Change is good. Change is necessary. In business as in nature, that which can’t evolve gets left behind. That’s why growing and nurturing your own businesses isn’t about hitting on a “final” formula or “perfect” product. It’s about staying flexible, staying in motion, and adapting your growing abilities to the ever-changing needs of the market. If you’re not changing, you’re stagnating.
Here at The $100 MBA, we’ve decided to make a change. We’ve been airing daily podcasts since 2014, 855 of them in all. That podcast in its original format was an important part of our journey, and (we hope) a valuable tool for our listeners. Now, we think both ourselves and our audience are ready for something new. We think this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate exactly how growth and change go hand in hand. We think it will serve as a valuable example to our audience.
As Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t get you there.” We’re ready to go deeper with our content model. We’re shifting from a bite-sized daily 10-minute podcast to a longer, more in-depth weekly podcast. This fairly drastic change is emblematic of a greater lesson in entrepreneurship: that doing the same thing the same way can only get you so far.
How We Chose Change
Our business journey has been a testament to the power of flexibility and change. My business (and life) partner Nicole and I were both successful educators at the University level. Our situation was fairly secure. But for both of us, the idea of staying on the same track indefinitely lost its appeal. I was building small businesses on the side, waiting for the right time to strike out on my own. Nicole was seeking opportunities to be creative and contribute original work to the market, eventually enrolling in film school. We both had good careers. We both knew we’d rather work on our own terms.
That was the first time we chose change. Independently, we decided to leave our careers behind. Together, we decided to move to New York and start a marketing company, doing web design and video production. The work was tough. Building a client base was tough. It was all hard work, but we were making it, more or less. That’s when the idea behind The $100 MBA first struck us. We decided to use the skills we’d developed to create an online alternative to traditional, hyper-expensive business school.
That was the second time we chose change. Then, we got down to work. Growth was almost painfully slow. We had to produce tons of content, filming and editing video after video and designing every aspect of our unique courses. No one said democratizing business education would be easy. But while the going was slow, it was going. Our message was being heard. Users were trickling in. Word was spreading. As The $100 MBA developed, our third great opportunity for change was just around the bend— though we didn’t realize it at the time.
To market our approach to small business and educate our audience, we used webinars. We always saw webinars as the best tool for building credibility and demonstrating our value directly. The problem was that webinar software sucked. With every webinar we produced, we became more disappointed with the tools available to us. And we became more convinced that, as in so many other aspects of life, we’d be better off taking our own path.
So we developed our own webinar software, simply for ourselves to use. While we didn’t originally intend the software as a product, soon enough our own audience was hitting us with the question: “What platform are you using?” We’d explain that we developed our own platform, simply because nothing else out there met our needs. Then, something funny happened.
People wanted to buy it.
That was the third time we chose change. Having basically thrown our webinar software together with a single outside developer, we decided to make it market-ready. We created a beta version of our “WebinarNinja” platform, inviting a limited number of users to try it. It sold out in two days. We took feedback, tweaked and improved the platform, and ran a second beta phase. It sold out in a single day. We knew we were on to something. We had created value, tapping into something the market wanted for exactly the same reasons we wanted it. How could we let that value go to waste?
We took the plunge, investing time and money into our discovery. It was risky; we were still busy with the growing success of The $100 MBA, and we only had so much time and money to invest. But entrepreneurial success is about identifying and providing value. The message from our customers was loud and clear. Was it what we predicted we’d be doing when we left our jobs in education? Heck no. But we were open to change, and the market rewarded us.
Making The Choice
When we realized the potential value of WebinarNinja, it wasn’t easy to simply pour ourselves into it. We had (and have) other things going. We were still recording daily podcasts, and eventually The $100 MBA Show was honored with a Best of iTunes award and things really took off. At the same time, we were scrambling to find people with the talent and skills to make WebinarNinja everything we thought it should be.
Ultimately, WebinarNinja surpassed The $100 MBA in terms of both traffic and revenue. While it started as a simple in-house tool, we decided to go all out. We decided that WebinarNinja would be the webinar software on the market, the go-to for independent marketers and educators nationwide. But once again, realizing the potential we saw would require investment, risk, and change.
To that point, we had been piecing the platform together on the fly. It was a side hustle that took on a life of its own, but if we were really going to go for it, we’d have to refocus. We had to reset our entire list of priorities, and move WebinarNinja to the top. For that reason, we knew we had to cut down on the podcasting. It was an extremely difficult choice— to date we have over 50,000 daily listeners— but business requires difficult choices. Fortunately, we knew we could fulfill the needs of both our webinar users and our podcast listeners, with a little creative thinking.
Choosing Our Audience
You can be sure it’s time for a change when you can’t grow any further. With WebinarNinja, we knew that unless we made it a priority, we couldn’t take it to the next level. We needed to give it more of our time, and we needed to recruit stronger talent. While the original designers and developers of WebinarNinja had gotten us to where we were, they couldn’t take us any closer to our ultimate goals. We had gotten all we could out of the original paradigm. What had gotten us “here” couldn’t take us “there.”
We assembled a new, pricier and better-equipped team. We re-engineered everything from the ground up. We built something new, grounded in the original promise that WebinarNinja represented but adapted to today’s needs and guided by our customers’ feedback. We shot for a game-changer, and were willing to invest whatever was needed to make WebinarNinja 5.0 happen.
Great for us, right? But what does that mean for our $100 MBA Show listeners? It means that while we take on a new approach, so can our audience. We’re going to share this adventure with our listeners and readers, giving them an in-depth, raw, open look at what happens when we try to move our business up in the world. This will have value for anyone with entrepreneurial aspirations. Our audience will watch and listen as we face challenges, score victories, screw up, learn, and press onward. You’ll see from the inside how building a business works. You’ll see, in real time, the consequences of our choice to change.
While the format is different, the goal of the podcast is the same: to help our listeners learn how to run an independent business. The episodes will be fewer, but longer and more specific. They’ll be deeper dives into the nuts and bolts of business-building from a specific standpoint. They’ll be more substantive and less generalized. As the stakes grow, so will the value of sharing our experience.
We hope that sharing our exploits this way will be as valuable to our $100 MBA audience as WebinarNinja will be to its users. We’re excited to use this opportunity to demonstrate what The $100 MBA has always been about: honesty, practicality, and business knowledge being made available to everyone.