The Jay Kim Show #24: Chris Ducker (Transcript)
Today’s guest is Chris Ducker who is a serial entrepreneur, a keynote speaker, and bestselling author of the book Virtual Freedom. Virtual Freedom is similar to Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek where he talks about how to run online businesses with the help of hiring virtual assistants to do a lot of the grunt work for you.
Chris is originally from the UK. He’s lived in the Philippines for over 15 years, has a number of businesses. He is a popular business blogger and podcaster over at ChrisDucker.com. He also has a personal branding business community which is called Youpreneur.com.
He’s a really good guy, just all-around successful entrepreneur. He has a great story that he shares with us about how he became an entrepreneur and how he literally made the decision on a flight back to Asia from the US. As soon as he landed in Hong Kong for his layover, he emailed in his resignation letter and has never looked back since.
I think you guys are going to enjoy today’s episode.
Jay: Chris, thank you so much for being on the interview this morning. Entrepreneurship in Asia is an exciting new podcast that we are launching in Hong Kong. How are you doing today?
Chris: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for having me on, man.
Jay: Great, no problem. You are an inspiration to myself and I’m sure hundreds and thousands of readers across the world. I’m really excited to have you on. One of the things that I wanted to first go over was your background and how you became who you are today.
Chris: Wow. That is a rabbit hole.
Jay: I know, it’s loaded.
Chris: I often say all I really am at the very core still today is just a sales and marketing guy. That’s honestly what I truly am. I dropped out of college in London and started working as a telemarketer in the publishing space in the UK, which then obviously spilled over to other sales, display ad sales, events sales. You name it, I’ve pretty much sold it at some point in my career I think. That is still at the very core of what I do. I’m a problem solver.
That’s what I believe every good entrepreneur or every good salesperson is. They’re just a problem solver. I’m just a big fan of digging deep, finding out what people’s biggest pain points are, and then obviously sitting back and looking at how I can solve those problems. If I do it well enough, I’m then blessed as an entrepreneur to put a price tag on it and make money in the process of making people’s lives easier. That’s really what the core is still today.
Jay: Right. You yourself experienced a few pain points along the way. You were always a problem solver but you were not always an entrepreneur. Is that right?
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve only been an entrepreneur for 12 years.
Jay: Only, yeah, that’s very …
Chris: Only, right? I’ve had a few problems in those years as well. Like I said, ultimately, my career has been sales and marketing pretty much all the way. Obviously in the latter part of my career before I started working for myself, I was in managerial roles. Managing teams of everything from 8 to 10 people right up to 400 people.
Jay: Okay. What happened along the way that made you say, “I don’t want to work for someone else anymore. I want to work for myself.” I want to become what you call, and I’ve coined, a virtual CEO. What happened in your life that made you want to do that?
Chris: My last ever job was with a guy that was based out of Miami in Florida. He was actually a very, very pleasant person, super nice cool dude, like really nice guy to hang out with. Floor seats at the heat games, VIP tickets at Prince’s pre-Super Bowl concert, you name it. A cool guy to be around. He was an utter nightmare as a boss, like a complete nightmare to the point where he had me …
Jay: I’m sure so many people can relate to that.
Chris: Yeah, no. He had me BCCing him into every single email that I sent out.
Jay: Oh, gosh.
Chris: He would receive a copy of every email that I would receive automatically. He was always in that micromanaging role with me. I learned a lot from him in regards to the power of branding. He was a very strong brand, a very successful, multi-multi-multi-multimillionaire entrepreneur. Like I said, I also learned a lot from him in regards to how to not work with people and how to not build a business. It never ceases to amaze me, and I meet people like that quite regularly. Super successful, nice people, but I often scratch my head and I say, “How the hell did they get so successful?” Because their personalities is just not the way I think about building and running businesses nowadays.
Jay: That’s right. Okay, interesting. He was the catalyst for you to basically be like, “You know what, I’ve had enough.”
Chris: He was a catalyst, yeah, without a doubt. Basically what happened was he had me over in Miami or four weeks. He was in the infomercial business. I was working on everything from product placement, distribution, script writing, I even did voiceovers for him, casting, you name it. You name it in regards to the industry, I was involved in it. I did four weeks in Miami. It was a complete and utter nightmare. At 37,000 feet on a Cathay Pacific fight from Miami to Hong Kong, I wrote my was resignation letter. When I landed in Hong Kong airport, I connected to their brilliant, super fast free airport Wi-Fi, hit send, and I’ve never looked back.
Jay: Awesome. That’s such a good story. Now fast-forward, you have achieved Virtual Freedom and you are an entrepreneur. You have said that you now have, you only work X amount of hours every week or month and you have complete freedom to spend time with the people that matter in your life like your family and your kids. I think that’s amazing. I read your book Virtual Freedom. It was maybe last year I think I found it. It was at a time in my life where I was having a lot of angst at work as well, very similar to your story. I read it right after I read, you know how entrepreneurs, you go down these rabbit holes where you find some content and it leads you to another entrepreneur that has other good content. I was doing that sort of thing.
I stumbled upon your book and I read it and it was like, it blew me away. While I had known, it was like a Tim Ferris 4-Hour Workweek 2.0, because I had read his book a few years back and I was like, okay, yeah. That sort of lifestyle exists but let me go back to my desk job and figure it out later. When your book came out, it was really a eye opener. I love the book. It was just packed with so much real actionable secrets and tips to actually tomorrow go out and hire a VA. Thank you for that book. It was definitely part of the game changer for me. I don’t know, do you want to say a few words about the book?
Chris: I mean, first of all, thanks for picking it up. I appreciate the kind words and everything. It’s funny you mentioned 4-Hour Workweek 2.0. True story, we had pitched that book proposal to 16 publishers in the United States. I have four offers, a 25% buy-in, which is ridiculous. Even my agent was surprised that we had that many offers. If you look at the 4-Hour Workweek, I think it was rejected 20 something times. To get four offers off of 16 pitches was huge to begin with. We were instantly over the moon.
The exact reason why, I couldn’t make this stuff up even if you paid me. The exact reason why I went with the publisher that I went with based out of Dallas was because when I spoke with them, we had a virtual pitch meeting via Skype. When I spoke with them, the head publisher at the house said to me that he felt that Virtual Freedom was the outsourcing life section of The 4-Hour Workweek on steroids. I was like, “Okay, where do I sign?”
Jay: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: They got it completely. Actually, it wasn’t the best offer. I could have made more money on the advanced, going with at least one of the other offers that I got. I went with these guys because they got it. They understood what the book was all about. We’re now up to I think 60 plus thousand copies sold. It continue to does great. It’s out in Chinese, it’s in Japanese, it’s soon to be in Spanish or French. I don’t know. There’s a whole bunch of foreign rights coming out at some point in the near future.
Jay: That is awesome.
Chris: Yeah, very, very happy with it. Very happy with the success.
Jay: Yeah, congratulations on your success with the book. It’s amazing. Chris, can you talk about some of the businesses that you’ve set up now? You’ve been in the Philippines now for, is it 15 years?
Chris: 16 years now, yeah.
Jay: 16 years, and you’ve set up a number of businesses there. Some of them are directly offered, referenced in your book Virtual Freedom. Maybe you can run us through some of the things you’re working on in the Philippines right now.
Chris: Sure. There’s three or four main entities. There’s one group, and then everything pops underneath that umbrella. It’s the Live2Sell group. Live2Sell is the outsourced call center that we own and operate here. We’re up to about 470 full-time employees with that business. Serving mostly US-based companies. There are some UK and some Aussie clients and there’s a few other bits and pieces from Europe, but stronghold being US-based clients. We handle anything from inbound customer service to outbound lead generation, appointment setting, and that type of stuff. That’s the big elephant. That’s the big elephant in the room.
Then there’s virtual star finder which would have been referenced two or three times in Virtual Freedom, which is our recruitment hub for busy entrepreneurs wanting to find experienced VAs here in the Philippines. We only deal with Philippine-based VAs. We’ve got our ear very closely to the ground here. We know what works and what doesn’t. That’s the focus there. That’s virtual star finder. Then we have the Chris Ducker brand. ChrisDucker.com, Youpreneur.com, Tropical Think Tank which is my annual conference I hold in the Philippines every year. There are mastermind events that I hold on the world when I travel. There’s obviously the podcast, Youpreneur.fm, and Youpreneur.com which is the mastermind community. All of those things combined make up that third tentacle if you say for the online side of the businesses.
Jay: Wow, that’s amazing. These, you’ve built like building blocks on top of each other. I think the call center was your first one, right, and then you just expanded from that?
Chris: Yes. In all honesty, in full transparency, I don’t work at that call center anymore. I haven’t for three years. I still own and operate it out right. I have no partners. It’s one of those businesses that can run itself now.
Jay: It’s like perfect passive income.
Chris: I wouldn’t necessarily call it passive, unfortunately. I still have a monthly meeting with my general manager who is an American and runs the business for me day to day. Then every other member of my staff is local Filipino based. We have three floors in a five story facility. We are fully redundant with servers and backup generators and ISPs out of your inner drums, you know what I mean? It’s a very, very robust, redundancy based setup business. It is very, very well. It’s a multi-multi-seven-figure revenue business. I’m very proud of what we’ve built. I have absolutely no inclination to go to a call center facility every day. I try and avoid it like the plague, quite frankly. I do a pretty darn good job of it.
Jay: Okay. Let’s talk about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs for a little bit here, Chris. There’s a bit of a debate out there, are entrepreneurs born, can they be made. I think that there is a percentage metric, 90, 95% of people out there should not be an entrepreneur. They should work for someone else because they just aren’t cut out for it. Maybe they’re not hungry enough. Or maybe they’re drawn to entrepreneurship for the wrong reasons. Maybe they’re enamored by the money and the lifestyle versus, if you talk to most real entrepreneurs, they’ll tell you, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work but it’s fulfilling and it’s doing something that you love, and it’s also flexible.
Tell me, Chris, in your opinion what is the, you’re a specialist in online businesses as well as your other businesses. What is the best and easiest way, let’s say I’m Mr. Jay Kim and I’m working at a desk job that I hate, similar to your Miami gig, and I’m about to board that plane and type up my resignation letter as well as soon as I land in Hong Kong. I’m going to send it off. What the first thing? After I hit send and all of a sudden I’m freaking out, oh, what have I done? What’s the first thing I should do to start an online business or start my entrepreneurial journey?
Chris: I don’t think, knowing entrepreneurs, knowing the people that I work with particularly online nowadays, the chances are that before you hit that send button on the resignation letter, the chances are you’ve already been an entrepreneur for a while. Almost everyone that I come into contact with nowadays has got some kind of what we call a side hustle. They’re building a blog, they’re recording a podcast, they’re doing YouTube videos on a regular basis. They’re active on social media. They’re running a Facebook community. Whatever it is, they’re doing something to ultimately try and build an audience, build a community.
That right there is where the money is. That’s where when it comes to online business, it’s not just about solving a problem. It’s not just about creating a product or service and then getting it out there into the world. It’s actually about building an audience. It’s building a community. Because your audience will ultimately shape the way that your business grows into the future. I have pivoted several times with my online brand, with Youpreneur.com, with Tropical Think Tank, with all of the masterminds. All of those things have come about because of my audience’s requirements, their needs. Not what I think they want from me or need from me, but what I know from listening to them, from talking to them, from surveying them.
Just yesterday I hit send on my annual community survey online and I had over 800 people already reply because they know that surveying them and by them being able to give me honest answers, because I do it anonymously. If they don’t want to put their name and email in, they don’t need to. I know and they know that by doing that, I’m going to be able to then continue to serve them on a regular basis through the content that I create, through the events that I hold and put on, through the books that I might write, through the videos I might record, and so on and so on and so on. Really, it comes down to audience, man. You’ve got to focus on building up your audience. What your audience begins as might not be what your audience will be two years from now, even six months from now. You’ve got to start. You’ve got to get going with it.
Jay: That’s great. You bring up two really good points. The first one where you talk about the side hustle is something that I would like to reiterate, because a lot of people, they say, “Oh, I want to quit my job. What should I do?” My first response is don’t quit your job. Do not quit your job because being an entrepreneur is hard enough as it is, let alone if you don’t have the financial backing or the support. You don’t need that added stress. It’s hard enough to build a business out there on their own, let alone when you can’t even pay the bills. Don’t do that. Work on the side hustle.
Then the second point that you bring up about asking your audience, serving your audience, I think that’s really important because a lot of people, again, it’s sexy right now to be an entrepreneur. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. You see people doing it in all shapes and forms online, Instagram models flashing dollar bills and they’re just getting sponsored money thrown at them. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. I think they’re going into it for the wrong reasons, and not necessarily in the right direction. You might start off building a business but in the end, like you said, you have to listen to your audience. You have to serve your audience. If you’re not serving them, then they’re not going to be audience anymore, right?
Chris: Right, exactly. That’s what it is. It serving, not selling. I think everybody’s so, they’re going after the quick buck so intently that they forget about the fact that you’ve got to serve somebody before. It’s about rapport. It’s about trust. That’s part of the sales process. Without rapport and trust, you have absolutely no right to pitch your product or service. You haven’t earned the right to do it. Serve, not sell. I will just comment on something very quickly.
When you say everybody wants to be an entrepreneur nowadays, that’s right, but it’s also wrong because I know people that have wanted to be an entrepreneur for decades but they’ve never pulled the trigger. The main reason why is because it was harder to do so 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. Nowadays, the entry barrier to call yourself an entrepreneur, to become quote unquote an entrepreneur has never been as low as it is today with the Internet being the way it is. When you do business online, you’re open 365 days a year. You don’t close your retail doors at all. That’s sexy. That’s attractive. That’s what people are after, the fact that they can ultimately make money as they sleep.
I do a lot of coaching with clients. They say, “I want to make a six figure income. I want to make 100 grand a year.” If you actually break that down, and I reverse engineer all my goals, particularly financial ones. I reverse engineer right away down to what do I need to make per day. 100 grand is only $297 a day. Almost everybody that I know that I coach as a business coach can easily make $297 a day. The reason why they’re not is because they’re procrastinating, they’re fearful of rejection, they’re fearful of failure, they haven’t put the work in to build the audience up, they’re not listening to the community’s needs, and they are launching products that aren’t hitting with them. There’s a disconnect in what they’re saying and how they’re saying it, and so on and so on and so on. $297 when you’re open 24/7 365, that’s a very easy get, a very easy get. You’ve got to put in the hard work first.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. Wow, there’s so much, you just dropped a lot of gold there. Like you said, the Internet, it’s a game changer. It’s easier now than ever in history to start a business.
Chris: The problem is, Jay, this is the problem. Because that entry barrier is so low, the Internet is now flooded with complete idiots calling themselves entrepreneurs. People believe a lot of what they read on the Internet. That’s where people are tripping up or getting tripped up as well. You’ve got to go about it the right way. You serve, you don’t sell, and you do it for the long, I’m all about the long game, man. I’m all about the long game. I’m not interested in making $10,000 today. I want to make 100 grand a month over the next 10 years. You know what I mean? This is where our mindset should be. It shouldn’t be about the quick buck. It should be about serving, not selling, and the long game approach to building a business.
Jay: Yeah. I think until you have that mentality and that mindset, until you have that, it’s not really going to work out for you. Because yes, you might initially make some money in the short term, but it’s going to run out quickly. You’re not going to have the trust and the community built like you said to sustain it for the long haul. You’ve got your hands and all the stuff. You’ve written a book, you do online, you have a couple courses I think, you’re a public speaker, you do private coaching. Of all the different products that you offer, which one would you say is your favorite and which one is the most lucrative to your bottom line?
Chris: Oh, wow. If you take the call center out of it, if you just focus on the online side of things, I would say the most lucrative in terms of money in my pocket at the end of each year is probably now the Youpreneur community. The beautiful thing about setting up a membership site is that it’s number one, recurring, and number two, it is predictable. I know roughly month to month, knowing that I’m going to lose a certain amount of members every month, I’m going to gain a certain amount of members or every time I launch whatever it is, it’s predictable. I think from a attractiveness perspective, a recurring predictable business model is what every entrepreneur should be looking for.
It’s a lot of hard work. Running a membership, you’re only as good as your last month is what I say. When you’re creating content, when you’re on those live mastermind calls monthly, you’ve got to drop those value bombs from the highest heights that you possibly can. When you’re conversing with members inside the private forms, you’ve got to make sure that you bring it. You can’t just give high-fives all month long. It doesn’t work like that. For me, that’s probably the most, and I say the most lucrative with a little bit of tongue in cheek because we’re still only a year and a bit into it. It’s still early days, but long term, that will definitely be the most lucrative.
That being said, live events and my private coaching are probably the two things that I enjoy doing the most. I enjoy Youpreneur.com. I enjoy the membership community, don’t get me wrong. There’s something about putting live events, bringing people together, and affecting change in the way they think about their lives and their businesses through those live events and through the private coaching that I do that really jazzes me up above and beyond everything else. I love coaching, I love being able to help people break through barriers. I thrive on the opportunity of breaking down somebody’s business and then helping them build it back up again in a profitable manner.
Jay: Right, that’s awesome. Like you said, the membership sites, that’s one of the holy grails of online businesses, because like you said, it’s recurring income. It’s also a lot of work as you mentioned. I see what you’re doing, Chris. You’re out there, you’re providing, you have your podcasts. It’s all just trust building. You do all that stuff for free. You’re blogging, you’re doing all this stuff to build trust within that community.
Chris: You got to do it, you got to do it. If you want someone to part with their hard earned cash, you’ve got to already have provided a lot of value to them online already. That’s just the way it is nowadays.
Jay: Right, right. Yeah, absolutely. Okay, let’s say me, Jay Kim, I’m an inspiring young entrepreneur. I want to launch this podcast in Hong Kong. What do you have available, what does Youpreneur specifically, how can that help me in my business? I’m not sure yet how I’m going to monetize, but I just want to start building an audience, maybe build an email list. What can your resource at Youpreneur help me with?
Chris: You talk about launching a podcast and building email lists, we have full on training material inside of Youpreneur to do those two things precisely. I’ve helped launch a lot of podcasts over the last six years being active online. Every single time I’ve done it, I’ve hit new and noteworthy, I’ve rocked out the top of the charts for a certain period of time to be able to gain a loyal subscriber base and all that sorts. A lot of that training is inside of Youpreneur. Youpreneur is a premium community, it’s premium content. It’s not what you’ll get on the blog. That’s not to say that the blog and the podcast is not useful. It is. A lot of great stuff is up there, a lot of great stuff is up there. The real in-depth training, the in-depth coaching is saved and pulled back on just for Youpreneur members alone.
Jay: Right, right. This is one of those bespoke courses that you got to invest in yourself, though. You can’t just, it’s difficult to just try to wing it and fly blind because …
Chris: Look, it’s not for everyone. It’s $69 a month, for Christ’s sake. It’s your Starbucks on a monthly basis or whatever it is.
Jay: Certainly in Hong Kong it is.
Chris: Yeah, it is. You’re absolutely right.
Jay: Talk to me about Tropical Think Tank. I’m really interested actually, both personally and from seeing stuff that you’ve done in the past. What is Tropical Think Tank?
Chris: Tropical Think Tank is the annual mastermind conference that I put on in the Philippines every year. I hold it every March. It came about actually, funny story. I was in the United States, I had just had dinner with several industry peers. We had moved to a local drinking spot, watering hole for some cocktails. A few cocktails in, I turn around and basically say to everybody, “You guys are a bunch of A-holes. Because I come over to the US to hang out with you guys …” Obviously I go over for speaking and things. I come over to the US and I hang out with you guys and you’ve never been in the Philippines before, ever.
It was Amy Porterfield who was an incredibly successful online entrepreneur, very good friend. Amy turned around and said, “I’ll come to the Philippines.” Then John Lee Dumas said, “I’ll come.” Then Pat Flynn said, “I’m coming up there going.” Before we knew what was happening, I was basically putting on an event for my buddies, really, it was all my friends, close friends. We did the first event, and we didn’t really know what we were doing. I think we sold 26 or 27 tickets or something. It’s a premium event. It’s $4000 a ticket. It’s not cheap. It’s very intimate and it’s very private. We hold it at a beautiful five star beach resort. It’s five nights, we did lots of learning. Bring in speakers from all around the world still. We do a lot of masterminding, a lot of co-working. It’s just a great experience for people to come together with like-minded individuals that are all doing very well in their business already. It’s not for beginners. This is something that somebody with a good hold on their business already is, that’s who …
Jay: To level that up, right?
Chris: Yeah. It’s six figures and above kind of thing. That’s not to say that if you could afford it, and you were still siding out, you wouldn’t get a lot from it. You could, but we’re quite protective of the fact that other people that are there want to be surrounded by people that are at least where there are or hopefully two or three clicks even above. We have several millionaires attend the event every year. People taking their businesses from very small six figures to mid six figures within a year after the event. It’s very action orientated and it’s easily one of the favorite things I do every year now.
Jay: Yeah, I’ve heard so many good things about it. John Lee Dumas was actually, I had him on a couple weeks ago on the podcast. I was like, “Have you ever been to Asia?” He said, “I’ve been to the Philippines, does that count?” I was like, “I bet I know where you went.”
Chris: Yeah, John actually came to the first one, like I said. Then what we do every year is we run a attendee survey after the event. Whoever is voted the best speaker of the event each year instantly gets an invite back to the next year. John was voted top speaker the first year. It’s not just on stage antics. It’s also offstage kind of masterminding and social antics as well. It’s all combined. He won the first year, which he loves sticking it to Pat Flynn to on a regular basis.
Jay: Amazing, amazing. Chris, let’s look to wrap up here. Thank you so much for your time. I’m really respectful and thankful for you sharing your story and all your insight and knowledge bombs.
Chris: My pleasure.
Jay: I have two questions for you left. The first is, if you had one piece of advice to give to our young aspiring entrepreneurs here in Hong Kong listening into this show, what would it be?
Chris: I would say be you, because there’s only one you. You are 100% original. You can’t be copied, your products could be copied, your services could be copied, your online landing page could be copied, but you can’t be copied. People want to do business with other people, people that they know, love, and trust. Notice how I said know, love, and trust. Not like and trust. That whole know, like, and trust thing is BS nowadays. You have to know somebody, you’ve got to love somebody, and you’ve got to trust somebody to want to do business with them.
We want to become somebody’s favorite, Jay. That’s really what it is. That’s what you want as an aspiring young entrepreneur is to become somebody’s favorite. Favorite blogger, favorite app developer, favorite podcaster, favorite YouTube star, favorite social media. Whatever it is, you’ve got to become somebody’s favorite. Just be you. It’s 100% original. Nobody can copy it.
Jay: Yeah, wise words from Mr. Chris Ducker. Awesome. The final question is, where can people find you? Where do you want the attention to be from an audience?
Chris: Just ChrisDucker.com, simple as that.
Jay: ChrisDucker.com Get everything you need there at ChrisDucker.com. Chris, thanks. It’s been really enjoyable talking to you and I really appreciate your time.
Chris: It was all my pleasure, good luck.
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