In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Joe Rare. He is an “underground” serial entrepreneur, investor, and outsourcing expert. Joe focuses on helping small- to medium-sized businesses and currently owns and manages a number of digital companies that are fully run by virtual assistants, including: Level 9 Virtual, Wedding Booking System, Engaged.app and Campground Digital.
Joe shares his story as an underground entrepreneur with his unique perspective on building businesses in silence, without seeking the spotlight or constantly promoting themselves. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on business growth, making an impact, and connecting with customers rather than getting caught up in content creation and personal branding. Joe is involved in virtual assistants and shares the benefits of outsourcing tasks to VAs and how it can help businesses grow and be more profitable. It’s important to have a mindset shift to fully embrace this approach.
Questions I ask Joe Rare:
- [01:51] What’s an underground entrepreneur?
- [04:34] How did you get started building businesses?
- [06:12] What attracted you to the virtual assistant world?
- [08:37] Now you’re building some apps and some marketplaces. What got you there? And what have you learned that it’s going to allow you to repeat that process?
- [15:43] Should every business be looking at virtual assistants as a way to supplement, grow, and be more profitable?
- [18:50] What’s the best way to go about finding virtual assistants?
- [20:35] Do you find that people graduate towards higher levels of responsibility for those virtual persons where maybe they’re even client-facing in some cases?
- [21:58] Talk to me a little bit about the mistakes or the best practices when you’ve seen the relationship with virtual assistants really work. What’s been the key to success?
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(01:14): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Joe Rare. He is a, I'm gonna say self-proclaimed underground serial entrepreneur, investor and outsourcing expert. He focuses on helping small to mid-sized businesses and currently owned and manages a number of digital companies that are fully run by virtual assistants, including Level 9 virtual, wedding booking system, engaged.app campground, digital. We'll talk about a few of those. So Joe, welcome to the show.
Joe Rare (01:45): Thank you so much. I, I appreciate you having me.
John Jantsch (01:47): So I have to get into that like underground thing.
Joe Rare (01:55): No, no, no. Well, I mean, I'm actually in the lower level of my house, so that counts for some. No, I, you know, somebody actually kind of said that to me when I was speaking at an event and we were discussing social media and whether you have to be a personality in order to succeed Right. In business today. And you know, everybody's kind of telling their story over and telling everybody else what to do and is that necessary? Is that how it has to be? And I said, well, you know, at that time, I mean I'm like, I don't produce content. Like I don't do anything on social other than in some, you know, Facebook communities where I engage with people in my market, but I really don't spend much time there. I don't post a lot. It's just not something I love and I don't enjoy it.
(02:34): And so I don't think I do. And they were like, geez, that's so underground. Like it's so, you know, you're not in the spotlight. You're not trying to tell everybody how to do everything like everybody else is. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was like, that's kind of interesting. And so that carried over and somebody else introduced me at another thing I spoke at and they called me an underground entrepreneur and I'm like, you know, that kind of sticks and I kind of like it. So, I mean, the way that I say it is I build businesses in. Yeah. I, I don't, you know, nobody knows. We just lost a company and kind of see here in the background, we just launched a company called visitor match.com and it's, you know, we did it and nobody knew we were even doing it. Half the com, half of my team didn't even know we were working on the project. Cause I'm like, look like let's not do anything until we know it works,
John Jantsch (03:23): Well, and and I actually love that cuz there definitely are a lot of people, like you say on social media that, you know, they're making a lot of noise, but they're not really making a lot of impact. And I think that, you know, being busy, building a business, making money, having an impact, you know, you don't really need to necessarily have a megaphone to do that.
Joe Rare (03:38): Right. I mean, you look at the, the biggest businesses in the world didn't have, um, a single person out there telling everybody what they should be doing. Yeah. And I think I actually just had this thought today and I was like, oh, should I make a piece of content around it? Because it's completely inverse of what the thought is. But I said, you know, everybody out here thinking I gotta make this content to make my business more successful. It's like, no, you don't. You need to pick up the phone. You need to contact your customers, you need to sell stuff. That's how you make your business more successful. So stop producing content at the, you know, where you think you have to. Right, right. The moment you think you have to produce content to make money, you're dead. Yeah. Because everybody else that's competing with you, they're calling your customers and winning the business.
John Jantsch (04:25):
Joe Rare (04:37): When I was in high school, towards the end of high school, I think we took a road trip to visit my grandfather in Canada. And so we were driving from California to Canada in an rv and I read the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I think, you know, over a two 10, day two, no, I used this two week trip. I think I read the book six times.
John Jantsch (04:57):
Joe Rare (04:57): And the first time I read it, uh, it literally just, it just nailed me. And I went, yep, that's exactly what my life's supposed to be. And so then I went to college and I, you know, started school and thought, okay, I'm gonna go play sports. And of course I'm a five 11 guy who isn't gonna play basketball at any level, you know, beyond, you know, maybe I sit in the bench in college I decided, you know, maybe I should start a business. And so I dropped outta college, started a business and my thought was, I can always go back to school. Right. If I ever want to, I can go back to school. But the business that I started went from zero to 40 employees. And then I sold the company two and a half years later,
John Jantsch (05:39): Yeah, you probably made early twenties money.
Joe Rare (05:41): I made early twenties money, you know, and, uh, I was able to get into real estate investing and bought some properties and got to play that game. Uh, but that, you know, I, right out of that, I was like, okay, hold on. I, I, this is like, it's my itch, it's my thing. And I have to be, I have to be able to flex that muscle. And really that's, it's where my interest lies. It's where my heart lies. I don't think I could work in a job. I think I would suffocate and it would just be devastating to me. So that's how I got started
John Jantsch (06:12): So what attracted you to the virtual assistant world? Um, you run one of your organizations is fairly large, uh, VA Level 9 virtual is a fairly large VA placement agency. Uh, was it one of those things where you needed one and you were like, Hey, this is cool, this works. And so business?
Joe Rare (06:28): Right. So yeah, so I mean, to kind of make this story more colorful, I actually was in the real estate world and I was doing fix and flips and, you know, the 2008 nine economy crashed and I got stuck with a lot of properties that I had. I, I didn't have any money to pay for. I didn't have anything to do with it, so I had to give 'em back to the bank. And so I ended up giving I think, eight mortgages back to the bank, which was pretty devastating when I'm, again, I'm in my mid twenties. Yeah. And I felt like at the time, you know, it's like, hey, I got like, you know, six, 8 million in real estate. Like, I had this, you know, I'm wealthy, but I was broke and gave the money back to the bank trying to figure out what I'm gonna do next.
(07:05): And you know, I read Rich, I read Rich, Dad Poor Dad previously, which got me on the entrepreneurial journey. And then I read Tim Ferriss four hour work week. And I went, okay, this digital world seems kind of cool. I could create an e-commerce business, we could do some drop shipping, we could do that stuff. And I started building that business. And so what I did was I literally sat down at my dining room table and I built a business page by page out of the book. Literally every, I executed everything except one, one piece of it. And that was that I sold an ingestible product and he said not to. But other than that, I did everything by the book. And so I got virtual assistance and I started out in India and then I was in Pakistan and in Sri Lanka and Vietnam and all over the place.
(07:50): And I ended up down the road, I landed on the Philippines and it was a very, you know, it was very kind of a successful place to land for virtual assistants. Yeah. Just because their culture matches a lot of the United States, right. They watch our movies, they wear their clothes, their clothes, and they listen to our music. And so they very much follow what we do. Street signs are in English, universities teach in English. It was a good fit. That business worked well until the FDA shut down the product. And then we were like, okay, well gotta close that down. And so then that led me into marketing. And I was using VAs at that time, but I hired my first VA in November of 2008. And I've had a team working with me every single day since that day. So that's how I started with VAs.
John Jantsch (08:33): Yeah. So I'm jumping around a little bit here now. You're building some apps and some marketplaces. So talk a little bit about that. I mean, that's a different beast building an app and building a marketplace around an app. So what, what got you there? And then, you know, what have you learned that's gonna allow you to repeat that process?
Joe Rare (08:51): You know, when it came to like, you know, engaged app process, you know, the, I was looking at, I was servicing my, our clients at my agency, which is wedding booking system, and I was servicing our clients there. We were using multiple softwares to fulfill a service. And because there were so many that we were using, I got to the point where I said, okay, you know, we should probably build our own and put all of this into one. So I reached out to a buddy of mine that I knew was kind of dabbling in the same thing. And I said, Hey, why don't we pull some resources, let's see if we can go develop this. And he said, I've been trying for a while. The developers couldn't finish, so I just lost about a hundred grand. And I'm like, oh, that kind of sucks.
John Jantsch (10:28): So, so an all in one engaged is focuses on the wedding industry. Could you take that to other industries?
Joe Rare (10:34): Of course. Yeah, of course. Yeah. And there's, you know, there's other people who have, have, you know, dealt with same development company and they've taken it to other industries as well. Yeah. Where I kept it was the moment that everybody becomes your customer. Nobody's your customer. Sure, sure. Right. And so niching down was the key to my success, especially with my agency businesses, is the niche side of things, being very specific in who we service. Because then every single point of communication is designed for that industry, that niche. And so I said, you know, this is what we use the software for. This is how we have it set up. This is why, you know, everything is the way that it is for us. Let's just keep it that way for that niche. If we wanted to do it for another industry, okay, we should do something completely separate. But, you know, so
John Jantsch (11:19): It's that. Well, and it did support. You were already in that business. Right? So it supported that, which I think quite frankly, I think is always a great play. I mean, if you, if the extra money or the extra opportunity comes out of it, serving in an industry you already know because it already supports your main business, is a great play.
Joe Rare (11:36): Absolutely.
John Jantsch (11:37): So I just touch briefly on the fact that you're, you've taken a similar thing to the campground industry, an RV industry though, right? Or is that a whole different play?
Joe Rare (11:46): No, it was, that was just kind of a, a weird needs play at the time. We haven't done a lot with it since. So I was, I I keep to tell somebody like, Hey, yeah, don't even really include that. But I mean, we built a business out of it that produces income that most people would beg for. And the way that I did it was we were traveling during the whole covid crisis. We were traveling around in, you know, an rv. Sure. And, you know, I'm telling my wife, Hey, let's, okay, let's stop in this city and then let's stay somewhere. And so she starts, you know, she's on her phone in the car and we're, she's trying to find like, where do we stay? And she's like, God, this is awful. Like, I can't figure out are they good for kids? Do they like dogs?
(12:22): Yeah, yeah. You know, like, what are the amenities of the place? And unless she went with like a big company, like K oa thousand trails, like mom and pop places were awful. Yeah. As far as their marketing goes. And I'm like, you know, we could fix that. My wife said, oh my God, no, you're not gonna try something new. And I'm like, I have an idea. So we end up getting somewhere and we stay and I just, I, I reached out to one of my developers and, and our designers first, and I said, Hey, can you create a landing page? Here's what I'm kind of thinking. Create like a little brand around it. Let's buy a URL and let's throw up a landing page and then I'm gonna make some contact with some people. And so we, I literally just started making calls to all the people that we looked at previously.
(13:02): Yeah. And I just started calling 'em. I said, Hey, listen, you know, we were trying to stay at your place. We ended up staying over here. The reason we couldn't stay with you is because of X, Y, Z. We couldn't figure out, you know, your marketing and, and the way you display online. I, I couldn't figure out if this was the right place for us. And, and I said, I, it made me think I have a company, I think that we could support you. Here's what we do. And they're like, absolutely, we'd love to help. We always talk about it, but we just don't know how to do it. We don't know where to go. We didn't know who to. And so I'm like, okay, hey guys, can we create like a logo because we need to have some sort of branding around this and like, let's do it. And so as we traveled, we just kept contacting people and the next thing you know, you know, we got 30, 30 clients paying, you know, a couple thousand bucks a month and you've got a real business margins were great. And I went, okay, I have a real business here. Like, this is something we could pursue and grow and do something great with. And so, yeah. And then it's been very steady for, you know, a couple years. A few years now.
John Jantsch (14:00): It's funny, I own a camper van and we do the same thing. And that's been my experience too. I mean, they're just, it's
Joe Rare (14:05): Awful. Oh my gosh. It's so funny cause it's like, it's such a simple opportunity, you know? And I think there's some other people who have dabbled into it and, and they might be supporting others. But yeah, it was just something that, it was just a happenstance type opportunity. I'm like, let's just see what we could do.
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(15:43): All right, let's pivot back to VAs, the world of VAs. So I, I know your answer to this, but I want you to support it a little bit. I mean, should every business be, uh, looking at that as a way to supplement, grow, be more profitable,
Joe Rare (15:59): Sort that, I mean, if, yeah, it depends. I think it just depends on what your business structure's like. Right? Do you require people to be there physically? Mm-hmm.
(17:06): When the economy shifts, people like to pull their marketing out mm-hmm.
John Jantsch (17:37): Because good news is other people are pulling their marketing back, which even makes down better.
Joe Rare (17:42): And that's exactly it. And that's how, during things like Covid and, and all that, how we ended up doing so well was so many people in the agency world and in, you know, in the wedding industry, you know, during Covid, what was funny is, you know, wedding venues who we serve and, and you know, and I'm a partner in five venues, they, everybody stopped. Oh, we can't have people come tour. I'm like, so like FaceTime virtual tours, have people come until somebody tells you no. Like, we really, we pushed the envelope and I said, everybody stop marketing. We, I, I read it across forums. I saw, you know, in Facebook communities, I saw everybody was pulling their dollars back and I said, Nope, we're doubling down. And in one of our venues we tripled marketing dollars and we took everybody's market share. And still to this day, they're just like, they, I see 'em all the time. We can't book out our calendars. And we're like, dude, we're booked all the way into 2025
John Jantsch (18:38):
Joe Rare (18:56): Yeah, I mean, I think you can dabble in the idea by going to like Upwork and outsourcing something. The challenge and the reason that we, that our company's been so successful is that there's, you know, Upwork is a huge marketplace for things like that, right? And you could find people from all over the world who have very different specialties. Some people are super inexpensive, some pla people are extraordinarily expensive. And it just depends on who you're looking for, what you're looking for. But you can dabble into that stuff. The problem is, is you have to put dollars up front to find out if the person is actually good, right?
(19:41): It's projects on demand, but it's also a pod of team members. And they will do their specialty over and over thousands and thousands of times. So we have, you know, hundreds and hundreds of clients who submit multiple tasks every single day. Our team knows how to do their specialization, they do it every day for hundreds of clients, and we know that we can do it better than everybody else. So you don't have to go test and put money out and go, I hope this is gonna work out. You can come to Level 9 virtual and say, Hey listen, I want to buy a block of hours. I wanna submit a bunch of stuff to you guys, have you guys help me with it? And then after that you can decide, hey, okay, this is great. I'd love to have my own virtual assistant working with me. And that's a great way to get your toe, you know, your toe into the water.
John Jantsch (20:24): And do you find that, you know, people obviously start out, it's like any new employee, even, it's like, okay, we gotta get to know each other, your style, you know, how we communicate, blah, blah, blah. Do you find that people graduate towards like, you know, higher levels of responsibility for that? You know, that virtual person where maybe they're even client facing in some cases,
Joe Rare (20:43): They they should be. Yeah. That, that would be the goal is that you can grow them into it. So realizing that just because there's an ocean between you and somebody else doesn't mean that person's incompetent
John Jantsch (21:48): You, yeah, and I think people underestimate how much responsibility you have, you know, as the hiring company to Oh yes. To make that person successful. Talk. Talk to me a little bit about what you've seen. You can either come from the mistakes or you can come from the like best practices when you've seen the relationship really work. What's been the keys to success?
Joe Rare (22:08): Number one for mistakes and success is failure or is, uh, excuse me, is communication. It's communication hands down. So if somebody's gonna succeed or somebody's gonna fail, 95% of the time it's communication. Here's what's interesting. People don't wanna communicate. Business owners don't wanna communicate down and you know, team members don't want to, they're afraid to communicate up. If you can get both parties coming into this and realizing, okay, no matter what, we're a team, we're gonna communicate with one another. It's okay for you to fail. And this is something I've gotten much better at because I'm totally okay with myself failing learning the lesson and moving forward. But I'm becoming really good at allowing my team to take a shot at something, fail and then learn the lesson and improve. And when they can do that, they just become unstoppable. And I think that if as leaders, as business owners, if we can provide the safe space, call it for somebody to go in and make a mistake and then, you know, not something detrimental that's gonna cause you to lose clients and and all that.
(23:17): But if they can go in and understand that, hey, it's gonna be okay for me to learn, it's gonna be okay for me not to know everything day one. And especially with hiring virtual assistants, a lot of people think like, well I got a VA and how come they can't do everything that I say, well you couldn't do everything when you started. They're no different. So, you know, build them up and grow them as a team member. And we have people who have had VAs for, you know, years and years who are so important within the company that it's funny, some of those VAs now interview to hire more VAs. And so we have one of our VAs working for a client, interviewing somebody new to come work for the same client. And it's kind of cool to watch how they've grown in their career. Yeah,
John Jantsch (24:00): That's awesome. Speaking with Joe Rare, uh, founder of Level 9 virtual, Joe, I appreciate you stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Do you want to invite people where they might connect with you, find out more about your work?
Joe Rare (24:10): Yeah, I'd love to. You know, a couple places. Level number nine virtual.com. So Level 9 virtual.com, top right corner, it says, book a call, totally no obligation. You can chat with our team. They will support you and guide you in the right move. If you want to, you know, get started using a virtual assistant or at least test the waters, you can also check out what I'm up to @joerare.com. And, uh, you can always reach me at Joe at any of my business names [email protected] or [email protected]. Yeah, there you go. Awesome.
John Jantsch (24:41): Well, again, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.
Joe Rare (24:45): Would love it. Talk to you soon.
John Jantsch (24:46): 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, not.com, dot co. Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketing assessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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