Interview with Cole Humphus
Landing an Eight Figure Exit With Cole Humphus
Imagine growing your side hustle to a $1 million business in a single year. That’s exactly what Cole Humphus did with his online wedding photography business.
He continued to grow that company to a total of $13.6M while making sales on “auto-pilot” without having to be any kind of “influencer” or do any “selling” on social media.
Eventually, Cole landed an 8-figure exit deal, allowing him to spend more time with family and live life on his terms.
Cole is also the Founder of Rapid Scale Group, a company that has helped over 200,000 customers build a 7-figure per year business without sacrificing profit or lifestyle. Whether you’re thinking of quitting your day job to start that business or want to grow your existing one, Cole’s here to share all kinds of insights.
In today’s episode, we dig into the strategies he used to develop and sell his business, how to turn niche traffic into large revenue streams, the importance of pursuing a fulfilling lifestyle outside of business, and so much more.
Featured on This Episode: Cole Humphus
✅ What he does: Cole Humphus is the Founder of Rapid Scale Group, through which he helps online course creators & coaches triple their sales within 12 months. Over the past seven years, Rapid Scale Group has helped over 200,000 customers build a multi-seven-figure-per-year business. From corporate finance graduate to wedding photographer to entrepreneur, Cole has experience in various fields and knows that success requires the right strategy, action, and people. Previously, he was the Founder and CEO of Cole’s Classroom, an educational resource and community for photographers.
💬 Words of wisdom: “Don’t worry about the title. Don’t worry about what you’re doing. Is it something you enjoy?” – Cole Humphus
Key Takeaways with Cole Humphus
- Why Cole had the hardest time of his life after he sold his business.
- What made him sell his company, and how he landed an eight-figure exit.
- Find out what made him excited to start a new business.
- We all juggle different roles in life. Learn how Cole manages to excel as a husband, parent, and business owner.
- Whether you’re starting a business or trying to grow and sell it, you need to buckle down and do the work. You can’t half-ass your way to greatness.
- Just because you had success once doesn’t mean the work is over. Complacency is your biggest enemy.
- How Cole turned a wedding photography side hustle into a profitable business.
- Fulfillment as an entrepreneur doesn’t come just from making money. It comes when you provide value for the people by your side.
Cole Humphus – What Do You Do After An 8-Figure Exit?
Cole Humphus Tweetables“We succeeded because we freakin put in the work as if our backs were against the wall, because back then they were.” - Cole Humphus Click To Tweet “I realized after selling the company how much I valued the personal challenge of just waking up every day and having something to put my energy into to make it incrementally better.” - Cole Humphus Click To Tweet
- Cole Humphus Website
- Cole Humphus on Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram
- Cole’s Classroom
- Rapid Scale Group
- The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John and Daniel Paisner
- Smart Passive Income Podcast
- Traffic & Conversion Summit
- Buy Then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game by Walker Deibel
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Read the Full Transcript with Cole Humphus
Justin Donald: What’s up, Cole? So glad to have you on the show.
Cole Humphus: Hey, man. Happy to be here.
Justin Donald: This is awesome. Hey, this is a really cool opportunity for us to celebrate something really fun and really special in your life. I think the goal that every entrepreneur has is to have an exit of some sort, and you’ve just been able to do that. And I just want to say congratulations.
Cole Humphus: Thanks, man. Yeah. It feels great. It’s funny. Like, when you build these things, at least I never expected that that could or would happen one day, and certainly not of the magnitude it did. So, it was cool. And also, for everyone listening, I mean, you just never know what may happen next year or what door may open. And I know you probably feel the same way. I mean, here you are hanging out with Richard Branson. So, I feel like I should be congratulating you as well.
Justin Donald: Yeah. That was a pretty cool moment in time, a really cool, I mean, it’s fun because it wasn’t just a moment. It was five consecutive days of just deep-dive conversations. It was really special, really magical.
Cole Humphus: How cool, man. Yeah. This will be a fun chat today, for sure.
Justin Donald: There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt. And it’s fun in so many ways. Like, when you think about being an entrepreneur, some entrepreneurs dream of the exit. They dream of the big acquisition. Others are just kind of in the heat of the moment of this thing that they developed and all of a sudden it becomes big. And for you, you had an eight-figure exit, which is really exciting because in theory, if you’re not making poor choices, you should be set for life, right? Now, just to be totally candid, I have run into people. I have interviewed people. I’ve taken on clients that have really thought that they were going to be set for life by most people’s standards should be set for life, but they’ve figured out a way to lose or spend. I mean, we’re talking millions upon tens of millions of dollars and in one case, over $100 million.
Cole Humphus: Yeah.
Justin Donald: You got to be smart. But one of the unique things about having a big transaction, I talk about this a lot in my show because I interview a lot of people who have had big deals. Either they’re an investor, an entrepreneur. They’ve had these big game-changing moments. And so, I want to ask you, because I have my theory and I’ve also had my experience with this. In the moment of seeing these digits show up in your bank account, I mean, it’s got to feel really cool. It’s got to feel cool in that moment. It’s got to feel cool for a weekend, a week, a month. When does it just stop? When is it like, okay, what’s next? Because that has to happen at some point.
Cole Humphus: I love that you asked that question because, honestly, so the exit happened almost three years ago. And I can honestly say for the 12 to 18 months after the exit, it was the hardest time of my life. Just straight up, right? Not from a money standpoint but sort of also. I just told this the other day to somebody, I’ll share it with you, and then I’ll come back to that particular question and give some specifics of when that wire actually did come through. And you’re obviously right, it was a feeling, it was probably the most proud feeling I have had and there was definitely that like, “Oh, my gosh.” And just like you kind of alluded to, that feeling went away pretty fast. And then for those 12 to 18 months to follow, it was more a feeling of going through like, “What is next?” And that’s very vague so that’s why I sort of answer that slowly because it took me a while to kind of figure out what the hell’s wrong. And essentially at a high level, what I figured out after time on my own was it wasn’t that I was upset or sad that I lost my baby, the business. I got paid nicely for it. It was good. There were zero regrets there. But even though it wasn’t part of the employment, even though there was no contractual requirement of the deal that I had to work with the company, I did have an employee contract, employment contract.
They were paying me nicely and I was doing that because I wanted to still contribute to the larger roll-up enterprise. It was a private equity kind of deal where actively wanting to grow this to then have a second bite of the apple, another exit. And instantly I kind of realized, “Oh crap, I’m now doing everything that I hated and everything that I despised,” and left corporate America for to become an entrepreneur. And it wasn’t even a matter of pride of like, “I want to be my own boss and I can only thrive in that aspect.” So, it wasn’t a like power trip thing. It was more of a I lost all, I guess, ability of influence. I lost all challenge even, not all, but most of the challenge. In short, I realized that a lot of the money was great but very quickly, when you have a nice business, you really quickly get to the point that like you’re making enough money. And for me, once I was getting over $100,000 a month, it was kind of just like, “Cool. That was a hell of a milestone,” and the rest is just going in the bank to then go and invest or make more and put it to work. So, I realized after selling the company that how much I valued the personal challenge aspect and the personal satisfaction of literally just waking up every day with having something to put my energy to make it incrementally better.
And when I went back into corporate America, even though it was my own company including ownership in the broader enterprise but now we had all this political stuff, 80 people teams, I quickly was getting very soured. I’ll very quickly let you know, though, back to the highlight of getting the actual money. We had mutual friends. We don’t know each other too well but I think you have known me enough to tell I’m a pretty simple guy. I’m wearing a t-shirt, one of my favorite t-shirts I’ve had in my drawer for five years. So, people were like, “What do you do to celebrate?” Well, we went down the street to our favorite Mexican restaurant. My wife, Nicole, myself, and at the time, we only had one daughter then, little Lacey. So, Lacey, we went out there for lunch. And after lunch, it was sort of been this nice little mall area with some shops. We went to the shops and I remember my wife, Nicole, saying, “One day I’m going to go over to that store and I want to buy some nice jeans there.” It was this store called Madewell. I had no idea. “What the hell do they do?” “Well, they make nice jeans.” “You know what? Let’s go over there today.” And we were in the shop and she was trying some on. I said, “Go ahead. Pick some out.” And I told her to get a couple, two or three pairs. She just wanted one pair. They were like $110 jeans or whatever and I said, “Go for it.” In that store, I knew the wire was coming any minute. I started refresh, refresh. All of a sudden, there it was. And it was a very high seven figures cash, just boom, right there. And that felt great.
Justin Donald: Well, congratulations. That is incredible. It’s an experience that most people will never have. You know, I’ve shared on my show before that once you get to the $30 million net worth range based on tax returns, there are only 200,000 people in the United States that have that, right, that have a net worth based on those who supply this information. Obviously, what you earn in a year is different based on what your net worth is obviously different. That can be done over a period of time. It can be done in one fell swoop. But it’s kind of neat to think about such a small percentage of people that can actually achieve these type of numbers. And then I think for a lot of people, you chase really hard to accomplish this thinking that what you want is the money but you don’t. What you want is like the self-satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done it.
Cole Humphus: Fulfillment.
Justin Donald: Right?
Cole Humphus: Yeah. It’s the achievement, it’s the challenge, it’s the fulfillment. Honestly, someone asked me the other day, I think on a podcast, like, what were my most proud moments or the things I was most proud of? And aside from selling the business, I think the thing I was most proud of was we had a small, mighty team. And that’s not necessarily what I was proud about, but that just gives some context. I mean, we didn’t have like 10, 20 full-time employees. We had like ten very part-time, most of them 1099 contractors kind of thing. But a couple of those people, even in that role, they ended up being able to buy their first home, homes I should say, with money from the business working for Cole’s Classroom. And that right there always made me feel so good knowing that how much truly impact you have as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, both with external people that we helped our customers but also even our internal stakeholders too. But yeah, it’s been a journey. It’s been a journey, and it’s one of those journeys that you’re thankful for, you appreciate, you don’t regret, but you do go through this phase of like, “Wow, what’s next?” And to your point earlier, there’s a lot of people out there that, I mean, your cost of living for many people changes as you’re growing a business but it’s still different.
Even if you have enough money in the bank to support that, it’s different than the cash flow coming in every month that you were used to from the business. And for me, that was another thing that like, it just felt weird, like I did all the right things. I got the money invested. I come from a finance background, too, so I get the game. But when you got it all sort of tied up and got real estate here and you got equity markets here and private equity deals here, you’re kind of like, “Well, sh*t, I still need money to live off of it.” So, I kind of had to go through that too. And it feels good to get back in the game and doing work again, building a new business.
Justin Donald: Yeah. Cole, a lot of entrepreneurs, I think, are shocked to find that when you have this business that pumps off 100,000 plus a month and then you sell that the moment you have sold and you don’t have something pumping off that cash or that it’s going to take time to invest in a way to pump off that sort of cash, there’s this next level of like fear or concern of like I’m spending my principal down. If I keep doing this, I could spend all my money. And so, it sounds like it’s not a like a big deal or like, “Oh, poor you,” but it’s a real problem when you have…
Cole Humphus: It’s a mental.
Justin Donald: Yeah, it’s a mental thing. And you’ve got to figure out like, “Hey, how do I just get back? How do I create the cash flow to live?” And so, to take the stats further that we are talking about, there are 500,000 people in the United States that have a taxable income of $1,000,000 or more. So, that’s pretty rare right there already, top 0.1%. For anyone that’s ever had a year where they’ve earned over $10 million, there are only 20,000 people in the U.S. with a taxable income of 20 million or more. That is such a small percentage of people. And so, the other thing to consider is when you’re in that sort of a space, let’s say that you’re at the top 1%, and in this case, it’s top 0.1% or top 0.005%, I mean, you’re in the smallest percentage that is measured in the U.S. That’s also the way that you need to look at the advisors, meaning that only 0.1% of the advisors out there and money managers and financial experts are actually qualified for you, for your situation. And it’s a job to just make sure that you’re finding people in your network that you trust, that know your situation, and really have the tools at their fingertips to be able to help people like you, right?
Cole Humphus: Yeah. And I think that’s where a lot of people can get in trouble. Like, when you have the money in the bank, I mean, like Daymond John, his book, The Power of Broke, like it’s so real because like the motivations that you have are so different when you have your back against the wall and you need to grow that damn business. And just like it’s a mindset thing when you know that you got money in the bank but you want that monthly cash flow. It’s also a mindset thing when you’re trying to do these other things, you’re like, “Oh, no big deal like I grow businesses. Like, I’m totally going to like smash it on the next one.” Maybe, but what I’ve learned but probably not. And I don’t say that to be like, yeah, that’s obviously a general statement. But what I’m trying to get at is, first and foremost, my life is different now than it was not just financially, but literally. I have a four-year-old and a one-year-old now. Life is crazy, like surviving the juggling act that I’m choosing to do, building a new business, doing good work for good clients, still being a great husband, still being there for the kids, and all that. It is truly hard.
Now, with all of that background context and all those other things at this stage of life, now, when you go and start a business or acquire a business and grow it or whatever, what I’ve learned firsthand and seen even as I’m growing other people’s businesses in my new role, it’s like there’s no half-assness. Like, the thing that got us the success that we got was because we freakin put in the work as if our backs were against the wall because back then they were. I mean, it’s no surprise that my business went from $100,000, 135K to be specific on the first year to 1.5 million the next year, to then 3, and then 4.5 before selling because my wife and I quit our jobs. We like quit the safety net. So, I think the hard thing and something that I had to sort of go through and for anyone else who’s maybe an entrepreneur listening, maybe you’ve already sold, maybe you can relate, maybe you’re going to sell like when it’s time to step on the gas, it’s not like everything you touch is going to go to gold. Like, you got to get ready to buckle down and put in the work and still have that hustle even though your bank account is kind of saying, “Well, you don’t really need to hustle as hard.” You do because otherwise, you’re just going to not get the success that you are expecting to get.
Justin Donald: You know, it’s a double-edged sword. And, Cole, I love your point here that just because you had success and you’ve had an exit doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to repeat that because it’s hard. I mean, it’s really hard for a first-time entrepreneur to make it big and to have that exit. And then you take that again like even though they’re more qualified and more skilled, the percentage of people that try again and fail is so high because it is just hard. You’re totally like the underdog from moment one no matter how much experience you’ve had. Now, if you’ve had experience, then that’s good but you can make the argument. So, the double-edged sword is this, when you need the money and you’re hungry and you do whatever it takes to succeed, there’s this great likelihood of succeeding. But the other side of that sword is, well, when you’ve had an exit and you don’t need the money, maybe you don’t work as hard, but maybe you’re making decisions from a place of desire and passion as opposed to a need for money. And so, it’s interesting hearing you speak about this because when I look to invest in entrepreneurs, founders, businesses, something I consider is, “Are you a first-time or are you a repeat entrepreneur? What was your track record?” I like when people have had a financial exit where they don’t need any money and they’re truly doing it based on passion or desire in a specific industry, niche, genre, whatever it might be. But there’s something to be said about that hustle when you need to pay the bills.
Cole Humphus: Yeah, I know. And I think it’s just like all these things live in the gray area. It all comes down to vetting the opportunity. And I think that’s where a lot of people, you obviously know more than I do because you got the show and your network is this audience. But it’s the same thing with like deal flow, right? Like, if you had a bunch of money in the bank, you’re like, “I got to invest it now. That’s what you do. Inflation sucks. It’s going to eat up my cash. Let me just go. And every deal that comes my way, yeah, throw some here, throw some there, throw some there.” Well, guess what? That’s probably not the smartest thing to do. Like, make sure you’re still doing your due diligence. Make sure you’re still investing in good opportunities, not just getting complacent. And I think that’s the word, whether it’s on the personal finance and investing aspect, whether it’s the growing your business aspect. You know, I work with a good handful of really great businesses right now to help them grow. And the number one thing that I see that where I can help them is because in many cases, they kind of get to a point of growth that they don’t want to be as involved, and then you start hiring team. And then you start hiring a team but you kind of have this like it just gets too unwieldy, right?
So, you got people doing stuff but it may not be the right stuff. And then your operating expenses have gone up and your efficiencies have gone down. Now, you get more people so there’s more management. There’s more all of the things and sometimes it just takes someone like me to come and go, “Guys, let’s focus on the needle movers in the business. Here’s what you want. Here’s the fastest way and the fastest path two, three things for us to do to test that and see if that becomes the thing to then double the business.” So, once again, is that complacency? Not always, but I do think that a lot of entrepreneurs, as they’re growing, they have the best intentions on how to grow it but then once again, money’s coming in and money sometimes will make you do not the smartest decisions. “Hey, we’ve got money. Let’s go hire people.” But do you really need to hire that many full-time people? Or can you get it done with a handful of 1099 guys that are specialized in their task? So, it’s very interesting and it’s been fun for me as I have been in this newest role just to really get under the hood and sort of uncover. It’s almost like I’m a doctor. I always think of it like I come in and the first thing you do is like this diagnostic, right? It’s like, “Here’s the problem.” And it’s interesting. It’s very interesting. And it opened my eyes to what we did very good at Cole’s Classroom that I kind of just took as like, “That’s just the playbook. That’s just how everyone does it.” No, it’s not. It’s how my brain works, you know?
Justin Donald: Yeah, I love it. And I want to dig into Cole’s Classroom a little bit. But before we do, I think what you’re saying, Cole, is spot on because, well, there really is an ignorance as a new entrepreneur, right? You start this company, in most cases, not because you’re actually a savvy business person. It’s because you had this idea and it took off. The market said yes. And then all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, I’m juggling all these. I’m juggling way too many things.” And so, part of it, like you, I have done consulting for companies. I’ve helped companies scale. That was kind of an interim thing that I did is as I wanted to have impact on other business owners and a lot of it as simple as where are you spending your time, Pareto’s principle, right? It’s like, well…
Cole Humphus: What to cut?
Justin Donald: That’s right. What can a minimum wage person do? What can a medium-wage person do? All right, great. Let’s assign those over. What are the things that no one else can do that only you can do? And then what are the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results in your business? Okay, let’s make sure those are taken care of. And then from there, you specialize like what you said. All right. 1099, not an employee. You know, you probably have too many people here. No one’s focused on sales. Let’s build out one salesperson or whatever. So, I love that. What I would like to do is kind of take a trip down memory lane with you. And I’d love to hear your journey of going from corporate America to starting Cole’s Classroom so that we can connect those dots. And then after that, I want to talk about what you’re up to now.
Cole Humphus: Sure. Yeah. I mean, it all started that I was in corporate finance at a college doing cost estimating for defense contractors. So, I say that because I became very good at spreadsheets, which ended up serving me very well when I was scaling Cole’s Classroom. And at lunchtime, me and some of the guys would just sit around at lunch and basically dream of being our own boss one day and had all these different ideas. I mean, this was back in like 2008 and I remember one of the guys had an idea of selling HDMI cables on Amazon. It’s like just to paint it back there, right? Anyways, I was kind of always a devil’s advocate, “Well, no, that wouldn’t work because profit here, so blah, blah, blah.” Well, one day I decided, of all things, to become a wedding photographer. I didn’t even have a camera. And I went back. But the reason why I came out with that idea was because it’s on the weekends. I worked during the week and I knew that it was right around that Great Recession time where we had a monstrous downturn. And I was like, “People are still going to get married. They’re still going to get married.” And that sounds like a great time to be new to the industry because I’m going to charge a little less anyways and it’ll be great to have some side income because I was a new time home buyer in San Diego, California, which we all know is plenty expensive to live out here.
So, that was sort of the initial soiree into my own side hustle. And I did that and I bought a camera and I taught myself photography and then luckily I actually enjoyed it too. And then after I taught myself, I taught my girlfriend back then, now wife, and we did it together a few years into that on a photo shoot with one of my buddies. He was doing some stuff online. His name is Sean and I asked him about how he’s doing and he said he was killing it making like $300,000 a year, basically just doing three launches a year, basically. And I was like, “Man, I should teach photography online.” So, at that point, I was still doing the full-time day job. I was still doing weddings. And then on top of that, I started Cole’s Classroom. So, I had to literally, speaking of being hungry, I was for the first six months longer than that but I wanted to quit three times in the first six months because, literally, I was fitting in extra time by waking up at 4:30 in the morning to go and record a tutorial for YouTube or write a tutorial on the blog kind of thing, go to work, sit in traffic, listening to like Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn, he is now a buddy, and did the whole thing, come home from work, edit some photos, eat dinner, and write more tutorials.
So, I did that for a whole year. Then I launched our first product. That’s when I referenced we did $100,000 that following year. I went to Traffic & Conversion Conference and then this was I think the year before you and I met there. So, I want to say it was 2014, my first time going there. And I remember Ryan Deiss on stage saying… I didn’t know him then. Now, he’s a buddy. But I remember him saying, “Everyone comes to me and says that they have a traffic problem but there’s no such thing as a traffic problem. You just got to go to the traffic store and buy it.” And I was like, “Damn, that’s pretty smart.” And that’s what I like. I remember also he was like, “Hey, it’s been three days of learning all this stuff. Most people are going to be overwhelmed. Just focus on doing one thing.” I’m like, “Screw that. I would do more than one thing.” So, basically, I went back and I learned how to do Facebook advertising all myself and I learned how to do webinars, and I just went to town. And that was the year that we were able to, to be honest, quickly scale to 1.5 million and then double it and then some beyond. So, one thing you said earlier was exactly how my mindset works as well. I had to discover it from an operational standpoint for the business was I used to draw a – I actually had a physical diagram on a piece of paper in four quadrants.
And one day I wrote down things I’m good at and things I enjoy, and then the other two are things I suck at and things that I hate doing. And I literally test out everything in there that I was doing and it was either I’m good at it or I enjoy it or I’m bad at it or I don’t like it. And that’s exactly how I sort of built out the team. You know, there was stuff and everything that got built out, I did it first to know it and to learn it, and then I knew how to manage that person and I also had an idea of how long it should take. And because of that, we were able to scale while keeping the margin super high. I mean, even at the time of sale at multiple seven figures, that top line, we still had a 40% margin. So, it was a good thing and it was a good run and it’s fun to be back in there now in a different way.
Justin Donald: Cole, that’s an incredible margin. And for anyone that is a business owner, they would kill to get a 40% profit margin. That’s awesome. It’s neat hearing the story and I remember meeting you. So, it’s the year after that and I remember meeting you. We had that lunch out on the pier and I just remember thinking, “Gosh, this guy’s sharp.” And you had just, at that point in time, gotten done with like a fitness challenge and you were like in some of the best shape you’d ever been in. And I remember like just paying attention to how disciplined you were there and thinking, “Yeah, that probably rubs through and kind of bleeds into every area of his life. Like, if he can be that disciplined to his personal fitness, his physical fitness, I’m sure he’s that way with his business.” And lo and behold, you were and it has served you really well. So, it’s fun kind of going full circle from where we first met in person. And I had heard about you a lot prior to that just because we had several mutual friends, but it was good to put a face with a name and then follow your story from afar. And when I got the email that you guys had an exit or I can’t remember if I heard it from you, if I was…
Cole Humphus: I’m on Facebook. I’m sure it’s on Facebook or something.
Justin Donald: And I was just so excited for you because I just love sharing in the joy, the emotions of it. And I think it’s really important that people celebrate it right away, because if they don’t, then it loses the luster like everything. All of it loses the luster, and you’re on to the next thing. So, it’s really been fun to watch as a spectator.
Cole Humphus: Thank you so much. Yeah. And it’s fun to be here, right? And sort of recount that because that was a long time ago. That was probably seven years ago.
Justin Donald: So, yeah, totally a long time ago. And it’s neat to see where each of us have gone since. Question for you, when I kind of stepped away and had my first exit and, for the record, I’ve never really had a monster exit. You know, I think for me, the way I built my wealth is a whole bunch of singles and doubles. I’ve never had a company that just had a big windfall. So, when I say first exit, I use that really loosely because it wasn’t much of an exit. But I decided that I wanted to take a year off and I wanted to travel the world and I took my family and it was incredible. And I started paying attention to the things that I enjoy doing the most. So, I found myself reading every day, journaling every day. I would journal about, I guess, the ahas that I had. But one of the consistent things that I noticed is I was constantly working on deals and I was constantly coaching my friends to financial freedom. And I love to teach and I love to learn. And so, I thought to myself, “Well, I wonder what that would look like if I took like all these things that I do anyway?” I’m not paid to do this. I’m just doing it for fun. And I was able to observe this over a year period of time.
And what if I kind of created a business out of that? You know, I think that could be cool. I could be serving the purpose of like helping educate people, helping them to get to financial freedom. But at the same time, it causes me to have to learn more and I have to show up in a way where I can teach people. And it was just fun. You know, in our first year of The Lifestyle Investor Mastermind, we had 19 people in the mastermind achieve financial freedom. It was just incredible. And so, I share that because I’m curious how long you took between selling Cole’s Classroom and starting this new venture and kind of what you did in that time? Because I think that sabbatical, that time of not having to do anything is very or can be very healing.
Cole Humphus: Yeah. Great question. I mean, so I worked with the company that acquired us for I think about 18 months. So, that was that tough time period, right? And in the first six months, it was tough. You’re right in the high of the exit, you’re in this new thing, and you’re like jazzed on the future still. And then you start to feel like those things that you miss when it was anything of your own. And it took a while before I finally had the courage again to be like, “I’m going to quit. Bye-bye quarter million a year easy money,” which we needed that. I mean, on a monthly cash flow basis, we needed that. So, after that, it was kind of like, “Well, of course, I’m going to just like figure it out.” And that was the sort of like more challenging thing. I had one idea I had, and you can barely see the guitar case over here. I used to have like a stack of guitar amps because I used to play in rock bands and stuff and it was sort of like, “Well, I’m going to go and build a new thing for teaching guitar.” I taught photography. I wanted to teach guitar. And the truth is, is after I did like 30 YouTube videos, I was like, “I hate this stuff.” And it wasn’t as easy for me to record, believe it or not. There are ways around photography to just quickly turn on a screen or record like editing.
So, the actual content production, I was like, “This isn’t me. I know this isn’t even what I enjoyed back then. Why am I doing this now?” Also, like low ticket business for high ticket like, no, like that ship has sailed. So, I put a kibosh to that. And what I’m doing now, actually. So, I kind of was always I’ve been in – I can’t say always. Since selling, I’ve been in this mindset of knowing I am ready to acquire another business. I’m just waiting for the right opportunity. Don’t want to do startup because startups from ground zero is so hard to get that momentum, buy a company. So, there was a handful of times I get really, really focused after that cold outreach, the whole nine, never landed anything just yet. So, then that would go away and then I would try and dabble in a startup of my own. Then I’d say, “No, that’s annoying,” that kind of thing. Once again, you got the money in the bank and less time now and less motivation now. So, I had a lot of starting and stopping. Ultimately, similar to this kind of view, I kind of realized I’m still thinking about business growth. It just doesn’t turn off. And since I’m still thinking about it, maybe I should start doing that exactly like what you said and the way I did it and how it transpired into the company I have now is sort of like three different pivots.
A little over a year ago, probably 15 months ago, I gave myself a challenge and I said, “I’m going to make a course in 30 days.” So, I made a course, I sold it for $3,000, and just from hustling basically, and just putting myself through that challenge of like how many people can I get in there? I think I got like 25 people, students at 3K a pop. So, it was like, “Woohoo. Like, I could still make money again.” You know, I had to give that little quote of confidence, made like $75,000. And that was 30 days, though, when the people went through the course because there was like 30 days of coaching, basically. Most of them were still like needed a lot of help. And then I was like, “Well, sh*t. Okay, let me pivot that into like a 90-day coaching program. They need more help.” So, then I did, and like half of them continued on with me for 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, I’m like, “What the heck? Why aren’t these people getting results?” You know, I had like a couple like success stories and they were implementing and others weren’t. And then I started to feel really crappy because I’m like, “Man, these people paid me money, and I’m here showing up for them. But for some reason, they aren’t taking the ball and running with it.”
So, that led me to my next pivot where I kind of realized there’s this huge gap, right? There’s this huge gap that businesses have when they’ve grown to a point, but they don’t have enough capital in the business to actually have a team to do the implementations. They’re the creators or the visionaries, not the marketing or sales implementers. So, then what happens is these companies go and they go and hire an agency, for example, and they don’t know anything about ads anyways. They just know they need to do ads. So, they hire an agency and the agency usually doesn’t do a good job because their client is just another number for them. And maybe they only know how to run ads but they know nothing about what happens after the ad, the back end, the front end, the conversion rate optimization of the funnel, you name it, the tracking, the analytics. So, then the client gets bad results. They say the agency sucks or they say that, literally, ads don’t work for them. And of course, you and I both know what was missing was having somebody to come up with the right strategy or even proactively look and say, “I can tell you right now this isn’t going to convert cold traffic, and here’s why. You don’t have any backend to monetize them or whatever.”
So, ultimately, that led me to my pivot of what I do now, which is I said, “Well, people are going to pay me and I’ll just be the strategist and the implementer, depending on what the particular client needs.” So, essentially, I am filling the gap that I believe a lot of growing companies have. And some of these companies, they’re even already doing seven figures and they still have that gap because it’s a knowledge and skillset gap that they don’t have and they’re already busy doing all the other crap that they got to do. So, then they go and hire and there’s no one to manage it effectively. They don’t really know if they’re going to screw it over or not and that’s where I sort of fit into the puzzle because I got this very diverse, high-level entrepreneurial brain. And it’s just none of it today in today’s market is one-dimensional. There is no – you see the ClickFunnels awards behind me? There’s no real one funnel away. There’s no more one thing away like very small percentage. If you’re doing super high ticket stuff and you already have an audience, cool. You made a funnel, you made a webinar, and you filled it, and you’re making bookoo bucks. But for most businesses that aren’t doing super high ticket coaching, it takes a lot, as we said earlier, a lot of hard work, a lot of intention, a lot of strategy.
And that’s ultimately what I am happy to be able to have the impact I do, which is, as we discussed earlier, have been that more diagnostic approach, that doctor going in and going, “All right, here’s all the problems. Here’s how to fix it with the least amount of effort that will yield the best results.” So, the new company is called Rapid Scale Group. Despite the name, it’s just me. So, there’s no big agency. It’s just me. I get to be very picky and choosy with who I work with. I only work with people I actually can help. And it’s been really, really, really cool. Really cool. It’s that right balance of because people ask me, “Why are you doing consulting stuff now? You sold a little ticket business that was doing multiple seven figures.” The answer is that it’s making me sharper than ever because I’m now going into my client roster, I have everyone from high ticket to low ticket to software, to e-comm, to B2B, and everything in between. So, it’s the challenges there that I love. I’m having an impact because I’m able to serve my clients honestly in a more valuable way for less dollars because it’s on a fractional basis. And since it is just me and not me managing my own team and I’m not trying to scale it to the moon, I’m able to balance.
Speaking of your brand here, lifestyle, right, I am able to still make money, have impact, still have time when I want to go fishing with my dad on our boat, when I want to go take my daughter to the beach, when I want to go take my wife, or we go to the gym together then go to a lunch date. So, this is letting me do all that. And on top of that, there is inherently some deal flow because once I am – I’m basically getting paid to help grow companies and then some of them hasn’t happened yet, but we’re close on some, where they go, “Hey, what does it look like if you like actually worked in a more formal capacity with us?” So, it’s checking all the boxes right now.
Justin Donald: Oh, that’s incredible. And there are so many different verticals, so many different opportunities as I see it. The differentiator to me is that you’re the implementer because there are a lot of companies that consult, but you’ll actually get in and you’ll do it, and that is really important. And by the way, I’m a huge believer in the fractional opportunity. I hire fractionals for all kinds of stuff. And my goal as an entrepreneur is not to in-house more people, it’s to outsource to the most senior expertise that’s out there and even if it’s just on a fractional basis because that might be all that you need. And I think you can do this with a COO, you can do it with a CFO, you can do it with marketing, you can do it with sales. I mean, there are so many fractional roles that you get the highest level of quality, but for something reasonable that even a new company can afford. So, I love hearing that. My brain now is going in all these different directions where I’m like, “Whoa, the opportunities have to be out of control.” Like, yes, of course, there’s the opportunity that you could stay on full-time, but there’s the opportunity to invest. There’s the opportunity to get on boards or create a board with the company. There’s the opportunity to synergistically merge or partner companies that could be very beneficial to one another. You know, I mean, there’s an opportunity for you to take a piece on and exit like there’s so much I feel like total win-win in this type of framework, and I’m sure you’re exploring all of it, but I love it.
Cole Humphus: Yeah. You’re right. And the funny thing is today one of my newest clients came on and one of my existing clients, I’m like, “Man, you guys need each other. They got this really cool e-learning platform and you have this really cool video like messaging tool.” So, it’s cool and I think it took me a while, honestly, once again, just acknowledging the kind of challenges that I had in that three-year duration. It took a little bit of time to be okay with even being the implementer, right? And not every one of my clients, I am the implementer because every client there’s a different diagnostic on what they need. But certainly, there are some that I’m in the weeds and it might just be running Google ads, YouTube ads, whatever, building landing pages. But I had to get okay with that. And because a lot of us are always ingrained in this idea of like only passive, passive income everything. And the truth is I pretty much don’t think there’s much that’s passive because I would even argue with you, and I’m sure you could stay absolutely there. But how many hours did it take for you to talk to all these people to get the passive deal? There’s always active work that has to come into place before you get to the lustful passive income opportunity. So, bottom line is you just got to roll your sleeves up and get after it. Don’t worry about the title. Don’t worry about what you’re doing. Is it something you enjoy?
Justin Donald: Yeah. And I think you’re asking this question also is, is this better than where I was? So, here’s where I am today. Does this make me better? Does this create a better situation? And for people that want to, you know, if someone really wants to move from active to passive, is this more passive than what I’m doing? On the active-passive scale, which direction am I going in? And so, I think you can definitely move in that direction but there’s certainly due diligence that needs to happen, otherwise, you can lose money. Even with proper due diligence, you can lose money. So, yeah, there’s a lot of truth to that. You know, you made a comment in passing that I want to make sure is highlighted because to you and I’d say to me, this is smart but it’s also like, of course, this is what you do. And I don’t know if this is the case for everyone. You made the comment, “I don’t want to be in start-ups. They’re so risky, so much going on. I’d rather get involved with a company that has an established team, that has a culture, that has profit, or revenue at a certain point where profits right around the corner and there’s strength to that.” So, like when I invest, I rarely invest in startups. It’s so high risk. I’ve got a small percentage of my portfolio allocated to angel investing like seed round stuff.
But I mean the statistics show that to be successful in that type of investing, you really have to have 50 investments to get the one that goes big, right? So, most people aren’t going to do that. I’ve got some unique strategies and some funds that kind of accomplish that so I don’t have to be in 50 different deals that I have vetted, right? But once you take over a company that already has past the danger zone, it doesn’t mean they’re going to succeed, but they’re past it. You know, I don’t know if you’ve read the book, Buy Then Build by Walker Deibel.
Cole Humphus: I knew you were going to say that but, yeah, great book.
Justin Donald: Yeah, great book. So, he’s in The Lifestyle Investor Mastermind. He’s an awesome guy. Brilliant guy. But that’s it. I mean, like buy businesses that are in a good place, pay a fair multiple on EBITDA or in some instances revenue, ideally EBITDA, and roll with it there because the culture is established. You’ve got a framework, you’ve got a team, you’ve got all the things. You can plug in an operator because you already know that there’s enough profit to afford it, right?
Cole Humphus: Yeah.
Justin Donald: Yeah. So, I just want to highlight that for people that instead of maybe you’re moving from corporate America and you want to start something, well, there’s actually an easier way potentially than starting something. I mean, if your idea is just amazing, great, do that. For someone that’s just had an exit, instead of starting another business, buy another business and scale it. You know, it’s just such a ripe area and industry for opportunity. And especially when you’re inside that like 5 to 15, 5 to 20, $5 million to $25 million company.
Cole Humphus: Oh, yeah. No, it’s definitely a smart play. And, well, I’m still always keeping my eyes open too. So, if you hear of anything, let me know.
Justin Donald: That sounds good. Well, Cole, this has been incredible. You are an inspiration. Your story is just fantastic. Where can people find out more about you?
Cole Humphus: Yeah. No, I’ve enjoyed this too. I really appreciate chit-chatting with you today. The best spot to find me is RapidScaleGroup.com. And you can certainly email me through there, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always on Facebook too. So, if you just enjoyed the chit-chat and want to say hello whether it’s an email or a Facebook message, I’d love to hear from you, but thanks for the opportunity.
Justin Donald: Well, thank you. This has been wonderful, and I want to leave my audience with the message that I like to reinforce every single week and that’s this. What’s the one step that you can take today to move towards financial freedom and move towards a life that you truly desire that’s on your terms so it’s not by default, it’s by design? We’ll catch you next week.