Jeff Hall never had a choice but to become an entrepreneur.
At the age of 7, he sold candy because money meant escaping his life of poverty and neglect.
At the age of 13, he acquired a reputation as a computer nerd at school quite by accident and began working on his school’s computers.
At 15, he began his company, Overflow Cafe, in order to keep from being evicted from his home, and at 17 was lying about his age to get the commercial lease for his first office.
Remarkably, he is still helping new and small businesses become popular online at Overflow Cafe 23 years later along with another 4 successful startups under his belt.
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Ingrid: Jeff, tell us and our audience, what is your business? What business are you in?
Jeff: Yeah. I work at Overflow Café, and we do one thing, we make websites popular. It’s also called search engine optimization.
Ingrid: Wow, I like the way you say that, make websites popular. So often when people go, “oh, SEO,” people don’t know what you’re talking about, so I love that. Thank you.
Jeff, when did you start this business?
Jeff: I actually started it in December 1995. I’m 39 years old now. I was 15 years old when I started the company.
Ingrid: Wow. Was there websites then?
Jeff: Yeah. There were. Definitely not as many as there are now, and they were a lot simpler. Typically, it was just very basic pages, basic text, basic images. Yahoo was the number one search engine and Lycos and AOL, those were the runner-ups back then.
Ingrid: Wow. Why at 15 when websites were just … most people probably didn’t even know they existed. Why did you start your business?
Jeff: Yeah, actually, it was just out of necessity. My family was financially very poor. I was already working probably as far back as I can remember, the age of seven, buying and reselling candy at school, just little entrepreneurial ventures like that, and working, even working traditional jobs.
When I was 15, we needed a very large sum of money to save our home. I was bringing in about $1000 a month just working, and I said, you know what, maybe it’s time for me, in order to get this kind of money, I’m going to have to do something a little bit more grand. I was already doing computer related stuff for people, and I went to work. I said, what can I do that I’m really good at, and it was mostly computer related stuff.
I knew this kung fu instructor who asked me, he says, “Jeff, I have this website,” he was really entrepreneurial, and he had this website, and he says, “Can you make potential students visit this website and then call me and book a tour of the facility?” I said, “Well, this is very interesting. I’ve never done that before,” it’s 1995. I said, “Yeah, I believe I can do it.”
I really learned the ins and outs of website design and how to get people to your website, and it worked for him. He recommended me to someone and that person recommended me to someone, and that’s how things really started rolling.
Ingrid: Wow. When I think back to, like, I’m old enough to remember 1995. I don’t even think I used a computer. Maybe I did, but I just don’t recall it having much … I certainly wouldn’t have website SEO’d for anything. If I was looking for a kung fu expert, I’m not sure. I think the phone book is probably where I would’ve gone.
Jeff: Oh, yes, absolutely. Actually, that was our main competitor, was the phone book here, I think we called them the yellow pages. It was really all about back then community, which is actually what a lot of it is about today as well, but back then, it was all community. People would gather up in chat rooms, so almost 90% of the internet in my opinion was chat rooms, and you’d go and you’d chat with people and it was so amazing. A lot of it was, “Hey, if you’re in this area, check out this kung fu school,” and so on and so forth. It was really not something that I would’ve even thought of myself, it was just this kung fu instructor said … it was really forward thinking.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Very much so. The next question is what did you want from your business from day one? You’ve kind of answered that with why you started your business. It sounds like it was money. Was there anything else you wanted from it?
Jeff: Yes money, the other thing was freedom. My family was employed, but it was my mother, my younger sister, my grandmother, my aunt. They were all employed, but not necessarily great with money. I wanted freedom. I wanted freedom from financial troubles, which at that stage in life, I had been experiencing collection agencies calling us and utilities getting shut off and furniture getting repossessed and things like that. I really wanted a sense of control, like, oh, I have something that I can build and scale it up if possible and maybe earn an income. It wasn’t even necessarily just the money, it was the freedom that money might be able to provide.
Ingrid: I really like that. So many people talk about freedom, and I’m not sure they really know what’s behind that, just this sense of freedom. I think when you say freedom from financial concerns, freedom, the money gives you that freedom. That’s so powerful isn’t it, to really have that as what’s underpinning it.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve seen the opposite by the way. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well, where money has cost people slavery as well. If you manage it the right way, it certainly can offer you tremendous freedom.
Ingrid: It can. The other thing I believe personally, and I know this is your interview not mine, but it actually allows you to have an impact. You can do stuff with money beyond for yourself. You can take it out into the community or whatever you want to do. It can do things for good. Well, I suppose and evil as well, but you can do good deeds with money.
Ingrid: In your business, when you get started, and you’re 15 and you’d already been selling candy and doing jobs and being entrepreneurial as a young person, but when did this business, when did you actually feel like you had a business? When did it feel real?
Jeff: There’ve been several dozen milestones where I’ve gone, wow, I’ve really made it.
Ingrid: What was that first one, or what was one of the big ones?
Jeff: I was in high school, and what I would do is I’d go to high school, and then at lunch time, I knew that I had work that had to be done, and I couldn’t do it all after school because of course homework, right? At lunchtime, while everybody’s enjoying their lunch, I’m running home as fast as I can to get work done. I got to the stage where customers were physically lined up at my house. My grandmother would be tending to them.
It was hilarious, it was absolutely hilarious because these were businesspeople, some of them were wearing suits, and here I am, this teenager with pimples all over my face and glasses, and really, I was a nerd, and all this stuff. There were just these random strangers who read about me in, I had placed little free classified ads in the papers and stuff like that, and I was getting recommendations. Just to come home and to see these line up with people, and the neighbours where saying, “Jeff, what’s going on?” You know what I mean?
Ingrid: That would’ve been such fun. Now you’re a real business. The customers knew that they wanted what you were offering because they came and they ask you and Mr. Kung Fu guy recommended somebody else. How did it become a business? How did you then take it beyond that? How do you know now that people are looking for that? What is that that you do that you know people are looking for?
Jeff: Yeah. That’s a conversation that is very, it’s almost theoretical. Back then, I didn’t have much to lose, and I was a naïve young teenager, now I’m older and I have all kinds of paranoia, what happens if a competitor overtakes us or what happens if the whole industry collapses and all different kinds of things like that. Not everything lasts forever. I do think about these things.
I don’t really know if I have a great answer for you, but we, I try to talk at least one customer each day personally. The company’s still small, we’ve got about 45000 clients, and there’s 17 of us. I try to talk to one person on the phone or face-to-face every day, or every business day, and to just ask them what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, and then we know, are they going to need us a year from now, are they going to need us five or 10 years from now, what are we failing at, what are we succeeding at? I think it’s something that every business owner has to really think about.
Ingrid: That’s such a terrific answer. I know that the people listening are either in business themselves and looking for ways to make it better, or they’re thinking about it. That personal contact, we see so much about automating and making things through funnels and automating emails. That personal one-to-one contact over time is what really builds isn’t it, and so you keep in touch with what your customers are looking for.
Jeff: Yeah. We made that mistake actually. We made the mistake years ago of just overautomating everything. That was actually our number one customer complaint. They were like, “This is too robotic,” even though they were enjoying the software, the surface itself. They were like, “Anytime I want to reach someone, it just seems so fake.”
We said, okay, let’s totally revamp that, so we added in live chat, we got rid of outside third-party live chat and it’s just our actual team now. We’re more reachable by phone. We switched from email to support tickets. Everything is done on a much more personal level in order to … it’s this fine balance, because you want to serve a lot of people, you want to remain profitable. You want to make them really happy as well. It’s an ongoing thing.
Ingrid: Well, and I think too, it’s interesting you say that, because there was a time when we all looked for that automation, but maybe now because everything is automated, the person who stands out is the one that actually is the personal. Things just cycle around don’t they in that way?
Jeff: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ingrid: You funded your business by just doing it, and we don’t have to actually talk about how much and what you spend, but how did you get to … did you just say 45 000 that’s thousand customers?
Ingrid: How do you go from your one kung fu guy, what are those expansions … where does the money come from to set up something like this?
Jeff: There was a time when I borrowed a little bit of money from friends and family members, and clients. I said, “We need $500,” I was 15 years old, “We need $400 or $500 in order to purchase a computer so that we can do this kind of work,” and then we paid it back. There was a time when I borrowed $1000, and then as I got older … By the time I turned 18, I was able to get credit lines and credit cards and loans and stuff. I don’t recommend debt by the way.
If you are really savvy with finances and you know for sure, well, this money is going to be used to fulfil actual customer orders, then that makes sense, versus, well, I’m going to … back in the dotcom bubble days, they were spending $1000 on a fancy office chair. Don’t do that.
We made sure that we’re profitable and we have access to capital from our bank, and a good accountant who keeps track of profit and loss. Just the basic, you know, we’re an internet company, but you also need a good banking relationship, we also need a good relationship with an accountant, and a good relationship with a lawyer, just to make sure that everything is sustainable. We’ve seen other companies come and go, not because they weren’t making revenue, they were making 10, 20, 30 million in annual revenue, and they were losing money to the point of bankruptcy.
We funded it the way everybody else funds. We bootstrapped it. There was no big fundraising rounds or going to venture capitals. We have venture capital firms probably several times a year offering us money, and we’re like, “You know what? Maybe one day in the future. For right now, we like being a small company, and the team, we’re like family. We eat dinner together, we go to the movies together,” and stuff like that. I don’t really want it to be some out of control corporation.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You do what you do really well, and that works well for you, so congratulations, I have to say.
Jeff: Thank you. Thank you.
Ingrid: How do you find new customers? Obviously customers, as you said, come and go, they leave for some reason, they move on to someone else. How do you find new customers? How do you know who they are and where they are?
Jeff: Yeah. What we do, every customer eventually, we reach out to then with a survey link, and it usually goes to a Survey Monkey type website link, and we ask them questions about who they are and their background and so on and so forth.
Then we aggregate that data, and we try to reach out to people who are similar, specifically to the people who were successful with, because we’re not able to do great work for everybody that comes to us. We do have a failure rate, just like every company out there. We try to focus on who our successful clients are, and then we scale up on that.
We look for them in traditional channels. We say, “Hey, can you recommend us to anybody? We’ll pay you a commission if you recommend us to someone.” Of course, we rank well in search engines for different phrases, so we get natural search engine traffic. We get clicks from our little YouTube videos which we want to expand on, our Instagram gives us clicks and things like that. Once in a while, we do pay-per-click campaigns, and we get featured a lot in different articles and blog posts and things like that.
All of those things lead to clicks to our website, and then from the clicks to our website, there’s the next biggest balance between art and science, which is trying to convert those visitors into actual paying customers. We do give out free trials frequently. If anybody asks us, we always give out free trials. If people come to us and they say, “Look, we can’t even afford to pay for this now or in the future,” we’ll give out long free trials, put our money where our mouth is. If we think we can help you, we’ll try to help you.
We try everything. We try everything. If something doesn’t work, we say, okay, we’re not doing this anymore. If something works, we say, okay, how can we scale up on this?
Ingrid: Yeah. You’re measuring the results of things along the way.
Jeff: Yeah. We’ve done lots of things that don’t work. I’ve taken out many years ago $100 000 ad campaigns that did nothing, and then we’ve done-
Ingrid: Can you say that again? Not that exact part, but things don’t work, do they? There are times when things just don’t work.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. Just because you’ve heard someone else did something and they said it worked for them, that doesn’t mean that you need to then sell your house and then do what they did. That’s not a great strategy. Maybe they did 10 things, and nine of the things failed, and then they found one thing that succeeded. You might have to go through that same process where you try 10 things, but you have to really mitigate your risk.
You have to say, okay, I’m willing to risk $100 on this campaign. I’m willing to risk $1000 in this campaign. Even the biggest companies in the world, they started off small, and they had to say, okay, we can’t afford to lose this money, so let’s start with a very small amount, and then scale up, scale up, scale up. Let’s dominate my city, dominate my city.
We tell clients all the time, people come to us, they say, “Jeff, we want to be number one on planet Earth. We have a million hula hoops. Help us sell them all over the world.” We say, “Oh my goodness, probably not. Let’s start with dominating your home town.”
Ingrid: That’s so funny because it is true. People come to me for help and I say, “Who’s your ideal customer?” “Everyone.” If everyone lined up at your front door right now, could you actually help them?
Jeff: Yeah, you wouldn’t be able to, it’s just impossible. A lot of people get upset when you give them that reality check, that your customer’s not everyone. That’s actually good news. It doesn’t have to be everyone. You don’t have to stress yourself out by trying to please the whole world. You just have to find out who’s your ideal customer, where are they?
Okay, maybe yes, you have some customers halfway around the world, and that’s fine. Start with where you are physically located, and dominate the area that you live in, and then that’s proof that you can then take over the city next door and maybe your entire province or state, and then your entire country, and then your continent, and then you start expanding world-wide.
By the way, that is actually how the largest and most successful corporations do things.
Ingrid: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think what tricks us today and maybe from time to time we all feel a bit like this. You think, let’s look at Facebook for example. Wow, everyone on the planet is on Facebook. But it didn’t start with that. It was 20 people in a college room or however many there were.
I think it’s so important to come back to that. I love that, what you just said there about don’t stress yourself by trying to please the whole world. Start with your suburb, start with your street, just start with where you are depending on what your business is.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely.
Ingrid: Talking about how people pay and whether they pay and how much they pay, how did you decide back in the day, Mr. Kung Fu man probably, you and he worked out a deal, and then you worked out a deal with some of the others, and the SEO space is quite competitive, but you clearly do what you do really well. How do you philosophically decide how much to charge?
Jeff: Yeah. That has been … our team debates and argues about this all the time. From 1995 to now, the pricing has changed. We used to have a setup fee. We used to have different fees for different things, it used to be variable pricing, custom pricing.
Years ago, we settled on a flat monthly fee, and then if they want additional things over and above what we do, then we’ll quote them a price over and above that. Most of our clients are on the flat fee model, unless they outgrow that, which is, we hope that they do, but you never know until you know.
We try to fit ourselves into a market that’s comfortable for beginners. If you already are a multi-million dollar company, you do not need us. People come to us, they’re brand new, or they’re … they are inexperienced, and they’re not established. They just recently set up a website, they don’t have a background in coding or search engine optimization or even eCommerce at all. They just have a great idea, and they want to try it out and see if they can scale it up.
We actually do have statistics that this is what people are able to pay, and so that’s exactly where we wanted to price ourselves. Now, we do have clients that say, “You’re not charging enough.” That’s great news for us, but we’re trying to balance things out in a way where we can automate as much as we can while still doing that very personal customer service, make money, and be cheap enough that it’s a no-brainer for somebody who’s brand new to the industry.
Ingrid: Could I ask you a technical question there please?
Jeff: Yeah, sure.
Ingrid: Someone who has an idea and who has a website, has set up a website, is this someone who built the website themselves, or have they had somebody build the website for them?
Jeff: Yeah. Most of our clients, and when I say most, I mean more than 50%, probably more than 60%, they built their website themselves.
Ingrid: Can you go back and retrofit SEO to that website?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. The biggest challenge is if the business owner is just uncooperative, and we have that small, everybody has that small percentage of clients who are just uncooperative, and they just will not listen, they won’t do anything, they won’t let us do anything.
For the most part, our clients are fantastic and cooperative and we are able to work with almost any platform. Let me put it this way, Ingrid. The platform is usually not the problem, it’s usually the person, usually the person.
Ingrid: Okay. I’m just curious, because really, it’s an area that I am not, I don’t have a grasp of it, and I always had this idea that once you had your website, that it was much harder to retrofit SEO. Better to have the conversation about SEO as you’re building and getting started.
Jeff: We really kept that in mind. The way that we built our service and the workflow for our service bears in mind that the person has already built something and we will have to now go back in and figure out how to mix mistakes and so on. We’ve really itemised it and automated much of that. It’s not a big problem for us. Probably one out of every 100 people we will actually say, “Oh, no, the way you’ve built this is so impossible that we can’t do anything unless,” you know, you have to redo the whole site. It’s very rare, but it happens.
Ingrid: That’s fantastic. Okay. I’ve learned something about it, and hopefully our listeners have learned. I think it is a big mysterious world, this SEO world, isn’t it?
Jeff: It is. You have to think about it this way. A website is something easy to fix. If we were talking about a physical building, that’s a lot more complex, but a website for the most part, that’s something that overall, if you know what you’re doing or you can get somebody who knows what they’re doing, they can very quickly go in and make the modifications necessary.
Ingrid: Fantastic. Thanks, Jeff. If anybody needs help with that, particularly if they’re in that early stage, it’s Overflow Café. What’s the best way to contact you?
Jeff: Yeah. OverflowCafe.com. We have all the social media links in the footer of the website, and if you’re a member, it is ridiculously easy to live chat with any of our team members, to email us, or to call us directly.
Ingrid: Fantastic. Well, if anybody’s listening and they need some help with that, Jeff’s your man, and his team.
Ingrid: Jeff, back to our business questions. It didn’t sound like it from something you said earlier, but do you have an exit strategy? Have you thought about where this goes? You don’t have to tell us what the answer is, but have you thought about it?
Jeff: I have. It’s something that recently I’ve started to really think about. Over the years, I have took in 15 foster children, and I adopted one, and she’s going to be off to college in less than two years. Now I’m thinking, well, I’ve been doing this for a million years, I’ve had all my foster children involved in one way or another to learn computers and software and coding and SEO and so on. Now I’m thinking about what my retirement might look like or selling the business, merging it with another business and so on. I don’t have a bottom line answer, but I am thinking about it.
Ingrid: It’s on the radar for now.
Jeff: It is, yeah.
Ingrid: Okay. Let’s have some reflective questions. I guess it’s so long ago now, but maybe I can ask you this question a little bit different. I usually say to somebody, “What is something you wish you’d done differently at the beginning,” because often the person I’m speaking to has been in business a few years or maybe up to about 10. If you look back, is there something you wish you’d done differently?
Jeff: There’s so many things, so many things. We’ve been around for a long time.
Ingrid: Yes. You’ve had lots of opportunities.
Jeff: Yeah. I can tell you things that are just very shallow things, like oh I wish I didn’t buy that certain phone system for the office, because we wasted thousands of dollars, to, oh, I wish we didn’t waste money, fortunes on certain advertising campaigns, to more things that have more depth, like, I wish that I didn’t partner up with certain people that I partnered up with along the way.
You have to choose the people that you work with very carefully. You don’t want to work with people who, you know, that really, you have to think, am I going to regret working with this person later on?
When we were starting out, we took on every client. We don’t do that anymore. If there’s a client that we think, this person, whether they have a good business or not, this person’s going to be a nightmare to work with, we say no, but 20 years ago, we said yes. I would definitely go back in time and change that for sure.
Ingrid: I think that’s really powerful, who do you work with? That’s pervasive across your business, suppliers, customers, like you say, partners, people you get into a relationship with in terms of building the business.
Where along the journey, what changed for that? How do you know who those people are now?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, now we have, I’m a real data nerd, so I’m always looking at raw numbers, and I’m able to form statistics and conclusions with them, not that I’m always right. I’m able to go to our team and say look … I mean, I can be very, would you like me to be specific? I’ll give you one or two specifics.
We know that if a customer doesn’t spell their name correctly, they’re going to be a bad customer.
Ingrid: They don’t spell their own name?
Jeff: I’m not kidding. We have customers who, on our sign up form, they’re not able to spell their name properly. They’ll do a typo, they’ll capitalise maybe an internal letter or the last letter or something that is not appropriate, or they won’t capitalise the first letter of their name. We used to have an auto correct feature on the sign up form that took care of this, but we wanted to see the data of who’s not able to properly type in their name. We’re actually able to trace the failure rate of those clients.
We have clients who are unable to spell their domain name properly. This is probably the biggest thing. They will either miscapitalize, or they’ll put a space in their domain name, there’s no such thing. It’s .com, but they’ll put .co, so they’re not careful with their typos, or it’ll be .net and they’ll put . com. They don’t even know.
We’re able to see that and trace, okay, that person goes out of business typically within two months.
Ingrid: Because of their lack of attention to detail.
Jeff: Yeah. They have no attention to detail. We do have data points where if they email us for example, we’ll email them and we’ll say, we need you to correct this mistake on your website, and it’s a very common address mistake that people put where they abbreviate either their province or state name on their website instead of spelling it out. Our software will check a month later to see if they’ve actually done it, and if they have done it, we know that that buys them at least two more years of lifespan. If they don’t do it, they typically go out of business within six months.
Jeff: Yeah. We have data that shows their ability to give us the … Oh, another thing, another huge thing. When you sign up with us, we ask a question, and the question is, what are we helping you sell? There are people who don’t know how to respond to that. Some people are very specific, golf clubs, or fishing charters, or website design, or social media measurement.
Other people, they have no idea what to put, so they’ll put high rankings in Google, but they sell cell phone cases. We wonder, why didn’t you put cell phone cases since that’s what you sell? Why didn’t you put cell phone cases in that box? Why did you put this random thing that … you know?
We’re able to say, okay, they’ll last for 30 days or less, and then their website will go under typically within 6 months. You’ll notice that the entire site is down, and it’s just the under construction page, and then they don’t even renew the domain a year later. We have the data points to really look at that.
Ingrid: Wow, that’s fantastic.
Ingrid: There are people who would be interested in your data. Data is so incredibly powerful. I love data too. Everyone listening ought to be interested in data, because data is what actually drives your business. There’s a reason my business is called Healthy Numbers, is because numbers have to be healthy, and data is about numbers.
This is another reflective question that’s a little bit different. What do you wish you’d known? Are there things you wish you’d known? It’s a little bit different to the previous question.
Jeff: It’s a broad topic. There’s so many things that I wish I knew, and I’m one of those people that I’m very reflective. I like to take trips down memory lane and say, “Wow, imagine if I could go back to 1997 and do this differently, if I could’ve gone back to 2002 and done this differently.” I don’t know. I have a list. I don’t really know where to start, but there are plenty of things that I wish I knew about.
One thing right now is taxation, since we’re heading into the end of the year. I wish I knew all about tax minimization strategies. As our company grows bigger and bigger and our net profit margins grow bigger and bigger, tax minimization is something that I wish I started working on 10 or even 15 years ago, because we’ve paid, in my opinion, too much money in tax, and I wish that I would’ve spent a year just really learning how we could’ve moved money around and minimised and kept more of the money that we earned.
Ingrid: Because some people do that really well. If the system allows that, then having the right people to help you is what helps you do that.
Ingrid: It sounds like you’ve got a great team. Who apart from yourself has been the greatest assistance to you? Mr. Kung Fu man was great, because he introduced you to it.
Jeff: Oh my goodness. Who apart from me? I really appreciate my team. I really appreciate my team, I appreciate the feedback, I appreciate our customers who give us both positive and negative feedback, because we use it all to correct mistakes and to avoid making those mistakes in the future. Our competitors who do better than us, I’m always saying, look what they do better than what we do. How can we then introduce some healthy competition to them and overtake them in a certain area?
I really am trying my best to always improve and to learn from everybody, no matter what level they’re at.
Ingrid: I like that about the company, getting the feedback from the competition in terms of what they’re doing and being able to benchmark yourself against that and then go further. Are you quite competitive, Jeff? It sounds like you are.
Jeff: In one sense, yes. I’m not trying, again, I’m not competitive in the sense that I’m trying to be the biggest SEO company in the world. I think the biggest one has like three million paying clients. They’re tremendously geometrically bigger than we are. We’re not trying to be like that. I want to be just a small, family run business that does really great work for as many people as possible. I’m trying to be the best we can be, as opposed to being the biggest. I’m not competitive in that sense.
Ingrid: Being the best is what it means to you to be competitive
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah.
Ingrid: Okay. You’re sitting in a café having a coffee or tea with a friend or someone you know, or you’re at the sports field or picking somebody up from school, and they say, “I’m thinking about starting my own business,” what would you say to them?
Jeff: I would say learn every single possible thing you can about that industry. Don’t do it. Don’t start that business until you know all the numbers, all the statistics, how much money are your competitors making, and are they really making money? A lot of times, people will model their business after a competitor who maybe earns revenue but is losing money and quickly heading towards bankruptcy. You don’t want to model your business on them. Know everything that there is to know.
I mean, one of my kids was saying, “Well, I want to drop out of college and go into modelling.” I’m like, hmm, you need to really learn that industry and learn about what you have to do in that industry and what you can really make and what they’re going to expect from you and so on and so forth.
A lot of people, they say, well … We actually had a client … sorry, not a client, but a potential client who was angry with me because she called and said, “I want to start 21 different magazines, print magazines, in 2018, and I want Overflow Café to make each magazine a success.” I said, “I’m so sorry. We cannot take you on as a client.” She said, “Well, there’s this certain celebrity who did that.” I said, “Well, yeah, but it took that celebrity 40 years of very, very hard work, and a lifetime of suffering, and yes, she started many different magazines, but, today in 2018, most of those magazines are now shut down, and the one that still exists is not making any money.”
This potential client actually hung up the phone on me and called me a racist because they thought that I was being purposefully unhelpful, and I was trying to help them to say, no, you don’t know what you’re doing. 2018 is the wrong time to jump into even starting one print magazine, let alone 21 all at the same time, and this person had no capital, and magazines take a lot of capital.
Ingrid: Absolutely. Yeah.
Jeff: I just tell people, learn as much as you can, because you can’t just go in there with a pie in the sky dream just because somebody else did it 50 years ago.
Ingrid: Yeah. I think also too, people look at the person running a café and they think they’re going to be drinking cappuccinos all day, and they look at a flower shop and oh, flowers are beautiful, and yes they are, man, there’s hard work underpinning both of those industries. Every business, there’s the grind, there’s the underpinning.
Anyway, thank you for saying that, Jeff. Back to you, Three characteristics that you think you have that makes you successful in business?
Jeff: You know, I thought about this question for a while, and I was hoping that Ingrid would let me just say one thing.
Ingrid: Say one. Okay, one. That’s fine.
Jeff: You actually said the word just a minute ago, and the word is grind. The word is grind. I watch this TV show called Shark Tank, I don’t know if you know it?
Ingrid: We have our own version. We don’t have your version, but we have our own.
Jeff: Okay. What do you have there, then?
Ingrid: It’s called Shark Tank but we have Australian people and Australian businesses.
Jeff: Okay. I’m going to check that out.
Ingrid: It’s fun.
Jeff: Here they have this entrepreneur named Mark Cuban, and he asks the entrepreneurs often, “What is your grind? What is your grind?” If they can’t answer him, he says, “I’m out.” You really have to know what your grind is, and you have to grind. You really have to be diligent.
Grinding, it means so many different things, it means more than three things, but you really have to be so diligent and smart and hardworking and sincere in your business and just day to day to day, working, working, working to make your customers happy, and to solving problems and avoiding problems and making sure that you never make the same mistake twice. Just focus on really gaining those customers and increasing your revenues and lowering your expenses.
There’s so many characteristics that you really need to be successful in business. I’ve seen people who, they earn $40 000 a year, American money, and they’re extremely happy. In fact, they’re happier than the person who’s earning $60 000 a year. It’s not just about who makes the most money and all that stuff. It’s about so many other things.
You can even take it down to personal characteristics, like, are you a content person? Are you a humble person? Are you a greedy person, you know, and things along those lines. If you fix a lot of those internal struggles, you can actually be happy with a lot less, and then you don’t have to always be aiming for more money, more money, more profit, more profit. It can be about a lot of other things.
Ingrid: A lot of other things. Jeff, thank you. That is such a lovely, I’m going to see if I can find … It’s Mark …
Jeff: Mark Cuban.
Ingrid: Yeah, yeah. Actually, I think he’s coming to Australia soon. I saw something about him. He is known here as well. I think he’s running some workshops in Australia.
Are those the characteristics? Because the next question is about what’s essential for a startup, and it sounds like those are the characteristics that someone thinking about starting a business could be working on for themselves.
Jeff: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ingrid: Jeff, thank you so much for your time. I think you and I can continue talking for quite some time, but I guess we better let our listeners get on to whatever they do next. Before you go, firstly I’d like to just say thank you so much for your generosity. I just love some of the things that you said in terms of some of your answers to the questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add before you go?
Jeff: Yeah. First of all, I wish all of your listeners tremendous success, and thank you so much for having me on the show.
You can reach me at overflowcafe.com
I would like to say this, get an expert to help you in any area that you need help with. Don’t try to be an expert at web design, because web designers spend years mastering their trade. Don’t try to be an expert in search engine optimization, we’ve spent years mastering our trade. Don’t try to be an expert in accounting, because your accountant spends years mastering their trade. If you surround yourself with experts, most likely, you will reach your goals a lot faster, and you’ll succeed in business.
Ingrid: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Terrific, terrific advice. Surround yourself with the experts. Thank you so much, Jeff.
Jeff: Thank you, Ingrid.
If you are still reading here – wasn’t that a terrific interview? Check out jeff and his overflowcafe.com
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