Pat Flynn cover story

Pat Flynn: Inspiring By Example

15 mins read

Not only is Pat Flynn one of the top podcasters in the world… but he’s also known as “the nicest guy in podcasting.”

Pat is the founder of SPI Media—a company dedicated to “elevating entrepreneurs to within reach of their dreams.”

After being laid off from his dream job at an architectural firm in 2008, Pat embraced the world of entrepreneurship. A self-described “weird nerd who likes to podcast and shoot YouTube videos,” this author, speaker, husband, and father of two is driven by one motivation in all he does: 

To inspire by example.

After shifting everything—including his mindset, from employee to CEO—he built his first online business around helping people pass an architecture exam. When people kept asking Pat how he did it, he’d say, “I’ll just show you.” 

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing ever since—while building several businesses, including one in the security guard training industry, another in the food truck space, and yet another in software.

Inspiring by example is simply what he does—even now, he’s actively showing people how he’s building a YouTube channel—a space he admits knowing nothing about when he started, but now, he has a following of over 300,000 subscribers. 

“I’m not a good salesman,” Pat said. “But I can show you what I’m up to. And apparently, people really love that. So, I’m just going to keep showing up.”

One of the ways he does so is by hosting The Smart Passive Income Podcast.SPI with Pat Flynn

“I knew I wanted to start a podcast, but I was so afraid that I waited years before finally pulling the trigger. I finally got out of my own way, and now I only wish I started sooner.”

Clearly, his decision worked: his businesses have been highly successful, and his podcast has an impressive 4.8-star Apple rating while garnering 150,000 downloads per episode. In fact, Episode 500 of the show comes out in August of 2021.

Considering the massive undertaking it is to start a podcast let alone a business, the fact the Pat has done both multiple times while raising two kids alongside his wife is a testament to what is possible in the world of entrepreneurship. Yet one can’t help but wonder how Pat achieves the ever-elusive balance entrepreneurs seek.

“Entrepreneurial life balance is very important. But I also believe ‘perfect’ work-life balance is a myth. There’s only perfect balance on a scale for one moment when everything is equal weight on both sides. If that’s all you’re shooting for, you’re just going to set yourself up for failure all the time, because it’s really difficult to do. 

“What it’s actually about is making sure you’re not teetering too far to one side or the other and correcting when you are. That takes planning ahead. For example, I let my family know ahead of time when it’s launch week. They know why I do what I do and exactly what I’m doing with the launch. They also know I’m going to be less present during that time. But then, when it’s over, we’re going to be doing all this fun stuff together to kind of balance that out. 

“We’re a family unit always working in concert with one another. We all do what we’re doing for the family. As long as these things are thought about ahead of time, they don’t get out of hand.”

Pat also points to his team as an important cornerstone of achieving this degree of balance:

“A lot gets done, but I don’t do it all. And that’s a big lesson I learned during that time of merging from scrappy entrepreneur to CEO and podcaster. For a while, I was trying to do everything, and I was very much under the understanding that if I continued down that route, I would either burn out, or things would crumble beneath me. Over time, I acquired eight trusted team members who are all responsible for certain parts of the business and who also feel ownership in those parts of the business. This allows me to focus on the things I can contribute to the business and to do the things that are very much the kind of activities that only I can do. 

“The other thing that’s been really helpful is something I adopted when my wife was pregnant with our second child—that there are only so many hours I should be working, so I’d make sure those hours were worthwhile. I don’t want to work all day on something anymore, because I only have so much time. If I feel like if I’m wasting it, or am inefficient, that is time I’m taking away from my family… away from working on my health and fitness. This is where that planning comes in again. With regard to my podcast specifically, that means spending a little bit more time up front doing research and having conversations. Then, when I release that episode, I know it’ll go over well… or at least, I’m giving it the best chance to.”

Pat’s impressive success can also be attributed to his “remember-where-I-come-from” attitude, which is, in part, responsible for his reputation as “the nicest guy in podcasting”:

“When I started my online business back in 2008, a couple of friends who were in the same program I was became very, very wealthy, very quickly. I watched firsthand the money and fame go right to their heads. It made me realize that I never want to go to the dark side. I never want to go down that route.

“What’s most important to me is service to my audience. A lot of podcasters like to hang out with the big wigs, because they can maybe give them access to other opportunities. And sure, I try to put myself in those rooms, but I get more value by being closer to my audience, so I can really get to know them and continue to build a deeper, more engaged community.” 

Out of all his endeavors, podcasting is nearest to Pat’s heart. In fact, he said, “I love podcasting almost as much as I love my kids! I think about it every day. I do it nearly every day. I breathe it. I even dream about it.”

An expert to whom others turn to regularly for podcasting advice, Pat says the one thing he sees podcasters consistently doing wrong is focusing on the numbers. He advises that every podcaster imagine the human beings on the other end of the airwaves and start thinking about those individual lives. 

“Rather than asking, ‘How do I attain numbers like you?’ ask how you might attain a deep relationship with your audience. And I’ll tell you, as a ‘smaller’ podcast, you have an advantage there. Have empathy for each and every person listening, no matter how many there are,” he said. 

“Even if there are 100 people listening to each episode—if you were in an actual room with them, you’d feel a little differently, right? And unfortunately, that’s the thing we have a hard time remembering in the podcasting space, especially when people are very open with their numbers. It’s easy to start playing that dangerous comparison game. But we cannot compare our numbers to other people’s, because that would mean comparing two different timelines, two different backgrounds, two different histories… and I think it’s very important for us to compare ourselves to ourselves, instead. 

“Compare our last episode to last month’s, and then to last year’s, to ensure we’re always trying to make incremental improvements over time. Maybe in the next episode, we can worry a little bit more about telling the story a little bit more deeply. Maybe then, we can talk about adding a little bit of the comedic element into the show to see how that goes. A micro change over time can make a huge difference.”

Always quick to share his expertise, Pat offered a few more top tips for podcasters:

  1. Define your audience.

Look at the analytics of the specific episodes you’ve created and consider two things: who they were specifically created for, and which ones got traction. 

“We only have so much to work with as podcasters, and for this purpose, you do look at download numbers as well as retention rate via Apple analytics to see how long people are listening to episodes for and/or where they drop off. The data is very revealing,” Pat explained. 

Even more importantly, have direct conversations with listeners (more on this in the tips below). 

“This is the thing that’s taught me more than anything else when it comes to understanding who my audience is.” 

  1. Experiment.

One beautiful thing about podcasting is that you can try new things without fully committing to them. Try something new in one episode and watch the reaction. 

“Ask your audience about it,” Pat suggested. “Social media is a great place to say, ‘Hey, we purposefully added a little bit more banter this time around, because you all said you love that. What did you think? Leave your honest thoughts below, because we want to continue to provide the best and most entertaining content for you.’ You’ll be able to literally hear it, which means you won’t have to guess.”

  1. Engage, engage, engage. 

Podcasting is a very one-sided conversation, but a simple way of really engaging with your audience is to make sure you’re providing what they’re looking for. In other words, pay attention to the feedback you receive.

“Another lovely way I choose to engage with my listeners is by actually bringing them on the show. Sometimes, they’ve gone through my courses, or they’ve done something I’ve taught, and they’re able to share that. And yes, of course that makes me look good, too. But at the same time, my listeners have told me that they can really relate to that. 

“Don’t just utilize your podcast to interview A-listers and other podcasters. Bring on students of yours, customers, and maybe even some of your listeners. That’s a great way to spotlight your own community members, too.”

Engagement is connection, which is easy to nurture on social media. Pat recommends asking specific questions, like, “Hey, who listened to the latest episode? What was your favorite part?” 

“Then, what I do from there is direct message those people who have responded with a video message saying, ‘Hey, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. And by the way, if you have a quick second, if you could leave a review on Apple, that would be hugely helpful.’ This has near a 95% take rate, because they’re getting that personalization that few others take the time to provide.”

This level of personalization with his audience is no doubt one of the many reasons for his loyal following. And, as listeners continue tuning in to The Smart Passive Income Podcast, Pat will continue to inspire by example.



August 2021


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