least supplementing, your event with a podcast could be a big, long-lasting win for you, your speakers, your sponsors, and especially your attendees.

Read More “How A Podcast Can Replace A Live Event”

Grow Your Business with a Mastermind

Sponsored by:

Let me just tell you right off the bat: my business has grown from my mastermind group. And Ken Wallace…well he really knows what he’s talking about. If you need some extra business support (especially now), you’re not alone. In fact, Ken has bet his own business on it.

In this episode, you’ll learn what a Mastermind Group is, how it works, and some ideas for conducting one. There’s a little something for everyone, so let’s dive in.

Show Notes

View on separate page Ken Wallace: I don’t know about you, but I live out pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If I pan the camera over, you’d see cattails and swamp land and deer. I can’t go down to my local mom and pop coffee shop and see 16 entrepreneurs on their laptops, and I’m not going to my co-working space. I work from home, and I have a day job, so it’s very isolating to work on a business. Especially a virtual mastermind, where you can get onto a webcam and talk to other entrepreneurs, it’s so freeing to be able to just get that feedback and to have that sounding board.   Intro: Hey, everybody. Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about a free resource that you can get over on HowIBuilt.it. That is a PDF of 5 Tools to Help You Build Websites Faster. This podcast is focused on helping you grow your business, and there’s no better way than helping you with the right tools for the job. Whether you are a web developer, a site builder, or you have your own business where you want to focus on content, these tools will help you. You can head over to HowIBuilt.it/168 and fill out the form to get that free PDF. Again, that is HowIBuilt.it/168. All right, now on with the show.   Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 168 of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Let me tell you right off the bat, and my business has grown from my mastermind group. Ken Wallace, he knows what he’s talking about. If you need some extra business support, especially now, you’re not alone. In fact, Ken has bet his own business on that fact, and in this episode, you’ll learn what a mastermind group is, how it works, and some ideas for conducting your own mastermind group. Of course, Ken will tell you about Mastermind Jam, where he helps facilitate mastermind groups. We’ll get into all of that and more, and there’s a little bit of something for everyone, so we’re going to dive in. But first, let’s get a word from our sponsors.   Break: This episode is brought to you by Ahrefs. Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset that solves that problem. It gives you the tools you need to rank your website in Google and get tons of kind of content to create or what’s ranking best in Google, or anything SEO-related, Ahrefs has been instrumental in increasing traffic to my website over the holidays. I had my best quarter for affiliate income because Ahrefs showed me my most popular pages and topics, and I was able to optimize my content and my gift guides and update them accordingly. I would have never updated one of my gift guides because I didn’t think it was that popular, and Ahrefs showed me it is my most popular page. Ahrefs makes competitive analysis easy as well. Their tools show you how your competitors are getting traffic from Google and why. You can see the pages and content that send them the most search traffic, find out exactly the key words they’re ranking for, and which backlinks are helping them rank. From there, you can replicate or improve on their strategies. Now, as I said, I don’t think I’m getting significant search traffic, so I use Ahrefs tools to help find topics worth creating pages or content for. I can easily see estimated search volumes and gauge traffic potential with their keyword explorer tool. It’s been a fantastic addition to my toolkit. Just this morning, I learned that My Everyday Carry post has been popular, and lots of people are coming, so I think it’s time to update that because it’s five years old. If you want to gain a following or just improve traffic to your website, Ahrefs is the tool for you. You can get a 7 day trial for $7 dollars over at Ahrefs.com. That’s Ahrefs.com for a seven day trial for $7 dollars. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked. Again, that’s Ahrefs.com for a seven day trial for $7. Now back to the show.   Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Ken Wallace, he is the founder of Mastermind Jam, and we’re going to be talking all about mastermind groups today. Ken, how are you?   Ken: I’m doing great. How are you?   Joe: I am fantastic. We have not seen each other since Cabo Press 2018, I believe. Is that right?   Ken: That’s right. Getting sunburn in the pool in Cabo.   Joe: Yes, absolutely. This past Cabo Press, a few people, myself included, got food poisoning. Or we got some kind of food malady, and I think I got the easiest of it. I know a few people were down and out for a couple of days.   Ken: Oh, no.   Joe: I don’t often sunburn, so I don’t handle sunburn very well either, though. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about sunburn and food poisoning, and we’re here to talk about mastermind groups. I wanted to have you on the show because a theme of this season is how freelancers and small business owners can grow their business to the next level. I’ve had people on talking about vetting clients and building your email list, etc. At least my mastermind group has been instrumental in helping me grow and consider new things, so we’re going to talk about mastermind groups today. But first, why don’t you talk about who you are and what you do?   Ken: Hi, I’m Ken Wallace, I’m the founder of Mastermind Jam. I help online entrepreneurs, online business owners, talk to one another about their business.   Joe: Nice. So, Mastermind Jam. I should definitely know this because we’ve talked about this, but it’s a place where you facilitate mastermind groups, right?   Ken: That’s correct. I help match founders into mastermind groups, and these are peer-led, peer-driven mastermind groups. Then I give them support for the entire lifecycle of the mastermind journey, so from finding a group or creating a group all the way through– The platform has built in video conferencing and meeting tools, and each group has its own private dedicated room where they can track notes from meeting to meeting, and they can keep track of their progress toward the goals that they committed to during their meetings all right there in their private room. Then I also help them with the lifecycle of the group, as people’s circumstances change they might need to leave a group or join a different group, and I help with that whole process of advertising vacancies in a group and onboarding new members and allowing them to curate the group continuously over its life.   Joe: That’s incredible. As somebody who has been in a couple of mastermind groups now, those tools, if you’re not sure, those tools are incredibly helpful. Having a room with persistent notes, we’ve had a couple of people leave our current mastermind group. Trying to find somebody to replace that person that’s a good fit, somebody who we think we can trust, but perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. How would you define “Mastermind group?”   Ken: A mastermind group is just, in a business sense, there’s a lot of different ways that people can use mastermind groups. But today we’re talking about business mastermind groups. They’re simply a group of entrepreneurs who are joining together with the purpose of helping each other accomplish their goals, so it feels like a very generic general term, but it’s a really powerful concept where everybody’s there for one purpose. That’s “All ships rise in the high tide, everybody in this room and everybody in this meeting, we’re going to help each other succeed.”   Joe: Yes. Like you mentioned, there are different types of mastermind groups. I’ve been part of a couple of health mastermind groups that we’re not necessarily as successful because accountability over the internet once a month was not something that worked out as well. But for the business mastermind groups, the way we’ve treated ours at least is we lay it out all on the table. We’ve signed a nondisclosure agreement so that we know that we can be completely open with our income, our expenses, our concerns, our future plans. Then the other members give good, constructive feedback.   Ken: That’s right. That’s exactly how these mastermind groups run as well, everybody who joins Mastermind Jam agrees to confidentiality and also to take responsibility for their execution. That has two phases. First of all, you’re going to be getting a lot of feedback about your business, and some of it is actionable advice, and you might rush off to test something in your business. So you own those consequences, good or bad. You realize that maybe you should test on a small sample of your email list before implementing that suggestion, and those kinds of things. Also, we celebrate wins together. So as long as everybody’s executing on the vision, executing on the feedback they’re getting, everybody’s there to support you.   Joe: That’s great. Why would–? Let’s start here. Why would I, as a small business owner, want to join a mastermind group? Who would I look for to be in my mastermind group with me? Should I find my friends, or should it be people I don’t know that well who I’m going to get to know? What are the mechanics of that?   Ken: The first thing that I suggest entrepreneurs looking for a mastermind group is you need to survey your network first, not your friends, not your family, maybe not people at your church or your community, but your network of other entrepreneurs. If you’re a local chamber of commerce or you go to a lot of conferences, or you do a lot of local meet ups, like Meetup.com and that kind of thing. The people that you met face to face, the entrepreneurs that you know, who of those are in a similar revenue level to you running a similar business with the same momentum that you have? If you have a group of people that you know personally already, reach out to those people, absolutely reach out to those people first. Some of the best mastermind groups that last the longest are those groups that meet locally. They go out for a beer every other Tuesday night, and they talk about their businesses open and honestly. Those kinds of groups are really hard to come by, though. A lot of people come to Mastermind Jam because they don’t have that network. They don’t have that long rolodex of other entrepreneurs that are a similar revenue that they can reach out to. A lot of them have been frustrated because they try the obvious things first. The first thing you’re going to do is you’re going to go onto a Facebook group, and you’re going to make a post in an entrepreneur group that says, “Who wants to be in a mastermind group with me?” Those groups tend to always fail, and if they even go to a first meeting, they very rarely have multiple meetings. Their reason is, first of all, the Facebook algorithm just keeps pushing the newest post to the top, and it’s pushing your post down. Second of all, the first or second response that comes into that post, if you even get a response, influences the next responses you get. If somebody who is totally not qualified to be in a group with you answers first, other people are going to look at their responses and judge the makeup of the group even if you haven’t said yes. The same problem occurs if you go to a discussion forum or a Slack group where you’re asking people, “Who wants to be in a mastermind group? Raise your hand.” You’re skipping a crucial step, and that’s the very foundational step of curation. Your group has to be well-curated, so you can trust the people that you’re in the group with. You can be transparent and open and honest with them and get the right kind of feedback. You can’t just take anybody who signs up. I always tell people, “If you don’t have the deep rolodex if you don’t have the community that you can just email somebody or reach out to somebody and say, ‘What are you doing Saturday? Let’s talk about business.’ A mastermind group can start with two people, and then you add three or four to it. If you don’t have that deep bench, then I suggest you pay attention to curation. If you’re going to go to other platforms that you know of other entrepreneurs, make sure you curate the people that are coming to you. Give them an application to fill out at the very least, ask the uncomfortable question of ‘What’s your revenue?’” We can say, just top line gross monthly revenue. What was your gross revenue last month? You don’t need to get into net and profit and things like that right off the bat, but you just need to get an idea of “OK, this guy’s in e-commerce. I’m in e-commerce. This guy’s in SaaS, and I’m in SaaS. This guy does info products, and I do info products.” Or “This person hasn’t even started yet. They don’t know what they want to do. They haven’t made their first dollar online.” That’s right where I’m at, so maybe this would be a good fit. But once you start mixing, you’re going to have bad times. Once you have– I always tell people, “Why would I want to be in a mastermind group with Mark Cuban? Why would I want to be in a group with, say, Rob Walling?” Because they’re at such a revenue level that I would not be able to offer anything to them. I would be constantly taking in the relationship and never giving.   Joe: Gotcha. So, you answered a question I was going to ask. Which is, “Why is it important to be at similar revenue levels, similar momentum, similar business?” And it’s so that you can each learn off each other. Like you said, if we were in a mastermind group with Mark Cuban, we don’t have anything to teach Mark Cuban probably. At least as far as growing his business.   Ken: Right. What questions would he asks of us?   Joe: Yeah. Like, “How do I sell an e-book?” He has somebody to do that.   Ken: Yeah.   Joe: It would just be us basically being mentored by Mark Cuban, which I’m sure he charges just a lot of money for.   Ken: Which is a valuable thing, by the way, if he offers that. Buy that course, buy that workshop, buy that mentorship. But don’t– That’s not a mastermind group.   Joe: Right, in a mastermind group, there is coaching and mentorship, of course, our mutual friend, Chris Lema, does that. But it’s not the same. Your mastermind group should be people who, like you said, that you can work with and grow off of. Let’s say you have that mastermind group of, I’ve seen, you said it could be two people but is there an optimal–? I have a number in mind, but is there an optimal number for a mastermind group?   Ken: The groups that I put together tend to stay between three and five, usually never more than five. Four is the sweet spot, and some groups just really prefer three people because they can get a meeting out of the way in an hour. Other groups, four people is the sweet spot because sometimes family comes up and one of them has to miss, but they still have enough people to make it productive. That varies from group to group based on your situation and where you’re at in business and where you’re at in life. But for the kinds of groups that we’re talking about so that everybody has a chance to weigh in, try to stay under five.   Break: Today’s episode is brought to you by Smile and their product TextExpander. Save time typing and boost your productivity with TextExpander. You know I’m all about automation, and TextExpander is a great way to get started with automation. It allows you to create your own snippets for repetitive text that you tend to use everywhere. Add the text, create a snippet, and boom. Save precious time and keystrokes. One of my favorite snippets is for my address. Instead of typing out my full address and risking typos, I simply type “$ADDR,” and TextExpander does the rest filling in my full address for me. I also have snippets for my street, my city, and my zip code. But that’s not all TextExpander does, with its advance snippets you can create fill-ins, pop up fields, and more. You can even use JavaScript or Apple script. Another one of my favorite and most used snippets is when I type “PPT.” That will take whatever text I have on my clipboard and convert it to plain text, so I’m no longer fighting formatting when I copy from a word document, a Google Doc, or a plain HTML page like a website. I also use it for common links, email messages, which I can completely customize with fill-ins and drop-down menus, and even date calculations. I’m currently writing a book, and TextExpander has been instrumental with that. TextExpander is available on Mac OS, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad. So, pretty much anywhere you do computing. If you’ve been curious about trying TextExpander or automation in general, now’s the time. As a listener, you can get 20% off your first year, just visit TextExpander.com/podcast and let them know How I Built It sent you. That’s TextExpander.com/podcast for 20% off your first year. And now, back to the show.   Joe: We’ve also changed our format a little bit. Are there a few different formats that you recommend? Is there one that you found works for you as far as how the meeting is run?   Ken: I’ve found that the same formula works every time. In that, the meeting format depends on what meeting it is. For example, if it’s your introductory meeting, first time you’ve ever met with these people, you’re going to do what I call “The round table,” where everybody is going to go around and have a fairly equal amount of time to talk and evaluate each other. That might happen for the first two or three meetings, where you’re just each taking fifteen minutes of the hour to talk about what happened to your business. Then before the meeting wraps up, you’re going to make sure to set a goal for the next meeting. But fairly quickly after that, within a month of being together, you just start scheduling hot seats. That gives each person time to go deep on their business. Because it’s frustrating if you’re having these meetings, you’re settings setting aside time out of your life to have these meetings, and you’re not going deep, what’s the point of all of it? The hot seats let you feel heard. Those things that you wish that you could talk to your spouse about that it’s just really weighing on your heart, my wife will give me a blank stare as she is stirring a pot or something like that, or helping kids with homework. I’m just the jerk that walks up and starts talking to her about Facebook ads. The mastermind group is probably a more appropriate place for that, where if it’s my turn on the hot seat, I could spend 30 or 40 minutes going deep on just one specific hurdle or issue or decision that I’ve got coming up. I’m not going to dump my entire business at the feet of my mastermind group, but for that hot seat, I can go over one topic and get good feedback on that one topic. And it may not even be, “I don’t know what to do. Give me advice.” A lot of times in a mastermind group, especially in a hot seat setting, you’re getting just feedback. They’re a sounding board. You might have laid out the three decisions, or the three options that you have in front of you. You’re at a fork in the road in your business, and you’ve got three paths to choose. You’ve already– Your heart is telling you which way to go, but you don’t have the confidence in that decision because you don’t have experience with it. So you weigh all the pros and cons in front of your mastermind group, and they’re going to tell you exactly what’s on their mind and their experience with that. It could be, “You’re right. You had the right gut feeling about this. Go forward with that and stop hedging,” or it might be, “You got the totally wrong take. You missed this fourth path. You haven’t thought this through.” So that’s the value of the mastermind group. It’s not always– It’s not a workshop, it’s not buying a course. It’s feedback as well as advice.   Joe: Yeah, it’s people helping you think through some decisions that you need to make. Not in an echo chamber, and not just you necessarily going with your gut.   Ken: Right. It’s so valuable just to have that sounding board, because a lot of the time– I don’t know about you, but I live out pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If I pan the camera over, you’d see cattails and swamp land and deer. I can’t go down to my local mom and pop coffee shop and see 16 entrepreneurs on their laptops, and I’m not going to my co-working space. I work from home, and I have a day job, so it’s very isolating to work on a business. Especially a virtual mastermind, where you can get onto a webcam and talk to other entrepreneurs, it’s so freeing to be able to just get that feedback and to have that sounding board.   Joe: Yeah, for sure. I live outside of Philadelphia. We have a couple of active meetup groups, so I certainly could do that, but most of the time, I am recording courses or podcasts. I can’t go to a co-working space or a coffee shop to do that, so I am more often than not at home too. So that mastermind group is personal interaction with people who understand my business. Like you said, I’ll talk to my wife, and she’ll be like, “That sounds nice.” She’ll listen, but it’s like when– She’s a nurse, she tells me about a very long word that I don’t understand, and I can’t offer her advice. Like, “Maybe you should have did this other procedure? I don’t know.” Absolutely super important. You mentioned that the hot seat format is a good one, so that’s basically each meeting is given to one of the members with maybe quick updates on your goals or whatever from the others.   Ken: That’s right. So everybody says hi, gives a quick update on what the progress was on the previous goal statement from the previous meeting, and then right into the hot seat. At the end of the meeting, still people state their goals, that’s just leave 5-6 minutes at the end so everybody can go around and say a goal. Leave little time for some pushback if you say you’re going to solve world hunger or something before the end of the meeting. Don’t drop any weird bombs like that, but that’s exactly right. You might find that the group oscillates between a round table, just a check in, just an accountability. We’re still plowing through, but it’s just yet another week. We’re on week 10 of the year, and we’re still doing the thing, and that’s the update. I don’t have a hurdle, and it’s just more of managing my team or writing the blog posts or whatever it is that you’re facing that week. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from hot seats and just go back to round table because you still get the accountability. You still get that look in the eye from other people to know that they’re still with you.   Joe: Absolutely. We’ve even used ours as a way to– Like, we’ll pick a topic to talk about that’s learning or whatever.   Ken: Yes. That’s the pro level, that’s the next advanced level. I was just going to get to that.   Joe: I’m sorry to steal your thunder, so maybe you can elaborate a little. You’re definitely going to elaborate better than I was going to.   Ken: There’s two more formats that I encourage, so the first one was the round table and the second one was hot seat. The third format is the topic based format, where we focus on a specific topic area for the meeting. That can be anything like I’ve had groups that will do a Zoom call like this, and they’ll share a screen, and they will watch or a YouTube video together of Dan Martelle or whatever, and they’ll discuss it. Or almost like a book club thing, where it’s like “Let’s just get a clip, 10 minutes of this thing, and let’s discuss how it applies to each of our businesses. What are our takeaways from there?” That’s the third one. The fourth one is, actually if you get to a point– Mastermind groups often get to this point where no one has the answer for the thing that you’re struggling with, and especially because you’re all at the same revenue level and you’re all working on a similar thing, and you’re all peers, sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind. But there’s an outlet for that. The outlet is not to invite Mark Cuban to be part of your group, but it’s to go out and get a coach for that issue. Invite them and go to Clarity or the Mastermind Jam coaching marketplace, or GrowthMentors.com or any number of other avenues where you can hire a coach, split the costs up three or four ways among the people in your group, and now it’s a lot more affordable, but you’re getting hands on actionable advice about that issue in each of your businesses. Do the coach together, do the coaching call together, and share a screen. “OK, this is what my Facebook ads manager looks like. Can you help me through this?” Or, “This is what my Stripe dashboard looks like right now. Can you help me figure out the coupon issue I’m having?” Or whatever the hands on thing is that you’re going through in your business, hire a coach and find a good coach that can help you through that and work out a plan. Get your mastermind group on that call together so you’re each learning from each other’s hurdle because if member two is not at that same hurdle today, they might be tomorrow, and vice versa. That same coach can give everybody feedback around the group and really, it’s a great way to get a hands on expert input into your business without going full bore into mentorship or hiring a business coach or having a team of consultants come in and swoop in and tell you how to fix things. It’s a lot more affordable, but it’s also a lot more specific than going and reading blog posts or buying a course. There’s nothing wrong with blog posts and courses and workshops, but sometimes they’re general, and they have to be because if you’re teaching a workshop, you’re in front of a room of 100 entrepreneurs, and you have to fly at a higher level. You don’t have time to take Janet aside and Jim aside and Bob aside and Jamal aside and help them with each of their struggles. If you hire a coach to come into your group, now you’ve got them for one meeting to give you a plan of action, and then maybe you wait two or three weeks, and you hire them to come back for a follow up. And say, “Dan, I did what you told me to do, and this happened. That was great, but this other thing happened that I wasn’t expecting. How do I work through that? What’s your advice?” That working relationship is also baby steps into getting you into a mindset where you’re coachable, where someday you can hire that business coach and get a lot more out of it. But in the short term, you’re definitely just clearing hurdles, pushing hurdles out of the way. You’re not letting anything stand in your way.   Joe: That is fantastic. That last one never really crossed my mind, because a good coach can be a few hundred bucks for an hour or more.   Ken: Yeah, way more   Joe: Several hundred bucks.   Ken: I think you and I both know one that goes for about $3,000 an hour.   Joe: Right.   Ken: Wherever you start as far as monetary price if you just need help with your Google ad, that might be a little less expensive than somebody giving a strategy to launch your two sided marketplace. Whatever it is you’re struggling with, find a coach appropriate for that but try to be specific for the call so that you can fit it into two hours or one hour, or whatever it might be. Then split that cost up. In Mastermind Jam we have a coaching marketplace where you can just click on a coach and click “Book,” and everybody in your mastermind group can each pay for their portion, so you don’t have to figure out who pays for it and who gets paid back, and all that stuff. But if you don’t– If you’re not in Mastermind Jam, that’s fine, if you’re doing this on your own just go to Clarity.fm, Growth Mentors, there’s a number of these things where you can hire a coach to take a look at what you’re doing.   Joe: That’s fantastic. Until you mentioned Clarity and Growth Mentors specifically, I’ll put those in the show notes for this episode, which you can find over at HowIBuilt.it. But let’s talk about Mastermind Jam now, we’re about halfway or more through this conversation. We’ve got all the setup, we’ve got how to find a mastermind group, how to structure it. There are certain tools around building a mastermind group. I pay for Zoom every year, essentially for this, but also for the mastermind group. We use Google Docs to manage our goals and things like that, but Mastermind Jam offers all of that in one suite of products. Is that right?   Ken: Yeah. You basically, all you have to concentrate on is finding the right group for you and then all of the rest of that housekeeping stuff, the secretarial stuff is taken care of. There’s a place to track all your notes, from meeting to meeting you can cycle back through them to see “What was it we talked about last week? What was that link?” You can see each other’s notes, there’s goals so you can see each other updating their goals and accomplishing their goals. Mastermind Jam acts as the nanny of the group, so Mastermind Jam follows up with each member between meetings to make sure they’re on track to accomplish their goal by the next meeting. It’s like “Joe, you committed to having that one blog post done by the next time we talk. You’re meeting in three days. Are you on track for that?” Which is important, so you don’t waste your group’s time if you got a hot seat coming up to talk about a goal that you haven’t even started on. So you can give people a heads up, “Does anybody else want to take this hot seat? Otherwise, let’s just reconfigure the next meeting for a round table.” Then when you’re in the call, it’s just a button click away. You just click, “Join the meeting.” You’re in the meeting just like you and I are talking, but it’s in your browser. There’s a lot of– Mastermind Jam is not novel in-browser videoconferencing, there’s a ton of those up here or whatever, but it’s built into the Mastermind Jam platform. You don’t have to have another tab open, and you don’t have to have a tab for your meeting and a tab for Google Docs and all this other stuff, it’s just right there. You don’t have to take your eyes off the screen, so as I’m looking for you, I could be typing in my notes because it’s right under the people talking. My goals are right under the people talking. The date and time of the next meeting is right under the people that are talking. There’s a meeting countdown timer, so it keeps track of how much time each person has spoken for during the meeting and how much time is left in your meeting. Without being too militaristic about it and turning off people’s microphones after fifteen minutes or whatever like that, it tries to gently enforce the format of the meeting, but it’s also flexible. These are all settings, so if our round table talks are 25 minutes a person versus the other group likes to go fifteen minutes a person, you can just set that all up in the meeting settings. Or if your hot seat sessions are 45 minutes a person with five minutes for each other person, just put it in the settings and away you go.   Joe: Yes. That’s great, especially if you don’t have somebody in the group who is in charge of that. We just lost our person who is in charge of that, and so I am very distractable, and I’m not great at running meetings. I’m good at being the class clown of the meeting. So having a tool like that would be hugely helpful.   Ken: I can’t take everything off the table. Like, you still have to go to the meeting and turn on your camera and talk. There are some people, that’s already a deal breaker. They don’t want to– I’ve had people try to sign up, but they don’t want to upload a profile photo, they don’t want to be on camera. All right, we’re going to have problems here. Here’s your money back. If you can do what you and I are doing right now, then you’re a great fit for Mastermind Jam because you just turn on the camera and talk, and let the housekeeping stuff be done by the system. Nobody has got to be in charge, and nobody has got to be the secretary. What happens when that person is sick or leaves the group or whatever? It’s just a hassle. Nobody wants that burden. This is also flexible for groups where one person is type A and wants all that control. I try to be flexible, but still provide the tools to eliminate all the hurdles, because the bigger hurdle is keeping progress going from week to week. That’s what you should be concentrating on, and you shouldn’t be thinking about the Google Doc. Because for your mastermind group outside of Mastermind Jam, if you wanted to know what your meeting notes were from three meetings ago, you’d have to stop and think about it a little bit. Right?   Joe: Yeah, right.   Ken: I’ve heard some people that just have one Google Doc for the life of their mastermind group, they just keep adding pages to it, so you just have to scroll up. Problem is, at the start of the meeting, you’ve got to scroll down and get a new page. Anyway, I’m trying to make this better. Just make it better, but also be there for the life of the group. A lot of people are like, “Why would I pay for this? Because I can find entrepreneurs.” The other thing is, we try to make it easy by just eliminating all those– We just give you the table stakes but also, people forget that these groups have a lifespan. You’re not going to be with the same group– Usually not usually for six or seven years, and the average group is 18 to 24 months. So what happens when member number four has a baby and stops working on their business? We liked having four people in our group, let’s post on a vacancy for that seat. But don’t just let anybody sit down on that seat, this isn’t like an online poker tournament. I want to be able to vet. OK, now I’ve got six people applied to be in that seat. The platform gives you, compared to going to Best Buy and comparing video cameras. Again, when you sign up, you’re filling out a profile so you can compare your profiles and see, “Would this person be a good fit? Do their strengths complement our strengths and weaknesses? What about their revenue? What about–?” All these things all the way down to personal questions like, “Do they have a day job? Is their business bootstrapped, or is it VC funded? Are they married, do they have small kids running around?” Not that it matters other than it gives you a feel for how much momentum they can make month in and month out on their business, like a kid just who is just eating ramen and sharing an apartment in San Francisco with six other entrepreneurs are going to make tremendous progress vs. you and me. We’ve got kids and lives, and it’s not that one is better than the other, it’s just that you just got to know and match up.   Joe: Your time is naturally divided unless you just ignore your family, your time is divided between a couple of things vs. right out of college. I would work all hours of the night on my business doing whatever because it was fun or whatever, but now I want to go to bed at 10:00 because my daughter woke me up at 6:00.   Ken: Right. Then there’s messaging involved in all that too, so if you just want to reach out to an applicant and ask him a question about something you saw on their profile before you accept them, you can do all that. It’s all visible to the other members of the group, too, so everybody has a chance to weigh in and think about it and consider the applicants to your group.   Break: This episode is brought to you by Creator Courses. Do you feel confused and overwhelmed by the amount of tools to help you build websites? Are you worried that you are not using the best tools for the job? Do you feel like you ought to spend more time building and less time researching? Like you, I thought I needed to learn every tool, language, and platform under the sun to be a good web professional. As somebody who’s been doing this for 17 years, I can now tell you– You don’t. Creator Courses offers short, focused courses, tutorials, and webinars to help you learn the right tools quickly. Then you don’t have to waste any more time researching, and you can get back to producing billable work, confident that you’ve made the right choice. Now you can access all of those resources by becoming a Creator Courses member. You’ll be able to take any course we offer, including member exclusive mini courses on how to use specific tools. You’ll also join a great community, and listeners can get 15% off the already low price by going to CreatorCourses.com/Build. Spend less time researching and more time building. Visit CreatorCourses.com/Build today.   Joe: That’s truly fantastic. To be honest, I thought that was the main part of Mastermind Jam. I feel like I should have known all of the other parts because we’ve talked about Mastermind Jam. There was an offer–   Ken: It’s been a couple of years since we talked about it, and frankly–   Joe: Yeah, that’s true. There was a [inaudible] Cabo Press alum too.   Ken: Yeah. The other thing that Mastermind Jam has, there are a couple of competitors out there that simply offer a meeting room for your mastermind group. So I can give you a URL for a place to go, and if you don’t need all the stuff I’m talking about, that’s fine. If you just want a one stop shop place with a video chat and some note taking ability, there’s an app for that. Another thing that Mastermind Jam does that’s better than the competition is it helps you get answers, and it helps you make relentless progress on your business because you’re getting answers. So we have– If you come up empty in your group for an answer on a hurdle that you’re facing like I said you can hire a coach. Mastermind Jam has coaches built in, but you can also invite a coach from outside of Mastermind Jam to just sit in a meeting or two. You can invite external people into your group for a short term basis. They don’t have to become members or any of that stuff, and it’s just a deep link. The other thing that we do is we have a community. When you update your recent wins or recent hurdles in your business, the whole community season, they see it right there on a community dashboard. When they log on, they see it in the weekly newsletter, and people can celebrate with you. If you’re having a hurdle that somebody knows how to fix, they can reach out to you even if they’re not in your group. People can show support in a number of ways through the entire community, and then there’s a discussion forum as well. So if you have a topic that you want to discuss before you go out and hire a coach about it, maybe it’s something simple with taxes this year or something, and you want to know how other people are handling it in their business. You can post that topic and get answers from other entrepreneurs in a discussion forum. The nice thing about that is, unlike Facebook, unlike LinkedIn or other discussion forums, when somebody answers, you can click on their profile and see all those same facets as if they are applying to be part of your group. You can see, and you can vet the nature of this answer. “Does this person have a background that suggests they know what they’re talking about in this respect?” That’s a lot that’s missing from anonymous social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Even LinkedIn, there are some things you aren’t going to put on LinkedIn that I ask about as part of Mastermind Jam.   Joe: Yeah, that’s great. With Twitter, I’ve made this mistake more than once where I’ve asked an accounting question and expected only accountants to respond, but it’s like “This is what I think.” And I’m like, “Why are you qualified to even answer that?” That’s truly fantastic. It’s almost like you have your classroom, which is your mastermind group, and then you have the entire school campus.   Ken: That’s right.   Joe: Which you can also interact with, and that’s cool. Then like you said, you have a list of coaches, lots of really great people on this list of coaches. I see Chris Badgett, former guest. John Doretti, former guest. Big fans of those guys and everything they’re doing. So like you said, it’s more– Mastermind Jam is more than just a meeting room. It’s a community of other entrepreneurs, which is the real value proposition there. That’s great. We are coming up on time here, so I do want to ask you if somebody– If we have convinced somebody today to start a mastermind group, what are the first two or three things that they should do to get started? I think you alluded to this earlier, but just one, two, three. Here’s what you need to do if you want to start your own mastermind group.   Ken: If you want to start your own mastermind group, first of all, go to MastermindJam.com, and in the blog, I have a list of questions that you can ask people that you are interviewing to be part of your group. I have questions that you should ask somebody if you’re joining a group that already exists, and then I have another 11 questions that you should ask if you’re starting your own group from scratch. I give those away for free. It’s not a big deal. If you’re wanting to put together a group of your own and the questions are ranked by priority, you can put together a Typeform or a Google Form and ask people that are applying to be part of your group these questions, and then you could vet them on your own. So you could go and post your application in your favorite Facebook group or your favorite discussion forum and get people to apply to be part of a mastermind group with you, and then if you’re smart, then you can give back to your community for the extra people that you don’t want in your group. Offer to match them to each other, introduce them to each other and see if they want to take the next step, even if they’re not a good fit for you karma is on your side if you help them find what they’re looking for as well.   Joe: Nice. I found that article or that three part series. I will link to that again in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it. If somebody does want to start a mastermind group today, maybe what is one question that they should ask themselves as far as “What do I want to get out of this?” Should they have a specific goal in mind, or should it just be “I want to grow my business?”   Ken: They need to ask themselves, “Am I looking for a blueprint? Am I looking for someone to take me by the hand and show me the way? Or am I looking for someone just to get feedback from and bounce ideas off of?” Because if you’re looking for the way, if you’re looking for the plan, if you’re looking for the blueprint, I’m sure you can suggest a lot of courses and workshops that people can take part in. A mastermind group isn’t necessarily going to give you what you want there, even if you found some way to convince Mark Cuban to join your mastermind group. That’s not going to give you what you’re looking for. But if what you’re looking for is a sense of community, a sense of being heard, a sense of being able to talk over an issue with a group of people that understand you and what your goals are and what your business is doing currently and you don’t have to reintroduce yourself every time that you have this conversation. You can pick up where you left off last time. If all of that sounds great to you, then a mastermind group is perfect for you. No matter if you make it yourself or go through Mastermind Jam or one of my other awesome competitors. I think a mastermind group definitely can work for you if you’re looking for that feedback.   Joe: That’s fantastic. Because they definitely do serve two different purposes there, so that’s great. If you want to start your own mastermind group, I will link to MastermindJam.com to the group formula, the three part series. You should ask yourself if you’re looking for a blueprint. Somebody to show you the way, because that is a different relationship than what a mastermind group is, which is “I want feedback and ideas, and I want a sounding board.” That’s fantastic. Ken, I appreciate you coming on the show. I do need to ask you my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?   Ken: I think the number one secret that’s shown itself to me in the last five years is that the product that you’re selling isn’t necessarily the product that you’re selling. People may be coming to you to buy something that may be different than what you envision in your head as what you’re selling. So you have to understand your customers better to understand what the outcome is that they’re looking to get when they buy your product. That influences the way you price your product and the way you position product, and the way– The language you use everywhere you talk about your product.   Joe: I love that. I think that’s fantastic. Because even in software, the way I build my software products might be different from the way people use it. They might use it in a way I would have never thought of.   Ken: That’s exactly right.   Joe: That’s fantastic. What a great trade secret to end on. Ken Wallace, thanks so much for coming on the show. Where can people find you?   Ken: They can find me on Twitter. I am @Boaticus on Twitter, long story on that handle. Or Ken@MastermindJam.com, I am happy to answer your emails and answer your questions.   Joe: Awesome. I will link to those two things and everything we talked about in the show notes, once again, that link is going to be over at HowIBuilt.it. Ken, thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate it.   Ken: Thanks, Joe.   Outro: Thanks so much to Ken for joining us today and for imparting such great knowledge. I am 100% stealing some of those ideas. My favorite was splitting the bill to have an expert or a coach spend an hour with your mastermind group, so you’re taking that price, and you’re dividing it by the numbers in your mastermind group. Which I think is just fantastic. Then I will link to everything that he talked about, starting your own and how to find him and all of that, over at the show notes on HowIBuilt.it. You’ll also be able to find a link to a free PDF or a way to get a free PDF for how to build websites faster. So definitely check all of those out. Thanks to our sponsors, Ahrefs and TextExpander. I’ve been talking about them for a long time now, and I’m just such a big fan of both of those products. I use them every day, so definitely stop by and tell them I sent you and thank them for their support of this show. Thanks so much to you for listening, if you liked this episode be sure to leave us a rating and review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Until next time, get out there and build something.  



Making The Most Of Your Podcast Guest Spot

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to get on someone’s podcast. Congrats! Now you have your first podcast guest spot lined up. You’re set to provide value for a ready and willing audience. But being a podcast guest is about more than just talking. While you shouldn’t be going on just to hawk your wares, you should be ready to help listeners learn more about you. Here’s how.

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Automating to Save Time and Money: My Automation Toolkit

In August 2018 I was challenged to automate more. Now, nearly 2 years later, I’ve removed myself from core processes because of it. I’m saving lots of time, which allows me to focus on the important parts of my business. While I’m always looking to improve, I’m happy with what I’ve implemented so far.

In this solo episode, I’m going to tell you about how you can start automating, how I automate, and some of my favorite tools.

View on separate pageJoe:Automation is like an employee I pay a pittance to. For a very low monthly fee, it saves me hours of work I’d need to spend performing tasks I personally don’t need to do. See, the goal of your business should be to focus on that tasks that only you can do, and outsource the rest (though I guess the big goal for some is to make it so you don’t actually need to do anything except manage). A great way to start on this journey is through automation. In this solo episode, I’m going to tell you about how you can start automating, how I automate, and some of my favorite tools, but first I want to tell you about our first sponsors,ahrefs.

Sponsor: ahrefs

Break:This episode is brought to you byAhrefs. Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset that solves that problem: it gives you the tools you need to rank your website in Google and get tons of search traffic. As someone who struggles with what kind of content to create, Ahrefs has been instrumental in increasing traffic to my site. Over the holidays, I had the best quarter for affiliate income because it showed me my most popular pages and topics. I was able to optimize and update accordingly. Ahrefs makes competitive analysis easy: their tools show you how your competitors are getting traffic from Google and why. You can see the pages and content that send them the most search traffic, find out the exact keywords they’re ranking for and which backlinks are helping them rank. From there, you can replicate or improve on their strategies. Now, I’m not getting significant search traffic, so I use Ahrefs’ tools to help to find topics worth creating pages or content on. I can easily see estimated search volumes and gauge traffic potential with their Keywords Explorer tool. It’s been a fantastic addition to my toolkit. If you want to gain a following, or just improve traffic to your website, Ahrefs is the tool for you. Get a $7 7 day trial over at ahrefs.com. that’s a-h-r-e-f-s.com for as $7 7-day trial. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked. And now, back to the show.


Joe:In August 2018 I was challenged to automate more. Now, nearly 2 years later, I’ve removed myself from core processes because of it. I’m saving lots of time, which allows me to focus on the important parts of my business. While I’m always looking to improve, I’m happy with what I’ve implemented so far. But before we get into my automation toolkit, I want you to start thinking about what you can automate. I’ve come up with a list of questions you can ask yourself.

Ask yourself if a person needs to do the task.

There are lots of things we can do that a computer can do for us. If you’re manually doing something you don’t need to do, there is a great opportunity for automation. A few examples are:

  • Automatically pulling expenses into your accounting software. FreshBooks and other accounting apps will usually have this built it. I put all of my expenses on my AmEx, and FreshBooks imports them for me.
  • Sharing to Social Media. Plugins like Social Web Suite will allow you to share to Facebook (pages), Twitter, and LinkedIn upon publish. And of-course, there’s Buffer for auto-sharing.
  • Sending emails. I send emails based on events like when a proposal is accepts, an invoice is paid, or something is added to specific folders in Dropbox. You should make a list of everything you do in a day and determine if a computer can do it. Then start implementing some simple automation.

Ask yourself if you personally need to do it.

This is a little automation, and a little hiring out. But you should determine if some of the tasks you’re doing are tasks you absolutely need to do. If not, either automate, or off-load. A perfect example of this is my podcast episode workflow:

  • I record and put the pieces in Dropbox – manual
  • My editor gets an email that a new episode is ready for edit – automated / hired
  • He uploads it to the Transcription folder – hired
  • My transcriber gets an email that a new episode is ready for transcription- automated
  • That episode gets uploaded to my audio host, Libsyn – automated
  • I add the episode to WordPress (manual, but I don’t need to do this so I should automate or hire a VA) Hiring is something that can seem daunting. Automation much less so. What you should do now is make a list of everything you do that a computer or other person can do for you.

What Can I Automate?

I’ve determined that anything that requires multiple apps to talk to each other can be automated, so long as they allow for that sort of thing. I should need to manually put expenses into FreshBooks. I shouldn’t need to upload a file from one cloud service to another. I shouldn’t have to manually backup files to other drives on my computer. So the next step is to take that list and find tools that will let me connect the right dots. Here are a few great tools


Zapier is an integral part to my automation process. It works with so many other apps and tools. Lots of WordPress plugin developers integrate with it too. They also support writing Code directly into an automation, if I want, and so much more. They have a free tier, but I pay for the next level up. It’s well worth the $25/month I pay. For ideas, there’s also their Automation Inspiration.


One place Zapier falls short is device automations, like iOS, Alexa, and Android. This is where IFTTT shines. I’m using a combo of Zapier and IFTTT to do things online and then send reminders to my phone. For example, when I scan a business card into Evernote, I get a reminder 3 days later to follow-up with the person.


TextExpanderis a cross platform app that replaces text snippets. It allows me to compose emails from 3 characters, and makes sure I never typo a URL. It also works with with some variables/scripting languages to do some truly cool things. They also happen to be a sponsor of this show. I reached out to them because I was such a big fan. They’re also sponsoring this episode, so let’s learn a little more about them.Break:This episode is brought to you byTextExpander. Save time typing and boost your productivity with TextExpander. This entire episode is a love letter to automation, and TextExpander is a great way to get started. It allows you to create your own snippets for repetitive text you tend to use everywhere. Add the text, create a snippet, and boom. One of my favorites is my address. Instead of typing out my full address and risking typos, I simply type $-a-d-d-r and let TextExpander do the rest. This is all without special app-specific plugins. Do it anywhere you type. But that’s not all it does. With its advanced snippets you can create fill-ins, popup fields, and more. You can even use Javascript or AppleScript. Another one of my favorite (and most used) snippets is p-p-t. It will take whatever text I have on my clipboard, and convert it to plain text. No more fighting formatting! Plus, if you work with employees or contractors, you can use TextExpander to manage and share snippets with them, so you all get it right, every time.. They also host interestingwebinarsevery month, and this month they’re hostingwebinarsfor beginners, so now’s a great time to get started. TextExpander is available on macOS, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad. If you’ve been curious about trying TextExpander or simple automation in general, now’s the time. Listeners can get 20% off their first year. Just visit textexander.com/podcast and let them know I sent you. Now back to the show.

Siri Shortcuts

I love Siri Shortcuts, and I grossly under-use it. It’s an app on iOS that lets you connect apps and actions to voice commands, and it’s fantastic. My favorites are my packing list automation, and my project-based automations.


Hazel is an interesting Mac app that lets you automate folder actions. I’m currently using it to manage my hard drives- delete files, move things around, and even move files into cold storage.

How I’m Automating

So you have some processes to think through automation, and some tools (links to everything on the show notes page at https://howibuilt.it/167/). With that, let me tell you about some of the processes I’ve automated that I’m most proud of:Automating Saved Links with Pocket And Zapier: Back before I decided to start automating more, the way I would compile my newsletters was to save links to Pocket and then on Monday mornings, scour them for what to share, create the links, and sum up the stories. I also had to be careful that I didn’t share the same link two weeks in a row. It was a lot of work. And then I realized that I could save myself a lot of trouble by using Pocket to automate not only my newsletter, but social sharing as well. I have a full write up on this one, but basically I set Zapier up to process stories in Pocket based on tag. If the tag is newsletter, it gets added to an Evernote for my weekly newsletter. This along saves me about 40 minutes every week.Automatically Scheduling Podcast Guests with Calendly and Zapier:This is a complicated automation that also has a video/blog post. But it all starts with Calendly. A guest books a show, and they get a calendar invite + Zoom link. An Evernote note is created from their responses, which serves as the basis for my show notes. Then a record is created inAirtableso I can place that guest in the schedule. All the while they are getting reminder emails, and a follow up after the interview.Move Old Video Files to Cold Storage:I’m a pack rat, but that directly conflicts with my need to save hard drive space when it comes to video files, which are HUGE. So I have a Hazel script that runs every night to check my Videos folder. If the file hasn’t been opened in 30 days, move it to my NAS, which serves as cold storage.Create Invoice from Accepted Proposal:The last one I want to tell you about is one I though was particularly clever. I use Nusii for my proposals, and FreshBooks for my invoices. When a proposal is accepted, I have Zapier kick off and create an invoice based on the proposal, pulling client, product, and pricing information. THEN, based on the type of proposal accepted, a welcome/onboarding email is automatically sent to the client. All without me having to do anything. It’s a fantastic way for me to make sure I communicate properly with my clients, without having to do a time consuming, often repetitive task.

Wrapping Up

So those are some of the interesting tasks I’m automating. Others include recording payments and expenses, sending emails, social sharing, and other smaller tasks. But I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. If you’re interested in following along in what I’m automating, I have a whole series over on Casabona.org. I do have another automation for How I Built It, using a plugin I custom coded. If you want to learn more about that, you can join my email newsletter. You’ll get a free PDF, link to the code, and more. To do that, and for all the show notes, go to https://howibuilt.it/167/. If you liked this episode be sure to leave a rating and review in apple podcasts. Thanks so much to ahrefs and Text Expander for sponsoring. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.



Using Podcast Sponsorships To Replace Event Sponsorships

This may seem a little bit like news jacking, but it is something I’ve been thinking about over the last week. With the amount in-person events being cancelled or going online due to COVID-19, is there another good outlet for brands to reach new customers? While digital events are the next likely option, I think podcast sponsorship can serve as a fantastic alternative for a few reasons. Here are what brands and podcasters can do to help fill the void.

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Automatically Scheduling Podcast Guests with Calendly and Zapier

Booking podcast guests can be a mess without the right tools. Missing one step can mean a bad recording, forgotten instructions, and unprepared interviewers. That’s why I’ve automated my entire guest booking process. I don’t forget anything, and I make sure guests are ready to record. Here’s how I do it.

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