Everybody's talking about the 4-hour workweek. But I'll bet you haven't heard of the 1-hour workweek. Sounds unbelievable, but it's true.
My client Joel Kaplan managed to build a social media marketing agency that's completely automated and hands-off. To the point where he only has to check in about an hour a week.
The best part? His agency manages about 200 active clients and does $250,000/month in revenue. Now, THAT'S what I call being a CEO.
If you run an agency or any kind of client-based business, this interview is a must-watch!
- The number 1 reason why business owners stay trapped as an “entrepreneurial employee” and never level-up to CEO
- How I used the “vacation test” this past Christmas to identify and eliminate the biggest weaknesses in my business
- The invisible script that's stopping you from automating your business and freeing yourself from the daily grind
- To delegate or automate? That is the question
- Do you sell McDonald's or sushi? How your business model affects your ability to systematize and automate your business
…And much more!
Mike Mark: [00:00:34]
Well, I'm really excited to introduce to you guys, Joel Kaplan. If you guys don't know who Joel is, he is a monster in the agency space. He is a strapping young gentleman from Caracas, Venezuela, but he's in the US for a while and, he has the fire in his belly that only an immigrant has.
And, he has gone ahead and built an agency where basically he only works one hour a week. he's pretty much completely hands-off in his agency. I think you said you have about a thousand clients, if I remember correctly.
Joel Kaplan: [00:01:08]
No, no, we have, we don't have a thousand clients. I think we've, we've closed over a thousand clients. If you count all the clients my students have closed, but, we have about 200 clients at our agency, so.
Mike Mark: [00:01:18]
200 active clients. But I mean, you've probably closed more, way more than that.
Joel Kaplan: [00:01:23]
Yeah, and through the students, we've closed thousands, a hundred percent.
Mike Mark: [00:01:27]
And that's one of the things that I, I, love most about just even our process of working together is how systematize everything that you do is, if it's not a systematized, you really don't do it.
And, you've been able to excel in how you've like really gone into the CEO mentality where a lot of people, it's like the hustler mentality gets them to 30, 50 grand a month, and then moving past that hustler mentality. Most people, they just. It's, it's so, there's so many emotions caught up in it. You know.
Joel Kaplan: [00:02:02]
I think like, if we, if you guys, if you just want to dive in straight to that, I think there's a lot we can talk about. But I truly believe that most people get stuck in being an entrepreneurial employee. And they never evolve into a CEO. And I was just telling you before we went live, Robert Kiyosaki, the King of wealth creation that's taught millions of people how to build wealth, talks about the fact that businesses that are assets are only assets if they run, even if you're not there.
And my whole philosophy is I want to build assets. I want to build businesses that perform, even if I don't show up. Now, of course, you have to be there at the beginning to nurture it, and it's like a little kid growing up. You have to be there to parent it until it's able to go out into the world and be on its own.
But eventually it should have the systems in place and the team in place to be able to not only run without you, but ultimately grow without you. And again, I'm not against going all in and being extremely in the business at the beginning. But if that's the end goal, then you're just stuck in your own nine to five.
And a lot of people become entrepreneurs for freedom, which is kind of ironic because then they just trap themselves even more into their own rat race. So, again, I'm not saying I'm against working really hard. As you said, I'm an immigrant and I truly do believe in hard work, but it's just doing it with the right vision in mind and knowing that one day you need to remove yourself from that business.
Mike Mark: [00:03:43]
So what keeps someone trapped there?
Joel Kaplan: [00:03:46]
That's, that's a really good question. I would say that it comes down to fear of letting go. Not trusting themselves in their process because if they trust themselves in their process, their ability to get appointments, their ability to close those appointments and get clients that our ability to fulfill, then they should trust their ability to take those processes and give them to someone else.
So I truly believe that it comes down to trusting that you can deliver, even if it's through someone else, and then your ability to let go. And if you don't work on those core emotional things that are holding you back, it's going to be hard for you to remove yourself as the bottleneck. I think also it's kind of like a catch 22 once you're trapped in the rat race that you created for yourself, it's hard to get out of it.
So you need someone to kind of beat you over the head and be like, yo, step away from the business. And I'd say the one last thing is something that we did it at was digital that helped us really automate our agency, which I have seen very few people do something called a vacation test where my business partner would force me and himself to leave and let the business fail.
Mike Mark: [00:05:03]
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Joel Kaplan: [00:05:04]
So that we could actually see which, which were the gaps, which were the holes in the business. And then ultimately that would allow us to come back, fill those gaps. And now those little pieces that were broken and if we weren't there, would be fixed. So that even if we walked away, they would still work without us.
Mike Mark: [00:05:24]
That's super good. That's really, really good. the vacation test. So if you are with us right now, just give us a comment below. I just want to check to make sure that you're with us. And the one thing I wanted to touch on with that, so we, we actually did that, right?
So on Christmas, I took a week off from Christmas to, to new year's, and I just was like, there's no. No fucking way. I'm going to respond to anybody during this time. You know? Cause like, it's so easy to get caught up in this. Like they need me mentality all the time. And so I was just like, I'm just going to ignore everything and then see what happens. And I did it for a week. Dude, I lost my mind. It was so like the stress and all the emotions, and I can see why people will tell themselves and they build the story that like, yeah, Oh, well, no, I have to do this.
I can't step away from it. But instead, like I think the difference that you have in your partner has, or like even we have is that when we came back it was like, okay. Why is this happening? And then you drill down to the root cause analysis. And then once you identify that root cause, it's like, ah. So here's what's the shift.
And like for us, I just kind of going to offer this for anyone who's here, and it may be your problem. It may not be your problem, but. For us, our problem was, so I delegated everything inside of the business at that point, right? Like I was pretty much hands-off and I could work at that point in time, like 10 15 hours a week as low as five if I really was going to be super hands-off and the business was still functioned pretty much fine.
All right. Just have to show up to my daily huddles and my meetings with the team to know what's going on. and then over Christmas, I tried to just completely remove myself from the huddles. And the thing that I discovered that broke for me was that, we have client success systems, but our communication of issues and things was based on almost tribal knowledge as opposed to scorecards and metrics at the level they needed to be. And all of our scorecards and metrics were reactive as opposed to proactive. And so once I realized that I was like, holy shit. That was big, like when I did my root cause analysis…
Joel Kaplan: [00:07:37]
And do you think you would have arrived at that conclusion if you haven't taken the vacation test?
Mike Mark: [00:07:42]
No. And the other thing is dude, I even doing it during Christmas. It was so annoying to me that I couldn't actually enjoy the time with my family because I was so anxious and stressed the entire time. And in my brain, everything was exploding. There were huge fires and all these things. And then when I checked on the business, they weren't necessarily real. But that feeling of anxiety to me was real in the moment.
And it was costing me the ability to have fun in those experiences with my family. And so I said, fuck that. I don't want that. And it gave me that, like for me, I tend to work best where it's like, I just have a fuck this. I'm not going to settle for it anymore attitude. And then I go into a sprint and then I just like install an overhaul. Everything.
Joel Kaplan: [00:08:28]
Yeah. I think honestly, people never take the vacation test, so they're never able to see the true weaknesses in their systems, and it's almost like their insecurity and letting go forces them to always be involved. So then not only do you never see the holes, but you also don't allow your team and your business to be self-reliant. Because if you're always enabling the system and hopping in and fixing everything, anytime anyone has an issue, anytime there are any broken things in your business, then guess what's going to happen? The business and the team is going to grow, expecting you to be there to solve all their problems, to solve all the issues, to fill all the gaps.
So like sometimes my team fucks up and they're like, Hey, Joel, can you help me with this? And I know the answer and I still don't give it to them.
Mike Mark: [00:09:23]
Yeah. There's a joke about that, right? It's like a, you just hire a smart person and then ignore them, and then they'll eventually figure out the question, the answer to the question on their own.
But what I want to know, what's one situations where you took the vacation test and there was a problem, and then what was that problem? And then like, how did you come about discovering that? What's like one specific example.
Joel Kaplan: [00:09:48]
Yeah. The one that comes to mind, I was on my honeymoon actually in Costa Rica. We had like seven campaigns that needed to be reviewed before going live for clients. And I was like, okay, our review system is fucked up cause it just relies 100% on me. I have to manually review every single campaign.
So then I build an SOP for reviewing campaigns that got it 80% better and then it would, it saved me about 80% of the time I still tweaked it. And then eventually I hired someone. Where their entire job was reviewing and optimizing campaigns.
So the first sort of priority was putting a system in place for a campaign reviewing, and then the second-order of priority was actually finding someone good enough where if there was a subtler mistake or more nuanced mistake that the system wouldn't be able to grab. The human ability would be able to capture and fix on their own. So then that's when we hired our first marketing manager, and all they do is review campaigns and optimize campaigns. And, and yeah, that's, that's a great example I'd say.
Mike Mark: [00:10:56]
The one thing I think I want to highlight here, for especially for some of you guys right now who are tuning in and you might feel a little bit trapped in your business like you can't escape or you can't get out of it, is a thing that you said that really stood out to me was I built a system that got it 80% of the way there. Right. And like, I think that every time someone wants to build a system, they try to get it a hundred percent there and then, so then they say, I can't build a system, therefore I just need to do it myself. And then it turns into this like a self-reinforcing logic that fails them.
Joel Kaplan: [00:11:29]
Yeah. One of our philosophies is 80% automated, 20% human. So it's like some point there is going to be a human involved and you can't expect it to be a hundred percent automated and over time, like here's another mistake that I see people make. They build version one of their systems and then, the actual human on the other end that was implementing that system improved or did some tweaks or over time it got better and now they want to go back and rebuild everything.
I'm like, no, your, your marketing manager knows how to do it and it's still automated even though it's them doing it. Just let them do it and fill in that 20% that isn't perfectly systemized and automated and you know what? If you lose that person. Yes, you'll have to fill in that 20% with a new person, but that still saves you hours and hours and hours of having to go back and rebuild everything.
Mike Mark: [00:12:20]
Yeah. So, yeah, that makes sense. so I have a question for you. About the 80% automated, 20% delegated or kind of 20% human. Do you delegate first or do you automate first?
Joel Kaplan: [00:12:33]
That's a great question. Core functions that are, that are necessary to like the assembly line of the business, which by the way, we try to see the entire service as a productized, as a, as a product that we sell and it falls into an assembly line. And I'd say anything in regards to that process is 80% automated and 20% human. Now. That is not delegated. That's just expected. We get a new client, then this happens and this happens and this happens. Then they're ready to go live. That isn't delegated, that's just automatically done. The things that are delegated or one time tasks or specific issues that came up.
And it is a bit more reactive versus proactive, but that's where that 20% is captured, where you're like, Oh, well this guy's campaign. He requested this specific picture of this specific change. So we're going to have to create a task that we delegate and, And it isn't in our process.
Mike Mark: [00:13:33]
It's interesting. So, the reason I asked you that, and I kind of want to trade notes here, cause I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this. but like one of the things that I've noticed has worked particularly well for us is a, given there's a system, right? And it's mostly going to be a human system, right? Cause normally when you're figuring it, you're building something out, you're, you're the one who figured or built it out.
And so you need to capture it and then hand it off. So I can have the time to think again. And my philosophy is to almost always, not, not always, but almost always delegate it first. And then just give it to a person and then once that person's managing it, I know it's consistently getting done and then I can figure out how to automate it with the remaining brainpower I bought back.
Joel Kaplan: [00:14:16]
That's awesome. That's definitely not what we did. We did like the opposite of that. Yeah.
Mike Mark: [00:14:23]
I'm trying to automate it takes too much brainpower. So then I'm like, I never get the system live. Cause there's always some little variable that's broken and the human configure that variable out but the automations can't cause they're machines, you know?
But the automations are more consistent and repeatable and they're more efficient. So I almost always try to get the human to do it first and then I problem solve and figure out the different variants of the problem and then I would automate it.
Joel Kaplan: [00:14:50]
I mean, in another, we were like super diving in. In a nutshell, this is my process. Let's say that I've learned how to set up Facebook ads for a dentist, and that's going to be my service. Now, like my first version of this is I'm going to hire a virtual assistant that can press the buttons for me. I'm going to record myself building everything out, right? And then the next time I have a client, a new client, I'm going to have them fill out a Google form with all their information. I'm going to give that virtual assistant the responses from that Google form, the video. Then they're going to go and implement it, and I'm going to have to review it. That's kind of like version one.
Over time, I start to automate more things. Like for example, next time I'll go from Google form to zap that sends them the actual task being like, yo, start doing this. And the third time all automate a little bit more and a little bit more in a little bit more. but the, the reason I said 80% automated is that I believe that even when it's in its most perfect form, it will require some tweaks here and there that you can't systemize and automate.
So. And what I will say though, is at least with your business, there's much more of a human element involved. You have to interview people. It's not the same every single time. The conversation is a little bit different every single time.
Whereas with a marketing agency, you should go after one niche and use one ad and stick to one service, whether it's Google or Facebook or YouTube ads. And that way, every single time it's the same or else you're going to, you're essentially going to hit a fulfillment wall and it's going to be very hard for you to scale.
Mike Mark: [00:16:37]
Yeah. It's funny what you're saying is so true because sometimes I'm like, I see our agency clients and I'm like, fuck, I should have just started an agency all along. I didn't do this to myself, but I guess I just don't, I don't know. I like solving complex problems and I'm kind of a glutton for punishment I guess, so it's more fun for me.
Joel Kaplan: [00:16:58]
What I tell people all the time is like the more, the less productized your services. So, for example, Gary V is a great case study of this. Like every single time he gets a new client, the commercial he films is different. The actual strategies he implements are different. Everything is different. So it's like every time he gets a client, he's essentially starting a brand new mini business.
Now, you may be wondering like, is that, can you actually automate that? Can you actually systemize that? I truly believe that you can, but it requires way more manpower and a dedication to really hire talented people that don't need to be systemized, and that can just figure things out on their own. And the problem is that most rookie entrepreneurs want to go and build that really customized solution. The problem is that it requires a crap ton of cash and investment and HR skills to really bring amazing talent that they probably don't have.
Mike Mark: [00:18:01]
Joel Kaplan: [00:18:01]
So, Gary V has automated it, but it's much more human and way less systems than my 80 20 percentage. I think the 80 20 percentage works really well in the agency model. Where if you productize it and you just do lead gen for Kairos or lead gen for gyms, you can really automate 80% whereas, with a Gary V model or maybe your business, it's gonna be a little more human, a little less systems.
Mike Mark: [00:18:31]
Yeah. Yeah. It's a lot more human on our end and then with a human then you're trying to figure out like, I think that the difference between human is that the strategy, you need like frameworks and principle-based systems as opposed to tactical systems. And it takes a lot. You have to find someone who usually you're talking about higher talent, higher dollar per hour talent, and then, usually those people are harder to convince in the first place to join your team because they're kind of skeptical. and then it takes longer to get them ramped up then like, cause a lot of people don't know but we, we do help place like admins and sales admins and stuff as well with our clients once they're working with us.
Cause tracking's just if you're going to run a sales team, you need tracking. And if you don't have tracking, you can't effectively run your sales organization, right? And those are, they're easy PZ because it's repeatable and there are tactical systems, and sometimes we just joke with ourselves like, shit, we should just do this. This is so much easier.
Joel Kaplan: [00:19:29]
To get paid less low, it's a price 22 right? Like I always tell people, are you trying to build a super fancy sushi restaurant in Manhattan or are you trying to build McDonald's. McDonald's is repeatable. It's the same burger, whether you're in, Colorado here in Denver, or whether you're in Florida or whether you're in Manhattan, in New York. the sushi restaurant might be a totally different dish every single night, but it's going to be way more. Sorry, that was my dog down there. This is a coronavirus approved podcast, so they may, there may be some background noise from my house.
But the question you need to ask yourself is, what kind of business are you building? Are you going for more of the McDonald's type, which is just rinse and repeat. If that's the case, then you should be able to automate way more and depend on humans way less. But if you are doing the. For example, let's say let's go to the complete other end of the spectrum. Let's say that you are the one that does one on one consulting in person, and you build a customized strategy every single time for every new client that you get, but you're able to charge $50,000 a day.
If that's the case, then it's going to be very hard to automate. It's going to be 90% human, 10% systems. But then you get paid way more upfront. So I'd say it just depends on more of what you want, but for anyone watching this, if you are a traditional lead generation agency, you should be able to automate 80% and the only things that are very hard to automate are the execution of the set of the actual sales process. You can't like put it into a zap and managing the clients.
Mike Mark: [00:21:16]
I bet you need salespeople.
Joel Kaplan: [00:21:19]
Plug it in, plug it in,
Mike Mark: [00:21:20]
Shameless plug, shameless plug if you need salespeople. So it's interesting, just the overall system of what you're talking about. Cause then it comes down to that decision, right? What do you really want is the big question.
And, in your case, what you're describing is like, if you own an asset, which. You could classify your agency as is an asset, then now you have a cash flow producing asset. But if you make 50 grand a day, it sounds fucking awesome, but you're still a self-employed person. So when you stop showing up to work, the income stops.
And then so like, there's some interesting stuff. I don't know if you are, have you ever come across a cashflow tactics, Brad, given those guys? So they're super smart. I like, I like a lot of their content and, He talks about how like true wealth is measured in time as opposed to money, right? And so..
Joel Kaplan: [00:22:10]
How many days… if you stop working today, how many days you've got? Do you have until your money runs out?
Mike Mark: [00:22:16]
Joel Kaplan: [00:22:17]
Mike Mark: [00:22:18]
Yup. And, because of the way that your system's designed, like you have the time, wealth, not just the income wealth. And so for that person, you know, yeah, maybe they have a lot of savings, maybe they have whatever, but if they stopped working, it's gonna run out eventually.
You know, they might have years of freedom, but at some point it's going to run out. Whereas with the way that you design the system, your freedom is effectively limitless. But then. You, I think suffer from the same problem that I suffer from, which is a, like, I stopped, I got, I got to take a break from building my business. So I go build another business and it's like shit. Like every time I have a hobby, it turns into a business. I'm like, God damn it. I can't stop building businesses.
Joel Kaplan: [00:23:01]
I joked about this like once I realized, wow, I'm pretty far removed from my agency. I should've taken a vacation and instead I went right into a new business and all in and had a bunch of students to take care of like week one and had to start showing up and I promised like four coaching calls a week. And I'm back back in the middle of it. So,
Mike Mark: [00:23:21]
Joel Kaplan: [00:23:22]
I think that's… I mean, at the end of the day, you just have to do some reflection on what you want. You know, if you ask Marcus, my agency business partner, what do you want? He really just wants an asset that he doesn't have to show up for. And once he automated himself from the agency, he was chilling. He went Paragon. He does professional, no, paragliding. You went to a bunch of competitions, took a lot of time off like so it just comes down to also what you want. I get fulfillment from coaching and that's why I got into agency coaching and that's why honestly, I believe one of the biggest reasons why I haven't been able to automate it is because I don't want to automate it.
I like it. I like showing up. It's fun. It's exciting. I get to help people, but it's kind of like a, like I said earlier, it's a catch 22 because. Then it forces me to still have a job and be trapped in my own nine to five and be an entrepreneurial employee. So…
Mike Mark: [00:24:22]
Yeah, but the thing is that it's a choice for you because you don't have to be there. You know, you signed up for it and then it's, it has a different emotional charge when you can any day say, fuck it, I'm going to shut this thing down and you're still going to be, I, you know what I mean?
Joel Kaplan: [00:24:41]
Sorry. I got excited, Mike. One last thing.
Mike Mark: [00:24:42]
Go, get excited.
Joel Kaplan: [00:24:44]
The other thing is, even though the agency coaching isn't systemized, I did consciously get a few coaches and I've created workshops with my students. So if at any point in time I do need time off, I don't, I'm not forced to show up. It's not like a job where I will get fired if I don't come into work. So, I think it just comes down to being aware of what you want out of that business and building it accordingly.
Mike Mark: [00:25:13]
Yep. so we got a bunch of people here and I want you guys, we'll be monitoring the comments. So if you have questions that you want us to go deeper on, drop those questions in the comments and then, we'll make sure to answer your guys' questions and riff on this stuff. So, please, by all means, if there's anything that you absolutely want to ask Joel, because I mean, what he's done is nothing short of remarkable. To be able to work an hour a week on your agency and to be able to have 250 grand a month coming in and 200 clients like. That's the type of stuff that you almost don't even believe when people make those claims. Right? It's like.
Joel Kaplan: [00:25:53]
I know it's kind of a catch 22.
Mike Mark: [00:25:55]
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's like, it sounds way too good to be true, but I mean, I know you and I know that it's legit, right? So…
Joel Kaplan: [00:26:02]
It's so funny cause sometimes we've joked about like the guarantees we want to make about the results we can get people. And then, you know, Mark, he does all of our copywriting. He's like, yeah, but if we make that claim, no one's going to believe us and then they're not going to opt it.
Mike Mark: [00:26:18]
Joel Kaplan: [00:26:18]
Mike Mark: [00:26:20]
Yeah. That's, I mean it's pretty well,
Joel Kaplan: [00:26:22]
Someone asked that. Sorry, go for it. Go for it. Go for it.
Mike Mark: [00:26:25]
No, no, It's just wild that when your, your like your perception of what's possible gets to this point that other people like for them, it can't possibly be real. and I guess was there a moment in your trajectory where you felt like everything changed or was there like a moment when you kind of realized like, Holy shit and you kind of had like a look what I've built sort of thing?
Joel Kaplan: [00:26:49]
That's a great question, man. I'd say that there were many points. It wasn't just one. I'd say that back then, I thought like, I remember when I quit my nine to five, 20K a month, I was like, if I can just make 20K a month for the rest of my life, I will be fine. I just want to work for myself, and that was the, that was acceptable to me. And I think every single time I've leveled up as a human being and recalibrated my expectations of myself and my own goals, the ceiling has been shattered. So I remember writing down with Marcus, okay, we're going to hit 50K a month, and we're like, let's just go for it. Fuck it. We hit it. Then we're like, okay, a hundred K a month, and it's like every single time that we would hit those goals and it would reset our expectations. I'd look back and be like, wow. Like I never would have thought that I would have been able to get here, but every time that I expected that of myself, we were able to make it.
Now, the mistake that I see a lot of people make when it comes to goal setting is they make goals at the start that are not reachable. So then they never actually trust themselves in hitting those goals. So I'd rather have a goal that's definitely difficult. I like competition and I'm not going to say, Oh, I'm going to get one client that's a little too easy. But having a goal that's still within your region, within your control and within your abilities and your limits and your expertise, and just constantly hitting it. And then raising the bar just a little bit. And, with my agency and with my business, we just continuously did that. So then all of a sudden, 50K a month sounds like a terrible business. We're like, what? Just 50K a month. We need to hit a million a month.
Mike Mark: [00:28:36]
Joel Kaplan: [00:28:37]
So, and honestly saying this right now, just being very conscious about it and humble, one of the reasons I probably haven't hit a million a month is because I jumped from two 50 to a million a month in my goal setting. And just talking about this out loud and just, I'm literally just having this realization. If I had told myself, okay, I'm going to hit 350 K and then 450 K and then 500 and then 600 I'd probably be a little bit farther right now. So I don't know if that answers a question. I think it does in some way, shape or form, but yeah, I've had moments.
Mike Mark: [00:29:12]
The… The… the thing that you're describing though about the goals and like, it's weird, there's a sweet spot to them, right? And, so I remember when I first got into this sort of stuff, like I would write. You know, I, Michael Mark have made a $10,500 by October 31st, 2015 like I wrote it every single morning in the morning consistently, and it was a 90-day target and do the craziest thing was I looked on November 1st and I hit $10,700 on October, that that whole month. And I'm like, Holy crap.
And then I did it again. I wrote like, you know, I, Michael Mark hit 20 to $21,000 per month by, what was it, December 31st, 2015 I wrote every day. And then it was like, I missed it that month, but then I got it in January. I hit 22, and I was like, Oh my God, what is this thing? and just…
Joel Kaplan: [00:30:16]
That's manifesting, that's what it is.
Mike Mark: [00:30:18]
Yeah. You get obsessed, dude. You get obsessed. And, and, the thing was who it was like it was big enough, but then it was like small enough that I could feel it. And then I got stuck on 50 for a long, long time. I couldn't hit 50. And then, then, eventually it just finally happened after like, almost, it took me like almost a year or two years to hit 50. But it was just the model and the way I designed my model was broken. And then I had to redesign my model and then it worked again.
And then, like I had a hundred grand a month, like literally for a full year, a hundred K month was like, I just would think about it, all I'd talk about was the a hundred K a month, a hundred came out month, a hundred K a month. And then when we finally hit it, it was like. Wow. That wasn't that exciting. and then like it's so weird cause the more you get there you're like, ah, like every time you think you're, all your problems in the world are going to disappear at that next level. And then it's like you're just still the same person and it feels very much the same in a lot of ways. You know.
Joel Kaplan: [00:31:18]
Yeah. But what's really interesting in the stories you've shared is that you didn't, it's not like you hit 10,500 and then you wrote a hundred thousand the next month. You, you, you made it within your reach. And then what, what I believe happens is that when you put that intention out into the world and then you hit it, then you're essentially telling yourself that you can trust yourself and hitting those goals, and every time you level it up, you have that self-confidence that when you say you're going to do something, you can actually go out and do it.
Whereas if you say, Oh, I'm going to make 10 million a month. Out of nowhere and you never do it, then how can you trust yourself and even hitting 10,000 a month.
Mike Mark: [00:31:58]
Yup. So other big thing is just paying. I just pay the person who had done it. And then the best part about paying the person who had done it was not necessarily acquiring their knowledge, which that is one of the best parts, but it's not the best.
To me, the best part about paying the person was to be in a room and see everybody else doing it and then it doesn't feel weird anymore. Cause then you're like, that guy did it. That guy did it, this girl did it, this girl did it. Like if they're all doing it, they're not that much smarter than me. Like it's not like I'm just some idiot here, you know?
Maybe I'm a little bit slower than most, but yeah. I'm not a complete and total idiot. Right. So I think I can do this too. And like that, that effect of when you see a whole group of people doing something, it becomes so real in your mind and so possible that it was just like, I dunno, it was. That is always the biggest thing. Like anytime I want to acquire a skill, I go around everybody else that's doing it at a level that I want to be.
Joel Kaplan: [00:32:57]
I can see it. The gap or whatever gap is there. Will be what you need to do to fill that gap will become extremely clear when you can see where everyone else is and what they're doing to get there.
Mike Mark: [00:33:09]
Joel Kaplan: [00:33:09]
Let's say that you want to get in shape. If you live with five other people that are in extremely good shape, you're going to be able to pick up on their habits, how they think, what actions they take, and it's just going to be easier to model it. I truly believe that as well.
Mike Mark: [00:33:25]
Joel Kaplan: [00:33:27]
I that made me think of the, you know, the three things that I tell everyone to invest in, when they're starting out is knowledge, then direct coaching and then network. And the one that you pro like network is probably one of the most important and biggest ones because like you said, it just forces you to elevate. And then the other reason that I truly believe that you have to invest in yourself is because if you want to get an ROI. There needs to be some sort of investment.
And I, I've seen a lot of people, like some guy just posted in a group yesterday and was like, how? Why doesn't anyone just coach me for free? And what I was thinking is even if there were people out there that would be willing to coach him for free, he's never going to get a return if he's never willing to make an investment.
Mike Mark: [00:34:17]
Joel Kaplan: [00:34:18]
So how do you expect to get ROI if you never invest in yourself? That's also like, another thing that I noticed in my growth first year straight up, I spent over $30,000 first year as an entrepreneur and most people their first year are afraid to spend a thousand bucks. Afraid. And I was like, I remember telling Marcus was, I'm like, we have to invest in ourselves. That is the one thing we're never going to hold back on.
Mike Mark: [00:34:43]
Yup. It's interesting for me, my, my experiences, I was a course whore, right? Like a huge course whore. And I would just buy a, like, if this was like a 20 to $50 course, I'd buy a hundred, $200. I'm like thinking about it. And then, A grand, like I'd buy occasionally, but they're on the payment plans for the course of the year type thing, right. Like…
Joel Kaplan: [00:35:02]
That's why you were not hitting 50K a month?
Mike Mark: [00:35:05]
No, no, it was before that even there was a, it was less than 10 grand. I was like at five, four or five and like just really scraping by and, I, I was just buying all these little courses and then it was like. I just got to the point where I was like, fuck enough is enough and I can't do this anymore. Like I got so sick and tired. Then I, there's like a high ticket program. I convinced the guy to let me in and I had to sell him to give me a payment plan and I split it up bi-weekly. I was the brokest payment plan ever. I was like, almost that guy who has five cards, but I'm just like, dude, give me six pay.
Joel Kaplan: [00:35:43]
12 months payments plan for a…
Mike Mark: [00:35:46]
A bi-weekly six pay was how I negotiated it. And Then sure as shit. I mean, I did not have the money. There was absolutely not the money there, and I had the knots in my stomach and all that stuff, and I was just like, I gotta make this thing fucking work. And then sure, shit, that was the time. Then I hit the ten five and then after that, like my life had completely changed. So…
Joel Kaplan: [00:36:08]
There's the other factor when you have to make it work, guess what's going to happen. You're going to make it work. When you don't have to make it work and you're comfortable, then it's going to be much more difficult for you to injure the discomfort that is required for you to get to where you want to go.
Mike Mark: [00:36:23]
Yeah. Yeah. And I think it's a part discomfort, but part just the consistency, right? Like it's just, it's just the showing up every single day that only obsession gets you, right. Like, and so when you are so far invested in it, then it like, you almost feel like I have to absolutely get my money back. So you're going to do something every day to try and get it. And, that was when it finally hit. So, Alright.
So let's shift gears. how do you handle clients who are always behind every second. So are you talking about behind on payments, behind on deliverables? What are they behind on? I, I'm guessing he's saying behind on deliverables. So let's roll with that. And then, maybe, you can kind of chime in if there's, there's more that you want to add there.
Joel Kaplan: [00:37:08]
That's a great question. the way that you fix that problem is by niching down. Having one ad campaign that you run through one media buying platform, and that is going to be the simplest way for you to productize your service or in other words, turn your agency service into a product where every single time you get a client, it's the same thing over and over and over again. Now obviously, obviously at first, it's going to be hard for you to do that. It's going to improve over time. But the key to be able to keep to being able to deliver over and over again at rapid speed is to essentially turn your agency into an assembly line.
So if you actually take some time after this live and go on Google and look up “factory assembly line” and watch some YouTube videos on how those assembly lines work, you'll actually be able to see the process of what it takes to go from a tiny little lace to building out an entire shoe, for example.
And if you can take that sort of philosophy and thinking and bring it back into your agency, then you're never going to have to worry about when things are going to be due and how long it's going to take you to deliver them. Because every single time it's going to go through the exact same assembly line and it's going to shoot out the same exact product I service at the end of the, at the end of the line.
So. I'd say that's, that's probably the solution that I would give. And then also more short term, if you're just starting out and you don't have the ability to productize your service, what I would do is I would just set better expectations with clients and give yourself more time to execute and deliver on your services.
I truly believe that. Clients are only upset with you when the expectation isn't set. So for example, if you go out and tell a client, Hey, it's going to take us about two weeks to get this done, and they're not going to care that it takes two weeks, they're just going to be happy that you gave them your word and that you backed it up and you honored that.
Whereas, if you didn't say anything and it took you two weeks, they're going to be pissed that it took two weeks. So it's all just about setting the expectation and leading the conversation. And if I was just starting out and I'd have to, I'm having to worry about fulfillment clients, prospecting, everything, I would just give myself more time and set the expectation that it's going to take a little longer than you probably wanted to.
Mike Mark: [00:39:39]
Yeah. it's interesting cause I think that what you've done is really smart were, you've done so much of the leg work for them, right? So you don't, it doesn't depend on them doing work really much at all. And so you, removed them out of it, which I think, you know, from my perspective, I have this, sort of fundamental belief almost in the way I am designing products is, I imagine every user of my product is the stupidest, laziest, excuse us, complete and total piece of shit, right? And if I design the product to be able to work for them, it will work for everybody.
And that's like, I'm always trying to, like I'm, I'm always imagining that, you know, the client's not going to listen. So I can tell them something nine times and they're not going to do it. They're not going to hear it. They're not going to get it. They're not going to read their email. They're not going to do this. So I'm always trying to build in…
Joel Kaplan: [00:40:32]
For the record, I read my emails and responded to your emails, Mike.
Mike Mark: [00:40:35]
You did. You did. You weren't, you weren't an idiot. And there's probably a reason why you're an hour, an hour a week with 250 grand a month. But I just like to imagine that they all are. So then there's always contingencies, right? Cause the thing is that, like for most of you guys, imagine going to the grocery store or going to downtown from your house, right? And then coming back to your house, let's say there's a road that's closed. You can figure it out without your maps. Hopefully, if you're probably a little bit older than 20 something, then you probably can't, right? Like, and you know, the different detours, you know, the different ways home and that's because basically you have contingencies because you really know the domain or you know the territory. So if you only know one path to get to the outcome, then and you don't have the contingencies in place.
And that's where a lot of products fail. And so like I'm always trying to figure out like how can I build as many contingencies in place and then how can I study some of these things? And like other stuff that's really helped me is I've studied a computer programming. So, I don't know how to really computer program much, but I've studied computational thinking and systems. So, systems tend to be what's called a linear system, but a linear system is not the only kind of system. So most people, when they think about the factory model, or like the assembly line model, those are primarily linear systems and linear systems are easier to build than almost any system.
But the complication and where I think most people get stuck is because they're only thinking in, you know, if this, then that, and then there's like kind of two paths, and then they have this big linear system. But sometimes there's things like, you know, it's not just a, do this, then do this, don't do this. And it is, there's conditional formatting. There's branching logic. There's, there's, gonna be different kinds of things like, you're going to have repetitive until you hit a specific condition. And so like that's called iterative logic. And so you have to look at the different ways. And so I studied a lot of stuff outside of her realm and then try and bring it in. And that's one that's really helped us.
Joel Kaplan: [00:42:42]
Yeah. I guess my thought would be to make your agency service as much of a linear system as humanly possible.
Mike Mark: [00:42:49]
Joel Kaplan: [00:42:49]
That's how I would think about it. And I think that's how we did think about it. And knowing that by doing so, it's going to be a lot easier for us to scale compared to doing it through these more like through conditional format, formatting and iterative logic and all that more complex stuff, which is, I guess more of the Gary V model.
There's so many different factors, but for anyone that's starting out, I would try to productize it more in the simplest way for me to just be able to tell you how to do that is to focus on one niche, one service. So Facebook ads, Google ads, YouTube ads, pick one. Then one ad campaign. That's it. If you're working with a dentist, do $500 off Invisalign. If you're working with a chiropractor, do a $21 new patient special. If you're working with a gym, do a free week pass, but it's the same one every single time for every single client. And if they ask you to change it, you say, no. That's, that's the best way to get into a linear. I mean, again, I guess it's just different philosophies, but it goes back to what we were saying at the beginning. It comes down to the type of business you want to build, and we really wanted to build…
Mike Mark: [00:43:51]
I think it comes down to time too, right? Like, so, I think that you could build the linear system business faster, but I can get to the same outcome. It's just going to take me longer because it requires more skills and thinking and things like that. And so, like partly it to me, it's… I've always said that I'd rather be busy than bored and bored. Like I hate being bored. I love being challenged and I really like hard problems. And just like the part of the reason why I got into building sales teams is that it was the hardest fucking problem I had ever tried to solve. And it drove me nuts. And like, I just like, I'm the type of person that if you tell me I can't do something, I'm like. Fuck you. Watch me dealing with…
Joel Kaplan: [00:44:33]
…personality human beings that are very driven, it's like the hardest type of people to deal with.
Mike Mark: [00:44:39]
Dude. Just relentless or that. And so, because it's such a hard problem to solve, that's what made it fun. And that's where I get like the joy out of building the sales teams. But, I definitely like, I sit there and I see people with our coaching offers and I'm like, ah, I'm just such an idiot. I should just do that. It's so easy looking, but I really don't want it. It's just like one of those like the voice on your head, you know…
Joel Kaplan: [00:45:00]
It's a catch 22 like also like you want to build a, a more of an asset type of business. The margins are going to be lower just cause there's more people involved, more systems involved, things like that. So there's just, there's always two sides to the coin.
Mike Mark: [00:45:16]
Yeah. It's identifying what those trade-offs are and then figuring out for you, okay.
Joel Kaplan: [00:45:19]
You can do it. You can do it like me too. You can build your automated business first and then go into coaching into your more personalized offer, and then you get the best of both worlds. But that'll, that'll be hard for you to go back into the past and recreate that. So…
Mike Mark: [00:45:34]
Yeah. so a couple of extra questions we got. how do we handle refunds from clients?
Joel Kaplan: [00:45:40]
It depends why they're asking for a refund. Our, our policy is if we fucked up really bad, we honor the refund. Like, we do believe in the fact that we're going to be here for a long time, so we have to do business with integrity. And I'd say that at the beginning of my agency, my ego was too big and I probably didn't let that happen. And it caused me a few relationships that I regret. So now I tell my team all the time, if we screwed up and they want to leave, we do not force them to stay. We refund them. That is the right thing to do.
Now, if the client is. like if, if it's an easy complication that we can fix, we always try to fix it. So I also tell my team, don't go straight for the refund and refund them. Like we always try to find a solution. And then what I also teach them is to go for the win-win. So be willing to give up a little bit and let them also give up a little bit and meet you halfway. And that is always going to be a better solution. Both sides feel good. you meet halfway, you maintain the relationship, you maintain your brand, and you can continue moving forward. So for example, let's say they want a full refund for a few mistakes. What we would tell them, what I would tell my account managers to do is to try to tell them, Hey, we're going to fix everything.
On top of that. We're going to throw in a free Google review campaign and we're going to give you a $500 discount this month. The next month it'll go back to the normal pricing. Does that sound fair? And they're going to say, yeah, that sounds awesome, let's do that. And now you were able to, be a leader in the situation. You maintained your integrity, you maintain your brand, and yes, you took a small hit, but you're essentially taking a few steps back to take many steps forward. That's my, my philosophy on refunds.
Mike Mark: [00:47:26]
Some other things, just refund wise, like build them into your model, right? So if you are designing your cashflow model, then you build refunds into your model. Have cash reserves on hand. I know it's tough in the beginning, but if you don't have cash reserves on hand, then yeah, you don't want to refund. But if you do, then it's like whatever. and I don't know. For me, my, my sense has always been that if someone doesn't feel like they got the value, like I tell a lot of our clients, it's like, I want you to feel like you fucking ripped me off. Like, I want you to, I want you to feel slightly guilty at how good of a deal you got in working with us. Right? And, and if I can make you feel that way, then I know that, Hey, we're going to work together for a long, long time. and if you don't feel that way, then to me, that's like an energy exchange that I'm not trying to have. And so I want to try and figure that out.
And so, like. Aye. I've been in like, I sold timeshare. That's how I learned how to sell. Right? So in timeshare, it's the opposite of that. It's like you never get a refund. I got you locked into this contract, so fuck you. And like the energy in it is so bad, dude. It's so bad. Like you, it's like it's dark. It's like a, and you can see it in people's face and the energy and like, I just thought like. I don't know. I'd rather be free than rich and some ways. So like, you know…
Joel Kaplan: [00:48:43]
It probably ties great lessons looking back though, so.
Mike Mark: [00:48:46]
Oh yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean, it was…
Joel Kaplan: [00:48:48]
You're just winning the easy way. And now if it tells you how to win the hard way, like you're just, not only is it actually so much more, there's much more security longterm, but you probably ended up winning bigger, so.
Mike Mark: [00:49:00]
For sure. Yeah, it's, it's significantly better.
Joel Kaplan: [00:49:03]
Mike, can I say one last thing on refunds?
Mike Mark: [00:49:05]
Joel Kaplan: [00:49:06]
So I think a lot of people, in terms of the agency space, a lot of times when people ask us for refunds is because there was a mistake on the onboarding, or there was a miscommunication or that they thought they were going to go live on Friday, but instead it was Thursday. So a lot of the times, this idea of feeling like you've ripped me off in a good way, a lot of the times refunds happen from just stupid little mistakes.
So. And at the end of the day, the client hasn't even had an opportunity to see if they get value from our services. So that's why in the agency space specifically, I always try to just make it work and if, if they really want it, we're not going to fight them on it. And also, I, the last thing I wanted to throw in that I didn't say earlier is I always tell my team, if a client is disrespecting you, I do not need their money.
Mike Mark: [00:49:57]
Joel Kaplan: [00:49:58]
If someone is going to be an asshole. And there has, like I've had a client make my account manager cry, like you have to fight someone that deeply and intensely over a Facebook ad campaign. I don't want that type of client ever.
Mike Mark: [00:50:16]
I'm volunteering a refund at that point. It's like, Hey, actually I don't want your fucking money and I wish you good luck and that's it.
Joel Kaplan: [00:50:24]
No. I'm not saying you can't work with difficult clients, but there does. If a line is crossed, I tell my team they always can refund. So I wanted to throw that in.
Mike Mark: [00:50:31]
Cool. and that's, that's good to distribute the power downwards, you know? That's what I mean. That's why you don't have to be in it that much to figure all that stuff out. So, oh, Yanaki asks a really good question, actually. He says, ah, if I don't have a client yet. Right. So he's, he's in a kind of really, really beginning phases of his agency. Should he focus on setting the fulfillment line to deliver, or should he focus on the prospecting first?
Joel Kaplan: [00:50:55]
Yeah. The answer is, do not worry at all about fulfillment. The only thing that matters when you're starting out is setting and closing appointments. And the way that I would do it if I was brand new, let's say I don't have any marketing experience, I would try to prospect but get trial clients so that I actually earned the right to close people and have them pay me money. They have to keep in mind. When I started my agency, I had already been a director of marketing for a few years. I had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Google ads for local businesses, so it was a little bit different.
But if I were a brand new, just starting out, I would focus just on prospecting, but instead of trying to close the client, I would be building some strategic relationships where I would tell them, Hey, let me work for you for free for 30 days. Get my practice in, get my reps in. If you like what you've got based on this trial run, then we can work together and here's my price. And if not, no worries, but at least you're putting the reps in to earn the right to charge. And I think. A lot of newbs in the space want the quick, easy way to make money.
And the reality is you haven't earned the right to make money, and that's probably why you aren't. So everyone's always like, how do I get my first client in like three days? How do I close without social proof? What if I don't have any references? The easy answers for me to feed you some bullshit about how to close clients in a week. But the hard and ultimately right answer is for you to put in the reps and earn the right to be able to close clients.
And the way that you do that is by putting in the reps and not taking it the beginning but instead giving. So instead of trying to figure out how to close without social proof, go out and get some social proof instead of trying to figure out how to close without a reference. Go and build a strategic relationship with someone where you work for them for free, and then they're willing to be a reference for you whenever you need it. If you haven't been able to land a client and you're spinning your wheels, then go out and get five free clients, get your experience, figure out how to deliver results, and then they're going to be happy to pay you.
So, that being said, my answer is still not the focus on fulfillment first. You're still focusing on starting those conversations. You're still focusing on setting appointments and getting in front of business owners so that you can pitch them on this longer-term relationship where you do a trial first and then close them as clients.
Mike Mark: [00:53:30]
Yeah, that's super good though, dude. If, if you haven't earned the right to get paid. And that's probably why you're not getting paid. That was a bomb right there. cause everyone tries to, they try to skip the thing. They don't want to take the stairs. Right. They try and figure out the direct elevator to the top and they don't wanna take the stairs, but it's like you can't skip the stairs, right? Like the only reason that I know our shit works so well on the inside is because of how many times I've failed doing it and how much time and energy invested into figuring out this problem, right? And it's like if I had tried to skip that altogether, which the best part is people are trying to skip it all the time, especially our competitors. And like, their shit sucks. Like just a fucking flaming bag of shit.
And I love it. It's like my favorite thing because it's like, for example, everyone knows the HTC guys suck. Like it's just, it's known. There are some good ones. Don't get me wrong, they're not all bad, but 99% of them suck. Right? And it's because all of these guys tried to label themselves sales professionals without ever earning the right to be labeled a sales professional. They've never actually put in the fucking work, and they've only done it inside.
Joel Kaplan: [00:54:53]
I didn't even close myself. I didn't even call myself a closer after closing a hundred thousand dollar deals, like one time deals. So I think like a lot of people don't realize the fact that… I started my agency at like age 24 I had been doing Google ads since age 18.
Mike Mark: [00:55:09]
Oh wow, I didn't know that.
Joel Kaplan: [00:55:11]
Yeah. I started doing Google ads for my family's business and like a lot of people were like, man, that's so true. A lot of people want to get right to the top without taking the stairs and it's just not going to happen. What I will tell you is that the path up the stairs is faster if you actually start taking them and walking up. But if you start figuring out ways to skip around that and magically show up at the top, it's going to take you a long, long time. So instead of trying to figure out the hack or the secret, which a lot of people are trying to sell you that, what I would tell you is it doesn't exist.
And the fastest way to get up is just to put in the work. So. For example, like even my business partner, Marcus, was when he moved out to Colorado, he went to a BNI and he said, I have no idea how to do marketing. I'm going to find someone who does, but I'm starting a marketing agency. Whoever wants help with marketing, I'm going to do it for free for the first five people, that's what he did. And then all of a sudden he had five people that he could test out marketing with, and then all of a sudden they were like, Oh, this is pretty good. And then he found me and then we started getting them results, and then they started paying us.
Mike Mark: [00:56:17]
Wow. Interesting. That's cool.
Joel Kaplan: [00:56:20]
Mike Mark: [00:56:20]
Sweet. Well. I know we're just about at time, so let's see if anybody's got some last questions. You guys, if you've got any questions, drop them in here. If we don't get to them now, then we will circle back and hit them in the chat later. Joel, if they want to find you, where can people find you?
Joel Kaplan: [00:56:38]
People can find me in my Facebook group. It's called marketing agency secrets. Especially when you show up to the live with Mike Mark that I'm going to be doing some point in the next few weeks. So that's the best place.
Mike Mark: [00:56:51]
Love it. Okay. So you said marketing agency secrets, that's where they're going to find you.
Joel Kaplan: [00:56:55]
Yeah, I can drop it in the…
Mike Mark: [00:56:57]
Drop the link down below for them. so that way you guys, if you want to jump in there, you can check out what Joel's got going on. I mean, I can tell you his systems are super legit, love clients that go through his stuff. Because their prospecting is really locked in.
They are booking appointments consistently, and then when it comes time to actually get them off the sales calls, they have the right foundations in place. I mean like bah dude bow. I don't know if you know, but bow literally doubled his revenue last month and he's on pace to do basically the same thing again.
Joel Kaplan: [00:57:28]
Bunch of our students are loving your reps. Luis, he is. He's crushing it too.
Mike Mark: [00:57:33]
And he's been out for like almost two weeks, three weeks. He's had stuff going on personally, and like, he's been out and he's getting deals closed while he's out. It was pretty Epic to see. so. Thank you guys, for joining us. we're going to wrap up now. If you've got questions again, just drop them here. You could also pop over to Joel's group, check out what he's got going on over there, and then, we'll circle back and hit your questions if you want to leave him here.
But thanks for tuning in, everyone. Appreciate you guys. And we'll keep more of these come in. just if you guys are watching this on the replay too. Drop hashtag replay if there's anybody else that you want to see in one of these, drop someone that you think we should bring on the next interview. And then I'll keep you guys posted for when we do the interview in Joel's group, so you can join us over there and we'll probably end up talking about something completely different.
But it's been fun. Joel has a lot of great insights and to be able to hear that, you know. Love this stuff, man, and I just appreciate, appreciate you a lot, like a lot.
Joel Kaplan: [00:58:34]
So appreciate you too, man. I'm going to be hiring Mike Mark for the rest of my life. So if you’re thinking about using Mike Mark, what are you waiting for?
Put that on a, on an Instagram clip or something.
Mike Mark: [00:58:47]
There you go. That's what I'm talking about. All right, y'all. Thanks for tuning in.
Joel Kaplan: [00:58:51]