An Interview with James Schramko
Welcome to Episode #001 of The Brendan Elias Experience!
In today's podcast, we are joined by our first guest... the best selling author, business and internet marketing coach, mentor and speaker, James Schramko.
Podcast: Download (Duration: 01:08:40 — 47.1MB)
00:07:39 If you have a job that everyone would want and a company that people would die to work for, why did you look for another position working for yourself?
00:07:48 Why did you want to get out of your job and get into internet marketing when you had a job that everyone would want?
00:08:57 Why do you sell yourself so short?
00:09:34 Why would you quit a dream job?
00:10:20 Take charge of your own destiny
00:11:32 What was it that made you such an exceptional salesman?
00:20:15 Transition to becoming a business coach
00:25:03 Dictator of success
00:25:22 How important is it to have a coach, guide or mentor to help you take that converting offer and transform into something that will give you financial independence?
00:27:35 Coaching resistance
00:37:43 Concept of non-neediness
00:44:08 Do you remember the first time you ever had to or made a decision to fire a client?
00:49:09 Coaching program
00:51:04 Business owner’s fundamentals
00:53:24 What would be your 3 e-commerce tips that you will give to someone who is looking to start importing and selling products?
00:53:31 Peel and stick
00:55:47 Work hard to differentiate or personalize your product
00:59:47 What makes you such a good coach?
01:00:54 What is parenting like the second time around where you have financial freedom and independence?
01:03:50 What is next for James Schramko?
Brendan: Hello and good afternoon wherever you are in the world! Welcome to Episode #001, the very first episode of The Brendan Elias Experience!
I am super excited to be here and today, we are joined by our first guest ever on The Brendan Elias Experience, Mr. James Schramko. Hello James...
James: Hello Brendan, it's lovely to be here in this historic moment. I wonder if we'll be looking back at this in 10 years from now laughing at your first episode like I look back in my first podcast, and have a listen to it. It was over 10 years ago, and I think what a journey! It's a great journey you’ll be starting today.
Brendan: Fantastic you are up to, I think, episode what 650 or something in that order?
James: 688 on Super Fast Business and not including the other podcast I've had, it's been a real journey.
Brendan: Awesome! Well, I want to tell you a little bit about our guest. If you don't know about
James Schramko, then you have been living under a rock and I couldn't think of anyone better to start the podcast with than James.
James is a bestselling author, his book “Work Less Make More” has just hit number one on Amazon e-business books. James is an accomplished coach, mentor and he also, is also a speaker. Speaking in such places as Digital Marketing Summit and many other places around the world. He has a new bundle of joy that has just arrived as well. He has 3 boys, 2 girls and how many surfboards James?
James: An undisclosed amount more than one should be mentioned on public broadcast.
Brendan: Undisclosed amount of surfboard. If I can get that information for our viewers one day, I will broadcast it.
So today, I just wanted to share a little bit about what it is that makes you such an established coach and one thing that they need to know is that you actually currently are my coach and my mentor. And it’s been at least over a year I think since you’ve encouraged me to have a podcast so I do get around to it eventually but if you can tell everyone James, a little bit about yourself.
- How did you come to be a business and internet marketing coach?
- What were your roots?
- Where did you start?
- You're always a business coach. How did you get in?
James: Where I came from?
From school, I did a bit of accounting study and then I ended up in debt collection in an office environment. And then I went to, from telephone collections, I went out to the field as a repossession agent. And that was fun in my early 20s.
And then technology started arriving in Australia for digital telephones so I joined the company called Vodafone and was seconded to a sales team. The best of the best. They're like the top gun of sales people. I didn't know so much about selling but when they are out of the office, I used to pick up the phone and turns out I can actually sell phones as well while they are gone. And then my first baby started to arrive and I needed to increase my income so I got a job selling BMW.
And within a year, I was the top selling BMW salesperson. And then after another year of that, I end up switching to Mercedes Benz for better pay and better conditions. And I worked my way through with my sales career. There I actually became the number one Mercedes-Benz sales person within a year of joining. Then I got promoted to a Sales Manager. I think that's really where I started mentoring & coaching for real because I have my own team of salespeople who I have to nurture and train and get them performing. And they went on to be the top performers as well.
And then Mercedes-Benz started directing me around to move to other dealerships to improve the dealerships. So I went from the one that I was working at which was owned by Mercedes-Benz to one where I was a General Sales Manager. And I had to turn around the sales team and make it perform and we did. And then after about four years, they asked me to move to another Mercedes-Benz dealership and I was a General Manager. I turned that business around for another four years. That was my last job, General Manager at Mercedes-Benz dealership.
To start, I was focused on learning about online because I could see this channel emerging and becoming very powerful and opening up my options rather than selling one product in one market. I could sell anything in any market anywhere in the world. It's just that opportunity seems too great to ignore. So I taught myself how to build a website. I got good at the online stuff. And then about two and a half years, I made enough money to quit my job.
And from there it was really clear to me that a lot of online marketers, well if they’re smart and really good at the thing they do or very talented with certain aspects, a lot of them lack general business experience or knowledge so I thought at this stage I already come out with stock of tens of millions. I have learned about
- how to sell finance
- how to sell service
- how to sell parts and stock
I dealt with big manufacturers and brand values from Mercedes-Benz. I have a team of 70+ people over 3 facilities. So I got all this great experience with very expensive accountants and spreadsheets and lawyers and recruitment officers and all of this stuff. And I found myself in this world where some of these people came up through dorm rooms and then started selling a lot of stuff but they kept running into trouble. And it just seemed that people would come to me for
- how do you do this
- how do you do that
And I like that. I like nurturing and helping people and shortly after quitting my job I started an online forum called SuperfastBusiness. Back then, it was a different name but it changed name 3 times in the last 11 years. And I ran that for over 10 years.
I ran the coaching program for about nine years at a high level. And I also in the meantime built a Search Engine Optimization Agency, Website Development Agency, and I sold both of those. And these days now I partner with some other business owners in their businesses. So that sort of way I'm moving in the future is to build a little portfolio of products and services where I can have a great relationship with the owners and I can help them out but also help me out.
Brendan: Got it! Now I just wanted to talk a little bit about your time at Mercedes-Benz. Now if you ask someone to name 5 brands. The brands that would come to mind will be like companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Microsoft, Google and most likely Mercedes-Benz.
Where can a company like that would be in a very, very coveted position?
And you were in a management role so you are a company that anyone would kill to work for and you’re on top of the trade. It was probably very competitive so my question is…
- If you have a job that everyone would want and a company that people would die to work for, why did you look for another position working for yourself?
- Why did you want to get out of that and get into internet marketing when you had something that everyone would want?
James: Cause I didn’t want it. I didn't like getting paid by one person. I didn't like the fact that the US market was going to decline in the financial crisis. And it triggered memories when I was a young guy, when my parents went through the recession in the early 90s. It's like the 80s to 90s. And they lost pretty much everything. And I got out of it. There is just a little bit left. And I thought, wow history could repeat itself here. If I lost my job, I got nothing.
And then I noticed that all of my clients we're not employees, they were business owners. And beyond that, I started to travel to the United States and attend some conferences and I’ve met a small group of people who would perform at a high level and I literally sat beside one of them on an airplane. And he said to me, “James, You are making 300 grand a year, I make a 100 grand a month” and he said, “Why do you sell yourself so short?”
And it really stuck with me. And I actually came away from thinking, you know what I’m really under performing and I’m not any way close to what I am capable of and I need to step it up. And you know the fact is, 11 years down the track, I now make significantly more than I made in a job. I work significantly less. I’m significantly happier. And I’m very glad I made that change.
Even when I look back, I think, “Gosh that was kinda ballsy!” And a lot of people said, “Why would you quit that job? It’s a dream job!” But a dream job is a very dangerous position for a family man with a mortgage at that time, single-source dependency. And I don’t like being single-source dependent on anything, especially when it comes to money. That umbilical cord gets cut. It can have big ramifications.
Brendan: Yeah! Absolutely! So what you are saying is that when you are exposed to people who you saw, are just as smart as you, as intelligent as you, playing a bigger game, earning 4 to 5 to 10 times your income and seemingly less stressed and not single-sourced dependent, it was the exposure to those people that really was a big catalyst for you in cutting your umbilical cord yourself and taking charge of your own destiny and playing a bigger game, would that be correct?
James: Yeah! It was in a way through bench marking. I learned about bench marking in dealerships. The accountants will run meetings and we would benchmark against every other dealership of a similar region to us. It was like trump cards if you remember them when you were a kid, and they would compare all the stats of every dealership and highlight gaps. And what it highlighted for me is a gap.
There was a big gap between what I could be doing versus what I was doing and I was motivated by that. And at that time, I really could have done with a few extra dollars because it’s not easy living in Sydney with the family of 4 kids at that time and I wanted to have a good life. I have to pay off my mortgage and protect myself and give myself a bit of runway in case things turn bad. And I expected them to turn bad and they did turn bad in the market.
Brendan: I would like to talk to you for a second about your coaching business and how you help other business owners. But you did mention earlier that you were the number 1 salesperson for Mercedes-Benz in Australia.
- What was it that made you such an exceptional salesman?
- What could your mentees learn from you in that kind of environment that would enable you? what would you do differently?
- If I walk into Mercedes Benz, what would it be that you would do or say or make me do that would encourage me to buy a car whereas maybe a lesser sales person would have been kicking the tires?
James: I would empathize with you. I would walk in your shoes. And I would like to understand your situation. And I would ask questions and make notes and I would help you find the right car, even if that was not today. In short, I would care about you.
And that’s what most sales people don’t do. They do not care about the customer at all. They only care about themselves and their own problems.
If you can really empathize with your prospect and care enough about them to find the right solution. They will be more likely to move forward because they will be better off and they can see it and nothing is screaming at them that there is a problem there or that they should not trust you or that there is any kind of risk and you know it does… it takes a longer term approach for this. But I wanted to be their car person. I wasn’t looking for the first sale. I wanted to provide for them every vehicle they will purchase from them on. And that’s what happened. I get a lot of repeat and referrals.
Within 2 years, half of my business was repeat referrals. And then some people were getting vehicles for their partners, business partners, and they were buying more frequently. I made it easy for them. And I did things nobody does even now.
When was the last time you got a handwritten letter from someone who you went to buy a car from, especially if you didn’t even buy it from them, and you bought a different product?
Do you still get follow ups from them?
Brendan: Yeah, that was care, personal handwritten notes. Amazing. And tell me, you were in that environment for quite a while, let's just stop. Before we move on to the next part of today’s podcast
- Tell me about the good and bad
- Tell me of some of the perks you got for being the sales manager. Anything they gave you as especially as a reward for you being in that position and also
- Share with us, how bad did it get you $300K?
- Could you remember a really bad day or even your worst day?
So give me a little bit of both those sides of things, the perks and the dread of the umbilical cord position.
James: The perks in the sales are very good and it was a good status. You know, I have a fancy watch, and a fancy pen, nice shoes and great suit and shirt and lovely ties which I just bestowed upon one of my kids who was very excited. He couldn’t believe he was holding a tie which was worth $500 and I got to drive whatever car I wanted. I could literally just register anything out of the lot. I drove a new car home many, many nights in decades. So, they are all nice. The bad thing…
Oh, the other thing that I really like and I miss the most was the team camaraderie when I built a sales team, they are like a wolf pack – they were my brothers. Mostly men, there were some women. But it was rare and they were just incredible. And I am still in contact with a couple of them who I’m now trying to work with again because they are just fantastic. Because it was such a tough environment, it was kind of like we are at war together. We have a strong bond. And I hand raised them. I pulled them up in straights, trained them up, got them performing, they got married, and they got kids, bought a house and I was on that journey with them and I love that the most.
My worst day would probably be when I accidentally got in between a bit of a battle between two of the owners of one of the businesses I worked at, where they were having a war. A really deep emotional, financial, hostile war. Like a serious breakdown. The sort of manic, psychotic one who has gone off Kurtz from Apocalypse. Now just disappeared – he was drinking a lot, taking a lot of drugs and getting really paranoid. He thought for some reason that I’ve sided with the other partner who is kinda more of a spreadsheet junkie and more lawyer sort of guy – crossed-the-t's-dot-the-i's all that kind of stuff, journaled everything. He thought I gotten in the war and we were in a dealership cruise with all the other people from all the other dealerships and he sort of cornered me and he was drinking quadruple Sambuca, hardcore.
Anyway, and he said, give me your shoe and I said, sorry? Just give me your shoe and I’m like, I slid my shoe across and then he spat on me. And then, he called me some names. He was sort of racially slurring me, even if I am not that race. And he said get another job. And then he grabbed the steak knife and he said I should just f-ing stab you right now. And I’m like, what are you talking about? It was so surreal. I couldn’t believe that this is happening.
So, my worst nightmare was unfolding in the present time, now I lost my job and now this guy got it out for me and not only that he wants to kill me – the third time someone threatened to kill me. I was at debt collection, you know, that was kind of a thing. It was terrible. I remember I wrote everything down and I chose not to pursue it legally because I may have won the battle but I may have lost the war there. I will be unemployable and I just, I actually got a job with BMW to run their dealership down the road. And they found me in the head office of Mercedes-Benz and they knew about this guy because he already assaulted one of their senior officers. In an event, right in front of all their customers.
And so, I rang them and said, “ Look, I just want to say I’m not leaving the brand because I don’t like the brand. I’ve had my best years here in Mercedes-Benz. I don’t really want to go to the competitor but I was kind of forced into my position here.”
And they said, “James, don’t go. We will create a role for you at head office and we will pay your wage until we find you another job.”
And I remember I was driving my car at that time. I remember tears running down my face. The sense of relief that someone cared enough and that they understood. And then they found out about this other place and they said that you have to hire this guy. This is what you will pay him. If you don’t, we're gonna take your franchise away from you and that was my last job. And so, definitely the worst day.
Other perks, by the way, I win competitions
- Best SalesPerson of the Year
- Best Sales Manager of the Year with Mercedes-Benz
I had some amazing all expenses paid trips with partners and everything to Tahiti, New Zealand, Port Douglas, Fiji. And lots of track days, driving racing cars around the track. And that sort of stuff. Those heaps of good things.
But you can enjoy a lot of those things as a private individual – I’ve discovered. I’ve been to lots of great places now and I’ve driven nice cars that I can access personally. You don’t need to work for the machine to get that.
Brendan: A lot of people convince themselves they do because a lot of people are too scared to change, years and years could pass. I think a lot of people can relate to your story. I think a lot of people realize that job security is a kind of a myth – someone else can determine if you will have a job or not.
What I really want to talk about now is your transition to becoming a business coach and really a lot of people out there when they look at jumping into the online world or jumping to another business where they are to be self-reliant there is a bit of chasm – like a massive gap. I guess my question to you is...
- Why do you think you were able to transition to that gap?
- Was it easy?
- And what would you say to other people out there who are now stuck in a job or even if it is a fantastic job, it still is a job.
- How did you make that transition?
- What can other people do?
James: To answer your question, in short, it was extraordinarily hard. And it was compounding me how hard it was.
I was rolling up my 20-feet of dial up cable to plug it on the phone and trying to build a website on my laptop for ages. Iit took me 9 months till I made my first sale which was $49.25 and it was an accident that led me to an affiliate link. I ended up through trial and error. And with great difficulty of building my own website, finding some software to make building a website a little bit easier. And built myself a demo website because I’m a bit pragmatic.
I used to enjoy mechanical things as a kid. So I built a website, using all the different features – with affiliate links on it and somehow, I manage to get a couple of sales after that. Initially, like parents with suckers and stuff, doing an assisted phone sale.
You know, very enthusiastically telling me that it’s an amazing software. “Did you know you can go to Amazon and you can put books on your website and if people buy the book, you get paid a commission?”
And I was like, “Really?”
They said, “Yeah, it’s a thing.”
So, I did a few hard one sales. And then I started getting better in my copywriting and I started adding bonuses. And growing my business, but it taught every single aspect of
- building a website
- creating a logo
- putting audio
- video on a site
- running a webinar
I’m talking about like 12 years ago, I was running a webinar. I was way ahead of the pack. I ran Facebook Ads when Facebook first had Ads. And I was running forums before Facebook had groups. So, I guess, I was early enough into it when it’s extremely hard to do any of those things. But it got easier and easier and easier and then commoditize.
But my first $100K came from one piece of software that I sold as an affiliate. And then overtime that software started to become redundant so I had to switch. And I was always innovating. And I moved into an open source product that was free and then created a team around that, built a website development firm. And then I sold that too. Now, I went to the next platform – which I think supersedes all of those things. Well, that’s how I started.
In terms of how other people start?
That is an area that is laid for pros like Brendan because I just think its way to hard dealing with start-ups. I employed anyone who can take a rookie and get them succeeding cause there are so many hardships along that first journey.
The odds of someone succeeding is just miniscule because it’s a very competitive market. There’s so many things that can go wrong. Usually they are completely flawed in the many skills you need to be good at.
So, like for example in my world, I only start working with someone when they are making at least 10K per year because to get to that is about 100 times harder than to get to $100K a year. And to go from $100K to a million dollars is actually quite easy because
- you have already done enough to know what you are selling
- you’ve got a little bit of team in place
- you know what traffic converts and so many other things that can help them by fixing them internally
I think the start-up things are just so difficult. And there are some other business models that might suit your situation.
If you have a job, for example, affiliate marketing can work ok. Maybe the importing and selling on Amazon type things couldn’t work okay or go to garage sales or sell your stuff on eBay, it might be okay.
Harder to sell services where you have to be on the phone to customers, but that’s lucrative – and a much faster start if you have some expertise where you are good at. And if you have the availability. That’s just a couple of models. But I think it's one of the hardest things. I actually can say that the whole dictator of success is finding your offer that converts. For some people they will never find it. For others it might take them years. It certainly took me the best part of the year to get me to that point.
Brendan: So, to say you hit the holy ground when you have a converting offer that makes money.
How important is it to have a coach, guide or mentor to help you take that converting offer and transform into something that will give you financial independence?
James: It comes down to your personal style and then how quickly you want to succeed.
So, if you are able to ask for help and if you are able to reduce your ego to the point where you can accept that someone might know more than you, then you can fast track it.
So, for me, I’m kind of… I’m in a unique situation. I’m one of the very few people who hasn’t got a coach or a mentor. However, I believe that because I coached and mentor so many people, my students are my coaches and my mentors. I learned so much from what they are doing. Guys like you who are really good at certain things like running live events, helping people move through to bigger, better solutions - you are very good at those things and I can learn a lot from having conversation with someone like you without having to do that myself.
I’ve got people, one case, somebody has 525,000 students you can learn a lot from him about certain aspects of running courses. I’ve got other students who – the world’s best agencies – running traffic offers. They give me tips. One of them even made me a video that I can use to sell my books on Youtube. They were all very helpful and supportive. So, I’m very lucky that I have a little group.
It’s very good to circulate in groups. One thing I have always done, for at least the last 12 years is attend events where I can meet and network and build my contact database and to learn content as well. I have been very consistent with that. I’ve gone to the USA every single year, for the last 11 years – straight. One year, I went twelve times. I’ve been to Europe. I’ve been to the UK. I’ve been to various events around Australia. It’s really important in an online world, to go offline occasionally.
Brendan: I want to talk about coaching resistance. People who are actually resistant to having a coach. I will put my hand on that, I say it was definitely me for a number of years. I resisted having a coach.
Why do you think it is that people often don’t make the move?
They are not having the results they want. Or they are having the results they want but they can’t break the bottle neck.
Why do you think other people resist actually, you know, opening their wallet and paying someone, to actually coach them to get a better result?
James: Well, sometimes, it can be a money delay mindset. They may feel like they are saving money whereas I think the reason why a lot of businesses are stuck small is that they are not spending enough. So, they don’t understand the difference between investing and spending.
They might not have put a clear ROI to it. Or maybe they lack the ability to get a good referral or filter the right coach for them. And quite possibly, they have had a bad experience with a coach early on. Or got some bad advice and that was enough for them to switch off.
And even beyond that, probably it may stem from something that happened to them as a kid, once they asked for help they got slapped down or had a negative experience. Or maybe they have a very strong self-belief because a lot of entrepreneurs have to be confident. And I have seen quite a blurred line between confidence and raging ego-maniac. But some of them are successful people that I’ve ever met, they ask questions as if they are complete beginners.
One that fascinates me is Ed O’ Keffe, he has some really successful offers at high volume. But he will go into a group and ask a question as if he just started today. And he won’t have any ego or qualms about it.
He would say “What’s the best tool to do blah, blah..”
He wasn't worried about people who’ll say “ Oh my god, you are already an expert, why are you asking this?”
He’ll just ask and he will get an answer. And he will quickly pay for the professionals and get help. He was a great client of mine at SEO business for many years and he is a dentist. He was smart enough to find people who are good at what they do and just get them to do what they do.
Even recently, I have come to work with contractors with things I might have been tempted to do myself and I find it very liberating. And it’s something I’m planning on doing more of.
Brendan: I would like to share with you a little about our story. And how we ended up to become working together with you to be my coach. And it’s quite an interesting story.
I first heard about you, probably five years before we actually met. I was at the conference in San Diego. I believe it was a Digital Marketing Conference with Bill Belcher and Ryan Dawson. And I helped out as a favor and as a reward for helping them they said, “I got to introduce you to James Schramko”. You were this mythical figure. I was like, okay I don’t need to meet another guru, thank you very much.
Then your name was parked for a while. Three years ago, I was talking to a man named Peter Moriarty who I met through Omar. And, you know, Peter was really quite young and he has already successfully sold his business.
I’m like, “Mate, you are in your early 20s and you have done a successful business, how did you do it?”.
He goes, “James Schramko”.
And I’m like, “I’ve heard that name before”.
He goes like, “I can introduce you if you want”.
And I say, “No, no, no, no, it’s fine. I don’t need a guru. Thank you very much”.
And then I started finding a love in importing, I love teaching, I love live events, I love running it. What I don’t like is managing big teams, staff, and employees. It was not my natural talent. And as my business grew to what became 35 employees, I, you know, running eight to sixteen events a week we have 12,000 people registered, I was running a monster, and this monster was running me. And I need help but then, I met another gentleman who was in the finance industry and he is seeing that he is able to do things quite easily and quite successfully.
And, I’m like, “How do you do it?”.
He goes, “I have a coach.”
And I said, “Let me guess, James Schramko”.
He said, “Yes, I can introduce you”.
And I said, “You know what, introduce me”.
And I was ready to like you know, “There is no way that I can actually pay you any money. That wasn’t gonna happen. You won't get a better Brendan Elias.”
And so I remember getting on the phone with you.
And you said, “You know, I can definitely help you”.
And then I thought well you know what, you have your fee. And I thought, you know what, every time that anyone is in a position where they are offering a service, people just want the sale. And I will do anything to get the sale.. I’ll even step over, to get a sale.
So, I was like, I want to see what this James Schramko is really made of. So I agree with your fee. But I said, “ How about James, instead of me paying you one payment, I just split it in 3 payments? One now, 1 in 30-days and 1 in 60-days. And I know 99.9% of people would secretly “Yes, he’s gonna pay me a third today and I get the money later.”
You did something that I wasn’t expecting. You said no. And not only you did say no.
You said to me, “I don’t compromise. But here’s what we’ll do”.
You said you'll have the rest of the money in 60-days. “Just come back to me in 60-days, you know. I probably still will be here”.
You closed the door on that instantly and I must say that was a shock but also made me respect you and it made me feel that this guy is real. He doesn’t give a crap about the money.
He’s not needy. He is not greedy. And he is totally cool to walk away from this. He doesn’t actually care whether I get the sale. I also felt that there was care that you actually wanted to help me with that.
I applaud you for that James. And I must say that the last 18 months have been an extraordinary journey. But one thing I’m still mad about you about and I haven’t told you or asked you. We haven’t discussed this so I’m actually ambushing you here.
Tell me, why is it after 6 months where there it came for us to have a chat about working together and I have proven that I could be a good student of yours. Why is it? I want you to explain to me, once and for all to my viewers.
“Why did you flatly refuse to re-negotiate your rate with me after I requested you to do so after 6 months? Could you explain yourself first please.”
James: Well, I felt that I had gone into the agreement with a fair and reasonable offer. Which you would have been aware of when you went into it. And I think we had moderated our relationship into a point where the amount was the right amount for what we were doing and
everything in my life is guarded by is it fair, is it reasonable. Like you said I don’t want to be greedy. I also have to value myself. I don’t see I can’t work for everybody, I can’t do what I do at a high level for everyone. I can’t do it for free. But I publish 688 podcasts so you know I’m doing my bit for the person who wants to sit on the side. So I just thought it was appropriate. And I thought that adjusting the amount would be against the spirit of the agreement.
Brendan: Okay, I just fill everyone in. Could you, walk everyone to that discussion and negotiation and in fact, the direction in which I tried to re-negotiate the rate.
James: You said that you felt the... You said that you want to speak to me on the phone. So I said okay, So I called you and you said that you wanted to discuss the rate. And I said okay. And you said you want to re-negotiate the rate and then I said okay. And then you said that it’s too much, you want to lower it..and uh…in fact, that’s not what happened at all. That’s what I thought you thought I would think.
James: I know you too well this time. I learn my creatures quite well.
You actually said, “James, I want to pay more”.
And I said, “No Brendan, that’s okay. The rate that we have I’m comfortable with that rate. I'm happy with the rate and stay at the same rate.”
And you insisted.
Brendan: And you said no, “I’m happy with it”.
James: It’s all good.
Brendan: And, one thing I’m you know. If you haven’t read James’ book “Work Less, Make More”, you really need to get your head shift. Because one thing he said in the book is that, “You should be so, give so much value and care and love and service to your clients, customers. That they should have the feeling that they are ripping you off.”
I guess that was the feeling I had, was that the value I was getting was not compensated with the rate and I was trying to adjust it.
Just for the record, even ‘till today. Even after a year and half later, even after multiple offers to pay you more, you still flatly refused. So, Good on you.
But what I want to talk about is, two principles I’ve noticed that you lived by. So, one thing that I have seen is the sense of non-neediness in how you run your business and a sense of care for your customer. Possible, I would say with respect to a fault. I’d say in some circumstances, where you modeled had someone suck their umbilical cord to you and just took a little bit too much of your energy and brain power and you just humbly took it where other people and probably even myself would have maybe not taken so much punishment.
Can you talk about the concept of non-neediness in how you conduct yourself in business and also why is it that you care so damn much?
James: Being accused of caring too much by one of my previous bosses.
He said, “Schramko, you know what your problem is?”.
And I said, “What?, You care too much.”
I’m not sure why I care too much. Possibly because my mom was very involved with charities, with the Red Cross, with the Smith family. She is a senior in that organization. We were always doing charity things as children, visiting underprivileged. She used to take us to children’s homes. And we visit communities of people who are far less well off than us. I kind of grew up in a rich area but they never let me feel like a spoiled brat. I think I am aware that some people have a pretty tough life and so I guess, maybe I just, I don’t know…probably it was just my upbringing. But I do care about humans. It’s one of my filters. Is it good for humans, if it’s not I don’t want to get involved in that.
Also when it comes to no-compromise. I have to thank my psychotic boss for that one. I know it's my most valuable lesson from a guy who in the end turned out to be a bit crazy, even too crazy for me. And one of the lessons he drummed into me was no compromise.
Like, he would drive into a Mercedes-Benz meeting in a Porsche. He is a contrarian’s contrarian. He would park his red Ferrari in the Mercedes showroom. No compromise. I don’t want to compromise. That’s really where I got such a strong emphasis on it. He taught me that an empty flat is better than a bad tenant. And that’s why I won’t take a bad customer. Even if there is money, I won’t take the customer because I don’t want the drama. And he used to also used to say, celebrate lack of drama.
So, there are so many lessons we learned from each other. He also said, that Titanic went down because of Capt. Smith’s ignorance and his arrogance. So, I’m always guarding myself against those two enemies. So, so many lessons. But that one about compromise. So many people get compromise. And, like they are taking business because they have to. Or they, you know, they backed into a corner. I don't compromise. It’s honest and it’s fair. And I like that. And people know where I stand. It’s easy to know and they can always ask me if they’re not sure.
If there’s any gray area but I try to remove any possible ambiguity by just stating how it operates and I’m probably the easiest person in the world to get on with. And in terms of people taking the piss or pushing a bit too much. You know, I have been recently commended on my patience and my ability to just absorb hassles and stuff that will bother other people and I've heard words like chill or zen like whatever. I accept it.
When people are having a tough time and they are trying to take it out on me. It's usually always about them. It’s not about me. I don't take it personally. I just try to be compassionate and caring and I, you know, I don’t let it all go in. I just went out. I just surf it off. I surf everyday and it just goes back into the ocean all that.
You cannot be a business coach at my level without having a way to let all that toxin and poison out. Cause when you think about it, the only people coming to me got some multi hard headed monster they are trying to battle. Like No one comes to me when everything is rosy and things are perfect. They come to me when they have problems. Because I solve big problems at a high level so I always get these massive dramas to fix and part of me kind of enjoys the challenge of it and also it gets easier when you’ve seen the challenge many, many times. What’s hard for some is easy for me.
Brendan: Got yah! Have you ever found actually, a client with a problem could come to you and end up, you ended up taking what you learned with your client and applying it to your own business.?
Have you actually implemented strategies from people?
James: All the time. I’d much rather someone else has the problem and I learn from it than me having the problem. I have successfully run my business now for the entire time it has been operating because I’ve learned from other people’s mistakes and even when they happen to me which is rare. But they still happen.
Like when a British telecom decides to set up a business unit with the same name as my business and sets up a website in the UK. Now, when I go to London, everyone thinks I own BT or something. I still get challenges. But I try to avoid the challenge by putting on defenses and redundancy and firewalls against the potential problems.
Brendan: Got yah! And I remembered one story when I had a client and who wanted all of my help.
- They wanted me to take them to China and showed me around the Canton Fair.
- They wanted me to do the sourcing for them.
- Buy their products for them.
- Go ship them from the factory. Get it shipped, make sure it is packaged correctly.
- Build their website.
They paid me money for all those things. And about a week into their program with us, one of our coaches was about 7 minutes late to a call and they swore at my staff member and paraded my staff member said how unprofessional they were.
I just called them up straight away and said, “Give me your bank account. I'm going to give you all your money back.”
And, I must say that is the utmost thing in my life. Knowing that if you have a client or someone you work with who is just not being respectful and not being polite to your team. That is one thing I will never tolerate is when my family and my friends are being disrespected.
I guess what my question is, “Do you remember the first time you ever had to or made a decision to fire a client?”
James: Yes, to exclude some people in the car industry that there are some very obnoxious and rude individuals and I would not accept that. I mean, I have already come from debt collection, it does not get much tougher than that. I come into someone's house and the tow truck is dragging their car out in their driveway. They are looking at me like they want to kill me. And I have to explain to them what is happening, so I have put myself in a very difficult situation in my early 20s.
I also did some in acting classes. Gotten really uncomfortable being filmed on camera and stuff. So for me, it's no stress in a situation when a client is being obnoxious. I mean, one memory stands out. It wasn’t actually me. But you know, my psycho boss, the lunatic.
One of the greatest lessons in firing clients. As he had, he prided himself in being able to restore cars to absolutely perfect. And we found probably the worlds absolute best example of a second hand car. Like it has very low mileage. lt was immaculate. He had it polished and restored to absolutely brand new.
And I remember this guy bought the car and a week later, he came back and he was in the front driveway, and the guy said, “I don’t want the car”.
And my boss said, “Why don’t you want the car?”
He goes, “The car had been into an accident.”
He said, “Show me”.
And they opened the bonnet and they looked under the bonnet and there was a welled mark under the front shock absorber strap.
And my boss says, “Is this what you are talking about?”
He said, “Yes, it’s been repaired.”
He said, “No, that is standard on every vehicle. I can show you that every car here has the exact same. Well, that’s how they make them.”
He said, “I don’t want the car.”
So, “Let me get this straight, you don’t want the car.”
He goes, “I don’t want the car.”
And he goes, “Are the log books in the car? And the spare key?
And the guy goes, “Yes.”
And then my boss said, “Then F- off.”
He screamed at him at the top of his voice and he screamed at the sales manager that sent the check to this guy. He marched him off the showroom.
I remembered thinking. I wanted to do that so many times. But that was a very powerful reminder to me as the business owner that you get to choose. But you don’t get to choose when you are a subordinate. Just like you, I support and stick up for my staff. And a lot of them work in a call center for American companies where they just have to suck it. They had to deal with difficult customers. They are working for companies like AOL and similar companies to that and they would just have to follow the script and be polite and just eat if the customer’s are being mean, and they just have to cope with it. I think that is terrible, I always stick up for them. And I’ve often answered support tickets on their behalf. When we have the seo service on the website, and we have an unreasonable customer. I tune the customer. I let them know that they are on the wrong side of normal and that it’s inappropriate.
But I do remember actually one of my very first jobs in debt collection I used to do telephone collections. And I remembered a customer being so upset with me that I was asking for the money that he already had. He already enjoyed the goods and services but he didn't not want to pay for it. And he was being really aggressive to me and I gave him a bit of a struck back and he asked for my name and I said James. And he said, James who? And I said, James Brown and I hung up.
And then about 10 minutes later, the boss calls me over to his office and he says come over here. Just for perspective I was around 19 years old.
He said, “Did you just speak to a customer and say your name is James Brown?”
I said, “I did.”
And he goes, “What was it about?”
I said, “The guy was screaming at me, swearing at me and he wanted to know my name. And I'm not going to give him my real name. He is hostile and who knows what this lunatic’s going to do. And then, and so, I just gave a name and decided to end the phone call because it wasn’t really going anywhere. And the boss said I would have done the same, on your way. He supported me. I felt supported. You definitely get to deal with interesting human behavior on that end of the spectrum.
Brendan: Actually, now that you mentioned it James, I did see a little bit of the resemblance.
James: You think so…
Brendan: James Brown… I have never thought of it until now. I would like to talk about your coaching program. You got 2 courses - The SuperfastBusiness for people who got revenue of over 10 thousand dollars a year. But you also have got the Silver Circle which I enjoyed for the last close to two year of being a member of. And one thing that I’d like to talk about that struck me when I joined is you have a diagnostic when you made me run through a list of questions. Some were pretty predictable, like, you know.
- What is your revenue?
- What is the biggest thing you think is holding you back?
- What are you spending most money on which you could possibly get from external sources?
But what I found…was really quite shocking, somewhat off putting, but then slightly comforting. You had 2 or 3 questions which at first I did not feel belong in the diagnostic. They don’t seem quite real, but then after realizing the value of them, I realize it served the purpose which is to make your entrepreneur more able to carry out the hard work, would you like to share with our viewers 2 or 3 things that are in that diagnostic which might be a little bit unusual.
James: Maybe you are referring to the stuff, what is the state of your garage and storage areas
Brendan: Yeah, specifically that one.
James: Yeah, because… and there’s one, “Are you happy with your business name?”
That’s slightly to the side one. I asked people to rate 1 to 10 their health, their fitness, are they having fun, do they sleep well. So, it gets a little more on the personal aspect of it. But you know about a quarter of what I do revolves around the business owner and the three quarters is for the business stuff.
My premise is that if the business owners’ fundamentals are flawed, it’s going to trail to, it will bleed through the business. If they are not sleeping, if they are overweight and they are not having any fun. If they are not educating themselves, they are likely to be cranky, making poor decisions, treating their staff poorly, scattered and frustrated, stressed, anxious, all these things flow through. And if people will just breathe properly, sleep properly, and have a good routine and their house is in order. Personally, then their business is probably going to be in good order as well. Show me, show me the soldier I will show you the general.
Brendan: Got it. Right. You are really just… You are trying to make sure that the business owner is at the optimum so that the business then will be at its optimum. And the other question you ask is, “What car does the business owner drive?
James: If you are happy with your vehicle if it is, you know, up to date and all of that.
Brendan: Okay…So, I’d like to…
James: I tell you why that question.
Brendan: Yes please, go ahead.
James: Because I spent from 1995 to 2008 in the motor vehicle industry. And I can tell a lot about someone from their motor vehicle. Cause I’ve literally seen thousands and thousands of scenarios played out and I built patterns and models around that I can tell a lot about it. If you show me someone’s car, I could tell a lot about that person, just because of the patterns.
Brendan: Perfect. I guess, I want to end just moving on to e-commerce which a lot of our viewers are interested in e-commerce, to import, interested in importing, selling on Amazon, selling online. So, I just wanted to get from you.
What are 3 tips that you would have for… that you have seen from people that you have mentored. I know that you have mentored a lot of successful e-commerce people. I guess my question is...
What would be your 3 tips, e-commerce tips that you will give to someone who is looking to start importing and selling products?
James: One would peel and stick. It’s something I help Ezra with. If you got something really successful then, peel it off and stick it somewhere else again. So, you end up having multiple brands, selling products but to different demographics and with different logos and a different market appeal. So, it is basically taking your winners and multiplying your winners and dumping your losers.
You can also apply that in SKUs or I don’t know if you call that or SKUs, I’m not such an e-commerce guy. But I know from the work we did with the stocks and accountants in the dealership that not all products are equal. So, I will have them pull out a spreadsheet and have a look at all the items they are selling. And let them identify the ones that never ever sell, that make no profit and complete waste of real estate on your website and I will prune them. And I will find the ones that are high volume, high profit, sell easily and I will promote them more to your features pages and to email to responders and advertising campaigns.
Brendan: It's like the supermarket that puts all the things that people buy near at the cash registers instead of the back of the supermarket in aisle 47.
James: Yeah or they just delete items that will just sit there or they end up in the specials bin but they never reorder them. Like for one e-commerce store they sold homeware products and I’ve identified that they sold a mass amount of fragrant candles. So, I got them to make more different fragrance and I also got them to re-look at their supply and order more in bulk and get a way better deal and put them as a feature on their site and bundle them and upsell them and they ended up selling 10x more of these candles. And a high profit item and a fast moving item, so, it’s like that alone made a profound difference to their profit.
Brendan: So, peel and stick, things that are successful... that sells more of those... pruning bad products. Do you have a final tip for e-commerce people?
James: Yeah. I would work hard to differentiate or personalize your product. Especially if there is like a $100 store selling the exact same thing. A lot of people are quite lazy and they just load up the manufacturer or the supplier description, word for word. I see this in the industry that I am interested in, which is the surfing industry. People cut and paste the manufacturer's description for the product. It does not take much effort to re-word it and to gain all the benefits of a few things.
- You get SEO benefits because it is now unique to Google.
- It might actually get a benefit from the actual reader or they haven’t really seen it described this way before.
So, you could actually sell something better than the manufacturer. And that’s how I started online with my affiliate software. I sold this website software better than the original manufacturer. Like, I sold most of this software because I made it better than the manufacturer could do. In fact, I provided the missing ingredient that they didn’t have. I called it the cheat sheet. And if people bought from me, they get the cheat sheet. If they bought from the manufacturer they just got the software. So it cost me the exact sale. So, I ended up creating extra value. So, it’s like a bonus tip.
- How can you create more value for your customer?
- Could you make video tutorials on how to use the product?
- Can you take better pictures of the product?
Cause, I mean, I know just by selling things on the classified , GumTree or whatever classified, wherever you are watching this. Just by taking good pictures more often and describing it better, you can sell things instantly.
Like I can sell anything on GumTree fast by putting a proper, well-worded description and make it compelling. I even built a story like I sold a litte… I bought this yellow laser. It was $500 and I sold it for $2700 and I called it Yellow Terror. Crazy yellow hatchback waiting for its next adventure. I put great... I tinted the window for like a hundred bucks and I sold it for a massive mark up by making a story around it and making it fun and it stood out from all the other ones in the commoditize market.
Brendan: It’s cool. If you click something real and you have that experience and when you get another product you are selling in bulk that you manufacture or you can get plenty of quantity, that’s a good skill. Taking something that is non-recurring like a car, putting that car but then applying that skill set towards other things.
James: Just on that topic Brendan, I think that’s really important to you. Most people learn about selling ,right. They learn how to sell . But what they don’t learn about, and I think you solve this problem is that they don’t learn how to buy. Most people are really bad buyers. They suck at buying.
- They over pay
- They get the wrong supply
- They don’t know how to respectfully negotiate
- Do not know how to get on the same side of the table as the seller
- They do not seek to find out what the seller's motivation is
- They do not ask for referrals
- They do not look for creative ways to purchase
When I was in the motor vehicle industry we had to buy someone’s car to be able to sell them another one. So, I got really good at buying. That’s my extra-extra tip, if you are selling, learn how to be a good buyer because you have to buy stock for your store and the way you buy, the way you buy will make all the difference in your margin.
Brendan: Perfect, So, I want to end with three final questions. And I haven’t prep you or let you know in any way shape and form that this is coming. So, just let me know when you are ready. And I’m gonna hit you with them.
James: I don’t know if I am ready for the random Brendan question, but I will give it my best shot.
Brendan: Wonderful. Okay, for my first question is…
What makes you such a good coach?
There are so many other good coaches out there, selling so many different programs.
- Why are you the go-to-coach?
- Why are you the sought after and why is there a waiting list of people to work with you?
- Why is it that you can get to pick and choose whereas other people are clamoring for the dollars?
James: Well it might be I really work with someone If I feel I will be better off. So, I have a very high success rate. It's pretty much a 100% success rate and so, if we find a really good fit and I agree to go with it, then we know that it's’ going to work. So, I think the fact that I never advertised my high-level coaching program for the last nine years and that its almost exclusively referral based means the product is good. So, I will just go with a good product.
Brendan: Perfect. Okay, so next question, you recently have a new bundle of joy, arrived into your life, a baby girl. Of course you have been a parent of 4 when you were working nine to five in a rat race.
What is parenting like the second time around where you have financial freedom and independence?
James: It’s way better. And not to take anything away from the first 4 kids, who are awesome in case they are watching this. But it is just a lot easier. I was stressed and in shock probably the first time around. You know I never had full financial means until my other kid was about 5 or 6. So, this time around, it really reflects on the kid actually. This kid is a really relaxed, happy and well-attended child. And you can tell that the parents are around and not stressed out and coping well. So, to be out and have a little sleep during the day and to be around for every bath and every meal and do day swims in the ocean. That sort of thing, I feel blessed that I’ve had another chance to do this. Because I didn’t think I was going to but it's absolutely incredible. It just fills my heart with love to be able to have that bond with a kid so close because I miss that the first few times. Because I put myself in a situation where I went out to get the money and to provide but now I feel like this is kind of my reward for a lot of hard effort and being ballsy with some of my choices earlier on in my life.
Brendan: I was just with you in the Maldives for your yearly Mastermind. Which I thoroughly enjoyed and was blessed to be part of that. One thing that impressed me was that you are hanging out with your baby and getting your surfing done and mentoring at the same time. We have multiple hot pool sessions in the evening where…
James: No we’re not!
Brendan: Your baby Lucy was present and you were coaching a bunch of people with a baby on your lap. Goo-gooing and gaa-gaaing. I guess, initially I thought, a lot of coaches wouldn't do that because it was a business session. But I think you have arrived at a point where you are able to balance all things out and have your baby in your lap while teaching a bunch of people and everyone was just so enamored with that gorgeous girl of yours. And, one note is that you have given yourself permission to really enjoy this part of your life and really is quite encouraging because a lot of people might put some rules, official rules saying we can't do this, we can’t do that but you kind of reach that level way. You give yourself that freedom. You can be commended on that. So, I guess my last question I had before I closed and invite you to tell people more about you, Superfast Business, Silver Circle and your live events. The last question I have for you in the random-Brendan 3-part question is…
What is next for James Shramko?
James: That’s a very good question. And I did give it some thought. I was thinking about it this today while surfing. And I have some very clear vision.
I was coaching someone earlier. And I was mentioning that you know, they have three problems they wanted me to solve. They wanted me to solve problems on
- revenue share deals
- hiring a sales team
- having the sales team sell over the telephone
And I say, well, okay, I got a training on that. I got training on that. I got training on that. I’m going to send them to you.
And they said, “Where are all these training?”
They are all in SuperfastBusiness and Silver Circle.
They said, “I did not know about that. You should let people know about that”.
And I said, “Yes”.
I’m actually going to put those training up as individual purchasable products on a domain that I’m building now, on a platform called 10xpro. And so for me, it will be to peel and stick my very best products and make them broadly available. Because I think that will give me scalable leverage on my business. It will let people taste my business without having to dive head on it.
So it’s a bridge between a podcast and a full membership. So, that’s exciting. Of course, I'm going to continue surfing everyday. That’s my number one requirement, that’s my no compromise. And I will focus on family. Booking Lucy in for swimming lessons. And I’m planning my next few trips, which I’m excited about. So, basically business as usual and sticking to my routine that works really well for me, which is a 3-day work week. Dealing with only clients who I am better off and I enjoy working with and coming up with creative and innovative ways to optimize my own business so that I can learn things and share them with my clients. So, I do believe in practitioning, as well as coaching. I like to have a hand in real life businesses. I’m a partner in around a dozen other businesses now. So I am seeing real data now, I am doing and not just teaching.
Brendan: Okay wonderful, so, how do people find more about you. If people want to be like me, enjoying that massive brain in your head, being a member of Silver Circle and having a high-level coaching or people who want a little bit more community to have Superfast Business.
How can people find out more about you?
Where would you direct them to?
How will they get in touch with James Schramko?
James: Look, I got a superfastbusiness.com. That‘s going to have a chooser which will help you find the right solution from the homepage and of course there are a gazillion podcasts there which you could actually list every podcast there. You can search for that. I’m certain you can find something on a topic you want to learn today if you use the search bar and you type what you want to learn today. I bet you there is a podcast on it. Or similar to it that you can start with. Of course, if you like to read or listen to audibles, I will get “Work Less, Make More” because it is a distillation of my core principles that I expand upon of course in membership and coaching. Some of the lunatic things are in there as well. And it’s a good starting point and a really quick read and it's got good ratings as you said, it ranks really well because people find it useful.
Brendan: Perfect! Wonderful! Go to superfastbusiness.com to find out more about James. So, there it is, we have done it. That is the first podcast for The Brendan Elias Experience – officially done. Let’s have a fist bump in there James – Bang – and that’s it for The Brendan Elias Experience. Let's get into credits.
Thank you to Joe Rogan for the inspiration for the name – The Brendan Elias Experience – and of course thank you to all of our viewers for listening to the first podcast. It is important for our first podcast to start strong and of course, we couldn’t do a better job without having, the one and only, James Schramko to kick it off. So thank you James for appearing in our first episode of The Brendan Elias Experience.
James: Thank you, Brendan for gracing me for the first spot. By the way, I think you did a terrific job. Well done, mate.
Brendan: Thank you, mate! I appreciate that. Cheers mate! Bye James, Bye everyone. And stay tuned because more podcasts are coming really soon. Bye for now.