Is it Possible to Build an Effortless Business?
What do you think? Is it possible to build an effortless business? Danny Iny does, and after reading his newest book Effortless, I’m really leaning into the idea. I have a few very specific questions for him that I think you’ll love.
After my first membership launch was a total failure, we ended up flip-flopping our ideal client. Rather than teaching performers to have a business, we started teaching business owners to perform. And our Camera Confidence program was born, which led to $50k in sales in just three months. And our clients got amazing results. I also started to lean into a more effortless path, a path where opportunity is already available.
Business growth often feels hard, but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes, it can feel easy… even effortless. Effortless, in the sense that you *know* your strategies and tactics will work. Effortless, in the sense that you have leverage, and your actions produce disproportionate results. Even, effortless, in the sense that you don’t have to push to make sales because people are beating a path to your door so they can buy from you.
It feels like magic when it happens, but it isn’t magic. That sort of effortless growth is the product of a very specific set of steps that you can take in your business. But to take those steps consistently, you have to know what they are. Right? And that’s what we’re going to talk about today with Danny!
What is Effortlessness?
Danny thought a lot about the word “effortless” and whether he actually wanted to use the word. The cliché of working on your laptop from the beach never made sense to him, but making passive income did. What happens as a result of the effort? You are putting in time and effort no matter what. But it feels like you’re getting nothing back. The opposite of pushing a boulder up a hill is rolling a snowball down one; it’s picking up momentum, getting faster and bigger. You still have to do some work, but what are you getting for your efforts? Effortlessness is the opposite of futility. You’re not fighting for every result that doesn’t even occur.
I have this coffee mug with a lid on it. I don’t know why, but I keep trying to open it the wrong way. I am making this way harder, and using much more effort than needed. So I am just going to turn the lid around to avoid this problem. We do little things like this in our businesses and our lives. If we would put the right effort in first, the prep work, it would allow other things to feel more effortless as we move forward.
Danny has been in this business for over a decade now. He was always the youngest guy in the room, and now he feels like a dinosaur. He started his internet business after a previous business setback that left him in a quarter million dollars of debt, as he says, less from scratch. The business grew really fast. In those first five years, the business more than doubled every year. They went from zero to many millions in annual revenue in just a few years.
He was working hard during this time of course. But the results of his effort were dramatic. When you are smart and talented, and also in the right place at the right time, and inexperienced enough to realize the efforts are not just because of your smarts and talents but also because of your luck, you can become very arrogant. He likes business biographies, and took to Steve Jobs’ story in particular.
- Starting Apple in his parents’ basement at 21, four years later, it was a billion-dollar company. Most stories fixate on that meteoric rise. The part that jumped out to Danny was that is a lot of success to have accomplished by the age of 25. You don’t have a lot of life perspective at that age. It’s not surprising he crashed and burned. It’s the reality distortion field, which is not good for the ego of a 25-year-old.
Danny saw parallels to his own story in a way. “Having achieved some success early on, you start thinking you have the hand of Midas.” You try all these things that don’t work. Effortless growth gave way to stalled struggling growth. They stalled at $4 million for a bunch of years, and things got harder. Things were still working, but it was getting harder. Margins were getting thinner. He kept pulling rabbits out of hats, but all he was doing was extending this experience.
After how many years of pulling rabbits out of hats, Danny realized this was not working for him. He had the benefit of two sets of experiences: a few years of things working out not well, and years of things working out really well. He knew what both experiences felt like, which drove him to the concept of alignment. When things were not working well, he had these brilliant ideas he was trying to force onto the world.
Your own will
You can will your way into certain things at certain times if you are smart and resourceful. For Better or For Work is an awesome book Danny read. The author is talking about what it’s like to be married to an entrepreneur when an entrepreneur is sick. It’s so infuriating because entrepreneurs believe they can will themselves to get better.
I was living in New York, and my sister and mom came out to visit. I got super sick. As a performer, I was an entrepreneur of sorts. I was determined to have this great visit with my family, so my sickness wasn’t getting in the way. Before we left the hotel, I threw up, and I said I was going to be fine. We were in an H&M, and I realized I was going to be sick again. I went to the checkout person and asked for the restroom, which was on the fourth floor. On the escalator, I threw up into my hat. We sometimes get ourselves to that kind of point as people we think we can will things to happen ( or not happen) by sheer effort, when I should have listened to my body and accepted that I was not feeling well.
It is a superpower that you can will yourself to do things that most other people can’t, but sometimes we take it too far, our Kryptonite.
This is all about alignment. How much is your business what other people want and need it to be? He found these three pillars of alignment that are tied to three core customer desires. There is the obvious offer (what people want), the resonant identity (who they want it from), and the intuitive path (how they want to get it).
The Obvious Offer
We have two programs, Camera Confidence and GLAM. What we realized is there were sometimes people who didn’t have an obvious offer nailed down. In between the two programs, we are currently creating a brand new program to help people nail down their offer.
People get too stuck in their heads about their expertise and what they would love to offer people. There are a lot of reasons to create a membership site, but a stupid reason would be the idea of recurring income. Your customers don’t care about that at all. It’s not about what would be interesting about it to you; it’s about what your customers want.
There is this amazing interview done with Jeff Bezos a while ago. Someone asked him, “What is the new trend you’re excited about?” He answered, “I don’t spend a lot of my time thinking about what is changing. I spend more time thinking about what is always going to stay the same.” People will never say to him, “Jeff, I love Amazon. I just wish the prices were higher.” Amazon over the years has invested billions of dollars to be able to deliver this better than anyone else. That is the obvious offer.
That is the question we need to figure out for each of our businesses. There are different thought exercises, but there is a fun one. When you watch Aladdin, you have to wonder what your three wishes would be. Of course, people ask if they can make one of their wishes to get more wishes. Imagine that you put that thought aside, and this is your customer who has the magic lamp and is making wishes about your product.
There is the wishlist of things they will say. If you are shopping for a car, you want it to be sleek and comfortable, have AC, and go from 0-60 really fast. Let’s look at Tesla. They go through that list and check them off.
There is the second list: the things you want but would never say aloud that you want it, for whatever reason. Danny used to go to Starbucks every morning to buy a tea while on a walk. They asked him what he wanted every morning. Every single morning, he would lie to them, saying, “An Earl Grey tea with coconut milk.” He was lying every single morning. He knows they don’t have what he actually wanted. What he actually wanted was a rooibos tea with oat milk or macadamia milk. They don’t have any of those things. The next best thing is an Earl Grey tea with coconut milk. One day, he realized he didn’t want that anymore and stopped going to Starbucks. They weren’t giving him the obvious offer, but he also never asked for it because what’s the point in asking for something you know they don’t have?
- Most people don’t like parallel parking, but they won’t ask for a car that can do it for them because that feels ridiculous. Tesla has done so well on the obvious offer front because they are so good at addressing both of those lists and building all that into their offer.
The secret to an obvious offer is, “I’m sorry. We can’t do that.” You never want to say those words. Whatever comes after those words is trying to convince that what you have is just as good as whatever they wanted that you don’t have.
Danny is a big fan of Leonardo Da Vinci. His most famous painting is the Mona Lisa. But his best painting is an unanswerable question because it’s in the eye of the beholder. There is no such thing as the objective obvious offer; there is only an offer that is obvious to your target customer. You want to be perfectly obvious to your target customer, but who cares what anyone else thinks?
Here’s the thing. It’s very hard to get to a place where you don’t say those magic six words. No one can never not say those words. You need to say these words less than your competitors; that’s your starting point. Then you get better and better and widen that gap to making that offer more obvious.
The Resonant Identity
We don’t live in an era where everything is a commodity. We do care about who we are buying from. We want to buy from a resonant identity. There are two qualities of this that exist in a dynamic opposition.
- The first is relatability. That’s the idea of, “You’re just like me. We have these things in common.” But that’s not enough.
- The other side is aspiration. You’re who I want to be when I grow up.
If it’s just relatable, especially if we are talking about expertise-driven sales, then I want to hang out with you, but I don’t know if I want to buy from you or learn from you. But if you are super aspirational without my being able to relate to you at all, there is no connection. Congratulations on your success, but I don’t see the bridge to my own success. It’s about that balance between how are you like the people you serve, but also how are you further along the path that they want to be on? How can you show them that this is possible for them, too? It’s all about knowing your audience.
Let’s say Danny is thinking about the quality of his videos. A livestream is not the same as a launch, etc. What should be influencing the decision here? Is this about relatability or aspiration?
The Intuitive Path
The intuitive path is about laying out a path where the next step you want people to take is the next step that they automatically want to take. It’s what feels intuitive to them to do next. Or are you trying to force it?
When you’re dating, if you meet someone, you want things to escalate because you are having a good time. You don’t want it to be tepid or moving faster than you’re comfortable with. When you’re swept up in the moment, that’s an intuitive path. That is where that feeling of effortlessness happens.
There is a basic structure to this called the ladder of engagement. You climb that ladder with escalating cycles of commitment and reward. You invite people to make any kind of commitment to you (watching 30 seconds, clicking on an ad, sending contact info) and reward them for doing so (got an offer, learned a lesson, etc.). Making commitments in this relationship is worthwhile. A deeper commitment, another reward. What commitment would people be happy to make given where they are, and what is the reward that makes it worthwhile and moves them to want the next thing?
There are funnels that don’t work because they copy the architecture of a successful funnel but are not focusing on making all the steps great. If someone opts for an e-book, is it awesome? Will it move them into the higher-ticket offers? Does this path feel intuitive for them?
It’s also about meeting them where they’re at. The ladder of engagement goes with our tree of beliefs, which is that the content you create needs to help people to move through this tree of beliefs. If someone isn’t ready to have a business, they don’t want a book about an effortless business because they don’t have the idea of owning a business in the first place.
Where people get overwhelmed with that is it can feel like there are so many moving pieces. Don’t focus on the architecture and all the pieces. Focus on what the next step that feels right is. Danny likes the ladder metaphor as opposed to the funnel because people slide down a funnel as a passive experience. To climb a ladder, you have to take the steps. You have to be active. Same with a tree. How do you entice people to want to climb, to take that step?
- Especially as a coach, they will trust you more if you entice them to do so. They learn to trust you with each step you give them, and you are rewarding them for each step they take. It’s not about opting in and buying something; it’s about congratulating them and engaging with their experiences.
The Four Quadrants
Danny opens his book with an example of taking his kids to get ice cream in the summer. Where are you going to go? There are a few ice cream shops in his neighborhood. Each one is appealing to different members of his family for different reasons. One place is an artisanal local shop with amazing ice cream, which he loves. There are good vegan options there, so his mom loves it. Low seating and long lines is not great. Another place a little further away never has a line, but the ice cream isn’t great. Another place has very long lines with small portions, so his kids aren’t exploding with sugar afterward. They have sprinkles, which the kids love. It’s not a one-dimensional process. Where are you strong? Where is there an opportunity for you to get stronger?
These three areas have a multiplicative effect. You don’t add them together. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 each. You don’t add them together so that you have a scale of 3-30. You’re multiplying them on a scale of 1-1,000. Making incremental differences on each one really compounds. Making something just a little bit more effortless every day will really make a difference over time. Every action you take can help build your business in a more effortless way. You won’t create an obvious offer for someone else that you hate doing; those tweaks will make things easier for you and you will still love doing them. Exponential growth will be your result of the multiplication of the elements.
Start by making a huge list of all the things you can do to make your offer more obvious, your identity more resonant, and your path more intuitive. Take this big list and divide it vertically and across the sides. One axis is cost. How much will it cost in time, money, and energy to make this change? The other axis is impact. What difference will this make?
Take all the Post-Its and plot this on this board. You will have four quadrants.
- Start with the stuff that is high-impact and low cost; do those immediately for fast improvement in your business.
- High-cost and low-impact things. No need to do those ever.
- The things that are low cost and low impact are little continuous improvements. An hour every week making things better because they add up over time.
- The interesting corner is the high impact, high cost. That is the stuff most people will never do. It takes you time, but once you figure it out, it’s a huge advantage.
Danny pioneered a couple of things that are now in a lot of places. The first thing is in every one of their programs, everyone works with a dedicated coach. They have been doing this for around seven years. For the first few years that they did it, they lost money because they didn’t know how to do it yet. They are now able to offer a higher level of coaching more affordably because they put in the time to figure it out.
They also introduced guaranteed results, a return on their investment. They guarantee not just that they’ll like it, but that it will work for them. They lost money in the early years again, but now that they have, huge advantage. There are no asterisks with 12 pages of fine print with Danny. I can fully attest to both of these things because I went through Danny’s program!
Recognizing Things Can Be Easy
So often, I see clients or even my kids make choices to make things difficult as opposed to recognizing that it can be easy. There is a difference between easy and simple. We make things more difficult for ourselves more often. We don’t have to do that.
Danny will not claim he is a mindset expert. “Just go and do it; you will feel the confidence after” would be typical advice from him. But it is a choice. There is a great line from Upstream that says, “Every system is perfectly designed to produce the exact results that it does produce.” Whatever you are getting, you are doing the right things to do exactly what you are getting. Look at what you are getting and ask yourself if that’s what you want. If it’s not, change something. If it is, great.
There is a mental trap here. A colleague of his was talking about working 18-hour days and never seeing his kids and feeling burned out. He knew he had to change something. But he had a smart realization that it took him three years to engineer a crappy situation, so it’s not going to disappear overnight. It’s going to take him a few months to turn it around. Effortlessness is a choice; it’s not an instant reality. If you want a more effortless business, it won’t magically be more effortless five minutes later. But if you put in that effort every week, a year later, you won’t believe the difference.
When they were stalled at $4 million in four years, Danny made this change. A year later, they went from over $4 million to over $7 million. It’s amazing at how fast something can change when it doesn’t feel like it is fast at the beginning. That’s how compounding works.
Danny has a background in martial arts, which has a big focus on discipline. Discipline is often associated with willpower to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. Nope. “Discipline is about the presence of mind to choose what you want over what you feel like in the moment. It’s not about the path of least resistance in this moment; it’s about choosing to create the path of least resistance over the time that you’re going to be doing what you’re doing.” Give yourself the space to think more broadly than that specific moment to choose the path you actually want to be on, your own intuitive path.
Okay so how about now? Do you think it is possible to build an effortless business? We hope that these secrets and strategies opened up your mind to the possibility of making your life a bit easier, by using a little less effort to build your business. Don't forget to watch the entire video for this blog post and sign up for reminders for our live video masterclasses each week!
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- Effortless by Danny Iny
- For Better or For Work by Meg Cadoux Hirshberg
- Upstream by Dan Heath
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