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This time, we’re talking with the internet lifestyle mentor, Terry Dean. Now, he’s been coaching entrepreneurs on how to earn more, work less, and enjoy life since 1996.
So, with over a quarter of a century’s worth of experience under his belt, I’m excited to dive in. Terry Dean. It’s great to meet you.
It’s great to be here.
Well, 26 years, it’s quite a long time. So you must be doing something right. How did it all start for you?
Well, it started off, as you mentioned back in 1996. And I was a pizza delivery driver for Little Caesars.
And that was my last of many dead-end jobs, such as I signed people up for credit cards in front of Sears. I tried selling satellite dishes door-to-door.
I sold a grand total of zero over two weeks, they let me go pretty quickly. And then the last job was delivering pizzas.
That was the last job I had, and the last job I ever will have.
And at that point in time, ’96 was really early on. The internet was just getting started. And I heard a few stories of people who started online with basically what you’d consider kitchen table type businesses.
They go to online and they were selling, way back then it was VHS videos, self-help type videos, things like that. And I basically said, “You know what? This is something I could do.”
I was never able to sell one-on-one, sell directly. I was probably the worst salesperson you’d ever seen. But I said, “With the internet, this is something that I can hide behind a screen, and I can write to people. I can communicate people. I can rethink my thoughts on paper with all the editing process and everything else. And this is something that I could do.”
So I start off by going to Best Buy. And this was one of our last credit cards that still had money on it. It was a Best Buy credit card, because we had a lot of other debts at the time from failed business opportunities. We had a basement full of junk that I had bought trying to go into network marketing, trying to do direct mail, things like that. And I had always failed going into it. So I was a failure going somewhere to happen.
But I started online. I bought my first PC at Best Buy. It was a Pentium-75, which is now a paperweight at best. And I went on CompuServe. Many of the younger people don’t even know what it is, CompuServe. But I started there. And this is funny because this was before social media, before anything like this. But I started inside the message boards on CompuServe, because they had a whole bunch of different message boards about different topics.
And I went into some of the ones that were about direct mail. That were about online. That were about things like email.
And I started participating in these boards and sharing content and looking for questions that people were asking.
And I started answering those questions at the same time.
I started studying from what I consider some of my mentors, although I didn’t deal with them directly at the time.
I started studying products by Gary Halbert and Jay Abraham.
And eventually, I grew a little bit more in the business.
I hired John Carlton to coach me on the copy writing side.
And I was learning and then answering questions. And I started building an email list back then.
And that was probably the smartest thing I ever did, was starting that email list.
And the way it worked is I would just communicate with people, answer questions.
I would give a link to, “Hey, you can go download this freebie by joining my email list.”
My email list started growing.
I started earning an income. It was several months in and within that first year, I pretty much had a full-time income. It wasn’t a great full-time income.
Because remember, I was a pizza delivery driver. It was a full-time income replacing that, not a medical doctor type income, but I got there.
And as I said, the smartest thing I did was building that email list because about six months in, I realized that my income was directly proportional to the size of my email list.
If my email list grew, so did my income.
And I communicated with people back then, I was afraid if I communicated too often, they would tune me out.
So, I only sent like one email a week.
That I’ve learned since then, you can send multiple emails per day if you have something good to say to your audience.
But back then, I limited myself to one email a week. And that’s where my business really started from, was just communicating with people.
And I bought reprint rights, basically licences to several, again, VHS videos, back then there were self-help videos, videos of people like Mark Victor Hansen and people like that, that I’m sure some will know. There’s others as well.
And I started selling those VHS videos and we’re again, going way back in ’96. I had this big duplicator set up of VHS videos and I would duplicate all the videos, and we would mail them out to our customers.
And that was really where my business began. It began with, we’ll say social media of that day, of building a list and answering questions, and then getting them on my email list. So basically going out, getting traffic, giving content.
I was one of the first content marketers online, probably, you would say at least on the small scale side of it. And building an email list and then selling products.
So that was pretty much my early beginnings, which isn’t a whole lot different than what people do today, even though that’s Stone Age of the internet.
Stone Age, indeed. The funny thing is, it’s an introvert’s dream, I guess, this kind of business. Because as you say, you can hide behind your computer screen.
The interesting part there, Terry, that you talked about is the fact that you were duplicating VHS video cassettes.
Now, that is quite a challenge to do because of course people say, “Oh, it’s so much easier on the internet.”
Back in 1996, there was fewer people around to have competitive businesses. But I guess, physically, it was actually quite a demanding thing for you to do.
There was a lot of things that were difficult back then. Now, there was less competition back then, but it was much more difficult to reach your customers.
For me, there was only one place at that time for me to go, was CompuServe.
There was a few other small places that you could go, but there wasn’t a whole lot of place you could get in front of customers.
And at the same time, everything was so manual. We had to duplicate our VHS videos, which again, I had a stack.
I think we had like a five stack, which meant you put VHS video and you copied onto five, which took an hour.
It took however long the video was, is how long it took to duplicate those. We had to physically mail them out to customers.
When I first processed credit cards, we actually had to take orders from a… We put up a secure system to take orders, but our orders were not automatically processed online.
We had to take those orders and then process them manually, separately after they came in. So I sound a little bit like old grandpa saying, “We had to walk up hill both ways to school, five miles both ways to school.”
But it was like that, everything was so manual. It felt like everything was so difficult. And I had to figure out everything along the way…
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