Real 4-Hour Workweek Case Studies — Allen Walton and SpyGuy, The Path to Seven Figures (#351)

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“And then I wake up at 7:00 a.m., and I roll over and look at my phone. And I have a notification from Shopify saying that I made my first sale for $149. And I let out this huge, orgasmic noise of relief. I was like, ‘Wow. Everything’s going to be okay.’” — Allen Walton 

This episode is by popular request!

In detail, we uncover a real-world case study of someone who built a seven-figure business after reading The 4-Hour Workweek (and other resources, of course).

Two important people joined me for this jam session.

First is Allen Walton (@allenthird), founder of SpyGuy, an online security store based in the Dallas, Texas area. Walton struggled in high school and spent a few years playing video games before his mom made him apply for a job at a local surveillance chain, where he worked from 2009-2011. He became interested in starting his own business after being exposed to The 4-Hour Workweek. In 2014, he went out on his own and started SpyGuy, his current business. He built the business to $1 million in revenue on his own, relying on what he learned in books and podcasts, and it now brings in seven-figure revenue with five employees.

The second person joining me is journalist Elaine Pofeldt (@elainepofeldt), an independent journalist and speaker who specializes in careers and entrepreneurship. She is the author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want, in which she looks at how entrepreneurs are scaling to $1 million in revenue prior to hiring employees.

In this episode we explore the specifics of key decisions, helpful tools, early mistakes, and much more, all leading to a business that has exceeded all expectations. I had a blast doing this one, and I hope you have a blast listening!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#351: Real 4-Hour Workweek Case Studies — Allen Walton and SpyGuy, The Path to Seven Figures
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Want to hear a conversation with an entrepreneur who sold his company for $800 million? — Listen to Braintree and OS Fund founder Bryan Johnson’s rag to riches to philanthropy story (stream below or right-click here to download):

#81: The Rags to Riches Philosopher: Bryan Johnson's Path to $800 Million
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This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.

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This podcast is also brought to you by FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the #1 cloud bookkeeping software, which is used by a ton of the start-ups I advise and many of the contractors I work with. It is the easiest way to send invoices, get paid, track your time, and track your clients.

FreshBooks tells you when your clients have viewed your invoices, helps you customize your invoices, track your hours, automatically organize your receipts, have late payment reminders sent automatically and much more.

Right now you can get a free month of complete and unrestricted useYou do not need a credit card for the trial. To claim your free month and see how the brand new Freshbooks can change your business, go to FreshBooks.com/Tim and enter “Tim Ferriss” in the “how did you hear about us” section.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Allen Walton:

SpyGuy | Personal Website | Twitter

  • Connect with Elaine Pofeldt:

Website | Twitter

SHOW NOTES

  • How Elaine Pofeldt and I first met. [05:10]
  • Who is Allen Walton? [06:35]
  • Why did Allen make the switch from overworked and under-appreciated employee to entrepreneur? [07:33]
  • How did Allen come across The 4-Hour Workweek? [11:51]
  • What were Allen’s first steps toward building his own business? He shares early notes about fear-setting and the DEAL framework. [13:18]
  • Did Allen keep his full-time job while working on his own business as a side hustle, or did he go all in? [17:32]
  • What were Allen’s next steps toward getting his brand and products in front of people in a competitive market? [20:32]
  • What books and resources does Allen recommend to people who are trying to carve out their own business niche and be seen by potential customers? [21:57]
  • While pulling all-nighters and taking product images for his first website, what albums did Allen listen to on repeat? [27:50]
  • What it was like for Allen to finalize his website and make his first sale. [29:02]
  • As a married man, how did the conversation with his wife go when he decided to start his own business? [32:12]
  • Allen describes his chaotic inventory storage situation in those days and the process between a customer placing an order to having it delivered. [34:55]
  • What are ePackets and FBA sellers? [43:22]
  • How did Allen select the products that would comprise the majority of his initial inventory, and what human edge did he have over the competition thanks to his retail experience? [45:32]
  • What led to Allen hiring his first employee, and where did he look for the ideal candidate? [49:35]
  • What Allen learned about managing a team not long after he hired a second employee. [54:59]
  • Given retrospective advice from his future self, how would Allen’s hiring process for that second employee have gone differently? [57:42]
  • Job boards Allen recommends for finding quality remote workers. [58:42]
  • A books Allen recommends to anyone on the path to become a better manager. [1:00:17]
  • Aside from hiring an unqualified friend, what other early mistakes did Allen make? How might hiring the right employees help alleviate these mistakes, and where would he find them? [1:01:13]
  • Conferences recommended for e-commerce networking that are actually worth a damn, and tips we have for maximizing their effectiveness. [1:04:17]
  • How did Allen handle targeted monthly income, dreamlining, and lifestyle goals when he first got his business going? [1:09:28]
  • A lot of Internet retailers operate on Amazon; SpyGuy does not. What is Allen’s reasoning behind this decision? [1:12:51]
  • Allen wants to begin manufacturing his own products under the SpyGuy brand. What does that process look like right now? [1:15:20]
  • Tools Allen has found helpful for automation and greater efficiency. [1:16:45]
  • Dire third-party logistics (3PL) problems Allen and I have both faced. [1:20:36]
  • How does Allen most efficiently manage his time? [1:23:07]
  • What is the criteria for products Allen wants to start manufacturing first, and what kind of customers does SpyGuy primarily serve? [1:26:33]
  • Allen tells us about the time his company assisted in a child predator case and the media attention surrounding the event. [1:28:23]
  • The mixed blessing of product demand spurred by The Today Show and regrets about SpyGuy’s biggest day of sales. [1:34:12]
  • Highlights of Allen’s journey so far he would never have predicted at its start. [1:36:52]
  • Podcasts Allen recommends. [1:39:15]
  • What does Allen hope to accomplish over the year ahead on business and personal fronts? [1:44:27]
  • Final thoughts. [1:47:15]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

Posted on: December 10, 2018.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

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18 comments on “Real 4-Hour Workweek Case Studies — Allen Walton and SpyGuy, The Path to Seven Figures (#351)

  1. THANK YOU THANK YOU TIM TIM TALK TALK, I will be listening over and over, I ordered 4 HWW, 4HB,and The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business…Getting ready to launch for 2019!

    Like

  2. Great conversation, thanks Tim! One key takeaway for me is how Allen’s story, and even yours Tim, are great examples of successes that stem from exploring what Cal Newport terms the adjacent possible in “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” — you need to acquire some career capital in your field to see where doors can open up to that new adjacent space where bigger opportunities are. Leverage your expertise instead of chasing big markets or ideas you think will be most profitable, but you have no experience in—even if they are good ideas, you likely won’t be able to execute on them, which is all that matters in the end.

    Like

  3. Listened to this whilst driving and pulled over many times to screenshot the time so I can go back later, I’m just about to take the plunge into a new business that is more scalable that using purely my creative skills, can’t wait to have a side hustle that is less reliant on my time and exchanging hours for the money.

    I learnt that not knowing the right people can be solved by attending more events, and this month I was unknowingly doing half of this already but I love that multiple discovery is happening across the globe.

    Loving the podcast so MUCH

    Like

  4. Great episode , real down to earth stuff from Allen and seems he followed the 4HWW to a tee in the early days. Could probably now write his own book. As a professional supply chain / logistics guy the inventory models and 3PL discussion was interesting, I can make a valid argument for both doing your own fulfillment or using a 3PL, the key to a 3PL is in how you manage the relationship, delegation not abdication is the way to go

    Like

  5. I really enjoyed this podcast, thanks so much Allen and Tim – it was very **nice** to hear a female voice commenting within the podcast in this space – hope to hear more!

    Like

  6. A useful episode! May I request a similar episode focusing on entrepreneurs who provide services rather than physical products? I work in market research – I do similar (but ultimately custom) projects for each client. Taking this kind of business to scale would require a different approach, I think. I’ve so far worked only as an employee of different firms but look forward to entrepreneurship in the future.

    Like

  7. Excellent stuff.
    While it’s great to hear the tricks, tips and stories of the big hitters, at least for me, most of that stuff is either way into the future, or just not achievable anyway.
    I’m never gonna be a SEAL commando, nor a world class investor, neither do I want to be.
    It’s great to hear how those folk do what they do, and to use some of their techniques, but it often feels like a racing car driver telling a learner driver how to drive to a supermarket.
    You just don’t need to know how to set yourself up to get maximum exit speed from the chicane, when all you want is a couple of bananas.
    This, on the other hand, is entirely relateable, relevant, and I’ll probably be scratching through what the Dude said, tonight, and applying some of it in the morning.
    I’d love to hear more like this, it’s the manifestation of the 4HWW philosophy.

    Like

  8. Thank you! This is one of my favorite episodes. I bought Elaine Pofeldt’s book & audiobook this summer and I have littered the pages with notes. I hope to read or listen to more content from both of you in the coming year. Thanks for all of the material you and your team turn out every week!

    Like

  9. long time listener of the show, just want to point out some error mentioned about epacket segment. Shipping duration very long, not 2 days mentioned by Allen. Technically FBA seller do not use epacket as well, since by definition FBA seller ships their inventory to Amazon warehouse, then the order is ” fulfilled by amazon” thus FBA. epacket is mostly utilized by dropshippers like alex becker with 3rd party API like oberlo.

    The flow goes like this,
    1. shopify website selling spy camera but in fact the product listing is just selling aliexpress stuff, customer places the order
    2. 3rd party api oberlo connects the aliexpress listing, button camera
    3. selling captures the payment, oberlo orders from aliexpress,
    4. aliexpress seller then fulfill it using epacket

    problem – long shipping time and things get lost. Some people kill it with dropshipping but a lot is pipe dream.

    Great episode and keep up the good work, just want to make sure the listeners are well informed.

    [Moderator: business and contact info removed.]

    Like

  10. The “scripting” concept from, “The Score Takes Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh might have helped Allen plan early for some potential problems: loose action plans for potential good/bad publicity scenarios and sold out items. This has helped our team as much as your “Fear Setting” TED Talk process, done about once every 6 months for sales forecasts, 10-100x growth project ideas, 10 year plans or anything else terrifyingly important.

    What are case studies of businesses who have successfully turned a potential, “Hug of death” into massive growth?

    Better yet, what are case studies of people who PLANNED a “hug of death” publicity stunt, and succeeded massively, all with honest, ambitious transparency? Who are more people who navigate that with nobility?

    Like

  11. Tim, recently discovered your podcast I would love to get in touch to talk about the small business like mine – [Moderator: name of business and link removed.] – are affected by politics/tariffs but also how we use politics for marketing messages.
    On another hand I run a design studio specialized in sports products called [Moderator: company name/website removed.] and also have a ton of stories regarding the way Our government is seen in various factories around the planet.
    O by the way I am an French immigrant who became American.
    Love your podcasts !
    Thank you for your political contribution.
    Cheers

    Like

  12. Soldier suicide, TBI/PTSD/Concussion. Would love to have your do a show on the 6,100 successes we pro bono veterans have with treating and healing brain wounds. Hyperbaric oxygenation is restoring injured to their old normal, not the “new normal” of lives on welfare, drugs, talk therapy and depression. [Moderator: video links respectfully removed.]

    Like