June 4, 2017

JF1006: How to Build an Online Community and Business #SkillSetSunday

He helps others find the dream career they’ve been looking for. He does it all online. Hear about his challenges, triumphs, and what he’s up to today.

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Mac Prichard Real Estate Background:

– President at Prichard Communications, a public relations agency
– Founder and publisher of Mac’s List, an online community for people looking for rewarding, meaningful work
– Hosts the weekly podcast, Find Your Dream Job
– Author of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere
– Over 80,000 people a month visit the site
– Based in Portland, Oregon
– Say hi to him at macslist

Click here for a summary of Mac’s Best Ever advice: bit.ly/2sdypkV

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building an online business


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluff.

I hope you’re having a best ever weekend. Because it is Sunday, we’re doing a special segment called Skillset Sunday, where by the end of our conversation you’re gonna come away with a specific skill. Today we’re gonna be talking to someone who has successfully achieved an online platform where he’s generating over 80,000 people a month visiting his site, and he’s the author of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. How are you doing, Mac Prichard?

Mac Prichard: I’m doing great, Joe. Thank you for having me on the show.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, and nice to have you on the show. The outcome for our conversation today with you is to discuss setting up and running a business and the lessons learned along the way. Before we dive into that, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background, just for some context?

Mac Prichard: Sure. I run a small business called MacsList.org. It’s an online community for people looking for rewarding creative work. At the heart of it, Joe, is a job board with hundreds of listing for cool jobs, the kind of positions that are either in creative work or nonprofits, or even in government, but jobs that you would like to have. In addition, we also produce a lot of information through a blog, a podcast, books about the nuts and bolts of looking for work and managing your career, because most of us aren’t taught those skills in high school and college; we learn them by trial and error, and because we learn them as we go along, often we get stuck in these periods of unemployment.

So while my business is about helping people find work, I came into this almost accidentally about ten years ago, and also the way I learned some valuable lessons that I think would be useful to your listeners, real estate investors.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, absolutely. As real estate investors, we are entrepreneurs. We are small, medium or large business owners, but we’re business owners, so I would love to learn myself the lessons that you came across along the way and how that’s gotten you to where you’re at now.

Mac Prichard: Well, I think the most important one is the power of relationships and connecting with other people. My business has grown by word of mouth. Our revenue is about $600,000 annually, Joe, and it employs five people. A few part-time, several full-time… But I started my business as just telling people about job openings, and I didn’t realize how valuable the information was that I was sharing, but the people that I shared it with did, and they shared it with others. That power of word of mouth and the relationships that I built as I grew my community has just been a huge part of the success of Mac’s List.

Joe Fairless: Relationships built along the way – can you get more specific as far as how do you build those relationships and what is your specific approach when talking about what you’ve got going on?

Mac Prichard: Absolutely. Because we work in the employment space, Joe. I often get approached by people who want advice about their job hunt or their career, and I’ve always made a point of giving my time to others. So if somebody wants to meet with me, even if I don’t know them, I will make the time. Sometimes it takes a while to get on my calendar, but I will see people, and I do it without any expectation of getting anything in return, and I find that when I do that, I get so much back… Not only offering my time, but my advice and ideas. The relationships and connections that I make through those conversations – and I’ve been doing them for years now – keep paying dividends for years to follow.

The other thing I would say about relationships – I’m often approached by people who say “You’ve got a great business here. I think I’d like to do a job board like you” or “I’d like to be a career coach”, and some people might say “Gosh, I’m sorry, I don’t have time to talk to  you”, but for me, my response is always “The water’s fine, jump right in. Let me share with you what I’ve learned about building this online business. Because I know two things are gonna happen, Joe. One is if they’re gonna be successful – the person I’m meeting with who wants to get into this space – they’re gonna specialize. They’re gonna find a niche that I’m not serving.

The other thing that’s gonna happen is they’re gonna be a partner and an ally down the road. I think again we’re talking about relationships, but generosity and giving to others without any expectation of receiving a return has just been a powerful part of my success.

Joe Fairless: Out of almost a thousand people I’ve interviewed – in fact, by the time this episode airs, it will be more than a thousand, so I will have interviewed more than a thousand people – you are the first person out of the thousand I’ve interviewed on my podcast who e-mailed me before the podcast interview and said “Hey, I love your podcast. I just did a review on your podcast. Here’s the review.” So you’re a living, breathing example of that.

Mac Prichard: [laughs] Thanks. I do try to do my homework, so I wanted to know about your audience and about you and what you like to talk about on this show, so I can not only be of service to you, but to your listeners.

Joe Fairless: It’s not a time-consuming exercise, it’s a thoughtful exercise that you employ. Sure, there is some time, but the amount of thoughtfulness that took and just conditioning yourself to do that is very valuable from a business standpoint, and it just makes you feel good when you give. The way that makes you stand out, in my mind — I mean, I’ve interviewed over a thousand people, and you’re the first person to have done that, and it’s just putting yourself in my shoes, like “Oh, he does a freakin’ daily podcast that’s insane. I bet he looks at everyone who reviews the podcast, because this is his baby”, and that’s true. Having a review added onto that is very beneficial for my own purposes, to have more positive reviews about the podcast. So it’s just putting yourself in other people’s shoes, and that’s one of the things that stood out to me, and we had never talked before; this is the first time we’ve actually had a conversation one-on-one, and it set the stage for how I approach my conversation with you, knowing that’s how you operate.

Mac Prichard: Thank you, Joe.

Joe Fairless: On that note, do you do other proactive things like that when you’re either introduced to someone, or you know you’re gonna be introduced to someone? Do you do certain things like that, and if so, can you give a specific example?

Mac Prichard: Sure. If I meet someone at a networking event or a dinner and we have a meaningful conversation (not just nod and shake hands) I will make a point of connecting with them on LinkedIn and I always, when sending a LinkedIn invitation – write a personal note, just a sentence or two, just reminding the person how we met. I tend to meet people in my world, so generally we’ll cross paths again, but doing that follow-up where you connect with someone on LinkedIn or you start to follow them – I’ll follow people on Twitter, as well… Again, people that I’ve had some kind of significant connection with, because so much of business, as you know, is about building relationships and getting to know people, and eventually liking and trusting them, and that’s how deals are made.

Certainly in the employment space we find, and I’m sure that your listeners have had this experience, too – while I run a job board and I’m proud of the public listings that we have and the value that employers get from those listings – most jobs gets filled by word of mouth. There are estimates out there that up to eight out of ten jobs are never advertised and are filled by conversations between peers. There’s no conspiracy here, you don’t have to have gone to a fancy school, it’s just that it’s human nature – people tend to want to work with people they know, like and trust, or who are recommended to them by people they trust. So I find that that’s true not only in the hiring process, but when you’re doing business, as well. It underscores for me the power of relationships, and making real human connections with other people.

Joe Fairless: I loved the comment about LinkedIn and how you write a personal note to that individual after you meet, you don’t just blindly say “Connect”, because it’s personal, it reminds them of how you met. But also, what I found – and I do the same thing 99% of the time… I’ll admit, I’ve gotten sloppy over the last 3-4 months, but that was my mantra up until the last 3-4 months, and I’m gonna get back on this now that we’ve talked about this.

One thing I will say is an additional benefit of writing the personal note is I might forget three years from now how I met them, and I’ll be able to reference, because LinkedIn keeps a thread of the previous messages… I’ll be able to reference how I met them if I want to reconnect for whatever reason, and that’s very valuable.

Mac Prichard: It is. Also, if I meet you and you give me your card and we have a real conversation – again, I’m not one of those people who walks into the function room at the airport Holiday Inn and blankets the space with business cards… I look for real connections, quality conversations. But if we do meet, I’ll make a note on the back of the card after the event, and when I enter it into my database I’ll put a short note there, just five or six words about how we met.

Just this morning I was at an event, a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association in Oregon, where I happen to live and work. A lady sat next to me and she says “Hey, how are you? We’ve met before”, and I didn’t remember, but she reminded me and gave me her card. Then I went back to my office and I was updating her record and there was a note there saying that we had met five years earlier and that she had gotten her job that she has today through the job board that I operate. So just being reminded of that reinforces the connection and makes it even more real.

Joe Fairless: What database do you use?

Mac Prichard: Just Google Contacts… [laughs] I keep it simple. We’re a small operation and we just don’t have the infrastructure and the size of staff to try something like SalesForce, which is valuable, but for a smaller operation we don’t need all those [unintelligible [00:12:43].09]

Joe Fairless: Okay. Now I wanna talk a little bit about the business side of things… Your company is generating $600,000 of annual revenue – is that money coming from advertising sponsors, primarily?

Mac Prichard: It’s largely revenue from the sales of job listings. If you go to our website, MacsList.org you’ll  see a job board on the homepage, and employers paid to put listings there. The reason they do it, Joe, is because they save time and money. They get fewer applications with the posting on our site, but they’re the right ones. That means they don’t have to weigh through hundreds of resumes; they’ll get a few dozen, and 80%-90% of them are from people they wanna hear from.

We also, in addition to serving employers, because we heard from so many job seekers and they tell us that they struggle with the basics of job hunting, setting goals, doing informational interviews, polishing up their interview skills – we also provide education and training services. That’s still a small part of our business, but it’s growing. So we’re serving both communities – both employers and job seekers.

Joe Fairless: Your business has grown via word of mouth primarily, you said. What mechanisms – if any – have you put in there to help facilitate that?

Mac Prichard: It’s a great question. We find that collecting testimonials from both employers and job seekers helps promote that word of mouth; it also adds authenticity to our work, because when we do publish testimonials on our website, we ask job seekers to share their success stories on our blog, we ask people if we can publish their full name and their photos, and people who read these stories or see these testimonials – they see people who look like them, or are chasing jobs that they want, and they can identify.

It’s not surprising to me, because if you think about how people make decisions when they buy, if they’re thinking about a restaurant, they go to Yelp, they read the reviews. If they’re thinking about buying a book or an electronic product or anything on Amazon, they pay attention to the reviews. So we find that one way to support and increase that word of mouth is to collect those reviews and testimonials and those stories and share them.

Joe Fairless: Do you do video testimonials or text, e-mail testimonials and you just copy and paste that info, or anything else?

Mac Prichard: Right now we’re just using text and photos, and we’re certainly very interested in video, because a video, as you know, is so much more engaging and makes an emotional connection that can be much more powerful than you get with written word.

Joe Fairless: When did you launch the company?

Mac Prichard: Mac’s List is a side project. For years (nine years, actually) I just sent out job postings to a small list of friends, and I started hearing from people who wanted to be on the list and employers who wanted me to send postings, but it wasn’t until late in 2010 that I’ve started charging for my services.

Here’s another lesson I wish I knew back then, or 15-16 years ago. If you’re providing a valuable service and people were saying yes to your e-mails or whatever it is the product/service you’re providing for free, chances are they’re doing that because you’re providing something of value, and you should charge for that. It took me a long time before I flipped the switch on monetizing it, and I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner because I could have served more people and grown the company and the community even more.

Joe Fairless: Was there a year that your growth did more than other years, and what would you attribute that to? In terms of revenue.

Mac Prichard: Yeah, the last two years our revenue has increased by about 40%-45%. The reason that’s happened, Joe, I think is because I invested in full-time staff, and I also invested in people who were mid-career and knew something about the business and could help me grow it.

Joe Fairless: People who weren’t right out of the gate fresh in the industry, but had some seasoning and brought some expertise to the table?

Mac Prichard: Correct. I didn’t go cheap, I didn’t look for recent college graduates; not that there’s something wrong with that, but I needed more seasoned, experienced people who could actually help grow the business and who had experience doing that.

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, this is a sneaky interview because on the surface it might seem like we’re talking about an online platform to help job seekers and employers match up, but the more we talk, the more I’m seeing about 5 or 6 points that are incredibly relevant to us as real estate investors and entrepreneurs. One is how we grow our word of mouth, and that is by collecting testimonials from people… As simple as text and photos would work. Two is how do we stay in touch with people, and that is sending them not only a LinkedIn request (we all know that), but how many of us actually send a personalized note to the individual. If you do, pat yourself on the back, nice work. I need to get back into that, and I will from this point forward, because it’s a great thread that we can look at and review in the future if we forget how we came across them.

Three, if an aspiring competitor wants to talk about our business because they wanna create something similar, think of them as an ally, versus the competition, because if they are successful, as you said, they’ll probably be serving a slightly different area or a slightly different demographic, and I can tell you, I whole-heartedly embrace this because my business is multifamily syndication; I raise money, I buy apartments with high net worth individuals and we’re sharing the profits. Well, I also interview people who do multifamily syndication, and it’s because the listeners need to have exposure to more people than just me who are doing what I do, and I live in a world of abundance, which you do as well.

The fourth thing is revenue growth – how did you go from where you’re at to getting 40% increases in revenue year over year, the last couple years, or in those two years you mentioned… That was hiring people who are the best of the best and paying them accordingly. Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that you wanna mention as it relates to growing a business and lessons learned?

Mac Prichard: I guess I wanna underscore a point — great summary, Joe… Just about the power of generosity and helping others, and how much you get back in return when you do that.

Joe Fairless: I’ve got some warm fuzzies when your name comes up, because you’re the first one out of 1,000 people to actually write a review and send it to me prior to jumping on the call where I interview you on my podcast. So you walk the walk, that’s for sure.

Mac, where can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you or learn more about your company?

Mac Prichard: Well, they can visit our website. It is www.macslist.org, and we’ve set up a special landing page where they can get a free chapter of the book. Just go to MacsList.org/bestrealestate and the book is Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I know you focus on investors and small business owners, but many of the principles that we talked about about networking and relationship-building you’ll also find in the book, and they’re equally valuable to small business owners as well as job seekers.

Joe Fairless: Outstanding. Of course, on your book page that I’m on right now, you have testimonials, and everything that we’ve already talked about about the book itself, so thanks so much for being on the show, Mac. I hope you have a best ever weekend, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Mac Prichard: Thank you, Joe. It’s been a pleasure.



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