B-Side: A case for coaches
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Getting "one of those" coaches
Our industry is full of a lot of bullsh*t artists. Charlatans. People who haven't been there before, but sure will sell you that they have all the answers.
Part of this is our fault—we're insecure and vulnerable in trudging into the unknown and trying to create something from nothing, so we're highly susceptible to those hawking advice or help. Most of this isn't our fault, because while human nature hopefully trends positive, there are those amongst us who peddle goods with get-rich-quick marketing that leeches on all of us under the guise of "coaching."
I thought Dan Martell was one of those leeches.
For those who don't know him, Dan Martell runs SaaS Academy, a coaching program for SaaS founders and executives. He's got 60.4k YouTube subscribers (a lot for SaaS), half a million subscribers on TikTok without dancing, and he's founded five SaaS companies. He also posts things like this—and while I'm generalizing, I tend to put my guard up with folks who post these types of inspirational posts. Of course, that says more about me than Dan (especially since this picture is fire. :)).
I first met Dan a decade ago and all my B.S. alarms were going off. He's a phenomenal speaker, helps without you asking, and is one of the nicest human beings I've met in tech. Basically he was the perfect recipe for what ,most of the time, ends up being a charlatan. All talk. No substance.
What I learned in chatting with him more and more as we became friends, is that while bad actors out there push mastermind groups for $10k to help you "get rich quick by working a day a week," Dan was legit. Unfortunately those bad actors and not being able to tell the bad ones from the good ones, made me have an aversion to coaching.
I thought coaching was only relevant if it were from someone who'd been there before—an old grey haired sherpa who'd been in the world of business for decades trying to help me up my own mountain. The problem I kept running into is that no one's been in our industry for that long, so how could someone know more than me? At best, they'd only know marginally more and even then, my situation can't possibly be the same that they went through, right?
My own arrogance aside, I've learned the hard way that this isn't why coaches exist. There's a reason Marc Benioff—the grand poobah of SaaS and Founder of Salesforce—still has a coach. Zuckerberg, Sandberg, the Google Gents, and all the people who came before us still do, too.
It comes down to perspective.
You're in your lane moving as quickly as humanly possible. You've got a lot people around you who are in the same lane, or at least parallel lanes. A coach is someone who's outside the lanes observing and holding you accountable over time. Their job is to:
- Challenge your personal awareness
- Hold you accountable to your personal development
- Provide a safe, independent place for feedback
- Give you the wider context
The bad-actor coaches make it about them and hype you up with motivation and cool perks. The good-actor coaches make it about you and tailors advice to you.
As founders and execs, we're an ironically confident bunch. We're constantly oscillating on the precipice between, "everything is going to be amazing" and "the world is ending." I find solace in coaching that keeps me focused on the long game, while helping me optimize the short term for the most compounding outcome.
As we grind into 2021 with a lot of distractions still around us, one focus we should all have is to get more, consistent coaching.
Here's the framework I came up with for seeking a coach:
- Directness and honesty in feedback
The coach needs to know how to get through to you. Some of us are overzealous; others of us are insanely insecure. Neither of these are bad and many of us go back and forth, but a coach needs to be able to properly work with you and push you to get better. You need a coach that isn't one-size-fits-all, or at the very least, plays to your strengths. This isn't your friend; it's someone to make you better.
- Experience in what you're optimizing for
Industry specific experience is very helpful. While the coach doesn't need to be a multi-decade veteran, they at least need experience with the inputs and outputs of your industry. They also need the ability to level you up as an exec, so it's hard to find a coach that hasn't been an exec and faced the decisions you're facing.
- Helps you build systems and holds you accountable
Coaching is more active than something like therapy. Your coach should be helping you compound as a leader, talking through and helping you implement systems to push your business forward. You should also have an element of regret if you break a commitment that you made to them.
If you're in SaaS, I actually recommend you check out Dan Martell. He's one of the only folks out there who checks all the boxes of my framework and has a lot of structure around his program, which is helpful as most of us are a bit less structured than optimal. I've referred a lot of folks to SaaS Academy, and not one has had a bad experience. He's helped me along the way, too.
I told him I was writing on coaching in January—and that I was going to talk about my first impression of him (which we've laughed about since). He graciously offered some 1:1 time with him and his team to ProfitWell subscribers.
Click here to grab one of those slots for free (they are limited).
Most importantly, make a commitment to coaching and feedback. 2021 is going to be a tough year, but there's a lot of opportunities in that toughness. Make sure you take advantage of it in an accelerated manner with coaching.
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Our industry is full of a lot of bullshit artists, these charlatans, these people who haven't been there before, but they sure like to sell you the fact that they have all the answers from profit.
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Well, recur. It's protect the hustle or we explore the truth behind the strategy and tactics of B2B SaaS growth to make you an outstanding operator. On today's episode, we're diving deep on coaching How to find the right coach for you, why so many charlatans exist, and ultimately how to make sure you're getting an outside perspective. Take it away, Patrick.
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Welcome back, everybody. This is another B-side episode for those of you don't remember just because we just started this. So it's worth the reminder each week or the purpose. If we back up. A second of Protect the Hustle is to explore the truth behind the strategy and tactics of B2B SaaS growth to make all of us outstanding operators.
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And so each week we have two episodes. One episode is always an interview with a B2B SaaS founder or operator or. Exactly. And we basically go deep on a particular topic. Then the other episode is where I personally am in essentially learning in public, very similar to building in public, but learning in public on a particular topic, hopefully showing some vulnerability or some new data or some new strategic thinking that I've done on what's happening in our markets as well as what I'm learning and building profit.
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Well, and we just started these B-sides last week, so just to give a little bit of context and do a little bit of housekeeping, these are also in fully written form. So I write something and also record it in. So if you want the written form, because you don't want to listen to me on your commute or you don't want to listen to me while you're walking your dog, not a problem at all.
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I'll just go to protect the hustle dot com. Make sure you sign up there and I'd also just make sure you sign up there because every episode and every new fangled thing that we come out with is basically going to that particular feed. But you can also subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, some other housekeeping, some other thoughts.
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I've been getting into clubhouse lately. I've been on there for about a week or so. For those of you follow me on Twitter, you've saw some initial thoughts, although some salty thoughts. I actually think clubhouse is super fascinating. I think it helps us see who's a bullshit artist and who's not very, very quickly because it's very hard to hide behind live audio.
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Although some people like to try. I have some deeper thoughts on clubhouse that I'll be coming out with after I do some to market research as well as do some extra kind of deep dives and some different areas of live audio that'll be coming out in the next couple of weeks. But if you're on clubhouse, feel free to follow me at podcasts.
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I see us to the same handle as my Twitter. I'm going to be doing some fun things over there with Dan Martell, who we're going to talk about a little bit today, as well as Nathan Latka Balfour, a couple of other folks that are in our space who are, you know, deep dive in on growth and deep diving, all things about operations.
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But with that, let's let's get into what we're talking about today and what we're talking about today. Essentially, coaching. And I have been on a fun journey with coaching throughout my life. My background, you know, growing up was not a fun one, if you will, but not going into that Lifetime movie too deeply. It kind of gave me this chip on my shoulder, which I think has helped me a lot, but it's a chip on my shoulder that also has given me an aversion sometimes to feedback in coaching, which I've had to kind of unfurl and kind of unwind over the past decade or so.
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And they actually have gotten gotten much, much further along. But I think the coaching industry is one of those industries that I haven't really respected up until probably the last couple of years. And I want to talk a little bit about that because going into this new year or about one month in, essentially there's there's a lot that needs to be taken advantage of in terms of the market.
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And I think one of the best ways to do that is, is to basically hire a coach. But I want to talk a little bit about my journey with whole coaching mindset as well as my journey with with one of my really good friends now who I originally thought was not a terrible person, not a terrible person at all, but I thought he was just a pure charlatan.
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And I think the big the big reason for this is that our industry is full of a lot of bullshit artists. Now, these bullshit artists might be those peddling, you know, some sort of product that they're kind of inflating too much, or it might be coaching and advice in these types of things, but we got a lot of charlatans in our industry.
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These people who haven't really been there before, but they sure as heck will sell you that they have all of the answers. Right. And part of this is our fault because we're insecure and vulnerable in kind of trudging into the unknown and trying to create something from nothing. This whole concept of, you know, wisdom has to be learned through experience, but because that's hard and because it takes a lot of effort, we end up wanting to kind of take a shorter path and there are shorter pass that exist out there by trusting people who have been there before.
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But because of this, we're really highly susceptible to those hawking advice or help. And most of this isn't our fault, though, just to be super clear, because, well, you know, human nature hopefully trends positive or at least I like, you know, living my life as if, you know, yes, there are terrible people out there, but overall, we are going to turn positive.
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There are those just amongst us who will peddle these goods with, you know, get rich quick marketing and it leeches on all of us under the guise of, you know, coaching. And as I kind of alluded to already, I thought Dan Martel was one of those leeches. And for those of you don't know, Dan Martel runs this thing called SaaS Academy, which I've spoken at a number of times.
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And you know, it's just this huge group of SaaS founders and executives. They do they have a couple of different levels. They have just like targeted content. Then they also have these, I think three or four like meet ups where there is, you know, a hundred plus different founders and execs from SaaS companies all coming together and basically going through, you know, big old group networking and group coaching and learning.
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And these also got like one on one coaching that he does as well. But he's, you know, one of these people who's been kind of at the center of B SaaS for quite some time. He's got like 60,000 YouTube subscribers which is a lot for, you know, B b SaaS. He's got half a million subscribers on Tik Tok which again a lot for B to be SaaS.
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He's founded SaaS companies. I think he's five SaaS companies at this particular point and he also posts because he's a coach but he's also the nice little social butterfly. He posts a lot of these like inspirational posts. He posts a lot of like fitness things when he's doing CrossFit and he's done 75 hard. And so basically when you kind of put all of this together, it's it's one of these people that I look at and I'm like, this is, you know, all of my alarms are going off.
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This guy is full of bass, He's terrible. And I first met him a decade ago, and that's what I thought, too. And he's also from Canada, which isn't a bad thing. It's just he's super nice, so he's super nice and pedaling all these things. He's a phenomenal speaker. He helps, you know, without asking and all of these things.
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And, you know, he's the perfect recipe for what I think is a charlatan, right? Because it's really hard to trust that someone who is this helpful or someone who actually has knowledge would be kind of giving this all up. You know, basically they're all talk and no substance. And what's interesting is what I learned from chatting with him more and more and as we became friends is that while these bad actors do exist out there and they push mastermind groups for, you know, $10,000 to help you get rich quick by working a day a week.
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And they don't actually say that, but that's kind of how they peddle it. Then with super legit. And Dan knew his stuff. Dan came from a B2B SaaS background and this was basically telling more about me and my reaction to kind of coaching and feedback and less about like the actual reality of the authentic Dan Martell. And unfortunately, you know, those bad actors that do exist, they, they basically kind of shade this entire industry from the good ones, from the people who are actually really, really good at coaching.
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And coaching has been around for a long time. I think Dan has basically kind of made it into, you know, a full fledged business versus just kind of a 1 to 1 kind of advisement service. But, you know, in every smaller business that have interacted with, you know, normally the CEO has some sort of an executive coach and this is where it kind of got a little interesting as well for my context on Dan Martell, because I thought coaching was really only relevant if it was from someone who you had done it before, right?
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Because all the other exact coaches that I'd seen, they were all these like old, gray haired sherpas who'd been in the world of business for decades. And they're just trying to help you up the mountain. Right. And the problem that I kept running into is that no one's been in our industry for that long. So how could someone know more than me?
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Right? And I get this with pricing as well. Like I get very uncomfortable when someone calls me an expert on pricing to this day. You know, I always, you know, say like, oh, you know, while I think about it, I think more than most people out there. Right. And the reason I get so uncomfortable with that is because when my mom was going back to school, when I was in high school, she was going back to get her bachelor's degree.
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She she had worked 30 years basically in marketing specifically and kind of event and experience marketing. And what was really kind of fascinating is she asked, you know, hey, you know, can I you know, can I use myself as a source? When she was writing basically a thesis and her professor said, hey, well, we only really consider, you know, direct experts as someone who has, you know, 30 to 35 years in their industry.
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And I think at that point, she had, you know, probably like 25, 27, something like that. And so basically my my whole thing has been, you know, how can you coach if you're not an expert and how can you be an expert in industry that's extremely nascent. Right. And again, this is kind of, you know, showing my colors versus the actual industry colors or that of Dan Martell.
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But, you know, that problem I kept running into is that, you know, no one's been in our industry that long, so how could someone know more than me, or at least how could someone know that much more than me? And, you know, at best they'd only know marginally more. And even then, you know, my situation can't possibly be the same that they went through right then.
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It exposes an interesting problem of coaching and feedback in a second. But, you know, my own arrogance aside, you know, I've learned the hard way. This isn't why coaches exist. You know, this this objection that I have, there's there's a reason why. Benioff You know, the Grand Puba of SaaS and founder of Salesforce for those if you don't know, he has a coach you know Zuckerberg Sandberg the Google guys, you know, and all the people you know that we all look up to.
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Most of them have a coach. And the reason that coaching is so important and to not only state the obvious, but go deeper on this obvious is that it comes down to perspective. You're in your lane moving as quickly as humanly possible. That's the nature of growth, right? Even if you're trying to create just a and I don't say this negatively, but a lifestyle business, something that's pushing a hundred K, you know, multimillion dollars a year, whatever it is, or if you're trying to create like the next big billion dollar company, your goal is to go as quickly as humanly possible.
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And you've got a lot of people around you who are also in that same lane or at least parallel lanes. And a coach is someone who's essentially outside those lanes observing and holding you accountable over time. Their job isn't to tell you what to do. Their job is to challenge your personal awareness. Almost like a psychologist or a therapist.
00;10;46;12 - 00;11;07;23
They're there to hold you accountable to your own personal development, to provide a safe, independent place for feedback, and also ultimately to give you the wider context, at least from their experience or just from coaching you for a while. And what I learned early on and we're we're a bootstrap company for context. We're about 70 people, over 10 million in annual revenue at this point, which is great.
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But one thing that was always really uncomfortable in hindsight is that when you're bootstrapped, you know, even if you have a board, which we do, it's really hard to get that accountability unless you have that internally, which I do have with for Kundu and Peter, my fellow leaders inside the company. But also it's really, really hard to get that outside perspective because even if you have advisors or friends or, you know, some mentors, those folks, they're not always incentivized to not only help you, but there are always not they're not always incentivized to tell you the truth.
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Right? And so for me, when I look at great coaches, they do these four main things, or at least this is the framework that I've come up with. They challenge that personal awareness. They hold you accountable to your personal development. They provide a safe, independent place for feedback and then give you that wider context. And when you look at that kind of framework in the context of the bad actor coaches, those bad actor coaches, they typically make it about them and they hype you with kind of motivation and kind of cool perks, if you will.
00;12;04;17 - 00;12;20;16
They'll have, you know, Gary Vee and this isn't anything against Gary B but the Hub. Gary Vee come speak to you. They'll, you know, host something where it's like, you know, let's crush it, let's get Q one going, all these other things. And it's not that those things aren't useful. I personally don't find those as useful, but it's not that those things can't have their place.
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But if that's the center of what's going on, that it's all about them or it's all about their journey. Oh yeah, well, when I was here, this is what happened. Or when I was there. This is what happened. That's a bad coach. That's someone frankly, that's someone who's bad at giving you advice as well. You know, even if they're not an official coach.
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But the good actor coaches make it about you and tailor advice to you. What's really kind of interesting and where this kind of, you know, starts to break down a little bit or get a little uncomfortable sometimes, is that as founders and exacts, we are in ironically confident bunch Right. And I say ironically because we are constantly oscillating on the precipice between everything's going to be amazing and the world is ending sometimes in the exact same moment.
00;13;02;29 - 00;13;29;14
And that's what keeps us going, but also keeps us going in a way that we're improving. Right. And I find solace in in coaching that keeps me focused on the long game while also helping me optimize the short term for the most compounding outcome available. And so what I wanted to do before you know, this new year, I got away from unless I wanted to make sure that as we grind as founders and exacts exactly into 2021, we had a lot of distractions around us.
00;13;29;21 - 00;13;47;13
One focus that we should all have is to get more consistent coaching. There's a lot of ways and a lot of places that you can get that coaching. Dan Martell actually is offering up, you know, some one on one slots for folks for free if they want to like learn a little bit more about what he's doing. And I'll mention that again at the end of the recording here.
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But it's also something that you can get this somewhat internally or somewhat externally. You know, you can get this from an advisor. But what I would encourage you to do is if you're not having kind of an official coach like Dan Martell is to make sure that you're going and finding someone and you're talking to them about, hey, this is what I'm looking for from you, because that's what I think a lot of people miss out with mentors or advisors of these types of things.
00;14;10;00 - 00;14;26;05
They're not clear enough on like, Hey, this is what I want from you or This is what I need from you. And in addition to kind of that looser framework, here's a little bit of, you know, kind of an extended framework on identifying that person who's helpful for you. But also, you know, what you should look for when seeking coaching.
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The first one, directness and honesty and feedback. This one seems super obvious, but just to be super abundantly clear, the coach needs to know how to get through to you. And this takes a special type of person. Some of us are really overzealous as exact founders. Others of us are insanely insecure and neither of these are bad. I'm in the insanely insecure bucket, and that insane insecurity actually drives me a ton in a really, really good way.
00;14;49;08 - 00;15;05;29
And, you know, it's fine. And I know the overzealous type as well. And like I said, neither of these are bad. And then also many of us, we go back and forth depending on the scale, but a coach needs to be able to properly work with you and push you to get better. You need a coach that isn't one size fits all or at the very least plays to your strengths.
00;15;06;08 - 00;15;26;11
And the reason I bring this up is because when you're seeking out coaching or seeking out mentorship, a lot of times what ends up happening is we find someone who actually doesn't push us, isn't direct with us, makes us feel good, and it's almost like a safety blanket. A coach shouldn't be a safety blanket. There should be a safe kind of place or a safe environment for you to vent or be vulnerable.
00;15;26;22 - 00;15;46;16
But they shouldn't be a friend. It's someone to make you better. The second big thing here is, you know, experience in what you're optimizing for. Industry specific experience is very, very helpful. While the coach, you know, doesn't necessarily need to be like a multi-decade veteran because some of the industries we're in don't have multi-decade veterans. You might be the multi-decade veteran at the end of this.
00;15;47;08 - 00;16;06;08
These folks need at least experience with the inputs and outputs of your industry. They also need the ability to level you up as an exact. So it's hard to find a coach that just hasn't been an exact and face the decisions you're facing now, depending on what you're looking at, this might end up being someone who is very similar to you but does have those skills to be direct and honest.
00;16;06;18 - 00;16;31;08
But in addition to that, you need someone at least I would argue, if you're in the SaaS space, which many of you, if not all of you are, you need someone who be who can who can understand, you know, kind of the problems without you having to explain them like a two year old. Right. They should understand, you know, LTV cancellations, churn, but they also understand, you know, the unique qualities of being an exact or being a founder inside essentially the, you know, the SaaS or subscription industry.
00;16;31;28 - 00;16;49;29
And then the final piece I think is super, super crucial. This person needs to help you build systems and hold you accountable. Coaching has to be more active and something like a therapy and it's not anything. 830 I think therapy. I think everyone should should go to therapy, you know, either consistently or when they're facing big things in their lives.
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But your coach should be helping you compound as a leader. And sometimes when we have very reactionary, more kind of therapy counseling type coaching, we end up not, you know, understanding what's going on, but we also don't actually, like improve Again, it becomes that safety blanket. So your coach has to help you compound is that leader talking through helping you implement systems to push your business forward.
00;17;14;00 - 00;17;30;23
And it's hard to do that if they don't have enough experience in your industry. But it's also hard to do that if they're basically copying and pasting from their own experience because a lot of coaches are just basically just taking, Hey, this is what I did at such and such, this is what you should do, which, you know, that's useful information, but that shouldn't be the end all, be all.
00;17;31;08 - 00;17;51;22
You should have, you know, an element, let's say, of regret. If you break a commitment that you made with them, that's probably another way to look at it to help you put in a system. If you don't put in that system by the next time you're chatting or when you agree to, you want to make sure they're holding you accountable, but also that they can help you with whatever that system is to kind of bring this all home if you're in SaaS.
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You know, I actually do recommend Dan Martell. He's one of the only folks out there who kind of checks all the boxes of this framework and has a lot of structure around his program, which I think is also super important. It's also helpful for people who haven't had coaching before. Most of us this isn't looked at as the primary thing we need to be doing, so we end up kind of being less structured.
00;18;11;02 - 00;18;34;14
I've also referred a lot of folks to him and SaaS Academy and everyone's had a really good experience, which is great. He's also helped me along the way too, which is also, you know, kind of speaking firsthand. I told him I was writing this actually, and I reference this before for kind of the January push. And what was really kind of cool is, is he he was awesome about hey, let's let's offer a bunch of one on one time with him and his team to kind of profile well as well as the hustle subscribers.
00;18;34;14 - 00;18;48;23
So if you want to kind of check out the show notes, you can find a link to that. Also, if you got the email from at Protect the Hustle dot com, you can also find that particular link. But basically he's doing a bunch of times and he's done this for a lot of folks. So yes it's special to us.
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But he's he's one of those people who's really really gracious with his time and really straightforward with his time. And so it's one of those things where I appreciate that from Dan and how I'll buy him and Rene dinner at some point as a thank you for helping all of us out. But most importantly, I'd love for everyone who's listening to this to make a commitment to coaching and feedback.
00;19;07;09 - 00;19;25;20
2021 is going to be a tough year. 2020 was obviously already a tough year, but I think 2021 is where the momentum really is important to keep pushing forward and there's just a lot of opportunity in this toughness. And so I want you all to take advantage of it. I know that we are gearing the entirety of profits all around, taking advantage of this as well.
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So, you know, just make sure you take advantage of it in an accelerated manner ultimately with coaching. And with that, we will see you next week. I have a really, really good deep dive going into what is known as the Amex effect. So a little bit more pricing, a little bit more tactical around business strategy. Next week, I'll be going deep on how to make sure you're taking advantage of how not only just someone buys, but ultimately those little price cliffs that exist to get that first credit card.
00;19;53;22 - 00;20;17;28
And so some new research coming out, some stuff I haven't really talked about as much or at least have talked about in Q&A, but haven't really put pen to paper quite yet. But if you have any questions, anything I can be helpful with, I'm just piqued. Prof. Welcome. All replies. Go directly to me and if you aren't signed up yet, make sure you sign up for Protect the Hustle and protect the hustle dot com To not only get the audio recordings but of course the written recording and supplemental materials.
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All right, everyone, be well.
00;20;23;26 - 00;20;52;17
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd really appreciate it if you left a five star review of this podcast or the equivalent rating wherever you listen or watch. Also, make sure you subscribe to and tell your friends about Protect the Hustle, a podcast from Al Roker, the largest, fastest growing media network dedicated to the world of subscriptions.