Episode 285

Creating Mastermind Retreats and Building WordPress Tools for Developers with Brad Touesnard the Founder and CEO at Delicious Brains

We discuss creating mastermind retreats and building WordPress tools for developers with Brad Touesnard the founder and CEO at Delicious Brains in this LMScast hosted by Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. In addition to being the founder of Delicious Brains, Brad is the creator of a mastermind ski retreat called Big Snow Tiny Conf, and he shares how he built his mastermind program and how that has evolved.

Creating mastermind retreats and building WordPress tools for developers with Brad Touesnard the founder and CEO at Delicious Brains

Many entrepreneurs working online are located in remote areas where there are not many local events happening related to tech, or even more specifically WordPress or web development. In many large cities there are tech meetups, and Brad shares how the isolation in more rural areas can be a great motivator to cultivate a remote mastermind program, or as Brad would do, create a yearly retreat.

At Delicious Brains, Brad has developed four plugins that can help WordPress website developers with various aspects of website building. Chris and Brad run through a high-level overview of what each one does: 

  • WP Migrate DB Pro: allows you to copy your WordPress website database over to another website. Migrating can be a complex task with a lot of room for error, and this product helps greatly with that process.
  • WP Offload Media: allows you to host your media files (images, PDFs, etc.) on a service such as Amazon S3 or Google Cloud Storage and embed it on your website to improve website speed.
  • WP Offload SES: allows you to easily send emails through your site via Amazon SES.
  • SpinupWP: a cloud-based server control panel that allows you as a developer to create websites via Digital-Ocean without manually installing WordPress and going through the entire setup.

If you’re working in the WordPress development space, hosting your own WordPress sites for clients is one way to consider going for your practice, as it can save you a lot of money when working with hundreds of websites. If you’re working with 10 sites or less, you likely won’t notice too much of a difference, but with many sites there can be a huge savings hosting that yourself.

Brad shares details about the casual mastermind event he runs where he will get together with other business owners to snowboard all day, and while on the ski lift they’ll network and talk about business. Turning a normally boring part of the snowboard experience into an all around great event. Then they’ll chill out in a rental cabin and present on interesting topics.

You can learn more about Brad Touesnard and the things he has going on at DelicousBrains.com and his mastermind conference at BigSnowTinyConf.com. In this episode we also talked about Brian Casel who was previously featured on the LMScast here and also an interview with Ken Wallace on the topic of running a mastermind.

At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett:

You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett:

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined by a special guest, Brad Touesnard. He is the founder of a company called Delicious Brains, which has a lot of products, which we’ll get into in a little bit. He’s also a creator of a mastermind ski retreat, called Big Snow Tiny Conf, which we’ll get into in the second half of the show. First, Brad, welcome to the show.

Brad Touesnard:

Hey, thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris Badgett:

When people ask me where my business is located, sometimes I say I’m in the Bay Area. Then I quickly follow up and say there’s this little area called Belfast Bay on the coast of Maine. There’s about 5,000 people. I don’t have any tech entrepreneurs in my immediate community that I know of. What’s it like for you in Nova Scotia? That’s where you’re at, right?

Brad Touesnard:

Yeah. Well, I used to live in Halifax which is the major city here. That’s almost a million people at this point. It’s really exploding. When I lived there, there was quite a few people around. There was a monthly meetup that I went to, tech meetup. There’s a pretty good community there, but I since moved out an hour away to a much smaller, I’m going to say, town, because I don’t think it qualifies a city. I’m just not connected here. I know of a couple of people that work from home that are in tech.

Brad Touesnard:

We’ve tried to have tech meetups here, but no one stuck with it. You know what I mean? I don’t think we have enough people. At a tech meetup, half or more people don’t show up in any given one. There’s still enough people, like critical mass, that enough people show up so that it keeps going. We just don’t have that here. It’s just not quite big enough.

Chris Badgett:

Which I’m sure is part of the reason why you decided to create these kind of Mastermind Retreats with other tech entrepreneurs and, also, attend some yourself. We’ll get into that in the second half of the show. In terms of Delicious Brains, how old is it?

Brad Touesnard:

We started in 2012. I guess we’re eight years old.

Chris Badgett:

Cool. I just want to kind of do a quick high level tour of the four main products you’ve got. WP Migrate DB Pro, let’s start with that.

Chris Badgett:

For course creators, I think the area I see people using this the most is they decide to move web hosting. They need to move their site. They need to move it from, let’s say, they started on a more economical shared hosting and they want to move to a managed WordPress thing. That, to me, seems like the main use case, at least, in this community. How else do people use the product? What does it do at a high level?

Brad Touesnard:

We actually position ourselves as a tool for developers. If you’re a developer, you’re often working locally on your own machine, your own dev environment, and then you need to move the site up to a staging environment, and then eventually push it into a production environment. That’s mainly what the tool is used, to go between those environments.

Brad Touesnard:

Those are our best customers, too, developers, because they’re using our tool on a weekly, if not daily basis. It really saves some time every week. Whereas, the folks that that sign up or buy our product and use it to move a site once, those people are churning out every year.

Brad Touesnard:

It’s the number one reason why people don’t renew their subscription with us, is because, “Well, I already used it. I don’t need it again.”

Chris Badgett:

There’s an important point there which I want to bring up. I’m not a developer but I’m a WordPress power user. Whenever it comes to migrations, I made a decision a long time ago as a WordPress user non-developer, I don’t touch them.

Chris Badgett:

Thomas, who’s my business partner at LifterLMS. He has been using WP Migrate DB Pro for years to do all this stuff that you’re talking about, which is awesome. I think that’s really important, what you’re saying around identifying your perfect customer and who gets the most value out of it, because he’s using that thing all the time. I don’t know how many licenses are active or whatever. It’s just like this thing has been used and used and it’s everywhere. I always see it on the side and I’m just like, “It’s amazing.”

Brad Touesnard:

Another group of our customers would be people who work at a, I don’t even know what they’re called. They’re maintenance service companies.

Chris Badgett:

Is this the WSPs WordPress or websites as a service? No, you mean care plans?

Brad Touesnard:

Yes. Yes. WP Site Care was one of the more popular ones run by Ryan Sullivan. Those people are migrating sites all day. It’s one of their core things. They love our product because it saves them a ton of time. It makes it easy.

Chris Badgett:

Why is migrating a site … it sounds easy, but it’s actually kind of hard. Can you, maybe, just talk about it just at a high level so someone can make the decision like, “I’m going to learn how to do this,” or, “I’m just going to save that for a techpreneur or freelancer to do.”

Brad Touesnard:

One of the big things is that WordPress has this concept of serialized data, like the widget areas in WordPress are serialized and a lot of plugins use serialized data as well. They basically take a bunch of structured data and just stick it all together and throw it in a field in the database.

Brad Touesnard:

If you’re moving a site from one place to another, oftentimes, the URL changes; so you have to run a Find and Replace on your database. Well, if you just do that on the txt file that you export, it’s going to do a Find and Replace on that serialized data. Then, the serialized data is going to break or get corrupted. Then, you basically lose that data. That data becomes unusable by the plugin or by WordPress itself. You’ll basically lose all your widgets. It corrupts the entire bit of data. If there’s a plugin that puts all its data in the serialized chunk, you lose everything. You lose all the settings of the plugin.

Brad Touesnard:

That’s kind of the original problem, but there’s all kinds of stuff as well. If you’re migrating between a certain version of MySQL here and it had a different version over here, there could be differences in the way it treats the data. We try to kind of normalize all that and just sort it all out for you. Our plugin kind of handles all those edge cases that you might run into your data.

Brad Touesnard:

Then, moving files and stuff are problematic. One of the biggest problems is the best way to move a site is if you have to take the site down, your current site down, put it in maintenance mode. Then, move everything over or test it and then flip the switch. Basically, point your domain at the new place at the new server.

Brad Touesnard:

The reason you need to do that is because, if you just keep both sides running at the same time, data will be added over here that you won’t have over here and you get these inconsistencies. You have to put everything in maintenance. This is a bunch of things to consider. For one of our products, SpinupWP, I wrote a migration guide. It’s long. It’s very long.

Chris Badgett:

I think I can hear just in my mind’s eye of course creators nodding their head with you, because sometimes a concept or a verb sounds easy. Whatever you’re teaching, your subject matter, if you’re an expert, there’s actually a lot of pieces.

Chris Badgett:

Part of what we do as course creators is we really plant our flag on a problem and we go deep and we help guide people through the journey. A lot of times, our target market requires some education around how it all works. Then, they’re like, “I don’t want to do that. Can I buy your product or hire somebody to help do that? That’s awesome.

Chris Badgett:

You mentioned SpinupWP. How do people use that? How could a course creator use it? Or, somebody who builds websites for the expert industry, how can they use it?

Brad Touesnard:

SpinupWP is a control panel, basically, for hosting WordPress sites. If you wanted to run your own server on DigitalOcean, Linode, AWS, wherever, but you didn’t want to have to run commands all day, SpinupWP is a good solution for that. Basically, it’s an app that you sign up for and you point it at a server or even point it at a DigitalOcean account. Then, it’ll spin up the server for you, provision it with all the software it needs, configure it how it should be, and just run WordPress extraordinarily fast, really fast.

Brad Touesnard:

It’s funny when we first started that whenever you start a new product, you’re not sure exactly what your positioning is going to be and what the benefits people are going to derive from it necessarily are. You have ideas but you don’t know until you know until people start telling you.

Brad Touesnard:

Speed wasn’t really the thing that we thought that people would notice. We didn’t think there’d be a big speed improvement. It’s been remarkable how many people are just, “I can’t believe how much faster it is” than the previous hosting they were on.

Brad Touesnard:

The only thing is, I would say, it does require a certain level of technical know-how. We try to take away some of the complexity, but if something goes wrong with your server, you do need to SSH into it or look at the logs, for example. If that sounds like it’s too hard for you, it’s probably not the right solution for you.

Brad Touesnard:

Our product is really aimed at developers or people that don’t necessarily have that level of technical ability yet but are really looking to learn. What I always recommend for those people that are interested in it but aren’t ready to jump with both feet in the water and move all their production sites over to it right away is just sign up and try it on a blog or some other low risk site that isn’t paying your bills and learn and just be willing to read and figure out and poke and break things and just explore.

Brad Touesnard:

That’s how I learned the first time. Back in 2011, I was having problems with hosting and I just said, “Forget it. I’m going to start doing this myself,” and I figured it all out.

Brad Touesnard:

That’s what I would recommend. If you are interested and are willing to put the time in to learn it, then, you can certainly do that.

Brad Touesnard:

We have a series of blog posts that we call Hosting WordPress Yourself. That basically guides you through setting up a server manually yourself for the first time. From deploying your first DigitalOcean droplet right through to configuring NGINX to serve WordPress and all that. It just takes you through the commands to run and everything. I usually point people to that when they’re at that level. Just learn. Start the journey.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. What are the primary benefits from doing that level of hosting your own sites or your client’s sites, or whatever you’re doing, versus using a canned solution from a hosting company? You’ve mentioned speed. Is it also cheaper? I mean, maybe, you need to have technical ability as a developer. DigitalOcean is what we use to power we have a trial where people can try our software before they buy. I know it’s really affordable.

Brad Touesnard:

It’s quite a bit less expensive. If you’re just talking about one site or two sites, it’s not going to make much difference. If you’re talking about hosting 100 sites, wow, yeah, you could probably host … I mean, it really depends on the sites and how much traffic they’re getting, what plugins they’re running, and all of that. Smaller sites, you could probably host 100 sites on just a few servers.

Brad Touesnard:

A DigitalOcean servers going to be 10 bucks a month each one [inaudible 00:14:30]. Then, our service is $9 a month to get started and $12 a month after the first three months. I think it’s our current lowest price point. When you’re talking about hosting 100 sites, you’re saving tons of money.

Brad Touesnard:

It’s really attractive to those. If you’re a developer and you want to start hosting your client sites, then, you can use our tool to do that much, much easier than if you’re just managing the servers manually yourself without a control panel. It can be really affordable.

Brad Touesnard:

Add that recurring revenue. If you’re a developer or a freelance developer, feast and famine is how you live. It helps to add recurring revenue. This is one way you could do that.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. Well, let’s go through WP Offload Media and WP Offload SES. WP Offload Media, correct me if I misunderstand this for hosting or offloading your WordPress Media Library. Is that right?

Brad Touesnard:

Yes, Offload Media is for offloading. Let’s say you have a large Media Library and it’s all, as usual, just on your server, on your web server, you could get all of that media off your server into Amazon S3 or an S3 compatible storage. We currently support DigitalOcean spaces and Google Cloud Storage as well.

Chris Badgett:

A question on that, just to give you a use case to work with. A course creator membership site person, they may have lots of images and whatnot, like most WordPress sites, but they may also be using the Media Library to host all these worksheets, PDF templates, maybe some codes, maybe some audio files. Maybe, they’re even giving their people the ability to download video files, which are quite large. What’s the benefit here?

Brad Touesnard:

Well, first of all, the one benefit is if you’ve got gigs and gigs of this stuff, getting it off your server is probably a good idea.

Chris Badgett:

Can you just say why? Why do you not want a gig on your hosting account or whatever?

Brad Touesnard:

Well, space is pretty cheap these days, so it’s not really cost. It’s more about performance. If you’re getting requests for PDFs and videos and everything else coming to your site, your site’s going to be all that much slower because it has to deal with all that traffic, in addition to serving the pages of your site.

Brad Touesnard:

You really want to separate out the content of your site or, sorry, the media of your site from serving pages. Typically, people have heard of Content Delivery Networks, CDNs. Cloudflare is probably the most popular one. We’ve had a lot of issues with Cloudflare. We actually recommend just not using a CDN for your pages, the pages of your site. Just have them served by the web server, have a good caching in place for those.

Brad Touesnard:

Then, for your media, offload that. Get it off your server onto an object storage, Amazon S3 or whatever. Then, point a CDN at that, so that all of your media, your videos, your PDFs, your images, all of that stuff is served through the Content Delivery Network. Also, cached and all that stuff. It handles all that stuff. GZIP compression, it does that as well. That’s what we recommend.

Brad Touesnard:

One thing we’re currently working on that product right now is that it’s not very well set up for … Actually, it doesn’t work at all for private media right now. If you have some of your media that’s private and you don’t want your public visitors, your non-members, you don’t want them to get access to those videos or your current numbers to be able to share them with non-members, we don’t have a real good way to do that yet. You can do it, but we don’t recommend it because serving directly from object storage like Amazon S3 … You might have seen in the past where the URL to download a PDF or something has Amazon aws.com in the URL. When you’re downloading something from there, you’re downloading it directly from Amazon S3.

Chris Badgett:

It’s not a public link, basically, right?

Brad Touesnard:

Yeah. Well, it doesn’t have to be. It could be a signed URL. It could still be private. The point is it’s coming directly from Amazon S3 and that’s slow. You always want to have CDN in front of Amazon S3 because Amazon S3 is just not optimized for serving media. It’s a really slow medium. You want to have a Content Delivery Network in front of that.

Brad Touesnard:

We don’t currently support having CDN in front of it and having signed URLs, private URLs to that media. We are working on it right now and we’re going to have it supported, probably, the first half of this year. We’re pretty excited about that because it’s been on our to-do list for a long time.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. We are recording this in the beginning of January. For whenever you’re listening to this, keep that in mind. Also, for some people, this question actually comes up a lot in our community about the privacy of their everything: videos, audios, downloads, and everything. There’s also another way to think about it where, if somebody shares your workbook or your e-book or an audio file, there’s a marketing thing called the Newsweek model where, if you go to a doctor’s office and you pick up a magazine that somebody else is paying for and you get value of it, maybe, you buy a subscription. It’s not the end of the world, in a lot of cases, to have your intellectual property just kind of getting out there in the world. It’s actually kind of free marketing, but I do understand for some people, it is IP that they want stronger restriction?

Brad Touesnard:

I think the same argument could be made for pirated software. Photoshop probably benefited from piracy, because I feel like a lot of students probably pirated Photoshop and then learned it. Once you’re invested in how it works and get good at it, then, when you get out of school and you have a job and you can afford it or your employer is going to pay for it, then, you’re a customer. I can see that in software as well.

Chris Badgett:

That’s cool. Real quick, WP offload SES. This is an important one for the course building community. I’m just thinking about Lifter here as an example. I mean, there’s the standard WordPress password, reset, email, and stuff like that. Lifter gives you the ability to create customized, personalized emails that go out based on behavior in the courses and everything like that. It leverages email hard. I mean, heavy. What does WP Offload SES do?

Brad Touesnard:

It just offloads your email sending through Amazon SES. It’s [crosstalk 00:22:43].

Chris Badgett:

It’s transactional emails. Is that the correct word for it?

Brad Touesnard:

Yeah.

Chris Badgett:

It helps you do that, so that WordPress isn’t sending your emails.

Brad Touesnard:

Yes, exactly. Basically, it hijacks all the WordPress, or WordPress is sending emails and sends all of your WordPress emails through Amazon SES. Any plugins that you have that send email, it’s going to send it through Amazon SES. Everything goes through Amazon SES. That just allows you to increase deliverability of your emails.

Brad Touesnard:

One of the big advantages of Amazon SES over the other transactional email platforms like Mailgun and Postmark, etc., is that, like everything Amazon, the cost is just way lower. It’s incredibly low.

Brad Touesnard:

Now, some people are going to say, “Well, but Mailgun is free.” It’s true. Mailgun offers 10,000 free emails a month, which is kind of crazy. I’m still waiting for them to change that. I feel like it’s going to be any day now because it used to be everyone used Mandrill, which is a transactional email service by MailChimp. Of course, they stopped offering that and they bundled Mandrill into MailChimp’s subscription service, so you can only send transactional email if you have a subscription to MailChimp now.

Brad Touesnard:

I feel like that free model … I’m hoping that it’s going to expire soon with Mailgun. If you look at Mailgun and you hit a certain threshold, like you’d go over that 10,000 emails a month, it gets expensive immediately. It’s very expensive as soon as you hit that threshold. That’s their whole model. They’re trying to get you in there and get you over that threshold, so that you become a high value customer.

Brad Touesnard:

Amazon SES. It’s backed by Amazon. It has great deliverability and everything. The big problem with Amazon SES is that it’s just a huge pain to set up. Our plugin has tried to make that really easy. We’ve put a wizard, so you actually step through each step and we’ve got screenshots in there. We just try to make it as easy as possible to set up a SES.

Chris Badgett:

That’s what great software companies do, is they remove friction. Go check out deliciousbrains.com and all the products are there. There’s some really cool videos on the home pages of all these that kind of go into what they do. It’s a good place to get started. That’s deliciousbrain.com.

Chris Badgett:

We’re going to switch the conversation to a completely different area. We’re going to take our technology hat off and put on two hats, which would be the expert hat. Well, it really crosses all the hats. Brad, you haven’t heard me describe this. This is how I do the show and the reason I do the show, which is that to be a successful, I call him education entrepreneur, you have to wear five hats. You have to be an expert, community builder, a teacher, a technologist, and an entrepreneur. There’s a lot going on there.

Chris Badgett:

That’s why the failure rate is so high because you have to be a unicorn to be good at all that. It’s easier to build a team, but that’s hard, too, because you got to have cash, which is hard to start. Anyways, it’s a hard challenge. This podcast helps people level up across the various different hats.

Chris Badgett:

Before this call, I was exploring your site and thinking about the impact that mastermind has had on me. I’m actually kind of a mastermind junkie. I just kind of realized this this morning of this interview because, currently, right now, I’m participating in, I believe, six masterminds.

Brad Touesnard:

Oh, boy.

Chris Badgett:

Let me just describe sort of the mix here. For me, there’s one I’ve done. This is an annual thing I’ve done several times, which is [inaudible 00:27:08] press event. Great event. That’s where I met you. I’ve gotten a ton out of that. That’s a Mastermind Retreat, which is similar to kind of how your approach to combining skiing and masterminding with other founders, or whatever.

Chris Badgett:

Then, I have a couple that I do actually with my ideal customer. I’ve kind of invented this one. These are people that are trying to be successful with my product and we kind of do the mind meld once a month. There’s one. Then, I joined Dan Martell SaaS Academy, which I get a ton of value out of. It’s more of a membership and a program and live events and stuff, all that. Then, I’m in a marketing, more of another entrepreneur one where I’m the only tech guy. Then, I’m in another one with a brilliant copywriter.

Chris Badgett:

All of that, if I had to say what’s the key, I would put masterminding in the top three things that helped me and support me and the reasons I’m successful, I guess. I just wanted to kind of put a context there.

Chris Badgett:

There’s two things with the mastermind deal for this audience. Number one is that you may have a course or a membership site and you could potentially add this as an upsell to your program for your high-end best customers, people who want to really invest and get the most out of your program. The other thing, number two, is you can use it as a support system as you, then, education entrepreneur, when you go hang out and mastermind with other education entrepreneurs. There’s something special that happens when you get together in a room or do stuff together and you realize that you’re not alone.

Chris Badgett:

The big idea is that the sum is greater than the parts. The mastermind, the thing that happens when these individuals get together is greater than the sum of the parts, I guess. I was just positioning what we’re going to talk about here. Tell us about Big Snow Tiny Conf, why you started it, what it is.

Brad Touesnard:

Well, why I started it is pretty simple. I love snowboarding and snowboarding isn’t very good where I live. There’s a way to expense a snowboarding trip.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome.

Brad Touesnard:

It might have been Dan Martell who tweeted some trip that he took snowboarding out west and I mentioned on Twitter to two of my buddies, Jason Schuller and Brian Casel, how great this would be. They were pretty enthusiastic to make something like that happen as well. I think a year or two went by. Then, eventually, we decided to just make it happen. The first year, we just gathered a few people together and we made it happen.

Brad Touesnard:

A funny thing happened that first year, though. The weather was terrible and my flights were canceled. I never made it. We’ve been doing it. We were doing it at Burlington, Vermont. Then, just the last couple of years we’ve moved it to Stowe. The first year, I think, we had five people or so. It was very small. A couple of people didn’t make it. Then, I think we’re right around that the next year. Eventually, we got up to 12 to 14 people. Last year, we had 12. We cut it down to 10 this year. Previous years we’ve been open where people can apply to join. The last couple of years, we’ve been just invite only. We kind of just put a cap on it, because what happens is, we didn’t really anticipate this, but the same people do come back. They really love-

Chris Badgett:

That’s the thing is it’s valuable. Once you realize it and you experience it, it’s something you should probably keep doing.

Brad Touesnard:

Just like any mastermind, it’s super valuable to revisit with the same people, because they know your history and they’re interested to hear how the story goes. They’re invested in your story. There’s a lot of value for those people that are coming back every year. That’s kind of why we decided to make an invite only.

Brad Touesnard:

At the same time, you kind of want new blood, too, because new ideas and new perspectives and all the goodness that comes with that. We’re kind of torn at this point. How do we keep this fresh but still have people coming back, that want to come back? It’s a tricky, tricky thing.

Brad Touesnard:

We’re just doing this for fun. It’s a non-profit. We’re not making money on this. As soon as it stops being fun, we’ll just stop doing it. It’s not a for profit thing. We’ve talked about expanding it. We could have two houses instead of one, or three houses, or whatever. It’s just like that’s just a bunch of overhead we don’t need. Then, not everyone’s going to even know each other or get to talk to each other, so what’s the point?

Chris Badgett:

That’s cool. Just to be clear, this is a mastermind retreat that Brad does for himself with other software entrepreneurs. It’s not something he’s selling to his customers. I want to get into the format. I think it’s important with masterminds and these types of things. There’s no one way to do it. Some people, like introverts, I would prefer a small mastermind community. I’m actually more introverted person. That, to me, sounds a lot more fun than a giant one or whatever, although, I get the value out of both.

Chris Badgett:

You see, I’m on your website right now for the Big Snow Tiny Conf the East Edition. The topics you guys get into are software companies. Pretty much all of these topics are also relevant to course creators, are design, marketing, launching a product, pricing and business models, code, entrepreneurship, working with clients, and bootstrapping. That’s kind of the purview of the topics. What’s the mix? Skiing, dinners, talking time. Tell us about the mix. What’s your mix?

Brad Touesnard:

We all arrive usually in Monday. We order pizza and just chat. Usually, at some point, once everyone’s arrived, we introduce ourselves. Although, now that we’re returning attendees, I don’t know if we’ll do that. It kind of redundant.

Brad Touesnard:

Then, the next morning, we get up and go on the hill. Then, we’re going up the chairlift. On the ride to the hill, we’re talking about business. On the chairlift on the way up the hill, we’re talking about business. Then, we rip down the hill and do it again, back up on the chairlift. That’s the dream. That’s the dream I had when I saw Dan’s posts. I was like, “Would it be awesome?” Because it’s kind of boring going up the chair, oftentimes. You’re just sitting there, a prisoner in your own mind, with your own thoughts. It’s just great to have someone next to you who’s passionate about business to be able to bounce ideas off of, especially as a solo entrepreneur who’s working from home, not able to bounce ideas off people.

Brad Touesnard:

That part is great. After the skiing, we break for lunch, go back out, ski somewhere a bit more. Then, we come back to the house. Sometimes, we’ll do a one hour gap or something where there’s nothing planned. Like free time, basically. A lot of people will go in the hot tub during that time and chat about business again. Chat about business, but also, life in general, philosophy. Who knows? Whatever people want to talk about.

Brad Touesnard:

Then, we have more structured sessions. Usually, we’ve got a couple of sessions before dinner. We’ll eat. Each attendee comes up with their own session, whatever they want. Usually, it’s something they explain how their business is going, give it some context, and then present some things they’re grappling with, some problems that the group can help them with. That’s usually what a session involves. [crosstalk 00:36:31] a session that just something that they want to share with the group that they know that the group doesn’t have any clue about, that they think the group can benefit from. We’ve had that as well.

Brad Touesnard:

We had someone last year present on BI tools, so Business Intelligence tools, which basically no one in the room knew, except him. That was fascinating stuff. Sometimes, there’s those types of chats, too.

Chris Badgett:

That’s super cool. There’s a couple of things I want to highlight. You said it starts on a Monday, which I think is cool, because it’s not a vacation. I mean, it is because you intentionally make it fun, but it’s part of your job as an entrepreneur to improve and take a step back, get a 30,000 foot view and network with other people in your industry. It’s like, “I used to feel guilty about some of the stuff I’ve done. Now, I don’t care. This my job. I chose it. It’s fine if I’m going to this really awesome location to work on my business, not in my business, or whatever.” That’s cool.

Brad Touesnard:

Exactly. I mean, that’s one of the reasons we all start these types of businesses, that we’re not working for someone else. It’s the freedom to be able to do these kinds of things and be the master of your own domain. Certainly, it figures prominently in the reasons why I started my business, for sure.

Chris Badgett:

If you’re leading the organizing of it, how much time would you say goes into planning it? I know you’ve done it several times so you’re probably getting faster, but what’s the investment of just overhead management time?

Brad Touesnard:

It’s anything. Once you set up the process and just running the process, you can do it with your eyes closed and it’s not a lot of work.

Chris Badgett:

Like rent Airbnb, invite people, [crosstalk 00:38:28].

Brad Touesnard:

Yeah. We use HomeAway or, I think it’s called something else, BRVO, I think is the other. We use that site to book it. If we need to change venues, that is a huge pain in the ass. We’ve got actually researched where we can stay. This many people where everyone needs their own bed that’s not a bunk bed. It’s challenging to find a house.

Chris Badgett:

Like a big house?

Brad Touesnard:

[crosstalk 00:39:01] those boxes and it’s also nice. It’s not a hostel. Last year was the first year we’ve done it at Stowe, Vermont, which is a pretty big upgrade from Burlington where we were. It was a bit challenging to find a good house there, but we were super happy with the last year. This year, we’re upgrading to … The big thing we spent time on this year was a chef. I researched chefs and tried to find a freaking chef. It was hard. I finally found a guy in Montreal who’s willing to travel down and cook for us one night. He’ll do two breakfasts for us as well, and do all the cleanup so we don’t have to do any of that as well. That’s key.

Brad Touesnard:

Same with company retreats, I started doing chefs as well. It’s been well worth the cost to have a chef, so that the team or the attendees can focus on other things that are more important than cleaning dishes and preparing the food. Because preparing the food isn’t just preparing the food. You got to go get the groceries. You got to plan what you’re going to cook. You got to get all the ingredients. When you’re getting ingredients at an Airbnb, you’ve got to get salt and pepper and every little condiment. It’s a horrible task to cook in those situations. We’ve done it before. I really hope the chef works out for us this year.

Brad Touesnard:

There’s a sister event that runs in Colorado, in Beaver Creek, Colorado. We don’t run it. A friend of ours runs it, Dave Rodenbaugh. Although, we attend. Brian and I who run the event in Vermont are attending Colorado again this year. He had a chef. We were just like, “Oh, my god. This is awesome. We should definitely do this if we can.” We finally got our stuff together and got a chef for this year. It’s going to be better.

Brad Touesnard:

Every year, we try to level it up a little bit. Last year, it would have been finding that house. This year, it’s the chef. Next year, maybe, it’ll be something else. We try to only do a little bit so that we’re not spending a ton of time on this event. I think that’s the key. The first year, you should really keep your expectations low, your attendee numbers low and everything. Just do everything at a smaller scale. Then, just build on that in the subsequent years.

Chris Badgett:

This year, how much time does it take to organize it? Because you’re going to do an upgrade every year, that’s going to take some time. Does it require more than a week of actually working on it hard time?

Brad Touesnard:

No. No, no, no, no, no. I can’t even think of what takes a ton of time. Like I said, the big thing this year was just the chef. I chose to that I didn’t need to do it. I think, if I wanted to do the bare minimum, I could probably get away with four hours total work to prepare in advance of the event. Then, Brian, maybe he would do four hours as well. Just updating the dates on the website, basically, and emailing with attendees. We have an email list already. Honestly, this year, we didn’t even need to do that because our returning attendees all wanted to come back. It just runs really easily now.

Chris Badgett:

How do you do the people? I’m sure you probably do something where you invite people or people have to apply and there’s certain criteria that make a good mastermind. For some people, maybe, it’s people who are at similar revenue numbers or similar size of companies or similar stage, while at the same time it’s also helpful to have some diversity in there, too, so you can see into your future and also help some people learn in your past, I guess. For you, I mean, everybody could do a different, what types of variables do you think make it so the group is really the best selection and it’s not just people who are similar in the same category or have a general similar interests? How do you do it?

Brad Touesnard:

I think you’re right. I think having a diversity of backgrounds is important. At Big Snow, we’ve got one guy who has a sales background and he manages a bunch of sprint stores in Tennessee. Not manages, he owns. He owns sprint franchises in Tennessee, but he’s also working on SaaS. He’s gaining knowledge about that from us, but we’re also gaining from him about sales and all of his background. There’s two guys who run physical product businesses. They’ve got warehouses and they’re dealing with shipments and they’re dealing with manufacturing in China.

Brad Touesnard:

It’s really fascinating to me, all the ways they think about things and how complicated things are to them that I didn’t even think of. Then, I think for the most part, though, the rest of us are software businesses. I do think the diversity helps a lot. I think it’s really good to have those different perspectives in the group. I guess you wouldn’t want a business that’s too different, though.

Chris Badgett:

Similar challenges.

Brad Touesnard:

Yeah. I don’t think the guy who has a dog food factory, I don’t know if that’s going to be all that useful, if they’re going to fit into the group. Maybe, though. Business is business, right? When you break it down to its core components and first principles, it’s really all the same. You’re looking for opportunities, exploring opportunities. You’re looking for what customers want. It’s all the same stuff. I don’t know. I don’t know if it matters that much how similar, as long as everyone’s on the same page.

Brad Touesnard:

With regards to revenue and stage, that is important. If someone comes to our event and they just have an idea and then have no idea what we’re talking about, like when we’re talking about SaaS metrics and later stage, things that are important, they’re just going to have a harder time relating to what we’re talking about. You’ve seen this in MicroConf. Have you heard of MicroConf?

Chris Badgett:

I have, yeah.

Brad Touesnard:

It’s a great conference. I’ve met a lot of people that I talked to regularly through MicroConf. That conference is great. They split it up. They had MicroConf Growth Edition and Starter Edition, so that the attendees could pick kind of the group that they should be. I think that was a smart thing to do, because when I went to Growth Edition, I was like, “This is so much better, because when you walk up to someone you know, you’re pretty confident that they’re going to have an established business and be struggling with some of the things that you’ve struggled with, or are struggling with things that you will be struggling with. By the way, I would highly recommend that conference. It’s a really, really great one.

Chris Badgett:

Awesome. Well, Brad Touesnard. He’s from Delicious Brains and Big Snow Tiny Conf. Check those out. I encourage you to explore masterminding, either to add as a value, add to your offer for your customers, or, even more importantly, to support you as an education entrepreneur. You can go big and design this cool Mastermind Retreat like Brad, or it can start with just a couple of names and a Zoom meeting link. I mean, you can go as high touch or low touch as you want. There’s different ways to do it.

Brad Touesnard:

I would say going to a conference like MicroConf is going to help you find those people that you can, then, jump on Zoom calls. I mean, that’s what did it for me. Events are key, in-person events, I would say.

Chris Badgett:

Awesome. Well, Brad, thank you so much for coming on the show. He did mention Brian Casel who he started Big Snow Tiny Conf with. We have an episode with Brian, so you can do a search for LMS Cast, Brian Casel. That’s C-A-S-E-L. We also did an interview with Ken Wallace from MastermindJam. Check that out.

Chris Badgett:

Thanks so much for coming. I really appreciate it. This was a rocking conversation. We covered a lot of ground. Thank you for adding so much value to the course building community.

Brad Touesnard:

Hey, my pleasure, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Chris Badgett:

That’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to LifterLMS.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results-getting courses on the internet.

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