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Podcast 165: Pat Flynn’s Perspective on Selling Online Courses, Goals, and Thinking Beyond Business

By Spencer Haws |

To say that I was excited to have Pat Flynn back on the Niche Pursuits podcast would be an understatement.  Pat was on the Niche Pursuits podcast back in 2012 with episode number 7!

Pat and I have been blogging for many years and both got our start in the earlier days.  As a result, we’ve stayed in touch over the years as friends and it always been great to see what’s going on over at Smart Passive Income.

During this episode, we do take a short walk down memory lane, but for the most part we jump right into where his business is today.  In particular I wanted to hear his perspective (and hear his success) about selling online courses.

I made the decision recently to no longer sell online courses.  On the other hand, Pat didn’t sell any courses for a number of years, but that has now become a very significant part of his business.

In fact, Pat shares that he’s made over $2 million in just 2 years from just 1 course (one of his podcasting courses)!  And he now sells 5 different courses, so the business model has clearly been very successful for him.

Beyond just why he decided to start selling online courses, we also dive into big ideas, team, goals, making stressful business decisions, and so much more.

Pat has always been so open about everything, including his income, so I wanted to ask about retirement and thinking beyond just business.  He’s been extremely successful in business and it was great to hear that he definitely is thinking about how the SPI brand can work without his daily involvement and perhaps even selling it one-day.

In addition, we discuss some of his ideas for things he wants to accomplish outside of business and how he can make an impact on the world.

I absolutely LOVED the discussion I was able to have with Pat.  I hope that you enjoy some of the perspective that Pat brings to this episode, and more importantly I hope it helps you think deeper about your business and even beyond business.

A few things mentioned on this podcast episode:

Full Transcript

Hey, everyone. It’s spencer here with the Niche Pursuits Podcast. The entrepreneur for this episode really needs no introduction. Pat Flynn from smartpassiveincome.com is back on the Niche Pursuits Podcast. Pat and I have known each other for about 10 years now and he was a guest of my podcast over seven years ago, which is hard to believe that it’s been that long. 

We both got our start in blogging around the same time and I was on his podcast several years ago. Because Pat is so well-known, I tried my best to ask different types of questions that he might usually get during this episode. I didn’t want to rehash any of his early history because that story is so publicly known. I wanted to dive right into what’s going on in his business right now and what decisions he has made that have led him here. We specifically talk about his decision to start selling online courses and you can hear how well that has turned out for him. A couple of million dollars and two years from one course is not too shabby at all. 

I’m particularly interested in this subject because I recently made the decision to stop selling online courses altogether for my business, so it’s great to hear Pat’s contrasting opinion. However, beyond just why he is selling courses, I wanted to find out his bigger picture. Where does he envisioned Smart Passive Income in 10 years or 20 years? Will it ever exist without Pat? Could he ever sell the business or walk away completely? 

We also dive into what his next venture might be that he’s considering after he is “retired” from Smart Passive Income. Don’t worry. He’s not looking to quit anytime soon, but it’s an interesting topic to discuss. Overall, Pat shares lots of great tips about big decisions, how his team is helping him reduce stress and get more done, and figuring out your “why” beyond just making money. With that, I hope you enjoy the interview. 

Hey, Pat. Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. 

Pat: Thanks for having me back. It’s been a while. 

Spencer: It has been a long while. In fact, I wanted to take a quick walk down memory lane with you. Did you actually know that it was 7½ years ago that you’re on my podcast? 

Pat: That’s insane, dude. That was before my daughter was born. That’s crazy. 

Spencer: Really, yeah. You were episode number seven. I looked it up, of course, but May 21st, 2012. A long time ago that you were on the Niche Pursuits Podcast. I can’t believe that it’s been almost eight years that I’ve even been podcasting, let alone since you’re on the show. Then I was on the SPI podcast episode number 66. 

Here’s a little factoid that nobody else knows and perhaps you don’t even remember, Pat. I was scheduled to record on your podcast on April 15th, 2013. However, something happened that morning that made us reschedule. The only reason I remember the day is because that was the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. I don’t know if you remember that. 

Pat: I do remember that, yeah. I didn’t remember that as a reason why we rescheduled, but were you supposed to run that? 

Spencer: No. It’s just that you and I both had friends that were running the Boston Marathon when it happened that morning or we were both not sure how we felt about recording, let’s just reschedule. It’s kind of crazy, just a little factoid about you and I recording podcast back in the day. 

Pat: Yeah. All that to say that was a long time ago for sure and I have since done much, much more and I know you have as well. I’m trying to think of what was going on back then. I was just starting with the food truck niche site and that was up and running in the secure guard training niche site, had been on auto-pilot for a couple of years at that point. I haven’t even had my own courses yet or books. 

Spencer: I know. It was knee-deep into the building niche sites. Yeah, probably the food trucker and certainly a lot has happened since then. I really just want to catch everybody up with where you’re at now, but before I do ask about the business-related questions, I wanted to ask you maybe a more light-hearted one, perhaps? You been a very public person, you’ve always shared your income reports. What’s one of the strangest things that’s happened to you in public or otherwise happened because you’ve been so public with your income in the past? 

Pat: With my income, specifically, I don’t know. That’s just one component of why people choose to follow what I do because in general, I’m just very transparent and open about my entire process. The podcast had since grown quite tremendously. We’re we’re closing on 70 million downloads now. It had just started a couple of years before we last connected, but that has helped massively grow my brand to a point now where I’m getting recognized for my voice. I’ll be ordering something at Starbucks and a person will go, “Oh my gosh, are you Pat Flynn?” just because of the voice. That’s often very strange because I don’t think that’s the usual thing to happen. 

I have been recognized in public. I’ll go to Disneyland and somebody who’s wearing a Han Solo outfit will come up to me and be like, “Yo, Pat Flynn. What are you doing here?” I’m like, “I’m at Disneyland with my family. What are you doing here?” He’s like, “Cosplay, baby,” and I’m like, “Okay.” Crazy cool people out there who follow the brand and I love it. They’re always mostly very respectful of the fact that I’m usually out with my family, so they just want to say hi and thanks, and it’s not bombarding with sinus or pictures or anything that. 

The other cool thing that’s happened is just the opportunities that have come my way as a result of the show, my business, and getting on a lot of people’s radar. I’ve been able to become a background on some movies. That’s kind of weird and crazy. I had done social media for a company who is creating independent movies and films. As a result of that, I have been a part of a couple of their projects. They found me because of what I had built online. 

New doors area always opening and it’s just unreal. The latest, coolest, randomest thing that happened was I was able to get on stage at a Dave Ramsey event and then I was with the speakers the night before. I opened the door to the restaurant that they had for all the speakers and then there Dave Ramsey was. He just welcomed all of us there. I had never met him before, such a cool guy, but never, never would have thought that I would have ever met somebody like him and to be so welcomed into his community. It was was really amazing. Just a lot of crazy things. 

Spencer: Yeah, a lot of awesome things being able to just have your name out there, be willing to share, be open, and honest. Obviously, that’s a huge part of your brand and has led to a lot of success. Congratulate you on all of the success. I applaud you, I follow you, I love what you’re doing, and I love the success that you’re having for sure. 

Pat: Thank you. 

Spencer: We talked about where we were in the past, back when we recorded. I want to skip the whole story and I think most people probably listening already know your story, they listened to your podcast. Just catch us up with where your business is right now and what are you focusing on these days. 

Pat: I currently have my hand on a number of different businesses. Completely separate businesses, actually. A lot of the niche site stuff has just been on autopilot for a while. I’m actually in the middle of exiting those and selling those off completely, just to wipe off my hands clean. I have since grown quite tremendously from “scrappy entrepreneur, little projects here and there” to the CEO of my company and really thinking much bigger and more long-term. 

I have a team now, which is another big part of it. I have seven people working for me full-time on my SPI media brand. That is tremendous because so much stuff is getting done now. We’re able to produce, create, and ultimately serve a lot more people now from what we’re doing. A large part of that business is selling courses for things that people have asked us for information about, first validated through a lot of free content on the podcast and the blog, then turning it up a notch and turning it into a much more premium program for people who want to invest and deeper with us. 

We’ve since made a few million dollars off of course sales, which I’ve only been doing for the past couple of years. It’s taken me a long time to get to that point where I was actually comfortable with course sales because a lot of my income is coming from affiliate marketing. I was actually pushing a lot of people away to other people’s products, making a little bit of money from commissions on that. 

Eventually, a lot of people are just like, “Pat, we want to learn from you. Can you create a podcasting course for us? You keep sending us elsewhere, but we want to learn from you.” To give you some perspective that one podcasting course has accounted for $2 million in sales over the past couple of years and we have five different courses running now ranging from affiliate marketing, to business validation and just finding your niche, to an advanced podcasting course. We’re in the product and in production mode right now for an email marketing course. 

The cool thing is that we don’t have to be aggressive with selling them because people are asking for them. And that’s quite amazing. The SPI media brand includes those courses. More podcasts are coming on the way that aren’t even going to be led by me but hosted by other people in the SPI network, which allows us to get access to advertisers who want to sponsor podcasts across the board for us, and that’s income generation, then partnerships with key partners such as ConvertKit for email service provider, Teachable for online courses, Buzzsprout for podcasting. 

Within these courses, we have partners that were really and heavily involved with, that are adding to our income as well through just the commissions that are made through people we send that way. It’s a win for everybody and we’re able to provide the best information about those topics on the web now. Stepping into that and owning that has been really key for just mentally how to best promote, push these out there, and create for people. So, that’s one business. 

Another business I have is an offshoot of what happened in the podcast space on my brand. In 2014, I created a podcast called AskPat, which was initially five days a week. We just needed a way to beautifully display these multitudes of podcast that were coming out on that show on the website. So, we created an in-house podcast player and it was just built for us. But then, so many people, especially my podcast listening audience and podcast creators were asking how they can get their hands on it. 

As you know and as you could probably tell, great business opportunity, so we turn that into a WordPress plugin that has since served thousands of people. It’s $97 a year to get access to and it’s beautifully able to display a person’s podcast on their website, also collect email subscribers, allow for more downloads, more interaction, more engagement, more sharing, and it really focuses on the web-side player versus the device-side of playing. That’s where we noticed the hole. So, that’s been focused on quite a bit and that is generating about $15,000–$20,000 MRR at this point, monthly revenue, and it just continues to grow, which is pretty amazing. 

We’re leaning into that next year. We hired a development team recently and we’re going to be adding more software solutions for podcasters. Podcasting has just massively exploded and my podcast courses is definitely the most popular one as well. So, we’re definitely leaning into that and those two things can cross promote each other. That’s a separate business, separate LLC, with a partner on board with that. 

I love trying experiments back in the day with niche sites and recently it’s been much bigger experiments. My videographer and I invented something and we pushed that on Kickstarter in February of 2019. It was an idea that actually came about as a result of going to a video event and seeing everybody struggle with their their bendy tripods as they were vlogging. We just thought there could be a better way. 

We prototyped a number of different iterations or solutions in over two years. We finally came up to a prototype that work, that was tested, that we got a lot of feedback from the YouTube and vlogger community. We launched that on Kickstarter in February of 2019 and nearly 5000 backers and a half of a million dollars later, that product was validated. We recently just shipped it to everybody and got it in their hands. 

That product is amazing because it sells itself. The video community all loved to share their tools with each other and they go out and film with each other. Then, they see somebody using this innovative tripod. The way it works is it stands on its three legs, but then, the legs can swing together to turn into a handle so that you can easily grip and do a vlogger view and have the camera little bit further out from you. Then, just in a snap, it can open back up again. 

People are just buying it and without spending any money on advertising at this point, we’re selling 10 to 20 units a day and that’s going to ramp up once we get on to Amazon and that sort of deal. We are cash flow positive, deliver to all the backers, and have inventory in hand. That’s all profit at this point if we get it off our hands. That’s […] really well. 

Then, just the usual stuff. Now, I’m writing books. I wrote a book in 2016 called, Will It Fly. It became a Wall Street Journal bestseller. My recent book called Superfans just came out. It’s now in Barnes & Noble and it’s in airports, but it still self-published, so we kind of cracked that code. I’ve been doing keynote speeches and being asked to deliver keynotes around the world and getting paid to do so. 

I’m having much fun and the beauty of this is that I’m still able to spend a load of time with my family and help my wife, take time off if I need to, if we just want to do something one day or one week. Really the passive income part of it is now a result of not just tools, automation, and SEO, bringing people in like it was with the niche sites. It’s team, it’s hiring managers that know how to make things happen and then also just spacing out all these things amongst each other. It does sound a lot and it is, but it’s managed properly, so that I still have some time. 

Spencer: Awesome. Congrats again. You’ve got a lot going on. You’ve got your hands full, obviously, and I do want to dive into some of this, specifically your team and things going forward. I wanted to ask you about the courses, specifically, because even though our businesses are quite different, we do have some similarities in that we both have popular blogs, we both got podcast. we gained some popularity with doing public projects. 

However, we both came to a decision of whether or not to sell courses. I’ve sold courses in the past as well, but I recently made the decision I’m no longer going to sell any courses. I want to just focus on other things. I wanted to get out of the training business. Alternatively, obviously you mentioned that you decided to lean into selling courses and training even more. You’ve got five premium courses now and a couple of free courses? 

Pat: Yes. 

Spencer: Two-part question. Why did you hesitate to sell courses initially? I know it did take you a number of years to come to that decision. And why did you make the decision to sell courses? They are obviously growing that significantly now. 

Pat: I have actually been asked to create courses even the last time we connected. I have a number of people say, “Pat, you should create a course on this and create a course on that.” The funny story is I almost created a course about niche sites and then Google made this giant algorithm change. That was when […] came around or something, and I was just like, “I can’t build a business that is going to be changing this,” and I’m really glad I didn’t do that. 

A large reason why I just felt not so good about it is because in the back of my mind, I knew that I was building a course because it was money opportunity. I knew that it would sell, I have the successful niche sites under my belt, and I knew that people wanted some more results. I knew that I could give them results, but then I knew that Google was also making changes. It just felt like the purpose of that course was to make more money and not actually help people. And that’s never a great way to approach business. I tried some software stuff back in 2010 for the same reason, too, and it just never worked out. Every time I’ve created something from a position of serving first, that’s always allowed for maximum success. 

All of those signals combined, I just put that aside. For awhile, people continue to ask me and I just always knew that there were other solutions that already existed that I could push people toward. I was quite happy making a majority of my money through affiliate marketing, where technically I could just send people to somebody else and then they would have to take care of them. Customer service was all handled by them. 

I knew that if what I was promoting was good and that they would take care of my people, that it was a win for everybody. I could just continue focusing on providing free valuable content in teaching the steps, and then in step three, teaching the tools that they can use. That’s how they would get into that. 

I had many conversations with people after getting asked time and time again from people to create my own courses. I’m like, “Okay, should I really be rethinking this? I’ve been experiencing what it’s like to have team members now. I think could do this. That all started in 2014 hiring a team. It was mostly me for years. It was six years of all me, only me, until I finally start hiring. I felt the power of that and how much time I take it back. 

That opened up the idea of, “Okay, maybe we can great some courses and support people,” but again, at the back of my mind I was like, “I don’t need to and I don’t want it to be a money grab. I don’t want it to be done just because I can make money.” 

I had a conversation with a couple of friends who both said literally the same thing. They said, “Pat, you’re doing your audience a disservice by not having courses.” I said, “What do you mean? There’s people out there who can teach them and likely it’s already proven. They’ve got the systems down, so why do I need to reinvent the wheel and create something similar?” They said, “No. You’re doing your audience a disservice because they want to learn from you, they don’t want to learn from anybody else.” 

When you ask people to put skin in the game, to invest in themselves with these courses, they are more likely to get a result. They would say, “Yes, you’re great at coming out with a lot of these great free content. Some people are going to use it, but most people won’t.” 

I really resonate with that because I knew that things that I got for free I never really put into action. It’s kind of a mindset flip where I can actually get more results from people by charging them and it was a result of allowing for them to be served better, to have skin the game such that as a by-product of servicing them and the investment, I would be able to generate more income. 

I wanted to test it out, so my first course was called Smart from Scratch. It was actually a result of people who bought my book which laid out the entire start-to-finish “how to validate your next business ideas so you don’t waste your time and money” sort of thing, and yet people still wanted hand-holding through it. I was like, “Okay, even though I give away everything for free and all the information is right there, they still want accountability. They still want to go deeper. They still on hand-holding.” That was like, “Okay, check mark number one. Yes that makes sense for me to create a course, but check mark number two, can I even get people results with the course?” 

I filmed this course. I actually pre-sold it and we sold about 100 seats in. That validated yes people wanted it, but I was really more worried about could I even get people results. So, I worked really hard and I built the structure, the course in a way where immediately after a couple weeks, I started to see people get messages from people saying, “I am further along than I ever have been for the last five years trying to do this,” and that to me validated with what all my friends said, let’s give people some results. 

To be able to get people results and make money at the same time from people who would normally not get results at all, I just went full into it. My next course was a podcasting course. We’d pre-sold that. Always pre-sell the course to validate it and fine-tune it with those beta students to get it to a point where I can launch it publicly much bigger with testimonials already, was the formula. 

That’s where I talk about my book, Will It Fly. It always worked out now and like I said, millions of dollars have been made. But more than that, more importantly, more and more results have come through than the years of just free information that I shared out there combined. That’s really why I lean into courses, and apparently, I’m pretty good at it. I can structure a course in a way where I can take something very complicated make it very easily consumed, but I can also get a personal result very, very quickly with it. 

And now, we’re at a point where—I didn’t mention this earlier—we’re actually doing a lot of live workshops in San Diego where, for example, if you want to take my podcasting course, cool, but I know a lot of people that don’t have the time to spend to go into an online course, they much rather go learn in person. I can actually go, “Hey, if you got my course, awesome, but if you don’t find that you have the time, let me walk you through it in just two days in San Diego for $4000.” We got wait lists like crazy for that. 

This business model training is definitely something I’m leaning into. I know we’re good at it and eventually, I want to get to the point where now these training sessions in person are even run by other people outside of me. They can just run on their own. It’s really amazing to see. Again, it’s all results-driven and that’s the primary reason why we’re leaning into it. 

Spencer: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. If you’re able to produce results for the students that are going through your courses, I don’t know what the statistic is, so I’m not going to throw it out there. A certain number of people never actually go through the course, but it sounds like you’ve been able to design the courses that certainly encourage people to go through that. And if they’re seeing results, that’s the most important thing. Are they getting the education? Are they getting the results that they need from those courses? 

Pat: Right. We do some things in the course, specifically, to know where people often get stuck and how to get them out of that, so that’s important. We do a lot of social proof within the course. We almost sell the course inside the course using success stories from our students and I think that’s a smart thing to do versus just, “Here’s all the information. Go.” It’s like, “Hey, here’s the information. Look what Sandy did to do it and how she grew her podcast. You can do this, too.” It’s just as more encouraging. 

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More than that, the completion rates are really high in our courses because of the price point as well. The higher premium price point commands a higher quality student who’s actually going to be more invested in actually taking that action. It’s interesting because I know a lot of people who sell courses for $27 and nobody’s completing them. They’re getting hordes of customer service questions because people expect overnight success or push-button easy results, versus somebody who’s invested. There are usually higher caliber students. 

For me, another mental shift was going that price point because I was like, “No. I want to create a course for everybody. I want it to be affordable for everybody.” But again, same reason. You get the students who actually take action at the higher price point. For me, I was okay with that because I know that I’m not taking anything away that I was already giving away for free. You could still look on YouTube to see how you might be able to create a podcast from my free material, but if you want to invest, you want to get the details, really the ins and outs, and go deeper with me, that’s where the course comes into play for those who are willing to invest in it. 

Spencer: Yup, I think that’s super smart. Now, I’ve made the decision in my business, like I said. I’m getting out of training, I’m focusing more on software, and building other sites. I have acquired a couple of sites and I know we haven’t caught up a lot, but I’ve got a lot going on as well. I built an Amazon FBA business, sold that, and what other things as well. I got out of the training and doing a lot of other things. 

Now, it sounds like you’ve chosen an “all of the above” approach, which is how I feel my businesses is, too. Should I just do this thing? Should I just do that? It’s kind of an all of the above. You’re doing online courses, you’ve got the software, you’ve got the books, you’ve got the other training live workshops. Is that how you feel? You’re choosing all the above? Is it because of your team that you’re able to do that? 

Pat: It’s definitely because of the team. I don’t think it’s all the above. If it was all of the above, it would be like Selections A through Q versus what I feel is maybe A to E. I’m selecting the top things that I know are working. Beyond that, I’m doing some other things that are high leverage, like I’m advising some companies and I’m also angel investing now as well, which is a part of it, too. 

Where am I most interested? Where do I have the highest leverage? It’s more of a “own, not run” situation, if that makes sense, the idea of building the pieces up-front so that they can be run by somebody else. That’s ultimately where I want all these businesses to go outside of my own personal brand, which is obviously just going to be me at patflynn.com (which is going to be built out later), and really, my legacy related to putting entrepreneurship into schools. That’s something that’s really important to me and why I’m leveraging team, why I’m leveraging on automation a lot of these other businesses. 

Not all of the above, but definitely a lot of the above. I’m saying no to a lot of opportunities, though. When you get to this level, there’s good things and bad things. One of the bad things is you get many people wanting your attention and so many opportunities—good and bad—that you have to really put your filter cap on to know what to say yes to and what to say no to. 

And I got in trouble in the mid teens of the 2000s of saying yes to way too many things, and potentially even almost getting burnt out. That’s very common for people like us who have a lot of irons in the fire. A lot of those irons are working because then, “Okay, let’s keep adding, let’s keep adding.” I can learn from you, maybe even pruning down a little bit more or handing off things even more so that I do you have even more breathing room. 

I think a large part of it were recently is that the kids have been now old enough to go to school. I’m kind of back in the saddle versus me cutting a lot of things off my plate in 2015 and then focusing on those kids and then team after that. 

Spencer: I totally get that. My youngest is now in full day kindergarten. He just started this year. We got an empty house and I feel I can get a lot of time during the day because I work from home here, obviously, and I know what you mean about kids being in school. 

Let’s let’s take a look at the future of Smart Passive Income. It’s clear that you’re growing, your team is allowing you and other people to help grow your business. That’s super smart and people can learn from that especially on how to grow beyond just a single person blog to a much larger business. If we were to take a look into the future and see what SPI it looks in 5 years, 10 years, or even 20 years, what is the grand vision of SPI? 

Pat: This very top of mind because we are actually on our way for the future of SPI, very purposefully. Here’s how it’s going to be structured actually. Later this year (if not already), by the time you listen to this, we’ll have a new website. That’ll be great because the last website iteration, we did not have courses, we did not have products. Everything that’s been added on after that it’s just been Frankenstein-placed in there. Now, we are designing a website that supports the courses. 

Really, what it looks in terms of the front-end is we are creating what’s called guides that are multi-blog post, essentially almost a book on a particular topic on something particular, like an email marketing guide. It might be five or six chapters in length, all separate blog post which target a specific segment or specific sub topic of email marketing for SEO purposes. 

That’s going to draw a lot of people in. If you come to the website, that’s the number one thing we want people to do is to get into a guide. The guide then leans people into a cheat sheet or a lead magnet of some kind. We can collect their email, we’ll know a little bit about them already because of the guide that they’ll be getting that lead magnet from, and then we can walk them through a process to understand what their next steps might be. One of those next steps may be getting into our course related to that topic as well. 

The funnels in the design of the website are going to definitely be more complimentary. They’re kind of fighting each other in the way that it is now. On a high level, here is what’s going to happen. For 10 years, SPI has just been me. I am the sole creator there and even though I had a team, I’m still the face and the only face there. We are going to change that. There will be new characters coming on board who have their own specialities, their own expertise to then share and become the face of the brand with me. 

The analogy that we like to use is The Avengers. It started with Iron Man and it was just Iron Man. Later on, he started to see Hawkeye, Falcon, Hulk, and Black Widow, each with their own specialities. That then become The Avengers […] and we can become our own experts in our own little vertical within SPI. 

Maybe one day in the future, there’s going to be a video person who, when you go to that person’s guide, it’s not me, it’s Caleb my videographer. He will have his own course in the SPI network or under SPI media, but it’s not me anymore creating that course. It’s Caleb and he’s creating the videos. We do a little partnership with him. 

Maybe one day, we get into software development. I’m not an expert on software development. I have software, but I’m not an expert. We bring somebody on to partner with, to become a part of SPI network, who is an expert and wants to become the face. Maybe they’re an up-and-comer who has a little bit of a blog and they have this expertise, there just struggling with finding an audience and reach. Well, guess what? We have that and with our powers combined, we are Captain Planet. We can put our forces together and we can build this out such that now I am just the founder and CEO, but I am one of many characters involved in the SPI network. 

This is what’s going to allow me to spend less time there overall, so that I can focus on these bigger goals I have about education and the education system here in the US which is where I want to focus my later years in life, and I want to start that now. That’s really cool because the worst case scenario, let’s say something happens to me—I get hit by a bus or I die—the company lives on. Whereas right now, if I die, SPI dies, and it shouldn’t be like that. It can be built to sell. 

Built to sell is a phrase used to build a company in such a way where it can be run on its own, such that it is attractive to a buyer. Not saying that I want to sell it, but when it’s built that way, it becomes efficient, it becomes a well-oiled machine, and it becomes something that’s not just solely relying on one single person or one single person alone. 

That’s the future of SPI, which you’ll see me being more active on my personal brand of patflynn.com or I’m going to talk a little bit more about the education stuff, parenting, technology, Tesla, other things that I’m really interested in that I want to talk about that just SPI isn’t really made for. 

What do you think? I mean, this is way different than what I imagined when I first started out, that’s for sure. 

Spencer: It’s awesome and you touched on a lot of the questions I was going to ask honestly here. I want to spend the rest of our time talking about these because I’ve been very curious what your grand vision is. You’re doing a really good job. I can see it from the outside you started to bring in a team. It’s clear that you’re getting a lot of people to help, you’re able to step back a little bit, and you’re making a good transition of doing that. 

I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but at what point are you able to step back completely? The one thing that I would say is the most difficult is your podcast. Do you ever step back from your podcast? I mean. if you wanted to retire and focus on these other goals that I actually want to talk about a little bit that you have, what’s your vision there? Would you ever step back completely? Would it just become a different podcast? How would that work? 

Pat: I think the SPI podcast would become one of several podcasts on the SPI network. I can’t imagine walking away from it right now, although I could build it for that and have somebody else come on to support the role that I was doing. The brand will become less reliant on just that one episode. 

I would want to still be a part of it even as we’re building it as such, to a point where I could potentially walk away if I wanted to, but I am not going away from the podcast, I’m not going away from the brand. We’re just allowing for more people to come in to serve the audience and hopefully grow the audience, much bigger and attract different kinds of people who want to learn about these other topics and learn from the experts on them. 

I’m not an expert on all things and that’s the other part about this. I did pretty good about talking about several different topics leading up to this point, but to grow bigger and help people even more, I can’t possibly and I’m not qualified to talk about real estate, which is a topic that a lot of people have been asking me about. It’s like, “Pat, I’m in real estate. Can you give me some tips on this and help me understand what my next steps are?” I’m like, “No,” because I don’t have that expertise, but if we had a real estate person who is like Mark, who is SPI real estate guy and he has his own SPI real estate show, any he has his own SPI real estate course, well then I can easily go, “Well, go to Mark.” 

And if Mark needs help with podcasting, he can come to me. Or if we need help creating videos for our courses, they can go to Caleb, et cetera. We’ll be able to create a better solution for people and take care of people even more. I’ve definitely been stretched thin trying to help everybody and I can’t do that anymore, but I’m not going, that’s for sure. 

Spencer: Yeah, I know, for sure. I’m just curious thinking about at what point do you start thinking about retirement. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I wouldn’t call myself old just yet, but it’s been 17 years since I graduated from college. I’ve got teenagers in my house now. I do think it’s a good idea to think about when it is appropriate time to retire and leave my business behind. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of exits, like LongTailPro and like I said, I sold an Amazon FBA business a couple of years ago. That’s helped pad my retirement pretty well. I don’t think I’m quite at the point where I could just walk away and not worry about any money at all, but I do calculate what it would take to just walk away, not have to work, think about business at all, and just focus on other things in life. 

Since you’ve been really public in the past about sharing your income, obviously, I know that you probably got a decent nest egg saved up and maybe at the point where you could be thinking about that, you don’t have to worry about money so much, do you ever think about early retirement and just walking away? 

Pat: Yeah. I can almost feel I’m already early retired, to be honest, because I love the work I do much. I know that might be a cop out answer, but they say if you love the work you do it never feel like work. That’s not true. It always feels like work, it struggles, and its ups and downs, but to me, I enjoy it much that I could potentially imagine continuing to do what I do, just loving life and being completely satisfied. 

Although, like I said, I have bigger goals and this has become an amazing launching pad for even bigger, more impactful things. That’s truly what I want. 

Spencer: Let’s talk about those. What are your goals? What are your passion projects that you want to focus on outside of business? 

Pat: My kids are very lucky that they go to a school where they teach entrepreneurship. They encourage that kind of learning. To me, to see the impact it’s had on their lives, it’s just been really eye-opening because it’s very different from how I went to school, how my wife went to school and how most kids are in school. They’re equipping themselves for a much more successful future, to be able to help even more people, and to be great citizens. 

Especially with where things are going, with technology, and just where the world is headed, I have a huge passion right now to see what I can do to be an agent of change in the world of education. Specifically, my platform for that will be, “Hey, all kids need to learn on entrepreneurship. Reading, important. Math, important. Science, absolutely. Entrepreneurship, of course. I want entrepreneurship to be a subject in schools just like those other ones and that would be the goal. 

So far, my work in that space, there’s just a ton of red tape, a ton of politics, a ton of government, all those kinds of things that would impede that and make it very difficult to do, but I’m up to the challenge. I also know there’s other ways that we could serve kids in potentially after school programs and things like that, to help them focus on entrepreneurship and learning those things. 

Honestly, I’m not here to convince everybody to become an entrepreneur. I want kids to know, (1) that is an option, (2) just the skills you learn as an entrepreneur—as you know, Spencer, and as many of your audience knows, too—just could be for life in general, whether you become an entrepreneur or not. Maybe you can become an amazing employee who knows now how to build a personal brand within the work space. To position yourself so that you can have a happier work space, more money in your pocket, to better communicate with team members, to learn from your failures, to present your ideas to strangers and people that you don’t even know. 

My kids at the age of six and seven have already gotten in front of panels of judges to present ideas and to learn what it’s like to fail, to learn what it’s like to work through mistakes, and then come back even further on the other end. It’s so valuable and I’ve seen it already. I want that to be for every kid. 

The analogy I like to use is Walter Isaacson. He writes several different biographies. My favorite one is the Benjamin Franklin biography. We know Benjamin Franklin for a lot of things, education being one of them, actually. The biography is like 650 pages long. By the time you get to just page 70, he’s already 40 years old. I am almost 37 years old at this point. I’m not even at 40 yet and I know that I have much more of my biography to be filled out with a lot of these important, impactful things that I could be remembered for, that I could have an impact on, to serve the world, to serve my kids and their kids and forth. That’s what’s important to me. With the reach that I have and the stepping stone of SPI, I might be able to do some amazing things. 

Spencer: I absolutely agree. I love that you’re thinking about that long-term what’s next and I don’t mean to insinuated all that SPI isn’t a focus, but as I think about what’s next in my life after my active business pursuits here, it’s great to hear your thoughts and what you’re doing. Is that something that, to get an education, to promote education, whether that’s in schools or elsewhere, have you formed a foundation? Would you form a foundation? Would it be a nonprofit effort? How do you envision that? 

Pat: Right now, it is up for grabs, but it is potentially any or if not all, or maybe just one of those things. I don’t know. Right now, it’s about educating myself about how things work and connecting with people. 

Connecting with people has always been the answer for everything related to my business. I know it’s the answer for this as well. I’ve just been putting ourselves in situations where I could get to know people who are making an impact in this industry already, who knows a lot more than I do. Whether that’s being a part of the future, the classroom here in San Diego, to being on the board of pencils of promise, which helps build schools around the world. 

We’ve built several schools in Africa already as a community within SPI, but then have had a lot more impact in that world, too, since then and just immersing myself. I can only fully immersed myself if I fully out-merse myself with SPI and I know that. It’s going to be multi years in the making but it starts now. It doesn’t mean I can focus on just what I can focus on now and I’ve already started to do that. So, connections and just learning more is really what I’m into right now. 

Spencer: Very good. Entrepreneurship is such an amazing thing. It provides so many opportunities, not just financially but able to connect with other people, and then hopefully do some good in the world. I love that you’re thinking about that and what your future is going to bring. I expect to see a lot of good things so people can follow along at pathflynn.com. It sounds for a little more insight on that down the road, right? 

Pat: Absolutely, yeah patflynn.com. I had for six years bought it off another Pat Flynn after several, several back and forth. Since then, it’s just been driving people back to SPI, but with the SPI website redesign also comes the patflynn.com redesign where you can start to see a lot more of these themes come out and likely evolve over time, but got to start somewhere. I’m excited to start this new journey. 

Spencer: Absolutely. That sounds good. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask two questions. I did poll my audience and there was a lot of questions that people wanted to ask you, but I did just picked two. Just questions that we can answer here as we start to wrap up. One question that a lot of people were interested in is if you were to get started in affiliate marketing from scratch right now, what would your strategy be? 

Pat: Strategy would be, (1) pick a target market can learn anything and everything I can about what they need help with. What are their problems, what are their pains, and more importantly, how are they describing those problems because that will allow me to communicate back with them once I find solutions. And then (2) figuring out what products makes sense to help support them with that and then building an interest list perhaps on a landing page without even having a website yet, just to start to let people know that I’m interested in finding ways to solve those problems. 

It might start with whatever I’m interested in at the time or just what’s trending in the news or where I’m hearing people might need help. It will likely be a sub-niche within a niche that I might already know about or have connections to, because that way you can become a little bit more specific and a person can know whether or not they are in the right place with you’re not. When you get sub-niche, you get to really, really getting into the people going, “Well, you must be the person for me. It’s why you see all the different kinds of shoe stores at the mall. There’s 15 different shoe stores because people have 15 different needs for their feet.” I would approach it that way. 

Then after that, maybe getting in tune with either getting access to or even buying a product that I know could potentially serve them, if I don’t already have access to that. Then, just going all out, trying to become a voice for that brand on behalf of them, to promote that product to this audience and this interest list that I will have built, just learning everything I can about what their needs are, supporting them with that for free, and with these affiliate commissions coming in from products that I would recommend. 

Now that you’ve done this, or accomplished this, or have access to this, what else do you need help with? What’s your next round of problems? Or what’s your next goal? And then, just continuing to add on to there. I can take this one person through a journey of several different steps in our products. Then, as a by-product of serving them in that way, hopefully earning a commission on the side. 

Spencer: Awesome. Those are great tips. The other question from the audience here is, how do you handle stress in your business? 

Pat: Large amounts of stress are not getting to me because it’s handled by my team. I have a COO (chief operations officer) who is the one who has been tasked to manage a lot of the fires that might be happening in the business. I got to tell you, I pay him well, but it’s worth every penny to have Matt. These are otherwise known as project manager, perhaps online business manager (OBM), or integrator. Somebody who can do a lot of the stressful things in terms of connecting everything together to support you as the visionary in your business. 

There’s a book called Rocket Fuel—which is great—that describes the relationship between the visionary, perhaps he was the entrepreneur, and the integrator, the person who is actually doing in managing all these things. Those people do exist. That’s number one. 

Number two, what really helps me is just zooming out a little bit from all these little, specific things that might be bothering me and just looking at overall, things that are still working. Things I can still be grateful for or things that help me understand that nothing’s going to ever fall apart completely ever. 

That just puts me back on the ground, puts things back into perspective, and then I can just consciously handle those things when needed. Sometimes, I do need to take a walk or sometimes I’ll need to take a break. That’s important, too. We can often get stressed if we’re working hard on something and it’s not working. We just push harder into it. Sometimes, you need to walk away and then come back a little bit later. You can come in with a different brain, different mindset, different positioning, different perspective to tackle whatever that problem is. 

Finally, I think the meditation that I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been on a pretty good streak of meditating every day for even just 5–10 minutes, that just allows for breathing space in my head to not ever get stressed about things that probably don’t require being stressed out about. All these things combined has allowed me to be pretty level-headed and grateful with […] not everything is perfect. 

Spencer: Very good. Now, I want to give you a chance to just share whatever you want. I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Do you have anything that you’d like to share or any final business tips or motivational advice that you just like to offer? 

Pat: Once I started to get in tune with my 5–10 year plan, it really helped me understand the work that I was doing today. For a long time, I was in the one week to one month plan. When I got out of that and started thinking to yearly, number one in my business specifically, we started to feel a little bit more breathing room in terms of what are we creating, what we’re promoting, when, and what content. 

I never felt I was on the content hamster wheel when I was thinking about a year ahead, but then, 5–10 years or more life goals, the legacy goes I just talked about, that has allowed me to go, “What am I doing in my business today to get there?” This is where a lot of the conscious action related to SPI in a way it’s structured or will be structured has been coming into place. It’s really exciting. It provides for purpose, it provides for direction, it provides for excitement about the future, and something much bigger than beyond myself to build for. 

I would just encourage everybody to, as much as we’re planning next week or next month, scope out a little bit. Plan your next year, then really ask yourself and perhaps the loved ones around you who are going to be involved with you throughout the years, where do you want to end up? Where you want to go? If you don’t know that, then what are we doing today and why? So, know where you want to go. 

I love to dig in a little bit deeper into you, Spencer, at some point catch up with you just off the call to know where you want to go and what you’re thinking about doing. Congratulations to you and all your success in what you’ve built yourself. I’m excited to see where you put your next efforts into and how you enjoy life even more from what you’ve built and the hard work that you’ve done. So, congrats to you, too. 

Spencer: Thank you very much. Yeah, it’s so important to think in big picture. I love that we’re able to dive into your big picture, your 5 year, 10 year, and longer-term plans. Like I said, there’s things that I’ve been thinking about a little bit more and people listening like to hear that, know where smartpassiveincome.com is going, what Pat is up to and that sort of thing. 

Overall, just thanks for coming on and sharing your thoughts, answering a few questions, and if nothing else, it’s been great after 7½ years to finally have you back on the podcast. 

Pat: And let’s not wait long to connect again. 

Spencer: I agree. Thanks a lot. People can check you out, smartpassiveincome.com and patflynn.com. Thanks a lot. 




Podcasts | 3 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of NichePursuits.com. After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding LinkWhisper.com, and co-founding MotionInvest.com. You can learn more about Spencer here.

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3 Comments

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Jae Jun

killer interview with ideas that I’ve taken away regarding framework, big picture and working towards a hands off operating business.

2 great podcasters.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Jae!

Daniel

Great post and Podcast. 🙂

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