John Hall on Building Influence and Becoming #1 in Your Industry
Have you ever wondered how industry influencers and thought leaders become known in their space? I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t happen by accident!
Maybe you can even think of someone who you’ve never heard of before, and then all of a sudden their name is popping up everywhere; in major publications, all over social media, on all the big podcasts, and in every book store. Their content seems to be everywhere!
So, how did they do it?
Today’s guest, John Hall, is someone who knows exactly how it’s done. John was a millionaire by the time he finished college, and has been strategically investing and building businesses ever since.
He’s a serial entrepreneur, real estate developer, author, advisor, speaker, connector, and co-founder of Calendar.com — a leading scheduling app that he believes will change how people manage and invest their time.
He’s listed as “#1 must-see keynote speaker” by Forbes, “One of the most powerful people in media you’ve never met” by Inc., was a recipient of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Best Emerging Company, and was recognized as one of the Business Journals’ Top 100 Visionaries.
John has contributed to more than 50 online publications, including Inc., Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Fast Company, and Mashable.
He’s also the author of, Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You — a game-changing framework for anyone seeking to build influence and lead their industry.
In today’s conversation, John shares a ton of insights from his various entrepreneurial ventures. We discuss his latest business (Calendar.com), his uncommon leadership style, the power of strategic alliances, and his approach to helping companies build relevance and become #1 in their industry.
You’ll also hear all about his unique real estate development that’s now generating $40K in monthly cash-flow, and how he negotiated favorable terms and used income amplifiers to sweeten the deal.
Key Takeaways with John Hall
- Selfless giving and making money in the process.
- Becoming a millionaire with real-estate by the time he finished college.
- Hear how John negotiated unique terms and used income amplifiers to develop an 18,000-square-foot modern office space — built to bring community and like-minded companies together.
- How to get buy-in and get real estate projects funded and approved.
- Why John is okay with trading his time for seemingly unnecessary jobs — a leadership quality that may surprise you!
- Why John got into the appointment scheduling space, launched Calendar.com, and what makes it different from the competition.
- Gabb Wireless — the safe phone for kids.
- Why buying an online business could be a good investment.
- Relevance.com — the service helping companies build relevance and become #1 in their industry.
- The power of building strategic alliances.
From College Student To Millionaire Real Estate Investor With John Hall
John Hall Tweetable“If you advise somebody in the right way, even if it doesn't benefit you immediately, it always comes back.” - John Hall Click To Tweet “I want to be cautious of my time, but I want people around me to know that I am never above them to do a job.” - John Hall Click To Tweet
- John Hall Speaking
- John Hall on LinkedIn Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
- Connect with John Hall via email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You
- The Camacho Coffee
- Gabb Wireless
- Influence & Co.
- 12 Keynote Sales Speakers You Shouldn’t Miss
- 11 Marketing Books Every CMO Should Read
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Read the Full Transcript with John Hall
Justin Donald: Well, John, I’m so excited to spend some time with you. This is going to be so much fun because there’s just so much that we have in common and we’ve had so much fun here just hanging out over the last handful of months, traveling together. And I’m so excited to have you on the show. So, welcome to The Lifestyle Investor.
John Hall: It’s great to be here. Really, it’s been great getting to know you, and look forward to kind of chatting and helping out your audience.
Justin Donald: I love it. Well, there’s a lot of expertise and wisdom that you have in that brain of yours. And I want to extrapolate as much of it as I can. I do have to mention, first and foremost, that I love your Dunder Mifflin shirt. You have the best shirts. You have like the funniest attire. Even just some of the things that you do with themes in your office and the things that you do to build culture in your organization are incredible. So, I just have to give you props.
John Hall: Well, honestly, I mean, the office, it’s hilarious. A lot of people like it here. I mean, we just like having it, especially in a world that we’re in today with the pandemic going on and different things. It’s like, I think actually getting the people to smile around you and to enjoy being around you, I think it’s key. So, even if it’s just you walk into a meeting and somebody is expecting a suit and you have a Dundar Mifflin like it’s funny. My banker, I met with him last week with this shirt and he was like, “That’s hilarious,” and he’s sitting there in a suit and it just immediately breaks the ice. So, I strongly recommend that. I think most people just want to be comfortable around you. So, if you ever have an opportunity to dress or say or act a certain way to make someone comfortable, you do it these days.
Justin Donald: Well, you’re the master of that. I mean, you really are. You are hysterical. I find myself laughing more than anything, sometimes to the point of tears because we share the same sense of humor. And I just love all the antics that you’re up to. I love that you’re a practical joke guy. I mean, some of the practical jokes that you have pulled on your partner, John Rampton, and vice versa, he’s pulled on you, are just I mean these are world-class antics that you guys do in practical jokes. So, I got to give it up, man.
John Hall: Thanks. I’m happy to give you examples, but again, it’s about breaking the ice and getting people just to laugh. And ultimately, I think that once you get past all the BS ice and the uncomfortableness, I think you can have a real relationship and do some great things together.
Justin Donald: Give us a good one. Give us a good practical joke, one that is PG or PG-13. There are definitely some that you do that are hysterical. Anything come to mind?
John Hall: I mean, like there’s a lot of things you can do just to mess. Like, this is just what I did the other day or what I was going to do. We just built a big complex here and to mess with one of our tenants, we put one of those remote kind of like birds that hit against the wall and we have remotes every time. We go over there or one by we hit the remote and it starts to mess with things. He can’t figure out where this knocking noise is coming from and he just keeps on being like, “Oh, my God, like this damn knock noise.” We come over and like, “Where is it?” It’s never on because we have the remote to it. So, like it’s one of those things where that’s my like PG version of what we can do. But like I said, I think that when you mess with people and you just have a good time, especially in a partnership, because I think that a partnership is similar to a marriage for me, and especially with Rampton, I invest in a lot of things together. And I think that messing with each other where we – and I’ll get his wife. It’s actually helped my relationship with his wife because like I’ll joke around with her on something I’ve got planned to mess with them about and it helps us get a connection because he’s always messing with her and then I team up and it’s kind of fun. So, I would just say anything I do is to bring people together. And so, it’s goofy as it sometimes seems that there’s some strategy behind it.
Justin Donald: I love it. Well, it’s so great. And both you guys are awesome. You remind me of, I mean, both of you guys your names are John so I love calling you the Johns just like from Office Space, the Bobs. I just love it. I was describing you to someone else and then I had another group of people that I had recently connected you with that was talking about the Johns. It just rolls off the tongue so well. So, I think it’d be fun to talk about how we first met because we’re part of a group. I’ve interviewed a few other people from our Selfless Givers group, but I’d love for you to share, I guess, some context on what our group is and what our group is about because I think you exemplify selfless giving and I think that you really show up for other people in times of need and go by far the extra mile. So, how would you describe our group in kind of the genesis of what we are and what we do?
John Hall: Yeah. I mean, that was started initially when Ruhlin and I were in a hot tub together at Erik Huberman’s place after an event and that sounds really weird, but once again whatever, trust and whatever, but like we were talking about how we’re so driven by helping others and how we get more excited. I mean, Jonathan Kaiser was kind of in this conversation as well. And we talked about there are different ways to make money and to do business with each other. And we come to the conclusion that if you really work hard, you’re smart and you keep at it, keep learning, be willing to make yourself better, you’re going to make money. And then it goes to how do you make money? That’s the next step is like I could be a drug dealer because I know I could be a fantastic drug dealer, but that’s not the way I want to make money. And so, for me, we were joking around about like if we can create networks of just true helpfulness and selfless giving where you’re like you guys are making money and looking out for each other but it’s not like tallying. And that’s what I love about it. It’s like when I help you, Justin, is because I care, love you, I want you to do well. And it’s a way that we want to make money together is that like building you up and advocating for you, but also you deserve it.
So, I think that like for us, the group is about identifying people that deserve recognition, that actually are trustworthy people, do what they say, and then creating this mentality of selfless giving, which I think I could tie this to also my marriage. When I stopped keeping score with my wife, we had a better marriage. We basically said, “I’m giving and I want you to be happy,” and I think that we’ve kind of applied what I learned in marriage to business partnership, to groups I’m a part of. So, that’s why I get excited about that group and surround myself with those types of people because then it’s not a scorecard. It’s just, “Hey, when we can help, we’re going to look out for each other,” and it’s proven to create a lot of opportunities for us in a way where it’s not just money, but it’s fun and it’s with good people.
Justin Donald: Yeah. I love that. And you built this development in Columbia, Missouri that is incredible. And we were the lucky recipients of your generous offer to stay there in a time of need for my family, where my wife’s father ended up having a stroke, was in a facility there, and you opened up your home with open arms. And this facility that you built is incredible. So, side note, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re an investor, you’re an ideas guy. You’re an expert in a lot of different places and we’re going to dive into all of this but you have built this community where you have office space for you and some of your friends are in this office space. You’re one of the guys from your investment group that’s such a cool investment group there in Columbia. He’s in one of the office spaces and then you’ve got housing there that you can put up your friends when they’re in town. And there are just so many like toys and things. Your neighborhood’s gorgeous. What gave you the idea to want to do this? And I know that no one else probably could have pulled this off because you’re Mr. Relationship. So, anyone else who tried building this development outside of a neighborhood could have never gotten this past but you know everyone and you’re on great terms with people and you were able to share with the community the value of having this and having a coffee shop right there as part of the development, and just so many cool things, so many cool perks.
John Hall: Yeah. What I like you mentioned my vision is I try and think of a vision of what’s optimal, like in a perfect world what is – so in a dream, it was basically like, “Hey, if I have a dream situation, I have a community where I live with people that I care about, look out for our kids, our friends. They can go over like right now, actually.” Like my kids were just with me. They’re at a neighbor’s that’s like a block down that I trust. They’re jumping on this trampoline. So, it was like, hey, there’s an optimal community feel to it and then there’s once again doing everything you can to give. And so, like I did a lot of things like I paid for the fountains, I built kind of the cooking area down at the pool, did things where it wasn’t like I was keeping score. It was like I’m trying to give to create to this community. Then others started doing it as well and we had this kind of giving community where people were living and then they’re like donating things to the community, making things, stocking the lake here, doing different things, and so that started. Then this development happened where it was in reality just saying, “Hey, in a perfect world, we would have an office here. We would have space for companies we want to support.”
Like Healium is a women leadership team. It’s five, six women. They’re trying to change mental health through virtual reality and gaming and they’re next to us and we support them. We try and give them resources. Joe from Traxia who you met, a fast-growing company we want to support. The Camacho Coffee is somebody we want to support. So, in reality, and then when we looked at the residential, it was like, “I want a place where my parents or friends like Justin or others and when someone needs us, we just have a place for them.” You know, I built a bomb shelter below us. There’s a bomb shelter just in case for some of the people who have slabs here, they know that if they get in a jam, they have a code and they can go down and they have their own bomb shelter because when they were building on the slabs, I told them I was concerned that if we had a tornado, where would they go? And so, built that for them. And so, I think that ultimately when you have a vision of what’s optimal, it took me five years to get here but you have to say, “Okay. Here’s optimal. Is this in my grasp? Can I do this?” And then did it through kind of this kind of giving and getting the right people on board. And then we had a lot of full support. We were one of the only developments to have 100% neighborhood support planning and zoning support and city council support kind of because people like this idea and the kind of people that were involved.
Justin Donald: That’s cool. You know, I love your story because you’ve done things differently than most. Most people work really hard. They develop a business, they figure out or they just grow and move up the corporate ladder. They work hard to make money. And then at a certain point, they enjoy the fruits of their labor and often they will work countless hours and do all these things and probably not reward themselves as much as they should. And eventually, someday they’ll live this really cool lifestyle. You, conversely, have built this incredible lifestyle all at the same time. So, you’re one of the unique people that I feel like you have been focused on lifestyle and quality of life and providing for your family and doing cool things. And we’ve talked about this, having experiences for a lifetime and you haven’t waited until you’ve had all the success. You’ve done it every step of the way. And surprise, surprise, you’re an incredibly successful guy that you don’t have to work. You’ve got a lot of businesses. You’ve got a lot of value in these. You’ve done very well investing. And in fact, we’ll dive into some of this and some of the companies that you own. But I just love that you have taken lifestyle seriously from day one. I’d love to hear you speak about that.
John Hall: Yeah. And that’s why I connected with your book a lot just because like I think I still learned a lot from your book but what was nice about it is that I think that I’ve naturally done some of the things that you in deals. Like, even when I was 19 and I was buying real estate for the first time, I was looking for the deals that nobody had, the invisible deal. I was looking for kind of the things that were in your book. It’s like I would say one of the reasons why I was able to have the capital was when I was investing in real estate early, I looked for the income multiplier. I looked for the invisible deal. I looked for straight deal structure. And there’s a lot of those things that factored in and it put me in a situation where I was a millionaire by the time I was out of college. And so, when you look at that, it was like, “Okay. Well, it’s a lot easier when you’re 23, 24-year-old and you have capital there. And I had more of an investment strategy like Warren Buffet so I’m not like an overnight, you know, and similar to you, it’s like you didn’t do one deal and like, “Oh, by the way, I’m a billionaire.” I think that you do deals, you do them smart, and that’s what I’ve done over time and now there’s been kind of compounding where there’s a lot going on. We’re very well-diversified. It’s like we have real estate, we have a media firm, we have scheduling companies with technology, we have this development here and other things. So, we’ve naturally become diverse. And also, the deals have been structured the right way. They’ve been healthy. And when you combine those, it’s pretty great. But it took time and it took focus and it took kind of that vision of saying, “Hey, here’s where we can get and we’re just going to work our way towards it.”
Justin Donald: Yeah. I love how you just casually brushed over the fact that you became a millionaire shortly after college. I just love the fact that that is possible, that people can do that. And you got into buying real estate while you were in college. You’re 19 years old, building a portfolio, and eventually selling that portfolio and rolling into more real estate. And then I also want to give you major props because the deal that you negotiated for this development was incredible. And I don’t know if you’re comfortable sharing any of the details but I think you did a masterful job of figuring out how to fund it and build it and do everything in a very safe and secure manner.
John Hall: Yeah. I mean, and we pulled our money out already now. And so, what’s nice about the result of it is that cash flow’s 30K to 40K a month. Actually, and I’m a little more about 40K a month and we pulled our cash out, and this is a two-year deal. And Rampton always jokes around. When we went over the numbers, he goes, “Donald would be so proud of you right now,” and we would kind of laugh about it. He goes, “Is that a Justin Donald deal?” and I was like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Actually, I think I told Donald and he was pretty excited about it so you know it’s good.” But it’s more like what we did. So, here’s where our kind of income multiplier, like we basically use a residential contractor to do a commercial build, which is unheard of but I did have a great relationship with this guy, a contractor. Now, it was very stressful because I had to pretty much GC it with him but when you do a residential contractor on a commercial deal, you can use residential subs and we only use commercial subs when we needed to on engineering and things like that. And we did. And so, from a standpoint of something, this would have cost us double to do steel building, commercial, all those things. And so, we were able to do that. In addition, the way we structured things with the loan, we had a very strong, I mean, very low-interest rate of 2% interest for a construction loan. It extended. We had a great relationship. We helped the bank out a lot. So, I would say strongly get a great relationship with your bank because now granted, and we’ve talked about even going away from banking.
I know that you do whole life insurance and I’m looking into those options but I’m just telling you for this one, this is how I structured it. But we looked at that and we were like, “Okay.” Well, we had such a good relationship with the president of the bank. He was a huge advocate for us. The bank was Providence Bank. It’s now First Mid. Actually, the president was here yesterday kind of looking at this and was just so happy that they were part of it. But part of that was not I just went to a bank. I mean, we had a relationship with him for years. He knew us. He knew our character, knew like how we do business, knew that I would like also just a reputation of like if you ask me how much this wall costs, I could tell you like I could legitimately be like, “The studs were this at this time, this time.” So, we had a reputation for actually being very organized and structured. And that’s another thing as an investor, when you have your sh*t together, people want to deal with you. When you don’t have your sh*t together, people don’t want to deal with you. It’s very straightforward. It’s not rocket science. So, the bank kind of got our backs because they knew they were like, “Hey, we’ve known Hall for a while. We’ve done things with them and he’s always kept his word.”
Like it’s funny as this came up in one of the council meetings where one of my past deals when I was a kid, pretty much 24 or 25 that the head of planning and zoning at the time said, “We don’t want to allow you do this because it’s a slippery slope and if you do it, you’re going to do it next year and you’re just that same damn sh*t and you’re going to keep doing it on this house, this house, this house, and this whole subdivision is going to be rezoned the way that these two properties are.” And I said, “You have my word. I will not do it and I will also put a clause and make sure that there’s a deed restriction.” He goes, “Why would you do that? Because that will prevent you in the future. There’s no way you’ll do that.” I go, “I’ll do it because I’m giving you my word.” And so, I think that when that came up on this deal, there was something that came up with setting a precedent. The planning and zoning just turned to the council, it was like, “If Hall is involved, yeah, you can completely trust him. Legitimately, when he was a 25-year-old kid, he kept his word with us.” And I remember it to this day, you know, he was surprised because also I got an offer the next year, and he was aware of this, for a lot of money to sell the property next to me with the zoning. And they said, “If you help me get in,” I said, “Hey, I gave the head of P&Z my word, my planning that I want to do that.” And he’s like, “Well, I’ll pay you this,” and I was like, “No.”
So, that’s just as a reminder of character and creating this reputation or relationship because that allowed us to do a lot of things here because we had really good support from planning. They were flexible with dealing with us. We were able to get away with doing some things that would have cost us a ton more money. And so, when you look at the combination, I’d summarize it as this, and also this is a neighborhood where we had developed a rapport where I had spent a lot of time helping neighbors out doing different things. So, the neighborhood support allowed us to really get a lot of momentum where we could get by from the kind of the way the deal was structured. And the bank was so happy about it. They were very confident or they would be very easy to deal with, with the construction interest extended at 6 or 12 or it was like 8 or 10 months beyond. So, we were just able to really save a lot of money on interest there. And then immediately we had planned on selling to the villas, pulling out the cash from those villas, then being able to use those villas to pay ourselves back. And now we own two villas in 22,000 worth of office space and all of our money’s out and it’s purely cash flow and so that’s kind of the story. So, I try to be as transparent. You told me to be transparent. That’s about as real as you get.
Justin Donald: I love it. It is so real. I mean, number one, you talked about the importance of relationships and specifically having a lender and building a relationship there. And I couldn’t agree with you more. Number two, you can’t argue with the results. And the results are in two years, you pulled all your money out of the deal and you have $40,000 a month approximately in cash flow. That’s incredible. And you own all this space and you are able to do it with low-interest loans. And you were able to just figure out a way to kind of get in and get out of this deal to de-risk the deal. It was an invisible deal. I mean, there are just so many principles and commandments inside the Ten Commandments that were used that your intuition kind of led you to, and I love that. And I also don’t want to overshadow the fact that you jumped in as GC when you needed to, general contractor. You rolled up, and I personally have seen this with my own eyes, you are willing to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, do the work you need to do, teach people how they need to do it, but literally jump in and do it yourself so that people understand. Or if something’s going on and there’s no one there, you’ll jump in and you’ll run it. And I think that those are very important points of a successful entrepreneur.
John Hall: Well, there’s a balance there. So, like from a standpoint of two things that I value, time and I think that like for years, a lot of times you’ll be like, “Hey, man, you should probably pay to have that done because your time is valuable. John, why would you be fixing an air conditioner when you can pay somebody to do that?” So, I think those are valid things that friends like smart people like you will challenge me on. And in addition, I own Calendar.com so it’s like I’m tracking my time and scheduling, doing a lot of things where time matters. But I think there’s the other thing is the type of human and leader and entrepreneur I want to be is I want the people around me to know that I am never above them to do a job. I will take trash out, I will clean floors, I will fix ACs because I think that if the leader does that because we got, I mean, in this office, we have almost 21, maybe 23 or 24 people. I want them to see that because I want them to be that way. When their intern needs them to do something and to fix something for them, help them move something. And so, that’s a part of the culture that I want to create as an entrepreneur in the business. And so, that’s why you see that where I love the idea when a leader and I learned this from people like the Sam Walton’s of the world who I have respected where they will go bags grocery themselves.
And so, I think that’s a line I want to be cautious with my time but I also want people around me to know that I’m never above them and I’ll always do any job. And because that sends the message to them is that then you should do the same thing. If something’s needed and it’s to help the business at the right time at the right moment, I want you to be able to do that, and that’s kind of what I did. I mean, our contractor, he’s a very good friend, he got overwhelmed and legitimately couldn’t handle a lot of the things he was doing. And so, I stepped in and was like, “Hey, this is what you sometimes need to do, even though my time probably could be better elsewhere on something else. At this time, I want to show you this is what you need.” And at the time it was what was best for my time because we needed to get this deal done in the right way. And it did and it was exhausting but it was definitely worth it, as you can tell, kind of from how the numbers worked.
Justin Donald: Yeah. Paid off. I think it was a brilliant use of your time because it was short-lived. This is more like one-time moments of grinding and getting your hands dirty for a long-term residual payout, which is a smart way to allocate your time. Now, you mentioned Calendar.com. I want to talk about this because this is a really cool tech play. This is a software company that you guys invested in and are helping to kind of run this company with your expertise and you’ve partnered in many different ways. So, talk to us about, I guess, the reason you decided to kind of create a partnership with this company. And for those that are unfamiliar with Calendar.com, it would be like Calendly. Calendly would be the number one competitor to Calendar.com. So, why did you want to get in this space? By the way, I love the space, but why did you want to get into it? And what do you see for the future of software and this specific software?
John Hall: Yeah. I mean, when you look at Calendly, I mean, they just got valued at 40 revenue multiples, so at $3 billion off the raise. And so, there’s definitely and if you look Zapier, it got valued at $5 billion, which is in the productivity space. Right now, this kind of area is very hot because people want to make their lives better, their teams better with the pandemic remote work and actually trusting employees but giving them the tools to be more effective and productive. And so, I like the space. I think it’s only going to grow. I think the only reason why when we went into Calendar, when Rampton and I looked at it, is I had just exited and I was trying to figure out ways to be more self-aware, how I spend my time. Because like Calendly and I don’t want to bash them, Rampton and I have a really good relationship with their founder and it’s a good product and a good company but we like the scheduling aspect, which for us we have the scheduling aspect, but we wanted a little more. And so, I think that’s what a lot of entrepreneurs find or when you’re an investor you’re like, “Oh, I like Calendly but I wish they did this, this, and this.” And so, that’s kind of what we did is we looked at that and we’re like, “Man, we did it. We were able to access the domain or get the domain, which was a very tough one to get.” Obviously, it’s spelled right. It’s not like a tricky one. And so, like for us, it was kind of a thing where we ourselves were wanting to invest in something that was going to help people with manager time. Because when you look at like the most important asset that we have, I mean, it’s our time. And so, we wanted to get a company there and so that’s why like we have the scheduling down where it’s doing scheduling well.
Our next kind of area is analytics and helping teams and people how to understand their Calendar. It’s also a unified calendar so that was something that drove me nuts where like Calendly and some of the other tools like I would just have one calendar, or just use it on like a Gmail. My wife was on Apple. I was on Google. Rampton was on like Outlook. So, it’s like I needed a unified calendar because like my wife would put like my daughter’s ballet or it was a dance thing and I almost missed it because it was on this calendar, which wasn’t on this calendar. And so, now with the kind of a unified way like that’s why I kind of liked it. So, we invested in that and we’ve got it to a point where now it is growing in revenue and it’s doing well. At first, we focused on free users, that model, and we were getting like 300 or 400 users a day so we got there. Last October it was doing well then now we’re focused on revenue. And then we’re to that point where we’re focused on revenue growth right now and then we’ll raise and do something big. So, that’s kind of where we’re at.
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. And you guys are building in some functionality there that doesn’t exist in these other platforms and this other software for scheduling time and really keeping a calendar. So, I love that. I love what you’re building. We’ve talked in-depth about just some of the specifics, even that I look for, and some of the things that you’re building I think are incredible. So, well done. I know there are other companies that you’ve invested in as well. And before we get into your main expertise, are there any others that you’d like to discuss, ones that you’re excited about or proud of? And no pressure if you don’t want to share any or if you need to keep some confidential, which I know is a part of some of your deals but let me know.
John Hall: Sure. Yeah. I mean, if it’s only just stuff with me, I’ll share it with you guys, anything, like I want to help people a lot. I’m just trying to think as like if other people were like me but I can just tell you like some of the things we’re involved in that we do, that we’re excited. Then I can dive into like relevance and expertise so I can give helpful tips and be educational. But like we’re involved in like Gabb Wireless is a good example, a company I love to death. It’s a kid’s phone that basically like I hate the idea of my daughter having an iPhone at the age of seven or eight, nine, ten, I don’t care, even eighteen, like legitimately. I mean, I’m on my iPhone all the time so I can’t judge but like my kids, I want them to go out and play. I want them to play chess like we do every night, as you do with your father. And so, I like that because it’s the phone that a kid can have early that doesn’t have the crap that can ruin a kid’s brain. You can take pictures. It has where you can call your parents and it gives on that feel, “I have a phone so I have a responsibility,” but it’s not like all the stuff that can actually be worrisome. So, I like that a ton. That’s when we’re involved in and I like Appointment.com, which is in the space with Calendar. That’s one we’re investing in, which I’m pretty excited about. We buy a lot of media properties, which I don’t disclose as much because there are other people involved in that but we buy a lot of media properties.
And just so you understand that model is we look for ones that like legitimately used to be worth multi-millions and their models just don’t work because ad revenue and other sponsored content, it went down. So, they had 200, 300 employees. Well, when those employees were fired, it’s like that brand still has value. So, we’ll go in and like I never want to go in and do the Richard Gere in Pretty Woman and destroy a company and like piece it out. That’s not my style. My style is more like, “Oh crap, this company just fired all their employees but there’s still some value here. What can we do to build it up?” And that’s kind of what we do in media kind of with certain medium properties. But the one that I’m probably most excited which is kind of where the expertise is, is Relevance.com where that’s a company that we acquired the domain, Relevance.com, which it was a publication. We had a previous company called [LRG 29:31] that we advised, which they used to be in kind of the SEO space. And what kind of happened is that we found this like the direction that I kind of went with my expertise and I even forgot to explain this, but I also had an exit with a company called Influence & Co., which Kelsey Meyer now runs, which I exit that in 2018. We grew that from 2011 to 2018 to be the largest creator and distributor of expert content and media. So, if you’re reading articles in major media, there was a really good chance you were coming across something that a client had hired us to basically write and create content and then distribute it to these places.
So, we took that background, and then a couple of years later, after we got Calendar going to add some of these things going, we saw the opportunity where it’s kind of like that’s kind of an older model. The newer model that I look at is when you can combine thought leadership, which that’s the area that I was in with really good SEO, really good PR, and you kind of combine, it’s almost like a Venn diagram where each one is like PR SEO thought leadership. If you do really good thought leadership, then you can basically get really good PR influencer marketing and that can result in good SEO. And so, that’s where that company basically goes into a company and their whole thing is we are going to help you own your industry. We’re going to help you own this and that’s what I love about it is that I love like I get excited about things that are like they have really cool things that they’re doing, like a cool product, a cool service, good people. And then they’re just like, “Man, if we just like took off in this industry, we would just kill it,” and that’s what we love doing. And so, I think that that’s where my expertise is. And if you have any questions around that, it’s about how you can really differentiate your company, your brand to be that industry leader, to be the top of the food chain through digital like just dominated on digital. Or when people are searching, your company just keeps coming up, whether it be your company’s site or in the press or anything, it’s just demolishing that. I almost look at it as digital real estate. So, we help people basically take over as much digital real estate as possible.
Justin Donald: I love it. Yeah. My friend, Mike Koenigs, says that it’s all about having a category of one and that’s exactly what it is like you guys create the space through thought leadership, through just creating content, through SEO optimization, through just general PR, and refining the public relations and kind of pointing things in the right place so that a business or a brand can own their space. They can be the number one in their category. And you guys do it brilliantly. And I love all the different assets that you’ve picked up, some of which I know you’re not able to disclose but I love that you have so many of these media assets and PR assets that you’re able to aggregate and really help companies and help entrepreneurs get their brand out there and would create a presence for their organization.
John Hall: Yeah. And I think that pertaining to this and like when you’re an investor, what you want to do, like for example, 10 years ago before I started, and I tried to do a deal like I remember I walked into a deal with GE and they looked at me. I didn’t have a beard. I had to grow the beard out so they’ll take me seriously. But like before, I didn’t have a beard. I walk and I remember somebody said, they’re like, “Oh, look how young this kid is,” and I overheard it and I was just like, “You’re kidding me.” And we all deal with different barriers. It could be because we’re young. It could be because of skin color. It could be sex. It could be I just don’t know you. There are all these trust barriers that exist in the world today. And I think that for me, what I tell, whether it’s an entrepreneur or an investor and a lot of people come to us are like, “Hey, we’re doing…” Like in the investment world, for example, it’s a VC or a PE or somebody saying is that, “We want people to trust us when they do a deal with us. So, what kind of branding would you recommend?” And a lot of times I’m like, “Okay. Here’s what you do from a thought leadership side around your brand.” It’s kind of like what we talked about with you, Donald. You’ve done a good job on doing something like the book’s a good book. I like a lot of the things you’ve done and there’s a lot of things around the brand that you can create and you can say, “Hey, how can I get featured in these publications, get mentioned here?”
If you guys type in like, for example, listeners like type in “keynote sales speakers” into Google. See what shows up. It’s an article and a site called Market Insider Group. I show up as a top speaker there. If you type in “books for CMOs,” you’ll see an article that shows up in Forbes as a top search that has Top of Mind, my book in it. And that’s basically me hiring Relevance to do that sort of thing for me. So, for me, I like it because when I’m talking to CMO, they’re like, “Oh, I’ve read your book.” I’m like, “Yeah, because I basically hired this company to see digitally the online real estate so you basically fell across my book,” and you’re like, “Oh, man. Is there a higher chance that you’re going to want to hire something or do something or partner with me if you read my book?” Yes. And so, I think that for the things that are related to this podcast, I would say that take a step back and think about as an investor or as an entrepreneur or as somebody who wants to get into investing or has been in it, what would be good for my brand? So, I mean, simple things like creating content where you can and I like a hub and spoke model where you say, “I want to own something so I want to create a pillar piece of something I want to own.” And then from there, I’m going to help it spread out and basically have a strategy of alignment across social channels, across press, across this, and that core part is that really solid pillar piece. Then you build another pillar piece, then you build another pillar piece, and you basically start owning certain things and keywords. Examples of that like we go after some of the hardest pillar pieces out there.
For example, Google Calendar, if you type in Google Calendar on the first page, you’ll see a Google Calendar Guide under Calendar.com. That is a search term that is virtually impossible on the Internet and we show up either sometimes we jump to page two, but most of the time we’re in the top four or five position, because we want to own things with Google Calendar because that’s one of our integrations where we have a lot of users there. So, we want to own that. And as hard as that sucker is, we still stay on the main page. So, there’s a lot of things you can do to basically say, “Hey, I want to own things either through having these pillar things,” or the perception of your brand. Get on a list of top investors and have Peter, whatever, Richard Branson on there and Justin Donald on there. People are like, “Who the hell is Justin Donald?” That’s awesome for you because people know Richard Branson. They might not know Justin. So, it’s like you can do branding and tie it in ways and strategies so that people start being like, “This is a person I have to deal with,” or when they’re stalking you to decide what we should do together, whether it’s a partnership or whatever, it just screams credibility where they’re like, “I should absolutely deal with this company and this person.”
Justin Donald: Yeah. That’s awesome. What a great way, I mean, you elaborated so well and you do so much unique work. When I think about like you guys, you’re a one-stop-shop for creating content and visibility, and like great articles. So, I love what you’re doing. Something else that I love, though, is one of your superpowers, which we’ve just discussed. You’re able to use that and partner with these companies that you’ve invested in or other companies that you’re advising. I mean, one of the things you guys do a great job of is getting advisory contracts and helping companies scale. And I’m really excited hot off the press. I don’t even know if this is public info yet, but I heard about the deal that you guys are striking up with Tradeful, and I’m so thrilled…
John Hall: That was signed yesterday. Like, what? Did you bug my office?
Justin Donald: I tend to be in the know on some things, but I’m just thrilled because this was a strategic alliance that I was really excited about for the company. It’s a company that I’m invested in that I think would specialize in fulfillment. And really it’s more of a solution type of a software that integrates with everything and it’s incredible. And so, when I have investment dollars in something, I’m always looking to protect that. How do I de-risk this deal? Well, some of the way I de-risk it is by connecting them with great customers and clients. Another way is by making sure that I’m talking positively about all the things that they do. Another thing I do is I like to connect them with experts like you guys and get you involved because I know that when you take one plus one, you can get three when you have the right superpowers and the right people involved.
John Hall: Yeah. We’re going to make that one a four. It was going to be one plus one equals four because I think that exactly like that deal, I love how you looked at it because they’re good people behind it. Eric and the people, every single call that I was on I was like, “Man, I love these people.” So, it’s like you’ve got good people. You’ve got an opportunity in the industry. You’ve got people that are willing to deal like they’re not unreasonable people. They’re very reasonable, smart people, and so I like it. And for us, it’s funny that, yeah, I didn’t know if I was going to mention that. Actually, I meant like on this is like, “Man, can I say that we’re dealing with them?” but then I want to make sure somebody – you mentioned it. But like for me, that one and the way that unfolded I think is great because we like it exactly how because we don’t do that with everybody where we have a relationship, like with a Justin Donald. We like you because you have really good investment criteria and you’re smart about thinking. I think you look at people and you look at the same values and the things that we look at, but you’re even better. You’re better at finding deals than we are. But I think that like that’s where we see, I was going to tell you separately but I’ll just bring it up now, is that we see our model as a company of tying ourselves closer to people like you because exactly that.
Company investors want to see their investments grow and skyrocket and one of the things with growth is this kind of organic traffic credibility SEO PR because it helps with getting more investment, it helps with recruiting, it helps a lot of those things. So, I think that, honestly, one of our models moving forward for legion is to basically find the people who have great investment criteria like you partnering with. And basically, it’s that kind of selfless giver mentality. Just try and give to them as much as possible and it’s going to be this reciprocal deal. Next deal like I know there will be something that we’re working with a client. We’re like, “Dude, they’re growing. Let’s get this on your radar, Justin. Run it through your investment criteria.” And that’s where I think that for investors and for people listening, if there are investors that you do find a deal where you’re like, “Man, if they only had some really good thought leadership, some PR, if we got like the leaders here out in the industry more,” those sort of questions, or we want to go up certain terms that are competitive, like those are things we get involved in. And especially when it’s someone who’s a smart investor, it’s great because then we’re like I love it because it’s like, look, they put their money in and sometimes we’ll put our money in or we’ll just put significant resources.
On that Tradeful deal like the resources that we were putting towards it, there’s only one other company that we have as much resources towards. And that’s the one that we are very heavily invested in. So, it’s legitimately like and I told him, it’s like, “You will be like our number two priority in a company,” which is a big priority for a company like ours. And so, I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities there but, I mean, I think that just proves the model of when you kind of have networks of and bring in the right – and I think I love your mentality of bringing in the best people. Even you’ve done that when you’ve connected. Previously, we were talking about a vendor that you connected me to where you’re like, “Hey, I go with this person because they’re really good at this. They’re a good person and they’re really good at what they do.” And I think that if we’re able to do that and have this kind of investor connection with each other, once again, it’s not just we’re going to make a ton of money together. We’re going to make it the right way with the right people. And so, I’m very appreciative of you for that and I value the friendship and relationship.
Justin Donald: Yeah. Business is more fun when you do it with people and it’s more fun when you can collaborate together and when everyone wins, it’s just you’re on cloud nine. It’s cool. You know, of course, there are going to be some times that it doesn’t work out but the whole goal is, can you have it work out more times than it doesn’t work out? And realistically, in most cases, you only need one deal to really work out to cover deals that don’t work out and that’s kind of the cool way of looking at it. I think you have made a lot of investors in The Lifestyle Investor Mastermind happy with your partnership and just another layer of de-risking the deal and being able to create awareness for what I think is really a revolutionary company that’s going to scale and do incredible things for some of the biggest brands and biggest retailers in the world, not just in the US, but in the world. I mean, these are contracts that are being negotiated as we speak with some of the largest companies on planet Earth. And it’s just really exciting.
John Hall: Yeah. I love it. One of my favorite things about that also is that they’re self-aware. Like, it’s funny as it is like with one of the investors and I know the names of all but I just don’t know how much I can share. But like from a standpoint of the people involved, very successful entrepreneur, multi-exits who’s involved as an investor, and then you have a CEO who basically you’re on the phone with them, and this is what I love about certain investments. They’re aware of what they need but they’re also aware of what they’re good at and the service. So, it’s like they know they’re really good as kind of what you talk about. They’re super opportunity. In our area specifically, they were like, “Gosh, we really could use them,” and I love that. Like, I love that about people when they’re transparent on their needs. I think that’s one of the most attractive things in the deal to me is that, “I’m fine with you guys not being perfect. I’m fine.” That’s actually like if we just know ultimately what your hole is we can plug that baby and we can just get rolling because like no investment is the perfect deal. I mean, like, I have to jump into the GC for this damn real estate thing where I’m out here yelling at contractors. I didn’t plan on doing that. But I think that those are the things where dealing with people who are very self-aware of their needs and challenges, I think those are the type of people I love dealing with because I’m going to have needs, I’m going to have challenges. And I think that we all have them in different ways and if we can communicate them well, then people can truly help us. And that’s why I like when you connect me, I have to say this name with Will Duffy. It’s like we had a need there. We had a challenge there and I’m very well aware that we need somebody that has an expertise there.
So, when you connect me to people like that, I don’t care. I mean, you could be making some crazy side hustle money. I don’t care. You’re solving a problem for me and you have a network that you worked your ass off to do. And so, that’s where, like I love being around people that are really good at connecting those dots because if we just keep connecting the dots with each other, we’re going to be extremely successful. And so, when anything PR, thought leadership, SEO, earned media comes up, I’m happy, any of the people, if people listening reach out to say, “Hey, I’m a connection with Justin Donalds or whatever,” like I will make time. Justin is somebody I really respect in the industry. And so, if do you reach out via LinkedIn or whatever, I will respond, especially if you kind of make it a point to say, “Hey, I’m a part of the…” Even if it’s like, “Hey, where do I get that Dunder Mifflin shirt?” I don’t care. I’ll respond and help you out.
Justin Donald: I love it. And you’re so giving in that capacity and in that matter and I appreciate that so much. And I tell people this all the time. The goal isn’t to have the largest slice of a small company. The goal is to have a bunch of small slices of companies that have the ability to really scale. And so, I’m all about creating win-wins. I want everyone to do well. When I’m investing, I don’t want to be so cutthroat that one party doesn’t reap the rewards. Everyone should reap the rewards. Everyone should win. And when everyone wins and your expectations and your values are in alignment, that’s when the magic happens. So, I’m thrilled about having you on the show. This has just been chock full of tons of great content. Where can our audience, our listeners, our viewers find you, John?
John Hall: I mean, I would say that really LinkedIn is one where if you just reach out to me and say, “I wanted to connect. Saw you on The Lifestyle Investor Podcast,” that’s an easy way if you just come in and say, like, if you just want to connect, that’s great. If you have a question, in particular, I mean, if you have something specific related to kind of PR SEO, that branding realm, my email is at email@example.com. So, it’s just the letter J @relevance.com. If it’s Calendar-related or something productivity, it’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. So, you can kind of guess on things I’m involved in. I’m pretty lazy with my email addresses. But I would just say if it’s just a general like, “Hey, let’s connect on LinkedIn,” I have a LinkedIn newsletter that I write every week and I write for Forbes. I write for Inc. Weekly. I write for CNBC, Fast Company, and HBR kind of quarterly or every six months or so. I write for Lifehack monthly but a lot of them just kind of aggregate a lot of times into LinkedIn. Some I put on there. But I’d say that don’t be shy. If I can be helpful in those areas, just reach out to those company emails. If it’s just you want to follow, I would just follow on LinkedIn just because that’s where a lot of my newsletter information goes out to.
Justin Donald: Well, we’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs that are part of The Lifestyle Investor audience and community. So, you as a resource for them and for their businesses, and what they’re looking to do is just incredible. And then it’s really fun because it sounds like you write for everything. And then your partner, John Rampton, he writes for all the stuff you don’t write for. So, I mean, between the two of you, you’re a one-stop-shop. It’s awesome.
John Hall: It’s like 30 different publications we write when you combine the two of us but, yeah. We should be good at what we do. Like where we talk about, “Hey, guys, you should be doing this,” it’s kind of like the person who designs websites. It looks kind of like you being a crappy investor. You’re a good investor and you help other investors. It makes sense to me. But, yeah, I mean, I would say that especially if there’s something you think I can help but even if it’s a company you’ve invested in the past, you’re like, “Man, this is what they needed,” I’m happy to even just jump on. I don’t need to sell them or connect them to people. I’m more advisory role in reality and so I would connect them but if it’s something important to someone, reach out to me and say, “Hey, I really think you can help this company,” because also like that drives me these days. If I can get on a call that’s 20, 30 minutes and briefly tell an entrepreneur, “Hey, you should really be doing this, here’s this,” like I’ll be as honest as I can because sometimes companies only need certain things.
Like I just talked to a friend, I’m like, “Hey, you should not spend that much in this realm because you’re doing really great already and you have this lead channel this. Let’s focus on that. We can do some PR that’s very limited that can help you with this conversion here but let’s get this here optimal then let’s move on to the PR strategy. So, I want you to call me in six months.” And I think it caught them off guard because he was ready to sign a contract and I was like, “No, I’ll advise you in a way,” because ultimately I try to have trust currency. Because if you advise somebody in the right way, even if it doesn’t benefit you immediately, it always comes back. And so, if there’s somebody listening that you think I can be helpful to an entrepreneur that’s growing or an investor that is investing a significant amount in something that you know this can be helpful, just connect with me and I’ll point them in the right direction or at least give them some advice.
Justin Donald: I love it. Well, thank you for the time. And I’ll wrap today up the way I always do, and that is take some action. Take action towards the life of your dreams, towards financial freedom, towards life on your terms. Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you next week.