Fueling Business Growth Through Meaningful Connections With Chris Yates

Chris Yates is the Founder of Rhodium Network, a community and events platform designed to support digital entrepreneurs through facilitating business deals, partnerships, and connections. Before his current venture, he made waves in the digital marketing agency realm and was instrumental in a series of online businesses, culminating in impressive profits. With roots in an entrepreneurial family, Chris learned the business from his father’s publishing enterprise and various subsequent ventures. He later channeled this upbringing, combined with his tech-savvy skills, into cultivating an environment where business deals and partnerships flourish among members. Chris owns and manages a portfolio of income-producing websites and teaches others the best practices for securely purchasing established websites.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [02:12] How an upbringing in an entrepreneurial family primed Chris Yates for success in the digital arena
  • [05:03] Chris’ entry into website design and the transition to entrepreneurship
  • [10:10] Insight into the world of buying and selling online businesses before the modern marketplace
  • [14:08] The strategies used by Chris and his business partner to optimize and profit from underutilized websites
  • [14:51] Overcoming setbacks like Google’s algorithm updates and their impact on traffic and revenue
  • [17:34] The origins of the Rhodium Network and how connectivity fueled its growth
  • [23:08] The rewarding experience of facilitating personally and professionally transformative connections within Rhodium
  • [30:30] Overcoming challenges during COVID-19 and pivoting strategies
  • [36:00] Leveraging AI for enhanced networking and community engagement

In this episode…

Building a sustainable and profitable online business today is challenging, especially when buying and managing existing websites. Entrepreneurs often struggle with identifying valuable investment opportunities, navigating the complexities of digital transactions, and scaling their operations effectively without substantial resources. The risk of scams, due diligence failures, and the volatility of digital markets only add to the uncertainty for digital entrepreneurs.

Chris Yates addresses these challenges by sharing his journey and strategies for acquiring under-monetized websites and turning them into profitable ventures. By focusing on buying websites with substantial quality traffic but poor monetization, Chris shows how to boost revenue with enhanced advertising and affiliate tactics. He emphasizes building a community-based business platform that fuels connections and growth, and why surrounding yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs can be a game-changer. Have you ever wondered what happens when entrepreneurs make connections beyond networking events?

Tune in to this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast as John Corcoran interviews Chris Yates, Founder of Rhodium Network, about building and scaling online businesses through strategic acquisitions and networking. The discussion also covers Chris’ childhood experiences in an entrepreneurial family, the evolution of the Rhodium community from an annual meet-up to a full-fledged entrepreneurial network, and how the community has facilitated over $100 million in business deals among its members.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Quotable Moments:

  • “When I got people together in a room, the energy wasn’t just about deals, but about creative collaboration.”
  • “The biggest win isn’t the deals made but the lifelong connections fostered within the community.”
  • “Embracing the chaos of 2020 and pivoting to virtual events showed us possibilities we never even considered.”

Sponsor: Rise25

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We’re a professional podcast production agency that makes creating a podcast effortless. Since 2009, our proven system has helped thousands of B2B businesses build strong relationships with referral partners, clients, and audiences without doing the hard work.

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The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.

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We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.

Are you considering launching a podcast to acquire partnerships, clients, and referrals? Would you like to work with a podcast agency that wants you to win? 

Contact us now at [email protected] or book a call at rise25.com/bookcall.

Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

Today we’re talking about how to build a community and then how to use the members in that community to really create and foster connections and a network and, and really fuel your business. My guest today is Chris Yates. I’ll tell you more about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Chad Franzen 0:15

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built the relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:32

Welcome, everyone, John Corcoran here and I’m the host of this show. And every week I talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs from all kinds of different companies. We’ve had Netflix and Kinkos YPO EO Activision Blizzard, LendingTree OpenTable GrubHub. Redfin, go check out the archives, lots of great episodes for you to check out there. And of course, this episode brought to you by Rise25, and podcast copilot, our platform for helping b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships done via podcast, and content marketing. 

And I’m super excited to have my guests here today who I’ve known for quite a while. We’ve even hung out in person, very briefly, Chris. And I remember that we ran into each other both in Las Vegas, I believe it was. And he’s the Founder of Rhodium Network is a community and events platform for digital entrepreneurs. Been around for I think I want to say about 10 or 12 years now and facilitate a lot of different business deals, partnerships, connections among its members, and classic case of Christus wanted to scratch his own itch he was living in not a big, urban area on the coast, he was living in Montana, wanted to connect with other digital entrepreneurs and took matters into his own hands and created something that has been really thriving and helped him to even buy and build and sell a business within that community. 

So we’re going to talk about that as well. Chris, great to have you here today. And I love to ask people about what they were like, as a kid. And you grew up in a bit of an entrepreneurial family, your father actually had a publishing business, pre internet, selling genealogical research and even had some brick and mortar businesses. So you had that to look up to as a kid. What was it like growing up as an entrepreneur? Community? 

Chris Yates 2:12

Yeah, I mean, when one funny thing that I think about, just as a small anecdote is, you know, this was Well, before we had cell phones, and the phone would ring right. And so I was instructed by my father to answer the phone, Yates publishing, because that was his business name. So our hometown.

John Corcoran 2:28

Near the home phone every time. Yeah, it’s embarrassing when you’re in high school, and you have to do that.

Chris Yates 2:33

And then you know, as I, you know, he was great in that he would let me like, break his computers and things as I play, you know, video games, or like, try to learn things or play on AOL Instant Messenger, or whatever. And I remember the dial up, the internet line also was connected to our home phone. So I’d be trying to use the internet. And when somebody calls, I get kicked off. And he got mad, because what if it was a client trying to call so anyway? Yeah, that was just like a fun anecdote. But yeah, so he built a kind of a cool, unique business at the time, it was sort of like ancestry.com, but with paper, so I used to help him make copies of these things called Family Group sheets. 

So if your last name is Corcoran, you could call up my dad and say, Hey, can I get all your research that you have on the Corcoran family, and you know, his son who’s you know, whatever, eight years old, nine years old, 10 years old is on the copy machine making copies of those and he’d pack those up, ship them out to you. And that would help you kind of build out your family tree. So I was exposed to what I would call self employment pretty young. I mean, I wasn’t he didn’t have a big team or anything like that. But it was always, you know, he was always working that business while I was around and integrated the life of his family, with his businesses, how did.

John Corcoran 3:45

Is he interested in it? Or how did he have the research to begin with? 

Chris Yates 3:50

Yeah, I mean, at one point in his life, he’s no longer you know, he doesn’t practice this. But at one point, he was part of the Mormon slash LDS religion. And so that’s a really big part he lived in, like the Salt Lake area. And that’s one of the biggest areas for this kind of world. So I think he was he, I don’t actually know exactly how it all started. But I know that was his own personal passion, that he was working on that for his own family research. And then, you know, somehow came up with the idea that man, this could probably be a lot easier. And so he built this process called the family group sheet exchange, where he’d get other researchers to connect with each other, share their research with one another. And he kind of developed a standard template and format for that. So now you have, you know, the ancestry.com, and those types of things that sort of take that for you. But yeah, he was really, I think, a pioneer in that way. 

John Corcoran 4:38

It’s actually a really good lesson because he didn’t start serving everyone in the entire country. He started with a very specific narrow, little niche and then expanded from there, didn’t he? 

Chris Yates 4:47

Yeah, as far as I know. Yeah. I mean, I was so young that it was before my time, but yeah.

John Corcoran 4:51

So naturally, for someone who has a pre ancestry.com Gene illogical research business, the next natural step is opening a Taekwondo studio. Right. So how did that come about?

Chris Yates 5:03

Yeah, so he was doing Taekwondo and like some of myself in my other parts of me, I did, I did taekwondo from the age of like five to about 16. And so when we moved to Montana, from where we originally grew up in Missouri, he, I think it was just an opportunity for him to, you know, he had already achieved blackbelt. And so he was like, qualified to be a teacher. And so he started a little studio there, where we lived in Montana. And I was still practicing under him. 

And we, you know, we built up students and stuff. And eventually, I got to the point where I was like, teaching the classes for him, and and, you know, getting paid to do that, and sort of almost running the studio at the age of 1516, something like that. So, yeah, and it’s just lots of different little things, and he had an antique shop as well. So I used to mine the shop when he wasn’t there. So yeah, just kind of multiple businesses happening all around the place.

John Corcoran 5:56

And you eventually got into designing and creating websites, building websites for people. And take us through that, how that came about.

Chris Yates 6:04

Yeah, as I mentioned, I, you know, messed around the computer quite a bit. And at the time, I taught myself HTML, which is the programming language to build websites. And I think, you know, like, like many I think young kids, maybe of my age, video games sort of translated really well into these kinds of things like building websites, and other things like that, just because, like, you know, I was playing one game where, you know, you kind of like, you end up having like a website, if you want to build like a special map for this game or something like that. So you had to build your own website, just to put that out there, publish it around the internet. 

So it was sort of like this logical path that I started getting into this kind of stuff. And I would have like family, friends, or my friend’s parents who had websites that they wanted to build. And they heard, I was like, technically savvy, so they would hire me to do that just kind of through word of mouth and eventually ended up you know, saving up enough money to buy my own PC and stop breaking my dad’s stuff. And I still remember the story. When I went to buy that PC, I went to the local Best Buy equivalent, it wasn’t called Best Buy at the time. 

And I was standing there for like, half an hour waiting for somebody to help me because I was ready to buy a PC and I had a handful of cash. But I was so young, they didn’t realize that’s what I was wanting to do. So finally I just like you know, walked up to somebody and said, Hey, I want to buy this computer. Can you help me? 

John Corcoran 7:22

Nobody’s allowed to cash down on the counter kind of thing? Yeah. That’s a classic. That’s a classic story, though, you know, you’re too young to even buy a computer, they didn’t even take you seriously. You know, you’re already making enough money to buy yourself a computer. That’s great. And so that seems like that kind of naturally evolves, you get to college, and you start a couple of different initiatives with real friends, roommates, door mates doing digital marketing businesses, and websites hosting any memories from that particular period of time. 

Chris Yates 7:52

Yeah, I mean, my, I guess my first experience within the space and kind of like, let’s say, the.com space, so if you put this in a time window, we’re in those like, late 90s, where everybody was like, you know, it was all about Yahoo, and these portals and like, Hey, we’re gonna put banner ads and make millions and millions of dollars. And so right, I had a friend who had sort of initiated a extreme sports media brand portal thing, and they needed somebody to code the backend of the website, and I was in computer science and had met them through that and all that. 

So they kind of brought me on as a team member of theirs. And so that was really cool because like, there were days where we were out filming like the local kayaker whitewater kayakers who were like professional semi professionals in our area there in Missoula, Montana. And then you know, we would go back at night and toad and the website to put those videos up and edit them and things like that. And there’s

John Corcoran 8:47

No easy task back in those days, you know, you graduated from college in 2003. So we’re talking about the 99 to 2003 time period here. It’s not an easy thing to get a video on the web at that time.

Chris Yates 8:58

Not really now we actually had real cameras instead of just phones we could point and click so.

John Corcoran 9:03

She had to upload the file. We’ve heard all that kind of stuff is a lot of work. Yeah. And so after college you’re still living in Montana. And do you immediately go to work for yourself doing digital marketing and building websites for people? 

Chris Yates 9:20

Yeah, so during college with the original two founders of that media portal thing that didn’t really work out because then around 2000 or so like that the whole industry kind of crashed and burned out.

John Corcoran 9:32

Yeah, the advertising model kind of collapsed as well.

Chris Yates 9:36

Came together with a few other people and built a design and hosting company for websites and stuff like that. And so but what happened was I well, you know, graduated from college like what we weren’t making enough money from that to support me as a full time gig so I ended up moving to Vegas and and got hired on as like the first hire for or a digital marketing or a for a business and in their digital marketing kind of marketing department in general. So the founder was doing their marketing. And so I was like his first hire and into, into actually doing the marketing when he went so that he could, you know, not have to do all the marketing himself. So that was my first job out of college. And I eventually sold my shares in that hosting company and stuff. And yeah, so that’s, that’s kind of how I made the transition from college to my first job. 

John Corcoran 10:30

And then at some point, you make it back to Montana. And then what was the impetus behind starting the Rhodium network?

Chris Yates 10:37

Yeah, so the, that first job, the boss that I had there, he and I built a really good kind of mentorship relationship. And so we actually decided to do business together. And, you know, several years later, fast forward, you know, he ended up selling his business I used to work with and he came back to me and said, Hey, Chris, let’s do something together. And so we started buying online businesses together. 

John Corcoran 11:03

Let me pause there. So now we have Flippa, we have all these different databases, we have your community. But there’s nothing back then. And I imagine in this time period, some people are even questioning the wisdom of buying businesses, what types of one? Were you finding online businesses, the buy in? What types of online businesses are you buying?

Chris Yates 11:24

Yeah, so at the time, there were either forums of essentially, you know, like, they were kind of like webmasters, sort of like business owners, internet business owners, sort of forums where they would have that classified section to those forums where people would buy and sell their websites. So that was one place, like Digital Point was a big one at the time. Flippa. Actually, you mentioned them, they were early days for them. So this was like, oh, nine 2010. 

So they were actually at the time. And I don’t think this is necessarily the case anymore at all. But they were kind of the 800 pound gorilla of the place. It was like eBay for buying and selling websites. So that was where we also started buying some early stuff. And so yeah, it was pretty, you know, somewhat I would say, like, wild west at the time, there were a lot of scams, and all sorts of things like that at the time. So yeah, that was how we started finding those first few deals.