In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Dan Martell. Dan is an entrepreneur, and angel investor and became a highly sought-after coach in the SaaS industry and founder of SaaS Academy after exiting three technology companies within a ten-year period. He’s also an Ironman athlete, philanthropist, husband, and father of two incredible boys. He’s the author of the book – Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire.
Want to get more out of your free time? Dan Martell joins me in this episode as he shares how to design the freedom to engage in high-value work for energy and fulfillment. We cover how to work less, play more, and build an empire. Listen and get practical steps for buying back time, rapid growth, and wise time investment for both work and life.
Questions I ask Dan Martell:
- [1:48] Let’s talk about the title “Buy Back Your Time” — what did you mean by it?
- [3:14] Why did you decide to tackle time?
- [5:37] How much do people have to overcome being set in their ways of needing to do certain things themselves because they’ve been programmed to do so before they start taking on some of these principles?
- [7:55] What is buy back rate?
- [12:43] What’s your advice for someone getting an assistant who doesn’t know what to tell them to do?
- [18:00] What is the replacement ladder?
- [22:52] Where can people buy a copy of your book and learn more about your work?
More About Dan Martell:
- Get a copy of his book — Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire.
- Check out: Saas Academy
Learn More About The Agency Intensive Certification:
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(00:49): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Dan Martell. He's an entrepreneur, angel investor and became a highly sought after coach in the SaaS industry. Founded SaaS Academy after exiting three technology companies with a 10 year, within a 10 year period. He's also an Ironman athlete, philanthropist, husband, and father of two incredible boys. I've never met them, so I'm gonna have to take word for that one. But, uh, he's also the author of a new book out to buy Back Your Time, get Unstuck, reclaim your Freedom, and Build your Empire. So Dan, welcome to the show,
Dan Martell (01:26): John. It's an honor and, and it is because you were one of the first marketing podcasts I ever listened to back when I was starting online stuff. So it's cool to be a
John Jantsch (01:35): Guest. I'm just hanging around. I you've been on before though, weren't you, weren't
Dan Martell (01:39): You on before? I think I was
John Jantsch (01:40): Clarity or something. Yeah.
Dan Martell (01:42): But even before that I was, I was a listener. So it's, it's always cool to, to see and get reconnected.
John Jantsch (01:48): S so buy back your time. I had a little trouble with, not trouble with, but you know, kind of processing the title name and, you know, everybody talking about time is money and, and yeah, some people can say, you're suggesting money is time. Am I getting them
Dan Martell (02:03): Wrong? I'm, yeah, I'm saying, I actually, in the book, I, there's three levels of trading. I call, I call it being a, a great trader. When we start off, we trade time for money. That's for the most people. That's employees, right? Like you. Yep. Yeah. Create value then, then as an entrepreneur. So there's employee then entrepreneurs, level two. Level two is trade money for time, right? It's, it doesn't matter if you're, you know, you buy a Roomba to clean your house, well, you go to the office and pack stuff up. That's, that's trading money for time or employees or even contractors or your accountant or whatever. And then the third level trader is money for money. And that's, that's the empire builder, right? And I think if people understood that that's the trajectory in life to create one of unlimited, and that's why I say buy the, build your empire. In my world, building your empire is a life of unlimited creation that you never have to retire from. And I just think everybody should strive and maybe consider doing that.
John Jantsch (02:58): I'm not gonna argue you on that one, but I did want
Dan Martell (03:17): Because, cause it's the core of everything I've ever done. You know, people see my life and their like, you know, how do you run two eight figure companies as a c e O train for Ironman, you know, be a relatively good husband. I think I'm a great father. I'm still working with a husband's stuff, but my wife gives me good scores and stuff. But you know, I, I live a pretty integrated life. You know, I just got back from a hell trip we were just talking about, and you know, last year we took about two and a half months off traveled Europe and stuff. Like, people always ask me, how do you do this? And it's based on this core premise called the buyback principle, right? And this is what's unique about my book then, you know, all the greats, right? And, and I've read them all, you know, you mentioned like, you know, getting things done and you know, eat the frog and like there's all these like epic productivity books.
(04:03): But the buyback principle states is we don't hire people to grow our business. We hire people to buy back our time. Cuz you can get the first if you do the second, but you can definitely not get the second if you get the first. Cuz I've just been friends with so many creatives, business owners, et cetera, that essentially build a business that they grow to hate. And the biggest risk to business is not the market, it's not the economy, it's not, you know, your team. It's literally you deciding, I don't want to do this anymore and just stop doing it. Right? And I addressed that in the book with this framework called the Pain line and the buyback loop. And you know, so in my, in my world of productivity, we always start with the calendar and we always figure out what our buyback rate is.
(04:45): And if we understand what are things that light us up that make us money, and what are things that take our energy that, that drain us, that that could cost very little pay somebody else. And, and, and you have some structure around how you sequencing, hiring and buying your time back. It's honestly math. It's a mathematical equation. You can't mess it up. Like you won't be able to grow your business where you make less money without adding. Like, you literally will buy back time and live a higher quality life cuz you know, you can't build a million dollar company off $10 tasks. But yet people every day, it doesn't matter if they're, I have clients that are running a hundred million dollar companies and still do the most ridiculous things with their time and, you know, nobody's ever challenged 'em on it.
John Jantsch (05:25): Yeah, I think it's amazing. You know, it's, it's pretty simple math, right? If I want to have a million dollar company, I have to do x a month
Dan Martell (05:34): Hour has to
John Jantsch (05:35): Produce X. Yeah. Yeah. So, so how much, and maybe you don't even bother trying to argue with people that are in this mindset, but how much mine trash, you know, is built up with people of saying, oh, but you know, my dad said I was supposed to mow my own grass. You know, I mean, how much do, do people have to overcome that kind of mentality, even if it applies to the workplace before they can even start, you know, taking on some of these principles?
Dan Martell (05:59): Th that's, I mean that's everything. It's why I wrote chapter three is called the Time Assassins because there's these mental scripts that people run. You know, like when I started off I was, you know, I'm supposed to be the chief office cleaner and sandwich maker and you hear these things, right? But like, I remember one time I was reaching out to when a company invested in this, this kid Ethan, and I was like, Hey, we should go to the office and work on like, kind of strategy. And he's like, I'm doing my laundry
(06:43): It's around self-worth, right? I don't feel worthy of this. There's an element of that. Yeah, there's, I'm fearful of what other people, including my team would think, right? If I hired somebody to do this for me, what would my neighbor think? I mean I've, I've coached clients on every level where, you know, one woman's like, I don't want my neighbor to think that I'm so busy in my business that I can't clean my own house and have a cleaning lady parked in my driveway. Right? Or I don't want my mother-in-law to find out that I have somebody making, you know, lunches for my kids or meal prepper or dinners or whatever it is. Like it's just fascinating. There's, I can't afford it, right? It's not true. But they say that to themselves. I don't trust myself. This is a big one. What, what if I buy back my time and I don't do anything good with it and I just wasted that hour, right? That's another one I've, I've heard them all. So it is, it is actually all of that. So that's why like I try to break it down into a first principle like real math where you just can't deny it. Look, this is, this is the reality. If you understand your buyback rate and you do anything that you could have paid somebody else that amount or less, then you're working against yourself of trying to create a life that is actually better for you and your family.
John Jantsch (07:55): Yeah. So let's, I had it down to, to ask you about, but let's go ahead. This is a great place to throw in, you know, explain buyback rate.
Dan Martell (08:01): Yeah, it's math so I understand John, right off the bat I'm gonna lose people so please everybody just stay with me, I'll make it fun. So essentially you need to understand what you can afford to pay somebody else to do based on your current income level, right? And income for me is your salary profit and then also discretionary expenses. Cuz a lot of people don't make any money on paper cause they don't like paying taxes. Fine, but throw that in. So let's say I make a hundred thousand a year in income, that might be 70,000 in salary. I pay myself from the business. It could be 20,000 in profit and 10,000 a year in discretionary expenses that aren't really business but you know, who cares? So that's a hundred grand, I divide that number, whatever it is for anybody by 2000, you know, in this case that works out to about $50 an hour, 2000 is because that's the amount of hours an average person that takes vacation and weekends off will work, right?
(08:49): And then because you wanna get a four times ROI on your investment of buying that time, take that number and divide it by four, right? So that works out to about $12 and 50 cents. So if you look at your calendar and you're doing anything with your time that you could have paid anybody $12 and 50 cents or less to do, then you're actually not being a very good time trader and you're working against yourself to free up the space for you to go and reinvest that in higher value, higher leverage things, even if it's stuff that is equally valuable but you just don't like to do. Get that stuff off your plate because just stacking things that are green will have the most, the biggest impact out of everything because you're bringing a sense of energy to the next thing, the next thing that you just can't even quantify a dollar roi, but it's an emotional roi.
John Jantsch (09:37): Yeah. It's funny you mentioned that like 1250, right? I remember when I first started I did payroll and I did payroll reports and I filed all the reports. First off, there's a mind numbing amount of reports
Dan Martell (10:15): The only you can do, and that's why I wrote the book cuz I, I actually sh demonstrate that your business, your customers, you will just be happier and way more productive producing when you, you kind of follow those two, you know, lights you up and makes you a lot of money. Try to just do as much of that in your calendar when you decide to work and when you're not working, go spend it with people that you love and yeah, that's a good equation.
John Jantsch (10:38): Yeah. Imagine how much time people waste and if they just like work three hours a day on like the stuff, that's all they'd have to do.
Dan Martell (10:45):
John Jantsch (11:29): I used to tell my kids when I was little and they'd say, what do you dad, what do you do for a living? I say, I delete email
Dan Martell (11:36): Email
John Jantsch (11:37): Deleter
(12:26): One of the things that you, and you're not the first to say this, but I like your approach to it is clone yourself. Everybody should have an assistant. Everybody should teach somebody else how to do the stuff that they think only they can do. I know pe other people that have given that advice, I think you've gone a little farther and had a, actually a better system for it. But I also know a lot of people that have tried that and they just, they like look at that person and go, I don't know what to tell 'em what to do. So, so what, what's your advice on somebody? First off you're saying just get overdo it, but then one
Dan Martell (12:54): Thing, then I give it a system. Yeah, so I mean what what's fun for me is nothing I wrote about I think is, you know, I think that's just life. I'm, I'm, I'm built by my community. I've read over 1500 books. I'm, I'm a remix of everything I've ever read. What was missing for me, and this is why I wrote it, I have like very unique perspective. So for example, with the executive administrator admin type role, there's two things that have to be true. One, you have to give them a hundred percent of your inbox, meaning that you do not touch the emails first they do and they triage. And two, you do not touch your, in your calendar. You give them a framework for your calendar, which I call the perfect week. Kind of like, uh hmm this is what my perfect week looks like.
(13:33): These are the areas you put certain types of things in there and, and you own that, not me. So I don't even touch my calendar. If I want to add something like this podcast, I I, I will send a message to my executive assistant or she manages it and then she's responsible for making sure everything's there. Now where it falls apart, cuz you just mentioned it, like what do I even get them to do? My brother ran into the same thing. I have a brother Pierre, he's like, you know, and he ran, he was running probably a, you know, multiple eight figure company when he, when he is like, Hey, I probably need an executive assistant. I'm like, yeah, but you know, he got really efficient and after he got through this like crazy pain line period of his life, he hired project managers, he runs a home building company and he, he got to a better place, but it just, it it started eating away of his mindshare and he's got two little girls and he just noticed that he was not present.
(14:21): So he is like, I need somebody that monitors so that I don't have to worry about it. Right? Because that's really what an inbox is. It's like, do I have a fire? No, I'm good. Do I have a fire? No, I'm good. Right? So I gave him, I gave him all my SOPs and stuff. It was about three, four years ago and you know, six weeks later we're at a barbecue and I was like, Hey, how's the new assistant? Like, tell me all about it. I was all excited and he's like, I don't see the big ideas. And I'm like, you didn't give them a hundred percent of your inbox, did you? It's like, what are you talking about? I said, I, I wrote it in all bold. And he goes, well no, I just CC them on stuff. That's the challenge. If you are triaging, you didn't buy any time back, right?
(15:02): Like just having somebody that you like schedule this, buy this, you know, you're like giving them orders. No, your inbox is actually their, their their projects. So like for example, my executive assistant, I don't have projects, she has projects. They technically happen to be mine, but I'm the talent on the project. So she owns getting them complete. I don't own getting them complete and it's just a little shift like that that I think is what could be missing. You know, how do I keep them busy? And then, and then, you know, then people are like, well how often do you talk to them? I put that in the book. I literally took all the questions I've been asked, I just don't have enough time in my week to have these very detailed conversation with all my friends. I just put in the book, here's the daily meeting.
(15:42): Actually have it right after this, the conversation, I have it with my exec assistant. It's very structured. I give the agenda in the book. I, I tell the purpose, even the email system, the email GPS system, it's in the book here. All the folders we use in the labels and why we use them and it, it, everybody my wife bought hired an executive assistant, John, okay? She lives with me. She sees this, it wasn't until I wrote the book, she read the book. She goes, I get it now. And she got an executive assistant, changed the game for her. So yeah, I'm really excited because I think that those are the missing pieces that even was missing for me, you know, 15 years ago that has really allowed me truly a clone. I mean there's two people in my life, my house manager Betty, and my executive assistant Anne. I would sell everything before they leave my life
John Jantsch (16:26):
Dan Martell (17:01): Were busy. I teach that in the book. Did you see the language used? Yes. I teach that in the book cuz I'm Canadian, John, I I don't wanna be taken as like, you know, too good or what. Like I had a lot of fear in my mind in that language of saying, you know, this is Anne Dan's assistant and I got to this before he did and I thought you'd appreciate a speedy reply man that unlocks everything. And, and look, I would've replied if I had the time, but I was pr like, this is the thing is I get to go on and have great conversations with yourself and I'm here and what if the next meeting there's an email that canceled it? Well, because I have somebody supporting me. Yeah. That meeting gets filled with somebody else that was on the queue and pulls forward. So like think about just the amount of, of opportunity I pull forward into this calendar year because I get to spend, like you said, what if you only did those three hours of things you could do? Yep. And none of the other stuff. But those three are like really meaningful energy giving, green productive stuff. Man, your life just gets really cool, really fast.
John Jantsch (18:00): So I wanna, I wanna cover one more concept for we're out of time here and that's the replacement ladder.
Dan Martell (18:07): It's one of my favorites because I always get asked like, so what's the sequence, Dan? Like how, who do I hire first then second, third. And took me a while to kind of really like battle test this strategy. But essentially the idea is if I was starting at zero and I had to hire four or five people what order based on the buyback rate, based on the drip matrix, based on the calendar, if I had to sequence it, these are the, these are the five I would hire in order first one right out of the bat. Level one replacement ladder is an executive assistant and the clear outcome and I write about this book is inboxing calendar. They have to own it. That's why I talk about ownership. They own those two things, not me. Then I get to move to level two if that's true.
(18:52): Level two is delivery, what some people call fulfillment, right? Or onboarding. And the two things that that person owns is the post-sale experience and the customer experience. So they onboarding. So like as soon as somebody takes a credit card, they process it, they onboard, they, they, they get information from them, they get 'em scheduled, whatever it is in your business and any questions that person might have about their work, that person can answer, right? So that you can just do, if it's coaching, logo design, podcasting or whatever, you do that nothing else. Level three is marketing because a lot of people run into this like feaster famine when it comes to marketing because when they're busy they stop and when they're not, they are hungry. So they do a lot of it and it just keeps going like a yo-yo. So even a part-time person focused every day waking up and just focusing on what I call the campaigns and the traffic, like thinking strategically, creatively about the campaigns you should run annually.
(19:49): There's, there's this natural rhythm in, in business. And then also like, did somebody change the color of a button that made it so that nobody sees it in the checkout page? Like what's the traffic doing? Like I've seen this happen. Yeah. So it's just part-time or full-time. Somebody dedicated to generating opportunities for your business and you, you can still be the talent, right? Like I run a big coaching business, I'm still the talent, I'm the face of the business, but I do not, you know, click buttons in Facebook ad manager or whatever the team does. Yeah. Then level four is sales, right? Hmm. And sales is all about the call, right? Which is super fun. You get an opportunity that comes in your inbox, your assistant can just forward it off to Mike, who's your scale specialist, your product specialist, your strategy special, like whatever you want to call them.
(20:34): And then Mike can move that thing forward while you've been in meetings with your team or talking to another client or whatever it is. And they own the follow up because CEOs and entrepreneurs are horrible at follow up. So it's like all these things are now gonna be done outta 10, outta 10. And, and, and at level four what happens, John, that I think is super exciting. This is where you actually have a business that can make money while you sleep. You know how everybody talks about that? And those infomercials and those internet marketers talk about this. You have somebody now that generates leads, somebody that enrolls that client into your world and somebody onboards and takes their payment and make sure they're good to go. And you get to show up and do the work you love to do. Level five, which is the top level, this is leadership and this is when you start thinking about company building and not just, you know, just a solopreneur and stuff.
(21:18): And you could stay there honestly if you're, if you've got those four other hires in place, I mean, you could be making a couple million bucks a year and working 25 hours a week and that's a beautiful place to get to. Then you can learn how to trade your money for money. But yeah, the level five is a fun one and that's usually where I start working with clients. But those are the five levels of the replacement ladder. And mathematically you can't deny the cost that each level kind of goes up, but it unlocks another level of revenue at the appropriate time. And there's a reason why you do sales before or after marketing, et cetera, et cetera.
John Jantsch (21:51): You know what's funny is as I listen to you list those, I, I'm thinking about all the companies that do the, the exact opposite order. You know, it's like I'm the leader of the company. I have to like be, you know, be that I need to be the CEO and then I'm gonna go hire salesperson so we can get more sales
Dan Martell (22:08): Or a coo. Let, let's go, let's go. Oh, I I don't wanna do this anymore. I'm gonna hire a coo. Do you have an executive assistant? No, start there. That's a way cheaper. I had a friend go, I need to hire a salesperson. I go, how many sales calls do you do four a week? You don't need a salesperson, you need to generate more than four a week. Why? Why don't have time to do the marketing? Oh, why don't you have time to do the marketing? Because I I'm still involved in fulfillment. Oh, do you have an executive assistant? Yeah, kind of. Does she manage your inboxing calendar? Not really. So it's, it's really, you just can't argue. It's, I really wanted to distill the book in the first principles that were backed by some level of math to just show people like time does have an equation and the way you leverage that, good or bad is gonna dictate if you can move things forward.
John Jantsch (22:52): So Dan, we're invite people. I know you have a, a website for the book itself. The book's available everywhere. Selling really well, why don't you invite
Dan Martell (22:59): People Wall Street Journal best bestseller. I don't know if you saw that John number
John Jantsch (23:02): Two. I did, I did, I did.
Dan Martell (23:03): That was pretty cool.
John Jantsch (23:05): Yeah. That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, it's, and it's one of those books that we'll probably pick up momentum because people will tell their friends, you know about it just because it's got some real practical hands-on, you know, very dialed in stuff. So where, where would you like people to connect with you or find out more about, uh, the book itself?
Dan Martell (23:19): Yeah, so the website's buy back your time.com and you can go to any retailer in person or online to get a copy. But I do have a free workbook that I, I added in the book or you can go get on the website and then I'm Dan Martel to Elza Martel on all social platforms, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, you mention it, I'm there. And my favorite though is Instagram story. So if people wanna actually see how I apply the buyback principle in my work and personal life, like how I interact with better house manager and, and people to support my wife and I, that's where I do it. Cuz I think it's really, really cool to just share the, the nuance of the systems. I'm a I'm a software guy, so like I, I can nerd out on a lot of the tools in the process.
John Jantsch (24:01): Awesome. Well Dan, thanks for taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and hopefully we will run into you soon, one of these days out there on the road.
Dan Martell (24:09): Absolute honor, thanks Sean.
John Jantsch (24:10): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it@ marketingassessment.co Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketingassessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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