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NOTABLE! Solopreneurs Doing $1M or More...

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MTF

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I read Elaine's Pofeldt (the author of all the articles shared in this thread) book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business and it was pretty good.

Not sure why its average rating is only 4 stars. It shows plenty of really interesting examples and some good insights on how to replicate their success. Perhaps at times is sounds a bit like a book written by a journalist and not an expert, but it's still worth reading if you're interested in solopreneurship.
 

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I've been thinking recently about this again after an unsuccessful attempt to build a non-solopreneur business despite being a lone wolf by nature.

My conclusion is that some people really should listen to themselves. There's nothing wrong with keeping your business small. And no, you don't have "limiting beliefs" if you refuse to have employees and if you don't feel comfortable becoming a "leader" and a real "CEO."

I wrote some thoughts on my blog about it. Here's the article pasted here:

The most unenjoyable periods in my business life come from the projects that involved hiring employees.

I love entrepreneurship because it allows me to work when I want, on what I want, without ever reporting to anyone else. Having employees has always felt to me like prison, as having a job and a boss, rather than the flexibility and freedom.

Perhaps I was doing the whole “leadership” thing wrong. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a lone wolf by nature.

I don’t like to collaborate. I want to own the creative process.

I don’t want to lead. I prefer to be away from both the leaders and the followers.

Business gurus would tell me that I have “limiting” beliefs.

But after my most recent business failure, I’m now sure that for a person like me, solopreneurship is the only smart 80/20 choice.

My calendar is empty. I don’t have to explain my decisions to anyone. I can take time off when I want. I‘m not responsible for anyone’s financial security.

For many business models, hiring isn’t the best or the only growth strategy. We can use smarter leverage: content, code, contractors, and creativity.

Before you hire anyone, ask yourself if you can use any of the above. And if you can’t, don’t assume you have to hire someone now. You may grow your business through subtraction, too.

If you don’t see another way out than to hire someone, ask yourself if the price of growth is worth the trouble.

There’s no shame in being a company of one. For a lone wolf, nothing is more rewarding than doing your own thing on your own terms.
 

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I've been thinking recently about this again after an unsuccessful attempt to build a non-solopreneur business despite being a lone wolf by nature.

My conclusion is that some people really should listen to themselves. There's nothing wrong with keeping your business small. And no, you don't have "limiting beliefs" if you refuse to have employees and if you don't feel comfortable becoming a "leader" and a real "CEO."

I wrote some thoughts on my blog about it. Here's the article pasted here:

You mentioned "you latest business failure" and I read the blog post, but it didn't mention what elements were in that 1% that made you quit. Because employees were needed? What factors made you say, "f* this?"
 

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You mentioned "you latest business failure" and I read the blog post, but it didn't mention what elements were in that 1% that made you quit. Because employees were needed? What factors made you say, "f* this?"

There were a few reasons, including a financial one, but if I were to pinpoint just one that was most influential, it was that I felt chained to it. It just didn't work for my personality and financial success probably wouldn't change anything.

I remember you posting something similar, about not wanting to build another business hiring employees because it was just too much of a headache and too much drama. At one point, you understand that even, say, high six figures in additional income, are not worth losing what you have (freedom).

I was like this guy @JasonR described in this thread earlier:

Loved the article - it couldn't be truer for me.

A friend of mine owned a business doing 7 figures per month. From his kitchen counter.

So he opened an office, to grow bigger.

Why?

He didn't need the money. He could have retired, and he is my age.

He wanted a bigger challenge.

He hated it.

He grew the business. But he hated dealing with people.

So he closed the office and went back to doing what he was good at.

From his kitchen counter.

And he's much happier.

I also wanted the challenge. I could have retired, but I wanted more money. None of these motivators were as strong as the fact that even in the beginning stages, before the business started growing, I had been already "grieving" my previous lifestyle. I remember telling my girlfriend a few weeks after I launched the business that I already missed the freedom of solopreneurship.

I should have listened to my gut then. But I thought that I had to "grow" as an entrepreneur and the only logical step forward was hiring employees and becoming a "leader."

But it wasn't true, at least in my case. I resented having to check the business email a few times a day. I didn't like telling people what to do. I didn't like solving their problems as soon as possible because otherwise they had nothing to do (while I still had to pay them). I didn't like how expensive it was to have employees (the salaries, even the base ones, quickly add up and make the process of building a business extremely stressful because each month you're deeper and deeper in the hole).

I didn't like that if I had any new ideas, I had to explain them to the employees as if I were a kid explaining to my parents why I wanted a particular gift. I know that it sounds weird but I just don't like to operate in my life, business or private, in a way that forces me to interact with people so much and rationalize my decisions.

In my self-publishing business, I deal only with contractors. I sent them a specific job for a fixed fee and then it's done. I don't have to come up with new tasks for them. I don't have to keep paying them money even though I don't need them just because I feel guilty to fire them (happened to me with that failed business). I don't even need to hire them again if I find a better contractor. I don't carry any long-term responsibilities.

It's all flexible.

And that's what I love so much about solopreneurship. I'm not a stable person, in both the good (spontanenous) and the bad (prone to emotional roller coasters) sense of this word. I change stuff a lot. I like coming up with new ideas and testing them myself. I don't want to spend time telling others how to turn them into reality. I don't want to invest my energy into learning how to lead, knowing that I've been an outsider all my life and I can at most, on a good day, lead a dog on a leash lol.

I sometimes want to take a few days off and not do anything. I "retired" two weeks ago and I'm free not to do anything. Only a solopreneurial business allows that, unless you're an owner of a huge company with a proven CEO etc. which is extremely rare.

Also, this is pertinent to this topic (Derek Sivers from an interview with Tim Ferriss):

As for affecting my life, I found that when I stopped going against my introvert nature and instead just decided to shape my life around it, it made me very happy, because, before that, I used to do a lot of really extroverted things, thinking that I had to. Now I work alone instead of around others. I say no to almost all big group things, and instead spend really good one-on-one time with other people, and I’m happier than ever. I really think it’s one of the best changes I ever made in my life.

This is my theme for the new stage in my life. Shaping my life around who I am, rather than what others tell me I should be. I guess I needed that failure to finally realize this important truth.
 

eliquid

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There were a few reasons, including a financial one, but if I were to pinpoint just one that was most influential, it was that I felt chained to it. It just didn't work for my personality and financial success probably wouldn't change anything.

I remember you posting something similar, about not wanting to build another business hiring employees because it was just too much of a headache and too much drama. At one point, you understand that even, say, high six figures in additional income, are not worth losing what you have (freedom).

I was like this guy @JasonR described in this thread earlier:



I also wanted the challenge. I could have retired, but I wanted more money. None of these motivators were as strong as the fact that even in the beginning stages, before the business started growing, I had been already "grieving" my previous lifestyle. I remember telling my girlfriend a few weeks after I launched the business that I already missed the freedom of solopreneurship.

I should have listened to my gut then. But I thought that I had to "grow" as an entrepreneur and the only logical step forward was hiring employees and becoming a "leader."

But it wasn't true, at least in my case. I resented having to check the business email a few times a day. I didn't like telling people what to do. I didn't like solving their problems as soon as possible because otherwise they had nothing to do (while I still had to pay them). I didn't like how expensive it was to have employees (the salaries, even the base ones, quickly add up and make the process of building a business extremely stressful because each month you're deeper and deeper in the hole).

I didn't like that if I had any new ideas, I had to explain them to the employees as if I were a kid explaining to my parents why I wanted a particular gift. I know that it sounds weird but I just don't like to operate in my life, business or private, in a way that forces me to interact with people so much and rationalize my decisions.

In my self-publishing business, I deal only with contractors. I sent them a specific job for a fixed fee and then it's done. I don't have to come up with new tasks for them. I don't have to keep paying them money even though I don't need them just because I feel guilty to fire them (happened to me with that failed business). I don't even need to hire them again if I find a better contractor. I don't carry any long-term responsibilities.

It's all flexible.

And that's what I love so much about solopreneurship. I'm not a stable person, in both the good (spontanenous) and the bad (prone to emotional roller coasters) sense of this word. I change stuff a lot. I like coming up with new ideas and testing them myself. I don't want to spend time telling others how to turn them into reality. I don't want to invest my energy into learning how to lead, knowing that I've been an outsider all my life and I can at most, on a good day, lead a dog on a leash lol.

I sometimes want to take a few days off and not do anything. I "retired" two weeks ago and I'm free not to do anything. Only a solopreneurial business allows that, unless you're an owner of a huge company with a proven CEO etc. which is extremely rare.

Also, this is pertinent to this topic (Derek Sivers from an interview with Tim Ferriss):



This is my theme for the new stage in my life. Shaping my life around who I am, rather than what others tell me I should be. I guess I needed that failure to finally realize this important truth.

I'm the same way.

There is a thread on the forum about lifestyle business vs corporate business here where I went into detail why I like lifestyle business. Not saying you agree with me, but our points are largely the same because I lump lifestyle as solopreneur myself... I don't want a corporate type business where I have to be a leader or have employees. I enjoy being a solopreneur mostly and many people lump that into lifestyle business is why I tied the 2 together:

and
and several more in that thread alone


It's also entirely why I did this thread and exercise as well:

You just gotta know you and what you like and who you are. Can never go wrong with that.

.
 

Andy Black

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I’m the same @MTF @eliquid

I could scale by hiring Google Ads freelancers or employees (or whitelabel an agency). I tried it for about two weeks and hated it. My super power is being able to do the work better than the people I hire.

My other super power is how I interact with people in forums, Facebook groups, live workshops, Zoom calls, etc. I tried multiple times to delegate/outsource sales and they failed miserably. Again, they can’t do it as well as me.

So what am I to do if I want to scale while leveraging my superpowers?

Find a business model that fits the life I want to lead, the work I like to do, and the way I like to do it.

There’s so many ways of doing business nowadays that it’s just a case of figuring out where you want to go and how you want to get there.

It also takes courage (or bloody mindedness) to ignore the pressure to do XYZ or ABC lest you’re not a “proper” business owner.

I feel there’s a script amongst business owners too, but being unscripted means doing it your own way. Honest to goodness, I’ve lost count of how many people tell me what I should do, need to do, must do, etc.

Tagging @Lex DeVille and @Fox as I think this convo is right up their street too.
 

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MTF

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Love this quote of yours, @eliquid:

While lifestyle does have that "travel" and nomad feel stuck to it, for me it's more about having more options and alternatives. I don't travel much like I said, but the option to stay for a month when I do travel is the main focus. I have that option, most people don't. AND I can exercise that option 3x a year or more. To me it would seem odd to be off 3+ months a year in enterprise. That's just me.

I can't see myself doing that in an enterprise. At least not for many years and many dollars while the staff gets built up, the marketing and brand, SOP's, etc. In a lifestyle business, I can get to that point pretty damn quickly ( less than a year most times ).

@Andy Black, as for this:

I could scale by hiring Google Ads freelancers or employees (or whitelabel an agency). I tried it for about two weeks and hated it. My super power is being able to do the work better than the people I hire.

My other super power is how I interact with people in forums, Facebook groups, live workshops, Zoom calls, etc. I tried multiple times to delegate/outsource sales and that failed miserably. Again, they can’t do it as well as me.

So what am I to do if I want to scale while leveraging my superpowers?

Find a business model that fits the life I want to lead, the work I like to do, and the way I like to do it.

Thank you for posting that. I feel that most business gurus would tell you that you're deluded that you do the work better than the people you hire. That you have to replace yourself and that it's even more urgent if you think you're that much better.

But I think we just fall closer to the "artist" spectrum of the end rather than the entrepreneur. A "stereotypical" entrepreneur would be all about delegation. An artist is all about doing things themselves. The happy medium (for me at least) is being an artist and only hiring for what I can't do well. It makes little sense to hire someone to replace me as the writer but it makes sense to hire a contractor for design (also because it's a nice task-specific project with a defined end date, not an ongoing relationship that requires management).
 

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I’m the same @MTF @eliquid

I could scale by hiring Google Ads freelancers or employees (or whitelabel an agency). I tried it for about two weeks and hated it. My super power is being able to do the work better than the people I hire.

My other super power is how I interact with people in forums, Facebook groups, live workshops, Zoom calls, etc. I tried multiple times to delegate/outsource sales and that failed miserably. Again, they can’t do it as well as me.

So what am I to do if I want to scale while leveraging my superpowers?

Find a business model that fits the life I want to lead, the work I like to do, and the way I like to do it.

There’s so many ways of doing business nowadays that it’s just a case of figuring out where you want to go and how you want to get there.

It also takes courage (or bloody mindedness) to ignore the pressure to do XYZ or ABC lest you’re not a “proper” business owner. I feel there’s a script amongst business owners too, but being unscripted means doing it your own way. Honest to goodness, I’ve lost count of how many people tell me what I should do, need to do, must do, etc.

Tagging @Lex DeVille and @Fox as I think this convo is right up their street too.
I like the concept of a superpower. Everyone has unique strengths. Sometimes the chosen entrepreneurial project isn't compatible, and it causes quite a bit of friction. Can be problematic when you know you're onto an idea but suck as executing it alone.
 

Andy Black

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I feel that most business gurus would tell you that you're deluded that you do the work better than the people you hire. That you have to replace yourself and that it's even more urgent if you think you’re that much better.
To be fair, I spoke to two different business mentors earlier this year, courtesy of fast-tracked grants from the Irish government to help small businesses keep going.

Both were fascinated by what I do and the potential of it.

I’m reminded to read my notes, but my takeaways from both mentors separately was that I’m sitting on a gold mine, that my services are in even more dire need now, that marketing and financials are the main two things both are speaking to businesses about, that the courses side of my business is especially exciting, and that I should create packages (a menu) for the services I do (because I still don’t have them listed on a sales page anywhere).

Neither of the separate mentors told me to replace myself in my business. They could tell the secret ingredient in my business *is* me.
 

Andy Black

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But I think we just fall closer to the "artist" spectrum of the end rather than the entrepreneur. A "stereotypical" entrepreneur would be all about delegation. An artist is all about doing things themselves. The happy medium (for me at least) is being an artist and only hiring for what I can't do well. It makes little sense to hire someone to replace me as the writer but it makes sense to hire a contractor for design (also because it's a nice task-specific project with a defined end date, not an ongoing relationship that requires management).
Oh. I hadn’t thought of a label of “artist”. That tickles me for some reason. I view myself as a practitioner, and I’m proud of it and enjoy it. Sure, big agencies can be built off the talent of a practitioner as well as business operations chops (such as Gary V has done ... and I believe he prides himself on still being a practitioner).

I have a couple of freelancers in my team doing some of the reporting and simple Google Ads tasks, but the skillsets I lean on them for are software engineering and graphic design - which bore me and which they’re specialists at.

I had a chat with @Rabby one time and we chuckled at the madness of the first hire being someone who does what you do instead of someone who does something you don’t do. If I hired another Google Ads guy first then I’d have two Google Ads guys to pay and I’d then potentially end up doing something I’m *not* good at in the business.

I spoke to an entirely different business coach a few years ago. One of his great pieces of advice was to think about “What work would you be doing if money was no object?” then “What’s stopping you?”.
 

Andy Black

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I agree with @eliquid. I’ve a lifestyle business even though I’ve no interest in travelling.

As a family man I’m repelled by marketing that pushes the “digital nomad” business where we supposedly work on a beach with a laptop. I’d prefer to work in the evening and be on the beach with my family during the day. But then I don’t like beaches anyway, ha. I just want to spend more time with my family.

That’s what a lifestyle business means to me - the business fits round (and enables) the lifestyle I choose, not the other way round.
 

eliquid

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Thank you for posting that. I feel that most business gurus would tell you that you're deluded that you do the work better than the people you hire. That you have to replace yourself and that it's even more urgent if you think you're that much better.

But I think we just fall closer to the "artist" spectrum of the end rather than the entrepreneur. A "stereotypical" entrepreneur would be all about delegation. An artist is all about doing things themselves. The happy medium (for me at least) is being an artist and only hiring for what I can't do well. It makes little sense to hire someone to replace me as the writer but it makes sense to hire a contractor for design (also because it's a nice task-specific project with a defined end date, not an ongoing relationship that requires management).

Neither of the separate mentors told me to replace myself in my business. They could tell the secret ingredient in my business *is* me.

I had a chat with @Rabby one time and we chuckled at the madness of the first hire being someone who does what you do instead of someone who does something you don’t do. If I hired another Google Ads guy first then I’d have two Google Ads guys to pay and I’d then potentially end up doing something I’m *not* good at in the business.


Interesting.

While I always knew I could never replace myself ( Im in the camp I do it better than anyone else ), I never thought of it deeply like this. I just knew all the people I hired to try to "replace me" couldn't do it like me.

But this does connect some dots of OTHER topics I have spoke about prior.

On this forum, and at one of the summits, I talk about how you have to be an authority in your subject.

I mainly use this to steer people into what they should be doing when they don't know what SaaS or project to work on. Authority can means all kinds of things, but in simple terms I label it as anything you know more than the lay person about, as the lay person might be your audience.

With that said, how could someone ever replace you if you are the authority? If you are good at it? If you do it better than anyone else? Yeah, it just makes sense now to me connecting those dots a bit.

So that leaves me not trying to hire someone to replace me, but someone to do the things I hate.

Why?

One, I don't want to do them anyways even if I didn't hire anyone and did this all by myself.

Two, if I hired someone to replace me.. then like Andy said I end up at some point doing the things I hate ( because that might be all that is left to do ).

That leaves me doing only the things I am great at, which I more than likely enjoy, and that I am the authority for.

An example with my PPC clients might be:
  • I hate pulling reports. I know there are tools to make this 1 or 2 clicks, but I hate it. I hate the customized reports. I hate the deadlines on them. I hate explaining them.
    • Solution, hire someone that does this
  • I hate spending time on negatives. It's a simple job, but I'd rather be doing something else.
    • Solution, hire someone for this ( or use the guy doing the reports )
  • I hate trying to split test display ads. Text ads I don't mind, but I don't want to crack open Photoshop and mess with image files.
    • Solution, hire someone for this

So what does that leave me with?

Time to strategize the plan. To take in the whole picture. To organize AdGroups and break down reports in Excel and pivot tables and tweak the game plan. To raise bids up or down or move into Shopping campaigns and YouTube vids. Time to help the client increase their LTV on the backend or edit their LPs for more conversions. etc

I find I can't replace myself on the strategy part bc every hire I had couldn't do it like me. Plus I enjoy it.

Lesson learned = No reason to replace me. Just replace the the stuff I hate with someone that will do it.

When does it make sense to replace you though?

Maybe in a business you are running to grow side income, like Real Estate holdings. I'm not an authority there and I don't know anything about it... so hiring someone to "replace me" in just about every aspect could be realistic... in that sense I can see it happen to "grow a side business" once my main business is up and running fine.

.
 
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Andy Black

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When does it make sense to replace you though?
For me, it will be when I’m no longer drawn to a particular task.

I notice when I have simple campaign builds to do and someone messages me looking for help then I’m drawn to the chat. When I’m doing intricate campaign builds or research then I ressent any interruptions.
 

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I love the talk about lifestyle vs enterprise businesses and I find it fascinating.

As a fellow introvert, I want to point out that you can be introverted and still run a large scale enterprise with employees.

Like said above, you just need to focus more on one-on-one interactions instead of putting yourself in a “team.” This will actually make the business more successful, e.g. meeting with a manager instead of getting the whole gang together, or having small meetings and listening to others.

As for high level sales (like meeting an executive from another business to make a deal), you don’t have to do this in a very extroverted way either. A one on one meeting is a lot less stressful AND can be more effective.

The best thing I’ve seen that works for those types of sales is meeting people one on one, developing a real relationship, and sharing jokes / stories.
 

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When does it make sense to replace you though?

The biggest things you provide to it are (more than likely) things like authority, vision, expertise, judgement, decision making, risk tolerance, and long term strategy. It's hard to find an everyday employee who is willing to manifest those qualities for you instead of just start their own business. You'd have to hire someone in the 6 figures, I reckon.

When people talk about replacing themselves in a business, I think they're most often talking about some technical job they do in the business. "Product sourcing" or "analyzing reports." If you're good at those things and enjoy them, it makes sense for them to be the last things you hire for, if you do. After all, they aren't what the business needs... you already give it those things. It needs the things that your customers and the market needs, but that you're terrible at or that take your time away from your best skills.

Being strategic and having judgement and bringing vision and expertise don't have to occupy your time in the same way as, say, answering all the phone calls. You get time to think, experiment, or do other things. So replacing "you" the essential business owner, probably isn't urgent like replacing "you" the proposal writer. Therefore, a one word answer to your question is, "last."

Interestingly (to me, at least), you can bake a lot of decisions and strategies and even "judgement" into your business by turning them into things the staff can reference and repeat. Guidelines, rules, policies like "if it fixes the problem without causing <disaster>, do it and let me know if this happens more than 10 times per month)."

These baked-in decisions won't last forever, because nothing does, but you also won't have to make the same decision over and over again when an employee could repeat that decision just as easily. This is why I'm such a pest about "controls," lol. They take your best judgements and clone them to any number of daily business decisions, and in many cases they stay relevant and correct for years.

So you're left with making new decisions only when new situations require your judgement. And/or developing new products, services, etc., should you so choose.

Here's what I think is a good test for how "replaced" you are: The business shouldn't stop if you stop directly working in it. It should just experience a slow entropy that you can reset from time to time by updating things and helping the staff understand whatever is new.

A nice thing about that is it makes business continuity planning easierr. BCP is a good motivation for replacing yourself, or at least becoming replaceable, if you have family that relies on you.

You want the business to survive your own downfall? Or your sudden desire not to work on it anymore? At least if you've hired or automated for all those daily things you're not suited for, you "only" have to find a strategic leader with sound judgement and some domain knowledge. They don't also have to be a customer service representative, reporting analyst, door frame painter, and graphic artist. You'll never find the person willing to be all of those things outside their own business, but you can hire a leader if the business has enough profit. Or the business can coast along at that slow rate of entropy (as opposed to the rapid collapse if it depends on you for everything) while you find a buyer. Maybe that buyer is the one who replaces you.

The above has been my observation anyway. The path and the details are various, depending on the type of business. For example, a business where you're the licensed professional, or the CPA, Lawyer, Engineer, etc., has different things to consider (about replacing the owner) than a business where the owner selects products from wholesale markets, or provides less regulated services. But I think in all cases, the urgency is first on replacing anything that needs doing but is outside of the owner's core strengths; and then on making the owner's judgements persistent in the company, so that it doesn't collapse in the event that they need to go away for a while.

Edit: After posting I realized the original thread started with "solopreneurs." So I guess the above applies if you're willing to have some employees or contractors doing the stuff you don't wanna. There are businesses that don't require any of that, I'm sure. I recently learned of a person who makes $1mm per year doing nothing but testing for software vulnerabilities. All he needs are two hands, two eyes, and the will to keep going, and that's his income.
 
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Andy Black

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The biggest things you provide to it are (more than likely) things like authority, vision, expertise, judgement, decision making, risk tolerance, and long term strategy. It's hard to find an everyday employee who is willing to manifest those qualities for you instead of just start their own business. You'd have to hire someone in the 6 figures, I reckon.

When people talk about replacing themselves in a business, I think they're most often talking about some technical job they do in the business. "Product sourcing" or "analyzing reports." If you're good at those things and enjoy them, it makes sense for them to be the last things you hire for, if you do. After all, they aren't what the business needs... you already give it those things. It needs the things that your customers and the market needs, but that you're terrible at or that take your time away from your best skills.

Being strategic and having judgement and bringing vision and expertise don't have to occupy your time in the same way as, say, answering all the phone calls. You get time to think, experiment, or do other things. So replacing "you" the essential business owner, probably isn't urgent like replacing "you" the proposal writer. Therefore, a one word answer to your question is, "last."

Interestingly (to me, at least), you can bake a lot of decisions and strategies and even "judgement" into your business by turning them into things the staff can reference and repeat. Guidelines, rules, policies like "if it fixes the problem without causing <disaster>, do it and let me know if this happens more than 10 times per month)."

These baked-in decisions won't last forever, because nothing does, but you also won't have to make the same decision over and over again when an employee could repeat that decision just as easily. This is why I'm such a pest about "controls," lol. They take your best judgements and clone them to any number of daily business decisions, and in many cases they stay relevant and correct for years.

So you're left with making new decisions only when new situations require your judgement. And/or developing new products, services, etc., should you so choose.

Here's what I think is a good test for how "replaced" you are: The business shouldn't stop if you stop directly working in it. It should just experience a slow entropy that you can reset from time to time by updating things and helping the staff understand whatever is new.

A nice thing about that is it makes business continuity planning easierr. BCP is a good motivation for replacing yourself, or at least becoming replaceable, if you have family that relies on you.

You want the business to survive your own downfall? Or your sudden desire not to work on it anymore? At least if you've hired or automated for all those daily things you're not suited for, you "only" have to find a strategic leader with sound judgement and some domain knowledge. They don't also have to be a customer service representative, reporting analyst, door frame painter, and graphic artist. You'll never find the person willing to be all of those things outside their own business, but you can hire a leader if the business has enough profit. Or the business can coast along at that slow rate of entropy (as opposed to the rapid collapse if it depends on you for everything) while you find a buyer. Maybe that buyer is the one who replaces you.

The above has been my observation anyway. The path and the details are various, depending on the type of business. For example, a business where you're the licensed professional, or the CPA, Lawyer, Engineer, etc., has different things to consider (about replacing the owner) than a business where the owner selects products from wholesale markets, or provides less regulated services. But I think in all cases, the urgency is first on replacing anything that needs doing but is outside of the owner's core strengths; and then on making the owner's judgements persistent in the company, so that it doesn't collapse in the event that they need to go away for a while.

Edit: After posting I realized the original thread started with "solopreneurs." So I guess the above applies if you're willing to have some employees or contractors doing the stuff you don't wanna. There are businesses that don't require any of that, I'm sure. I recently learned of a person who makes $1mm per year doing nothing but testing for software vulnerabilities. All he needs are two hands, two eyes, and the will to keep going, and that's his income.
Great insights. For solopreneurs I think we're counting people who have freelancers in their team as well.

I've always thought of infrastructure as consisting of People, Processes, and Technology. I'd like to scale using Processes and Technology ... which is how we can bake in our judgement and knowledge.
 

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Loved the article - it couldn't be truer for me.

A friend of mine owned a business doing 7 figures per month. From his kitchen counter.

So he opened an office, to grow bigger.

Why?

He didn't need the money. He could have retired, and he is my age.

He wanted a bigger challenge.

He hated it.

He grew the business. But he hated dealing with people.

So he closed the office and went back to doing what he was good at.

From his kitchen counter.

And he's much happier.

Oh man it's so interesting looking back at my quotes.

While this is still true, you have to remember very business is different and unique.

We've surpassed $3M this year, and shooting to double next year. After going through two 3PL nightmares, I just got my own warehouse. We've got a small team now, and am hiring a local employee to manage the warehouse.

Why?

We can't get to where we want to go without the warehouse or more staff. My goal is to grow this thing to $10M gross and beyond.

If i wanted to stay small, and under $2.5M/year, I probably wouldn't need to do all this.

Pretty interesting looking back years later!

By the way, having a warehouse, physical location, and employees doesn't mean a loss of freedom
 
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@JasonR, where's your team and the warehouse? In the US, Bali, or elsewhere?
 

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@JasonR, where's your team and the warehouse? In the US, Bali, or elsewhere?
My warehouse is in the USA. Most of my team is remote (customer service, content writers/editors, link builders, PPC guys, etc.).

My warehouse employee(s) will obviously be at the warehouse in the states.

I did have an operations manager who was remote, in the US, but I recently let him go.
 

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@JasonR, one more question if you don't mind. You said this:

We can't get to where we want to go without the warehouse or more staff. My goal is to grow this thing to $10M gross and beyond.

Is your goal gross-related only?

I mean, revenue doesn't equal profit and often more revenue actually reduces profit. A lean operation at $2.5M gross may actually generate more profit for the owner than a bigger operation at $10M gross. This is why I'm partial to lean, solopreneurial ventures. More return for less work.

Obviously in no way criticizing or questioning your choices, just curious how you view it and how the numbers work here (not asking for any specifics, just whether increasing the costs and revenue so much doesn't cut a lot into profit).
 

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@JasonR,

I mean, revenue doesn't equal profit and often more revenue actually reduces profit. A lean operation at $2.5M gross may actually generate more profit for the owner than a bigger operation at $10M gross. This is why I'm partial to lean, solopreneurial ventures. More return for less work.
I don’t think it’s possible that this would be true for any e-commerce business. That’s just too big of a gap.

At 2.5m at 20% margin you would make $500k. At 10m at 5% margin you would make $500k. basically what you are saying is that the added $7.5m in revenue is all breakeven.

I can tell you that running efficiently you can grow without increasing costs. I can use the same staff to run 2.5 vs 5. At 10 maybe I will need 2 more people and maybe 50% more warehouse space. I’m doing about $5m now. If I got to $10m I’d expect my margin to increase drastically because a huge cost for me is warehouse rent and that won’t double as sales double.
 

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Is your goal gross-related only?

I mean, revenue doesn't equal profit and often more revenue actually reduces profit. A lean operation at $2.5M gross may actually generate more profit for the owner than a bigger operation at $10M gross. This is why I'm partial to lean, solopreneurial ventures. More return for less work.

Obviously in no way criticizing or questioning your choices, just curious how you view it and how the numbers work here (not asking for any specifics, just whether increasing the costs and revenue so much doesn't cut a lot into profit).

Bio pretty much hit the nail in the head.

That being said, my goal is definitely not gross related only. I think e-com guys talk gross most of the time (other than it sounds larger than net) is that it's pretty difficult to calculate our actual net until the end of the year. You usually have a pretty good idea, but it's not simple. We do run at healthy margins, and like Bio said, expect them to go up with economies of scale.

As your gross goes up, everything just becomes so much cheaper. For example, I need to buy a forklift. It's going to cost $8k to $12k. That forklift will do the same job whether I'm doing $500k a year or $5M a year. At $5M year, that cost of the forklift shrinks significantly. Same goes with employees, warehouse space, etc.

There are other things I didn't think about before I got my own warehouse. I expected my costs to be more expensive than a 3PL, but I think I was wrong. We just cut our shipping cost in half with negotiated rates (better than we got at the 3PL). I'm no longer paying a pick and pack fee. I'm a lot less worried about the time it takes to de-van a container. I think I'll actually come out slightly ahead, but with more control of our operation.

As far running a lean operation, I had to make a choice. Do I want a lifestyle business (which is fine in it's own right), or do I want a RFB (real f*cking business). I had a lifestyle business, and while it did well, I capped out at about $300k/ish a year net and I got bored. I decided I wanted to go all in and build a RFB - the payout will be worth it in the long term, and it's a new challenge for me. There are other reasons, of course, the money is definitely nice and I enjoy making more profit - it is something that matters to me.

We also donate to industry related charities and rescues. The larger I get, the more I can donate. I think it'd be much cooler to give a talk one day and talk about how we were able to donate $1M+ through the business we created, than it would to say I sold my company for $10M.

Went kind of on a tangent there!
 

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