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He Left The World of Traditional Employment And Built a Million-Dollar, One-Person Business

Image result for Anthony Martin, 36, has created financial freedom for himself that many people can only dream of.

Anthony Martin, 36, has created financial freedom for himself that many people can only dream of.

He generates $1 million in annual revenue at Choice Mutual, a one-man insurance agency he founded, by selling a very specialized niche product: final expense insurance. It covers burial expenses, so someone’s family doesn’t have to pay the costs, with a payout that is typically in the range of $10,000 to $30,000.

Six years ago, Martin’s life was very different. Working as a manager at an insurance agency in Roseville, Calif., Martin wished he had more control over how things were done. He eventually realized what he really wanted was to be his own boss. In 2013, he took a leap of faith and started the agency from his home.

Martin is one of a fast-growing cohort of entrepreneurs who are breaking $1 million in non-employer businesses, the government’s term for those that have no full-time employees except the owners.

The number of nonemployer firms that generate $1 million to $2.49 million in revenue rose to 36,161 in 2016, up 1.6 percent from 35,584 in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is up 35.2% from 26,744 in 2011.

So how did Martin grow his agency to $1 million? Recently, he shared his strategies with me. Many of his approaches are instructive for anyone who is selling a consumer product or service online.

Here’s how he pulled it off.

Focus on an area you already know well. It’s easiest to get a running start in a new business if you have already worked in the same industry. By the time he went into business, Martin had already racked up years of experience selling final expense insurance, so there was no need to get a crash course. It was easy for him to explain his product to customers because of that. “I have a very thorough understanding of all of the options out there,” he says.

Find an efficient way to attract customers. Although Martin knew his product well, he didn’t have experience in marketing, so he sought outside help. He hired a company called SellTermLife.com to build a website for him that would rank well in Google and help him get leads, through a customized marketing plan. He put up the website in June 2016.

Even with expert assistance, it was slow going at first. “It took me six months before I got a single lead from Google,” he says. Nonetheless, Martin kept showing up at his desk every day to build up his website. “You’re really going for a long-term play,” he says.

It took stamina to stay committed during those early months. The battle to get market share wasn’t the only one he was waging. For entrepreneurs, he believes, the real fight is to keep showing up for your business, even when it would be easy to slack off. “The majority of the fighting you’re doing is completely against yourself,” he says.

After Martin got his first lead, his momentum accelerated. Two months after that, he started getting daily leads through his site—and now it brings in many more. “It feeds me a never-ending flow of ready-to-buy customers,” says Martin.

Offer top-quality content. In working on his marketing plan, Martin had learned from the team at SellTermLife.com that it was important to publish high-quality, informative content to attract people to his site. As readers clicked on practical articles he wrote on topics such as state-regulated life insurance, life insurance for 89-year-olds and buying insurance for your parents, the site gradually built a strong organic rank in Google.

Here again, sticking with a niche subject he knew served Martin well. “You cannot find another website that sells this type of insurance that has anywhere near the level of in-depth, accurate information about this product,” says Martin.

Creating robust content took a serious investment of time, given that Martin did not have a writer on retainer. Every day during the week and for five to eight hours on the weekends, he’d create articles that address commonly-asked questions about final expense insurance. The articles attracted people who were already seriously interested in his product and also helped him to “own” certain search-term keywords, including “long-tail” phrases—such as questions customers might type into a search engine.

To figure out which keywords mattered most,  Martin researched which ones were most commonly used, relying on tools such as Google’s keyword planner and SEM Rush. He also tapped his own knowledge of the field. “After selling this type of insurance for so long, I know the words people use,” says Martin.

Automate your leads. Martin’s site enables people to “request to apply” for the insurance by filling out a form. By the time a prospect has filled out the form, Martin knows he or she is serious.

To avoid losing track of these leads, Martin set up his site so the leads automatically go to his customer relationship management (CRM) system. Once it feeds him their contact information, he reaches out by phone, prioritizing the newest leads. “The person who has submitted a lead most recently is always the best person to call,” he says.

Thanks to this system, Martin never has to chase anyone down to get them to listen to a sales presentation. “I’m in a really unique situation in the world of selling insurance,” says Martin. “I actually don’t really sell anymore. For all intents and purposes, I’m more of a cashier. I just take orders.”

Embrace remote work. Many insurance agents spend a good part of their day driving to and from appointments with customers. Not Martin.

When customers decide to buy, Martin guides them by phone through a remote application process that the insurance companies have put in place. Sometimes customers sign documents using a program such as DocuSign. Other times, they use a voice signature on the phone.

Working virtually in this way helps Martin make the most of his time every day. “I’ve never met a person face to face to process the deals,” he says. “It’s all done remotely.”

Stay focused. Some of Martin’s contacts have recommended that he sell Medicare supplements or cancer plans. He always says no. “The reason I’m really successful in this space is I have been hyper-focused at being the most expert authority you can imagine on this type of insurance,” says Martin. When he gets an inquiry from someone who wants to buy insurance outside of his niche, he refers the prospect to a trusted industry colleague.

Martin does not look for reciprocal referrals, finding that leads that arrive this way are generally not as inclined to buy as the prospects who come in through his own website. “Right now if I had to choose between serving a customer who has said ‘I’m ready to apply. Please sign me up,” or a referral who has a question, I’m not going to make as much money from a referral,” he says. “That’s why I tell people ‘Don’t refer people to me.’ I allocate my working hours to people who are ready to sign up.”

One thing that helps Martin attract business is having a large number of positive online reviews. He requests reviews from customers automatically using TrustPilot’s automated system.

Keep overhead low  Martin started out working from home in Roseville, Calif., but when his website traffic started to increase dramatically in March 2017 and he saw the business’s full growth potential, he realized there would be tax advantages to locating to Nevada, which has no state income tax. Licensing costs were also lower. He rented an office there for $2,500 a month.

Having the space is important because soon, Martin believes, he’ll need to hire other agents. “I have so much web traffic and so many leads that if I want to continue to monetize a lot of what is possible, I will have to hire agents to process those deals as well,” he says.

In the meantime, Martin keeps the rest of his overhead to about $500 a month. That covers his errors & omissions insurance, licensing fees and CRM subscription.

 Protect your most precious resource. In a one-person business, where you have no one to back you up, staying healthy is essential.

Although Martin works long hours as he grows his business, he always finds time to work out. Rising at 4:30 a.m. every morning, he goes to a gym where he can do strength training and play basketball. Then he heads home for breakfast and starts making phone calls from his office around 7:30 a.m.

On the weekends, Martin and his wife, Christelle, love to enjoy the outdoors with their German Shepherds, Bear, and his new adopted sibling, eight-week-old Olive. “I could definitely sleep more,” Martin says—but his life is too full of good things at the moment to spend much time hitting the snooze button.

Elaine Pofeldt is author of The Million-Dollar, One Person Business (Random House, January 2, 2018), a book looking at how to break $1M in revenue in a business staffed only by the owners.

I am the author of The Million-Dollar, One Person Business, a Random House book looking at how everyday Americans are breaking $1 million in revenue in businesses

Source: He Left The World of Traditional Employment And Built a Million-Dollar, One-Person Business

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World’s Largest Business Organization Embraces Blockchain

From the embers of World War I emerged a new kind of organization, led by entrepreneurs, committed to ensuring the free flow of goods across the world’s war-ravaged borders.

The International Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is to streamline global business, is one of last vestiges of the League of Nations, founded in 1920 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to peacefully settle international disputes. By 1923, following the League’s lead, the ICC had established international courts to arbitrate business disputes, and in the aftermath of WW II, it represented global business interests at the Bretton Woods conference, which established the current monetary order.

“If goods are able to move across borders without the need to be accompanied by troops,” says John Denton, the ICC’s current secretary general, “there is a higher probability of peace and prosperity.” The Paris-based group, which represents 45 million businesses in more than 130 countries and brands itself the world’s largest business organization, is now making its boldest play in a generation.

With global borders hardening once again, this time behind border walls, broken unions and looming trade wars, Denton signed an agreement with the Singapore-based blockchain startup Perlin Net Group to explore how the technology, made popular by bitcoin for its ability to move value without banks, could help the ICC continue its mission to facilitate the free flow of goods.

“We can trace back the ICC interventions that made a big impact on the global economy in the 20th century,” says Denton, who was a fellow at the Australian Institute of International Affairs before being appointed secretary general of the ICC last year. “We think this might be one which we can look back on in 100 years and say the ICC shifted blockchain in a way that enabled the private sector to function more effectively in a sustainable way and actually create more opportunities for people.”

According to the terms of the agreement, part of which was shown to Forbes, the ICC and Perlin will create a new group, the ICC Blockchain/DLT Alliance, a reference to distributed ledger technology similar to the blockchain that powers bitcoin. The companies are exploring how Perlin’s blockchain platform, which has yet to publicly launch, could be used to shine a light on obscure supply chains and simplify cross-border trade finance.

As part of the agreement, the ICC will help Perlin recruit members to its nascent blockchain alliance, specifically by making introductions to the organization’s massive member pool, which in addition to most national chambers of commerce includes direct membership from companies like Amazon, Coca Cola, Fedex, McDonalds and PayPal. Also, as part of the agreement, Perlin will join the ICC as an official technology partner, offering free access to its blockchain platform during the early stages of the project.

Denton shared his plans with the ICC Banking Commission at its annual event in Beijing earlier this week, and the agreement, which was signed on March 20, will be formally announced at an ICC event in Singapore later today.

Unlike some early blockchain consortia, the ICC Blockchain/DLT Alliance already had projects under way when it was announced. According to the agreement, the ICC and Perlin will share the results of their first blockchain proof of concept, a collaboration with the fabric giant Asia Pacific Rayon (APR), in May at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

For that project, called “Follow Our Fibre,” APR is logging data in the blockchain at every level of its supply chain, from the trees that are harvested to the chemical treatments that turn them into the silk-like rayon substance through to the massive spools that are later sold to clothing producers.

“Globally, there is a dynamic shift in the textiles and fashion sectors calling for a more traceable and transparent supply chain,” says Cherie Tan, vice president of communications and sustainability at APR. “Follow Our Fibre will enable us to leverage powerful blockchain functionality to drive greater efficiencies.”

Other proofs of concept in the works that stand to benefit from the ICC partnership include a project with Mfused, a cannabis processor in Washington State that is using Perlin’s tech to prove the origin of its plants by recording every level of its supply chain, from when they are planted to when the cannabis is inhaled, in a shared, distributed ledger; a project with an unnamed tuna processor in Latin America; and a developing project in Africa to trace the origin of cobalt, which has a long history of being mined by unethical supply chain participants.

Assuming enough supply chains are unified on the Perlin blockchain, businesses could log digital representations of the commodities, called tokens, on the platform. This will enable the counterparties to trade directly, with bills of lading required to move freight and letters of credit, which are typically handled by banks, all tracked directly on the shared ledger.

“An interesting economic model is we could effectively launch governance around this,” says Denton. “If we’re able to tokenize this we could insert ourselves as the trusted intermediary, and there would probably be an admin charge, but not much.” A 2018 report by the ICC, the World Bank and others found that 90% of the world’s trade finance was being provided by 13 banks, something Denton thinks is evidence of a need to decentralize.

Perlin’s blockchain, like ethereum’s, is being designed to let users track and move all kinds of value and write distributed applications (dapps) that don’t rely on centralized processors. Also like ethereum, Perlin will have a native cryptocurrency, called perls, which are expected to be minted over the coming three months or so, depending on regulatory considerations.

While supply chain management is increasingly seen as ripe for disruption by blockchain, models like Perlin’s, which rely on tokens, have had difficulty gaining traction as regulators clamp down on what is required of such tokens. By contrast, models using permissioned blockchains, such as what IBM is doing with a number of industry-specific consortia, and what R3 and Hyperledger are doing more generally, are seeing broader interest.

Perlin founder Dorjee Sun positions the nascent ICC network as similar to competing consortia but for small and medium-size businesses. “This is a massive democratization effort of DLT, because now any company of the 45 million ICC members can give the benefits of DLT a try,” says Sun. “Not just massive companies that can afford IBM’s services.”

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I report on how blockchain and cryptocurrencies are being adopted by enterprises and the broader business community. My coverage includes the use of cryptocurrencies suc…

Source: World’s Largest Business Organization Embraces Blockchain

Meet The Billionaire Who Defied Amazon And Built Wish, The World’s Most-Downloaded E-Commerce App

On a sun-filled San Francisco afternoon, Peter Szulczewski is climbing the stairs to the top of a Sansome Street skyscraper, past floors filled with Wish data scientists and engineers, pool tables and DJ equipment. Large windows give way to a stunning view of the city. But most of Szulczewski’s customers don’t work in offices like this or live in Northern California coastal enclaves. In fact, most of them don’t have much money at all. Wish’s customers are typically working-class Americans from places like the Florida Panhandle or East Texas, Dollar Store shoppers who find Amazon Prime’s $120 annual membership too rich for their blood……..

Source: Meet The Billionaire Who Defied Amazon And Built Wish, The World’s Most-Downloaded E-Commerce App

11 Websites That Will Make You Smarter About Money

Not everyone has a financial adviser, and not everyone has the time to read a personal finance book. Luckily, there’s the internet. We’ve made learning about money easier for you by compiling a list of some of our go-to websites for money advice……..

Source: 11 Websites That Will Make You Smarter About Money

Do Not Ignore IRS Form 1099-C – It Will Not End Well – Peter J Reilly

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Pay attention.  This is one of my posts with an important lesson rather than an entertaining story.  The lesson comes from a Tax Court decision – TCM 2018-140.  You will find out the taxpayer’s name if you read the case, but my practice in cases like this is to use a different name, since he might not want to be made more famous by this decision.  We’ll call him Joe.  In 2010, Joe had two debts discharged.  One was for $64,045 and the other for $300,134……

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2018/09/20/do-not-ignore-irs-form-1099-c-it-will-not-end-well/#fb67c5b62890

 

 

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