Going from invisible to investible was a technique that is close to reflex for Mitch Russo. His first take on the business world was how to make his high band profitable. He had to bump on walls but eventually got there and charged a single gig at $500 a night. From here he learned the lesson of discipline for himself and his team as well as performing at top quality. Later in his career, Mitch founded the Invisible Organization, a company that helps brick and mortar businesses transform into virtual enterprises. Mitch shares his funny experiences as a startup business owner and inspiring stories of helping business owners and writing his first book.
We have a great show because we’ve got Mitch Russo. You’ve probably seen so many things that he has done including his relationship with Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins that produce the Business Breakthroughs International, which is a company that served thousands of businesses a year with coaching and consulting and training services. He’s got a fascinating background.
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Transform Into A Virtual Enterprise With Mitch Russo And The Invisible Organization
I am with Mitch Russo who’s the co-founder of Timeslips Corp, which grew to become the largest time-tracking software company in the world. In 1994, Timeslips Corp was sold to Sage. While at Sage, Mitch went on to run all of the Sage US as Chief Operating Officer, a division with 300 people with a market cap in excess of $100 million. Mitch joined long-time friend Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins and together created Business Breakthroughs International, a company serving thousands of businesses a year with coaching, consulting and training services. Mitch was the President and CEO. In 2015, Mitch published The Invisible Organization, which is a CEO’s guide to transitioning a traditional brick and mortar company into a fully virtual organization. It’s so nice to have you, Mitch.
Thank you, Diane, for inviting me.
I had a hard time picking what I wanted to talk to you about because you are a wealth of knowledge. There’s a lot of information on the web about you and I particularly liked some of your interviews. I listened to the one with Mark Pattison and I was very interested in How To Get Your First 1000 Clients by Maverick DNA on Vimeo. You’ve got some great content out there. I want to start with how you had a high school rock band and how that shaped your future in the business world. Do you want to go there?
Sure, because that was my very first business experience. It’s a little embarrassing, but I’ll tell you the whole story. It turns out that I was a socially awkward kid growing up and I saw all the other guys who played sports getting dates and I wasn’t getting any. What I wanted to do was I wanted to find a way to meet girls. My friend and I, at almost twelve years old, we started taking guitar lessons. He started taking bass guitar and I started taking regular guitar lessons. We practiced for years before we literally pulled together a group of kids and we started a band. The name of the band came after my love of Frank Zappa. His first album was called Absolutely Free. We stole the name of his album and that’s what we called our band, Absolutely Free. We started to play for free. We started to play Battle of the Bands and it was okay but what I wanted to do was I wanted to get out there. I wanted to make some money as a kid. We were sixteen years old. On Saturday was band practice day and I had to enforce a rule that nobody likes and that was ‘no getting high during band practice’. Everybody said, “No. Come on. We sound so much better when we’re stoned.” I said, ” Let’s turn on the tape recorder and see if that’s true.”
Everyone then agreed that we should probably not get high and we’d practice and the same goes through for any place we’d play outside. We kept doing stuff like this. The other thing was that one of the guys wanted more variety in band practice and I said, “No. We keep doing the song until we get it perfect.” We started doing that and nobody liked that either. It was a thing where now we had twelve perfect songs that we can go out and play. We started winning Battles of the Band and then we started getting invited to Sweet Sixteen’s to play and this was going well. We charged $50 for an evening, remember that’s 1970. Things were going pretty well. One of the things I’ve decided to do was figure out if maybe we could charge more. I started to slowly raise the price. We got up to $500 a night before we found any resistance at all. Then at one of these particular events, some of the kids asked if we could play some dance music and we said, “Sure.” We go back and we try a few dance songs. Then we came to another gig and we played some dance music and the people liked it, but we hated it. I was learning all these incredible lessons and I didn’t even realize it. Lesson number one, was be disciplined with yourself and your team, even if they don’t like it. Lesson two, was don’t deliver a substandard product. If we didn’t practice, we didn’t get it right. People would not want to pay us to perform. Lesson three, was what it came down to is when we were asked to do dance music, we didn’t like it and we didn’t do it very well. Lesson three, it came from a very famous American philosopher. You probably have heard of him. His name is Colonel Sanders.
Colonel Sanders said one thing in all of his commercials. He said, “We do chicken right.” To me, that was focus. They don’t sell hot dogs, they don’t sell pizza. We don’t play dance music. That was what it came down to. Then I told you about the price testing. This is how we learn to assess our true worth in the marketplace. Then we had another trick that we did after every gig that we did, I carried in my gig bag a clipboard and a pencil and I go over to the mom and I’d say, “Would you mind writing a quick note about how well we did and all that.” She would say, “Sure,” and she’d give us a testimonial. Here again, we’re learning these things. We were just trying to spread the word. Finally, this was one of the biggest cool surprises we ever had. After about doing this for six months or so, we decided to write an announcement and post it in the supermarket and I also dropped it in the mail to the local newspaper. Here’s the shocking thing. They printed my announcement exactly the way I wrote it. A light bulb went off and I say, “What happens if I were to send this to multiple newspapers?” We learned the lesson of PR. These were the things, the foundational elements of what I bring into every business experience today.
You started so young knowing how to do all these things. That’s what I thought was fascinating. That’s why I wanted you to start with that story because that’s awesome. You also created a software company in your garage and sold it for eight figures. How old were you when you did that?
I had another situation I should probably share with you. In that band, I had a drug problem. I took a break from life and my mom and my family behind me, I got into rehab and I was able to recover.
That’s interesting because so many successful people seem to run into issues with that type of thing.
For me, my parents divorced when I was thirteen years old and my sister was eleven. We struggled with the divorce and my parents were brutally fighting all the time. I’m not blaming that. I’m saying we had issues as kids. Here’s the beautiful part of this, I emerged as a seventeen-year-old, completely rehabbed and grown up. I had my purpose. I had my mission. I had my vision for my life at a very young age.
You sound like you’re a curious person. Did that come naturally to you? Did somebody develop that curiosity in you? How do you think that came to be?
I’ve always been that way. My whole life, I’ve been a curious exploring kid. When my sister and I went through the divorce with my parents, both of us had made a decision that we never discussed between us, but we made the same decision. The decision was that we would never be in a situation like our mom was in. When she divorced, she had nothing to lean back on and she had to work menial labor in order to make money. We both decided that we wouldn’t be in that position. My sister became a Supreme Court judge magistrate and I started a business. I had that in my mind that business equals freedom. Even as I took jobs growing up to get experience, I knew eventually I would start a business. I didn’t know what kind, but I knew I’d start a business.
You started a software company. Was that your first?
I had little things here and there. The time when I made a decision that I was going to now get busy starting my business. I pursued five ideas at the same time. It’s funny how the universe comes together to support you when you start to do this because all of a sudden, the universe was showing me opportunities that I had not seen before. One of those opportunities was to build a network of sales reps around the country for electronic components, which was my business. I was a rep for the electronic component company at this time. I got together with the vice president of manufacturing of a very big company here in Massachusetts and he said, ” I want you to do this with me. We will be partners and we’re going to do all these cool things and we’re going to go to Asia and we’re going to source manufacturers and bring them back to the States.” We’re making these plans. I put $5,000 in the bank with him and I created business documents. One Sunday, he calls me up at about 8:30 in the morning. He says, “Mitch, I got great news for you.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “You’ve got to come visit. I got to see you right away. Can you drive over to the Holiday Inn in Woburn, Massachusetts?” I said, “Sure.”
I get in the car. I drive over to Woburn and I walked through the hotel to the back of the restaurant and I see him at the very back of the restaurant and he’s sitting with this very slutty-looking woman. I had met his family. I had known everybody. We had gotten to be friends. He stands up and he’s so excited to see me and he says, “Mitch, I want to introduce you to our new partner.” I said, “What?” “She’s going to be coming to Asia with us and she’s going to open up a retail store and sell furniture.” I said, “Can I talk to you privately for a second? Who is this person?” “We’ve been together on the side now for the last two years.” Like I said, I loved his wife. His kids were awesome. I said, “Either she goes now or I walk.” He started to stammer and stutter and said, “Let’s give it a try.”I said, “I’m gone.” I turned around and I left.
That happens so much though. I’ve seen that thing happen more often than I’d like to say. People get into that situation. It’s good you stood by your principles and that’s great. You seem to have a very strong idea of what you want and I like that.
I do and I always have. It’s been my guiding compass for many years. I’m going to tell you how all of these stories actually come together later in life. Here’s the most unlikely possible business I could start. By the way, I’ve been a real estate developer since my twenties and I had been always living in the buildings that I would buy. I’d buy a small apartment building. I’d move in and I would live there and then when I’d buy the next one, I would move out and live into that one. It had gotten to the point where I had made enough money and had enough properties, I bought a house for myself.
I’m in this new house. It’s gorgeous, my dream home in many ways. The house next to me is empty. It’s been empty. One day, there’s commotion outside. There are moving trucks. I see these new neighbors coming in. I was, “Great. New neighbors.” I go over with a little gift. I think it was a piece of pastry or something and I knock on the door and say, “I’m your neighbor, Mitch. Great to meet you.” There’s this guy. He looks like he is from Woodstock. He has the long hair and there’s his crunchy granola wife standing right next to him. I fall in love with these people instantly. We hang out and talk and find out that we both play guitar and find out that we both love organic food. It’s really cool. We decided that we were going to go have lunch sometime next week. We go to lunch and we enjoyed the lunch. We kept going to lunch and then one day, I came to lunch and he said, “What’s the matter? You look upset.” I said, “I’ve got a problem. I’ve got so many sample requests from my clients and I’m keeping track of them. I had to buy a personal computer and it was like $6,000 for this personal computer. I don’t know what to do about this thing. They won’t let me to deduct it from my taxes. My accountant said that that $6,000, I can’t deduct because the IRS thinks it’s a toy.” I asked my accountant, “What would make it deductible?” and he goes, “If you could keep an exact record of everything you do on that computer, then we could submit that and that will be called contemporaneous record keeping by the IRS.”
I told Neil my problem and he listened intently. He took a napkin and he drew on a napkin what a little thing on the screen would look like if in fact I could keep track of that time. I said, “That’s pretty cool.” I knew he was an award-winning programmer, but this was on a PC and he was an Apple programmer. Six weeks later, we keep meeting for breakfast and lunch and enjoying our time together and six weeks later he says, “I want to show you something. Go with me to my office,” and he does it. I’m looking at the screen and he clicks a button and there’s that little box that he drew on the napkin in reality. I was blown away. I said, “This is exactly what I need.” My mind clicked into the next phase of seeing this and I immediately said to him, “You want to start a company?” because I was in that mode of wanting to start a company. I said, “I think we could sell a couple of these.” He said, “Yes.”
We worked for nine months to build this thing that would keep track of time for the IRS except the problem was, on the week we both quit our jobs, the week that we had printed our first set of manuals, the week that we had plane tickets ready to go to COMDEX to show it everywhere, the IRS relaxed their ruling on contemporaneous record keeping. It could have been it, but we kept asking ourselves, “What else can we do with this? This is cool, who else needs to keep track of time?” It was a brainstorm. We said, “Lawyers need to keep track of time, accountants, and all these people.” I said to Neil, “What kind of programming effort would it take to reposition this?” He thought for a second and he said, ” I could do it in about six weeks.” I said, “Great.” At this point now, I’m rewriting the manual to orient around this whole process and all this now is on the PC, not on the Apple. He had to figure out how to program on the PC. He did it and that was the beginning of Timeslips Corporation. We both put $5,000 into the bank and started a company.
Two things happened. First, the company stumbled along for the first year or so. This is for everybody whoever started a company, you’ll identify with this. You’re always doubting yourself. I was doubting myself constantly. “Is this a good idea? This isn’t a real company because we haven’t paid ourselves yet. We sold six copies this week at $99 a copy.” We started getting up to 20 or 30 copies a week, which was better. Here’s the thing that swung the pendulum in the opposite direction. We ended up getting a review in a very, very popular magazine called InfoWorld. We knew the review is coming because they had called to do some fact-checking and we were terrified because we knew that a bad review in InfoWorld is lights out. We waited and we waited and then finally, it was a Monday morning and it was 6 AM and all of a sudden, I heard all three phones in my downstairs garage ringing at the same time. I said, “What happened?” I go downstairs and I started picking up the phones. “Hello, Timeslips Corporation. Can I help you?” “I want to place an order for your software, please.” It was one after the other. From 6 AM until everybody showed up at about 9, I sat there and wrote orders. Order after order after order as the phone kept ringing off the hook.
You must’ve had a pretty good product for that to happen. I didn’t listen to some of your stories about the different things that you did to advertise and focus on the different parts of the fields. I want to talk about that, but I also am fascinated by what happened later in your career when you sold your business in 1994, after you’ve been this huge success and then starting over again. A lot of people might find that story interesting as well because you were 44 and they wouldn’t hire you because you were too old. Let’s jump ahead to that because I’m interested in some of the stuff you’ve done to get back in after that.
Everybody says at one point or another when I get to know somebody new, “You’ve reinvented yourself a lot of times.” It’s not that I wanted to, it wasn’t even that I thought I was doing that, it was completely out of necessity. After I sold my company and I felt like, “I’m at the top of my game here. I built this thing from scratch and sold it for over $10 million. Who wouldn’t want me?” In fact, I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t get even someone to call me back. Until finally, I ended up speaking to a guy at a venture capital firm and I said, “How could I not be interesting to you when I’ve done everything that you want all of your investments to do?” He says, “Mitch, I’ve got to tell you the truth, but you can’t tell anybody I said this. The problem is your age.” At 44 years old, I was too old. I said, “I’ll basically invest in companies on my own.” I set aside $500,000. I said, “This is going to be my investment bank and I will go around and I will meet companies that need money and help and I will invest in them under the condition that I get to help them shape the future of their path. I did that. I started doing that and then basically, I ended up starting a venture capital firm.
In that process, I ended up being approached by another VC firm who wanted to take over my investments and then hire me to work inside of their investment companies, which is exactly what I wanted from the beginning. I accepted that and I ended up running a pretty hot internet startup in 1999. Unfortunately, the dot-com bust took us all down. It was a tough time. We managed to get it done and we got it sold. Not for what we wanted but we got it sold. All throughout the years with Timeslips, this very persistent, pushy sales guy named Chet Holmes, kept trying to sell me advertising. I kept turning him down and every time he called, the deal would get better. I figured, “This is fine. I could keep turning them down forever.” Finally, we got to the point, it was a year and a half later that he was now offering me a double page color spread at the front of the book for the same price as a single black and white. I said, “Okay.” Finally, I did it and it worked like gangbusters. It was at that time, the timing was right, the magazine was right, everything was right and this cemented our friendship. Chet and I became best friends.
I was listening to you say how close you were and I know his past. He sounds like he was an amazing guy. You developed this great relationship with this heavy duty sales guy. He had quite a book, The Ultimate Sales Machine. You probably complemented each other well. He was the door to get you in somewhat with Tony Robbins. Isn’t that how it came about? Can you tell that story?
We would talk every week. We would debate the meaning of faith. Does faith mean you have control of your life or not? This debate lasted years. We would meet up in cities and just hang out and have dinner and go to shows and stuff in Vegas. It was just fantastic. One day, he calls me up. He is real agitated. He has a terrible problem and he shares it with me because that’s our friendship. That’s what he does. I said to him after the call ” I’m going to see if I could solve this problem for you. Who’s the guy who’s giving you all this trouble?” and he tells me. I said, “Give me his phone number.” He said, “What are you going to do? You don’t even know him.” I said, “I don’t know why. I want to talk to this guy.” I called the guy up and I said, “You’re giving my buddy Chet a hard time and I want to know why.” This guy says, “Chet wants me to do everything. I can’t do recruiting and training and selling and marketing and webinars and this.” I said, ” Tell me the biggest burden that you have on your shoulders right now. What is it?” He said, “It’s recruiting.” I said, “Fine. I’ll do the recruiting for you. Now, will you stopped bugging the guy?” I don’t really know how to recruit.
I figure you could teach yourself. That’s what you’re thinking, right?
Exactly. How hard can it be? I listened to Chet’s CD on recruiting. I said, “This sounds pretty simple. I could systematize this.” Given my software background and my engineering thinking, I took Chet’s process and I developed a software procedural system around it. We started hiring people and training them and we basically tripled his sales force in six weeks. He said, ” Now, you got to join the company,” and so I did. It was when within basically three or four months he said to me, “Now, you got to run the company. You need to be the president because I don’t like running it and I want you to run it.”I said, “I’ll do that.” The next thing I hear, he goes, ” I need you for a phone call this coming evening because I finally got through to Tony Robbins.” I’m shocked, “Tony Robbins with Chet?” “We are going to put a deal together with Tony.” I said, ” Great.” We are on the phone now with Tony Robbins.
Tony is one of my favorite people in the world. I have listened to all of his materials. I played his CDs on business trips. I cried while I was driving as he was helping me go through these exercises on CD and all that. Just to be in the same phone call was incredible. We started meeting with Tony every Thursday night and we started hammering out what would become Business Breakthroughs International. We figured it all out over the course of about three or four months and we agreed that we would kick the whole thing off with an event in Las Vegas except the events was going to be six weeks from the day we agreed to do this. How do you fill an auditorium with 500 people in six weeks? We did it. We got our sales force on it. We sent out hundreds and hundreds of emails, probably bothering a lot of people but we got the auditorium filled. That was the day that, I met Tony face-to-face and he and I became friends and to this day, he is still a friend. I consider him a friend and we communicate. I still do occasional work for Tony from time to time. For me that was the beginning of the relationship. We started together and we took that live event. We turned it into training materials and we built a coaching program around it. We even built a consulting program around it. As the company progressed, we grew at 100% a year until we were above $25 million in revenue per year. That’s when unfortunately I had found out that my dear friend, Chet, was stricken with leukemia.
You continued to work with Tony even after Chet died or did you go on from there?
Tony and I now started to work even more closely together to basically figure out what the next steps were.
I heard you were making videos at 4 AM. My first thought is, did you wake up early to do it or were you up all night working on it?
It’s even worse than that. It turns out that Tony said to me, “Meet me in San Francisco. I’m doing an event for Salesforce and we can talk after the event.” I said, “Great.” I fly out that morning from East Coast to West Coast and I’m going to meet Tony at 8 PM. The 8 PM turned into midnight and we spoke for three hours and I presented him my strategic plan for moving this whole thing forward. He loved it. We then made a video together that we sent back to the company. Needless to say, it was a long day for me.
I saw him at the Genius Network. He was in Arizona. He was a few feet from me on stage and I’m like, “This guy has so much energy. Does he sleep?”
He is so careful with his health and he’s had some challenges. He’s super careful with his health. He knows how to take care of himself.
You had quite a background with the people you’ve worked with, with the different jobs you’ve done. When you did all these things, I was interested in how you decided to write your book and the mistake you said you made about the backend stuff. Can you go a little bit into that? A lot of people could benefit from that because a lot of people are probably thinking of writing a book. If you could talk about the process to go through to get that backend going, what you wished you would have done, would be great.
When the time came and I reevaluated my situation after Chet had passed away, I realized that my alignment in the company and the family’s alignment with what the business needed to do next, was completely at a whack. The fair thing for me to do would be to resign and I did. Here again, we are talking about starting over. Think about it from this perspective, I actually had no list, no products, almost no real profession. I didn’t think of myself at that time as having any kind of a skill that I could put on a resume and offer. I decided to call my friends and I spoke to the people in this world that I know and trust and one of those people was Jay Abraham.
I called Jay and I said, “Jay, I don’t know what to do next. What do you think?” Jay was very kind and offered me lots of cool, interesting suggestions and one of the things he said “Whatever you do, you cannot let what you know go to waste. You have to find a way of communicating this at least if not deploying it with somebody else.” After that call I kept thinking, “What would that look like?” Then I said, “I guess I should write a book.” I’m no author. I don’t know how to write that way. I started writing and writing and writing and then I hired a writing coach and she helped me in and after a year of work we had created something that I thought was absolute rubbish and I deleted it from my hard drive. I said, “I don’t want to do this. This is wrong. I wouldn’t even read this. This is horrible.” That was a relief. The pressure was now off. I had decided that I wouldn’t do this. Then about a week later, I had this moment. I had this epiphany or cognition or wherever, and then all of a sudden I said, ” I understand now what the book is supposed to do.” I went on to GoDaddy and I did a quick check to see if the idea that I had in the name was already taken and it turns out that ’Invisible Organization’ was available as a URL which shocked me. I bought it and I then realized that the entire backbone of the book needed to be how to take a company and transform it into a virtual enterprise. Once I got that clear, once I understood now what the entire backbone of the book was, the whole thing flowed in less than 90 days.
With that book though, did you create any backend process for the next step?
I was so excited about the book and I felt like I had vomited everything I knew into one container. I felt like it was going to be so powerful that the world would beat down a path to my doorway to hire me. You probably know what happens next, crickets.
Everybody needs to hear this lesson. This is an important one.
As it turns out, the book did get published. The book did become an Amazon number one bestseller and it’s gotten some great reviews and all that, and I did get a couple of clients here and there. Ultimately, what I realized is that I would never launch a book again without a backend. The reason you want a backend is to create a self-liquidating offer, which means that you would offer something inexpensive that would have nothing else paid for more ads to get your book out there further. We did this with BBI with Chet and we marketed Chet’s book for years and it continued to sell and sell and sell.
What’s an example of something you wish you would have included?
It would’ve been so easy for me to have included a course. I could have included the audio and up-sold that. I could have built a funnel and invested $5,000 or $10,000 into seeding it with some Facebook ads and testing various up-sells and offers. I didn’t do any of that.
I watched some of your How to Get Your First 1000 Clients on the Maverick DNA on Vimeo. Is that the thing that you wish you’d had included as well right off the bat?
You have such great tips in that. How do people get into taking that? I know, if you watched on Vimeo, you can’t click on all the links and all that. Do you still offer that as a course? There’s some great information on some of this stuff you have out there.
Yes, I do. In fact that there’s not only the video is out there but you can go to MitchRusso.com. I have nothing to sell on that page. It’s all for the benefit of everyone. Everything I mentioned in the video is on a especially built page for you to use.
You have some great things about how you like to have it when people steal your book and post it on their site. Some of the stuff you’re saying. I’m thinking, “It is great when somebody takes their information then gets you known.” There are so many tips on there. I could listen to that a lot. I imagine that you’ve got a new book coming out that you give a lot of tips in. Are you working on another one?
Yeah. It’s already at the publisher. That book is called Power Tribes: How Certification Can Skyrocket Your Sales. That’s the lesson that I didn’t get a chance to talk about that I learned at Timeslips. We created a 350-person Certified Consultant Program.
How are they any different than salespeople and what do you mean by certification? Can you go into that?
The best way is using examples. A quick example is that when we started Timeslips and how sales rocketed after that particular review, we were overwhelmed. Our support department was totally overwhelmed and now people were waiting ten to twelve minutes to speak to a support person. That was unacceptable to me. I would rant and rave when stuff like that would happen. We couldn’t hire and train fast enough. One day, by accident I ended up coming up with a solution that I had never even anticipated would be the solution. We had a problem client in Los Angeles who happens to be one of the key technology people for the Los Angeles Bar Association. She was complaining that she was having problems with Timeslips. What I did is on a fluke, I called another client nearby and said, “I know you’re doing well with Timeslips, would you mind going over and helping this woman? I’d appreciate it. I’d be happy to pay you whatever you want.” She’s, “Mitch, I would love to.” She was such a fan. It was great. Now, I’m waiting and waiting hours go by. I still don’t know what’s happening and I’m pacing in my house hoping that she’s going to call us. It’s three hours ahead so it’s 9:00 at night and I get the phone call and she’s, “We fixed her problem. She’s thrilled. She loves Timeslips now and Mitch, I got to tell you something incredible that happened.” I said, “What’s that?” She goes, “She gave me $100.” I said, “Really?” and now the words that changed my life forever. She said, “If there’s anybody else who you think would need my help, you let me know.” That was the light bulb that burst above my head at that moment. “Why don’t I find all of my best clients, train them, teach them, test them and turn them into paid consultants?” That’s how the whole thing started. Unfortunately, I screwed it up the first time through. It almost crashed the company.
We figured it out and we ended up growing that division to 350 active Certified Consultants. Now, that big group of people, it was bigger than my whole company, number one, they became my third largest sales channel. They decreased support by 20%. They dropped $1 million in cash in profits to my bottom line and this is 1989 and 1990. This thing became magic. At the time, the CEO and Founder of Intuit, Scott Cook, was a friend and he saw what I was doing and he said, “Could you teach us how to do this?” I said, “Sure.” I needed a favor from Scott. I needed Scott to let me build a connection between QuickBooks and Timeslips. He did not have an API and there was no possibility of doing it and he already turned me down. I said, “I’d love to help you. Maybe, you could help me,” and we agreed. He got which became the Intuit Certified Advisor Program that lives on today. I got my link into QuickBooks and fortified my position.
At this point in time, this tiny little software company in Hamilton, Massachusetts ends up eighteen months after this program started, with nationwide coverage and many offices in some states but office in every states. Frankly, after I sold the company, I pretty much forgot all about it. Until about three or four years ago, when on a phone call about something else, a friend asked me if I could do it for him. Naturally, I said, “Sure,” and I didn’t even know how much to charge. I said, “How about this amount? Is that okay?” He goes, “Yeah. That’s all fine. No problem,” and it was a lot. I did it, we built the program. It was fantastic. He launched it, generated six figures out of the gate and to this day he’s bringing in between 25 and 30 new certified consultant candidates a month. I started offering it to other people and I still do that. I build certification programs for clients and I have some incredible clients. I love working with my clients and that’s one of the things that I do today.
I wrote a brand publishing course as part of my work as an MBA Program at Forbes and there was a question of whether you can call something a certification or a bootcamp. What constitutes in your mind being certified? How long does that take the process and what are you exactly certified to do?
If you ever wanted to think about creating a certification program, one of the things that you must do is if you’re going to train people to the point where they are going to create a transformation in this universe at the same level that you can create it, then you have to guarantee 100% competency. If you can’t do that, then you can’t do this. What I learned from Tony when I built Tony’s virtual training environment, Tony taught me how people learn and he taught me how to make sure programs can teach people to learn. I employ a lot of that when I build these programs now for my clients. We can guarantee 100% competency when somebody goes through one of my clients’ certification programs.
How long does the program take?
It depends on the company, it depends on the material. Usually, it’s between 30 and 60 days.
You have so much great knowledge and information and I know we have a lot of the same people that I’ve had on my show. You have your own show, you have a podcast and I saw you interviewed Brian Smith who I’ve had on my show and some other people. You like Simon Sinek’s talk. I had David Mead on the show who co-authored his latest book. Other than the names that I’ve mentioned so far, are there some books other than yours, you think are a must-read for people who are starting a business or wanting to become a CEO level like how you did?
I want to make one thing clear upfront. All of these great books that we both have read require that we have the right mindsets. Without the right mindset, no book is going to change or help us in any way. The book that I recommend that is an incredible book for mindset is a book called You Too Can Be Prosperous. That sounds a little hokey and it was written in 1950s but I guarantee that if you do the exercises in that book, and I’m going to confess and say that I’ve read the book seven times. I felt like the lessons are so timeless and so important that it was worth going through the book. It’s $9.95. This is a good one. This is a good investment. I did promise I was going to tell you how all the stories I tell you now are going to tie back to it. About a year ago, I had made the realization that all of my friends in the course creation space and all the people out there who’ve made a lot of money selling courses, all had the very same problem. It’s that all of their students, no one had basically more than 6% to 8% completion rate with their programs.
My thinking is that, “We’re all in business and some of us build courses and sell them and we want to sell those same customers more coaching, maybe masterminds, maybe other programs. If they don’t succeed at the first one, why would they buy the second one?” I went on a quest to solve this problem. One of the things that I did personally to solve this problem for myself on a course that I had not completed was to get an accountability partner. I had this realization that when I went to find an accountability partner, that there was no way out there to do that. You should know by the way from the story about me being a drug addict, I have an addictive personality. I get obsessed with things. I got obsessed with this and I started to understand why people don’t have accountability partnerships. I decided to create a software application on the web, a SAS-based site that would allow people to, like Match.com, find their perfect accountability partner, which by itself is pretty cool, but more importantly, guide them through their accountability sessions. Help them create the questions that they need to ask themselves every week, and then collect all of the statistics that come from knowing that you’re making progress.
As soon as I had the intention, the resources showed up in my life. I was introduced to an interface designer out of London who loved the idea and was able to work with me immediately. Then I took that interface and I said, “Now, I need somebody to build it,” and within a week, a friend called and said, “We have a programming team that is pretty much done with our stuff, but they’re so good. I can’t see them going to waste. Do you know anybody who needs a programming team?” I said, “Yeah. I think I do.” It’s been in development for a year and then here’s the best part of all, when I’m finally got to the point where I had created the product and I now know it’s working and we have, accountability partners who are working together, I said, “What’s the bigger picture here?” It occurred to me on a phone call with Yanik Silver and he was brilliant at helping me figure this part out. He is the Evolved Enterprise guy. He’s the guy who says, “Let’s connect the cause to your business.” We came up with an idea. It’s now called the ten-minute mentor and what this is, is that if you become a member of ResultsBreakthrough.com, then you could sign up to be a ten-minute mentor and when the time is right, we will connect you with an inner city high school kid who would love to have a conversation with an adult who’s in business so that they can brainstorm their own little business. Here’s the tie back in the story I told you. I wonder if I would’ve had a ten-minute mentor back in the days when I was in high school and I got hooked on drugs, whether it would’ve made a difference in my life.
I had Gerald Chertavian, the CEO of Year Up on the show. You would have a lot to talk to with him because you are trying to make a difference in the world. How can people sign up to do this?
You go to ResultsBreakthrough.com. I have a gift for everyone. It’s a paid program and it’s very inexpensive. We used to charge $1,800 a month for an accountability coach and all you got was 30 minutes a week. What we’ve done is we’ve created a system where you coach each other in a guided system as I described. If you go to the site and you use the event code Winner, I’m going to gift your members a 30-day full membership for free.
Thank you. You have so much information. What other sites would you like to share? I know a lot of people would like to know more about you and what you do. Are there any other sites you want to share before we end the show?
First of all, connect with me on LinkedIn. It’s just simply Mitch Russo and I have a lot of articles on LinkedIn. I tell my Hero’s Journey story on LinkedIn. On the web, you could find me at MitchRusso.com, which frankly has about everything I do on it and the links to most of those things as well.
Mitch, this has been so much fun. You should see how many notes I didn’t even get to ask you because I was listening to everything you do. I knew this was going to go long because I just wanted to ask you so many questions and I still didn’t cover everything I want to but maybe we’ll have another conversation someday. Thank you again.
My pleasure, Diane. I want to encourage everybody who is out there and who wants to write a book or wants to start a business, remember one thing folks, you don’t fail until you quit. You can pivot anytime, but stay engaged and make it happen because it’s there waiting for you.
Thank you so much to Mitch. It was a wonderful show and we get so many great guests. Please join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
About Mitch Russo
In 1985, Mitch Russo entered the software business as the founder of Timeslips Corp (sold to Sage Plc) after creating the largest network of Certified Consultants in the software industry, helping Intuit Corp create their own Certified Quickbooks Accountant Network as well. After selling my company, I then ran Sage Plc in the US as the COO, with over 300 staff. Moving back to Boston, I then found myself involved in the VC community, first as an advisor to startups and then as the CEO of the largest furniture shopping site early in 2000; FurnitureFan.com.
- Mitch Russo
- The Invisible Organization
- Mark Pattison guesting on Mitch Russo’s Podcast
- How To Get Your First 1000 Clients by Maverick DNA
- Chet Holmes
- The Ultimate Sales Machine
- Genius Network
- Jay Abraham
- Power Tribes: How Certification Can Skyrocket Your Sales
- Intuit Certified Advisor Program
- You Too Can Be Prosperous
- Yanik Silver
- Mitch Russo LinkedIn