Ep. 192 Escaping the 9 to 5 with Chris Ducker

Chris Ducker

In this week’s podcast, Anna is speaking to Chris Ducker in the latest in her Escaping the 9 to 5 series.

Chris Ducker is a serial entrepreneur and author of the bestselling books, Virtual Freedom and more recently, Rise of the Youpreneur. Based in Cambridge, England, Chris owns and operates several businesses, including the VA recruiting hub, VirtualStaffFinder.com and the personal brand education company Youpreneur.com. He employs over 350 full-time employees around the world and is regarded as one of the top experts in the world on the subjects of virtual staffing and scaling an expert business.

Escaping the 9 to 5 with Chris Ducker

Chris DuckerChris Ducker is a serial entrepreneur and author of the bestselling books, Virtual Freedom and more recently, Rise of the Youpreneur.

Based in Cambridge, England, Chris owns and operates several businesses, including the VA recruiting hub, VirtualStaffFinder.com and the personal brand education company Youpreneur.com. He employs over 350 full-time employees around the world and is regarded as one of the top experts in the world on the subjects of virtual staffing and scaling an expert business.

Chris has been a trusted international business coach, keynote speaker and podcaster since 2010 and currently spends most of his time mentoring successful entrepreneurs, as well as investing in and advising startup companies.

He publishes new training content weekly at ChrisDucker.com and can be followed on Instagram, and Facebook.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

5 Pillar Scorecard – Download this scorecard to review where you are on each of the 5 pillars of building a life outside of the 9 to 5, and get clear action steps to help you fill the gaps. onestepoutside.com/scorecard

Chris Ducker and the Youpreneur

Anna: Okay. Hello everybody. Welcome back to this month’s escaping the nine to five interview, and I’m here with someone who’s not only an entrepreneur, but a serial entrepreneur known for his love of Bruce Lee, Bonsai, and whiskey, but most importantly, or perhaps less importantly, I don’t know. Let’s see. He’s also the founder of virtualstafffinder.com and youpreneur.com. A massive welcome to Chris Ducker.

Chris Ducker: Hello. Thanks for having me.

Anna: Hello. Thank you for your time. Now I know you and most people do know you from your personal brand empire, which is your Youpreneur business, and yet I know you’ve had a few twists and turns along the way. Would you mind going back to the beginning, I guess, of your career to give us a little insight into what the pre-Youpreneur pre-Staff Finder career looked like for you?

Chris Ducker: Yeah, depends on how far you want to go back, but basically we’re looking at the publishingYoupreneur Summit - QEII Conference Centre, London, United Kingdom world. That’s where I kind of started from a full-time sort type of job environment at the age of about 17 or so. I didn’t go to university, much to my father’s dismay at the time, and went straight into working in the publishing game, in the classified sales section of the industry and kind of sat there for about two or three years, actually just learning the craft of sales really, which back in those days was really the telephone and face-to-face.

That was should we say the foundation of the career, and then going into my twenties I was lucky enough to get promoted a few times. By the time I was 25, I was managing guys twice my age in a small sales team and kind of went from there. Then eventually ended up going … I was headhunted by a recruiting firm for one of the big financial banks in the Philippines in the late nineties. Went over there in 2000 and I was there working within that industry for three, four years before I set up my own company and in 2004 and been an entrepreneur ever since.

Anna: Amazing. Did you always have those entrepreneur inklings? Where you the Richard Branson who was sort of hustling away along the side from the beginning, or was it quite a spontaneous decision at the time? What led you to make that decision to take the leap?

Chris Ducker: I think, yeah, I’d already been kind of side hustling for at least five or six years. We had a small publishing business on the side, myself and a partner at the time. That kind of spiralled quite quickly actually in kind of mid to late nineties in the UK. The Hong Kong film industry was very, very, very, very popular. I’m showing my age by talking about the mid-nineties, I know that, but it was very, very popular. You had guys like Bruce … Everybody knew Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, but there was a host of other actors over in Hong Kong specifically as well as the outer reaches of Asia that were becoming more and more popular here in the UK with a niche community.

We set up a small publishing company. We published a magazine called Hong Kong Superstars. That was a quarterly magazine. It was a full blown, full colour thing. That kind of spiralled onto doing work with the BBC as a consultant for that niche, that genre. Then going ahead and actually going to Hong Kong on several different trips and shooting footage for a documentary that we kind of self-created and produced and sold on VHS. Yes, I’m really dating myself now.

It was a great time because everybody was so accessible over there. It was pre-social media. We would send sort of faxes to all of these actors and the producers and directors and whatnot, and wait to hear your fax machine connecting in the middle of the night because of the time differences. It was great. That kind of really spurred me on from an entrepreneurial standpoint, like the organisation of bringing people like Jackie Chan and Jet Lee, and these other big, who are now very big international stars who were at the time were just really starting their careers off at least internationally anyway.

Bringing those guys to the UK and doing midnight screenings in London’s Chinatown and all that kind of stuff. It was good fun, but it really taught me about organisation of international business working with time zones, international dialling codes, putting deals together with cinemas and distribution, and all that kind of stuff. Five, six, seven, years of a bit of a boot camp for entrepreneurship while at the same time working a nine to five job in sales.

Anna: Yeah. On the basis of sales, which is such a great foundation as well, obviously for working for yourself. I love the heritage business there in terms of VHS and fax. It’s not quite the tools we have at our disposal, but clearly you learned the foundation.

Chris Ducker: The system or the strategy rather behind using that form of communication compared to the form of communication that we use today is identical. That hasn’t changed in terms of the strategy. It’s outreach, it’s qualification, it’s all that sort of stuff. Nothing’s really changed, but everything has changed. You know what I mean?

Anna: I love that because even in the few years that I’ve been in business, it’s gone from a very different world where there weren’t that many podcasts and we obviously didn’t have TikTok and so on. Facebook was pretty new in my final years of corporate and so on. It’s great to hear that applies even to I was going to say prehistoric times of VHS cassettes and so on, that as you say, the strategies, the big picture frameworks, the principles are still the same. We don’t have to get too stressed about whether it’s TikTok or Instagram Reels or whatever. It’s much more the bigger picture, the strategies, the frameworks and so on.

Chris Ducker: Absolutely.

Anna: 2004, did you say you started the business? What was it that triggered that? How did you come up with your idea? What was the main [inaudible 00:06:16].

Chris Ducker: I initially had a two year contract over there. Like I said, we won the international banks, and then they extended that for another two years. But about halfway through that second contract, I had started to feel itchy. The feet were getting itchy, and I was setting up relatively large subsidiaries for different agencies that were affiliated with the bank and kind of really getting to the grips of everything from budgeting to costs, to expenditure, to negotiating leases on office premises and hiring hundreds of people.

All these things that every business owner, particularly small business owner right out of the gate really needs to have. Actually many, or rather only very few have all of that experience under their belt when they get going. I was very blessed to be in a position where I picked up all that experience based off of the foundations of sales and marketing, which as we all know is one of the most important parts of any business, no matter what industry you’re in. I felt quite blessed to be in that position.

Then I kind of was coming to the end of the contract and they wanted to renew again. I was like, I don’t want to work with you anymore. I want to work for myself. I’m making you all this money. I kind of want to make myself all this money. That’s what I did, and went out and set up my own sales and marketing consulting company, where we were training very, very large businesses, San Miguel Beer Corporation, probably one of the biggest companies in the Philippines, floats on the stock exchange over there. Right the way down to the mom and pop beach resort who wanted to have a high occupancy rate over the summer months, that kind of stuff. We taught them how to sell and we taught them how to market themselves.

Again, we’re talking 2005, 2006 here. The internet was around, but not really for much more than YouTube and email kind of thing. There was a lot going on and we were very lucky to be, I think, in quite a unique situation at a very unique time where the technology was really starting to pick up and move quicker. By 2008, we’re talking about four years or so in, turning in 2008, we decided that we were going to grow the business. We were going to go all-in on the outsourcing sector, being in the Philippines. That was a string to the bow, so to speak.

We opened the door with, I think, 15 employees, went up to about 35, then almost went bankrupt, survived. By the end of the first year, we had 85 staff. That was 12 months of just like, oh my God, what are we doing kind of thing. The rest is history. We’re a multi-seven figure annual business now, and three different companies within the group and employing almost 400 people. Yeah, the boy did good as my dad would say.

Anna: Definitely. With that in mind, I guess, this podcast is called reimagining success. I wonder how would you define success today and how has that definition evolved over these different periods of your life?

Chris Ducker: I think my definition of success has changed quite a bit over the course of the last 15, 16 yearschris-ducker-outside or so. At first I was very money hungry, very money led. It was all about the money at the end of the day. It wasn’t necessarily about getting to a million dollars, that seven figured thing that everyone goes on about. It wasn’t about that. I knew that would happen just as a natural conclusion of hard work in the industry that we were in, because it was a big industry. It was booming. It was growing very quickly. Going into the outsourcing world after being steeped very richly in sales and marketing consulting, I knew we would do well if we could just keep our costs down and land a couple of decent sized clients. We did that.

Then going in into 2010, we opened the doors to Virtual Staff Finder, which was our second business in the group. That just went gangbusters, like the 4-Hour Workweek had just come out and everyone was talking about lifestyle design and outsourcing and all these kind of things.

Anna: Good timing.

Chris Ducker: Yeah. Really good timing. Some people might say lucky. Nope. It was just good timing, plain and simple. I think you make your own luck. I truly believe that to a certain extent anyway. I think that up to probably 2013, 2014, I was just all about the money, Anna, to be frank. By that point, we were already doing multi-seven figures on an annual basis with at least … 2014, we would’ve been at 250 staff or so. You don’t really realise actually this is where it started to change for me.

It was Christmas 2014. That year my book, my first book, Virtual Freedom had come out earlier in the year and we have this huge company party every Christmas. Christmas in the Philippines is a really, really big thing. Really big. We had this massive party and there was 250 people in front of me. I was on stage giving out various staff awards and then it hit me. This is success. It’s not necessarily the money. The money’s good. But knowing that 250 families plus plus are being fed because of something that I created, albeit a few years back, I’ve grown it. This is success.

But then as things change, you become maybe a little bit more self-conscious, a little bit selfish to a certain degree, which is fine. I think because I’m at the point where I’m only a year and a bit or so away from being 50 years old. Now the focus of my own personal success comes into play. It’s not legacy or anything like that, but it comes down to like, how do I want to live myself? The definition of success for me now is actually being able to do what the heck I want whenever I want to do it. It’s really that simple. I’ve pulled back on a lot of commitments. I say no now 9 times out of 10 to doing anything, quite frankly.

I’ve got to the point where I’m really only working three days a week at this point pretty much. That will probably drop down to two going into next year. That for me now is what success looks like, but it hasn’t always been like that. Sometimes I often say that hustle is a season. It’s not a lifestyle. Sometimes you’ve got to put your foot down on the gas and really hustle hard, whether it be for 12 months, 18 months, five years, whatever, it’s different for everyone, but it’s not a lifestyle. It’s not sustainable to hustle all the time, but you can go through hustle seasons.

As a group of companies to this day, we still go through hustle seasons. Usually for us, it’s the last quarter of the year and the second quarter of the year. It just happens to be like that for us. But it might be different for other folks, but generally that’s the way I look at it now.

Anna: I love that. The seasons is a great way of putting it. I always think there’s a rhythm. You kind of push, push, push, but you can’t maintain that pace all the time, so then you have to pull back. Would you say, just a question that comes to mind, that you need to have that hassle, that you had to have the single minded focus on the money first, and that has then allowed you to now be a bit more sort of lifestyle designing and go three days, two days and so on? Or do you think that we can, from the beginning, design a business that we love from the very beginning? Do we have to have that hustle season first up would you say?

Chris Ducker: Well, bear in mind, I’ve always loved my businesses. I’ve never fallen out of love with my business. Sure there’s been some tough times. Sure it’s drove me nuts from time to time. I burn out before, all those things, but I’ve always loved doing what I do for a quote unquote living. I think however, that in order to be exactly where I am right now and my time of life, my age and the era that I’m in currently for myself and my family, we have zero debt, we have zero mortgage, we have multiple properties. We’re very comfortable financially, et cetera.

For me to be in that position now and have that runway for this part of my life, yes, absolutely. I needed the focus on the money earlier on. I needed a hustle earlier on, but again, it’s not sustainable. Now that doesn’t mean though, and I want to caveat that, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go into a new business with a lifestyle or a work life balance focus. That doesn’t mean you can’t do that. You absolutely can because it’s your business and your definition of success from a monetary perspective is completely different to mine or anybody else’s.

There might be some people that say I have to make half a million dollars a year, for example, but then you could have somebody else who’s in an identical position with the exact amount of experience serving the absolute exact same niche or industry. Their definition of success is a 100K a year and they’re happy with that. It’s very subjective. Money and numbers in general are just very subjective. But for me personally, yeah, I felt like I needed to put that hustle in order to create the lifestyle that we’ve got now.

Anna: That’s so important as you say, people have this sort of six figure, seven figure, just random number they’ve plucked out of the air. Actually, sometimes there’s a ceiling, there’s sort of a maximum of what you want to earn to have that lifestyle that you want. You mentioned there that really difficult year, and you mentioned briefly your burnout. What do you think has helped you both develop that self belief that you know what, I know this is going to be successful and I know I can make it, and also the resilience, I guess, to bounce back from those setbacks?

Chris Ducker: Confidence. I’m a confident guy. I’ve never not lacked confidence in everything that I’ve done. I’ve never started any business ever that I didn’t think was going to be a success. I’ve only had one flop as a business owner and that was killed after six months and 50 grand in the hole. I was just like, well, I’m not going to do this anymore. It’s not going to work. We just closed the doors on it.

My personal kind of focal point has always been to just show up really transparently. There’s no smoke on mirrors around me, what you see is what you get. I’ve mentored and coached you as well as tonnes of other people out there over the years. Those who appreciate where I come from and my style of delivery and coaching and the expertise that I’ve built up over the years will stay with me. They’ll do great things as a result. Those who aren’t in that camp and maybe try us out a little bit, and for whatever reason don’t gel, they’ll pop on. That will be absolutely fine. I wish them all the best because you can’t please everybody all the time. You know what I mean?

I think I’ve always gone into every business I’ve started thinking it’s going to be a raving success, but in terms of coming back from burnout that was just a matter of it was 2010. We had just hit our first seven figure year. We were at about 150 employees and I burned out. We’re talking hospital time, antidepressants, IVs, the whole kit and caboodle. You look at that and you look at a situation like that, and you’ve got two options. You can either kind of just succumb to it and say, well, it’s over. I can’t be bothered. I don’t want to do it anymore. Or you fight back to health and wellness, and you continue to show up and serve, and that’s what we did. That’s what we did.

I remember Erz, my wife, who you has obviously got to know a little bit over the last couple of years. She was making green smoothies for me three times a day, trying to get all these vitamins and minerals back into my system after burning out and losing a tonne of weight. Yeah, it was shocking stuff. Acute exhaustion, acute dehydration, antidepressants, like I said. It was a tough moment, but it wasn’t going to last forever and I knew I needed to come out of it.

Anna: I guess in terms of the business model, did you shift that then in response to that? How have you set up your business now to make sure that doesn’t happen again?

Chris Ducker: Yeah, I just started delegating. Prior to that, I wanted to be all the things toward the departments. One minute I’d be doing interviews and hiring people. Next minute, I’d be selling. A minute after that I’d be training. Then I’d be walking around our server room, looking at cables, having no idea what the bloody hell the flashing lights and everything, thinking to myself, yeah, that all looks okay. Knowing absolutely nothing about it.

Just your typical micromanaging nightmare type A entrepreneur personality. The burnout comes around where for this to carry on, you can’t carry on doing what you are doing at the level that you’re doing it at. We need to hire people. We actually hired eight people in 2010 to replace me. Eight different people. Since then, it’s really just going into 2013, 2014, 2015, less and less time in the office, more and more focused on quality rather than quantity. That’s been a big thing.

2015, I think I started no work Friday. Haven’t worked a Friday since, except for speaking gigs, travelling, that kind of type of thing. That’s pretty much been the way I’ve kept it at bay. Also, just being really, really in tune with my strengths. You know how you get some people to say, oh, I’m going to work on my weaknesses. I need to work on my weaknesses. Don’t work on your weaknesses. Delegate the things that you’re no good at, and then work on your strengths. It’ll help you make a lot more money. That’s for sure.

Anna: Good advice there. I guess it’s almost impossible to answer, but do you think you could have avoided that burnout? Did you have to go through that in order to learn those lessons do you think or could [inaudible 00:21:21]?

Chris Ducker: Probably. You always hear about people saying, oh you’re not going to be able to do it on your own. You’ve got to build a team. But I know so many entrepreneurs that have burnt out for the exact same reason. I think also, particularly those entrepreneurs that bootstrap from the very, very bottom and build their business up because they learned how to do everything themselves. It became second nature to close a deal, do whatever they needed to do to deliver on that deal and invoice at the same time. It was design a logo. Yeah, I can do that. All these things that you just do it because you’ve got to save money and you’ve got to focus on keeping costs down. You just carry on doing all this stuff.

Then it becomes really, really hard to start delegating things and handing things off. I think it’s also a fear of losing control for a lot of people too. I knew that was the case for me initially, and now I can’t wait to delegate, Anna. Something lands in my inbox or on my desk. I’m like, who can do this? Because I don’t want to. Now all I do is I spend time in my zone of genius. That means creating content to help market and grow my businesses and serving my clients across the three different businesses.

One day that might look like having a one hour long teleconference call with clients in New York who have got 200 employees with me. The next day, it could be working with my Virtual Staff Finder team to onboard 15 new VAs for a huge internet marketing firm. Then the day after that, it could potentially be working with folks like you and helping them learn how to build and market their businesses. Doesn’t matter what hat I’m using now or what hat I’m wearing now, only I can do those things. Everybody else around me can do all the other stuff.

Anna: That’s a great position to be in. I feel like we can go two ways, especially come from a corporate background. We either, as you say, bootstrap and do everything ourselves, and then we get into this habit, it’s really hard then to let go of things. Or I’ve seen clients and colleagues do the opposite. We’re used to the big corporate budget and so on. We get like a fancy PR agency and a custom design website and suddenly like nobody wants my thing, and I’ve just spent thousands of pounds on it. There’s unfortunately the two scenarios I guess. That’s probably something we learn to navigate with the experience.

Chris Ducker: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s the stuff that I always say that’s you earning your stripes.

Anna: Yeah, 100%.

Chris Ducker: That can’t be bought. You need to go through some crap in order to come out better at the other end. I don’t think it’s possible to build a business from day one all the way up to wherever that big rainbow is for you and not learn some very costly lessons along the way, or develop a few issues along the way, either individually or as a business for you to be able to fix. It’s going to happen. There’s nothing you can do to avoid it. It’s inevitable.

Anna: Of course I know you, and I think most people would know you from the latest edition, I guess, of what you’re doing, the Youpreneur community, building a personal brand you say is the last pivot we ever need to make in the business. What have been the most effective ways in which you found that you’ve been able to build your, what is a very now, impressive personal brand platform? What would have been the best ways in which you’ve done that?

Chris Ducker: I think there’s probably been three or four things that have worked pretty much consistently since I started focusing on it, which was probably around really focusing in on it as a genuine business model was probably around 2012, so about 10 years ago. Prior to that, you start your companies, you build your website, you pay your Adsense accounts. You do all the things to be able to get clients in and whatnot.

Virtual Staff Finder came about in 2010 through a blog comment on my personal blog in early 2010. I’d been blogging for about six months or so. I didn’t really think anybody was really reading or anything, but you get a few comments, you would reply to them here and there. But we had a comment that come through that said something to the effect of, if there was a company that I knew and I could trust in order to do the recruiting for me to find a VA, I’d pay for that as a service so that I didn’t have to waste the time going through online jobs or Odesk or Elance at the time, that sort of type of thing. Two weeks later we opened the doors to Virtual Staff Finder and it was a one page website for three years.

Anna: Wow.

Chris Ducker: I kid you not, all it was, was a landing page for three years. The reason why that worked so well is because we built it off the back of my personal brand. Already been in the outsourcing industry for three, four years at the time, had a good amount of international business contacts that could spread the word for me. Already been blogging and podcasting for a couple years and really had the ability to lean into my personal brand, although I didn’t really call it that at the time.

Then once I kind of plugged into it, 2012, 2013, you start really focusing on the stuff that you’re putting out. The content you create becomes a little bit more important to you. It’s not just about, oh, it’s Wednesday. I need to write a blog post. You genuinely start thinking about the content that you’re creating because you know it’s going to be seen, you know it’s going to be shared and talked about, or at least you hope it will do anyway.

I think probably creating online content on a consistent basis, number one. When I say consistent, I mean weekly, quite frankly. Not just once a month or something, and understanding that every single time you hit publish on something, whether it be a blog podcast or video, even a social media post, that’s got some real thought behind it. That’s a business asset that you’ve just set forth into the world and people will find it two, three, four, five, 10 years from now. That’s the first thing. Number one.

Number two, without doubt. Speaking has been astronomically important to the growth of my personal brand. I’ve been featured in Entrepreneur and Forbes and Success magazine and all these other things. Almost all of those articles those features have come off of meeting people after being on stage. After being on stage, not just going to a conference and meeting them at a mixer. But actually them seeing me on stage. Chris, love that message, would love to do a feature for Success on you or for Forbes on you. That’s been a big one for sure.

Then I would say probably my books have been incredibly important to me. I think when you put your name on the front cover of a book, it creates a certain aura of expertise and leadership in your industry. Then lastly, I would say just being a connector as well. I’ve been very, very fortunate to build an incredible network for myself, all of which I class pretty much all of the people I’m connected with as friends now. Some of those relationships are obviously a lot deeper and closer than others, but I’ve been very, very lucky to be introduced to folks, to have dinner with people, to spend time with people in a personal setting, and all that kind of stuff.

These are relationships that I truly treasure. I don’t look at utilising them for business gain. I think that’s been another really important part of things as well. When somebody knows you’re a connector and they think, oh, Chris might know somebody, that’s huge because now your top of mind for a lot of things. Oh, Chris might know a video editor or Chris might know a female speaker. Chris might know XYZ developer. All these things I think come over a certain time, they’re not done overnight either.

Anna: I really get that from you genuinely, when you introduce someone, it’s always my buddy and my friend and it’s clear that you know each other, you’re not just saying that. It’s not just pulling someone’s name. Yeah, absolutely. A real relationship.

Chris Ducker: There’s real stories behind it. What’s even better is when somebody comes along and they tell the story, I don’t have to tell this story, but when they tell this story about something happened with Chris in XYZ restaurant or something, that just kind of solidifies that relationship even further. I think it’s always nice to hear and see.

Anna: I have to ask, Youpreneur, I think you coined it in one of those keynote speeches. Was it something that you brainstormed or just come to you as a flash of genius? I’m such a fan. I’m sure it’s divisive and people love it, hate it, but I think it’s so good. We often aspire to these really catchy names. What’s the secret? How did you come up with it?

Chris Ducker: Yeah, what happened was, it was Ad libbed, not the word Youpreneur, the term Youpreneur, but I was in the middle of a keynote in Vegas and there were two things I ad libbed genuinely on that stage. The first one was P2P, people to people, and it just came to me and we were talking about different connections to B2B or B2C in the industry. I kind of just turned around and said what would be really cool? What would be really cool is if we adopted a P2P mindset or a P2P mindset. Hands up if you want real relationships, not just transactional relationships. Everyone was like, whoa. Yeah, P2P, this is cool. I kind of lent way into that.

Then in the exact same talk, I talked about the business of you and how your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not at the conference and when you’re not at the coffee meeting or the dinner party or whatever. I kind of took that. On that same trip to the United States, I was hanging out with my buddy, Pat Flynn at his house. We were staying there for about a week or so. I think it was Independence Day over there. We had a big barbecue and stuff. Water fights, that was fun, water balloons and all that sort of fun stuff.

Afterwards we had made ourselves a cup of coffee and the ladies and the kids were hanging out in the garden. We went into his home office and that was where we actually muttered the word Youpreneur for the first time. That kind of kicked off a 12 month mission to buy youpreneur.com from the guy who registered it 10 years earlier. Never did anything with it. He wanted 20 grand for it. I was like, dude, are you high right now? You’ve got no assets. You’ve got no web traffic, no email list. We ended up getting it for five grand, which I was quite happy about, my negotiation skills on that. Yeah, that’s how it was born. That’s how it came about.

Anna: I love that. Very organic. Again, the connecting piece, as you said, with Pat there as well, and the rest is history with the book, with the whole community now. You mentioned also briefly your no work Fridays and we talked about delegating and so on. Just the final piece for me is that what I call work life integration. If you want to call it life work integration or harmony or work life balance. What have been, I don’t know if I was going to say the secrets, it’s not really secrets, but what have been your strategies to make that work for you? What does that look like for you to design the business around your life now?

Chris Ducker: That’s the tip. You just said the exact perfect words right there. Design the business around your life. The big success here or the big strategy is that you put your own life first before anything else. We do about three big holidays as a family every year. Then we do three or four little mini reset retreats of three, four nights or so as well. Pretty much all of them are planned a year in advance or we at least map out the dates on the calendar. We usually start doing that around sort of September, October when we’ve got all the school dates, the terms and everything for the following year. We’ve actually got a holiday book for 2023 already. We booked it at the end of 2021.

Anna: Nice.

Chris Ducker: I think it comes down to priorities at the end of the day. The priorities are number one, me. I’m the first priority because if I’m not eating well, if I’m not being conscious of moving my body and exercising, if I’m not spending time to upgrade myself, if I’m not spending time doing what I need to do every day, then I become stressed and everything else kind of crumbles. First and foremost, is Chris a priority? Yes, he is. He’s priority number one. Number two then is my family. Number three, kind of associated with number two is our calendar. I want to create memories for my kids. We’re building a Wendy house on our property here right now and my daughter’s going out. We’ve got our handyman, Tommy, coming every morning. When we say we, I’m not doing the actual building. I’ve bought all the stuff.

Anna: Outsourcing.

Chris Ducker: Yes, I’m delegating is what I’m doing.

Anna: Delegating.

Chris Ducker: But every day Cassandra goes out and she has a photo with Tommy and me to show the progression of now we’re doing the base. Now the first wall’s going up and all this sort of types of things. That’s the kind of stuff that I want to do. It’s creating those kind of memories. That’s what we do. We just focus on that side of things. Like you said, design the business based around your lifestyle. What kind of life do you want have? That’s your priority. You got to figure that out. It doesn’t happen overnight. It might take several years to figure that out.

But whatever that is, here’s one thing that I know to be true 100%. This ain’t a rehearsal. What we’re doing right now, our lives. This is it. This is the show we don’t get a do over. Whatever it is that you are doing day-to-day from a lifestyle perspective, from a business perspective, from an impact perspective, you have to be quite intentional about the way that you do it. I just put myself and my family first and foremost before everything and anything else. Everything else is a second and it should be like that. But obviously you’ve been doing it long enough, you’ve got systems in place. You’ve got processes in place. You’ve got a team in place to help you execute on that vision and those ideas, everything becomes that much more easier. You know what I mean?

But life is not an Instagram profile. It’s not a highlight. There are peaks and troughs and you’ve got to just handle it as you go by. But if you understand what the big priority is, and that’s you and family, then everything else is secondary in my mind.

Anna: That’s some powerful stuff there. I guess if we could leave the listeners with one step that they can take it so easy to look at and what you’ve just said, it sounds dreamy. Yes, I’ve worked hard, but now I’m here. I’m going to go down to two days a week and I’m a sought after speaker and all these things. If someone’s looking from afar and thinking, wow, I’d love to be there. What one step, one thing could you leave them with to help them on that journey? Knowing that yes, it’s going to take time, but what’s one tip, one step?

Chris Ducker: Yeah, no, totally. I would say to schedule everything. That’s the big thing. There’s a whole bunch of different exercises and whatnot I could give people, but I’d say start looking at your schedule as the commodity that it is, because it is. Your yes’s are a commodity. Every single time you put something on your schedule, that’s time taken away that you could be doing something else. Doesn’t matter what it is, but it’s acquired, it’s purchased fundamentally. For us to buy more time, we need to start saying no more often.

What’s important? Is it important to get your first digital course out into the world? Well, if it is, then the chances are four to six weeks, so if you say no to every single other request on that schedule, on that time of yours, the chances are you’ll do it in six weeks. That’s all it takes. Really. But if you’ve got lots of other things popping up all the time, it might take six, 12, 18 weeks. I think it just schedule everything. I always say, if it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done. Everything on my day is scheduled. My workouts are scheduled. Time, believe it or not, watering Bonsai is on my calendar.

Anna: Oh, wow.

Chris Ducker: Oh yeah. Absolutely. 15 minutes. I’ve got a lot of trees. 15 minutes to water your trees, that goes on the schedule. Social media time, on the schedule. Meetings with the team, on the schedule. White space, I get an hour of white space after lunch every day for me to just either catch up on work or sit and do nothing, read a book, go for a walk, whatever it is. That’s every single day. Then zoom calls, on the schedule, retreats, on the schedule, holidays, on the schedule. Everything goes on the schedule. If it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done.

Anna: Yeah. That’s so good. It’s not so sexy, is it? The routine, the systems, the calendar and so on, but that’s the answer I think anchoring your vision in the day-to-day is the secret to having the breakthrough that you want.

Chris Ducker: Yeah, we have to do the unsexy work in order for all the sexiness to come about.

Anna: There we go. I think we got our quote for Instagram there. We have to do the unsexy work-

Chris Ducker: Go for it.

Anna: … To get the sexiness done. Well, look, Chris, thank you so much for your time. I really value your expertise. I definitely encourage you guys, of course, if you haven’t already check out, Chris has his podcast of course. He’s got youpreneur.com, which he bought for $5,000 back in the day, chrisducker.com of course. Chris, what’s next for you? What’s the new exciting thing that you are working on this year?

Chris Ducker: Actually, we’re again doing the unsexy work. We are in the process of looking at hiring probably our first real high end executive role and kind of just cleaning up the business a little bit. I think a lot of businesses over the last couple of years, we’ve had to pivot slightly. We’ve had to move slightly. We had our live event three years in a row in London, which we had to put to sleep because of everything that happened. We’re going to spend the rest of 2022 serving our current coaching clients. We’re doing it through the Youpreneur incubator, which is our programme, which you a member of obviously. Actually here’s a scoop for you, Anna. We’re closing the doors in two weeks today, and we’re going to be doubling down on the people that are already in it.

I want as many people who are in that programme already, who are 100% committed and focused to be at six figures, which is what the programme promises and beyond by the end of this year. That’s our big, big, big focus. We’re going to be doing that. I’m going to just be cleaning up. I’ve deleted 20,000 people off my email list at the end of last week. We got a new podcast in the-

Anna: Wow.

Chris Ducker: … Planning stages. Third book is being shopped to publishers in the United States as we speak. We’ll see whether I get my second publishing deal in America. That’d be kind of cool. Other than that, I’m going to be [inaudible 00:41:36].

Anna: Not that much going on. A bit of blank space on the calendar, I hope, I don’t know where you make time for that.

Chris Ducker: I’m going to do that in two hours a week, Anna.

Anna: There’s a book for you, the two hour work week for you. Amazing. Well, thanks so much. That sounds amazing. It’s so tempting again to just keep getting more and more people in and to get hungry and greedy and like, oh, we can have a thousand people in the incubator and the fact that you’re closing the doors and focusing on serving them and really making sure people are getting the results you promise. I think that’s just a sign of your integrity and what you do.

Chris Ducker: Totally. We will open it again, likely towards the end of this year at some point. But I just want to, for those years, like any other programme on the planet, let’s keep it real here. Maybe this is the way to end because I’m going to drop a value bomb from a mile right now. Even if you successfully sell a load of your digital courses, a load of your coaching programmes, a load of your experiences, et cetera, et cetera, only about 60% of the people that purchase will genuinely take it seriously.

Out of that 60% or so, about 50% of those will actually achieve what you have set out to help them achieve. Because there are other forces that are out there that get involved. Life gets in the way. Parenthood, health, financial, you name it. Understanding that sometimes you have to go one step backwards, which is what a lot of people might see us doing right now by closing the doors and not bringing any new clients in. But the whole point is to be able to go two or three steps forward with the people that are already in. That for me is the focal point.

I’m well aware of the fact when we announce this at the end of the month, that there’ll be a whole bunch of people inside of the programme currently as it is that are going to get really excited about this. They’re going to double down on their efforts.

Anna: Absolutely.

Chris Ducker: But there’s probably going to be a whole bunch of people saying yeah, big deal, whatever. Those will be the people that won’t hit their goals this year. I guarantee it. Those that double down and get excited will, and that’s really what it comes down to.

Anna: That’s it. I love it. Looking forward to that then. I’ll definitely be in the former group of course.

Chris Ducker: I should bloody well hope so. Absolutely.

Anna: Amazing. Well, Chris Ducker, thank you so much for your time. Thank you and best of luck with the new phase of your business. Thanks so much.

Chris Ducker: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thanks Anna.

Anna: Amazing. Thank you very …

Work with Anna

Let us help you design a business and a life that gives you freedom from the 9 to 5. There are several options for how you can work with us. Choose the programme that’s right for you.

The Outsiders Business Incubator

A year-long business incubator for experienced corporate professionals who want to translate their skills and passions into a profitable and fulfilling business. onestepoutside.com/9to5

The Outsiders Business Accelerator

An ongoing mastermind for service-based business owners, freelancers and online entrepreneurs who are ready to achieve success on their own terms. onestepoutside.com/accelerate

The Outsiders Business Academy

A self-paced course for you to work through in your own time, to learn – and implement – the foundations of building a profitable business that lets you escape the 9 to 5. onestepoutside.com/course

1:1 Coaching & Mentoring

If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching

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We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

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Changes to our privacy policy

We keep our privacy policy under regular review. Initially created on 18th November 2016, it was last updated on 23rd May 2018 to be compliant with GDPR.

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