Don’t Be Polo Shirt Guy

Ryan Polo Shirt Guy

Polo shirt guy tucks his decent polo shirt into his decent khakis and puts on his decent shoes and goes to his decent job. He’s decently fit and decently good looking.

He parties it up a little on Fridays, a lot on Saturdays, and usually makes it to church or brunch on Sundays.

There’s just one problem with polo shirt guy: he’s UNHAPPY.

Not like a conscious depressing, everyday unhappiness, but occasionally when all is calm and the radio is silent, the flat screen is off, the car is in park, the hustle & bustle of everyday life slows down, the chatter of friends fades, the girlfriend isn’t around…

When all of that is gone & silent…he has a brief moment of deep truth:

He hates his life.

He hasn’t self actualized. He once had ambitions & real passions and got off track.

Someone else started telling him what’s important to achieve in life. Other people told him what he should believe in, what he should fight for, who he should associate with, where he needs to be going.

These people may have had the best intentions. They may have just been scared.

Doesn’t matter.

Polo shirt guy forgot who he was. He got caught up in “things”…distractions. His ego put him in places he didn’t want to be. His self esteem and confidence failed in key moments and he lost trust in himself.

If he’s like most, he’ll be able to suppress this hatred his whole life, or at least long enough to ignore the dissonance until he he hits a middle age crisis or his deathbed.

I hope that doesn’t happen.

The way out is often as simple as admitting where you’re at and finding help.

It’s weird to seek help – admittedly. But the cool thing is you don’t ever have to explicitly say “I need help” and force your ego through that deep bruising and scarring. You don’t even really need to tell anyone.

You can go it alone, cold turkey, quietly, and be OK. It’s never too late. Not when you’re 20, not when you’re 70.

You just need to actively go find help. Call it an ADVENTURE if you will.

Help is all around. It’s in books, it’s in blogs, it’s in the words & actions of your truly happy & free spirited friends (not always the same as your well-to-do friends)…it’s in me. Just start looking. You’ll find it.

I’m sure some will try to spin this as religious or spiritual or fashion satire or something…but it’s not that. It’s just plain ole’ advice that no one asked for. So I’m not giving it.

I’m just telling you how I felt being a polo shirt guy. I was one of those guys. That life is so easy, so safe, so secure, it can be addicting.

But I found help. I just had to admit I didn’t like where I was and wasn’t who I wanted to be – despite the bank account that was starting to look OK.

Happiness for me wasn’t dollar signs or something vague like “financial security” or “good career trajectory”…it was freedom, self improvement, and helping others. Dollar signs were fine for measuring progress, but they weren’t the end all be all.

If you go looking, you’ll find your own things that matter. Finding those things is an amazing experience. The important thing is to LOOK.

I’ve been there…I’ve been the polo shirt guy. Have left, gone back, tested the polo shirt life many times. Left again. Still kinda put one on in the morning and take it off after lunch these days. Hope I’m out for for good soon. Hope some of you come with me.

How I Went from Part Time Employee to CEO of a Profitable Startup

Becoming a CEO is kinda cool.

On Wednesday, October 16th, 2013, I was working part time doing online marketing, sales, and customer support for a small SAAS company in northwest Austin.

On Thursday, October 17th, 2013, I was announced the CEO of a profitable startup and remember jumping up and down in my kitchen and doing rotating fist punches in the air because I was so excited.

Coincidentally, I was hired as CEO by the same person who had politely rejected me for a job a year earlier:

Email from Noah

In a year, I had gone from someone who wasn’t qualified to do PPC campaigns (in all honesty, I wasn’t qualified at the time) to someone who was qualified to be a CEO.

It felt surreal.

The coolest part about this is that you can do it too. Whether you want to start your own company or get hired to be the CEO of someone else’s company.

Much of the content in this series is hard and requires acting like an extrovert and doing real stuff in real life. So I figured I’d start with the easy stuff. The stuff where you can just read, and be passive, and learn. After all, you will need some basic knowledge to be a CEO. By reading the books & blog posts I recommend, you’ll have all the knowledge you need in about 2 weeks.

Note: if you click one of the links below to a buy book on Amazon, then I will receive a small referral commission. That’s not why the links are there, though. The links are in there for your convenience so you don’t have to Google for them.

I’ve probably read 100+ business books and blogs in the last 7 years. The ones in my list are the most useful in a journey towards becoming a solo founder / CEO.

Here’s the reading list:

- Read Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Work Week. Got the entrepreneurial itch. Decided my goal was to be my own boss and spend my free time on learning and self-improvement. Also read these 2 motivating blog posts on Tim’s blog: How to make $1MM/mo selling ebooks, How to create a $1MM biz in a weekend.

- Read Robb Wolf’s book about the paleo diet, The Paleo Solution. Went Paleo. Have been eating paleo for 2+ years now. I’m more confident, more energized, more alert / clear headed, and more ambitious now.

- Read all the “Greatest Hits” in Patrick McKenzie’s Kalzumeus blog about SEO, email marketing, and SAAS sales. This helped me be more efficient and prioritize my workload at my day job (online marketing) as well as get a handle on the 80/20 rules of online marketing. Patrick is probably top 10 in the world at SAAS marketing when you mesh together his theoretical / tech knowledge and real life experience.

- Read all of Ramit Sethi’s blog posts on psychology, coming up w/business ideas, negotiating, and getting a dream job.

- Read James Altucher’s Choose Yourself for entrepreneurial motivation. Highly recommend. He’s a great motivator and storyteller and he has some top notch ideas, for, well, how to come up with business ideas.

- Read all of Andrew Chen’s blog posts about startups & growth hacking. Andrews’ blog is great for understanding startup terminology and learning the important metrics by which startups are measured.

- Read this blog post by Jakub Linowksi on good UI for websites. It’s super useful and also super motivating for some reason.

- Read all of Noah Kagan’s blog posts on life hacks & online marketing strategies as well as his incredible Quora post on how to acquire your first 100K users with zero marketing budget.


And that’s it. That’s honestly all the technical and tactical knowledge you’ll need to be a CEO or a solo founder. You don’t need an MBA or 10+ years of high level executive experience. Just 2 weeks and $40 to invest in a few books on Amazon.

How I Got 50 Paying Customers Despite a Crappy Website

Getting sales for a startup is hard. It can be especially hard when your website is kind of crappy like mine.

Here’s what my site looks like as of writing this blog:

To date this landing page has 1,591 unique visitors and 3 sales.

That’s a pretty shitty conversion rate. Luckily, I wasn’t sitting around hoping my landing page would convert people to sales. Instead I was actually AVOIDING sending people to the website because my brand isn’t well known and my website doesn’t have a ton of credibility indicators. I wanted prospects to have to reject ME, not my website.

Here are the exact steps to get sales despite a crappy website

Context: My startup is a monthly beef jerky delivery service called Sumo Jerky. Customers pay me $25/month and then I go find tasty jerky, negotiate a good price, and ship it to members. If I just relied on my website, I’d have 3 customers. Instead I setup a sequential process to bring in sales and build momentum before I had a polished website. Here are the exact steps along with the numbers of sales each activity generated.

Cheap ads on Reddit (7 sales; Cost $55)

  1. Pick a forum that serves your target. For example, I am selling jerky, so I targeted the r/keto forum on Reddit since beef jerky is a great fit with the keto diet.
  2. Write the ad in personal language. Use the word “I”.
  3. Use an interesting or provocative photo.
  4. Turn comments on and reply to feedback (check & respond to comments regularly).
  5. Include a link for Redditors to PAY YOU or EMAIL YOU. Don’t link to your website.

Reddit ad example

Flash sales via text message (16 sales; Cost $0)

  1. Imply that there’s a volume discount and/or time constraint.
  2. Make short but enticing reference to the quality of what you’re offering.
  3. Imply exclusivity.
  4. Write informally.
  5. Don’t force a reference to your business if it’s not needed. Notice how I don’t mention my business in this text:

Flash sale beef jerky

G-chats & emails to get friends and family to join (8 sales).

  1. Tailor each email & chat to the specific person.
  2. Confirm interest before disclosing price.
  3. Address objections and adjust price / terms to meet the needs of customers. One of the great things about this early stage is that you can be very flexible with pricing and terms for your first 50 customers or so. Just get them in the door for now and you can standardize & automate later.

Gmail chat with beef jerky club members

In the chat above with my friend Phil, I mentioned how the jerky would be good for gluten-free dieters because I knew he was trying to follow a gluten-free diet. Phil was sold before I even mentioned the price, so I just requested payment immediately. Sometimes the communication sequence needs to be more deliberate.

Loosely scripted email sequence to GET & CLOSE referrals (11 sales; Cost $0)

  1. Start by asking for feedback on your product / service.
  2. Respond to POSITIVE feedback with a request for referral.
  3. Make it easy, don’t make them think about what to write:

Referral request 1

If they want YOU to send the email, here’s what you can do:

  1. Include name of person who referred you in subject line.
  2. Keep the email short. 3-4 sentences max.  Less than 100 words.
  3. Don’t include the price.
  4. Close with a firm call to action.

beef jerky club email example

Odds & Ends

  • I took over as Sumo Jerky CEO & owner on Oct 18th. I wrote this on Nov 24th.
  • I’m not counting any of the 50+ sales that occurred before I took over as CEO.
  • Most of the things that worked to get sales, I learned in AppSumo’s Earn 1K Course. You should sign up for it if you’re trying to start a business.
  • The new website is going to launch any day now. It’s 4:30PM CST on 11/24/2013 as I write this.

People have been trained to think that successful business = good website. In fact, the 1st thing most people ask when you tell them about your new business is “what’s your website” and how much $ does it cost.

Don’t fall into the temptation of dumping a bunch of cash to build a website. See if you can pre-sell your idea like I did, with email and Paypal.

by Ryan Luedecke