Business Talk Library sits down with John North CEO & Founder of Evolvepreneurapp to discuss his business and taking on the challenge of Big Tech. https://evolvepreneur.app/index
Are you really paying attention to the feedback that will help you move your business forward?
This is a key point that jumped out during my interview with John North an experienced entrepreneur that is helping revolutionize the way we think about online businesses and the way we actually execute to go from idea to reality.
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Terrell: Hi, I'm Terrell Turner, the host of the Business Talk Library. Today, I have another great guest on now. It's always a pleasure when I get to have guests on from the other side of the world because I get to hear a different perspective and you know the accents are just amazing. So, I definitely want to welcome John North to the show. We're going to talk about his business Evolvepreneur. Welcome to the show, John.
John: Hey, great to be here.
Terrell: Absolutely! So, John, before we jump into Evolvepreneur, because I just love the name and I know there's a great story there, but before we jump into that tell us a little bit about your background before you started Evolvepreneur.
John: It kind of, I actually did some the other day, it comes and goes back like 30 years now. I feel old. So, I started working at a bank like I got a job when I was 16, actually 15 when I worked in a major bank. And so I worked there for 12 years and while I was working there, obviously really good, I'm sure the best training in the world working in the bank, you get to learn customer service, customer complaints and also how to follow systems, not just how to count money and also keep your mouth shut too, like privacy is a big thing. And so I sort of started an IT business on the side because I got sick of it after 12 years and I just started just as computers sort of came out in the '90s, 89, 90, and so I started selling computers and computer software, all that sort of stuff. So I was in the, you know like, I was working for the bank and then I was selling this computer software on the side, it's an accounting software. And basically, I eventually got the point where I just quit the bank because I had enough of them and I wanted to start a new business. So, we started a new business, and long story short that business went for quite a while. We nearly got to nearly one and a half to two million dollars turn out within five years, but we got hit with a GST in Australia. So, it's a new tax that came out that added on to things, like your ten per cent of everything had a tax on it.
John: really good to start with, complete decimated me after that. Like it, within probably three months after the tax came in my business was down 80 per cent and just going.
John: So, basically we had to shut it down and I got a job for the first time in like 12, I mean 15 years or something, 10 years. And I moved to Sydney and we start, I actually got a job working in the same business accounting software business I was selling. So, then what I realized was they are worse shape than I was when I started. They were actually almost out the back door. So we had to turn them around and get them into, we were the second-largest Sage accounting distributor in the world after about five years of doing it. So, all the marketing and stuff that I'd used in the first business that I'd learned, I spent like a hundred thousand dollars on learning this stuff, I deployed in the next business and then eventually I sold that business and we moved into marketing. And so, at the same time, we had got someone from Africa to run a business called Evolve Systems Consulting for us. So we'd renamed and set this thing up, so it was called Evolve. And so when I sold the other business I said I'm unemployed now, what am I going to do now. And I thought well we've got this Evolved name, I still own the company name, let's use that so we started just Evolved Systems. And then I started doing marketing and book publishing and stuff like that. And then one morning, I don't know, I think I get my best ideas in the shower, so this is where spacing came from. It's like what am I going to call this new, and we come up with, I thought it's got something to do with entrepreneurs. It just hit me in out of the blue. It wasn't like I'd spent hours figuring it out. Yeah, that's a good name. I'll use that. Some people don't like it, like I've had a few people go "I don't really get it like", I said, "Well you know, to me it makes sense", and it's unusual and I think and if you find, have a look around, there are all sorts of panels around mumpreneurs and all these sorts of things. So, we wanted it, you know, to evolve people so it fitted quite nicely. And then we started doing software development. We actually created our own platform to help, you know, online businesses. So, the long story short, but basically every time we started a new business I just pulled up all the marketing and all the experience from the previous one rolled into the next one, which means that we can kind of start a business in a week, you know rather than spend six or twelve months. I see people that you know they go, "I'm gonna start a business", what are you doing, "..so in 12 months time", it's like why not next week, why not just next week. It fails straight away, like if it's not going to work then it fails quick, right? People want to fail slowly, so I can just try it. If it doesn't work then stop it, you know.
Terrell: And I totally agree with that, because there are a lot of times where, you know when people want to take say, you know a year, six months, and it's just the way things evolve and change. I mean in the markets, I mean sometimes if you wait six months you know what you're doing is already too old.
John: Yeah, exactly. Well, I got a good friend who's in marketing and he's really a smart guy and he said to me that if he's talking with someone that hasn't done something the last six months that they're talking about like it's supposed to be specialists in, he said they have no knowledge about it. So, you know if you don't use it every day and you've got at least six months prior experience of that's what you've been doing then the information's old.
Terrell: Wow! That is a good point. And you know when I think about the name Evolvepreneur I mean it reminds me of just the journey of an entrepreneur, I mean it is constantly the world is constantly evolving and figuring out how to, you know, either evolve your way of thinking, evolve your ideas, and you know it even as most of us are experiencing now, some for the first time, some this may be, you know another crisis in the list of prices that they've had to work through, with Covid-19 is, so many entrepreneurs have had to evolve and when you think about that like how is your business kind of change with Covid-19 and how you had to pivot and evolve your business?
John: Well, for me it was quite interesting because one of the things that I kind of one of my reasons for all those businesses got to levels, like the recurring income was where we got there, how we got there, so when with the first business I had one half-million dollars worth of recurring income when we set up the new business we were heading towards five million dollars worth of recurring income, because we worked on a concept of getting regular small amounts of money in every month. So, most businesses don't do that. So what they do is they rely on this big chunk of money coming in or you know like a restaurant for example is relying on people coming in the front door. Once they're not coming the front door that's the end of their business. So, in some respects my business didn't even notice it, like for two weeks there, for the first two weeks was like, "Okay, a bit quiet". This is back in March so it's a bit quiet. I mean, maybe everybody will die, you know. Like who knows. And so then I just picked up again and so, but we have that reoccurring income base coming through and I reckon that no matter what business you're in you can create some recurring income. Even if you're mowing lawns, right? I come up with a concept for a lawnmower once with a guy that, you know, how to generate recurring income. So, the first question you always ask yourself in this situation is, "Do I have recurring income? Can I build something that gets me some sort of level of monthly money or annual money for that matter?" But monthly is better. People don't notice it this much. And so that's really what we did. So I sort of used the time to kind of think about what we were going to do and kind of regroup a bit. And then interestingly I was quiet down a bit more now since like almost now that Covid is not necessarily over but it's sort of settled into the community, it's almost like it's settled down, it's going to be quieter again. But I think ultimately it'll pick up again once that, you know, that initial kind of shock factor goes. I think like you know stuff going on at the moment with elections and things like that, that's going to slow things down so, yeah, but I think that's the thing, we didn't really change much or we thought was what a fantastic opportunity for online entrepreneurs, now suddenly everything went online, suddenly all these speakers that wouldn't do it online, you know, like assume or anything, you probably in the same scenario, do podcast interviews and stuff, wouldn't do it on, I want to do it in person. Like suddenly they don't want to do it in person, right. That's something they want about. So, it's quite interesting the way that people change their perception and how people started thinking, "Well, online is not so bad after all." And I think that's a huge leap forward. I think we're killing like ten years ahead because of that. So, that's where the opportunity is, the marketplace is, online now, more so than ever, and it's not like these things going to go away and it's not like it won't happen again.
Terrell: No, I totally agree. I mean I think that that that shift to people's comfort with online and actually doing business online, I think is definitely open up so many opportunities. I mean, whereas, because I remember before with, you know, being in consulting years ago where you know you had to hop on a plane to go travel to a client to where it's like now, where you can do it from home or I guess people feel more comfortable with you doing and accessing the data from home it definitely speeds up your ability to be able to, you know, dive in and get to results faster without having the transit time.
John: Exactly. And I think it's more efficient too and less costly too so I think at the end of the day everybody wins. I guess what I'm concerned about now is kind of like our software was invented for the purpose of this, almost for this situation. So, it's quite interesting, I was like, you know you could have a pandemic every so often it'll be right, I could get more business. But the reality was I'm concerned about is that the online entrepreneur now when they go out to go online and I joined a membership group the other day like a Facebook group and it's very well done, and they talk about their tech stack and I look at and go it's almost like it's a badge of honour that you've got fifteen different applications you use to run your business...
John: Right? And when you start looking at all these applications you go they're just plugging things together. And when I was doing accounting software way back in the day we only had cash book and it was like dos, you know, like the old dos, no windows, nothing right. So just had cash book and then had fixed assets and they added all these different modules invoicing. They're all separate programs and eventually, they became one. And eventually, everything's in this one system. And so I can't imagine doing your accounting now with four different programs, could you? Like it just drives you insane. And so I think that's what's happening with online. What I see online is that these people have four, five, six, seven, ten different applications. And so that means that they spend their entire life learning these applications and trying to make them work trying to follow what these gurus are telling them to do and all sorts of stuff. They burn cash and by the time they get to the point, we're actually ready to market they haven't got any money left to market. They've actually burned all their cash on trying to set it up so we wanted to sort of develop something that would actually allow someone to do it in like two weeks rather than two years.
Terrell: Wow. That's good.
John: Yeah, and that was the premise behind it. It was like, and so everything in this program, I said something the other day, everything in the software isn't there by accident, because we thought it was cool, we put it in because we figured it works, right. Someone needed it. And so yeah, so that's kind of where I came from. So, there's been a bonnet because I saw accounting software goes through the same thing and I think online entrepreneurship and online marketing systems are still in the old days, they're still in the '80s in my opinion, because they haven't evolved into this inclusive solution and you see all these different applications, trying to add things on the side of them to make them more wider. But the reality is this, their core still whatever they started with so their core belief is, oh well, we do surveys or we do websites or we do this, but they don't and will also do this, and we'll have a stab at that. And I think that's never going to work because your core business, your heart if you like, of whatever software is the heart, you can't, you take the heart out you die.
Terrell: Yeah. No, I think that makes sense. So, I mean when, it comes down to Evolvepreneur I mean how did you approach that with making sure that you know Evolvepreneur was they say broad enough to really address, you know, the issues that you guys target but also at the same time you know niche enough to where you don't water down the value.
John: Exactly. And that's a hard one. And I guess what we did was I had two clients that we're working with at the time. This is about three years ago. We started the development. It's been sort of hanging around and being bits and pieces but about three years ago we kind of started getting into it, and about two years ago or less we actually really got serious, and the last 12 months we've been programming like crazy. So, what we did is look at these two clients which I believe were my perfect fit clients, they were the clients that needed what I got. They already had established stuff so added courses and stuff so we didn't have to invent that side. So, because one of the hardest part is are you doing software like having a website. Number two is actually having something to sell, right. And so we looked at that scenario and then I looked at okay well let's build it for them, let's make it work for them. So, we spent about a year just making it work for those two customers and we learned so much out of that simple stuff. Like one of my clients sells heart-related products like heart book, heart prevention books, and stuff like that. And one of the things we noticed was that generation that older generation, they can't cope well with e-commerce at all, right. They don't really listen or pay attention. So what happens is they click it, click and click, start clicking, something doesn't go right so they don't stop and look, they go and so what they do is they buy fifteen eBooks.
Terrell: Oh wow!
John: Right. And it's like, and then you get this rude email that you're a scammer because you just took that fifteen times one dollar or whatever, you sold it for, right. And so just a simple little switch there to say don't let them on certain products buy more than one at a time, which is not something I've seen much in any sort of e-commerce, to be honest with you. That little thing was major in my opinion because it was just a little kind of piece of functionality that's really important, that generates so many problems, right? And so all those sorts of things is what we did. We looked at what they need to do so they need to be able to create a website they need, multiple platforms so they need to have multiple websites because every entrepreneur never can settle with just one, right? I had forty-five when I converted over to my own system...
Terrell: Oh wow!
John: And then I've got it down to like twenty or something. But multiple websites, multiple different front-ends, being able to sell something easily, be able to do a survey, be able to do a course, be able to have some sort of backing community and management area for the client, to be able to download whatever they bought or communicate support. We've just finished affiliates. So we looked at all the different things that I know from being in this game for like nearly fifteen years is that things that people absolutely have to have when they start a business, and one of the biggest ones is podcasting. So we decided to write a really cool podcast module because we felt that if you're going to start, what would you do? So we want to be in a scenario where someone starts with us, we want to be one step ahead, you know the whole movie where that guy you know, it was a book about this guy that actually pretended to be all this from people like pilots and stuff, Catch Me If You Can, right and he was asked a question how did he pull off being a professor at a university and the question he answered he said, "Well I just was one chapter ahead of everybody else, so I was." And that's what we want to be. We want to step ahead of that person so once they've done one thing we want to say what's next on the list and they go "Oh, we got that". And so we figured podcasting was a really cool way to start your first business because basically, you had a podcast then you've got something to talk about, you've got someone to market to, it's pretty easy to create, It's nothing that's complicated, doesn't have to be video. And so we built this really cool podcasting module and it was finishing a guest module as well because the idea is guesting as you've probably seen. It's not fun, right? Guests don't do what they're told and they don't, you know, they don't tell you anything and so we had built all that in our guest modules so that someone could actually run a podcast with guests and maintain a process, right? So, all process-driven, automation, what can we automate, what can we process drive so that we don't have to worry about it. So, that's kind of what I looked at so every time we look at these businesses it's almost like I've got these two clients I used and plus myself that we use them at the boilerplates for, would this work for them, do they need it and is it important. And basically most the time it is and then we just kind of worked off a very low platform of people that we're working with. So it's very select like, when I, when we sort of talk to someone, say would you suit the software, was going to work for you or it's not and then go from there. But what we've found is people that are starting up or just starting are much easier to deal with than the people been there a while because they have all these preconceived things that they want to do which may not be that important. I've been down this road with software, right? With accounting software you get this big long list of accounting software requirements and then you'd say one question said okay if I go and get these will you use them and they go "No, no, I'm just asking, I've just got a list." Like I know what I'm talking about, right? Go, "All right." So, it's not that important to you at all "No, no, no, I don't really care about it." And so that was where we sort of looked at it, so I'm gonna go, "Is it important to you? Are you gonna use it?" "No, no, no, I just like it. Sounds cool." Like a good one the other day was google reviews right. I went and googled google reviews to figure out because they said well you can put Google reviews on your website but when you get into it's a big problem. Like there's hardly any way to do it properly and all it is is an API thing. You just go into google and grab the whatever's going on and stick it on your website and so we could probably do that pretty easily and it's very powerful because then people go to your website they see your google reviews and you've got that extra credibility, right? Simple little thing, huge result.
Terrell: Awesome! Awesome! So, one of the things I guess you if you have to say or someone was asking, like you know, how would you define, you know, what's the product that you know Evolvepreneur, like what would be the, I guess you say, is there a way you can describe it in let's say less than ten words.
John: Less than ten words. Here's a good one because I've been through this process a few times like trying to work out and I think it's a, and lately I've been looking at as being an online kind of revolution in the way that you do business. So, it's a holistic way of doing business. It's not just a piece of software, it's a community. It's, you know, you're deriving something, so you're creating a business, an automated business. Not just a bunch of social media pages or something, right? So. I think it's having almost an automated working platform that you can actually call your own and control from big tech. And one of the things we don't, I don't like is this whole big tech thing. Big tech's got too much control over these guys. They wipe them out every day, you know, they just turn their pages off and they're gone.
John: And to me it's like, that's what has to change. You have to own your own stuff. So same with podcasting. It's a BMI bond about podcasting platforms because they make it sound cool to go and use them. But the reality you've just locked yourself in, and you can't change and to me that's crazy, right? And it's just a couple little things you do at the start that you should do properly that you will make a big difference. But people don't know about it so they only learn after that, you know, they should all shouldn't have done that. Sounded easy, sounded like I'll do the lazy way but didn't work. I'm trying to create a revolution or a community or even a movement about the fact that way that online should work it should be simple, quick. It should be efficient. It should be automated. It shouldn't be complicated. It shouldn't be expensive. Either it shouldn't be overly hard for someone starting your business up online by this huge tech stack.
Terrell: So when someone's looking for Evolvepreneur online or on social media where can they find you and what should they search for.
John: Well, you can talk to search developer and they know they'll probably find me pretty easily because I don't think, basically go to evolvepreneur.app. That's the main website that we have for that. There's also evolvepreneur.club which is actually kind of what we call eating around dog food. So we actually have our own platform set up to kind of showcase what we can do and build a business around that. So that there are very different actual websites essentially but the purpose is to show you or show off what it works, like so if you go to Evolvepreneur.club you've got the ability to see how it works and just search either John North or Evolvepreneur on social media and you should find me. It should be fairly easy.
Terrell: Awesome. Awesome. Now, before we wrap up one question that I like to ask every guest that comes on is when you think about your journey and you think about everything you know, you've kind of the ups, the downs and what you've learned through, what are two pieces of advice that you would share with other entrepreneurs.
John: And it kind of varies on this situation because I think, no good deed goes unpunished, right? And so what I've found in the process is if you do something and you think you're doing the right thing, you're not. And so a lot of times where I've done going off and done thinking I'm helping and I'm not, because they don't appreciate it right, so charge for what you're worth. A lot earlier and probably don't spend as much money on stuff. When you go for big-ticket, items have a bit more, think about it more than you spend it. Think when I look back and go, "What a waste of money that was." If I just spent another day on this, thinking about it I probably wouldn't spend that money and so that's kind of the only thing. But apart from that, I think you know I always think that I could have done things faster even though I did stuff pretty quickly but you can do things faster. You can, you know you can try it and see and then move on don't be a perfectionist.
Terrell: Awesome Awesome. Well, John, thank you so much for coming on the show for telling us a little bit about your background, your journey with Evolvpreneur and the wisdom that you shared. Really enjoyed having you on the show.
John: Cool. No worries. And while you're on my website if you go to johnnorth.com you can actually get, have all the books I've got written as well so there are quite a few books on the subjects of publishing and all the automation stuff as well if you wanted to.
Terrell: Awesome. Well, John, you can't just leave us with a little taste of the books. You got to tell us a little bit more about the book.
John: Oh, okay. All right, so I got I wrote five, I've got another book coming out called Authority but it's not quite ready yet we have trouble with Barnes and Noble. We've got a book called Everything You Know About Marketing Is Wrong, which is really a marketing hit around marketing. And then I wrote a book called 5 Stages Of Success, which is really the process we're talking about on the app. So, what's the best way to set up a business, right. And then recently we wrote a book that says Book Publishing Secrets For Entrepreneurs so how to actually publish a book. So, these all connect up, if you know what I mean, they all have a story that connects up to another story and what we're working on the book at the moment called Startup Secrets For Entrepreneurs. So kind of like a shorter version of all those three books, to actually just sort of come through and get it done fast. So, there's on my website I've got a bunch of books and they're not that expensive on Amazon either.
Terrell: Okay, and you said the books can be found on johnnorth.com?
John: johnnorth.com.au. So, unfortunately, I've got a fairly popular name. As it turns out there are two people in Sydney they've got the same name as me. One's a lawyer and one's some sort of religious guy, a religious sort of leader or something.
Terrell: All right, so if you get the lawyer or the religious leader...
John: It's not me. No. So, just johnnorth.com.au or search your Evolvepreneur and you'll find it for sure. You should be able to find it. I'm doing my job properly
Terrell: Well, John, thanks again for coming on the show, for sharing all the insights and we'll definitely include some links so they can find you online and they can find those books as well and now the book that you're working on now when is the new one going to come out?
John: So Startup Secrets For Entrepreneurs coming out on the 30th of November, so we've got to finish writing that so I try and write a book in a month and then we've got another book called Authority, which is a part of fifteen other authors are coming out. Probably December. Now we've had a bit of trouble with Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble got hacked apparently and got held up with ransomware and they weren't prepared to pay for it so they restored their database and basically put them in a bad situation where everything's behind. So that book should come out and that's a Wall Street Journal and USA Today. We're going for those lists at the moment so it's a big launch that one, so there'll be more website once it's up and running as well.
Terrell: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks again for coming on the show.
John: Cool. Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
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