On this site, I share everything I've learnt about becoming a highly effective entrepreneur (without sacrificing your soul and every waking hour in the process).
If you're tired of online marketing gurus, success coaches and people who's only income is from teaching other people how to make an income, you're in the right place. ActiveGrowth is not my main business.
In the online marketing space, everybody loves the quick win. The shortcut. The "growth hack". The truth is, chasing those shortcuts is a well-trodden path to failure. Here, we focus on building real entrepreneurial skills.
For me, creating an online business isn't primarily about money. It's about freedom. You can easily become a slave to chasing ever-larger paychecks. What's the point in escaping the corporate rat race, only to join the startup rat race?
Here are a few things about me:
I mention all this here, just to clarify that when I talk about online business, I do so from actual experience. I'm not a blogging-about-blogging blogger who's only business is teaching blogging. :)
My basic philosophy is all about developing skills.
Highly successful businesses are created by highly skilled, highly effective entrepreneurs. Tips, tactics and information can only get you so far – there is simply no substitute for experience.
I apply this philosophy to everything I do in life, whether it be martial arts or public speaking and it has served me well.
The foundation of any serious online business is a product or a service. ActiveGrowth is about everything you need to create (and sell) valuable products & to build an audience of true fans.
There are three things your online business needs to thrive: a good offer, traffic and a website that converts. These aspects are covered in depth, on this site.
However, the right tools and techniques aren't enough. Most entrepreneurs fail and it has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or access to software and tools. Instead, it has everything to do with their character, mindset and work ethic.
You cannot start a highly successful business without developing the character of a highly successful entrepreneur.
That's why on this site, we also cover the "character ethic" aspect of becoming a badass, highly effective entrepreneur.
Here are a few posts that can give you a good idea of what to expect on ActiveGrowth:
You know how you read about all these entrepreneurial types who started their own car washing business at the age of 5 and were already doing better than most adults by the time they hit adolescence? The kinds of people who just seem to have entrepreneurship running through their very veins?
Well, that wasn’t like me at all…I’d love to say that any of this came naturally to me, but the truth is that it's been a very bumpy road.
In 2008 I left university pretty dejected. My grades were terrible, but more importantly I was fed up.
I was studying psychology, which I find fascinating even to this day. But I felt infinitely removed from doing anything "real". I had a strong desire to create something and I simply couldn’t face 5+ more years of studying and theory.
So, I went against everyone's well-meaning advice, and quit.
The following few years were nothing short of pure failure. I had jobs working in a warehouse stacking boxes, as a night time security guard and even as a landscape gardener (highlight: I broke my leg when a huge boulder dropped on it… and then lost the job, because of the injury). I needed these jobs to put food on the table, but I spent all my free time trying to create something of my own.
To say I struggled would be an understatement.
One of my failures involved following a passion that is still important to me: personal development. I started to write a book on some things that had made a positive impact on my life but I didn’t see it through and the book was never released.
Then I tried to find some people to offer my services to free of charge in an attempt to get some clients. That didn’t work out, either. This was one of my first experiences of trying to market my own products. It was a tough pill to swallow. If I couldn’t even find clients to work with me for free what chance did I have of selling things for actual money?!
I read a story about a dating website that had made a huge amount of money. When I looked at the site I thought: “This site sucks! I can’t believe they’re making so much money. I bet I could do way better than that.”
I brought together a small team of programmers and we got started. Unfortunately, this little venture had no structure, no business plan and no marketing plan. To top it all off, I had no leadership skills whatsoever.
You guessed it, the project was a miserable failure and the website never saw the light of day.
Around this time, I started learning how to build computers. I couldn’t believe how much money you could save by building your own computer from scratch instead of buying one off the shelf. It seemed that suppliers were taking a decent margin so I decided to undercut them by starting my own computer building business.
I wasn't deeply passionate about computer hardware - I mainly pursued this as a business idea because I was desperate for some income.
This time, I got one thing right: I knew how to make a good product. Consumers could get a better PC at a lower price by coming through me – so why wouldn’t they? Simple answer – they didn’t know about me, and I sucked at marketing.
I started listing computers on ebay and local directories. This helped me finally get customers, but I quickly encountered a bottleneck in this new business venture: me! It was hugely time consuming to build computers and the profit margins turned out to be low. I was slaving away for very little reward. Time for another transition.
I found a niche in the hardware components market of water cooling. Most people have never even heard of liquid cooled computers, but you'd be surprised at how active this micro-niche is!
I started reviewing and publishing articles of watercooling components in an online magazine and on niche forums. I didn't realize at the time, but this was my first experience of content marketing.
I noticed that nobody was creating useful, thorough reviews for water cooling components. The reviews at the time were lazy, at best. A few crummy pictures of a waterblock or other component and some performance numbers based on incredibly unreliable testing procedures was the norm.
I saw this as an opportunity and started to devise the most comprehensive tests that I could come up with. I didn’t get many review samples sent, so I bought as many samples as I could, out of my own pocket. My test setup took up all the space in my tiny office room and the procedures were extremely time consuming, but the end result was the most useful review data in the industry. I even set up a miniature photo “studio” on one end of my desk, to capture higher quality pictures of the components for the reviews.
Within 6 months, I went from being the “newbie” guy asking the questions to a go-to expert on water cooling devices. People sought me out and asked me for advice. This was the first time that I had ever had a group of people in a given niche that were paying attention to me – I had been doing my best marketing yet, and I didn’t even realize that I was doing it.
Once I made a bit of a name for myself in the PC water cooling niche, a company approached me to become a reseller of their water cooling equipment. It was an e-commerce store and I would be the Swiss arm of the company being the only reseller in the country. This sounded great to me, so I eagerly signed up.
Little did I know that this was to be one of my worst decisions to date. The problem wasn’t that the business wasn’t good – it was! The e-commerce store took plenty of orders and the turnover was getting towards mid six figures per year. There was a hungry crowd of buyers chomping at the bit.
The problem was that I had NO CONTROL over the business – every decision I tried to make got stuck in the “chain of command” and never came to fruition. End result: I was sitting on a business that was generating massive revenue, but not enough profit for me to even live on. I knew there were a dozen things I could do to increase profits and I couldn’t do ANY of them. I ended up feeling like I was nothing more than the fall guy – responding to customer complaints and queries, taking blame for things that weren’t my fault and that I couldn’t change. This was not what I signed up for.
This venture proved to me that I could make something happen, but it also made one thing very clear: I needed to do this on my own.
I figured that I had managed to rapidly learn the ins and outs of a niche and become a recognized expert. But I utterly lacked the business and marketing skills to start and run my own business.
So, I figured I would do what I'd done in the PC hardware market, but this time applied to online marketing. I would dive in head first and learn everything I could about entrepreneurship and online marketing, so I'd finally have my ticket to freedom.
I started my first attempt at building a website – holy crap that thing was ugly. After the first few months of intensive learning, I started zeroing in on one topic: search engine optimization. I built a few niche sites and managed to get them ranked for various keywords. Soon after, these sites started bringing in some money. It wasn’t much, but at least it kept me going. It was a proof of concept.
To capture names and email addresses I built a free product on how to set up a WordPress blog. This was my first exposure to digital product creation and it was well received. I then decided to launch another free product about keyword research, mainly because almost all the available information on the subject was terrible. The guide was not a viral wonder or anything, but it was received extremely well by those who used it (and, in a way, it was the most successful product I ever made).
Things were looking up. I had scaled my niche sites up so that they were earning me a good income and decided to launch a product in the online marketing space. This product was Backlink Battleplan – it took me 6 weeks to create the product and orchestrate my first ever product launch. The launch itself wasn’t huge, but made me more money than I’d gotten all at once, ever before. The product also kept selling and growing in popularity. By the time I took it off the market almost two years later, it had brought in more than $100,000.
My plan had worked out: through my experience with online marketing, my websites, my free and premium products, I'd become an expert in the online marketing niche. I'd started making a bit of a name for myself.
Shortly after the launch of Backlink Battleplan, Sam Hänni contacted me asking for some advice for a product that he had been working on called SECockpit. I took a look – and I liked it. So much so that I offered to become the marketing arm of the company.
Sam accepted – and within 15 months we turned it into a 7-figure business. This was the most profitable and most rapidly growing venture I’d ever been a part of, at the time.
At this point, I started to feel somewhat competent. I had learnt from my early blunders and built up a few product based businesses successfully.
One of the most frustrating parts of building those businesses was working on the websites. I used WordPress for all my sites and it was endlessly frustrating, trying to create good sales pages and marketing funnels in WordPress. Thus, the idea for my next project was born: Thrive Themes.
With Thrive Themes, I aimed to provide all the missing marketing features to WordPress. I knew I couldn't do this on my own, so I partnered up once again. This time with Paul McCarthy, an entrepreneur with experience as a software developer and business analyst.
The launch of Thrive Themes was a huge success... and it was also one of the hardest times in my life.
In my personal life, I decided that I wanted to see a bit of the world and so moved to Romania. I wanted a change of scenery and I soon caught the travel bug. Since then, I've been living a nomadic life and I've visited and lived in dozens of places over the years.
It's sometimes still hard to believe, but by persisting through failure after failure I'd somehow managed to come out the other end with a better life than I'd ever thought possible. I had complete financial freedom and on top of that, I could live and work anywhere in the world.
This good fortune has allowed me to focus more outward and more towards things that aren't just about me.
Thrive Themes is one such example: the company has been growing rapidly and not only do we reach far more people with it than ever before, but we're also using the business as a platform for our team members to learn and grow their own skills. The goal is not just to create a successful company, but to create a company that creates successful people.
This website is where all this business experience comes together. Here, I've always provided a behind-the-scenes look at how I run my businesses. Whenever I find the time, I write and make videos about what I learn along my journey.
If you're an entrepreneur, you'll find a straight-forward, no-frills resource to help you and your business grow, right here on ActiveGrowth.
In my story, I introduced you to the concept of The Grind, the one principle I base almost everything in my life on. Everything I am doing right now is part of a grind towards something greater.
Call me an idealist, but my ultimate goal is to make a difference. This human experiment that we are all a part of is simply amazing and I want to contribute something of value to it. I don’t know what form that will take yet. Maybe some kind of charity work, maybe some business or product that will have a huge impact on people’s lives.
Will I be able to achieve such a lofty goal?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t yet have the necessary skills or resources to be able to make a real difference. And that’s why I’m practicing and honing my craft – taking on projects of ever increasing complexity, so that one day, I may be good enough and strong enough to change the world – even if it’s just in a small way.
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