How to “Scale Up” Your Relationships (in Changing Times)

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Do you ever wish you could make money while lying on the beach?

Sure… who hasn’t, right? That’s the dream.

Warm sand beneath you…

Wind in your hair…

Sound of the waves crashing against the beach…

Don’t worry – I’m the last guy to promise you can live the “laptop lifestyle,” turning your website into a cash machine without having to put in any effort.

And this blog isn’t just a cookie cutter site about how to start an online business and become a digital nomad. SBR is about building better relationships in business, which includes using digital tools to build more relationships at scale, faster.

But let me tell you a story about the blog post that scared the crap out of me.

This was five years ago. The blog post was written by a guy named Pat Flynn, who you may have heard of.

Pat had done everything right – went to a good college, gotten a professional certification in architecture, and was on his way towards a long career as an architect.

Then the 2008/2009 economic crash happened. And suddenly, without warning, he was out of a job.

Laid off. In the worst economy in a generation.

The poor guy was engaged at the time and he and his new fiancée had to move in with his parents while he got back on his feet.

Talk about embarrassing.

But then a funny thing happened. Even while he was struggling financially, he was studying to get a new architecture certification called the LEED certification.

And while he was studying he started sharing his notes online and helping other architects studying for the same exam.

He built up a bit of a reputation as an expert, just from being helpful and by being a giver.

At some point he decides to turn his knowledge and expertise into a simple digital ebook that he would sell online.

He made $8,000 the first month he put it on sale. And that wasn’t all. That simple ebook consistently kept bringing in thousands of dollars, month after month.

You wouldn’t think an architect would make money from an ebook aimed at how to pass an architecture certification exam, right?

But what Pat was doing was what I call the “Entrepreneurial Professional” two-step.

He was thinking like an entrepreneur, keeping his eye out and mind open for opportunities.

Entrepreneurs Need to Look for Business Opportunities. Period.

Then came the blog post that scared the crap out of me. I remember Pat wrote that he had gone on vacation to Hawaii, and during that time, he made about $5,000 from sales of the ebook.

That’s $5,000… while he was on vacation in Hawaii. Sitting on a beach.

At the time I read this, I was working as an associate lawyer for a small law firm. I was spending a LOT more time inside of a law library than I was spending on beaches.

That idea of making money while you are on vacation (or away from work, or sick, or doing other things) shook me to the core – and it didn’t go away.

I began really doubting the merits of the “billable hour” method of billing, which is the primary way most lawyers (and LOTs of professionals) are compensated for their efforts.

I realized how truly flawed it is:

… for a business, there’s no revenue diversification to billing by the hour.

… it provides a financial incentive for client matters to take longer than they need.

… in order to make more money, you need to always be working. If you’re not working, you’re not making money.

… and there’s a ceiling on the number of hours you can work per month and the amount you can charge per hour.

Which brings me back to Hawaii.

Well, I just got back from celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary with my wife, Nicole. We were in Kauai.

Here’s a picture:

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A lot has happened since I read that first blog post by Pat Flynn.

Four years ago, I went out on my own to start my own business, initially spending 99% of my time practicing law and maybe 1% of my time building Smart Business Revolution.

But I never lost sight of the longer term vision – creating a business that was no longer dependent on my active physical presence and trading hours for dollars.

Little by little, I chipped away at the longer term vision.

Eventually, I transformed my business so that I could actually bring in revenue without being present working, or while I was doing other things, or asleep, or while on vacation, just like Pat did.

And I just realized, I finally did it.

I finally experienced the same thing Pat did – going to Hawaii on vacation and making money at the same time.

Oh crap. Wait a second. Did I just say I made money while sitting on a beach?

Well let’s just get one thing straight: have you seen my skin? I’m whiter than Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

I get sunburned just looking at pictures of beaches on Instagram.

So I didn’t exactly “sit on the beach” and make money.

I guess I did sit under the shade of a pool umbrella wearing SPF 1000 and a broad-brimmed hat…. and made money.

But that doesn’t sound quite as cool.

Does that make me some kind of scuzzy internet marketer?

No. If you’re a service professional and you’re not leveraging the internet to grow your business, then at BEST you’re missing out.

And at WORST, your business is at risk.

Now, I didn’t make money while in Hawaii by selling one ebook like Pat did, but I am bringing in revenue from a variety of revenue sources by leveraging the internet.

If you’ve ever suffered from the “marketing roller-coaster,” then I imagine the idea of having multiple sources of revenue sounds pretty good.

I personally hate the term “passive income” because I think a lot of people misunderstand how much work must be put in to generate “passive income” (making it anything but ‘passive’), but this is as close as it gets.

So for me… it all comes full circle.

Five years ago, I was reading about others who had created businesses with leverage. Now I’ve created the same.

And the question for me is how to grow it further, to help YOU to do as I have, scaling up your relationships and your business.

What is the larger point here?

You cannot do things the way they’ve always been done.

Ask a cab driver. Four years ago, would ANY cab driver have thought that the INTERNET could threaten their old-as-mud, brick and mortar business of schlepping travelers from one side of the city to the other?

Uber thought differently.

Or three years ago, would ANY hotel chain owner think a Silicon Valley startup that owned no real estate could give it a run for its money, or even eclipse their value?

Airbnb thought differently.

What about photography? At its height, Kodak employed 120,000 people. Then digital photography combined with smart phones came along and a 100+ year old company was forced into bankruptcy.

Instagram thought differently.

The world is changing people, and we all need to change with it.

Are you changing? If you aren’t changing with the times, the times will change you.



  1. Great story John!

    Did you end up going with the ZTL Pro or Master package?