Cracking the Code on Operational Efficiency with Nick Sonnenberg – EP 119

Interview with Nick Sonnenberg

Rick Sapio

Cracking the Code on Operational Efficiency with Nick Sonnenberg

What if your company could operate at peak efficiency? How would that affect your bottom line AND your ability to scale?

Most businesses fail to grow beyond a certain point because they’re working in unsustainable and inefficient ways. Solving these problems isn’t complicated, but most entrepreneurs just don’t have the time to figure it out.

Today’s guest, Nick Sonnenberg, has a solution. Nick is the Founder and CEO of Leverage, a company that helps teams eliminate waste, increase profits, and create a better workplace culture. He’s on a mission to help entrepreneurs and leaders save thousands of hours and operate smarter in business and life.

We go over Nick’s cost-effective strategies for scaling, his counterintuitive yet easy methods for drastically increasing the productivity of your business, and how to create systems that will 10x the value of your business without hiring new employees.

We also talk about his new book, Come Up For Air: How Teams Can Leverage Systems & Tools to Stop Drowning in Work.

Featured on This Episode: Nick Sonnenberg

✅ What he does: Nick Sonnenberg is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and the Founder and CEO of Leverage, a leading operational efficiency consultancy that helps companies implement his CPR® Business Efficiency Framework. This is the culmination of Nick’s unique perspective on the value of time, efficiency, and automation which stems in part from the eight years he spent working as a high-frequency trader on Wall Street. The CPR Framework consistently results in greater output, less stress, happier employees, and the potential to gain an extra full day per week in productivity per person—just by using the right tools in the right way, at the right time. Nick and his team have worked with organizations of all sizes and across all industries, from high-growth startups to Fortune 10. He has worked with individuals and companies such as Tony Robbins, Meta, Clickfunnels, Reckitt Benckiser, Benevity, Jay Abraham, Pourri, Consensys, and more. Nick is also the author of the upcoming book Come Up for Air: How Teams Can Leverage Systems and Tools to Stop Drowning in Work.

💬 Words of wisdom: Everything’s a balance in business, and you don’t want to be managing hundreds of tools.” – Nick Sonnenberg

 🔎 Where to find Nick Sonnenberg: LinkedIn | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Key Takeaways with Nick Sonnenberg

  • Hear about Nick’s new book, Come Up For Air—a practical guide to going from “drowning in work” to freeing up an extra business day per week for everyone on your team.
  • How Nick scaled his first company to seven figures and 150 employees in just one year.
  • A better way to think about your team members that will multiply your productivity and results.
  • Why every business needs to have effective team communication.
  • How systems make your business more valuable and easier to scale.
  • The benefits of documenting and optimizing your processes and how to use email as an efficiency tool.
  • Steps to optimize your time and how that leads to fulfilment.

Nick Sonnenberg Tweetables

“True productivity is the sum of small gains.” - @nick_sonnenberg Click To Tweet “No logical, reasonable human being wouldn't want more money and more time at the same time.” - @nick_sonnenberg Click To Tweet


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Read the Full Transcript with Nick Sonnenberg

Justin Donald: All right. What’s up, Nick? Great to have you on the show.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Thanks for having me, Justin.

Justin Donald: Well, this is fun. You got a lot going on. We’ve got a new year and a lot of big things happening in your world, and I’m excited to circle back. I’m trying to remember. I think you and I originally got connected through Mike Koenigs. Is that right?

Nicholas Sonnenberg: We did. And you came to one of my events that I threw in Texas a few years ago where we first met and headed off and now it’s been a few years we’ve been friends.

Justin Donald: That’s right. Well, I’m so excited to kind of see things full circle. I was on your show a while back. Now, you get to be on mine. I knew at the time you had been working on a book and potentially maybe it wasn’t fully committed yet or fully thought through exactly what it was going to be but I knew you were taking some time. I wanted to create for you just a masterpiece. And so, I’m excited to see it come full circle.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Yeah, that’s right. Actually, when we did meet, I had already started this book but when I first started Come Up, the book is called Come Up for Air. When I first started it, we were thinking to self-publish. As you know, writing a book is like a full-time job. So, like running my company, Leverage, and then also writing a book, amongst other things, it took way longer than I thought it would take. And throughout the process of writing the book, people started saying, “Hey, this book, actually, this needs to be not a…” My first book was self-published and, honestly, self-publishing is really the go-to move in a lot of cases. I got lucky and got a really good offer with HarperCollins. So, halfway through the process, we pivoted and like went through a traditional publisher and that took a whole lot of time. But it’s coming out finally in February after four years, kind of part-time working on it. We finally got that masterpiece so super excited.

Justin Donald: Oh, it’s awesome. And I’m curious, what made you want to write? You know, a lot of people, they have this goal to write a book, and most people, I think they just think it’d be cool. They never do it. And then some people get around, they do it. And I think most people just write a book, those that write one. But this is your second book. Why did you want to do another one?

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Well, ultimately, what I want to be known for is saving the world millions and millions of hours of just pure waste. And I’ve seen this in my own company and then I’ve seen it in the thousands of companies that at Leverage we’ve trained and consulted. There’s just such gross inefficiencies and waste, and I’m not trying to get people to stop doing stuff that they like doing or that are good uses of their time but like searching for a file that’s disorganized or not being able to find some SOP that they need or having to ask 16 different people, like, what’s the status of this? Like, no one enjoys that. It’s pure waste. I want to clean that up and I want to teach people and make a dent in the world in terms of how work gets done. And I thought one of the best ways I could do that is get my message and get my framework out to as many people as possible. Also, this is helpful for my team. Anyone that I hire I just hand them a book. Read this before you get started. This is the employee manual in terms of how you’re going to collaborate with everyone.

So, it helps me to achieve kind of my mission and it helps me more efficiently work with current and future team members. It helps my clients. And honestly, when I was an undergrad, I used to teach undergrad math classes, like all the undergrad math classes. And I think when you teach something, it forces you to really be a master at it. So, I also did it to make sure to really force myself to really even get better than I was before at efficiency.

Justin Donald: Well, I love that you’re all about efficiency, and I really want to dig into this topic today because I think for your type-A personalities, for your overachievers, for entrepreneurs, business professionals, I think that we’re all trying to figure out how to get the most done that we can in the amount of time that we’re given. I think most people use brute force more than they do like systems and protocols. And so, I think it’d be fun to kind of tackle this. But before we get into that, I’m just curious, like, how did you even get into a space where you created a business around efficiency? Like, what were the early years of Nick Sonnenberg?

Nicholas Sonnenberg: That’s a great question. So, the early, early years, and you’ll appreciate this because you’re a finance guy. My background is in financial engineering. I got a master’s in financial engineering and I was a high-frequency trader on Wall Street for eight years. So, I was building algorithms and coding computers to trade stocks at microsecond speeds, trying to capture fractions of a penny of this mathematical theoretical discrepancy in prices. So, that kind of trained me to be looking at very, very, very tiny, short periods of time and trying to capture fractions of fractions of fractions of a penny but I would be trading billions and billions of dollars. So, it was all automated. And in that job, I really understood and appreciated the value of time, right? Literally, a microsecond could be the difference of millions of dollars. So, you have to celebrate those small wins trying to, hey, I just figured out this thing. We’re going to save a microsecond on doing it this way. So, I was always passionate about that.

Even before that, in college and in kind of the intro, I talk about this, I mapped out kind of what I needed to take in the most efficient path in terms of like knocking out all the general education requirements, taking classes on only Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, I was able to take four-day weekends, party really hard, and graduate in three years with honors, not necessarily because I was the best person at school but like I really tried being efficient with how I approached it. So, I’ve always been obsessed with time, obsessed with efficiency. And so, when I left high-frequency trading, I got into the startup space ultimately on productivity and saving time. My first company was an app in the productivity space and then my second company, Leverage, but the early days of it was a virtual assistant company, which obviously also is in the space of saving time. So, it’s always about saving time. I really just fundamentally hate people spending time on things that they shouldn’t. You know, your time is worth $100 an hour. You’re doing stuff you hate that you could outsource for $5 or $10 an hour. It’s just silly.

So, I got into this virtual assistant company on the early days. We scaled really quickly. We scaled to seven figures in the first year, 150 people on the team. And then one day I’m having coffee with my now ex-business partner. And to the outside world, we were this massive success, right? Like, it’s not easy to scale to a seven-figure company in the first year, right? And we did it because we were leveraging systems and automation in really smart ways. We had tapped into places where to find clients. But one day in October of 2017, I’m having coffee at a co-working space with my ex-business partner, and he taps me on the shoulder and he says he’s quitting. And it’s not that he gives me two days’ notice, nor two weeks, two days’ notice. Like, literally I get 2 minutes’ notice he’s leaving. And so, I’m sitting there like I go white, my hands are sweating, and I’m just like, “Holy crap.” Like, yes, we had scaled really quickly but at that moment, at that coffee shop, the things going through my mind and I’m sure a lot of people listening right now have experienced a partner leaving or a key team member leaving. But I’m like, “Holy crap. We’re going to go bankrupt.”

And I say that because although we had all these external publicly-facing looking successes, under the hood, what people didn’t know is we had almost $1 million of debt. We were extremely unprofitable. We were growing 20% each month but we had 15% churn. So, we were only net growing at 5%. So, when he left, I left with a company with 15% churn. So, essentially we had good marketing masking a broken product. And so, I’m sitting there on the chair and I’m thinking to myself, “Should we just bankrupt this thing?” Because clients and team members only knew who he was. I was the behind-the-scenes person. And honestly, we almost did go bankrupt. If it weren’t for documenting our processes and our SOPs, we for sure would have gone bankrupt but it was tough. We lost 40% of revenue in a three-month period. I cashed out my entire 401(k). My dad took a second on his house to loan us money for payroll, bank accounts frozen, rumor spreading we’re going bankrupt. Team members quitting, clients quitting. I mean, it was tough. And like other people, I’m sure people listening right now have their own kind of hero’s journey and horror stories and war, you know, scar wounds.

But I saw a path to cleaning it up. I knew where we were messing up in terms of how we worked together, what we were doing wrong. And we made the classic mistake a lot of people make, which is when you’re out of bandwidth, you hire more people. And there’s kind of three ways you can increase your bandwidth. You can hire more people, which is ultimately the worst way. You have to invest time, energy, and money to recruit, to train, to onboard, to pay a salary. Odds of them working out in a year is fairly slim, less than 50%. And then every person you add to your team is exponential complexity. The other way to gain bandwidth is you have people work harder and longer hours. You just say, “Well, your plate’s full. Get a bigger plate.” And people don’t like that, that you cause burnout, culture problems. You know, not the best way. The other way is you just get people more efficient. So, how do you simplify things? How do you get people not going on that scavenger hunt?

And so, most people told me I should have bankrupted the company. I did see a path to turning it around and ultimately we were able to. I started seeing patterns in how we operated that were really inefficient. And you can’t do it overnight. It took a while to kind of fully fix ultimately the foundation but ultimately we were able to turn it around. We’re now a fraction of the team size. We’re under 30 people versus 150 doing way more revenue, profitable, etcetera. And it’s really in large part due to this operational efficiency framework that it forced me to figure out along the way. Now, we were originally a virtual assistant company but through figuring out this process, people started reaching out to me, asking me personally to consult them on their operations. And ultimately, I was mostly passionate about how do you run the most efficient company possible? What’s the future of work? What’s the new way of working? There’s all these tools out there. No one’s ever been taught when and how to best use them. How do you create that well-oiled machine?

Whether you’re selling lemonade, you’re a financial advisor, or you’re – we’ve worked with poop sprays and condoms companies, and Fortune 10 tech companies, how do you do that? And what we found is people started reaching out and I started seeing patterns, the same things, Justin, that helped us turn things around and be more efficient. We’re helping those seven-figure financial advisors just as much as it was helping Fortune 10 tech companies. So, it didn’t matter the industry. It didn’t matter the team size. I’m a patterns person. Coming from a financial engineering background, I find patterns and I saw, “Hey, there are these three buckets that everyone is struggling with that they need to really solve in order to be efficient as a team and as an organization. And so, those three buckets, it just became more and more prevalent. So, over time, I started realizing, hey, the real opportunity here is we start teaching this stuff to people how we operate. That’s where the real market is and where we can make a big impact. There’s tools out there like Slack and Asana and Coda and Guru and Confluence and a bunch of them. No one’s ever been taught when and how to use them.

When people get on-boarded into companies, you’re given an employee handbook of core values and vision and health insurance but you’re not told, “Hey, at company ABC, this is how we work. This is how we collaborate. And before you get too busy and you’re underwater, read this so that you know how we operate as a team so we maximize efficiency.” And so, that’s the purpose of this book. My framework is called CPR. It stands for communicate, plan, and resource. Those are the three buckets I found everyone needs to think about. Every company on the face of this planet needs to communicate with team members internally, with clients and vendors externally. You need to plan. You’ve got tasks and projects, work needs to get done, and then you’ve got your resources, which I call your SOPs, your processes, that internal knowledge that you want to capture. And so, my framework is CPR. And funny enough, my book is called Come Up for Air, subtitle: How Teams Can Leverage Systems and Tools to Stop Drowning in Work. Because I really feel that framework is the CPR to resuscitating teams and organizations out of kind of drowning in work.

Justin Donald: I love it. It’s a great play on words. It follows your central theme. I think everyone needs to become more efficient in many areas of their business and life, right? So, not just business, in your personal life. You know, there’s a lot that you mentioned that I’d love to unpack. One of them I love is that you started in kind of the virtual assistant space. I’m kind of an OG in that space. I can’t remember when it started or when it became popular. I know Tim Ferriss was one of the early adopters of this. I think it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve had a virtual assistant, either 19 or 20, really close to 20. So, I’ve been on from the very beginning, and I can say that’s a game changer. I’ve got one person I work with right now that I worked with that long ago, and I brought on many other people to the team. Some have stuck and some haven’t. But I’ve got one person I’ve worked with for almost 20 years, which has been revolutionary for my personal life, for my business. I mean, this person has spanned, actually, it’s two people that have spanned through multiple businesses that I’ve been part of, that I’ve started, that I’ve been involved in, and it’s been massively powerful.

And then something else that you mention, I just want to touch on this because you had said that when you were working on Wall Street and you were working with kind of building algorithms and working with efficiency, how to create more efficiency in the stock market and these algorithms that could literally transact fractions of fractions of a penny. This is what scares me about trying to have any sort of angle or edge in the stock market is that it is so incredibly efficient that it is hard to get an edge. Someone, some algorithms, some AI, something has the edge more so than even a pretty high-level day trader, especially with I’ve got a friend that has worked pretty high level with a couple of different companies with Goldman and would sit down with a bunch of that kind of create the AI, create the algorithms that the quants use or that act in conjunction with the quants on the teams. And it’s fascinating. And so, when I think of like alternative investments, I love how inefficient a lot of them are because it creates that opportunity.

And it’s not that the stock market’s bad. It’s that it probably needs to be more of a long-term play like long-term hold, get in for as cheap of a cost as possible, and bank on the US economy especially if you’re not a day trader and probably for a lot of people that think they’re day traders but haven’t been through many seasons and many cycles. So, I just thought I would point that out because you’ve had, I mean, you’ve seen it. You’ve been in the grind of it.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Yeah. I mean, look, not to get off topic but, I mean, I personally don’t invest in stocks. And I was a professional trader for eight years and have a master’s degree in financial engineering. And firsthand, I just saw what it takes to really have an edge in this stuff. You know, when I was at the investment bank, the internal hedge fund at the investment bank, I was managing between $5 billion and $10 billion. I had tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure. Like, we were investing millions of dollars just in microwave technology to send orders from New York to Chicago a millisecond faster. Like, how is a day trader that’s reading Yahoo! Finance going to be able to, not to take anything away but like I know a lot of people also that claim to be day traders, most day traders don’t make money, and if they do something most of the time, there’s a lot of luck involved. I think that there are reasons and justifications for investing in stocks for diversification purposes and maybe hedging purposes and other things but I think after fees and everything else, it’s a tough game to play when probably close at this point to 99% of all trades are against people that have a background similar to me that have a big competitive advantage.

Justin Donald: Yeah. And the competitive advantage is that they have their own systems, protocol, algorithms, artificial intelligence that is on autopilot.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Yeah, right. But similar to high-frequency trading on autopilot, there’s a lot in your business that can also be on autopilot. So, like that mentality of like, how do you just put things on autopilot, whether you’re high-frequency trading or business, it’s like how can you run a business like a high-frequency trader? You know, how can you create dashboards? A big part of high-frequency trading too, it’s not just creating the algorithms, it’s analyzing the data. It’s all the post-trade analysis, where are you making money, losing money, getting notif. There’s so much stuff going on. It’s not just the automation of sending orders. It’s in an efficient way being able to analyze what’s going on and know where you need to be paying attention to. And I think that you need that in business, too. You need to be able to create a command center for yourself so that you can, as quickly as possible, get the answers that you’re looking for and as few clicks as possible without having to ask people how can a bot tell you exactly at the right moment what you need to know. Right?

So, I mean, at some point in high-frequency trading, we had noises on the computers for different things too. So, I had 16 computer screens at some point so I could visually look at computer screens but also I’m hearing different things happening. So, like, I had so much stuff going on but I was able to keep track of it because of the setup that we had.

Justin Donald: That’s incredible. And by the way, I love the brilliance of saying, “Hey, these are the things that it took to be successful as a trader and to be the most optimized, to be the most efficient, to have the most data, to be able to sift through and analyze the most information,” and then, “Hey, how do I plug this into my business life? How do I create this protocol, all these systems, this entire playbook for my business and to a certain degree, for my personal life?” Right? Like, that needs to happen too.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Yeah. You know, like when you have the 16 computer screens up, literally, it looks like you’re like launching a rocket ship to the moon. It’s like this wall of screens. You’ve got a command center. How do you replicate that command center for yourself on just a laptop so that you have a pulse on everything that’s going on? You know, and another thing that I took from the high-frequency trading days is celebrating those small wins. I think, we found in all of our experience and research working with thousands of companies, there are certain things that people can do immediately to immediately save 3 to 5 hours a week. There’s not that many things but in every business, there’s low-hanging fruit where there’s like an immediate 3 to 5 hours a week. Usually, that’s what teaching people how to use email properly. As silly as that might sound, email is the most misused tool of all the tools. And that’s why we’ve launched these new trainings in that. But after you kind of get through that low-hanging fruit, really, it’s all about celebrating small wins. And like for me, true productivity is the sum of small gains.

So, being able to celebrate, “Hey, now, I can do this thing and hit this one button and it’s going to save me a second.” Well, that one second, if it happens 60 times a day, well, that’s a minute a day, 5 minutes a week, 20 minutes a month, right? 4 hours a year. I got a team of 20. We just saved 80 hours of manpower a year. Right? Say the average hourly rate is $50 an hour for your team. That one second is $4,000 of bottom-line productivity gain. Now, go and find 1,000 of those one-second wins, which I can guarantee you can do that. You know, because people aren’t trained to look that micro. So, yeah, that was another one of the big benefits of coming out of being a high-frequency trader and kind of applying that lens to everything that we’re doing at Leverage on operational efficiency and all the content ultimately in my new book.

Justin Donald: Well, let’s dive into this more because this is super relevant to my audience, people that want to optimize, people that want to become more efficient. And so, let’s just talk about the low-hanging fruit here of email. I mean, I think email in many regards is quite a nuisance and I know that there are ways to create more efficiencies with it. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts around this.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Yeah. Well, with any tool, it first starts with when should you even use the tool, right? Because most people misuse email and they use it in the wrong cases to even use it. So, yes, there’s bells and whistles and tips and tricks and plug-ins and settings and things like that that we teach. The very, very, very first thing though is email is just an external to-do list that other people can add to. It should be used primarily with external communication. You got separate tools for internal communication like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Now, that might make people kind of have this sense of like, “Oh, my God, I hate Slack, I hate Microsoft Teams because they rolled it out wrong.” Most of the time when people have a visceral reaction to a tool that I mentioned, it’s most likely because it just wasn’t rolled out properly. They weren’t properly trained on when to use it, how to use it. And, yes, if you don’t roll any tool out right, it could very easily hurt your team’s productivity. So, it’s not just about, “Oh, we got the right tool. It’s making sure that you’re using it properly.”

So, that’s what email is for. You’ve got internal communication tools. You’ve got project management tools that you need. The example I use with that is like imagine you were going to go camping in the forest with your team. You need walkie-talkies to communicate with each other but you also need a map to navigate out of the forest. So, email and Slack are walkie-talkies. It’s not your map. You need to have project management tools. Like, we’re partners with Asana, and a lot of our training that we do is teaching people how to use Asana properly. And then knowing that third bucket, documenting your knowledge. You do a lot of alternative investing in your mastermind. You help bring investment deals to people, right? And the valuation of companies goes up quite substantially when they have documented processes and SOPs. How much more valuable is it when a company is trying to sell and literally, you just hand over a manual, “Here’s everything you need to know. Absolutely everything. It’s documented. It can be a really clean transition. We’ll stay on for X number of months but you won’t even need that much time because literally, it’s all in here.” It minimizes risk.

Like, you can buy insurance on earthquake insurance, fire insurance, liability insurance. But like, you can’t directly buy insurance on a business partner leaving like what happened to me or your head of finance leaving. Well, you kind of can. If you properly documented all of their knowledge, then you’ve minimized risk and essentially bought an insurance policy against them picking up and leaving with everything in their head. So, you have to understand the purpose first of email relative to these other tools. A lot of people might push back and say, “Oh my God, so many tools.” What I like about emails it’s just all in like one place. And then my response to that argument is, “Well, sure. And you could chop down a tree with a Swiss army knife but an ax is going to chop it down faster, too, right?” So, everything’s a balance in business and you don’t want to be managing hundreds of tools. But what I suggest is you really need to have a tool built for purpose for each of those buckets within CPR and not try to hack it and try to misuse it.

Those are critical. Those are mission-critical, foundational collaboration needs in a company, C, P, and R, and you just don’t want to go and hack in and start thinking Swiss Army knife. Think about that for things outside of the kind of core collaboration tech stack but just suck it up, bite the bullet. You’re going to need somewhere between five and eight tools probably, to run your company. Maybe at some point, there’ll be some roll-ups and acquisitions in that space. And maybe Slack and Asana do a merger at some point and now you just need one and like they kind of have crossover functionality but the pros far outweigh the cons and when you do this right, information’s far more organized. You’ve reduced the scavenger hunt. It’s kind of like when you do your laundry, you don’t take everything out of the dryer and throw it out in one drawer. Although that’s the quickest way to be done with laundry. You put your socks in one drawer, your underwear in a drawer, your shirts in a drawer, and you don’t do that because that’s the fastest way to get information around. You do it because it’s the fastest way to retrieve what you’re looking for.

So, a foundational principle of the book is shifting the mindset of teams to optimize for speed of retrieval of information versus speed of transfer of information, which means in a lot of cases, you take pause and everyone on your team takes an extra few seconds to put things where it belongs so that it’s easier for the next person to find what they’re looking for.

Justin Donald: So, I love that. I love your analogies. And I just think that the overall theme of what you’re discussing, what your business does, what each of your books does, is you help people transition from a personality-driven business because they’re kind of two different buckets where businesses reside. You’ve got your personality-driven and then you’ve got your systems-driven businesses and you hit the nail on the head when you said you alluded to and I’d like to just kind of fully walk through this. Your business becomes more valuable the more systematized it is. The more it is a protocol-driven, system-based business that someone else can purchase and adopt those systems and it doesn’t run because of a key person or a face or a personality, your business is worth more because it’s easier for someone to acquire and to integrate and to run. And there are different reasons why people buy different businesses. Sometimes it’s strategic. Sometimes it’s trying to get into a new space. Sometimes it’s just a great partnership bridge with another business, right?

But it is really important to recognize that if you can build a framework with systems and by the way, let’s say you don’t want to sell your business. Let’s say that at this point you don’t think you’re going to. I would still make the argument that you want to build your business to be a system-based business, even if you don’t think you’re going to sell it because that’s the most optimized existence of that business. It makes it more valuable, right?

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Totally. I mean, whether you want to sell it or not exactly what you said, having documented processes in SOPs increases value. Having more profit increases value. Well, if you’re more efficient, you can be more profitable because you don’t need to hire more people. So, it increases your profit and it increases so that increases valuation and the documentation increases valuation. I mean, put on your buying hat for a second. Would you want to buy a company where it’s valued at whatever? But all of the sales, all of the values-driven from one or two key people. What happens if they get sick? What happens if you acquire the company and they don’t like working for you and they quit after a few months? No matter what you do, you have to think about your vulnerabilities and your risks. And as a high-frequency trader, we talk a lot about risk. And as you know, businesses have a lot of risks that they don’t even realize. You have single point of failure of people risk. You have risk that your marketing channel might change. You know, if you’re relying on Facebook ads and they change their algorithm, that’s a risk. You might have risk that all of your payments are coming through one payment processor and they cut you off. That’s a risk.

You know, there’s hundreds and hundreds of risks in companies, and the more you can minimize risk, well, the easier time you’re going to have running the business. And if one day you want to scale, the less risks you have, the higher the valuation you’re going to have as well.

Justin Donald: And also, this is a means of simplification too. So, I think that the more simplified you can make your business, just the better it is, the easier it is to scale. And so, to all my friends who are out here because I got a lot of friends that are like, “Well, I would never sell my business,” or, “My business is a passion project,” or, “I love work in the hours that I’m working.” The other thing you talked about like how markets change and marketing changes and algorithms change and people change. So, today you may be happy with the way that it is but in five years you may not be. You may want to have the system so that someone else can move in and can run it. Or you may want to be able to raise money. Maybe you don’t ever sell it but you bring in a private equity partner for like 5% or 10% of your business or maybe more where you still own it, you still maintain control but you get a higher valuation and you’re more apt to have the competition of people that come in to put money into it because it’s system driven.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Look, at the end of the day, even if you don’t want to sell to your point, if you’re more efficient, you’ll be more profitable. Everyone wants more profitability. Everyone wants more time. You could reinvest that time. If I could save you 5 hours or 10 hours a week, which is kind of that sweet spot of the average, we’re able to save people and you were literally just to spend that time reading books or playing chess or spend time with your family or going on that trip that you’ve always wanted to do, that’s a win, too. I just want to give you back the wasted time and you can decide for yourself the best way to reinvest that. That’s not up to me to decide. You can reinvest that purely in personal or whatever but I would say that it’s pretty hard to argue that no one on the face, no logical, reasonable human being wouldn’t want more money and more time at the same time. And if you want to use all of that to grow your business, to sell, great. You want to use it to better work-life balance and spend time with your new kids, great. Whatever it is, that’s up to you and that’s really the impact that I’m trying to make here.

Justin Donald: I love it. And by the way, I’m excited because we spoke offline about how we may end up doing a Lifestyle Investor Mastermind specialized session with some of these enhanced efficiencies and tools and protocols and systems. And I’m very excited about that. Excited to discuss this more. And to those of you that are members listening or watching this, I think that’s going to be a lot of fun.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: I would love to do that with your members.

Justin Donald: Yeah. I mean, there’s so much opportunity here. And I just think that at the end of the day, my biggest points or framework that I’m shouting from the mountaintops are to buy your time back. So, if there is ever something that was in alignment with who I am, what I do, what I believe, the things that I want to teach other people, it’s this. It’s to optimize efficiencies so you can buy your time back, so you can spend it doing the things that fill you up the most, that give you the most energy, that make you feel the most fulfilled, that are the people that you want to be around the most. You buy that time back to create the lifestyle that you desire. You know, for me, I took a year off where I wasn’t working and I found projects to work on. I’d go crazy if I wasn’t doing something. Like, I think most people are that way but there’s a sweet spot. I don’t want to work a crazy amount of hours but I want to work on something that’s fulfilling that I’m passionate about, that I have fun with, with people that I thoroughly enjoy. And really, for me, that sweet spot is like 25, 30 hours a week. Like, that to me is just wonderful.

I love having my Mondays and Fridays off and I can spend them the way that I want. And I love to dig in with three consecutive days on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and to get into the details. And even with Lifestyle Investor, we have transitioned to more of a system-based business. And we’re always like every day, every week we’re trying to become more system oriented as well because that really is what’s best for the internal team and it’s really what’s best for the external clients and customers.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: Yeah. No, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Justin Donald: I love it. Well, Nick, where can we find out more about you, more about Get Levered, get your book? Like, tell us about where we can dive in more and learn more about your projects, your protocols, just all the cool work that you’re doing.

Nicholas Sonnenberg: So, we have a website, That’s where people can find out more information. The book again is coming out February 7th and on the website, we’ve got a bunch of bonus material that’s mentioned throughout the book. So, that’s just totally free. Go and check it out. We’ve also created a special deal for people listening to this podcast and within your community,, and we’ve got some special packages which include the book and some of the products and services that we offer. So, go and check that out. And then on, that’s where we do all the training and consulting so you can go and check that out and inquire. But just the book alone, the book is really meant to serve as that employee manual that you never got. So, do yourself and your team a favor and get everyone on your team a copy of the book so people can start off super aligned on how to work together. Because once you hire someone and they start getting busy, it’s really hard to backtrack and teach them how to use some of these tools, right? So, get people set up on the right foot and it’s going to pay dividends in the long term.

And, yeah, on the training side of things, on, we found that things like teaching people how to use inbox zero with Gmail and Outlook or how to use Asana properly. We’ve got a lot of group trainings as well as some private consulting offers that you can check out there if you want a little bit more help along the way.

Justin Donald: I love it. Nick, this is great. Thanks so much for spending the time with us and just sharing your words of wisdom, sharing your expertise. I mean, the thing that you have built a career around, that you’ve been working on for years and years and years, decades. So, we appreciate that. We appreciate your knowledge. And then I love to end every episode by asking our listeners one simple question, which is this: What’s the one step that you can take today to move towards financial freedom and the life that you truly desire, a life that’s on your terms, not a life by default like most people find themselves in but a life by design? Thanks. And we’ll catch you next week.

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