Nobody fails until they quit. Creating and selling an eight-figure company all starts with an idea and depends on how much passion you have. Once you work through your fears and take the risks, put everything on the line and go for it. When it fails, then you’ve got to pick up the pieces, pivot, start over, and continue to push and push. Mitch Russo, tells his success story of how he started a software company in his garage and went on to sell that for eight figures. He also recalls the experiences he had that led to writing the book, The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs Are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies. Mitch spent five years perfecting the process of running a highly profitable virtual company with hundreds of people.
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Running A Highly Profitable Virtual Company with Mitch Russo
I want to introduce you to Mitch Russo. He started his software company in his garage. I love these stories. He went on to sell that for eight figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins building a $25 million business together. Mitch wrote a book called The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving Virtual Companies. Thank goodness he’s here joining us in Heartrepreneur Radio. Welcome, Mitch.
Thanks, Terri. Great to be here.
We just found out that we have something in common. You want to share what that is?
When I was running Business Breakthroughs with Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins, you were working with my coaching organization and I had remembered your name. I don’t believe we connected directly but I just remember that your name came up in conversations all the time.
Chet was somebody that was a huge fan of. We provided coaches who graduated at our coach training school over to their organizations. The universe always brings connection. First tell me, how did you all of the sudden create a software company and then how do you sell that company for eight figures? Curious minds want to know that.
It starts with an idea. It always starts with an idea and it depends on how much passion you have. Then you get scared and then you work through your fear. I’m condensing this very quickly. Once you work through your fear and you take the risk, then you put everything on the line. No big deal. Just put everything on the line and go for it. Then it’s going to fail, then you’ve got to pick up the pieces. You’ve got to pivot, you’ve got to start over and then if you continue to push and push. Remember, nobody fails until they quit but you can pivot whenever you need to. That’s what happened to us. We built a product that we thought would be amazing and wonderful, but eventually we discovered just as we were launching, that it was no longer needed. We had to take the technology that we had invented and completely pivot. Once we’ve pivoted at that point, we then built a very powerful product that turned out to be the one that took us to 10 million. The first product, we thought it was awesome. It never would have sold very well anyway. Only in retrospect did we realize that having that happen to us, which felt like a disaster at the time, turned out to be a blessing.
There are so many lessons and you did do that amazingly fast, very clear. You have an idea. You’re certainly going to have some fears come up. You’re going to work through that. You’re taking a risk, you just full on, go for it. There’s going to be stumbling blocks, failures. Then you need to move, you need to pivot, you need to get over that. Keep pushing. I loved that. Talked about you only fail if you quit. You keep going and then look how it comes to be and it turns into a blessing. It’s perfect. Then how did you move from there to working directly with Tony Robbins?
It wasn’t quite directly. You see, one of the things that happened to me when I was building Timeslips Corporation is that I had this very pesky sales guy who is constantly bugging me and his name was Chet Holmes. His pig-headed determination wasn’t working on me because I was one of his dream 100 clients. I didn’t know that, but he had targeted me is one of the top hundred people that he wanted to work with. He just would not let go until it took a year and a half. Eventually, I had bargained my way into getting some incredible ad space in this publication. He put me in there and then it was basically like the rocket boosters lit and we exploded. It turned out to be a great decision, and from there I quadrupled quintupled my ad budget with Chet and we became friends. We stayed friends since 1987, I believe it was 1988 and that friendship took us through the entire time that I had built, grown and sold my company. Then started a venture capital firm and sold that, then worked for a venture capitalist. I brought him and his new partner, Jay Abraham into my company for marketing campaigns that we did together. I got to know Jay well and that friendship lasted just as long as there’s been going on for many years as well.
That’s why I got to know Chet. Then one day in one of our weekly chats and talk about philosophy and fate all the time he said to me, “I’m having a problem in my company. Would you be able to help me?” I said, “Of course,” I rolled up my sleeves, I got busy. At that point, what happened next was that I found myself working almost every day, a couple of hours a day for Chet until eventually that became a full-time position. Eventually, I was president of his company. We began negotiating with Tony Robbins to see how we could put our two companies together. That all culminated at a moment in time in Las Vegas, in the Mirage ballroom with 500 people. That morning we signed a contract making Business Breakthroughs International officially a joint venture between the three of us.
You’re talking about so many of my favorite people, and of course who doesn’t love Tony Robbins? Chet is somebody that I considered a friend and a mentor and someone I can turn to you and say, “What do you think about this?” I bounce ideas off of him and was just honored to have a relationship with him. I learned Dream 100 from him, which I’ve used in my business and it’s been ridiculously successful. Jay Abraham is somebody that I referred to. I think in almost all of the books I’ve published he’s mentioned at least once or twice. Talk a little about your book. I love the name, The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving Virtual Companies. Tell me how you came up with the title and what the book is about and how it can serve us?
First of all, the title was my idea but the tagline was Jay’s idea. Jay wrote the tagline and Jay wrote the foreword for that book. As soon as I heard it, I wrote it down. That was it. It was the tagline for the book. Here’s what happened. I called Jay after Chet had died. I felt as down in his last, as I ever felt in my entire life. It was a low point in a decade. I just lost my best friend. At that point, his family had a completely different vision for the company than Tony Robbins and I had. He and I had worked closely to put together a plan but it was rejected by the family. Instead of getting into a legal battle, I decided instead to just basically resign. I resigned with nothing. I had no list, I had no products, I had no audience. I remember I was the guy in the back of the room. I was the one, I was the Chief Operating Officer. My title was CEO but the front man was always Tony Robbins of course and Chet. For me, at that point I called Jay. I said, “Jay, what do I do? Do you know anybody who wants to hire me even? Not that I want a job, but I didn’t know what else to do.” Jay said something that resonated with me. He said, “Mitch, whatever you do, you have to find a way to teach others what you know. It’s too valuable to go to waste. You just spent five years perfecting the process of running a virtual company with hundreds and hundreds of people and highly profitable at the same time. You just can’t let that go to waste.”
I thought about it and I took three months off. As soon as I resigned, I went into the desert with my camera, which is what I always do when I need to think. I came out of the desert and I said, “I’ve got to write a book.” I started to write the book. Honestly, not being a professional author, it turns out that my book was terrible. I spent a year trying to put lipstick on the pig, if you will. It wasn’t working. It was still a pig with lipstick. What I instead did was I did something very, very hard. I didn’t quit. I pivoted. I ripped up the manuscript, I actually hit the delete button and the whole thing was gone all at once. When I did that, I was free to think about it from a completely different perspective. In that first week after I had done that, what came to me was what we now call basically the spine of the book, the entire reason why that book should exist and that became a blueprint.
My book is virtually a blueprint for how to take a company virtual and how to run a virtual company and how the superpowers that you require as a virtual company can be fully maximized. The invisible organization to my shock was a URL that was available. Because that’s usually these days almost any good name is fine. I grabbed it the second I found it. The second I thought of it, it was there waiting for me and it became my book and it became my book website, InvisibleOrganization.com. The website became a continuation of the book. The book was published in June 2015 and it is a moment that it published, was going to be obsolete the next morning because there are new products and new things coming out every day. My goal was to take the Invisible Organization website and turn that into a continuing conversation with my readers. It’s updated fairly regularly on new technology, new tools and new things that are coming into the world for running virtual companies.
I love the story behind this. You said something that’s so interesting to me. You went to the desert with your camera. I find that when I’m confused, conflicted, don’t exactly know what to do, I go somewhere on my own and have some quiet time. I also liked what you said because it goes with the beginning of what you said, you pivoted, you didn’t quit. I’m just fascinated that you just take what you’ve written. You go, “I’m just going to delete this. This is no good.” It frees you up. Then it ended up now creating something even more amazing. I’m excited about what you’re doing. I know so many people that are running invisible organizations and more and more and more people are moving in that direction. There’s nobody out there to speak with or to guide them who’s done it and been successful like you. Will you tell us one more time, where can they go to connect at your website?
They can go to MitchRusso.com, which is my main website. Everything is there. You could buy the book there. The book site is called InvisibleOrganization.com. If you buy the book on Amazon, then you’ll get an order number. If you plugged the order number into the InvisibleOrganization.com website, you will then be admitted into the private resources area where many of the resources that are in the book had been updated.
Books become obsolete pretty much instantaneously. I’m in the process of revising Turbo Charge How to Transform Your Business as a Heartrepreneur. It’s only a little over a year old and it needs revision. I just learned something great from you. Thank you. What are a couple of words of wisdom that you can give someone who has a virtual business?
Virtual businesses depend if you started it that way or if you converted it from a brick and mortar, but virtual businesses don’t run the same way as physical businesses. It’s all about mindset more than anything else and it’s a CEO’s mindset. It was important before, it’s always been important, but it becomes ten times more important once you send people home because the one of the biggest fears that CEOs have is losing control. What they don’t realize is that they actually have much more control in a virtual world than you do in a physical world because everything can be monitored by all of the software systems you put in place.
I covered the software systems to use inside the book and I also cover them in detail in the website as well. Once you cut the cord and once you start sending people home, once you get comfortable managing people, comfortable managing people means that you have to overcommunicate all of the time. Being in constant communication with your teams. They have to know what you’re thinking. They have to understand the direction and you have to know your why. If you don’t know your why, go look up Simon Sinek and watch his eighteen-minute video. The idea behind it is that only you, the founder of the company can direct your company using your why and that is what pulls the entire company’s culture together.
Thank you. I’ve already gotten so much value. Your main website is MitchRusso.com. Then the book is called the Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving Virtual Companies. Mitch, I am so glad that we have made this connection. I look forward to inviting you back on the shelf. There are a lot more and a lot deeper that I’d love to go with you.
Thank you so much for joining me. For our audience, thank you for tuning in. I always encourage you to subscribe to the show on iTunes and here’s why. What if you missed this episode with Mitch Russo? You would have missed a lot of valuable information. Subscribe on iTunes and while you’re at it, if you dig the show, we’d love your five-star reviews. We love when you’re a Heartrepreneur and pass the show forward and share it with other people, and then enjoy the free stuff that I have developed just for my listeners. GetHotPayingClients.com, it’s my personal gift to you. Thanks for tuning in to Heartrepreneur Radio.
- Mitch Russo
- The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving Virtual Companies
- Dream 100
- Jay Abraham
- Turbo Charge How to Transform Your Business as a Heartrepreneur
- Simon Sinek
- Simon Sinek’s eighteen-minute video
- Heartrepreneur on iTunes
About Mitch Russo
My experience dates back to 1978 when I started working as an Electrical Engineer at Digital Equipment Corp in Maynard, MA. I migrated to application engineering for Mostek (a semiconductor company) and then to selling chips to large and small companies alike.
In 1985, I entered the software business as the founder of Timeslips Corp (sold to Sage Plc) after creating the largest network of Certified Consultants in the software industry, helping Intuit Corp create their own Certified Quickbooks Accountant Network as well. After selling my company, I then ran Sage Plc in the US as the COO, with over 300 staff. Moving back to Boston, I then found myself involved in the VC community, first as an advisor to startups and then as the CEO of the largest furniture shopping site early in 2000; FurnitureFan.com.
As a CEO Advisor, sometimes to several companies at the same time, I participated in many different business types, solving many diverse types of problems in sales organizations, marketing, technology, systems and H/R related issues. I later became interested in options trading and mentored with a floor trader at The Chicago Board of Options Exchange. Then, in 2007, responding to my friend Chet Holmes request to help solve a problem, I became involved with his business.