Thinking BIG! Naresh Vissaadmin
Giving up your job is cool. Becoming an entrepreneur is cool. He's also a #1 bestselling author. He's got a book that just came out called, The Fifty Shades of Marketing, we're going to have to talk about this one, with the sub-headline, "Whip Your Business Into Shape and Dominate Your Competition," where he talks about how you can improve your marketing using current digital resources. Awesome book.
I'm sure we're going to talk about that, but also, he released a primer on podcasting production and monetization. This is back in 2014, so a couple of years ago, and it's called, "The Podcastnomics: The Book of Podcasting to Make You Millions." Also a #1 bestseller on Amazon and still in the bestseller list in the Top 10. Somebody that we're going to get a lot of information from. His name is Naresh Vissa. Got that right this time, right? Close?
You got it, Lance. You got it.
It's a pleasure to be on.
I'm glad that you are here. First of all, you know one thing that I always love is you were an employee. I know you went to a great school. You turned down all kinds of stuff and you ended up working for yourself. How did that all sort of come about and what was that like? I know for me it was like this scary thing when I decided, "I'm turning my back on corporate America."
First off, that's a really, really good question because the way I grew up, it was kind of the status quo, cultural way of going to school, going to a good school, going to graduate school, a good graduate school, getting a good corporate job, and being at that corporate job forever. Just work your way up. Spend the 20+ years and ultimately become a vice president and have a pension and live happily ever after.
For me, business really got me thinking. I knew very early on when I was in college that I just was not cut out for the corporate world because I'm not good with bureaucracy, I'm not very good with being told what to do. In this case, it was not being told what to do. I felt like the corporate environment was moving at such a snail's pace and I was finding myself very bored, doing tedious tasks, which at the time I was thinking, "Why don't they just hire interns to do such tedious work or outsource this stuff to India?" This was when outsourcing wasn't as big as it is today. Now those companies are doing just that. They're either hiring contractors or they're outsourcing.
Anyway, the whole entrepreneurship thing, it fell into my lap. While I was in graduate school, I was in business school, and while I was there, I still had this mentality of I want to become as an entrepreneur, but I don't know what I want to do, so I'll just work in the corporate world and maybe figure it out. I had a goal of working on Wall Street, either Wall Street or in consulting, so I was interviewing at all these big banks, big consulting companies. You know, Deloitte and J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo. Just these big, big corporate entities that are household names.
While I was doing that, out of the blue, a company, it was a small business with maybe at the time a little more than 100 employees, and they were part of a bigger business that had maybe 2,000 employees globally, so it wasn't a huge company, but they found me on LinkedIn. We can talk later about the importance of LinkedIn. They found me on LinkedIn after they plugged in a few keywords and they contacted me. They said, "We really like your background and we want to talk to you about a consulting opportunity to get a project up and running."
Long story short, I took on that project while I was in school. After I graduated with my Master's, I moved to Maryland to take over that project because it was doing very well. That company happened to be probably the leader in financial marketing and one of the biggest and best companies in direct-response marketing. This was back earlier in this decade, 2011, or even earlier than that, but the online and digital economy wasn't as big as it is today. This was when it was still growing. I was exposed to an entirely new ecosystem, which was the digital economy and the opportunities that existed within it. I really learned the ins and outs while I was at this company and I saw firsthand how lucrative the online and digital space can be. That gave me the vote of confidence that, "Hey, if I ever wanted to go out on my own, these skills that I'm learning at this company are going to come in incredibly, not even handy, that I am going to be utilizing these skills in whatever I do."
That's how I got my entrepreneurial career started. It was first being an intrapreneur, so started a new division for this company as a project lead and then going out on my own, starting my first business, which was a consulting business. Since then, writing a couple of books. Starting a few publishing companies. Sold my stake in one of the companies and now running two companies.
It's really funny as you're telling this story. First of all, to go to grad school for business at Duke University, which is like amazing to go get to do and then go, "I don't want to go work in the corporate world." It's funny how like your perspective, what's amazing to me is you say, "It was a small company. It had 100 employees. They worked for this thing with 2,000 employees." I'm thinking, "Man, a lot of people that go out and start businesses, that's the ultimate pie-in-the-sky dream to have a company that big."
It's interesting for me with your business background and you go in and interview in at all of these big corporate entities, that had to have been really helpful in you going out and starting your own stuff with that mindset of, "Well, 100 people. That's small. I can do that." Where most people, they think, "Wow, it would be awesome to have an employee." I thought that was really interesting about the way that that was just so second nature to you, how you said it.
The schools that I went to, they were both good schools academically, that have good reputations, and the employers were recruiting out of the schools. I'm talking huge, huge industry-leading companies with minimum 50,000+ employees. J.P. Morgan, they probably have more than 200,000 employees worldwide. Somewhere around there. These are humongous companies. Going from interviewing and interning and working at these humongous companies to a company with 120 employees, that's a huge change.
My outlook, even when I was in school, both undergrad and graduate school, my outlook was never about joining a company and being there forever. Instead, I actually wanted freedom in my life from the start. By freedom, I wanted to be able to work my own hours. I wanted to be able to have control over my work. I wanted to be able to spend quality time with friends and family and also have quality time to myself. I wanted to be able to pursue my hobbies and my side projects which, at the time, I always wanted to be an author and I knew that if I was working a full-time job at a big bank, writing a book would be incredibly difficult concurrently. There's no way I could come home at 9:00 at night and have the energy and the enthusiasm to write even 500 words a night.
My goal, and I know this sounds kind of bad, but when I was in school, I wanted to put in the least amount of work for the greatest amount of return, whether it was in school or in business. Now, you fast-forward, we're in 2016 and I now have three different businesses. All of them are generating cash flow right now. I live at home on Tampa Bay, so on the actual bay. I'm looking out my window and I can see the bay right in front of me. It's the Gulf of Mexico. I have my own schedule. I basically have all the freedom that I could have ever asked for in my life.
Now, it sounds too good to be true, but there are some caveats. Was it easy to get here? No, it wasn't. Were there months where I got paid nothing or close to nothing? Yes. Did lawsuits happen and I was scared for my future? Yes. Did some businesses fail? Yes, and I did have to shut a couple of them down. It's not easy. You can't just quit your job or if you're in school listening to this, you can't just be like, "Oh, I want to be like him and I'm just going to move to a beach and start-
All you have to do is live on the beach, right?
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
You started this thing and you go to work for this company and you start your consulting company, right? You're not really an employee when you're coming out. They hired you as a consulting and on your own. You almost kind of got your start as owning your own consulting firm.
Let me explain. That actually goes back to even before graduate school. It goes back to college. When I was interning the summer after my freshman year at a terrestrial radio station, before there was such a thing as a podcast app and before iTunes was big, I interned there. It was a business radio station. They liked my work and they said, "Hey, can you contract your services out to us while you're in school?" I told them, I said, "I'd be glad to do it."
They were paying me very well. I was only a sophomore in college and I was making a very ... I mean, I probably made more money than what minimum-wage workers would probably make full-time if they worked 40 hours a week and I was doing it part-time. It wasn't a lot of money. It wasn't enough to cover my tuition, but I was still getting paid. That led me to get even more clients while I was still in college.
Fast-forward to when I'm in graduate school and this company found me on LinkedIn. It's because I had on my LinkedIn profile my previous experience contracting out to terrestrial radio stations and then making the switch over to podcasts because my undergrad was heavily-focused on media, journalism, media studies, and areas like that. You fast-forward to graduate school, I had this own mini-business and I never wanted to pursue it full-time because I always thought, "Oh, I'm just going to end up working a corporate job, so I don't need to incorporate. I'll just make some money here and there and get some good experience and get a job out of school that's a little better than entry-level."
This company finds me on LinkedIn, while I'm servicing probably three or four other clients at the same time. They just became another client to me. They were just another client. Things got really serious about four to five months in. They were saying, "Hey, come up. Start visiting us in the offices. We want you to start meeting people and visiting us." Then one day they said, "Can you take this on full-time because you helped build this up? You've been the brains behind it. Can you take it over full-time?"
I was actually very hesitant to take it over because when you're used to being recruited by those big companies I mentioned before and now all of a sudden you have this 100-person company that doesn't have a brand name, that nobody's really ever heard of, you start kind of doubting it. Like, "Should I give up that brand name? That would go on my resume."
This company gave me an offer that just blew all the other companies out of the water. It wasn't just the money and the benefits and the freedom, so I could work remotely. They had a gym in the office. They gave me a personal trainer. They paid for all my moving expenses. It came with all these cool perks outside of the standard corporate stuff, as well.
More importantly than the money and the perks, they were paying me that money for a reason. It was because they wanted me to be the guy. They gave me a lot of responsibility to really get this project up and running. That's what I wanted. Whereas, when you're out of school working at a large company, you're at the bottom of the totem pole. You're not given much responsibility and you're really not treated equally. You're viewed as the guy who is going to do all the work and who is going to stay late because you're 22, 23, 24 years old.
That's how I got started with this company. I did work full-time for them. Still, when I was working full-time, again on the side I cut down on my clients, but on the side I was still servicing my older clients and the company I worked for was well-aware of that and they said, "We're okay with that as long as there are no competing interests and as long as you continue to do a good job here."
I know you mentioned you studied media in undergrad. How do you go from this consulting company, this other consulting company on the side, to writing a book about podcasting?
Yep. Well, the division that I started for this company was an online radio network, so it was a podcasting network specifically for financial business and financial shows. We built this network up. We recruited talent. We built this network up to well over a million-plus downloads within a year. We were monetizing. This was, again, before podcasting was as big as it is today, but we were able to monetize the show really through three revenue drivers, which are laid out in my book, Podcastnomics, but the three revenue drivers were advertising, selling the existing product that the company sold, which was investment research, and then coming out with premium paid content, so charging users to listen to additional paid content.
My experience there growing this network from scratch while I was a graduate student at Duke to a couple of years later, growing it into a seven-figure business led me to write the book, Podcastnomics, a couple years after that. I left the company. I guess already had my consulting clients and immediately, after I'd left the company I was working for, immediately had five or six clients. Cash flow was not an issue. It's almost like I gave myself a 20% raise. I had a couple of very, very big clients, too. I had no non-competes, so I was able to really go into that consulting business all in, full-time. Unlike when a few years before when I was a student, I was just doing it on the side, never thought I would do it full-time. I went all in.
You know what I love about you? It's like you think so much bigger than most entrepreneurs. You think in terms of these giant projects. Even as you're describing what you built with this podcasting network, most people think, "I'm going to make a podcast," and you go out and create your own basically online radio show with podcast.
What's interesting about it is, I'm trying to piece together how you got where you're at and it's like you have this background in media and terrestrial radio, you basically, it sounds like, you took a lot of that knowledge and said, "Well, I'm going to do this online and I'm going to fund it by advertising." You went out and got shows, just like any other terrestrial radio company would do, but what I love that's different is you not only created this thing which was driving revenue through advertising, it was really built to sell the current company that was building the network, their own products, and then premium paid services after that.
You built this thing with this vision of, "Wow, other people are basically going to pay us. Other people are going to promote us. At the end of the day, what we're really doing is building this traffic network to sell our stuff at the end of the day." I mean, genius.
Exactly. You nailed the business model right there. That business model that you just laid out was the genesis of the book, Podcastnomics, which is still selling hundreds of copies every month. I'm just astounded by it because I wrote the book largely as a result of the lack of accurate information on podcasting. This is, again, back in early 2014 when I started writing it. There was such a dearth of information and people didn't even know what podcasting was. I said, "You know what? There's a need here. I'm tired of doing all these sales calls trying to explain to people what a podcast is, why they should be doing it. Let me just put it all down in writing and publish it. That way people can see for themselves."
Now it's gone on to sell close to 5,000 copies. It's available in print, paperback, and audiobook. I get emails every week. People tweeting me on Twitter saying it really helped them in getting their podcast started and the revenue drivers made sense, the business models made sense.
One thing with terrestrial radio that I never really, until I started to understand business and business models, terrestrial radio was so dependent on advertising. During the 80's and 90's, that was okay because pre-dotcom, pre-internet, it was harder to track the return on advertising. You had advertisers signing up saying, "I'll pay the $5,000 a month to advertise on your show," because they couldn't really track the data and they were okay with being associated with big brands.
Now, in today's 21st Century digital era, you know exactly when you're advertising, how many clicks you're getting, how many listeners you're getting, how much revenue you're making, what your ROI is. That's why these old-school terrestrial radio stations, local TV, even national TV, they're really, really struggling. Print media. Old-school print media. They're struggling because there were so dependent on advertising and advertisers now, they have that data in front of them. If a campaign doesn't work out, they know, "Okay, well this publisher, they're not a value to my target market. There's no point in me dropping $1,000, $2,000. We tested it once and we're not going to try it again."
What's interesting, too, is the mistake that they made that you sort of capitalized on with your model was they were dependent on the first revenue stream, which for you, I'm just guessing was that was just the funding of the project. That's how you self-funded. Then all of a sudden, the real thing is selling your own products and if you look at local TV, terrestrial radio still, it's like that's what they missed the boat on was the real revenue stream was now they've got these listeners, sell them your stuff rather than just trying to sell advertising.
Yes. Exactly. I actually, in Podcastnomics, I list advertising as the third revenue stream. The one that should come after the selling the existing product and premium content. Again, it's largely because I've seen it happen over and over again where people, they come out with a business and when investors ask them, "Well, how are you going to monetize?", they say, "Oh, I'll do it through advertising." It's just so, so difficult to do that. There's only one Facebook. There's only one Google Adwords.
There are other ways you can sell advertising, but that old-school way of just broadcasting something on TV or the radio and hoping that advertisers will come to you, that's not really going to work anymore.
You know, what I love about this book, and I think everybody, if you're in any kind of business or marketing or whatever, you need to read this. I think the one thing that's going through my head is at first I think somebody's listening to this going, "Well, great. I don't want to go start a whole network." Well, maybe you do, because what I love about the way that you talked about this was you went out basically and got people that wanted to talk about your subject and they created the content. All you had to do is record it, get it put up, and all that stuff.
Even if not, this same thing, you can do this in any niche at all, but even still this model, this is what the top people in iTunes are doing. I mean, this is why you can have people. To a large extent, this is what I'm doing, right? I have other people that come on. I get to talk about business. The way that you lay this out, I mean, it's so simple and it makes so much sense. I think I don't want it to get lost on anybody listening that it has to be this giant, huge network of stuff. It can be and that would be something great to strive for, but this applies to you if you're a solo-preneur. This applies to you if you've got, you know, a niche that you are really passionate about. The way that you've got this laid out, it applies from one person to however big you want to go.
Right. You don't need to build a big network. In this case, a company hired me and the company already had capital and 100+ employees, so I had some resources given to me and it was easier to grow a network, to recruit individuals, to market the shows. If you're just a solo-preneur, you don't need to come out with a network. That can be a tall order, but it's definitely a good idea to keep in mind.
In fact, the other day I met with a group of individuals who want to start a podcasting network, not necessarily in the financial space, which is what I focused on when I got started, but in a different niche. We started brainstorming and hammering out what each show would focus on or each podcast would focus on. Every podcast would have a specific topic and every episode in that podcast would only be about that topic.
You might think, let's say for example, you want to, and this is just a complete example, let's say you want to do sort of a political podcasting network. It's all about politics. Now, you can come out with a network by coming out with new podcasts with different hosts for each podcast that focus on a different topic. One podcast can only be about economic issues. The other podcast can only be about LGBT issues. The third podcast can only be about the role of church, the separation of church and state or the role of religion in politics. Basically with politics, that's such a broad topic, you can come out with 100 different podcasts with 100 different hosts who only focus on that topic. That's just an example of what I mean by a podcasting network and growing a podcasting network.
Awesome. I mean, super cool. You write that and now I know you've got this other project that you're working on now which, again, it's funny to me because I watch this progression of you and there's these little glimpses of your past in all of them, but then you're doing these completely different things. You kind of mentioned, "I like to do my passions. I like to have my hobbies." You've got this new project that you're working on now.
Yes. Well, which new project? There's a couple of projects I'm working on.
You've got this the Moneyball Trader, which is something completely different than anything that we've even talked about. What is that?
Yep, so Moneyball Economics is the name of our startup. It is about a year old and what we do with Moneyball Economics, we are an investment publisher. We use 21st Century data, so 21st Century big data. We analyze it and, based on that data, we forecast broad economic data and we also give individual investment recommendations on publicly-traded companies.
Your question was, how did I get involved with this? How did this happen? My background was heavily in media. I talked about the media side, but it was also on the financial side. When I started this podcasting network, I mentioned that I worked at the top financial marketing company in the world. They're also the largest private and independent investment publisher in the world.
Now, the business model I laid out earlier with the podcasting network, I did not come up with that model. It wasn't until I started working at the company and learned that publishing business that I came up with the model because it was just experience and learning. Being involved, even though I ran the podcasting network, I was still heavily involved in the publishing side of the business. That's what got me into the publishing industry and specifically the investment and financial publishing industry.
Moneyball Economics, I was working on a project through my consulting company a couple years ago in Silicon Valley. I was working for a large mutual fund. Not large, they're kind of medium-size. Maybe even small mutual fund there. I met a guy who's now my business partner, Andrew Zatlin, and he's nicknamed, "The Moneyball Economist". We were introduced by a mutual friend. We met up and this guy is just brilliant. He's a former economist at Cisco during the dotcom boom. Cisco, the tech company. He was covered by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg and all these publications saying that this guy is just so accurate when it comes to his economic forecasts and analysis.
I approached him and I said, "Hey, man. I understand. I have a good read on the pulse of the digital economy, the digital world, digital entrepreneurship, online marketing. You've got a good pulse of data and statistics and investing. I think we should join forces and actually publish your stuff to the public and sell it. Sell that research to the public because they'd be very interested." He was game for it. He said, "You know, anything. That sounds good to me." He was already running his own company, but he was only selling his research to institutional clients, so those big banks that I brought up earlier. Big banks, big consultancies. That's who he was selling his research to. I said, "We need to bring this to the mainstream."
That was a genesis of Moneyball Economics. It has a name "Moneyball" because of our big-data approach to looking at the economy and investing. Really, at the end of the day, it's all about the data. There's so many financial gurus out there who tell you what to invest in based on emotion or based on these trends that don't matter. What we do, however, is we look at the 21st Century data that actually matters and we compare that data to what Wall Street is saying. Based on that, we're able to give our recommendations on whether to buy or short or sell a company.
Our Moneyball Trader is our paid product for Moneyball Economics. That's a part of Moneyball Economics. It's a weekly trading advisory. Every week we send out three to four recommendations that our subscribers should make. Really what we do is we take the guesswork out of trading using our big data, proprietary models. The returns have been just out of this world. We're up about 70% since launching and we're up about 50% now year-to-date. We launched in November of 2015.
Killing the [crosstalk 00:30:33].
Killing. We're beating the market by about 60-70%.
Yeah. Awesome. One thing that I love about that besides great business, great model and all that, is how you came together with somebody. I think so many times people think, "Well, I can't do that." What I love is you're like, "Well, I'm good at the digital side. Here's a guy that knows the economics. We need to get these two together and collaborate." I think there's a huge lesson in that as far as you can do anything you want, you just got to get the right people around you.
Yes. This guy didn't even have a website. This guy, he was introduced by a mutual friend and there was just no trace of him outside of the Wall Street Journal covered him. Outside of these big articles, there was just nothing. When I met up with him, I said, "What's the deal?" He simply said, "I'm a small company. I don't have time to create a website or do any of that stuff. I don't know how to do any of that stuff. All I do, I just enjoy looking at the data and sharing my thoughts on the data with my clients. That's all I do."
Match made in heaven.
So awesome. I think that this whole, your progression, just should connect with a lot of people just as far as what you have been able to do, how you've been able to do it. Where can people go to find out more about you, what you're up to, your books, your companies? Things like that.
Yep, so you can visit podcastnomics.com if you're interested in the podcasting book. There's also a newsletter mailing list you can subscribe to. I hit that list. I send out tidbits on the digital world, on entrepreneurship, on podcasting, on marketing about once a week, so you can get some tips if you get on that list.
For Moneyball Economics, we're actually giving away a free report at moneyballeconomics.com. It's called, "The Rise of Hookernomics". That's what the report's called. It's a free report, so you can check it out there. If you're interested in the Moneyball Trader paid weekly trading advisory, that's themoneyballtrader.com.
Awesome. Well, I super appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule away from three of your companies to talk about some of this. I think there's a ton of great lessons, a ton of great actionable things, and some great ideas for anybody that's listening to this. Thank you very much for being here. Everybody else, we'll see you on the next episode of The Lance Tamashiro Show. Have a great day, everyone.