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Paid Search Drives Kuru Footwear to 2021 Success

I first interviewed Sean McGinnis for this podcast in November 2020. He had recently arrived at Kuru Footwear, a direct-to-consumer shoe manufacturer, as chief marketing officer, with big plans to grow the business.

The results are in for his first full year: He’s now president of the company, and sales are booming. “We don’t disclose our financials,” he told me, “but I can say we’re growing, we’re bootstrapped, and we’re profitable. 2021 was very, very healthy for us.”

Among McGinnis’s first moves was to reorient and streamline Kuru’s paid search campaigns. He and I recently discussed those efforts and more. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: You are now the president of Kuru Footwear. Congratulations!

Sean McGinnis: Thanks very much.

Bandholz: You’ve expressed an interest in Kuru expanding to brick-and-mortar. Is that still a possibility?

McGinnis: Yes. It’s on the roadmap, but not this next year. We have much online growth in front of us first. My goal is to open our first retail store in 2024.

We are focused on the long game. We’re trying to grow rapidly but also responsibly and profitably. Kuru’s a private company. We don’t disclose our financials. But I can say we’re growing, we’re bootstrapped, and we’re profitable. 2021 was very, very healthy for us.

That’s unlike many of the DTC darlings, as I call them, the ones that have gone public and are losing money.

We’re focusing on the bottom of the funnel. Imagine that you’ve got foot pain, you’ve got plantar fasciitis or similar, and you search for foot pain solutions. We bid on those keywords in Google and Bing. Those are major revenue drivers for us. The other big driver is our email list — selling to existing customers, repeat purchases, things of that nature.

We split our paid search into two channels: branded and non-branded. Each aligns with the three categories or funnels on our site: types of foot pain, specific activities (such as hiking), and work-related.

The third category, work-related, is important to us. Many jobs require workers to be on their feet all day or walk on concrete — think delivery drivers, warehouse workers, retail employees, food service staff, nurses, healthcare, teachers.

So those are the three areas with focused keywords that we’re buying, which drive prospects into micro-funnels on our site.

Bandholz: 2021 has been painful for Beardbrand. We essentially pulled off Facebook. We need to refocus our marketing strategies. Bottom-of-the-funnel search acquisition we’ve never done. Where do we begin?

McGinnis: I have two schools of thought. First is the generic name, such as “beard,” “beard lotion,” and similar. You’ve built an incredible brand, and you’re using the generic term in your name. So your branded search term of “Beardbrand” is likely more expensive because you’re suddenly competing against generic phrases.

I would look for an agency that you can trust and pay as little as possible to get started — unless you have a capable person in-house. Start small and build up.

Set a target marketing efficiency ratio (MER) or return on ad spend (ROAS). That’s how we manage our campaigns. We look at blended rates for MER and ROAS. When we’re more successful in free channels, it empowers us to spend more in paid. Every business is different, however.

About 50% of our paid search revenue comes through our branded channel and 50% through non-brand. But non-brand is 10-times more spend. There’s much more competitive pressure on those keywords. Amazon, New Balance, Allbirds, you name it — they’re in our space.

When I arrived at Kuru a couple of years ago, I terminated the company’s agency and hired an in-house person with paid search experience. Then I hired another paid search employee, who I knew from a previous position, to restructure the whole account from the ground up. She came in with her team. Within five months, they had everything rebuilt. In my experience, a restructure about every two years can do wonders.

Bandholz: What about affiliate marketing?

McGinnis: We’re going to try an agency to build out our affiliate network. If that doesn’t work, I’ll assign it to an in-house employee to give it the attention it deserves. We may create a separate email account with my name on it, and that employee could do outreach to the publishing houses. We’re happy to offer free products to their editors, so they will know we’re a legit company. That’s the current plan. We’ll see how it works.

Bandholz: Returning to paid search, what are your ROAS expectations for non-branded ads?

McGinnis: We are measuring it. We want it to return better than one, but we’re willing to accept less than that, too. Again, we look at blended ROAS for branded and non-branded.

It boils down to being oriented toward growth or efficiency. If you’re oriented for efficiency, every single deal has to be profitable — every sale, channel, ad group, keyword. But if you look at it in a blended way, which we do, you tolerate inefficiency to achieve growth. That’s our view.

Bandholz: We’ve long relied on a single post-purchase survey question: How did you first hear about Beardbrand? We list all of our marketing channels on the survey. Then we’ll essentially prorate that number into our revenue for an attribution model. We’re trusting customers to answer accurately.

McGinnis: We have a similar survey, but we haven’t yet baked it into our data. Growth requires a willingness to take some risks and experiment. Where can we spend money? What are the right messages? How can we get our brand in front of nurses, health care workers, teachers?.

Bandholz: The growth you’re seeing from demand capture is incredible. I suspect there are untapped channels for Kuru, such as Amazon.

McGinnis: That and, also, brand awareness. I’m convinced we’ll eventually advertise on television, radio, and billboards to raise awareness. Our CEO is fond of saying he wants to be the biggest brand you’ve never heard of. If you’ve got foot pain, he wants to be in your face, so to speak.

Bandholz: That’s clearly evident. Your success speaks for itself. Where can people connect with you, learn more?

McGinnis: I’m on Twitter — @SeanMcGinnis. Our website is KuruFootwear.com.

TikTok Marketing Is Hard Work

Marketing a brand on TikTok is harder than it appears. Hours of video footage could result in mere minutes of useful content. Editing is tedious and time-consuming. Ryan Magin, the founder of Viral Edits, an agency, knows the difficulties firsthand.

He told me, “I got started making videos about BMX training and selling DVDs out of my backpack. I put my face on camera. I understand what it’s like to get destroyed in the comments, to have insecurity.”

Magin’s experience includes a YouTube channel that focused on men’s fashion. From there, colleagues and friends asked him for video assistance. That gave rise to Viral Edits, which he launched roughly two years ago to produce mainly TikTok and Instagram videos for companies and influencers.

He explained in our recent conversion the challenges of repurposing video, hiring skilled editors, software tools, and more.

Our entire audio interview is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about Viral Edits.

Ryan Magin: We’re a digital marketing agency focusing on videos. We launched a couple of years ago, just before the pandemic. We went from zero revenue to half a million dollars in the first year. We work with brands and influencers on, mainly, TikTok and Instagram, improving their video presence.

Bandholz: A bit of disclosure for our listeners. Beardbrand’s been working with you for about a year. You manage and produce our TikTok account.

Magin: We work with a lot of brands. I prefer working with companies such as Beardbrand that have a constant stream of content coming in. You’re doing multiple videos on YouTube every week. You understand good content.

There’s a misconception that TikTok is easy and of lower quality. I disagree. It requires quality cameras, good filming, good setups — versus just using a phone. It’s a lot of work.

Beardbrand has a mountain of content on YouTube. We find the gems and repurpose them. We film directly for clients, too.

For repurposes, we have two people working on accounts simultaneously. One is watching videos; the other is editing. It’s a streamlined system. It’s been fun.

Bandholz: I love your help-wanted job description: “Come work at my company and watch YouTube all day.”

Magin: It’s a difficult position to fill. I’m trying to hire somebody that understands videos and marketing, but all she’s doing is watching YouTube videos. It’s mind-numbing. If you don’t stay attentive, you’re going to miss the 3-second clip that we’re looking for to build our video around.

That’s the secret. We find the most polarizing thing done or said in a video. Normal video editors can’t do that. Most people can’t watch a video from a marketing perspective and realize, “That’s the hook.”

We’ve streamlined the whole thing. Two of us do most of the time stamping. There are a lot of legalities. If we post the wrong thing or take something out of context, it could negatively tarnish the brand.

Bandholz: How do you pay your video editors?

Magin: We’ve tested a few approaches. It’s typically a base salary for a number of monthly videos. Every editor starts with two clients. Each client represents about 25 fresh videos a month and five reposts. We do reposts because a video that pops one time will pop many more times.

So the average editor does around 50 videos a month. Most of our edits take about an hour each. Most people don’t realize how time-consuming it can be. I’ve edited videos for six hours each that are 30 seconds long.

Our base salary starts at $1,200 per month for about 50 videos. We scale up the pay and incentives from there. If you’re doing 100-150 videos a month, you’re full-time, and it’s based more on performance. Editors receive a $100 bonus for every video that receives 1 million views.

However, we’re constantly testing incentives, performance, and pay.

Bandholz: You’re doing what no other agency does. You’re watching the content, understanding it.

Magin: Most agency owners have never been in a video. I have. I got started making videos about BMX training and selling DVDs out of my backpack. I put my face on camera. I understand what it’s like to get destroyed in the comments, to have insecurity.

Bandholz: How do you make sure clients are a good fit and will see success on TikTok?

Magin: At the end of the day, we focus on what we can control. We want every video to be successful. We’ll ask ourselves, “Is this the best video we can produce with what we were given?” We especially like working with clients who have big followings on YouTube, say 250,000 followers.

TikTok is hard to monetize. It’s the Wild West. TikTok delivers massive exposure, however. So I tell potential clients, “You’re probably not going to make much money on TikTok. But if you want to grow fast and get a lot of exposure from people who care about your brand, then TikTok’s for you.”

But I can’t guarantee an ROI. So I try to be upfront and say, “Let me grow your company as fast as possible, and then worry about the money later.”

So I look for the clients that are not in it for quick profit. They want longevity, brand exposure.

Bandholz: Let’s talk about software. What do you use to edit?

Magin: I use ScreenFlow, a screen recording software for Mac. They have a PC version called Camtasia. When I started, with no employees, I used Adobe Premiere Pro. I had ScreenFlow for screen captures.

Then I started using it for editing because Premiere would crash once or twice during the day. I’d get the spinning wheel of death on my computer because I was maxing out the storage.

So I deleted Premiere from my computer and started using ScreenFlow for edits. It’s less bulky. It strips everything down to the basics. You can’t have anything fancy on TikTok, anyway, because it’s too fast.

I don’t care what employees use — the big three are Final Cut, Premiere, and DaVinci. But if you want to get faster, use ScreenFlow.

Bandholz: How can people reach out to you?

Magin: Instagram is best — @ryanmagin. I love talking on the DMs there. On TikTok, it’s @ryan.magin.

‘I Like Starting Things,’ Says Serial Entrepreneur

Peep Laja is a launcher. Having arrived in Austin, Texas, 14 years ago from Estonia, he launched CXL, a conversion optimization firm that morphed into e-learning. Then he launched Speero, a consultancy, and then Wynter, a SaaS platform for B2B buyer intelligence. All three are thriving.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” he told me. “I like starting things. It’s not like I needed more. It just comes. Plus, my strengths are not spreadsheets and operations.”

He and I recently discussed his journey. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: You’ve founded three businesses.

Peep Laja: Yes. About 10 years ago, I started CXL as a conversion optimization agency, and five years later I added an e-learning arm. Then we spun off the agency into Speero with CXL focused on training. Two years ago I started Wynter, which provides customer intelligence to B2B companies.

I have no active role in Speero other than being on the board. I’m all in on CXL and Wynter. On Wynter, I’m tactical, hands-on. On CXL I’m more strategic — where are we going?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I like starting things. It’s not like I needed more. It just comes. Plus, my strengths are not spreadsheets and operations.

When the business gets to a certain size, other people far better than me can run it.

While I focus on CXL and Wynter, it is hard mentally, the content switch.

Bandholz: I’m trying to start a new brand for grooming and beauty. Moving from a strategic to an execution role is challenging. I’ve seemingly lost my ability to run a calendar, show up on time, and respond to emails.

Laja: Right. Life has seasons. When I started CXL, I stayed up late writing blog posts, hustling, putting in the hours. I now have two kids and a wife. I have less time. I try to work smarter.

I feel frustrated with Wynter. The business is in the early stage. There’s less money and resources. I sometimes roll my eyes with the technical stuff I don’t want to do anymore. I’m tired of writing blog posts.

Bandholz: How do you avoid starting a project that becomes a money suck?

Laja: It’s hard. It’s always a bet, a gamble. It’s easy to get caught into the comparison trap of looking at other startups and how fast they are growing. With Wynter, this is year one for us. We’re going to do $450,000 in revenue in 2021. For a first-year bootstrap, that’s a solid start.

So it’s essential to manage my inner game and not compare to others.

Bandholz: You’re from Estonia.

Laja: Yes. I moved here in 2008. I’m here because I fell in love with a girl from Austin. I was an entrepreneur before that. I was already making money.

I’ve been here now long enough to forget many of the differences between Europe and the United States. Both have a similar Western culture. So it was an easy transition.

The main challenge was language. My previous businesses were not in English. I was big in Estonia. I had built a business in Panama. And when I came to the States and started my Conversion XL blog in English, it felt daunting. But I got over it.

Bandholz: You mentioned delegating operations. How do you know when to do that, and how do you find the right people?

Laja: CXL was initially a consulting company. Then I got tired of consulting. I was looking for a way out.

So I surveyed our email list, asking, “What else could we sell to you?” They said, “Courses and training.” That’s how we started with e-learning. It was a new challenge.

The company had middle management, so to speak. It could survive my departure. My co-founder has different skills from mine. His strength is operations. He was running the ship.

It’s a similar dynamic with Wynter. I have heads of growth, operations, and product — all manage teams.

So the day-to-day execution is run by others. The key steps are having functional heads in place that you trust. I try to nourish and promote from the inside. Somebody who’s showing promise, who’s proactive — those are good signs.

Bandholz: Many entrepreneurs sell the business rather than transition to a strategic role, such as a board member. But you’ve opted to keep Speero.

Laja: It’s a matter of comparing the two options. An agency is not easy to sell. Plus the valuation is typically based on EBITDA — operating profits, essentially. But agencies are not very profitable. A 20% margin is excellent. A really good agency gets 5-times annual EBITDA.

So you crunch the numbers and realize it’s not a lot of money. I’m not opposed to selling, but the business needs to grow to make sense.

Plus it’s a cash cow. I’ve ended up with three businesses from CXL’s profits.

For SaaS businesses, $10 million in annual recurring revenue is where multiples get more generous. A $2 million company can go under tomorrow, but $10 million is more solid.

Bandholz: Let’s talk about optimizing ecommerce conversions. Beardbrand is an upper seven-figure business. Our conversion data is always muddy. How do we know when to trust the data versus making gut-feel decisions?

Laja: It depends on the decision. Changing your positioning and your brand is huge. It’s the future of the company. You need your own data and market signals to decide. Certainly a founder’s intuition is important.

But a micro issue, such as optimizing a product page layout, is purely data-driven because you can measure every click, every scroll.

I like what Jeff Bezos at Amazon has popularized regarding how fast to make decisions. It’s a two-by-two matrix. One axis is how reversible the decision is. The other is the impact. A decision that’s irreversible and high impact takes slow deliberation. But a reversible, low-impact issue can be decided quickly.

Bandholz: What are your sources of inspiration and learning, beyond Bezos?

Laja: Earlier in my career, I read ferociously. I’m now much more careful where I get my information based on what’s important to me.

For the last year, I’ve been nerding out on strategy topics. I’m focused on studying network effects because Wynter is essentially a two-sided marketplace. I’m reading Andrew Chen’s book, “The Cold Start Problem.” It’s very relevant to the challenge at hand.

I’m also consuming more micro-content — Twitter and LinkedIn — for SaaS stuff. I follow Jason Lemkin, the SaaS community founder and venture capitalist. He’s everybody’s favorite; the guy is brilliant.

Bandholz: Before this interview, you mentioned that LinkedIn was driving significant volume.

Laja: Right. My LinkedIn content drives 90% of the demo pipeline for Wynter. It’s all organic. Every day I post on Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s mostly the same content. On Twitter, it’s more casual, and I post there more often.

On LinkedIn, it’s once a day. My strategy is to drive a narrative, a point of view, and express what I believe deliberately and carefully. It’s very effective. It’s written content. That’s what LinkedIn users prefer versus video. I talk about positioning, messaging, differentiation, go-to-market strategy.

Wynter is a B2B buyer intelligence tool. I’m opening people’s eyes to look at problems through a new lens.

Bandholz: Where can people learn more about you, follow you?

Laja: Twitter and LinkedIn are best. Or visit CXL, Speero, or Wynter.

MarketerHire Exec on Freelancers, Content, SEO

Tracey Wallace is a writer turned content marketer turned SEO pro. She was the head of BigCommerce’s content team and now serves a similar role for MarketerHire, a marketplace for freelance marketers, which launched in 2019.

In our recent conversation, she addressed the post-Covid workforce, the benefits of hiring freelancers, and, yes, how to drive traffic with content marketing.

Our entire audio interview is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: MarketerHire has grown dramatically.

Tracey Wallace: Yes, we’ve grown an insane amount. I’ve been there for about a year and a half. I was the only full-time marketing staff initially.

MarketerHire is a marketplace for freelance marketers. When I joined, the primary marketing tactic was ads; they are still important for us. But I was brought in to build organic search traffic, which is my background. I’ve done it for several other B2B companies.

We’re trying to grow our marketing team of five employees and seven freelancers. We use freelancers from our network. But we still need in-house talent, so we’re hiring product marketers, copywriters.

Bandholz: Everyone is looking for marketing help now.

Wallace: Right. So many people have quit their jobs. In August, the number of people in the U.S. who quit their jobs was the highest in 20 years.

It’s scary for business owners. Larger companies can throw more money, more benefits. But it’s expensive for the small guys. We recently interviewed over 600 marketing leaders and found that many are hiring freelancers. They still need work done.

There are a lot of freelancers; many have more credentials than internal employees.

Hiring freelancers can be cheaper, too. But it requires careful onboarding and project scoping. Even marketing leaders that hire freelancers don’t always know the size of a project.

Bandholz: We’ve shifted a lot to freelancers at Beardbrand. The beauty of hiring freelancers is getting someone one day a week who’s specialized, such as social media, video editing, or copywriting. That’s all they do, and they love it. Whereas one person in-house may love social media but hate blogging or video work.

Wallace: Right. That’s the challenge sometimes with early full-time hires. Early on, you need folks to do a lot of things. But as it scales, the business requires specialized expertise.

Bandholz: Let’s revisit organic search. What are the strategies to execute that successfully?

Wallace: We could do a two-hour-long podcast on organic search strategies. People often ignore it because it takes time. Marketers are not typically patient. We can put money behind a Facebook ad and see quick results. Organic search takes six months to a year.

That’s a lot of money for businesses to invest without seeing an immediate return. I worked at BigCommerce for four and a half years. I was the only content marketer for three and a half of those years. That’s nuts. Shopify, on the other hand, had a bunch of people working on it. HubSpot invested in it very early.

The best advice I can give to any small business interested in growing organic search traffic is to post one article a week — even once a month. And write about your own expertise related to your business.

Do a quick Google search on your topic. There’s a ton of search-engine-optimization tools to help. But Google itself will provide information just by searching. There’ll be 10 articles on page 1. Look at those, especially the top five. Read them.

At the bottom, Google has “Related searches.” Copy those suggestions and drop them in a Google Doc. Google also includes similar questions in search results, called “People also ask.”

Click on those questions, and more pop up. You only need three or four questions. Drop those in a Doc, too.

Then look at what you’ve just collected. Start to formulate the kind of questions to answer and what people are looking for. Those questions should be headers in your article — HTML headers such as an H2.

Then write the answer in your own voice below the header. You could even use CopyAI or Jarvis.

Bandholz: What are CopyAI and Jarvis?

Wallace: Those are new copywriting tools. I’m not sure how much they cost. I’ve tried them and a few others.

I’m a writer. It’s not challenging for me to produce content. I’m not a fan of the copy the tools produce.

But if you aren’t a writer, those tools can help. Insert a topic such as how to build a bike. Then choose your tone, voice, other variables. You could insert entire outlines, and the tools will write articles for you.

It’s all based on artificial intelligence, not human writers. But you can edit it and copy and paste it.

So if you are struggling to publish one monthly article, try an AI tool.

Bandholz: So the strategy for SEO is developing content around the products you’re selling.

Wallace: Yes. I use an SEO platform called Ahrefs. I prefer it over Semrush. A lot of people prefer Semrush. I’ve used Ahrefs my entire career.

Go to Ahrefs and enter your home page URL at the top. It will show the number of keywords your site already ranks for. For each keyword, Ahrefs lists the search volume.

Ahrefs also provides a keyword difficulty score — 1 to 100, with 100 being the most difficult. If you’re new to content marketing, ignore the higher scores and focus on the lower ones.

Look for keywords with a high volume that you’re already ranking for, even just a little bit, and with low keyword difficulty. Then go to that page on your site and improve it — add content or improve what’s there. You can pretty quickly start moving up.

Google rewards sites that update pages.

Bandholz: Beardbrand has around 1,000 articles. A lot of them haven’t been touched in years. How do we update them?

Wallace: You’re in a good spot with 1,000 older articles. Again drop each article URL into a tool such as Ahrefs. What keywords are they ranking for? Most probably aren’t ranking for many.

Then figure out which URLs are the strongest — ranking for the best keyword or getting the most traffic. Then rewrite that article and combine all related blog posts into one using 301 redirects. Google likes long-form content.

Try to update the top articles once a year, if not every six months. You don’t always need a huge update.

And include pictures by all means. Put the keyword in the image name. It’s super important. You can even hide keywords back there. Tools such as Clearscope will tell you what keywords need to be in your article for it to rank the highest. I highly recommend it.

Sometimes you can’t fit all the keywords in an article. I include those in my picture names.

Bandholz: Let’s address email collection? Do you recommend popups?

Wallace: Well, I hate popups as a consumer. I’ve always hated popups. But they work so well.

If you want to collect more email addresses, a popup makes sense. Just know that some people will despise the website because of it.

I like what some brands are doing with SMS, where they solicit text messages on their Twitter profiles or their website or even packaging. Consumers text the brands. As a shopper, that does not feel like it’s in my face. It doesn’t feel desperate.

Bandholz: At Beardbrand, we encourage folks to text “Style” to a phone number, and we’ll provide style advice.

Wallace: I love it. I think it’s genius. I’ve seen cooking brands say, “Text ‘Recipe’ to this number, and we’ll send you recipes.”

It’s genius. The brand didn’t spam me. I asked to receive the info. I’m not annoyed. Plus it’s easy to opt-out.

I should add that I don’t know how it’s working for brands. But as a consumer, I like it.

Bandholz: SMS is killing it for everybody now. Merchants need to get on that train before it gets crowded, like email.

How can listeners reach out to you?

Wallace: I’m on Twitter — @TraceWall. I’m active there. It’s my main place. MarketerHire is on Twitter, too —  @MarketerHire. The website is MarketerHire.com.

Subscriptions, Books Drive Man Flow Yoga

In 2012, Dean Pohlman was a collegiate lacrosse player who had taken up yoga. It so improved his on-field performance he began teaching the workouts to teammates. That led to DVD recordings, which led to a YouTube channel. He called it “Man Flow Yoga.”

Fast forward to 2021, and Pohlman is a global authority on yoga instruction for men. He’s written best-selling books on the topic and conducted hundreds of in-person classes. Man Flow Yoga is now a website with a thriving, on-demand instructional program driven by paid subscriptions.

He and I recently discussed it all — selling books, acquiring subscriptions, and more.

Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Take us back to the early days of your business.

Dean Pohlman: The first thing I sold was yoga t-shirts. I had a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. From there, I started selling one-off exercise programs — four workouts for $20.

Then I wrote ebooks and sold them on Amazon and my own website. I partnered with a DVD company called Body By Yoga. That was a great decision because the producer had experience working with DVDs. He understood how to make a product successful on Amazon.

Those DVDs still sell well. They’re in the top 50 of exercise and fitness on Amazon — two are consistently in the top 10. I planned to publish as much content as possible, so people would ask, “Who’s Dean Pohlman, and what’s Man Flow Yoga?”

Then in 2016, we launched a member’s area on our site with streaming videos — an on-demand Netflix-type deal for yoga workouts. After receiving the first subscription, I realized, “This is a business. It’s going to work.”

But I was also doing a lot of other things. I did yoga classes at Zilker Park here in Austin. I taught private lessons and classes at gyms. I was spread out. Eventually, to simplify, I told folks, “It’s all online in my members’ area.”

Bandholz: Walk me through that decision.

Pohlman: I realized that online training was performing well. Plus, it wasn’t fulfilling doing an in-person class and having just one or two people show up. I had to market in-person classes just as much as the online versions. It wasn’t a good use of my time.

The other part of that is I love creating something with longevity, such as an on-demand class.

Bandholz: Being in the fitness-from-home niche, Covid must be a boon for business.

Pohlman: Yes, it is.

Bandholz: How do you acquire customers?

Pohlman: We created a landing page called Free Yoga Workout — free workouts for men. We directed a lot of Facebook and Instagram traffic to that page via advertisements.

The message on the page was heartfelt, “None of us can exercise in person. Here are a bunch of free workouts. Use these instead of your normal yoga classes. If you like them, sign up and get access to all my material.”

We were already on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Despite the ads, over 60% of signups to the free workouts found us through organic search on those channels.

We finally started a funnel where we sold a six-week challenge for $9. We then sold those folks into the full members’ area. That converted at roughly 20% — one of five of the $9-challenge customers ended up as a full member.

We also offered download access, which was $50 instead of $9. About one in six people purchased that option. It helped cover our acquisition cost, which was about $20 to get somebody to sign up for the $9 challenge. It was the first time we had a lead magnet that consistently converted people profitably. We recouped the acquisition costs in about seven weeks.

Many people signed up early in the pandemic, not knowing where their next in-person yoga workout would come from. Our conversion rates doubled during that time.

Bandholz: You told me recently that men practice yoga differently than women.

Pohlman: Right. Men use the upper body more. Women tend to use hips and core. Women are more flexible. Instruction is different for men and women.

Bandholz: Which leads us to your beautiful book in front of me. Is this a printed version of an earlier ebook?

Pohlman: No. It’s unique content, much different from my previous efforts. My first book was an ebook called “Yoga Basics for Men.” The second was a printed book, “Yoga Fitness for Men,” published by DK, the U.K.-based media company.

Those were introductory books focused on how yoga made sense for men.

The new book is “Yoga for Athletes.” It teaches how to improve athletic performance with yoga.

Bandholz: How did you partner with DK?

Pohlman: I love books. Writing a book and having it published was a thrill. DK reached out to me in 2016 through my YouTube channel. I jumped at the opportunity.

DK wanted a non-spiritual yoga-fitness approach for men. That’s what I do. I control the content creation process, suggesting topics and approaches — questions to answer. I used a Ryan Holiday book, the “Perennial Seller,” as inspiration. He’s also the author of “The Daily Stoic.”

“Perennial Seller” addresses how to create evergreen content that lasts for years. A part of that is realizing new books compete with decades-old releases.

With “Yoga for Athletes,” I reached back to DK, asking if they wanted to publish another book. They said, “Yes.”

Bandholz: What does a book deal look like?

Pohlman: DK designs the book and creates the layout, artwork, and overall flow — all based on my content.

DK also distributes the book — retailers, bookstores, Amazon — and promotes it. I had interviews in newspapers and magazines. It was featured in Men’s Health, for example.

As far as money, there’s an advanced royalties payment, which I pay back by hitting sales milestones. I keep whatever royalties remain after the payback.

Bandholz: How can listeners follow you and reach out?

Pohlman: Our website is ManFlowYoga.com. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

‘Modern Wisdom’ Is a Media Sensation

Chris Williamson is a modern-day polymath with a fitting podcast. It’s called “Modern Wisdom.” Launched in 2018, it has experienced a whopping 30 million downloads across 400 episodes.

He told me, “We talk about human nature, marketing, philosophy, life, life hacks, biohacking, fitness, health, pretty much everything.”

The podcast appears on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, among other portals. He’s on leading social channels, and he’s started an email newsletter.

“Modern Wisdom” is a media sensation, in other words. In our recent conversation, he and I discussed the challenges of non-stop content production, growth tactics, and more.

Our entire audio discussion is embedded below. The ensuing transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: It’s always fun talking with other podcasters. Tell us about your show.

Chris Williamson: I run “Modern Wisdom,” a podcast from the U.K. with roughly 400 episodes to date. I’ve interviewed prominent guests such as authors Ryan Holliday, James Clear, and Seth Godin. We talk about human nature, marketing, philosophy, life, life hacks, biohacking, fitness, health, pretty much everything.

I’m also a club promoter by trade. I’ve spent much time filling nightclubs with young guys and girls in the U.K. who want to go out and get drunk. And that’s given me an interesting overview of how marketing works, especially with brand building. That’s really what merchants are competing on.

It might seem strange going from club promotions to a podcast. There is a connection, however.

Bandholz: Why podcasts?

Williamson: I enjoyed guesting on podcasts. The best way to do more is to have my own show. It’s similar to folks who convert avocations into occupations. Someone once gave me good advice for what to do in life. He said, “Think about what your friends ask you to do. If they ask for your help in relationships, maybe you’re a good dating coach. If it’s business needs, then perhaps you’re a business coach.”

I love having conversations. So I decided to start the podcast. It’s been three and a half years, 400 episodes, 30 million downloads — I’m not slowing down.

I’m doing three episodes per week now. I initially did one a week.

Bandholz: How do you line up three people a week?

Williamson: I book my guests about two months in advance. I can see where I’ve got gaps. The more prominent the guest, the harder to nail down.

The worst-case scenario is when guests reschedule at the last minute or don’t show up.

One concern I had with increasing the frequency is that it would spread the same number of plays over more episodes — more work for the same exposure. Fortunately, my audience listens to each installment for the most part.

I’ve got advertisers on the show. The more episodes, the more ad inventory. And with more listeners, I can get away with going from one ad per show to three, max. I’m not a fan of mid-roll ads.

In terms of earnings, I can now hire an assistant. My video guy can spend more time on the project because he’s better remunerated. We’ve got a guy looking after social. So I’m slowly building the team.

Bandholz: How do you grow a podcast?

Williamson: YouTube is fantastic for growth. Any podcaster that isn’t using YouTube is missing out. It’s difficult to grow an audio platform alone because there’s no “up next” auto-play. There’s nothing trending. There are no suggested podcasts.

The best way I’ve found to grow the audio plays is by crushing YouTube. We focus on it. It’s the wide end of our acquisition funnel.

That said, link to the audio when you tag a guest online. One play on audio is worth about 100 on YouTube. The same goes for subscribers. We’ve got about a quarter of a million subscribers on YouTube. That many on audio would be unbelievable. So it’s a matter of discovering new listeners and filtering them down to audio listeners.

If I discover a new podcast on YouTube, I’ll subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. I’m not going to watch every one of them, but I might listen.

Bandholz: Are you producing your episodes with YouTube in mind?

Williamson: They’re optimized for both — video and audio. We’ve stepped up the quality on YouTube over the past 18 months. I’m filming on a lovely DSLR camera. We’ve got a compelling intro and outro. We’re making use of end cards and tags. We rebranded and redesigned the thumbnails. We did that for YouTube, but we also get good audio episodes.

Our growth on YouTube is purely organic, I should add.

Bandholz: So it’s full episodes on YouTube and then clip them for audio.

Williamson: Yes. Watching an hour and a half conversation is a huge commitment. Listening to shorter clips is much easier. If the clip is interesting, they may watch the full episode.

Plus, repurposing from the main podcast video into clips with different formats works well. It’s the same audience that’s following on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. If your team understands the edit, your voice, and what you want, the whole thing becomes an endless flywheel of content. Record your long-form piece and split it up for YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, whatever.

It’s an infinite content engine. A guest once used the perfect analogy. He said, “It’s like you write a book and sell it by the sentence.” So whatever brand you are, produce long-form or even medium-form content and then divvy it up.

Bandholz: Who decides how to clip the content from the master version?

Williamson: The social media team can do whatever they want. We have a full-time consultant who understands my messaging. He listens to the show, which, incidentally, is a competitive advantage. If they listen to it because they want to, your staff is motivated and aligned. So the social team has full autonomy. However, I decide the critical YouTube stuff — tags, titles, thumbnails.

I’m all for outsourcing tasks. But you can take that too far. There’s a reason I’m saying certain things and addressing specific topics. My team needs to understand the essential points and purpose. Otherwise, it’s on me to get it right.

Every time I’ve seen content producers entirely outsource the critical decisions, their channel underperforms and becomes soulless. It’s obvious that it’s not coming from the creator.

Bandholz: Is your revenue solely advertising? Any ecommerce?

Williamson: No ecommerce. Advertising pays the bills. I much prefer growing revenue through more plays. One of the biggest things that we did over the last 18 months was launch a weekly email newsletter, which I love. We’re up to about 25,000 subscribers with an open rate of about 40%.

The newsletter is called “3 Minute Monday.” It’s an insight into something I’ve been pondering. Plus, there’s a life hack in each issue.

Bandholz: What do you visualize your life being?  After you’ve reached a nirvana business, what’s next?

Williamson: I want to focus on conversations with people. There’s not much in my life now that I would get rid of. I like what I do. I like doing the research, for instance.

My two longtime business partners — one for nightclubs and my video guy for Modern Wisdom — are both friends. They were friends that became business partners. I know that that’s fraught with danger, but I’ve managed to get lucky.

Bandholz: Where can people learn more about you?

Williamson: Modern Wisdom is on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever else you listen. We’ve discussed my YouTube and Instagram channels. Plus, I’m on Twitter. I’ve published on my website a free list of 100 books — fiction and nonfiction — that have influenced my thinking.

Barbell Logic Rides Shift to Online Fitness

The pandemic has upended the fitness industry. Having no access to public gyms, millions of folks turned to at-home workouts. According to Matt Reynolds, the founder of Barbell Logic, an online strength coaching company, the shift is permanent.

“As the world has slowly opened back up,” he told me, “there’s been a change of mindset, a paradigm shift in personal fitness training.”

Reynolds and I first spoke on the podcast a year ago. He was facing unprecedented demand and the operational headaches of managing it. In our recent follow-up conversation, he addressed the challenges of hiring remote trainers and skilled staff while servicing clients worldwide.

The audio of our entire discussion is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: There’s now a huge demand from people exercising at home.

Matt Reynolds: We’re an online strength coaching company focused on barbells. At the time of the lockdowns, about 40% of our clients trained at public gyms. Those clients lost access to the barbells, and they couldn’t train.

Plus, folks joined Barbell Logic amid the lockdowns and had no access to gyms and no access to barbells. Some had access at home to sandbags, a kettlebell or two, dumbbells, even dog food bags.

We did what we could with what we had. So despite all the gyms being closed, 2021 has been a pretty good year for us.

We’re up about 24% in revenue over last year. As the world has slowly opened back up, there’s been a change of mindset, a paradigm shift in personal fitness training.

Traditional exercise training is you go to a big box gym and receive instruction from a 19-year-old fitness enthusiast. He’s not a professional. We’re connecting clients — no matter where they are — to professional, expert coaches who are right for them. If they have a cell phone, they’ve got access.

Plus, the price for online coaching is about 25% of the typical in-person rate.

We’ve met the demand. We have about 80 coaches — 60 are contractors. The other 20 are employees in leadership roles.

Bandholz: How do you find the right trainers and talent?

Reynolds: There are two parts to how we hire. First, our academy teaches people how to coach and become better barbell enthusiasts. If someone does a great job in the academy and is working towards our professional barbell coaching certification, we’ll bring them on as an associate coach. They get paid, but not much.

Then, we’ll monitor how they work with the team, coach clients, service customers. They’re an associate coach for six months, maximum. They have to earn their certification during that time, or they’re out.

We don’t typically hire, for example, a chief operating officer or a human resources person who hasn’t spent time in the company. They’ve worked their way up.

Bandholz: What do you do when someone is a good performer, and you promote him into a role where he’s unsuccessful?

Reynolds: We don’t have a lot of experience there. Sometimes we place people in a new role as a temporary position. We’ll say, “You’re doing great here. We’re going to hire you for a temporary three-month position to see how it works out.” It’s vital for me, as a founder and CEO, to be patient. It takes time for folks to learn a new role.

The goal is to give them control. You can have control, or you can have growth, but you don’t typically get both. So we want people to take ownership. If they’re still asking you about every detail after two or three months and seeking permission, they haven’t taken control. We assume they’re not able to handle the additional responsibilities.

Then we have a conversation. Sometimes we place them on a performance improvement plan with a list of what to improve. However, putting somebody on a performance improvement plan is usually foretelling — they’re not going to last long-term.

But most of the time, within the first month, we can tell if it’s going to work.

Bandholz: Have you moved someone into a prior position because the new role didn’t work out?

Reynolds: Yes. Or, we might divide a position among several folks. Again, we’re careful to avoid mistakes in hiring.

That’s why I like promoting people from the inside because they’re usually all in on the business. They know that I have a reputation for treating people fairly and paying well. So we figure out what the job looks like first. Then we give them an offer — pay and benefits. Somebody who is pushy about the compensation before discussing the role is probably not a good fit for us. That’s a pet peeve of mine.

Bandholz: How can listeners follow you, get in touch?

Reynolds: Our website is Barbell-Logic.com. We’re one of the largest online professional fitness coaching companies in the world. We have coaches for every demographic and situation.

We have a podcast on our site and a good YouTube channel. We put out a ton of free, helpful content.

I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Beauty of Bootstrapping a Business

“Ecommerce Conversions” is my weekly podcast interview with an entrepreneur. I’ve spoken with merchants, vendors to merchants, wealthy former merchants, and more.

But this episode is different. I’m interviewing no one. Instead, I’m addressing a singular topic: bootstrapping, the concept of launching and growing a business without outside investors. My company, Beardbrand, is bootstrapped. The benefits are freedom, satisfaction, responsibility, and making the world a better place — all more important than money alone.

My entire monologue — call it a rant — is embedded below. The text that follows is edited for length and clarity.

Why Bootstrap?

Bootstrapping provides owners total control of their business. There’s no one to answer to. Management can direct all efforts on customers.

We’ll be celebrating 10 years at Beardbrand in February 2022. We’re now frequently approached by investors interested in acquiring all or part of the business. We’ve turned them down. It’s not to say we’ll always turn them down. We haven’t shut that door. But I love bootstrapping.

I love focusing on the customers, improving their lives, bring them value with our products. I love the journey.

It’s not easy, however. I started Beardbrand with a few hundred dollars. It definitely limited growth. We couldn’t afford ads, employees, extensive product development. Capital would have facilitated growth. But, it might now have been the right growth.

Moreover, it’s essential in the early days to focus on your product and audience — not calling investors to raise money. The thought process for raising money is entirely different from selling products and helping buyers.

Why Ecommerce?

Ecommerce is easy to bootstrap. Imagine trying to start a restaurant. You need a quarter-million dollars to get the lease, build out the interior, create the menus, hire the staff, all that. You can launch an ecommerce business by yourself with minimal investment. Ecommerce platforms are cheap — pay by the month. If you’re adventurous, you could even build your own with an open-source platform, such as Magento.

The hard part is trying to live off a business that’s generating a couple of thousand dollars in monthly revenue. You likely need at least $10,000, depending on the product. Otherwise, it’s a side project.

Entrepreneurship is a tough road. I’ve talked to many people who were forced to accept outside capital. They didn’t enjoy it. But I also know folks who raised outside money and loved it. It was an excellent experience for them. They were able to choose partners whose interests were aligned.

Early Days

When I started Beardbrand, my wife and I had around $10,000 of savings. It was a rainy-day fund. I was a freelance graphic designer and marketer, doing odd jobs here and there. My wife had a stable job that provided health insurance. I was earning enough through my freelance work to survive. If it came down to it, she and I could have lived off a single income. We lived in a very modest house in Spokane, Washington. My car was paid for. We were paying off student loans and some miscellaneous debt. But, we were very keen on minimizing our obligations.

Bootstrapping is a similar process. You’re likely not going to be successful if you lease a fancy car, buy the biggest house you can, and live paycheck to paycheck. So before launching a bootstrapped business, think about controlling finances.

The paranoid entrepreneur in me thinks about the worst-case scenario. What happens if my wife loses her job, or I lose my job? What’s happens if my warehouse catches on fire and I’m out of products? How do I stay in business?

Getting Traction

At first, you have more time than money. You need to focus on tasks that take time and not money. The priority is getting your product in front of potential buyers.

It takes just 10 to 20 minutes to record a video talking about your product and upload it to TikTok or Reddit. That gets the word out.

Search engine optimization is another option. Many brands neglect it because they have money to buy ads on Facebook. Those brands are not focusing on SEO — link building, articles, H1 tags, navigation. Investor-driven brands are typically focused on performance this month or quarter. But a bootstrapped organization can focus on what’s going to happen in, say, five years. What can I do now that will help me five years from now? SEO is a great long-term investment.

Influencers can help, too. Influencers love working directly with founders, folks who are passionate about the products.

Email is a powerful marketing tool. SMS is a new and emerging channel. An engaged subscriber list produces revenue. Email platforms such as Klaviyo are very affordable, especially considering the value they deliver.

Bootstrapped entrepreneurs sometimes forget about the advantages of not having a lot of money. You’re forced to perform tasks that well-capitalized businesses don’t typically tackle. Inserting a personal note in all orders, calling customers to thank them, writing an email  — all are free and effective.

A Better World

The world needs more brands and companies that care about what they’re doing and the customers they serve.

To me, bootstrapping is beautiful because I get to focus on my mission of making men awesome. We might chase a project that generates no immediate income and makes no sense to an investor. But it helps our customers and brings value to our brand.

But the real secret of building a bootstrapped brand is not having to sell it. Investors demand a sale at some point. Imagine having a brand that you love. You love going to work every day. You love your co-workers, your mission, and your products. And you’re likely making a lot of money doing it.

Sell your business, and three months later you’re twiddling your thumbs, wishing you had meaningful work that improved folks’ lives.

Bootstrapping. It’s a wonderful thing.

Subscriptions Power Disco Past iOS 14.5, Amazon

The year 2021 has been a doozy for Ben Smith. In March, he celebrated an investment round for Disco, his direct-to-consumer skincare company. In April, Disco’s customer acquisition cost increased by a whopping 300% with the release of iOS 14.5. In May, he began selling a top item on Amazon, only to see Amazon bid on the exact Google Ad keywords he relied on for traffic to Disco’s website.

He told me, “We experienced all of the harmful effects more or less at once. So a month or two ago, I shut down our Amazon presence. Almost immediately, our on-site conversion rate doubled, and our Facebook acquisition cost came down massively.”

Smith and I recently discussed these developments and more, including his focus on subscription sales. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about your journey.

Ben Smith: Right out of college, I owned two boutique gyms for three or four years. I grew them to a comfortable level. I needed to decide to open more gyms or sell what I had and start something else. I opted for the latter. My timing was lucky. I sold the business in 2019, about a year before the pandemic.

After selling, I looked for opportunities in the health and wellness category. I’ve struggled with acne over the years. I was able to resolve it with natural skincare products. That’s what led me to launch Disco in October 2019.

We’re a direct-to-consumer men’s skincare brand that focuses on clean, natural ingredients. We’ve had our ups and downs, as do most startups. The last couple of months have been especially challenging.

Bandholz: You’ve raised some capital.

Smith: That’s right. I was naïve about the growth possibilities. There’s a place for bootstrapping and for raising money. We’re combining both.

Early on, I should have been more rigorous around market fit and product testing to understand customer acquisition. We made it work, and we’re making it work now.

When we hit a certain monthly growth percentage, we decided to raise money. If you do it properly with the right folks, it can be beneficial. But you can also raise too much money or raise money from investors that are not aligned with your vision.

Bandholz: What sort of decisions would you make differently?

Smith: My biggest mistake was not hiring growth expertise. For startups, there’s often a first employee that understands customer acquisition, including creative, copy, offers, landing pages, conversion rate, that kind of thing. I had no knowledge of those.

Second, we launched with seven products, which was too many. We wanted a complete skincare regimen — a one-stop shop. Logically, that problem makes sense. But I now know to test two or three SKUs that could be bundled for a higher average order value and expand from there. Launching with seven versus two or three takes more cash. It might even confuse prospects.

Not hiring a growth marketing genius and starting with too many products — those were the two biggest mistakes.

Bandholz: Every business needs a growth marketing genius.

Smith: It’s always a problem, whether you’re a $5 million or $500 million brand.

The fundamentals of a good DTC brand are customer acquisition cost, lifetime customer value, and average order amount. It’s a simple math equation. Had I understood that, I would have done things differently at the start.

We had essentially no revenue in the first year. We were floundering. I racked up personal credit card debt to keep the business afloat. We ran out of money a couple of times. Things started to change and scale once we found our product-market fit and messaging and marketing funnels that resonated with our target audience.

We couldn’t afford to hire that expertise initially. So it came down to getting my hands dirty and learning. You can have an excellent product, but it’s pointless if you don’t know how to sell it in a way that makes mathematical sense.

So I taught myself about landing pages, copy, conversion rates. We began to scale. That was roughly a year ago. We’re finally in a position to hire a growth marketer. That’s what I spend most of my time on. I enjoy it. But we need someone to take us to $10 million, $50 million.

Bandholz: You alluded to the recent challenges. iOS 14.5 has upended ad performance on Facebook, Google, and other channels.

Smith: Right. There’s lots of chatter these days about the marketing efficiency ratio —  total revenue divided by advertising spend. It’s a quick indicator of marketing effectiveness. The ratio varies based on the business. It also matters if a business relies on new or repeat customers.

Disco can lose money on the first purchase because subscriptions are a large part of our revenue. With the iOS issues, it’s more important than ever to acquire customers that come back repeatedly.

As for our MER, we’ve built a financial model in Google Sheets where we input the daily spend across every channel. We allocate the spend for subscriptions versus one-time purchases. The model has allowed us to understand the incremental revenue lift of shifting channels and expenditures.

Bandholz: I noticed on your website that you pre-select the subscribe option at checkout.

Smith: Yes. The conversion rate for subscriptions (versus one-time purchases) is about 8% lower, but the lifetime value is much higher. Over half of new customers opt for subscriptions.

Bandholz: What’s your customer retention strategy?

Smith: I think of it in phases. First, how do we drive the lowest acquisition costs for high-retention customers? Our marketing efforts need to appeal to high lifetime-value customers.

Then, after we acquire customers, we hope to retain them with email flows, value, and education. For example, new subscribers receive our 30-page skincare bible. It’s a crash course on how to take care of your skin. We’ll include that as a printed booklet in new subscription orders.

However, the best retention strategy is having a very good product that works.

Bandholz: Let’s return to iOS 14.5. For listeners who aren’t familiar, before iOS 14.5, Facebook, Google, and other platforms could track iPhone users’ activities, such as the apps they use and the sites they visit. iOS 14.5 changed that. Now, iPhone users have to agree to be tracked. The impact for advertisers is less-precise audience targeting, lower ad performance, and higher customer acquisition cost. What is your iOS 14.5 plan?

Smith: We raised money in March 2021 to aggressively acquire customers. Fortunately, that was just before iOS 14.5 rolled out. Brands and marketers have to rethink advertising — mainly on Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snap.

We’re not immune to that. Our customer acquisition cost increased by 300% with iOS 14.5. However, the reaction by advertisers has been a bit overblown. Advertising on Facebook still works. It’s just more expensive.

We scaled down ad spend, which had been very profitable in terms of customer acquisition. Around the same time, we launched on Amazon.

We had the cost-per-acquisition increase due to iOS 14.5 and simultaneously gave up nearly 15% of revenue to Amazon because we placed a top-selling item there. Then Amazon started bidding on our Google keywords for that SKU, which increased our cost per click on Google Ads.

We experienced all of the harmful effects more or less at once.  So a month or two ago, I shut down our Amazon presence. Almost immediately, our on-site conversion rate doubled, and our Facebook acquisition cost came down massively.

There is some merit to being on Amazon because lots of folks shop there. But if you’re focused on owning the customer experience and on subscriptions, it doesn’t make sense to be on Amazon, period, especially if you’re below $10 million in revenue.

As an aside, iOS 14.5 will likely prompt brands overly reliant on Facebook to consolidate or shut down.

Bandholz: Where can people learn more about you and buy some Disco products?

Smith: Our website is LetsDisco.com. We’re on Instagram and TikTok. I’m on Instagram and LinkedIn.

eCommerceFuel Founder on Work-Life Balance, Priorities

Andrew Youderian is the founder and CEO of eCommerceFuel, a leading online community of established store owners. He oversees a diverse team and manages a growing business with worldwide members. Surely, one would think, he works long hours with little downtime.

Not so.

He told me, “I work from about 9:00 a.m. until roughly 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. I bike back home and hang out with the family. That’s a standard day.”

Youderian values a work-life balance. He takes a month-long sabbatical every year, as does his staff. June and July are idle months for advancing the business.

He and I recently discussed it all — his work habits, priorities, and more. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: What’s new?

Andrew Youderian: A lot. eCommerceFuel had a big event yesterday here in Austin at your place. Thank you for hosting. It was a regional meetup. We’re trying to ramp up events.

Bandholz: Your focus is on building the community.

Youderian: Exactly. eCommerceFuel has many similarities to an online store, such as marketing and personnel. My average day is to wake up, get the kids ready for school, throw them on the back of a cargo bike, drop two of them off, come back. My wife drops off the third. I then bike into my office. I work from about 9:00 a.m. until roughly 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. I bike back home and hang out with the family. That’s a standard day.

Bandholz: What are your expectations of team members? Do they work from 9:00 to 5:00, too?

Youderian: We have a scorecard that we go through every week. We have a flexible work schedule. All of us are judged by results, not the butt-in-seat hours. That’s a bad way to track productivity.

I’m very productive in those hours. The key for myself and our team members is hitting those metrics. Our role here is not to stay until 5:00 and check out. Our role is to get stuff done, be efficient.

One of the core values at our company is a greater, deeper purpose. Our work is important, but so are a lot of other things. For example, all of our full-time stateside staff get a month’s sabbatical every year. I try to do it, too.

I love working with people that are productive, smart, good at what they do — without going 90 miles an hour all year.

Bandholz: You’ve been doing that sabbatical for a while.

Youderian: We’ve done it a couple of years now. We set it up where someone always covers for someone else. We stagger the sabbaticals, so there’s always someone on call for the essential duties, such as customer service, billing, putting out fires. The stuff that is nonessential and more marketing-focused, such as events, typically has a lot of lead time.

Plus, we’re going to check out for six weeks in June and July. We’re not moving the business forward for that period.

Bandholz: Do they get the sabbatical in addition to vacation time?

Youderian: Yes, usually about three weeks, plus the sabbatical.

Bandholz: So you can do in 10 months what other people do in 12?

Youderian: We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years. We’ve got an amazing community of people like yourself that provides a good foundation.

Bandholz: I struggle with my work style. I sometimes feel unproductive.

Youderian: I’ve been reasonably decent at getting tasks done in the time I have. Apart from the first year or two at the business, I’ve never had 70, 80, 90-hour weeks. The end of the day is where my productivity lags. So chopping off that last hour or two of the day makes sense to me. It’s a good time to see people that you love.

Bandholz: I’m the opposite. I hit my flow around 4:30. When the team leaves the office, I no longer have to be available. I can clear my emails. I’m not distracted. Then I get a text from my wife asking when I’m going to be home. Just like that, the flow’s gone. So interrupted flow is important to me. Do you work from home?

Youderian: No. I bike to an office. But I realized last year the importance of a positive environment. My office was small and cramped. The air conditioner was broken. It was in a sketchy part of the neighborhood.

So this year, I spent a bit more money on better office space. It’s been a game-changer. I’m more influenced by my surroundings than I care to admit. It feels good coming into a comfortable, well-lit, organized space that is well furnished.

Beardbrand has a sweet office. It’s beautiful.

Bandholz: Thank you. It’s a place that I like to be in. Let’s shift gears. How do you balance entrepreneurship and family life?

Youderian: It’s a good question. I’m extremely decisive at work and also generally assertive. Annie, my wife, is less assertive. It’s helpful to be decisive at the company. You get stuff done and move forward. But a personal relationship is different. I’ve adjusted to that, especially on making decisions. But it’s hard for entrepreneurs to turn off the work mind.

Bandholz: What’s your advice to entrepreneurs who struggle with that balance?

Youderian: Decide what fires you want to burn. There are always fires in business. You’re never going to put them all out. But it’s worth having some fires at work if it means having fewer fires at home.

I think about what’s essential in our business. What should we spend time on? I’ve spent time on a ton of things that didn’t go anywhere. But you’ve got to test stuff out. You can’t always know what’s going to work.

So as entrepreneurs, it helps to focus on what’s important — what moves the needle. I’ve tried to improve my schedule, get more disciplined with phone calls, for example. Phone calls are important, but they can also blow up a workday or an evening.

As an aside, I appreciated you having Shakil Prasla on this podcast recently. He’s an A-plus human all around. I admired his vulnerability in opening up about his recent business misfortune. It was cool. Many entrepreneurs and business people are trying to make it all work — running the company, raising kids, connecting with friends, addressing their faith, their health. It’s a lot to juggle.

Bandholz: Where can listeners learn more about you and connect?

Youderian: The best place is eCommerceFuel. That’s our community for seven-, eight-figure-revenue ecommerce store owners. I host a podcast there every Friday.