Ezra Firestone Talks Work-Life Balance, Giving Back and Profiting

I’ve seen Ezra Firestone speak at events, online, and in his “how to” courses.  But until I got to chat with him one on one for 30 minutes about work/life balance, did I realize he’s the next Tony Robbins (OK, of the ecommerce world, and without the banana hands.) No kidding, Ezra is inspiring and full of passion. And he does what he does (rock 30 million a year in revenues without breaking a sweat) while giving back to others, focusing on family, and taking care of his health.

If you’re are a corporate exec wanting to live the ecommerce lifestyle, Ezra’s approach is spot on. If you are an ecommerce owner and want to be the “navigator” of your business instead of the jack of all trades, listen and try to really hear what Ezra is saying. It will make a difference in your business, your bank account and your family life.

Episode Highlights:

  • Highlights from Ezra’s unique upbringing and how he grew up with e-commerce.
  • We follow the journey of his professional life from poker to yoga to where he is today, earning thirty million per year in revenue.
  • Ways the apprenticeship model can be beneficial to young entrepreneurs. Ezra reveals the pivotal moment where he understood the freedom he could achieve from acquiring a skill and mastering it.
  • How Ezra found his “mastery” in e-commerce after trying several things.
  • Every type of e-commerce business requires the same kind of marketing. All the marketing that goes with the product: before, during and after is what smart marketers need to focus on.
  • The easiest business to run at scale is the physical product in e-commerce.
  • The importance of going premium in e-commerce. There are buyers for every level of the market.
  • Why Ezra chose not to sell on the subscription model.
  • Using consistent ongoing marketing content in customer communication can generate revenue by sending the customers back to the website over and over.
  • Ezra describes how he made the transition from driver to navigator.
  • The importance of setting boundaries. Work will fill the time that you give it but it is necessary to scale in order to create balance.
  • Balance as an entrepreneurial leader allows you to give the autonomy to those around you to step into roles that they can be motivated to succeed at.
  • Ezra runs his business based on the practice of permaculture. Serve the world unselfishly and profit, that is his philosophy.

Transcription:

Mark: I saw an ad on Facebook the other day Joe and it made me think of our guest today. The ad was for anyone … any guy who has just a regular hairdo like I do and it was a man bun attachment. You could actually buy a man bun attachment to put on the top of your head if you wanted to have a man bun.

Joe: Don’t say his name now, don’t say his name.

Mark: I want a minute here and think who in the industry … in the world of marketing is known for his man bun?

Joe: You know when we had Syed Balkhi on the podcast I actually went out and bought myself a Florida gator hat to wear during part of the podcast. I seriously thought about going on Amazon and ordering a man bun and putting it on for this podcast. That’s what I wanted to do. But you know what I don’t know the guest well enough. I’ve seen him at events and we were a host, we’re not a sponsor on his last event. Today we’re on this podcast is the first time I really got to sit down and talk with him for 30 minutes or so. I guess we can say is name now is Ezra Firestone. If you don’t know his name where the hell have you been? Because essentially he is … in my view he’s the Tony Robbins of the e-commerce world without the banana hands if you’ve ever seen Shallow Hal. He’s very impressive. When he starts talking you just sit back and listen and you go “What? Really, wow that’s incredible. That’s incredible.” He’s so full of energy and so passionate about what he does that you would think that he works all the time. And that’s kind of the takeaway from this podcast for me. There are lots of great insights to how to run a more effective e-commerce business in different channels and philosophies that someone like Ezra applies. And look he’s doing 30 million dollars a year in revenue growing month over month and does incredible things. He does not get out of bed … well, I shouldn’t say bed; he does not start his day until 10 o’clock in the morning. And that doesn’t mean he works until 10 o’clock at night. He works maybe till 5 o’clock unless he’s out doing events; like he’s going to be at Blue Ribbon Mastermind next week which is just incredible … doing 30 million a year in revenue and not working 40 hours a week; a really impressive guy.

Mark: Absolutely you know I have a confession to make. You know these courses, these e-courses online that are super expensive, I usually look at these and I’m like yeah who in the world would ever pay for this? So my confession is this, I’ve actually bought one before and it was one of Ezra’s. It was on Facebook Marketing which is a little bit off from what you’re talking about. But I can honestly say it was worth every single penny. I think those who have actually gone to Ezra’s events and listened to his advice bought one of his courses and have followed him. He’s big. He’s known because he’s a real deal. Starting work at 10 AM is an awesome testament to the idea of this work life balance and making sure that we’re working so that we can live our lives. We’re not living so that we can work our lives. That’s awesome. I want to hear this because right now I’m working so much and Joe I know you are too. So hopefully you did pull away a few things from this as well.

Joe: I did. I did and people don’t want to hear you and I anymore so let’s just go to Ezra.

Mark: Let’s go.

Joe: Hey folks it’s Joe Valley from the Quiet Light Podcast and today I have Ezra Firestone on the line with me. Hey Ezra how are you doing?

Ezra: Happy to be here man. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I love doing stuff like this.

Joe: So so glad to have you here. You and I have … we’ve been to a couple of events together, I’ve been to your Smart Marketer and Blue Ribbon Mastermind but we’ve never had a half hour to talk to each other so I’m loving the fact that I got your crew to schedule this. So thank you first and foremost, I know you’re a busy guy. As I mentioned earlier we don’t do a fancy introduction so for those that don’t know who you are if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and your background that’d be fantastic.

Ezra: Sure. Thanks. I am currently sitting in a presidential cabinet room, so that’s my current location in the world.

Joe: For those listening and not watching, get online and look.

Ezra: Yeah get up take a look. This is actually an off … my wife and I bought 76 acres of land about 20 minutes from here that we’re intending to sort of develop and build a home on and have kids on and stuff. We’re renting this home and the person who lived here before was like some kind of a lawyer or something. And this room … it’s all cabinets and for me for some reason that is confronting. Like I don’t know why but I walk into this [inaudible 00:05:02.0] in my office and I love … I love it. I love that I have a space where I can work but all the cabinetry it kind of freaks me out because it’s very not … much not my vibe. So I’m like putting in plants, I’ve got like a skateboard over here. You know I’m kind of trying to make it feel a little less intense. Anyways a little bit about me business wise is I never went to college. I went straight from high school to New York City to play poker for a living which I did really well as a teenager and into my early 20’s. I was really fun but eventually, I sort of came across the concept of not trading time for money and began looking at building systems to generate revenue and resource for me without my direct time input all the time and sort of fell into e-commerce. Because you know e-commerce was really coming up in society at that time. We’re talking 2004, 2005, 2006. It was my first years in e-commerce and I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in this industry. And this was a time before events and before podcast and before this industry was … everyone, when you said you were an Internet marketer they thought you were into porn or gambling.

Joe: That’s right.

Ezra: It was not looked at as a good thing. And so long story short is I’ve been doing e-commerce full time for about 13 years. I have grown and sold several companies. I currently have four different brands that generate about 25 million a year in revenue and 70 employees on my team around the country. And I’m just a guy. I’m just some random guy who loves this stuff. I really really love it and I think timing wise I came into it at the right time and fell in love with it at the right time and have been putting my full energy and attention in the direction of online businesses and e-commerce in particular physical products. Although I do have other business models e-commerce is my most successful model over the last decade.

Joe: That’s impressive. First and foremost the fact that you didn’t go to college and you went right to life and you’re a professional poker player. I don’t tell my kids this, as I mentioned before I’ve got two boys, 14 … oh almost 15 and 17, some of the most successful people I know didn’t go to college. One of the guys I worked with up in Portland Maine, Rob Graham if you’re listening, absolutely one of the most successful people I know and he just … he got it. He worked hard, he was smart, he used common sense and intelligence which you have to have a combination of so kudos to you.

Ezra: Thanks, man. By the way, you can’t give me too much credit for that decision. There were no colleges that would take me with my problem. I just didn’t fit the mold. I sort of always had this idea, you know I haven’t … I had an alternative lifestyle. I grew up in an intentional community in the Bay Area of California with flower children hippie parents and so I kind of had some alternative views on life from my upbringing. And one of them was that the school system really felt like a system that was farming me into a model … into a workforce that I didn’t want to join. You know sitting at a desk for eight hours a day and then you’ll be trained to go sit in the cubicle eight hours a day. And I believe that in life you get what you want from people who have it. That’s how … you find someone like you Joe and you learn about how to sell businesses from someone who is doing that. And I have always sort of believed in that apprenticeship model. And you know I looked around at college, I mean I attempted to get in, nobody would take me but there was like nothing there for me you know. The teachers didn’t have anything that I wanted. I couldn’t really see a future for myself there and I was a very good hustler. I always had little businesses and I was the guy at school … I almost had, I would have to go on to those stories but I always had something going on to make money because we weren’t rich. We grew up without much means and I always had this goal of generating resource so that I could use it for causes that I found noble like taking care of my family and taking care of my community and participating in the world in ways that you can only do when you have access to resources. So I always kind of had my attention on that and yeah I fell in to entrepreneurship sort of because of that.

Joe: So if people are reading in between the lines and the threads and lines here, we’ve got somebody that … you used the word hustle, you know I think the harder you work the luckier you get. You take from people who have it, in other words, you associate from … or with people that they can help you and you’re in turn helping them it’s never a one sided-

Ezra: Totally.

Joe: -you would think. And the noble cause is giving back. I have to ask though when you give the visual of 76 acres that you and your wife have bought, you’re going to build a home and when … I just what state are we talking about? I keep hearing New York and Hawaii but I think you’re up in New York.

Ezra: Yeah so I live in upstate New York now, about two hours north of the city and I grew up in Hawaii and California. Moved to New York at 18 to play poker and just fell in love with the East Coast. I met my wife when I was 20 and this is kind of where our life is and where our community is and our friends are and just sort of I’m a big fan. I love it, it’s a really really good place and yeah we got our problems, we got ticks and we’ve got the winter and like there are things you know. But it’s like anywhere you go there’s going to be stuff.

Joe: Well you can have your events in the southern regions of the country so that you can get out of New York when it’s 10 degrees and 18 inches of snow out there. Talk to me about that transition that you had from okay online poker or playing poker up in New York is not cutting it and you wanted to step into the e-commerce world, did you … was there a day, a moment, a person that you met that made a difference and you said okay this is the path I think I’m going to try it?

Ezra: Totally. I think that entrepreneurs, in general, are chasing some form of freedom; financial freedom, location freedom, freedom of where they can spend their time and they’re running away from pain in general. And then you kind of reach different levels of entrepreneurship that I’ll talk about in a minute as I’ve gone through all the phases of like I started … my wife didn’t like the idea of me being out all night sleeping all day under fluorescent lights with a bunch of degenerates just eating Butterfingers and just being like a New York City underground poker scene guy. I mean that is not an attractive package so she wasn’t to excited about that so I took what I call a square job where it was one of my first ever jobs where I actually worked for someone else running this yoga studio in Manhattan. And this was at a time when Bikram Yoga was still in its heyday. It just kind of like we’re talking 2007, I was running this studio. It was the biggest Bikram Yoga studio in Manhattan. I was the manager, the youngest manager. I was 21. I ran the whole thing and this was before everyone found out that Bikram was a creep and a rapist and the whole kind of Bikram thing fell apart. It was sort of as yoga was going main stream in society and that was a really fun gig being in service that … you know in the world service running a studio. But man I would be there 60 hours a week and I didn’t like not having the … not being able to have choice in where my time was spent. And so that was the initial sort of pain point that pushed me towards man the poker gig was better than this because I had more flexibility of where I’ve got to put my attention. And I think that in life what you put your attention on grows and what you ignore gets smaller. You put your attention on your health it gets better, if you ignore your health it gets worse. If you put your attention on your relationship it gets better. If you ignore it, it gets worse like … just where you’re directing your attention is everything. And I think that really as a human being the skillset you want to develop is the skillset of mastery which is simply the willingness to put your attention in one area consistently over time. Pick up the instrument for 30 minutes a day after a month you’re better at it. It’s a willingness to place attention and direct it consistently over time and I think that … so I kind of was playing poker for a living and I met a guy. Now, this guy was a really fascinating guy and he was a coach and a coach of coaches before coaching was mainstream. So now you know about relationship coaches, health coaches, life coaches, business coaches, coaching has really penetrated society as a mainstream concept. Back in ’04, ’05, ’06 it really was not that big and this guy was an early life coach. He’d started the International Coaching Federation one of these things he started that was a life coaching sort of governing body. And the thing about coaching is there is no real governing body, any schmoe off the street can call themselves a coach and start charging. And that is both good and bad, right? You end up with access and to opportunity for people but also some people are you know schmucks and not so good at it or they’re selling you stuff … you know they’re not qualified. Anyways long story short this guy … we’re talking ’05, he was selling business opportunity information products, e-books, digitally delivered courses, DVD sets, and these were how to become a life coach, how to start a life coaching business, how to make your own money and have a practice as a life coach. And the way that he generated visibility for this offer was with the search engine optimization which was the traffic source of the day for internet businesses. You would rank on Google and you would buy query based traffic from Google Ad Words when someone typed in a search query like how to make money he would show up. And so I taught him how to play poker and he taught me search engine optimization. And that was like my first foray into … you know this guy worked from his laptop, he was making a bunch of money and I was like men his life and his production cycle is a much more effective production cycle than mine. If we’re looking at like we both have the goal of generating wealth, the way he is doing it is far more appealing than the way I’m doing it sitting behind a desk selling people water and coconut water and being yelled at about how we don’t have any towels. It was like your hustle is smarter man you got to teach me this. So I taught him how to play poker he taught me search engine optimization. I ended up taking over his business and running this life coaching information product business, learning about things like landing page optimization and conversion rate optimization, sales webinars, and product launches, and upsells, and just like traditional direct response internet marketing as it relates to the sale of information. And this was really where I cut my teeth as a marketer and I love that business. It was a lot of fun. And ultimately once I had developed the skill set of the ability to generate visibility for an offer which was not that hard back then, it was buying Ad Words and doing article marketing, link building, and SEO, I thought to myself man selling information is wonderful but it’s got a couple of downsides which is you’re reliant on a single influencer. You are only as … you only have as much value as the next month’s cash, it’s not … you can’t sell the thing. It’s not an asset, it’s a cash flow business by its very nature because it’s built around, in general, a particular persona and you can’t ever sell that. And there’s a number of reasons why I wanted a different model and I tried a whole bunch of them. You know I had a seven figure services agency. I currently run a multi seven figure software as a service business. I did coaching and consulting. I did development for people. I’ve done all kinds of models and e-commerce appeals to me as the number one model and has been my most successful model and the model that I’ve enjoyed most for a number of reasons and I’ll go through those now. I don’t even know if this is the answer to your question. I’m kind of rambling. Can I tell you about why I like e-commerce?

Joe: Keep going, please I love this.

Ezra: So if you look at the three main areas that result in a business’s success … now I will determine a business at scale as a business that’s doing between half a million and a million dollars a year and has at least three employees and consistent processes. I’m going to label that as “scale”, so being someone who has run probably 10 different business models, you know affiliate marketing … I’ve done everything in the last 15 years or so. At scale, e-commerce is my favorite for a number of reasons. When you look at what I believe to be the three things that you’ve got to have in place to scale a business there’s … the first one is product. You need supply chain; you need the ability to produce this product at scale in a way that is not going to take over your life. So if you look at e-commerce, I literally sell tubs of goo. Okay this is not a tub of goo this is a stick of goo but basically, it’s a plastic stick there’s some goo in it. I mean and you can see here on the visual this is very very good goo, it’s handmade goo.

Joe: It’s like fantastic all natural goo.

Ezra: Yeah, it’s really really good but it’s like I got a tub and I got some goo and I got some labels right? At scale I buy more tubs, I mix more goo and I have more labels. Now let’s look at product and supply chain at scale for software as a service which are also sold at scale. Software as a service I need front end engineers, back end engineers, QA’s, I need to actually be creating new code and updating the product and integrations all the time. Like the product is morphing every single week; it’s not the same product. It changes every week and then whatever I change breaks and then once I develop the product I have to document what I did for the people who are actually using it. And then I have to train and now we move into the second pillar; support. So you have a product you want to ask me something about that product?

Joe: I want to point out that the products that you have in your hand also they get used up and reordered and auto shipped so it’s a key differentiator between selling a water bottle [inaudible 00:18:06.6]-

Ezra: Hey smart marketer all right.

Joe: -versus a tub of goo.

Ezra: [inaudible 00:18:12.7] is I mean obviously subscription based revenue things that are consumed is really really phenomenonal. If you look at information marketing the beauty of the product side of selling information is you create it once and then you don’t have any more cost of goods. Every time I need to buy another one of these it cost me six bucks. When I create an informational course, I create it once and I can continue to sell it but the product goes bad after about six months to a year because it’s outdated information. It’s not self-help. I mean I sell very specific here’s how you run Facebook ads that might need to be updated every six months. So it’s very hard to keep that product up to date. Services, I struggled with the product side of setting boundaries. I had a multi seven figure consulting agency doing advertising for e-commerce businesses back in ’09 and my problem was always around where does the service end? People would ask me for more. I would then do it like I just didn’t have a … I wasn’t good at boundaries and so I found that product very hard to fulfill on and as much as I had a very hard time. And this is maybe not other people’s issues, I had boundary issues and it’s therefore I failed as a services agency and I did well but like the model was not super profitable because I could not figure how to set boundaries. So as far as the product goes e-commerce has been the easiest one to scale without my direct involvement. And I’m looking for the ability to generate wealth and resource and have the most pleasurable model possible. And when you look at the most pleasurable models to run for me it’s e-commerce. Let’s talk about the support side because as your business scales you have to engage with and support your customers. And with software as a service, those support people need to be very high level. They need to understand the software, the highest level and be able to talk to customers about it. It’s way more intense than support for e-commerce where it’s like what’s in the product, can I get a refund? You know I mean like the support is not anywhere near as high level for e-commerce. So if you look at I have a 1.5 million dollar a year in annual recurring revenue software as a service business that I launched about 24 months ago it will be about 2 million this year and 20 something but the point is that business at 2 million dollars a year has double the amount of employees that BOOM! does at 20 million dollars a year. Double the amount of employees at only 2 million a year because I need people for the product; i.e. front end, back end, engineers, QA people, project managers, I need more support people for the number of customers than I do for BOOM!. So support is something that you have to figure out and support on the agency’s side if you’re running an agency is very difficult because you got to get on the phone. You got to talk to people; you got to show them results, you’re the punching bag when things don’t go well. It’s very difficult to be … do services well and on the support side it can be really tough. So support for e-commerce is easiest for me in my experience of every model that I’ve been involved in. And then the one thing that e-commerce requires is marketing. Every other model requires marketing as well, that’s sort of the third pillar right? Product, supply chain, support, and marketing; I mean really this is like what we are doing at the end of the day. I mean there’s other stuff but like everything kind of is an offshoot of one of those. So the marketing side which is storytelling, sales funnels, content, copywriting, social media, all this kind of stuff is what I excel at; that’s my real specialty. It’s one of the reasons why every model that I’ve engaged in I’ve done some kind of well at because I understand how to comment on a collective experience. And so this is my frame for it. I feel like every business that I have is serving a particular group of people who are having a collective experience and my goal as a marketer is to comment on that experience in a way that resonates with that particular group of people who’s having that experience and then push them in the direction of my products ultimately. And so the example you know this product line is sold to women over 50 who are all having the experience of aging and everyone telling them that that is wrong. That’s the group of people and that’s the collective experience they’re having and then I comment on that with my marketing. And so that for me is the same with every business. Every business requires the same kind of marketing; creating videos, amplifying them via advertising, creating sales funnels and technology stacks that push people through a 60 to 90 day sales cycle with retargeting, and then once they buy having content marketing and engagement to keep their attention and then up sells and cross sells after they’ve consumed with constant content post purchase all of that stuff. And so since that is what I excel at is the marketing side and then I’m looking for okay you know and some people struggle with that but that just happens to be my particular skillset. The model that I am most in love with and I think is the easiest to run at scale is physical product e-commerce because the supply chain is easy and the support is easy and marketing is the same level of difficulty as any other business at scale.

Joe: That’s a good point. You know I never thought of it. I was at a Mastermind a year and a half ago, someone got up on stage, talked about importing from China and she went into such detail about how important it is to determine the thickness of the corrugated box when you’re importing from China. For when it’s on that container ship, when it gets to UPS, when it gets to the fulfillment center and all of it … I got to tell you I practically fell asleep and said to myself I never ever want to own any physical products e-commerce business again.

Ezra: Don’t import from China. I don’t.

Joe: Don’t import from China. I didn’t. I had nutritional supplements and it’s all US based. So I think it’s the ideal business model if you’re an e-commerce is something with a consumable product recurring revenue that is manufactured here in the United States.

Ezra: I would agree and I would also argue that if you look at e-commerce you might as well go premium because there’s buyers for every level of the market. Let’s say you have supplements that cost $10 a bottle versus supplements that cost $90 a bottle. I’m always going to sell the $90 a bottle. The reason is it’s about the same level of difficulty to generate the sale. And if you go premium you have much more margin that you can then reinvest back in to better product, better score, and better marketing. And so I fall more and more … and you look at the companies that are scaling, Purple Mattress like a lot of these companies have discovered all birds shoes for example by $90 … $5 a pair, it cost them like 10 bucks, they got $80 of margin to spend on growing the brand. So I really believe in premium, consumable … and it doesn’t have to necessarily be consumable but line expansion, so if you are selling water bottles also have water bottle coolers and you know what I mean like [crosstalk 00:24:25.2] expand the line but-

Joe: And an expansion of that line that is something that can be shipped on a continuity basis.

Ezra: Yeah, ideally for sure. I mean listen I don’t sell subscription. There’s no subscription in my brand though 40% of my revenue comes from repeat customers.

Joe: So why the choice not to sell subscription?

Ezra: Well, you don’t necessarily need to actually have someone on a credit card ding every month to have a high level of repeat business. All you have to have is really good marketing. And my particular demographic is afraid of subscription. And as much as they’ve experienced a whole bunch of people not letting them off subscription when they get on subscription … so I get all questions every day like is this subscription? Can I cancel my subscription? People don’t want to feel obligated, they want to come back and buy when they want to buy. And my view point is that you can have … and my experience is that you can have a recurring business model without actually having people on subscription programs like I do with this product if your products are worth it.

Joe: And the product in your hand and this is from experience, not everyone’s going to go through that product in the same amount of time. And so that 30 day renewing charge to the credit card is going to be too quick for some, just right for others and too long for others. So you’re an expert at reaching out to them and giving them what they need is hey it’s time to reorder at click, reorder … that’s your … instead of auto shipment you’re reaching out to them with I would assume an automated email campaign or through a messenger or something like that.

Ezra: Well, we do consistent ongoing content. So we’re always sending out videos and articles and so we could generate a lot of revenue just from sending people back to our website.

Joe: You mean you’re helping customers?

Ezra: Yeah, we’re adding value to their lives by commenting on the conversations that they’re already having.

Joe: So to the newbies out there listen to that, adding value to their lives by helping them with the information that they have and making their lives better. That’s ideal marketing right there.

Ezra: And every six weeks we run a sale event. And I would say about 70% of our revenue from repeats comes from those sale events every six weeks with those sale events and 30% comes from just the random content emails. Those sale events work a lot better when the audience is engaged in ongoing content. So then when we do ask them to buy something, they’ve been hearing from us, they’ve been engaged with our content, they’ve seen our videos on Facebook and their feeds that are just interesting fun videos that are about beauty and help and stuff like that. And then they see this oh they’re having a sale, I like these people, I know these people, I engage with their content every now and again. So the ongoing content strategy actually acts as a supporter of our ongoing sales. And when you do the sales every six weeks without the ongoing content they don’t work anywhere near as well.

Joe: You know it’s almost like you just said how do I help more people not how do I sell more product.

Ezra: I want to do both but yes.

Joe: By doing the first you’re doing the second. So it’s more of a mature, seasoned approach to growing a brand where you’re helping more people and generating more revenue. That’s the end result and I’m saying this in a way that sometimes I see businesses from all shapes and sizes, we’re doing four to five valuations a week and there’s a team of eight of us here at Quiet Light and so we see a lot of different variations of businesses. And the toughest ones to sell are those that are just trying to make a quick buck. They’ve built a little … slapped their brand on it and they’re to get it out there and they’re going to get eaten up alive by guys like you in time. They can make a little dent but it’s not going to last. What you’re doing is something that I think is going to last and eventually will build a much bigger value and someday have a lifetime … if you ever choose to a lifetime event sale where you can say okay I’m done. I don’t really ever need to work again but it sounds like you’re full of passion, you’d probably be working for a long time.

Ezra: Yeah, I feel like if you like what you’re doing and you’re enjoying it and you have a nice balance … because the problem that most entrepreneurs experience at some point and I can recognize this from across the room at an event and everyone goes through it at some point in the entrepreneurial journey or at least my experience has been like everyone I’ve talked to and I’ve talked to thousands of entrepreneurs that have gotten to this place at some point which is burn out.

Joe: Yeah.

Ezra: They’re overwhelmed, overstimulated, they’ve taken on too much responsibility, and they feel at the mercy shackled to their production cycle … shackled to their business operation. And you know my big transformation in the last two years has been going from driver to navigator. So you know I spent my career driving on the road, taking turns, doing everything and as I’ve scaled I’ve seen that really like my most valuable skillset is that of the person who navigates the ship. If you’re on the road making the turn you can’t see the mountains in the distance. And so at some point you have to make the transition or at least part time the transition to a person who is setting strategy, who is reviewing what’s going on, who’s going out and meeting new people and bringing in deal flow, who’s actually like holding the container and the vision for the operation. And then reviewing what the team is doing and delegating responsibility and giving autonomy and freedom to the people around you to step up in the roles like lead copywriter or lead advertiser or lead project manager or you know all the stuff that you might be doing yourself. And I think that when you are able to do that it affords you the ability to relax a little bit and kind of have a little bit more space for your business. The other thing I will say that people don’t do enough of is set real clear boundaries around their work life. Because as an entrepreneur, particularly as an internet entrepreneur your business is with you at all times. I’ve got my cellphone on my hand but if you … you know it’s like your wallet, just always with you and so you don’t end up with separation between your life and your business. And when you look at the people who are burned out you find that oh they’ve been ignoring their bodies and their health. Oh, they’ve been ignoring their relationships and their intimacy and their connection and their social life and their hobbies. Oh, they’ve been ignoring like the home front. Like it’s … the burnout stems from lack of balance between production cycle and other cycles. And work will fill the time that you give it, it really will. It will fill whatever time that you give it. So I don’t actually put my attention on work until about 10 AM and I stop around 5:30 or 6, that’s my time frame. I wake up, I move my body, I meditate, I hang out my wife, we have breakfast, we do our little morning thing. It’s super fun. A couple of hours in the morning where I’m just partying and having fun and then I start out my work day and I’ll work for a couple hours and then I’ll have lunch. I’ll put in a couple more hours and then I’ll stop and that’ll be it. And I’ll enjoy my evening and my … I do that four solid days a week, sometimes five, and sometimes I don’t work at all Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, sometimes I do and it’s like you might think oh like my business is to crazy I can’t actually do that. I promise you if you do not start working until 10 and you stop at 6 everything that important to get done you will get done. And that’s so much working time that is your whole life man, 10 to 6, four days a week it’s like you are asking too much of yourself if you’re trying to put more of that in your production cycle. And then look I understand that sometimes you’ve got to run 14 hours a day for four weeks in a row because you’re doing a product launch. It’s like okay … cool but that … it’s a marathon, not a sprint. [inaudible 00:31:25.8] explain this thing you’re going to fail. And I can tell you that as someone who has gone through the stages of entrepreneurship from working off the couch with a full time job moonlighting the business to now running an eight figure set of brands with 70 members and a lifestyle that I really really enjoy. I’ve been there and you really … if you don’t set the boundaries and don’t set the container it will not exist and the work will permeate your entire existence and you will have no separation from it and you have no relaxation and no space. And a lot of times your best ideas come when you’re not working. When you have space and you’re enjoying yourself. It’s like it is necessary to scale to set constraints around your work life. And people are unwilling to do this because they feel it will be a detriment to their success. But actually in my experience and the experience of everyone who has done this that I know it works the opposite.

Joe: And a lot of folks that come from the corporate world when they’re putting in 50, 60 hours a week traveling all over the world and they just want to get out of the rat race and they want to be an entrepreneur. And they buy an online e-commerce business and they feel like they need to put in 40, 50, 60 hours a week. And I said look the guy that you’re buying it from has been working 15 hours a week, you’ve got some learning to do so just maybe cap it at 25. But don’t work to the point where you’re trying to fix things that are not broken, just learn. Go to events, go to Smart Marketer and things like that. You just don’t have to work that much and you’ve worked so hard that it’s time to take care of your own health and wellness as well.

Ezra: And I think that totally and like hey go for it put in a full eight hour day or 10 hours a day multi work weeks as you’re getting in to the game but like at least have the goal of setting some boundaries and containers around your work life because you will be a happier person. And like what is the point of all of this? Is the point just wealth creation because mine certainly is not. I would love to generate as much resource and I’m using resource as a lingo word to describe generating wealth so that I can then direct that resource towards causes that I find noble. Take care of my community where I grew up, take care of my family, provide a lifestyle for my wife that she’s really excited about and our family, do other things that are … that have meaning to me like saving lands and all kinds of stuff. So not a lot of people have figured out how to generate resource, everyone is failing at this. Everyone thinks that success is the goal and they’re running in the direction of success and most people are failing at it and most people are miserable. And it’s like the goal … fun is a much less popular but more fulfilling goal than success. So if you can figure out how to have fun and enjoy yourself which means setting fucking boundaries around your work life and having hobbies and having a social life and taking care of your body you will have more success. You’re guaranteed to be a winner if you’re chasing a good time and fun. You’re not guaranteed to have fun if you chase success. So it’s like what the hell is the point? What are you doing person? I want to grab you by the shoulders and smack you around and say listen, stop it. Focus on enjoying your life. And yes but obviously focus on the production cycle and the success.

Joe: We’re not talking about being poor and happy we’re talking about a combination of both [inaudible 00:34:37.5] which are successful businesses with recurring revenue models and a very happy and healthy home life. I think it’s amazing that you really generally don’t start work until 10 unless you’re out at an event to a sponsorship or something like that and then you’re walking away. Do you actually put that device down and walk away; that phone that’s in your hand?

Ezra: Oh yeah. There’s no phones in the bedroom dude. Turn off the computers, get off the digital medium. I mean you’re shackled to it, man. You’re on it all day every day, give yourself a freaking break and all of a sudden you feel better and life is better. And you hop on in the morning and you respond to the emails and the slacks and then you start creating. I kind of use my morning time for my creation, strategy, content you know I create a lot in the mornings and then like throughout the rest of the day I’ll be … I’m at a place in my business now where I have a lot of reviewing and talking to people about what’s going on. And my job is a lot of like sort of directing, hey okay yeah this is good let’s move it over here. I’m doing a lot of like kind of holding and sort of directing things and if you don’t have the visual of my hands [inaudible 00:35:39.8] but … and that I find is so easy to do in the later parts of the day. And in the early parts of the day, I do my creation.

Joe: Creation as in … you like, what does that mean you’re?

Ezra: Well creation as in like for me-

Joe: Like creating content? What is it?

Ezra: Yeah. Well for me it’s like thinking about marketing campaigns, looking at strategy, thinking about what we should be doing, thinking … anything that involves thinking of new stuff or doing new stuff or like you know I do a lot of … for my SaaS business and my information marketing business I do a lot of content creation and blog videos and webinars and sales videos and writing scripts. And I do a lot of creating things and also creating strategies. And I find that that is easiest for me in the early parts of the day and then in the later parts of the day reviewing stuff that other people did, talking to them about it, directing things just a little bit. I know it doesn’t require as much focus. I mean it’s still focused but it’s not like I don’t have to be fully locked in I could kind of be doing other stuff and you know.

Joe: I got you. Hey, you mentioned the word meditation I want to jump right in to that if you don’t mind. Just are you up and meditating every day? Did you read a number of books? You’ve been doing it for a lifetime; I would imagine based upon the way you grew up.

Ezra: Yeah I mean you know this hippie commune that I grew up on was not what you think of. It wasn’t like crunchy granola, everyone meditated and you know we didn’t have animals. It’s very different than what you think. It wasn’t one of these places where you had to subscribe to some ideology to be a part of it. A lot of these intentional communities in order to get in them you have to be a … you have to hold a certain set of viewpoints. I describe the difference between an intentional community and a cult in these ways because a lot of people are like oh you grew up in a cult like the group of … any time you get a group of people living somewhere with different viewpoints people call it a cult right? So let’s just let me give you my description for this, from my perspective a cult is something that is easy to join and hard to leave. An intentional community is something that is very hard to join and very easy to leave. It’s like hard to get in to the party and then if you want to go at any time you could get out of here. That’s sort of the difference between those two models. And particularly in the place I grew up it wasn’t like built around a hey you must believe these things to live here. It was like a bunch of hippies who sort of wanted to step away from traditional mainstream society and focus on how to live pleasurably in a group and do cool things like run charities. And yeah I mean there was definitely some alternative viewpoints and they definitely teach courses on things like communication and relationships and all kinds of stuff. It’s a really really cool place but meditation was not like a part of my life as a kid. I was just like … I went to normal, I went to high school normal school. I was a normal kid. I just went home to a different place than most people and I didn’t go home to the suburbs. So you know I kind of came across meditation through my wife. She was a yoga teacher when I met her. And she was all into this sort of Eastern philosophies and stuff. And we go through phases where we will be meditating 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night and then we won’t do it for a couple months. We kind of like … I think that people think that they’re failing if they don’t stick to their routines. And it’s like routines are meant to be broken. Part of the fun of having a routine is breaking it and coming back to it. It’s like the goal is not to just do the same thing all the time. You notice if you work out and you do the same work out over and over your body gets used to it. So we go through phases where we’ll do it a lot and we won’t do it that much. I do find that when we are doing it I feel better. I feel clear and I like it. And you know when we restart we’ll start with just like 10 minutes in the morning, and then maybe like 15 minutes, and then we’re like 20 minutes, and I actually found this really cool meditation seats on Amazon. They’re like a tiny little plank with a cushion on it and two short little legs and you kneel on them. And man they’ve been awesome because they keep you upright. But yeah I like meditation; I’m a fan of it. And I think that really it’s less about the specific formula that you subscribe to and more about the intention to take time for yourself and take care of yourself. Have a bath in the evening, pay attention to what you’re putting into your body, move your body. It’s like … it’s more about the intention of wellness rather than the particular formula that you are subscribing to for wellness has been my experience with it.

Joe: Yeah.

Ezra: Because … different strokes for different folks man. Different shit works for different people.

Joe: Absolutely.  We’re running a little short on time but I can talk to you for another hour and a half but I want to talk quickly about the helping that you do in terms of the Smart Marketer. Because the people out there listening they’ve heard you mention a few different things. I first met you at the Smart Marketer conference in Austin last year, I was just at Blue Ribbon with you in Denver which is your Mastermind group and then I think you’re going to Capitalism next week in Austin as well?

Ezra: Brand Builders, are you coming?

Joe: Brand Builders, yes we’ll be there as well.

Ezra: Hey, maybe we could actually talk to each other in person.

Joe: I know, how about that? That’d be awesome wouldn’t it? But you know with Smart Marketer Mark actually bought your Facebook program but you know I’m constantly talking to people about what they’re doing within their e-commerce businesses and where to go what resources to look at. Can you just talk briefly in terms of what you do and what programs you have in there and what resources are available for those people that are listening that are e-commerce folks that want to grow their businesses but at the same time do it in a shorter day like yours is.

Ezra: For sure let me introduce to you the concept of permaculture. Are you familiar with that concept? Permaculture, it’s a farming term.

Joe: No.

Ezra: What it means generally … what kind of the high level meaning is to reuse all of your resources to their greatest benefit; so capture the rain water, water the garden, take the chicken shit use it for your compost. Reuse of resources. So I spend all of my time with my focus on innovation in the direction of e-commerce and I do a really good job at it. And then with Smart Marketer I document whatever is working and I share that with my community of business owners through my free blog and through educational courses where I have how we run Facebook ads or how we do conversion optimization on our website or how we run project management for our brand or how we run social media for our brand or whatever. I have all these different courses but what they are is they’re a direct documentation of what’s worked for me and my brands. I then take the money that I make from Smart Marketer and I reinvest back into the e-commerce businesses. And in my e-commerce businesses I’m also developing software. I’m developing things to make them function better. So anything that works really well I open source that and share it with my community of business owners in the form of software as a service. Any money that software as a service brand makes I dump back in to e-commerce. So all of these things sort of work together. The e-commerce is the heart that pumps the blood to the information which then takes revenue and puts it back into e-commerce which then lets me do developments which then I use for my software as a service brands so kind of all works together and Smart Marketer, in particular, is do and then document. And I only have two products, I have digitally delivered courses … digitally delivered educational courses in the forms of videos, PDF’s, and handwritten notes on what they are that teach you the things that I have found to be most effective. Paid amplification, how to run Google traffic and Facebook traffic to your website, project management, how to run your e-commerce business with systems and processes at scale and hire people, social media, how to have ongoing content and engagement for people who bought from you in the past. I have all these different courses and they’re on my website but I have digitally delivered educational courses and I have a Mastermind. A Mastermind is only for million dollars sellers basically. If you’re doing 500 grand minimum most people are doing five million, 10 million, etcetera … then this group is for the high achievers; the people who have really made it. It’s a more intimate intense program where it’s like very high level 100 people all really kicking butt. So I have that Mastermind and I have the digitally delivered courses. And that’s all Smart Marketer is. It’s just my personal journey being documented and open sourced for business owners and thankfully for me, I think again timing was a big issue … a big thing here. I was the first you know. I was the kind of first e-commerce influencer and as much as I started a blog about my e-commerce journey before people were doing it really really and it got real popular early on. And I’ve kind of continued to put energy towards it because I love doing it and I feel really fortunate that people care about what I have to say. It was like really awesome that people want to hear this stuff because for me it’s like you have to be a total nerd to be interested in this. It’s like kind of dry content, it’s not like … it’s not dry but it’s like if you’re not into internet businesses you’re not going to be interested in this blog. I mean yeah I talk about relationships and lifestyle and stuff like that too and that’s fun but I think that like the real sort of core to base of subscribers are internet business owners and e-commerce business owners, and so that’s that model.

Joe: That’s fantastic. I’m always impressed when you speak. I’m always impressed with your energy, your enthusiasm, and the fact you’d really really trying to help people more than anything else. And it comes back to you. It’s not like you’re doing it for free and whatnot. Then you’re not trying to earn a living for you and your family and whatnot. Obviously, you are but you do it in a manner that is beneficial to others that comes back to you which I commend you for.

Ezra: Serve the world unselfishly and profit; that’s my motto in business.

Joe: And you came on here not even knowing fully what we were going to talk about. It wasn’t a pitched Smart Marketer or any of your services. Really it was to talk about work life balance which you laid out very very well. I loved your journey. I love your approach. I love your philosophy. And I’m really hoping that people go back and listen to this again and actually read the article that will be produced from it as well so that can really hone in on what you do and focus on it to, maybe get out to see you at some of these events that you put on and get to Smart Marketer and get better at what they do.

Ezra: Thanks man, and I would totally share this. Let me know when it comes out I’ll put it out.

Joe: Absolutely. Thank you for that. We’ll put it down and I’ll put all the details on how to reach you and how to reach your courses and whatnot down on the show notes. And I will reach you when we get it wrapped up and ready for the world. Listen to it and watch it and thanks for your time, Ezra. I appreciate it.

Ezra: Thanks man, talk to you later.

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