Does the state of our economy have you worried as a business owner? I hear you.

Navigating the constant changes in marketing is tough enough. Throw in the changing economy, and you could be left reeling if you aren’t prepared.

Russell Brunson, the CEO and co-founder of ClickFunnels, has waded through a recession once before. He’s experienced difficulties and failures, but has managed to come out ahead back then and now.

In today’s show, Russell shares with us the secrets that helped his business during times of economic trouble, and how you can protect and GROW your business even when the economy is in shambles.

Russell gives us clarity on why…

– you may need to change who you are marketing to.

– customer relationships must be nurtured.

– you have to be open to pivoting.

– you always need to be connected to your audience.

– continuity is required.

– you NEED to think OUTSIDE the box.

…and MORE.

You may not be able to control the economy, but you CAN control when you SHOW UP.

Key Points

00:40 Introduction to Russell Brunson

01:15 Changes in the Economy

01:58 Russell’s Experience with Previous Recession

02:47 Ad Costs Going Up

03:04 Building a Funnel to Acquire More Customers

03:13 Nurturing/Building the Customer Relationships you Have 

03:58 Marketing to the Affluent 

06:28 Leveraging Your Warm Audience

07:42 Facebook Doesn’t Really Care About the Little Marketers; What Should Those Marketers Do? Free Platforms for Ads; Purchasing Companies with Customer Lists; Thinking Outside the Box

11:17 Trying New Things, Mistakes, and Failing Along the Way

12:52 Still Failing

14:20 Money Follows Speed

14:56 You Can’t Control the Economy, but You Can Control When You Show Up

15:05 Pivoting Offers and Pivoting Messaging; When Do You Know it’s the Right Time to Pivot?

19:09 Always Open to Pivoting 

19:30 Always Be Connected to Your Customers and Audience

22:39 Creating Time to Think/Study/Come Up With Ideas

23:39 How Does Russell Handle the Pressure of Being a CEO?

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READ THE EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Emily Hirsh: You are listening to The Not For Lazy Marketers, episode number 427.

Emily Hirsh:
All right, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I have such an exciting guest for you today. Russell Brunson is joining me, who everybody in the digital marketing space knows, and I am so honored to have this interview because Russell, as I think with many people, was my introduction into my business, online marketing, and I joined Inner Circle… It was five years ago the first time I joined when I was starting my business. So, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast, Russell.

Russell Brunson:
Yeah. Glad to be here. So good to see you again.

Emily Hirsh:
I know. It’s so good. So, I am super excited. And my first kind of thing I want to dive into that I’m so excited to get your perspective on is, obviously so much is changing with the industry right now, the economy. You’ve been around the block multiple times. I have not, and so I’m like, “What should we be looking out for?” I know in your last book you wrote, you kind of were like, “Something’s coming, get prepared,” and a lot of your predictions that you had have started to come true.

Emily Hirsh:
So, I’m just curious, where do you see the industry, digital marketing, going in the next one to two years? And if you are specifically focused on things in preparation for that, or we’re kind of in it? So, over the next two years where your focus is as a business.

Russell Brunson:
Definitely. We’re definitely in the middle of it, so it’s been interesting because, like you said, I’ve had a chance to go through one big cycle like this, and so this is kind of, I guess, the second one. And it’s funny, because the first time it hit, the lag was slow. This when all the real estate market was crashing, all this kind of stuff. And as an internet marketer, digital marketer, I was just like, oh, I thought we were above the law and everything. And it hit all of us, but it was later, it was like 12 months, 18 months later is when it also hit. The impact from what happened there ended up hitting our industry.

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah.
Russell Brunson:

I think that’s one thing is, I’m nervous that a lot of people in our industry is that right now they’re like, oh it’s not affecting me right now. It’s like, “Yeah, but something. It hits, and the impact will hit us later.” And so, it’s definitely big on preparing those things. So… Excuse me. And I have a cold, so hopefully I don’t cough too much through this. But a couple things. One of them that I think is really big for people to understand is that, and you’re seeing it right now obviously with Facebook and with other ads, ad costs are going up. I think there’ll be a time when it drops again. But there’s this time where it’s like the businesses aren’t structured correctly. It’s going to be too expensive for them to acquire new customers.

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah.

Russell Brunson:
And so, a couple things. Number one is, and I obviously I’m the funnel guy, so for me, it’s like learn how to build a funnel that lets you spend more money to acquire customers so you can get people in.

Russell Brunson:
But number two is, if you get to the point where you can’t, then it comes back down to really nurturing the customer relationships that you have. Right? Because some people, there may be a 12-month, 18-month, year-and-a half window, where you’re not able to spend to acquire new customers, because it’s gotten too expensive or whatever.

Russell Brunson:
So, if you are not doubling down on building relationship and creating good offers and those things with your existing audience, you could be in trouble. And I’ve had seasons like that in the last recession, where there was no… I couldn’t buy ads for a long time. And the relationship with my list and my audience, that helped us to endure and live beyond during that time.

Russell Brunson:
I think another interesting thing is, and I think you probably know this, but I recently bought my mentor’s company, Dan Kennedy. And I remember when I first got into his world is when the recession hit. And at the time, I remember he launched a book called Marketing to the Affluent. He had a newsletter called Marketing to the Affluent. And that was his whole conversation, like 2008, 2009, was what he was talking about.

Russell Brunson:
And so, last month I did an interview with Dan, and I specifically asked him. I was like, “I remember the last time this whole thing happened. This is where you kept talking to everybody.” I was like, “Talk about that more.” And it was really cool because he kind of refocused my brain on understanding that when the markets like this shift, it’s not that money just disappears, it’s that it’s transferred. Right? It moves around, and wealth is not something that gets smaller. It just gets transferred around.

Russell Brunson:
And so, what he talked about is, you have to start positioning your businesses where during times where everything’s positive, you can sell to consumers and everybody. During times of inflation and recession and all these things that are happening, he drew this pyramid. He’s like, “Traditionally, this is where most of the money is made is in the middle of the pyramid. That’s where all of us are marketing to and all of our ads and everything are focused on.” He says that during this time, these people in the middle, their income drops lower down this pyramid, so they have less money.

Russell Brunson:
But the affluent, they still have the money. You have to start transitioning your products and your services to market more to the affluent, to people who actually have money, because they still have disposable income. They still have these things, whereas a lot of others don’t.

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah.

Russell Brunson:
Those are some of the things that I’m thinking about a lot is just relationship with my audience. Attracting people who are more affluent, and building funnels so I can continue to acquire customers. And then, those things are a lot of the things at the top of my mind, for sure.

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. And I feel like we’ve been in this for a year, from my perspective because iOS is what started it for a lot of us. So, I feel almost this time around, like you were saying, digital marketing didn’t get hit, but I almost feel like-

Russell Brunson:
Getting hit up front.

Emily Hirsh:
… we’re getting hit first, and the tech industry’s getting hit first, and then hopefully we get out of it first. Who knows. But I feel like last year iOS is what changed it, because ad costs went up, and it really made people, if they didn’t have the sales conversion on the back end, had to figure it out.

Emily Hirsh:
And I think there’s slightly a purge happening, which is kind of what a recession does. Right? You either step up, or you don’t, and you’re done in that time period. And I think it’s pushing people who don’t have, like you said, the back end, and a real solid business backend.

Emily Hirsh:
And about the leveraging your warm audience, I swear every one of our clients we’ve had to create some sort of flash sale, flash promotion, cash infusion in the last two months to do exactly that and leverage the warm audience. So, I think that’s really important for people, and it shows what you’ve been doing the last couple of years hasn’t been good enough. Is now going to shine the light on that for sure.

Russell Brunson:
And what’s interesting, though, if you think about this, this is also, if you look at historically, all the big companies nowadays are the ones who, for the most part, started or survived during the worst times.

Russell Brunson:
And so, it’s kind of fascinating. If we’re able to figure out the skill sets to be able to do well during this little window, which who knows if it’s a year, if it’s three years, whatever that the window is, that’s… The next decade afterwards will become the biggest because there’s no… All of the competitors, all of the noise, all this stuff starts falling away, and then we inherit in 18 months from now or whatever it looks like, a market where ads are back to normal. We don’t have all the competitors, all that kind of stuff, and we have this window of time where you can really just really dominate.

Emily Hirsh:
Right. The opportunity is there again. Yeah, resets it and I think is going to make ads less expensive again, because it’s going to push out those people.

Emily Hirsh:
You put in your last book, you said basically, which it’s stuck with me since I read it because it’s true, Facebook doesn’t really care about the little marketers. They actually want the people with the huge ad spends, and they unfortunately make it harder for businesses who aren’t spending millions on ad spend.

Russell Brunson:
Yeah.

Emily Hirsh:
Do you feel like… So many people are not a business spending millions on ads, so what should they do if that’s the case? And we’re moving into the place where it does feel like those businesses who are trading dollar for dollar, who don’t have a lot of budget, they just are struggling to market everywhere.

Russell Brunson:
Yeah. There’s different mindsets. Part of it is just looking at where attention…. Attention shifts and moves places. Right? And I talk about it in the book. Usually when the attention shifts to a new platform, usually it’s cheaper, or it’s free for a while. And look right now, that’s what’s happening with TikTok. Right? TikTok, attention’s shifting there, right now it’s free. The algorithms serve people. So, there’s a good spot there, especially if you don’t have money, to go in there and play that game to get attention.

Russell Brunson:
There’s others, though, who you may not have millions of dollars in budget, but again, it comes down to just really figuring out how to increase… Dan Kennedy talks about us all the time. Whoever can spend the most money to acquire a customer win.
Russell Brunson:
So, how do you make it so you can spend more money to acquire a customer? I’ve been going back through all my funnels and all my sales processes, and really, it’s been fun because we have to look at it again. Like, “Okay, how do we do this differently? Instead of just having a funnel, how do we move some from funnel one to funnel two?” And as soon as we can connect that and bridge that gap, then it becomes really easy.

Russell Brunson:
The other interesting thing that we’ve been doing a lot of, that… I just recently started talking about this, and every time I do, the ears perk up because one thing we’re doing is we’re actually pretty aggressively buying companies right now. And you might think, “Oh, I don’t have money to buy a company,” but almost all of the acquisitions we have done over the last 12 months have not been something that’s cost me money out of my pocket.

Russell Brunson:
They’re businesses who are struggling now. Where the ad costs went up, whatever happened, and they got nervous, or they were stressed out, or they don’t want to do anymore, or whatever. And they’re just like, “I don’t want to do this business anymore,” and they’re not in a spot where they can sell to a venture capitalist or a PE firm or something like that. And so, they have this asset that’s valuable. There’s customers, there’s things like that, but they’re just kind of freaked out.

Russell Brunson:
And so, what I’ve been doing with these companies is, especially if they’re good fit in for front end for click funnels. Other times, it’s just because I see a really good opportunity. We’re coming and acquiring these companies, and we’re not even paying money up front, and we’re saying, “Hey, I’m going to buy this company for X amount of dollars, and we’re going to pay you from the revenues.”

Russell Brunson:
And they’re like, “Sure. Give him a contract.” And then, they give us the entire company. Now all of a sudden, we acquire a customer list of a million people or 10,000 people or 100,000 people. And now, I have this whole new customer list we can start marketing to that I just acquired literally for free. I make money from that list, and I paid the note back, and then when it’s done, I own the company, and I own the customers, and all that kind of stuff.

Russell Brunson:
And so, a lot of times, I can’t buy ads on Facebook, but can I buy a company who has, over the last five years, has been buying ads. Has a big customer list that now I can acquire that customer list and I can use them to sell my own products, or their products more efficiently, or whatever those things are.

Russell Brunson:
So, it’s just being creative. But man, if I can’t necessarily pay for the ads, can I get it for free on TikTok? Can I buy a company that has it? Can I do more joy ventures? Can I find other people who, again, have spent the last five years on Facebook building big sources of leads? And now we do cross-promotions and things like that. So, it’s just kind of thinking outside of the box a little bit.

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. And how you get to the end result, for sure. You just make it a non-negotiable to get to the success, and figure out what you need to change and do to get there.

Russell Brunson:
Yeah. For sure.

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. Okay. That’s cool to see, too, what you guys are doing. One of the things I always love about you is, you’re very creative with like, “Let’s try this and let’s try this,” and move super fast, and you just love what you do, and that comes through in everything that you do and how quickly you move. And you’re not afraid to fail. I think that’s also really cool. You’re not afraid to try something and be like, “Let’s see if it works, and then if it doesn’t, we’ll just keep going.” You’ve always embodied that as an example for people, and I loved learning that, especially when I’d come to Inner Circle and hear what you guys are up to next. It’s always something.

Russell Brunson:
Yeah. I think it’s fun. Because I think most people, they get nervous about trying stuff, or they’re afraid if they fail, they’re a failure. And I was lucky. I think a lot of times entrepreneurs who had a chance to do athletics have not more success, but they’re better at failing and not taking it personally. Right?

Emily Hirsh:
Yeah.

Russell Brunson:
And know some of the entrepreneurs I coach, the ones who are athletes, they can mess up and fail, and it’s just like, “Oh, I lost the basketball game. I’m going to go practice and then come back to the next game.” Whereas a lot of times people who haven’t, they have so much fear of, “Oh, if I fail…” Or, “I’m a failure,” and they’ve never done that thing where they fail, go practice, and come back and beat the person the next time. And business is the same way.

Russell Brunson:
It’s just like, “Okay, try it. Failed. Oh, okay. Well, let me try again.” And I think we always think that everyone’s looking. It’s like, “Oh, it’s a big failure.” But if I promote something, I email my list, I do a bunch of work, and it doesn’t work, you wouldn’t really know it was me and my team.

Russell Brunson:
I’ve had a chance, I’ve had offers that have completely flopped, and a dozen people maybe buy it. And those people are like “That was the best software ever.” I’m like “Really? Because you are the only person that bought it.” Don’t tell anybody else, but yeah.

Emily Hirsh:
And the learning from it. That’s what I always tell people. Even if you literally sell zero, but you’re able to have conversations and figure out what people want, and what you were missing, and how you can improve it next time, it’s not a lost effort. You just go to the next thing.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. So, you’re still failing even at your level right now, right?
Russell Brunson:
Oh, we made… I can’t tell you the details, but yeah. I made the biggest mistake of my entire life last year, and I’m paying for it right now, but nobody knows. And eventually we’ll clean it up to a point where it’s like, “Ah.”
Emily Hirsh:
And share it. Yeah.
Russell Brunson:
We acquired something we probably shouldn’t have, and it cost way more than it should have, and then it didn’t convert into… Yeah. So, it was a big mistake. It’s like, “Oh crap. Okay. Well, how do we…” What’s that phrase? I had to turn lemons into lemonade, or whatever’s. That’s kind of what. Like, “Okay, well, we have these assets. Didn’t work the way that we envisioned. What we do with this now?”
Russell Brunson:
And so now it’s become this fun thing of, let’s create something different, and now it’s finally starting to work. I’m like, “Okay, over time we thought this would be profitable within a year. It’s probably going to take us three or four years, but it’s still going to be good, just-”
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. Not exactly how you thought it was going to play out, but-
Russell Brunson:
Yeah.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. But the learning from it. And I just think that’s so important for people to see, because I think one of the two things that I’ve watched you do so much is that not afraid to fail, and then how quickly you get back up and try the next thing.
Emily Hirsh:
And I think that that speed is really important in business, too. And a lot of people get paralyzed when something doesn’t work, and then they just sit there for months and are wondering why they’re not making progress in their business.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah. I heard a quote from Joe Vitale when I first got started. So, this was probably 17, 18 years ago. And then he just recently wrote a book by this title as well, which is kind of interesting. But I remember him saying, he said, “Money follows speed.” And I remember thinking about that, because I was like, “Okay, well if that’s the case, I don’t want to sit around waiting. If money follows speed, okay, let’s move, and let’s have momentum is the key.” If you’re in momentum, things just start showing up.
Russell Brunson:
It’s when people aren’t, and they’re waiting, or they’re nervous, whatever, nothing can show up. But when you’re in momentum, you’re moving forward. Even if you’re making mistake after mistake, that’s when the right people start showing up. That’s when opportunities and things start showing up, because you’re moving forward. So, yeah.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. And the one thing you can control is how and when you show up. You can’t control the economy and all these other things, but you can control how you show up for sure.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. So, moving into that, on speed. I have a lot of clients, and I know so many business owners who are experiencing kind of pivoting right now. So, I want to ask your opinion on, there’s this balance, right, because you, coming into Inner Circle, you’re always like, “Everybody has multiple businesses. Cut it down to one. Focus.” Right?
Emily Hirsh:
And there’s the importance of focus, but then there’s also, I feel like, especially in times like now, the need to pivot. Pivot offers, pivot messaging. And I have personally had so many people be like, “Well, this worked a year ago, so I’m not going to change it. This offer worked.”
Emily Hirsh:
And so, talk to me a little bit about that, and when it’s the right time to pivot, or pivot an offer. And I know you’ve launched new things, or change things frequently in your career, and so let’s talk about that. Because I think it’s happening a lot right now, and the faster you pivot, I think the faster you’re going to make it through.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah, for sure. So, I’m a wrestler. Obviously in wrestling, we do this. When I’m wrestling somebody, and let’s say I take a shot, right, and I get the shot the first time. The guy knows, okay, Russell’s going to shoot a high crotch this side, and so this person starts adjusting and correcting. So, if I shoot it the second time, it’s usually not there. Right?
Russell Brunson:
And so with wrestling, I’m always… If you watch wrestlers wrestling, they’re moving, they’re juking, they’re trying to do different things. And I’m trying to figure out, where’s the opening? Where are you going to overreact? Where’s something going to happen? If I do this, he’s going to reach, therefore it opens up this angle for me to get in there. Right?
Russell Brunson:
When I speak on stage, it’s very similar. When I’m talking, we call these trial closes, but I’m like saying little things to get the… I’m getting the pulse of the audience. Like, “What are they doing? Are they reacting? Are they’re not reacting? What things do they…” And so I’m always doing these things when I’m on stage speaking, trying to get reactions to feel the audience. And then if they get more excited about something, I’m going to go deeper there. Or if they don’t, I kind of… I’m like, “Oh, that didn’t land. I’m going to shift over here.”
Russell Brunson:
And so, the same thing is true with our business. The reason why I podcast, and I post on social media, and I’m doing Instagram, and I’m doing all these kind of things, is I’m doing these trial closes. I’m doing these tests. I’m throwing little ideas out there and little hints and content and potential offers, and just to see what the reaction coming back is. And if nobody responds back, then I’m like, “Okay, I’m not going to do that.”
Russell Brunson:
Because I feel the same way. I’m always like, “Okay, this is going to shift. This may disappear. I got to know, what’s the next path, or what are people excited? What’s the pulse on the market today?” So I can make sure that I’m matching the offers and the messaging with that. A lot of times you can keep the same offers, just the messaging has to shift, right?
Emily Hirsh:
Yes. 100%. Yeah.
Russell Brunson:
But for example, the other day I had this idea for a product. And if I do this, it’s going to take a lot of time. But I was like, “I’m going to write a book called Marketing Secrets, but I want to co-brand it, so you could buy the rights and have Marketing Secrets for Dentists, or Marketing Secrets for Authors, whatever. And I’m not sure if I’m going to do this project or not, but if you’d be interested, let me know.”
Russell Brunson:
And I posted that on social, and I think I mentioned it also on a podcast. And from that I probably had 50 or 60 people hitting me up, like, “Oh my gosh, I would do that.” And so I’m hearing that, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s an offer that would actually be really, really cool.”
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah.
Russell Brunson:
I did something else where I had something. I can’t remember. It was some kind of event or something where I was like, “I’m thinking about doing this thing where I would teach about this,” whatever, and it something I was really passionate about. And I posted that, and no one said anything. I was like, “Okay, that’s not what they definitely what they wanted. I would’ve felt something coming back if that was the thing that they wanted.” Right?
Russell Brunson:
So, I was able to just kind of… I’m just testing, right? I’m pushing someone’s head to see if they’re going to overextend. I’m doing something just to see what’s happening. And so, I think that’s a big part of it is just, this is where the pivoting stuff happens. It’s something that shouldn’t be just like, “Oh crap, I’ve got to pivot.” It’s something always just like throwing little messages and ideas and just thoughts out there, seeing what people are responding to, and then looking, “Okay, wow. People are really interested in this concept or in this product or this offer. Let me go a little deeper down there.”
Russell Brunson:
And then you can test things. Right? And then doing a free offer, doing a small version, doing something small. And then if it’s like, “Okay, that worked really good.” Now that’s when it’s like, “I got to pivot. Okay. Well, I know this is what people were raising their hands for. Let me shift there.” And now you’ve got some ideas, as opposed to just guessing. Because guessing can be scary, especially if you guess wrong. Right? If I just go and shoot a shot on somebody at lunch, and I miss it, it’s not worth it.
Emily Hirsh:
And you put all this work into it and stuff. Yeah. So, I think the important thing that you’re saying is, you pretty much are always pivoting. You’re always at least open to pivoting and staying loose to that, and I think that’s something I’ve learned as a more very want-everything-in-control-and-systemized type of person. That’s not really business. You have to be open to things aren’t going to work how you thought they were, or you’re going to have to change something.
Emily Hirsh:
And then the second thing I think is always being connected to your customers and to your audience, because they have the answers. And so, if you don’t even have a big audience, you still can go find people to talk to, and you still can get on Zoom. And that’s something I tell people that are just starting out. Interview. I think Alex [Sharpen 00:18:56] teaches that, too.
Emily Hirsh:
And so, that connection to your audience and your customers is really important. And I’ve watched, I feel like, especially in our space, there’s this glorified thing of becoming super removed from your business, and it runs without you, which is great. But people do it really soon, and then they end up, six, 12 months down the line, paying for it because they got disconnected from their audience. They didn’t change anything. They kept doing the same exact thing with their marketing, their offer, and all that. And now, everything’s falling apart. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but I’ve definitely witnessed that-
Russell Brunson:
Oh yeah.
Emily Hirsh:
… a lot of times.
Russell Brunson:
All the time. It’s a big reason why people ask me, “Why are you still doing this? Why don’t you just be done?” I’m like, “First off, I love the game,” so that’s number one. Number two, if I don’t have my pulse on the market, what’s happening, then yeah, I can lose everything. And that scares me, too.
Russell Brunson:
I want to add one more because you gave two. The third thing I would say that also is helpful when you’re pivoting and thinking about pivots is… And I learned this, man, back in the day. I was studying Jay Abraham a lot. And I noticed Jay, he was not super creative, but Jay was really good. “What are people doing in this industry that they aren’t doing over here? And let me steal ideas and move it over here.” Right? And that’s a lot of what he’s doing.
Russell Brunson:
And I think for me, the reason why I launched my Inner Circle initially, is because I wanted to get a whole bunch of people from a bunch of different industries. Right? We had people like you who ran an agency. We had people who wrote software. We had people who were supplements. We had people… And so, it was really cool because I could see different industry, what people were doing, and look across the lines.
Russell Brunson:
One of the companies that we just closed on Friday, we haven’t publicly announced it yet, but it was a supplement company. Someone, you actually know them, they’re in Inner Circle. It was a very successful supplement company, and the ad cost went up.
Emily Hirsh:
I think I know who it is.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah. I don’t know if you know, we bought their company. Anyway.
Emily Hirsh:
Wow.
Russell Brunson:
But ad cost went up, product cost went up, and they understood a very traditional way to grow the business, and it was becoming, in that traditional way, not working very well. And so, they didn’t pivot. They’re like, “Ah, it’s not working. It’s not working.” So they decided to sell it.
Russell Brunson:
And so I looked at it. I said, wow, I understand that world. I didn’t understand why those levers aren’t working, but there’s this other industry over here, and if you just shift it to here, from here to here, this becomes a 100-million-dollar-a-year business, just by making a shift. And so, we were able to acquire it over here, knowing that this model’s not working as well as it was a year ago. We’re going to shift it to here. And I might be wrong. I might be gambling and it’s a dumb thing, but we’re in transition. And I think what’ll happen is going to pop.
Russell Brunson:
And it wasn’t me taking… Using same assets, same branding, same products, same everything, just shifting the model, and I think it’s going to explode. And that’s the bet I took on it. So, it’s same thing, looking at other industries to understand maybe the things that are in my line of sight that aren’t working, maybe there’s someone else that…
Russell Brunson:
And that’s when networking and going to events and just getting other ideas, listening to other podcasts where you’re getting ideas from people that think differently, that’s where it’s almost like, “Oh, I can just shift it like this, and then it magically works again. How do I do that?”
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. And that’s so important as a CEO, creating that time. That’s something that I remember when you told us that you had someone read books for you, and then summarize the books, and how much studying you do. But I really think everybody that I look up to as successful businesses creates time to just think, come up with ideas, look at what other people are doing, study. And, I mean, you’re so much knowledge because of all the books and studying you’ve done, and how much you love doing it, I feel like. But that’s really important that you step out of the day-to-day only what you can see, and you’re able to think differently and create that space for sure.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah.
Emily Hirsh:
Okay. There’s one more thing I want to ask before we wrap up, because I admire how big of a company you’ve built. And I know that I have 20 employees, and I always look at people who have way more employees and have so much more pressure. And I’ve been in places where it’s every two weeks count down to payroll, and you’ve got to get the money in, and that pressure at the size I’m at. How have you built protection and tolerance to that over the years, and handle that? Because I’d imagine, knowing what I know now, it still could probably be a lot. I mean, I’m sure you’re set up to where if something happens, you’re still fine, and that’s probably how. But, I mean, how do you handle all the employees, all the pressure, everything that’s on your shoulders as one person?
Russell Brunson:
Yeah. So, that is a great question, and I feel it a lot. I think last count between full-time employees and contractors, I think ClickFunnels is like 400 and something people.
Emily Hirsh:
Wow.
Russell Brunson:
That’s a lot of people. But I do remember the times that we had teams of 10 or 20 people, and having… The worst one ever was, I remember writing checks, and there wasn’t money in it. And I remember my friends calling me the next day, like, “We just bought something and our thing bounced. We looked in our-
Emily Hirsh:
Oh my God.
Russell Brunson:
Our check, it bounced. And what should I do? And what should I do? And I’m freaking out. I’m just like, “I don’t know.” I thought we had money in the account. Apparently we don’t. So, then… Oh, it’s the worst thing in the world.
Russell Brunson:
So, a couple things is like, number one is, Dave Frye actually told me this initially. I don’t know if you know David or not. But he said, “If you don’t have continuity, you don’t have a business. You can have a product or an offer, but if you don’t have continuity, you don’t have a business.”
Russell Brunson:
And so, a big part of it initially was like, if I wanted to grow a team, I have to have something that’s predictable and reliable. Right? And so when we had ClickFunnels, that was the first time I really had predictable income where it was recurring. We knew was coming in. And then, from that, we know what the budget. Employees are… I don’t know the number off the top of my head. My operations people know, but it’s whatever percentage of the residual coming in is employees.
Russell Brunson:
And so, we know this much of the budget goes towards employees. And so, based on that, we know how much we can hire, we can’t hire. And if the recurring goes down, that budget shrinks, we have to let people go. Because it’s a percentage of the whole, it’s never where like, “Oh, there’s no money this month. Right?
Russell Brunson:
I remember Chet Holmes, when he was still alive, his entire business, he had like 80 or 90 employees, and he structured some… And I haven’t done this, and I wish… If I was to start over business from scratch, I would try to figure out how to do this. But he built it where every single employee in the company was based on a percentage of the sale. And so, there was nobody on salary, nobody on whatever.
Russell Brunson:
And he said, “It was nice because big months we got big checks, small months we got small checks, but we were all in it together. We all knew what it was. So, there was never the fear because it was all just, you were getting… You, as the front desk, girl, got 0.5%. You as the person who this got 0.8%, whatever it was. But it was all figured out based on that. And it was really cool.
Russell Brunson:
But I think it’s structuring your business the way it works. The first times when I did have those problems, I was hiring people for a visual I was trying to create, as opposed to, we can only hire based on a percentage of the actual revenue that’s guaranteed to come in every month. Right? Not based on a product launch, but based on actual recurring.
Russell Brunson:
And number two is, and I think you’re moreso than this to me is my guess. I might be wrong. But I am not very operational, and I’ve tried for a decade to do operations, and I am just not an operational person. And so, I remember how I tried to set things up and have meetings and all these kind of things, and structure. It’d just be so stressful for me, and it never worked well, never stuck.
Russell Brunson:
And I think one of the key things is, every business, there’s three core personality types that you need to have in a business. Somebody who’s obsessed with whatever your product is, someone who’s obsessed with the marketing of the thing, and then the third is someone who’s obsessed with operations.
Russell Brunson:
And when we launched ClickFunnels, this is probably most entrepreneur-based companies. It was me and Todd, right? So Todd’s building the product, I’m doing the marketing. We’re like, “That’s all we need because product and marketing solves everything.” And it started growing, and all of a sudden we’re like, “Oh we’re screwed,” but we didn’t know what to do.
Russell Brunson:
So, then we were like, “Well let’s just sell more and market harder, and make the product better.” And so, these two things hit a lot of problems, until that point where we had 100 employees, then 200 employees, and everything was this shaky foundation where we’re… In fact, I remember Brandon and [Kaleigh 00:26:32] came to our office and looked at everything. They’re like, “How are you guys still in business?” I’m like, “I don’t know. We just make a great product and we’re really good at selling it.”
Russell Brunson:
And it wasn’t until I found someone who was really good at operations, to be like, “Oh, hey, did you know this is how you’re supposed to work?” And build out the structure to support everything. Right? And now it’s like, golly, I don’t know how we ever survived without it. If I ever start a new business again from scratch, those are like… Somebody’s got to be obsessed with product, marketing and operations. Even though operations, in our marketing, our entrepreneur heads it doesn’t make sense. Who needs operations? We’re just growing. We don’t need teams. But if these two do their job right, then instantly you’re going to need people in place to catch them.
Russell Brunson:
So, those are the three things. So, if you’re someone like me who’s not operational at all, I’d find an operational partner or somebody to be part of it, so that as you’re growing, those things can be in place. Otherwise, you do dumb things, like [inaudible 00:27:20], where it’s like, “Oh crap, we have no money for payroll, so let’s go sell something again.” As opposed to, “Hey, we probably shouldn’t have all these people working for us because we don’t have any money coming in.”
Emily Hirsh:
Right. Yeah, totally. And you had to go through those experiences to learn it. And I’ve been there too, where we’re hiring just because I think I need help, instead of trying to look at how efficient we could be at what we’re already doing, and doing more with less.
Russell Brunson:
Yeah. Have you ever read the book Rework, by the way?
Emily Hirsh:
No. I haven’t.
Russell Brunson:
It’s a really fast, like an hour-long read. It’s by the guys who started Base Camp stuff.
Emily Hirsh:
Oh, I actually have, a long time ago. I did read that. Yeah.
Russell Brunson:
Yes. One of the chapters, and every problem I had business I read Rework, I was like, “Oh, if I had read that 10 years ago…” But one of them was, only hire when it hurts. Because of course hiring because, “Oh, I need this thing,” or “I’m creating this thing,” or whatever. It’s like, no, no. Only hire when it hurts. Do the thing, have one person doing way too much until it starts hurting, then alleviate the pain. Not like, “Oh, I think we’re going to open a division that’s going to do this thing. I’m going to hire these people.” Only hire when it hurts was one little nugget from that book that was just, oh… I wish I would have understood that.
Emily Hirsh:
It’s so true. Yeah. And I feel like as… I mean, I’m not even nearly as at your level, but I feel like as you grow, you just get less efficient unless you get obsessed with that. And it’s so easy for the team to also come and be like, “We need this person and we need this person.” I’m like, “Who’s going to pay for it?”
Russell Brunson:
Yeah. Make more money and then we can hire it.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. Right. Last question is just, what have you learned over the last several years running your company and handling those times where you said you had a big failure, or something feels like you don’t… You’re like, “I just want to quit tomorrow.” Not really, but you just have that thought for a second. Because I’ve been there, especially last year when iOS updates hit. It was really rough for me for a few months. what have you learned in how to handle that?
Russell Brunson:
Part of it is just, it’s hard. And I think a lot of times we have this mistaken belief that it’s not going to be hard. And so, when he gets hard, right? “Aw.” But there’s times that are hard and there’s seasons that are hard. And so, that’s a big part. First, I think, okay. This can happen, and sometimes this is going to suck, and it’s not always going to be sunshine and roses. And that’s true to anything good in life.
Russell Brunson:
I look at with my kids, there are more times, especially right now, as there’re all teenagers. There’s more times than not that it is not fun. It is horrible. Right? Marriage, there’s hard times. All these different things. And so, to be able to survive the hard times is really understanding the mission or the vision of what you’re trying to create, and be able to have a very crystal clear picture of that. Right?
Russell Brunson:
I have very clear pictures of what I want my relationship with my kids to be. And so, I can endure the pain because I know it’s getting towards this thing. It’s into my marriage. The times that are tough in my marriage, I’m like, “Well, but I know what it can look like. I have a vision of where we’re going, so I’m going to hold on because there’s the thing.”
Russell Brunson:
It’s when you don’t see the… When you can’t see the vision, that’s when you lose hope and that’s when things collapse. Right? And so business is the same thing. You’ve got to have a really clear vision because that’s what’s going to pull you through it. And if that vision starts getting fuzzy, that’s okay. Some of it happens. I’ve had businesses where I got… Eventually I’m like, “Why am I even doing this?” It got fuzzy.
Russell Brunson:
And then it’s like, “Okay, well if it’s not going to be this thing that’s pulling me magnetically towards it, that’s okay. I can sunset that and create something new. But as long as you have that vision, that’s, at least for me, what gets me getting up again in the morning. And for me, the vision’s tied to… Obviously there’s the growth goals and money goals, but it’s moreso the people’s lives we’re changing, and the impact we’re having.
Russell Brunson:
For me right now, honestly, it’s like, when I die, what is my legacy going to be? And what do I need to create to make sure that’s going to happen? And so those are the things keeping me going right now, where it’s just like, “Ah.” Even the hard times I’m like, “Ah.” But I know I’m doing this because this thing’s going to happen. And then, you know.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah.
Russell Brunson:
And that’s what really pulls me. And so, I think it’s really getting clear on that. What is the vision? I had an interview with Dan Kennedy right before we jumped on here, and something he said, he said a lot of people go out there target practicing. Right? And they have a target, they have a bunch of arrows, and they put a blindfold on, and they’re just shooting like this. That’s what most entrepreneurs are doing. They’re just kind of shooting. You don’t have a target.
Russell Brunson:
Whereas, if I can see, there’s the target, there’s the goal, no blindfold. That’s where I’m going. Now we can fight through the days of like, “Oh, I don’t want to be doing this.” Or the bad emails or the client account’s going to be shut down, or whatever the thing is. But you see the target. That’s the goal.
Russell Brunson:
If you can’t see a target, I’d almost stop everything.
Emily Hirsh:
Step back.
Russell Brunson:
Focus on that. Because if that gets too fuzzy, then you lose hope. And then it’s just a wasted effort at that point.
Emily Hirsh:
Yeah. So good. I also saw you post, I don’t know when it was, maybe a couple weeks ago, that whenever you were going through a harder time, and you’re like, “Just preparing me for what’s next, too.” And that’s how I like to look at it, too. You have to go through things to build your tolerance to the next thing. Because if you were to hand me your company tomorrow, I can do it. I’ve got to build the tolerance first to-
Russell Brunson:
Appreciate capacity.
Emily Hirsh:
… handling the pressure. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time. What are you working on right now that would be best to send my audience to, if they want to get more from you? I know you have so much, so much content, Instagram books, all the things, but where would be the best place for people to go dive in?
Russell Brunson:
So, the two big things. Number one is ClickFunnels 2.0 is launching, depending when you launch this, we’re like 40 days away or something. So, that’s our biggest thing I’m most excited. So, two years rebuilding a platform from the ground up, and so we’re so proud of what it’s become. So, that’ll be happening here in September, or I think October 4th, and that actually goes live. So, if you just follow anything ClickFunnels related, you’ll see that. And then, for anything following me, if you go to marketingsecrets.com, that’s kind of my funnel hub that has links to every book, every podcast, every YouTube, all this stuff you can find there and get a hold of me whenever.
Emily Hirsh:
Awesome. Yay. Well, I’m excited for ClickFunnels 2.0. We obviously use ClickFunnels, and so do all of our clients, so that’s going to be super exciting. Thank you so much for your time, Russell. I know it’s very limited, and it’s been so inspiring to be behind you, following you. And you were my introduction into digital marketing and starting my business, and so I’ll be forever grateful for that.
Russell Brunson:
Oh, so cool. Great seeing you again, Emily. I appreciate you doing the call, and I love watching all the success you’re having.
Emily Hirsh:
Thank you.

Emily Hirsh:
Thanks for listening to The Not For Lazy Marketers podcast. Each episode is brought to you from the trenches of Hirsh Marketing, where our team of industry leading copywriters, marketing strategists, ads managers, graphic designers, and tech wizards use their unique genius to help our clients profit more and scale faster than they ever dreamed possible. Want to see what happens when we unleash our experts on your brand? Head over to helpmystrategy.com and apply for a free strategy audit with Team Hirsh. No matter where you are in your marketing journey, we have solutions to take you to the next level and beyond. So apply for your call today and discover what marketing magic we can create for you.

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