Table of Contents
If you could start off every month with All the money you need, how would life change?
If you’re an entrepreneur, how might your business change?
Obvious and not-so-obvious ways to build toll bridges, subscriptions and evergreen income.
Start creating your own breathing space, now.
Royalties. You may have heard of this type of income before actors, musicians and writers love it. Every time someone buys your book, CD, whatever.. at the end of the month you get a check. And every time your song plays on the radio you make even more… And, according to USA Today, if you were lucky enough to be one of the main cast of the sitcom Friends, you’d still be making $20,000,000.00 every year.
In other industries investors call it “passive income,” bankers call it “residuals,” other entrepreneurs call it “recurring income” or “evergreen income.” Call it whatever you want, it’s like warm milk and honey – sweet! You might think it’s impossible or need millions of dollars to invest, but there are other ways to get it. In just a few minutes you’ll see how more people every day are deciding this is the type of income they want. By the end of our session you will have some ideas how you can do it too.
It’s worth figuring out. Think about it for a moment…
Starting every month at $0. Is the glass empty or Glass full?
If you’re an entrepreneur, how might your business change?
There seem to be generally two different thoughts. Some say, “I’d work just enough to maintain it. I’d add just enough more business to have the income to hire someone to take care of all of it.” While others figure they’d swing for the fences, ““I’d put the petal to the metal and 2x my income… then I’d re-evaluate. Maybe I’d like to go 10x…” Which would you be?
How would your life change?
Some say, “I’d have a lighter heart. When others are stressed out of their minds just meeting their needs, you get choices. You can do whatever you want or nothing at all.
I’d travel. I’d coach my kids’ sports. I’d exercise more, sleep in, write, paint, garden, carouse, drink more wine, stay up later, golf, fish, play tennis, volunteer, write, hike… kind of the definition of Breathing Space isn’t it? If you were buying a business which one would you rather buy? Which business has more value?
When you build a business with evergreen income:
1) You’re creating an income for yourself
2) At the same time building an asset – that continues to spin off cash.
Real world Examples
There’s a wide spectrum of examples that you can pick from and use for yourself, let’s take a look at a few – again, rather than just admire what they’ve done, THINK; think how you might be able to model what they’ve done for your own business. We may as well start at the top with one of the greatest minds in business,Warren Buffet.
The Toll Bridge
Warren Buffet loves subscription businesses and what he calls “toll bridge” businesses; every time someone wants to go from here to there or continue using a service, they need to pay a little fee. If you look at what he invests in you’ll see he loves banking, credit cards, insurance and newspapers; in fact he recently bought 28 more newspapers for $344 million, owns a huge chunk of American Express, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Master Card and GEICO (yes, that little green insurance selling lizard you see on TV).
Though you could surpass Warren Buffet’s $70 Billion worth, if you fell a bit short and only achieved 1/10,000 of what he has, you’d still have $7 million and if we could only achieve 1/100,000 of what he has, you’d still have $700,000. These toll bridges businesses are wildly valuable to say the least.
So, tear a few pages out of his book to achieve what we want in life and business. #1 He looks for businesses with toll bridges, recurring business, subscriptions and monthly premiums; evergreen income.
You can do the same. Like Warren you can buy the companies, or like me, you can sell existing products and maybe create a few along the way. In either case, you want to sell services and subscriptions to anything that gives your clients ongoing value; get enough clients and you’re out of the rat race.
My first toll bridge story: $5 to over $20,000 per month
I was selling merchant services to businesses and developed a service that paid $5/month. It had great value to my merchant customer and most took it.
I remember milestones:
– $10 /month I could see that it actually worked! I’ve never been this amazed by $10 in my life.
– $150 /month I could cover ½ my car payment.
– $2,650 /month because that was over $30,000 per year – I was getting there…
– $4,000 / month because now I was making as much as most of my friends and realizing I was now escaping the rat race.
– $20,000/month because with $250,000 a year I could do pretty much whatever I wanted.
Building evergreen income gets you breathing space.
Obvious and not-so-obvious ways to build toll bridges, subscriptions and evergreen income.
We’ve already covered the entertainment world, let’s look at some others. Banking, the classic toll bridge: From the time of Pompeii, later with the Medici’s and today, customers pay for financial transactions (toll bridge). How can you borrow savvy banker thinking and use it in your own business?
Investment Managing: I have a good friend, Tom, who runs a $4billion investment fund. He does a great job and creates wealth and value for his clients. He does the same amount of work for his first dollar of profit as he does for the $1.3 million he generates in monthly fee income. He started from zero – and he’ll tell you it wasn’t easy, but now he has massive breathing space.
Insurance: Premiums come in anywhere from monthly to annually. The game is collecting and investing premiums between having to pay claims. Warren Buffet is the master of this game. He’s taken premiums and bought more toll bridges; smart. So how do you play this game without having to own an insurance company? Two ways; sell insurance or sell “assurance.” Assurance is coverage on things you don’t (check with your state to make certain) have to have a license for. Ex: Extended warranties, maintenance agreements… AAA is an example. The sell roadside coverage as an “assurance” not “insurance.”
Merchant Payment Processing: You probably know our company First Financial USA is in the merchant service business, providing card processing and payment processing services to merchants all over the USA. Concept is simple; every card that’s run merchants pay a small fee (toll bridge), when no cards are run there’s still a small fee to maintain the service (subscription). It’s competitive, but if you provide massive value for a fair price it works and your clients stay with you (that’s the name of the game). You can find First Financial USA at www.ffusa.com
Utility, cable, Internet, mobile phone, industries…
This same concept is how these industries became behemoths. Look at your phone service; a basic fee to have service (subscription) and every time to make a call (toll bridge). Same with electricity, water… And TV or Internet; basic service and more for more usage. – It’s really a common strategy for those in-the-know. Even little companies can generate solid recurring monthly revenue.
Security systems and monitoring
Here’s one that combines hardware (the system in your home or office) where you make money on the sale + you make an ongoing (subscription) fee on the monitoring of that system. And one these systems are installed, they run for years and years and years… when’s the last time you heard of someone changing security monitoring companies? Residentially anyway, not often. That makes for a long stream of evergreen income.
Then there are models that never used to be subscription-based and now are.
Movies: Look at Netflix; you used to have to go to the store and rent movies as you wanted. No more. Now a basic service fee and voila’ you can stream them. That’s better. Today Netflix is worth $59.4 billion. Goodness!
Music: Same with Apple Music; Apple broke new ground with the ability to buy songs as you wanted and now for a basic service fee you can stream music all you want. And now you have Pandora and others like it…Seems the savvy are jumping on this bandwagon. They’re doing it because it works.
Software and cloud-based subscriptions
Look at software or online subscription services. Now here’s where everyone can play. Develop an app/program that saves time, saves steps, increases speed, betters connections and gives you more life back and you’ll probably have a winner.
Think about it; there are newsletters, advice, educations, training, information, newspapers, magazines, food, wine, genealogy, dating, shaving supplies, there’s even a club for buying rubber gloves. And all sorts of business software; HR, accounting, CRM (some have $multi-billion valuations). You can target individuals or businesses. Payment gateways are a snap to add. You can take your knowledge and create an online business sometimes pretty fast.
What could you do to provide massive value at a fraction of what it’s worth to the used and you’re on your way to breathing space?
CRM: You may have heard our CONNECT.CX story; how we got so sick and tired of feature-bloated and CRM cumbersome software that bottle-necked our flow that we created our own. We never thought of selling CONNECT until I was writing/editing and getting feedback pre-publishing REWIRE and my book reviewers started asking if they could buy it “because theirs’ was too difficult.” Now we’re in the CRM business! You see it at www.connect.cx.
By the way, the behemoth, Sales Force CRM is estimated to have 300,000 customers and in manys’ opinion, it’s not user friendly. Maybe there’s room for us and a CRM that actually saves time.
My son had a get-together over at a buddy’s house; a dad and son thing where we chose fantasy football teams. So we go over there and are hanging out and one thing leads to another and I find out this guy use to work at Peoplesoft, but lately he and a few others started a “business performance” software that combines HR, finance and other functions onto one integrated platform. Because of their previous employment, they saw what was wrong and what was needed in the world and created something better. Anyway they went public and today they’re valued at $16.45 billion. The company is workday.com.
The point here is that you may have knowledge or an idea or system that’s better than the rest – even though the industry id crowded. There’s always room for something that saves time, saves steps, increases speed, betters connections or helps others get more life back. You don’t have to create a $billion company, in fact some would argue it’s better to get out well before all that fiasco and live a much higher quality life.
When your evergreen income meets or exceeds your bills you’re free. You can decide where you want to go from there.
The examples are virtually endless.
This area is easy make into a subscription and recurring revenue business. Think things like home and building maintenance, monitoring, cleaning, landscaping, snow removal, trash… Those who turn it into a contract are the ones who usually prosper. And with a contract, the customer knows what they’re going to pay and can keep a control on their expenses.
For those of you who are handy with projects (like home maintenance and repair), trustworthy and reliable, I would implore you to set up a service that provides a list of regular services to people who have money and value their time, you may just make a fortune.
What about retail?
Look around, most companies (especially retail) do NOT have recurring income. Go inside any mall and look, there are very few with recurring revenue models. But wait! There are some examples that seem to work…
Mailboxes and shipping store: I have a buddy that owns one of these and he says that the rent on the mailboxes covers his rent.
Apple Store: Like most retail stores, they don’t make a ton of money from hardware, but combine hardware and subscriptions and you have one of the richest companies on the planet. Ah ha.. a retail store with recurring revenue, interesting… How else might you spin a retail store to have recurring/subscription/evergreen income? What might be a new spin on an old product?
Membership Model, like Fitness: Most every fitness studio in the world, runs on this model. It’s key to their success. How could you turn a standard product in a membership model?
Electronics: Best Buy, in addition to selling electronics, loves to sell maintenance plans for increased revenue. How could you do something similar?
Massage: Massage Envy, theirs is a membership model, different, but similar. “Yesterday” they were non-existent, today they are the biggest name in massage. Compare their profit with the thousands of no-name massage studios that struggle. The BIG difference; Massage Envy has their overhead covered with membership/subscription fees while the independents hope someone comes back.
Car washes: Seems the smartest thing a car wash can ever do is sell memberships. They’re usually $20-30/month whether I was my car or not – brilliant. Where do you usually find car washes, at a gas station, right? Now when I get a car wash I get gas or when I get gas I get a car wash; they have me. Membership breeds habit, community and loyalty – priceless.
Buying Clubs, affinity groups and associations
Look at credit unions, as long as you’re part of an organization you can get special deals on financial services, join Costco and you get the chance to buy more than you need, but at a discount, join Founders Card and be part of an exclusive group of entrepreneurs who network at fun places, get special deals on travel and get to flash their club card, AARP get’s you awesome deals if you’re over 50.
What group could you assemble that would pay you an ongoing fee for access to better deals? Who would the members be?What would they appreciate? Remember, sometimes it’s not cheap they’re after but rather exclusivity. Think AMEX Black Card and even Founders Card to a degree.
One of the more brilliant examples I’ve seen recently, Consulting!: Why’s this so “brilliant?” Because it turns a really big ticket that may be hard for the client to swallow into easier bite-size monthly pieces and that means more clients saying “yes,” and constant business for you. More clients saying yes AND for a subscription that continues month after month year after year. It’s an upward spiral of profit!
You solve the consultant’s typical problem; where’s my next client coming from? With this model your clients are right where they were last month/year, on your system getting benefit and getting billed and paying their bill. It’s cool.
I have a buddy, Jim, his company sells OSHA consulting to businesses. His company could charge a $20,000 fee for consulting and his clients would have to really think hard about it. But for $1,500/month subscription, the client can say “yes” easier and they get exactly what they need to stay in compliance, right away. His clients go with the $1,500 per month and it just keeps spinning month after month year after year and more and more and more business are jumping on board!
The list goes on… These companies with a subscription or a toll bridge model usually have higher valuations because they have GUARANTEED INCOME.
Start creating your own breathing space, now.
There’s a “hierarchy” you want to consider in your evergreen income thinking.
#1 At the very top value, think “electronically served.” This allows you to serve a high number of clients before having to add more support staff. EX: Utilities, banking, merchant services, software subscriptions; most anything web based…
#2 Next a subscription of a consumable, and ideally where customers don’t have to reorder, it’s just there, constantly. Ex: Monthly vitamin order, my Mom’s premix packages..
#3 Next service and consulting. The money keeps coming in, but you do have some work to do.
What can you sell – that includes massive value – something people are happy and willing to continue to pay for?
What can you sell that fits this model?
How can you GUARANTEE yourself income? What can you sell that’s on a subscription or contract? What can you sell that’s consumable – and your client keeps getting more without you having to interact with them? How can you leverage your time; provide massive value to the masses without having to provide so much manual labor? How can you get paid for 10, 20, 100 hours of work for every 1hour of manual labor?
What can you create once but then you can sell and resell 100’s or 1,000’s times inexpensively because it’s electronically distributed?
What can you add to what you’re doing right now? What can you test?
It’s usually easy to add to what you’re doing because you know your customers already.
P.S. The reason I say “test”..is because the first, second or eighth thing you try may not pan out, but these things are worth doing and if you do it right it will cost very little to test. I tested a new one recently and it didn’t get the response I was looking for so I returned the few subscriber’s who joined, money and I turned it off. Back to the drawing board. That’s the trick with inventing your own.
What can you add to what you’re doing right now – that requires very little work on your part to fulfill?
The less time you or people you hire to fulfill your side of the agreement the more your business scales (the greater your return). For example, a cleaning company has a lot of labor involved in fulfilling their side of the contract, while my friend the investment guy has about the same work for managing $10 million as he does $4 Billion. Meanwhile someone like an Internet Service Provider can be almost completely hands off.
What’s something you can provide and joint venture with someone who already has loads of customers who might love what you have to offer – who’s entrepreneurial who would like a revenue share and an added cash flow?
This may even be your main product, if you have one. For example, our card processing business fits great with associations who have members who are business owners; we negotiate a special deal for their members – they love that and we get loads of new clients – everyone’s happy.
If you don’t have your own business right now, what’s something that someone else has already figured out that you can sell and start generating recurring/subscription revenue fast? As you do this you can be thinking of more recurring revenue channels.
The next step
Undoubtedly you have ideas – some variation will probably work, and how cool will that be! But there’s a mistake that most people make. They tell themselves they’ll start tomorrow or this weekend or tonight – problem is, by then they’ve talked themselves out of it – happens nearly all the time. Years later they’re still thinking about it, meanwhile others came up with the same idea and it worked! Happens all the time. But not to you!
Do yourself a massive favor and do just one thing. Start. Now. Make one call, one connection – right now. Not tomorrow, now. It’s ok to leave a voice message, just make the call. If you’re afraid they’ll say no, fine; then text or email, that’s ok too, it will get the ball rolling. Who are you calling? Who else? Hey, if you can make two connects, even better!
If you could start off the month with all the money you need how would that change your life and business? Enough thinking, time to do. Make that connection.