John North is a special guest on the "Convo Couch" to talk about Publishing and marketing books.


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Interview Transcript

John: Data now is more valuable than oil. If you get banned on Facebook, that's it, you've got no recourse. You can't go to anybody and say "Oh gee, I got banned on Facebook unfairly". My business now shut down. Building a house for him to live in. That he actually likes the house when he gets it.

San: Hey, guys, welcome to the Convo Couch. Today, we've got John and James North from Evolve Systems Group. Thank you for coming on.

John: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

John: Our target market is a lot older, so they don't quite get the internet. So they can't log in stuff like they just always painted on. We sell them a DVD. They can't stick it in the DVD player and be happy.

San: All right. So what's the show called?

John: One is called the Genuinely-You show. The other one's called Healthy Heart Network.

San: Right. So you talk about, I guess, having a healthy heart.

John: Yeah.

San: All right.

John: Yeah, I bought his book. That's one of the shows. That one there. And that was...

San: You can show it, by the way. So that the camera can see it. Or maybe you don't want them to...

John: Oh no, you can't show it. A shameless promotion that book. So those are the two guys we did TV shows for.

San: Okay

John: I worked for a bank for twelve, years. And then I quit and joined the IT industry by selling some computers. Then from there, I started really, like I was, there was a bank called Osborne Computers and they eventually got bought out by Dell. They went broke eventually, but they were giving me like a hundred leads a week. So I don't do any marketing at all.

San: So it was a marketing job but you didn't...

John: It was also computer stuff, right?. And back then they confused us, again you didn't have to sell computers. You just showed up and they bought them. Osborne didn't sell the computer like now, you walk into the shop, paid three or four grand and you waited two weeks, three weeks, for a month for a computer. You just didn't take it out of the shop. And so in the meantime, they need help. So, you know, setting it up and I got it. So we sold lots and lots of that. And then they went broke. And so I had to learn how to market suddenly because it had customers. So that's how it started. So I started, you know, 100 grand. Just go on the courses, not traditional stuff like go out and look at how people are doing it.

John: So we started doing book publishing because books were a really good way to sell someone's business, right? Because they write about a business like why write a book publishing as a publishing book, you know, telling the customer it works. But at the same time, I'm crystallizing exactly the way my business can operate. All right. So it's a great business plan. And so we do that first. And we sort of got into publishing books. We've been involved with 350 books now. And that's how it went through for years. So I can start a business in a week, from a great idea, implementation-start! And basically most people can't do that.

San: Okay, well...

John: They've taken two years.

San: So, have you started businesses like on a very regular basis?

John: Yeah. You can restart like the latest business we're starting is actually a software platform, and whilst the development of software is being slow, the actual start up a business takes a couple of ways to get it rolling. That's going on. What that books about is that the foundations of how you got to move through that process.

John: We sell his book upfront and then that books automatically fulfilled and drops if they buy it, drop-shipped out to them and if they join the membership systems all totally automated from the whole process. So they basically get joined up on a central platform, logins, send emails, you know, a membership pack goes out. That's all as much automated as possible. And you must be running this whole business with no staff.

San: Okay.

John: Virtually.

San: Yeah. No, that's great. Because you save so much on rent and wages.

John: Well, back when I did this I had 20 straight staff cost me a million dollars in wages a year and I'll make more money now with one staff member.  

John: When we wrote this book and said "Who is your customer?", Who are you writing to?", "Who's the perfect person?" That's what most people don't do marketing. They just go "Somewhere between 18 and 35. You know, male, female do." That's too vague. So what happens is you never actually get connected to anybody. And so the trick is to figure out who your customer is and who to, who's the best person to go after and go after the easy ones, not the hard ones. And so when I took people off on it, they've always trying to hunt down these hard customers, wants it too hard to get when they actually all these low hanging fruit, they could go and go because they're trying to overthink. That price, it's been not really thinking about who that should be actually selling to a perfect customer who's, you know. So we say write a book and then you look at and say, if you could have 100 like him, that'd be really good. That's a business book for not the really hard to deal with a customer. The ones got no money. The ones actually fit what you want. And that's the trick with marketing now. Like, be very focused about who the hell are you talking to?

John: So, right that book when I was going to do marketing right so my theory was I had 25 customers, paying me five, ten grand a month. And we'll do their marketing for. After five customers, I was exhausted because there's too much work, too hard. And so in the end, we realized we couldn't do it that way. There was no way to scale up a business. I couldn't scale the business that way. So then we thought, well, let's write software to actually help and sell software rather than just services and move away from doing the marketing for them. Have them do it. So we had a plan. We're running a platform to do that. And that book's all about basic because we write books. We should have a book about writing books. Ok, make sense, right? I sell so many books, authors selling that book, then all the others because they want marketing. Most people write books for marketing purposes and I can't market, couldn't sell. So we decide to write a book about how to write a book because we write books.

San: So now you're mainly in the book publishing industry.

John: Two main focuses for us really, one is book publishing but like if someone comes to us and says, I want to write a book like say, this is sort of client comes and wants to write a book done, had to write a book. So not very scalable, say, because I need editors on a format is it's just too hard to scale. So that's what I tried to do. One point that after sort of gave up that idea was all the scale of publishing business was too many moving parts. What they really needed was this whole process as a platform for them to be able to do it, do everything else. So once you've written a book, you need to sell it, right? Need to market it. Maybe you need to do a podcast. Maybe you need to do a Web site. Maybe you need to blog. Right. Maybe need e-commerce to actually process that. So all those things. Right. And so we actually started running the platform to allow us to actually take people on site. These authors will set you up in such ways that, as I mean, for this book here, this client here took me two years to build out everything he needed. I reckon I if from versus tech forms release we can do it in two days. In would normally take two years.

John: And we're kind of merging a normal front-end website to a back-end community site to actually engage them on the site, and stay with you rather than going off to Facebook where you're going to lose them. And so that's kind of concept. And I think that most people if you think about that currently for Warrick, we probably operate nine, 10 different platforms to do that.

John: When we've finished one platform will do enough for them to be able to actually cater to the entire thing on any one thing. And that's what we're trying to get to.

San: Okay. So the service you are offering is basically a community-based platform.

John: Yeah. So we kind of call it, we really can't figure out what it is yet, but there's probably community-based e-learning. So what happens is most of these guys will create a course of we did with Warrick - we created a course, he needs to sell that course but he needs community around that course. He needs to be able to have interactions and questions and stuff like that. That's all hard when you start looking at all the platforms. So what we do is we license out, put all that together. So when they buy the book seamlessly you have a community. Don't have to jump to another web site remembering another login or do something else.

San: So this business here is a one-man business?

John: Well, the team is there now. Well, not necessarily because well, we have lots of bunch of contractors. So one of the things that I learned in business was the twenty-three staff where there is staff don't always put the company first. Right. They come. So you get four, five hours of work at them a day, maybe if you're lucky. And so what happens is you get contractors and is getting paid by the hour and some other full-time contractors were Filipinas that has worked for me like six, seven years. She's full-time, but she's not an employee. She's a contractor. Right. And fortunately, not in Australia so I get those crazy contractor laws. But the reality is that that's a contractor which is working full time. She works 40 hours a week, she gets paid 40 hours a week. And so but we got lots of different editors and other contractors we use and we only use them when we need them as opposed to being having to actually pay them every week. And maybe they're twitting on their phones.

San: Hmm.

John: But all of these are changing. You look at Uber or any those like, you know, Airbnb, they're all tech businesses handling a physical thing. And they found it as a way of automating it and then become the leader and reality is that Airbnb they don't own any hotels, you know, Uber doesn't own any taxis, although they apparently building helicopter taxis now and stuff like that. With the automation of cars, it eventually won't need the driver. But the reality is, is that that's gonna be the ultimate thing for them, right? They don't cost them anything and just paying a commission they're just basically totally automated. And so that's the trick, and they need sort of business that makes a lot of money. That's not something you've got to continually monitor.

John: Well, that's the biggest problem, and you look at the whole scenario, jobs created the other day didn't exist 20 years ago. And so I think the biggest problem in society is that you've got this shift between doing one job and another and a huge population that gets unemployed. Like you look at American car manufacturers and stuff and all these people selling lose their job and they work there for 30 years and they've got no other skills. They're doomed. And that's the sad part about technology, but you can't stop it. But I think they have to have a better plan. Like you need to be able to kind of think, well, okay, we're going to this industries are going belly-up, let's make a plan and start the government or whatever start training or retraining these people early out, not wait till they all go belly up and they go, oh, sorry about that. And then leave them lurch. But yeah, I don't understand what happens with which point when maybe nobody's making any money and nobody's making any job, how do you actually live? I don't know how that works. That's a big question because eventually, you could get a point where you've got this whole huge economy that's got no money because you don't have a job. So, therefore, they can't spend money with other businesses. So you basically got you to know, I mean, does money ceased to exist?

John: The biggest problem is I'm actually watching that TV thing on Netflix just recently, that that old thing, that data now is more valuable than oil. So I think the biggest problem that they say right now is your data is worth something you value to that company and Facebook, your data should be valued something, that you pay for that data is actual. You know, like if you go to a survey, you know, those surveys, you get dessert, they pay you to go do those surveys and go to a shopping site. Mystery shopper. Your data should be worth something. And I think my guess was what's going to get to me. It's happening in China where they've got that whole, you know, social credit thing, which I don't think is a good idea.

John: And every other organization and every other sort of industry has all this regulation, building industry cash to build a building with that regulation. You know, social media do not, they have no regulation. And so I think that's probably the future's a lot more regulation because these guys need to be under more control. I think they can't just decide what they going to do themselves and then makeup, it's like if you get then a Facebook, that's it. You've got no recourse. You can't go to anybody and say oh gee we've banned from Facebook unfairly. My business now shut down or Google, do the same thing you banned for life with Google. You see Facebook they banned you for a couple of weeks. Google banned for life. what happens then? You got nowhere to go. You can't ask someone. Why did I get banned cause I don't tell you anyway? Can I get back on that?. I can't. There's no one to go to. But if there's an ombudsman or some sort of degree of authority, you can go to them and they can actually overrule it and say, no, no, you can you know, you can do that. You can go back on that platform because what you did wasn't wrong.

John: We invented the fridge, Australians invented the fridge, can you believe? Australians invented the hills hoist, you know, the laundry, you know, where you hang up your washing. But they invented that. We invented so many things that we invented the fridge. Because we create a transport, you know, food for long distances.

John: So why can't we become a smart country in terms of technology.

San: Do you think Australia does realize a lot on its primary production in terms of agriculture and minerals?

John: Yeah, I mean, I used to live on a cattle property when I was a kid.  And why would you do it yourself? It's the worst job ever. You get up early in the morning, you worry about not raining. When it rains, it rains too much. It doesn't rain enough. So it's no real control. And we live in on a desert island. So the reality is you're asking for trouble from depth, from the get-go. So, you know, relying on the whole stuff, just basic you know, primary production and digging stuff out the ground is like a hundred years ago. Why haven't we moved on from that? I don't get it.

John: Seriously, what happens normally in this country is, like my son, he's 19, right, he would go off to university from the farm he'd never come back. He's not that stupid. He'd go and get a job in the city and probably subsidizes his father, keep his farm running. That's what would probably happen because he's not that stupid to go back and then he's found as they used to call a form of child abuse because what would happen is you end up inheriting the farm and all the debt that goes with it. And so, you know, remains just kind of down the way to do it, in my opinion.

San: Your farm is almost like a business in itself.

John: It has to be a sustaining business. Yeah. But you can't control the elements, right? You've got big major droughts in New South Wales because they never planned water. You know, they don't really plan it. And then, of course, with the Snowy Mountains, well, the whole scheme is they keep taking the water out along the way. So by the time, it gets to the other end, the people really, there's nothing left because people just started damming it off. And they got away with it because they needed for cotton, which is the most expensive water-based thing to grow in a desert island. So, you know, I don't know. It seems obvious to me.

John: I can teach him how to run a business, but don't run a complicated business. Probably run a business that's actually scalable and you can actually build and then he can figure out what he wants to do in that business.

San: Hey, guys, thanks for checking out this episode in a series where we interview business leaders, tech innovators, and startup founders about the business journey, insights, and reflections.

San: If you find value in these, please leave us a comment below. And also, like subscribe and hit the notification bell. Enjoy.


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