Original Interview: What’s the Secret: Is Now a Good Time to Start a Business?
Tom Gaddis: When the pandemic hit all the quote gurus out there were like, “Look, see, you should be working from home. We are making money online, you should be doing it too. An online business, this is the perfect time to get one started and get going.”
Is this really the best time to start a business? If you were going to start a business right now, what would you need to do differently to ensure that you have success? Is an online business the best way to start? Could you do a regular brick and mortar business as well?
I often tell my friends the people of online businesses look like geniuses right now because of the nature of the pandemic. It could have just as easily been something that took out the entire Internet. Then all the people with online businesses would not have looked so smart because they had no backup plan. We have to look at the reality of these situations and be prepared for both.
Who is Maceo Jourdan?
My guest today, Maceo Jourdan is a serial entrepreneur with two decades of experience building businesses by creating great products and great marketing. His experience spans a wildly eclectic mix of practical real‑world experiences from the US Army to the cutthroat world of electronic trading. He was an early pioneer in computerized training.
Maceo actually built one of the earliest high‑frequency trading systems for the S&P 500. That was on pay‑per‑click marketing platforms burst on the scene. He translated his work from that into massively successful automated systems for Google and later Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Maceo’s expertise fits a wide range of business experiences. We talked about quite a few different things on this episode, but mainly about what would you do if you were starting a business right now? What would you do differently? How would you adjust moving forward? What does he see as the trends coming out of what we’re seeing with everything going on in the world?
Aloha, Maceo. Welcome to What’s the Secret Podcast, man, how’re you doing?
Maceo explains “How I got here”
Maceo Jourdan: I’m doing great, Tom. Glad to be here.
Tom: I’m excited to have you here. It’s interesting how you ended up on the show. Someone reached out to me. They’re like, “Hey, this would be a great guest to have on What’s the Secret. I took a look at some of the things you’ve been doing online. I took a look at your bio. I was like, “Man, this guy is going to be awesome to have on the show.”
I’m excited to have you here. Maybe you can give listeners a little background on where you’ve been, what you’ve done and why we’re here on this interview?
Maceo: I got to tell you, I’ve been looking forward to this because “What’s the Secret” probably defines who I am and how I’ve gotten here. I haven’t told the story I don’t think in public much.
When I was six or seven years old, we had moved to Arizona. We’re dead broke. In fact, we’d lived on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. My mom was knitting quilts just so we had food. There just wasn’t anything available as far as real assistance.
I remember we were staying with friends and during that whole thing. I was watching PBS show. They had a hypnotist who had put someone in a trance, riding a little stationary bicycle, took a spoon out of an ice water, touched her hand and said, “I just touched your hand with a hot poker.” I watched as a blister came up on her hand.
As a little kid, I was like, “Whoa, I can’t trust my mind.” It was one of these…I’ve had these experiences through my life where I’ve known like, “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.” Some of them actually go back even earlier.
My mom recently passed. She told me, “I’ve got memories from two and a half years old,” which is really strange and vivid like details. Because of that, and then other similar experiences, what I figured out from a young age because there’s always a story behind what’s being told in public.
I’ve taken that with me everywhere I go. It has never failed me. Sometimes it’s done diabolically. It’s deliberate. People don’t want to let you know for competitive reasons. It’s never like in the movies where you’ve got Dr. Doom. I’ll call it a semi‑legitimate reason for it, but there’s always something there.
As a result, even though I’m like a superhero freak, grew up on Marvel comics, actually got paid in comics when I was a kid cause I loved them so much for work, there are no supermen.
There are no superheroes, there are no mutants, there are no people that have this unique genetic code that makes them so different from everyone else that you can’t attain it. Outside of maybe some physical limitations, although Spud Webb in the NBA, I’m sure…people who don’t know who that is, if you google him, he’s basically this short dude that was able to compete in the NBA.
Outside of rare things like that where there’s maybe some little physical things like if you’re 6’9″, you’re not going to fly jets for the US Navy. You’re just too tall. You can do anything that you see somebody else do.
That’s a very long-winded intro for how I got here. That was maybe a little bit out of left field.
Tom: No, I think that’s great. I mean, I’m kind of the opposite of you. I have very few memories of a young age but, when I was younger, I got really interested in magic. I was actually a professional magician for a while.
Maceo: Like prestidigitation or…
Tom: Yeah, like sleight of hand, all that kind of stuff. Getting into that, it gave me that same sort of experience of like, “Oh, there’s always something sort of behind the scenes that people don’t see,” right?
I knew from that experience too that the reason I got good at that stuff was practice. I mean, that was…You just did it. You did it over and over and over, and even when you practiced as much as you could, you still, when you did it for someone live, something always went wrong. It always goes wrong. Then you have to figure out you just keep doing it and keep doing it until you get better and better, right?
Skin in the game
Maceo: I’ll jump off from there. There’s an author, his name is Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He wrote a book called “Black Swan,” got famous because he wrote it around the time when the markets were really volatile and people were losing all kinds of money. He’s got a recent book, that’s called, “Skin in the Game.”
Tom: Love that book.
Maceo: So I spent…I was a hedge fund trader, I traded options, so when he talks about practitioners and having skin in the game, and that being a vital part of everything, he is spot on. You can see somebody trading $300 million on a simulated account go to trading $10,000 and completely lose their mind.
This applies. I was in the US military at the honor of completing the special forces selection program. I didn’t get selected, which is probably a whole other show for why and a little bit comical.
Anyway, I’ve had some unique experiences that have shown me the reality of skin in the game. There’s a narrative that’s going on right now that I’m really concerned about for entrepreneurs. It has to do…it’s wrapped up in equity and equality, and lots of buzzwords are flying around.
I think what we’re missing is that if you go from a totally sheltered, cloistered environment where everybody is concerned about how you might mistake the smallest comment or the smallest trigger experience, and then you go into a world that doesn’t give a rip about that. Let’s face it, the broader world could care less about that.
You’re going to be less equipped, we’ll say it that way. My fear for the entrepreneurs coming up is they don’t appreciate how skin in the game can change things. It doesn’t have to be really complicated. It could just be selling your product to another human being. Not through the Internet, not through email and Facebook ads, but literally walking up to somebody and trying to sell them this thing that you have.
Because you’re going to have this visceral experience, I guarantee you. Just like you, I can imagine, your first experience of trying to do some sleight of hand and you’re like dropping all the crap, right?
We’ve all been there, but as entrepreneurs, the difference is ‑‑ to enunciate that clearer ‑‑ you’ve got skin in the game, man. You could be basically rolling your financial dice where you’ve got everything on the line.
I think we can jump off from there for the rest of the conversation, but it’s with that in mind that I approach everything I do with other entrepreneurs. I try and get them to think of things not only from the Skin in the Game perspective, I don’t know why I’m plugging Taleb’s book so much, I guess I really like it. By the way, I make no money if he sells more books.
Also, we lose a certain amount of our brainpower when we get into a situation with skin in the game. It helps when a practitioner like yourself and like myself can share stories where it’s like, “Hey, dude, it’s OK. If you walked into a sales call, and you forgot everything about your product, you realize you left your presentation at home. That’s exactly how it should go.”
Your job as the entrepreneur is to take that experience, understand that the level playing field that we’re all on, is this idea of skin in the game. That, as humans, we’re affected by that, basically, in the same way, we lose our brains. Then understand there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s no mutant out there that isn’t affected by that.
Tom: I think that’s such a great point. Personally, a great example of that is sports. It always amazes me how entrepreneurs and other people seem to think the things that work in one area somehow don’t apply to another. There’s a reason why football players have game simulation practices.
There’s a reason why the scrimmages matter. There’s a reason why a guy that’s played in 200 or more games…There’s a reason why Tom Brady is as good as he is. It’s because he’s got that game experience.
He’s pretty much seen everything in the heat of battle and so something comes his way, it doesn’t faze him as much, but the only way to get that is to actually play the game. There’s no shortcut to that, I don’t think.
Maceo: There’s a movie called “The Replacements,” Keanu Reeves stars in it. The NFL goes on strike and so all these other players come in. The movie follows this team of misfits. In one scene, Gene Hackman is the coach ‑‑ you can see it on YouTube ‑‑ and he asked, “What’s everybody afraid of?”
Of course, there’s humorous spiders, centipedes or whatever [laughs] then they start getting real. One of the guys actually was released from prison, so he’s like going back to prison. What that scene exemplifies is that we share experiences as humans and we can count on that for information and to inform us.
The whole point of that story as Keanu says, “Quicksand.” Gene, the coach, knows exactly what he’s talking about. Keanu says, as a quarterback, he’s afraid of making a mistake, and then another one, and then another one, and then another one. Then you realize there’s no more time left on the clock.
Now, we do have clocks as humans. We don’t know how long we’re going to live, but we have actuarial tables. We know 83, 84 years, the max if you’re a guy. For the most part, there’s no clock. We’re not, as entrepreneurs, playing against the clock.
The reason why I consider that a secret is that the Internet has given us access to information that we just never would have had before. When I was a kid growing up, you had the newspaper, you had magazines. Newspapers were daily, magazines were monthly at best.
You can figure out pretty quickly that they’re six months behind because they were written six months ago, and then produced, then you had daily news. That was it. Your perspective was different. Today, where you can go on to YouTube, Instagram, or whatever, and see these people that to our mind are successful really quickly, we put up this artificial clock.
Working with a woman, she’s got a product, it’s a startup, and she’s talking to me, but she’s using words that imply this clock. Basically, is this how fast can I or how quickly can we or those kinds of words. Where 10, 15 years ago we wouldn’t have thought about it.
Is business lightning in a bottle?
Maceo: Another secret is that, generally the people that you see have seen build businesses. I don’t mean influencers and somebody that got popular on Instagram, because that’s a totally different animal, and I can touch on that. Business is very rarely the result of what I’ll call true lightning in a bottle. You do get some exceptions.
We’ll look at Facebook, and we’ll see, “Well, man, that’s my model. That’s how fast I want to build my business.” Somehow the entrepreneur convinces themselves, “I’ve got the next Facebook.” Which, first of all, no, you don’t, you just don’t.
Even if you did, what we miss is that Facebook, just like Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, these really big companies we look at, were truly in the right place at the right time. That’s got a lot of work on this translating probability into real terms.
I’ll try and break it down this way. When we think about our future success, that’s probability. What are the odds of my success? Is it 50/50, is it 80/20, is it zero? We experience that in an emotional way. I said most of how we translate that conversation internally is by feeling something.
That’s a problem because that will start to blind us to reality. The reality is, all these big companies were really at the right place at the right time. They are the survivors by default and what we don’t see are literally the tens of thousands of companies that failed, that were on track to be the market leader that just didn’t.
There’s another secret in there, which is timing is important. If you’re going to go to a huge venture‑capital firm like Andreessen Horowitz, or Sequoia, or somebody like that and raise a bunch of money, one of the primary things in their mind is timing. Where does that company fit in this grand scheme that we call business, and trends, and everything else?
As an entrepreneur that means the first thing you’ve got to consider is, what is the trend? What timing are you taking advantage of, and what external, meaning outside of your company, outside of your marketing, outside of an effort put into things, what is going to drive you forward?
You can gain some perspective on the clock, which means you’re not so much thinking, “I’ve got to go fast, fast, fast all the time,” by realizing that timing is important. Number one, you’ve got to fit into some kind of trend. Then the scope of your success, meaning are you going to be a company that basically is a job?
It gives you a great living, in fact, a great salary or are you building something that’s going to provide you with more wealth? Let’s say millions of dollars after you’ve paid your bills or is it something is going to be generational? We’re talking about 30 million, 40 million, cash-cash money, not paper money, but amassing a big wad of cash.
You’ve got to realize that the catalyst to that size is not your effort. It’s not how smart you are. It’s not your team. It’s the trend and that’s why when you talk to a venture‑capital company about getting a big wad of cash dumped on you, they don’t care about anything else, but the timing.
Again, these sound like they’re subtle secrets, but it plays into our mindset and our mentality and how we approach things. If you’re readying for your sales day, and you’re thinking, “Man, I’ve got to close accounts, I’ve got to close these accounts really quick,” you’re going to be more rushed, or you’re going to be less prone to listen to your prospect because in your mind the opportunity is so big.
Everybody should see this or worse, Tom, I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, either, “Oh, everybody needs this,” or “This product sells itself.” Generally, when I hear both of those come out of the same person’s mouth, I walk away very quickly. I know I’ve got a fanatic on my hands. You can’t talk to fanatics. They just have their mind set.
All of these larger concepts really do back into our day‑to‑day lives as entrepreneurs and as a hedge fund trader, these are all the things that we talk about, and we would know about. It’s very rarely translated into the regular business world.
Is now a good time to start a business?
Tom: You touched on two things there that I wanted to go a little deeper on. One is, you mentioned you’re working for a lady who’s a startup. Then you mentioned timing. One of the things I was thinking about and wondering about before I got on this interview with you was like, “OK, well, all the stuff that’s going on in the world right now.
There’s probably a lot of people out there that had a great business idea, or they’re going to start a business.” Now, all this stuff happens. They’re like, “Everything’s on hold. I’m just going to wait this out.””
My question to you would be, do you think now is a good time to start a business? If so, what would you be looking at in terms of getting it off the ground?
Maceo: I can give you 90 answers for that question. Let me put it into [laughs] some context. Let’s say you’re talking about a restaurant. Obviously, restaurants are under some pressure. I’m being more than diplomatic. I might even sound stupid to somebody who’s got a restaurant.
Here’s why I say under some pressure. Let’s say you don’t have to go so far as to give the governor a finger or whatever and say, “That crap is unconstitutional.” Let’s not even get into that. Let’s say you’re talking about how do you operate under the new rules?
Some of that is, we’ll call it ingenuity. It could be figuring out in a 5 to 10‑mile radius, what are all the birthdays that are going on, and sending out a postcard. Let’s face it, if your life is on the line, my first question is, why are you not cold‑calling people?
If you’re a restaurant owner, why are you not going door‑to‑door and dropping stuff off at people’s homes or, make sure it’s cleaned and sanitized or whatever and dropping stuff at people’s homes. It’s like, part of it goes into my rambling introduction, which is summed up in mentality. We’ve got skin in the game as entrepreneurs.
When we have the perception that something has pulled the rug out from under us, that even that phrase means we feel something out of our control has happened, and we’re powerless to do anything about it. It’s built into that saying the rug pulled out from under us, is you fall down on your butt.
Well, I look at that and say, “OK, well, why can’t I do the Jackie Chan thing and I land on my feet. Why do I have to land on my butt?” What’s in that, just like you said with the slight of hand when you did your first trick, we lose our minds sometimes when we’ve got skin in the game.
You get this black swan event that comes into our life, which everyone has to agree COVID was a black swan. Except for the few crazies that are out there saying that it was this big plot. They don’t think that. To me, it’s like, “That’s a black swan, dude.”
The key thing is to remember, number one, you are going to shut down. Give yourself some space for that. If you add beating yourself up, because you shut down, you’re just making things like mercilessly hard on yourself. Take a step back. Yes, you’re going to shut down anytime you’re under stress.
In special operations, I did train operators with hand‑to‑hand combat and stuff. It’s well‑known, when you’re under that extreme pressure, you go to basically your lowest level of training. Nobody was trained for this. Again, I’m giving people lots of reasons to cut themselves some bloody slack, because that’s not what I hear online.
I hear all kinds of people talking about how they should have done this or could have done that. Again, because we have so much coming into us on these social media platforms, you can find three people that are at least saying that nothing happened to them.
Once you’re done cutting yourself some slack, then if you’re in a restaurant business that truly is being hammered on by local governments, that’s when you’ve got to get creative. I’ve been blessed with the ability to look outside of my field.
The best way to figure out what to do is to go to other businesses, and see what they have done to get customers in the door. That’d be number one. Then number two, this is a lesson I learned. I tell the story quite a bit as a really young kid, which is find the buyers first. Let me wrap this up because you asked some specific questions.
If you’re going to start a business now, number one, you have to understand that there are some new rules to the game. You’ve got to decide ahead of time, are you going to take on the local authorities and say, “Up yours, unconstitutional, blah‑blah‑blah,” or are you going to try and work within it? You gotta make that decision upfront.
In that general sense, you can make any business work in that way. We could go through an exercise and do back of the napkin math and figure it out. Based on what you’re thinking you’re going to need to do to figure out how much profit margin you’re going to have.
Now what we’re getting into is the core of the discussion around business is usually related to wealth. Most of the time when people say, “Hey, is now a good time to start a business?” What they’re saying on some level is, “Hey, can I get rich if I start a business now?” It’s like, you can, but it’s going to take a path that you’re not expecting.
If you were in telemedicine or something like that, you probably could get wealthy just with that thing. Now you’re in there’s a ton of competition. The trend is a little bit different.
Yes, you can start a business now, but I would say, at first it’s going to be more about you figuring out how do you bootstrap, keep your cost down to a minimum, you’re not buying a new car, you may be even are selling your car and buying an old beat‑up car that you can get for cash you don’t have a payment. Looking at your lifestyle, literally driving your personal costs down as low as possible.
I know this is going to sound unbelievable. I’ve raised a family of five on less than $60,000. Even when I was making a ton of money we just did not spend a lot. That’s has more to do with, most of my money in a social capital way, goes back out into the community.
I can say it’s possible, but you’re probably going to be getting rid of some phones, you’re probably going to have to tell your kids, “Hey, Nope, you don’t get a cell phone or it’s only WiFi.” You have to reset your brain back to the people that I grew up reading about the: Carnegies, the Rockefellers, who literally came…
Carnegie came over to this country with less than nothing. His family was ruined over in Scotland. They came over beg, borrowing and stealing to get here, literally. Most people would say they would focus on the stealing, they would claim he did a lot of that. The mentality was less about getting rich there in the moment, was more how do I work hard?
If you start a business now go find the buyers, focus on them first, then focus on is there a product that’s similar to mine, and you may have to enlist some friends because if you fall into the trap was like, “Oh, I’ve got this unique product.” Go ask the people first, go find out from other folks who don’t know you, hopefully, whether or not it’s truly unique. If you need to, have a couple of beers, loosen up and go have some conversations.
As that company is growing and scaling, just keep in the back of your mind, that you may need to pivot to something completely different from what you’re doing at the moment.
Long‑winded answer saying, “Yeah, you can start up any business now,” but what I’m hinting at, is that not that we have to pull out our philosophy hats and contemplate our navels for 100 years. What we’ve also got to understand is what are we after. Dig even just a little bit to what people are talking about, what they have in mind is more the end of a 15‑year journey.
They’re picturing…What was it that show “Lifestyle the Rich and Famous.” Robin Leach, something like that, or they’re looking at somebody that they see on their Instagram feed, which they got to be careful because a lot of that’s fake. They’re looking at some external thing and saying this business is going to fill that external thing.
At the root of it, if any message that comes in as a unifying secret that I’m talking about, your mindset as an entrepreneur, your belief set as an entrepreneur is going to be far more impactful than the latest Facebook trick or Instagram hack or all the 90 million copywriting tricks that I could teach somebody.
For the very simple reasons that celeb talks about. We can get blinders on the second we believe something. If your belief going into it is I’ve got this product or this business that everybody is going to need. Your brain is designed to start filtering the information that comes to you.
As an entrepreneur, grounding yourself back into what’s really going on, really getting a handle on what you want, and how long that’s going to take, opens up far more possibilities than focusing on one or two or three tactics.Tom: That’s such great insight. It’s a great point on that as well.
Tom: We mentioned pivoting because I know from my experience starting a business and it’s not exactly the same business that I have today. It’s put off in a lot of ways. What trends and things, what types of pivot stuff do you see for people that may be having existing businesses right now?
Maybe they are just trying to get a read on, “Where is this all going? What should I be focusing on to stay ahead of that curb or to catch one of those trends as we move forward?”
Maceo: It all starts with the customer. Every time I’ve gone into a company, for a good number of years after I exited my e‑comm company I worked with other businesses. I was usually brought in to solve something that was wrong. I got a front-row seat to a lot of train wrecks, I’ll put it that way, both personally and otherwise.
Most of the time I found it was personal. It’s funny. My brain went in a totally different direction. Ask me the question again, I don’t want to go there. I’m trying to be conscious of the time so I’m looking at the clock I’m like, “Oh crap, that’s a 15‑minute answer.”
Tom: What if somebody is, they are trying to get a handle on the trends and where things are going from this point, right? Maybe they’ve started a pivot…what do you see is headed this way for the entrepreneurs that are out there right now, that are running maybe existing businesses?
Maceo: I’ll go in a very practical direction. First of all, I think this big ship you’ve seen, the e‑commerce, is going to change. I know people are mumbling about the new normal and what not, but I’m not to see that play out. I know maybe that’s what some people want, but my guess is, your humans being social creatures, we’re going to be pushing back out into the world.
I think we’re underestimating people’s ability to get comfortable with really crazy environments. All you have to do is study things like the UK getting bombed in World War II, really crazy environments, to see after a while people have an amazing ability to adapt. I think we’re going to see this mad rush to the Internet is going to die off.
I don’t think it’s going to die off slowly, I think what we’re going to be shocked by is just how fast it happens. It’s a byproduct of it. You see all YouTube channels, if you look at their numbers, you can see it goes from, say 50 or 60 thousand views to like a million. Everybody wants to talk about, “I’ve got the YouTube secrets.”
Your channels that have seen that growth were actually in the business of talking about the YouTube secrets like the trumpet did. Their secrets are really great, maybe in the practical I’ll look at it that way and I want to say, “Hey, guy, how about that everybody is literally at home — nobody is at school?”
It’s like, “Give me a freaking break, get off your high horse.” That trend is definitely going to change and it won’t be such a prognostic here that’ll try and pin it down. If somebody out there is really relying on that, but if you got a crap ton of traffic that is coming through now, you had better be bolstering yourself for when that shifts.
Another weird thing about Facebook in particular is, everybody forgets that Facebook was literally over capacity for advertisers. They didn’t like that fact that giving out so it wasn’t like it was in the mainstream media, but everybody I know has been talking about that for years.
What does that mean? It means your costs to advertise on a platform go up. We all know the reason that Facebook is a bunch of greedy bastards, they are public property, they want more of your money. It’s just as simple as that. What happens then when people aren’t in school, they are not at work?
They just simply have more hours in the day where they can numb their brains looking at Facebook, which means they got more bloody inventory to sell you. Costs are by natural forces going to go down a little bit. You are also going to have this feeling like your campaigns are getting more reach because those reach metrics are going to increase.
What happens if those go down, what happens when your customer now is back to being distracted because they’re back to school, they’re back at work? They are in their car, commuting, all that. Because I don’t think we’re going to get this push out of office. Frankly, it’s very difficult.
I’ve grown a huge company virtual and I can tell you it was with Chairman Mao over site and diabolical little reward mechanisms. Look, when people are home they want to watch Netflix and if you think otherwise as an employer you are on crack, baby. It’s like people, me included, would do the least amount possible.
There’s a reason why companies like Amazon, and Google and Apple have a notorious reputation for just being meat grinders. They know they’re competing at a very high level. You don’t get there singing kumbaya and saying everybody gets the same salary and share of stock. It just doesn’t work that way.
All of those things, I think there is going to be a shift. My gut is telling me that the shift is going to be bigger than normal. So continuing the Nicolas Taleb theme of this, I don’t know why, it’s that you as the entrepreneur are required, I’m putting the requirement on you for whatever that’s worth, since your money is on the line, to think about what happens if your traffic goes down by 90 percent.
Not 10 percent, stop thinking in these really easy to stomach terms. What happens if your traffic disappears? What happens if those channels that you’re targeting all of a sudden become zero interesting because everybody goes back to the old stuff that they were looking at, back to their old habits that they were pre‑COVID. That’s a much different equation.
It’s those things that once they do change people are, “Oh, how could we know?” Mark the calendars, here’s a dude that’s telling you. You can know, you should know, and you should be planning for because if you plan for a big shock, if your traffic drops 90, 95, 98 percent and what that does for your business then you have contingency plans.
If it drops by five percent then, “Who cares, it’s not like the time was wasted.” Here’s why, like the message of Taleb’s books are this, “If you play Russian roulette, which means you’re playing a game where your odds of death at some point go up to 100. That would literally be Russian roulette, it would be an attempt to sprint across the freeway in California or something like that.
You could even say skydiving. If you play those games long enough, then your odds of death go up to 100. We don’t like that as human beings. We’d like to think more optimistically, which goes back to what I said earlier, we think about future probability emotionally.
When you get some crazy guy like me that says, “Hey, watch out,” you know, the “Chicken Little” syndrome ‑‑ the sky may be falling ‑‑ our emotional reaction to that is to back away. We’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to deal with that.”
This plays right into mindset, all the stuff I was talking about. Where you can come away from this conversation you’re listening to right in this moment and literally forget about it. I mean seconds later. Why is that? That demonstrates the power of our brains to filter out information that we don’t believe in.
If somebody believes with all their hearts, that their traffic is going to continue, that this move to e‑commerce is going to continue, my words will fade away, just like Solomon talked about in Ecclesiastes.
It’s like the puff of smoke in the wintertime. You can breathe, and it looks like, “Oh, wow, that looks exactly like the clouds that are up there that cause rain,” but it just disappears and it’s gone. That’s why it makes things so difficult when we’re entrepreneurs and we’re really strong believers in what we’re doing.
If I’m going to pound the table about anything trend-wise, it’s that. That we’re in for a shock in terms of Internet traffic, for sure.
Tom: It’s so great to hear you say that. I was telling people at the beginning of all this, I was like, “Hey, this could have been an event…” Everybody was trumpeting how smart the people were that were making money online. They were all out there like, “Oh, look how smart I am because I have this business.”
I was like, “It could have just as easily been something that took out the Internet. Then all those brick and mortar people would have been the smartest people…”
Maceo: That’s exactly right.
Tom: It could have just as easily went that way. I didn’t see the correlation there. It’s great to hear you say that. One last question. Actually two. One is, is there something I should have asked you about that I did not?
Maceo: We’re trying to keep this to a half‑hour show.
Sales and Copywriting
Maceo: Probably it’ll be about selling and copywriting. What is THE secret when it comes to sales and copywriting? The simple answer that we have in our time left is you’ve got to start with a live conversation, preferably in person with another human being.
I’ve studied under all of the, what you would call the copywriting greats — John Carlton, Gary Bencivenga, Gary Halbert when he was alive. Gary, by far was the one who hammered this into my head the most. He’s, “Maceo, you have got to talk to real people.”
You can write sales copy in a vacuum. You can develop a sales pitch in a vacuum. Until you actually bounce it off of another person, you’re wasting your time and your money. Much of what digital entrepreneurs do, if you’ll pardon the phrase, it’s just mental masturbation.
You get guys and girls sitting around in a room talking about how they’re going to sell something. You have like four or five meetings that are hours long, when you could have had five or six sales conversations and cut out probably three‑quarters of that conversation is utterly stupid, not because you knew it, but because you’re like, “Well, wait a minute, that’s not actually what human beings care about.” If anything else is ditch the digital, get in touch with a human being and definitely not over text. At the worst, it’s going to be on a phone call, but best it’s going to be face‑to‑face.