Episode #23 – John Warrillow of The Value Builder System

John Warrilow

John Warrilow, The Value Builder System

In this episode number 23 of the InnovaBuzz podcast, John Warrillow, the creator and president of The Value Builder System, author of Built to Sell and The Automatic Customer, talks to us about recurring revenue or subscription business models and how they can give certainty in both cash flow, inventory and staff management to any business.  Listen to the podcast to get the details.

Listen to the Podcast

Today we are giving away a copy of John’s book, The Automatic Customer where he talks about 9 business models that are good recurring revenue models, where those business models are well-suited and and what you need to have in place for them to succeed.

Leave your comments underneath the Podcast post and tell us what your biggest challenges are in adopting a subscription model in your own business.

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode include:

  • The biggest benefit of running a subscription based business model is that it increases the value of your business.
  • Another huge benefit of a subscription or recurring revenue model is that you have a steady cash flow, can plan for stock inventory and staffing levels.
  • The most important thing to pay attention to in a subscription business model, is to minimize cancellations.
  • Critical to minimizing cancellations is to teach people to get the best value out of the products or service you are offering – the onboarding process is vital to get right, and that onboarding window is in the first 60-90 days of the subscription. That’s the window where you can actually get the customers to change their behavior to adopt whatever it is you sell
  • To scale a business, it’s people need process, they need systems. It is important to find the right balance between documenting enough and not over complicating the business.

 finding the balance between having enough and too many people is really difficult if you sell on a transactional model but if you sell in subscription, you know how many customers you have in 3 or 6 months from now, so you can staff accordingly.

John Warrilow 

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are John’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.

  • #1 thing to be more innovative – Sell less to more people. Selling fewer things allows you to focus on getting it right with just a couple of things.
  • Best thing for new ideas – Keep asking “What would make this better?”.
  • Favourite tool for innovation – Evernote.
  • Keep project / client on track – Creating a subscription model where a customer agrees upfront to a set of services in advance with a very clear set of deliverables in return for an amount of money. When you publish that and you commit to that, then you’ll stay on track, they’ll stay on track.
  • Differentiate – You need to focus on something that both makes you different as well as something that customers care about.

To Be More Innovative and Productive

Create some recurring revenue.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank John via The Value Builder System websiteBuilt to Sell website John Warrilow’s articles or his Twitter account.

Suggested Guest

John suggested I interview Bo Burlingham who is the author of Finish Big – a book about how to exit a company on top.

So, Bo keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the InnovaBuzz Podcast!

Competition Hint

Hint: To enter the competition, leave your comments under this blog post. Tell John:  what your biggest challenges are in adopting this subscription model in your own business.


Full Transcript

Click to Read…


Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 23 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation and the Internet of Things become even more innovative.

In this episode, my guest is John Warrillow, author of the books “Built to Sell” and “The Automatic Customer” and founder of The Value Builder System, a statistically proven methodology for increasing the value of your company.  John talks to me about  recurring revenue or subscription business models and how they can give any business certainty in terms of cash flow, inventory and staff management.  This is another fascinating episode, I loved John’s book The Automatic Customer and speaking to him today gave me so many additional insights and ideas.  I hope that you’ll have the same experience, so stay tuned.

This podcast is sponsored by Innovabiz, where we help smart, innovative business owners save time and money and grow their business by making their websites achieve more.  Of course, at Innovabiz, we do more than just build websites – we provide solutions to our clients’ needs by leveraging the power of the internet in innovative ways. If you want to learn more, then go to innovabiz.com.au or contact me directly through the contact information there.

Before we meet John, a quick competition announcement – this week’s competition prize is a copy of John’s book, The Automatic Customer, which we talk about quite a bit on the interview, so stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that competition prize later on in the interview.

Now, let’s get into the Innovation Hive and get the Buzz from John Warrillow.


Jürgen: Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz and I’m really excited to have with me here today on the InnovaBuzz podcast all the way from Toronto in Canada, John Warrillow. John’s the creator and founder and president of The Value Builder System, a company that helps business owners improve the value of their company and he’s also authored two really good books, Built to Sell and The Automatic Customer. Welcome to the podcast, John, it’s a real privilege to have you here.

John: Thanks for having me, Jürgen.

Jürgen: Now of course, I should also mention that John has his own podcast called Built to Sell Radio, so I encourage our audience to go and check that as well, after you’ve listened to this interview, of course. Now before we learn more about John and all the things he’s up to, a quick competition announcement: I’m giving away a copy of John’s book, The Automatic Customer and we’ll talk a lot more about that in the interview, in the book John talks about 9 business models that are good recurring revenue business models and he talks about all the things that you need to have in place, where those business models are well-suited and so on, so we’ll learn more about that as we talk with John today but stay tuned later on in the interview where you can learn how you can go into the draw to win a copy of John’s book. John, before we talk about all things subscription-based business models and automatic customers, tell us a little bit about you. When you were a child, did you have the entrepreneurial bug or did you have other aspirations?

John: They used to call me Johnny the Juice Man because I got out of class in grade 8 early to go set up on the side of the road and sell juice to all the kids in grade 7 and 8. I would pick up fruit that had dropped from trees in the neighbourhood and then juice it and sell it. In North America grade 7 and 8 is about age 12 and 13 years old – that nickname, by the way, has stuck with me ever since and even my friends today call me that. Yeah, I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship. I had lots of different businesses growing up as a kid, some total disasters, others that got a bit of traction but yeah, I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship for sure.

Jürgen: Okay, that’s great. Now I noted in my research that you started and exited 4 companies and one of those was actually acquired by a New York Stock Exchange listed company, the Corporate Executive Board so obviously you’ve done really well there and I guess that was the basis of the Built to Sell model that you’re involved in now.

John: It’s really a mash-up of the 4 companies. I had a graphic design studio and the protagonist in the book is graphic design studio owner. I had a market research business and events company so the Built to Sell was really an amalgam of 4 different companies, lots of life lessons and lots of mistakes made, a couple of successes and I tried to formulate those into a model business owners can follow to transform a very owner-dependent business into one that would be a sellable asset so that’s the nature of that book.

Jürgen: Okay, yeah, and in terms of your business today, so what do you focus on there?

John: We help entrepreneurs improve the value of their company. We’ve developed a 12-step process tjat we take business owners through to drive up the value of their company. On average, businesses improve their value by 71% going through the 12 steps we take them through so that’s The Value Builder System.

Jürgen: That’s pretty amazing really, getting the value up by 71%, so what do you do day-to-day in that business?

John: Personally these days I do a lot of the front-end promotional stuff so I do a lot of speaking, writing, I do my podcast, Built to Sell Radio, lots of the kind of front-end pieces, the day-to-day operations of the business are run by some of my members of my team. We’ve got someone who heads up our advisory services practice, someone who heads up our customer experience, the technology lead, so we’ve got people in place that lead the day-to-day activities but I’m the most public, I guess, person on the frontend of the business doing some of the PR stuff.

Jürgen: That’s great and I’m guessing that this is a subscription-based model …

John: Yeah.

Jürgen: We can talk a little bit more about that but it’s interesting because having that recurring revenue and having the systems and everything in place allows you to focus on the things that you’ve just talked about which probably is where you add the most value to that business.

John: Yeah, or I screwed up the least. Yeah. No, exactly, I try to stay out of the operations and again stay on the front end, but you’re right. It’s a subscription business so basically the way we made that system work is we work with entrepreneurs who pay us typically on a monthly basis to be coached through the process of improving the value of their business and so that’s a recurring fee that we charge business owners who go through the process, so yeah, it’s a subscription business for sure.

Jürgen: Yeah, okay, well that’s a good segue. Can you talk a little bit more about the subscription-based models that you describe in The Automatic Customer and particularly what are the benefits for a business to go to a subscription-based business?

John: The biggest benefit is that it improves the value of your company. When we looked … Built To Sell was my first book, after Built To Sell, I started the Value Builder System and it’s got these 8 key drivers of value. One of the 8 is recurring revenue and I realized that upon reflection, I didn’t spend enough time in Built to Sell digging in on recurring revenue and so I wanted to right that wrong and write this book, The Automatic Customer to really focus in on this one driver of your company’s value which is how much recurring or annuity-based revenue you’ve got coming in every month. Because an acquirer is going to look at your business and they’re going to say, “Great, you’re the entrepreneur, you’re the rainmaker, when you leave, what happens to the sales?” Some people refer to it as the continuity of the revenue, like is it sustainable revenue? I call it recurring revenue but basically anyone looking to buy a business is going to ask themselves, “How sustainable is the revenue?” And that’s where recurring revenue really makes a big difference to the value of your company.

Jürgen: Yeah, well, that’s a big one, isn’t it, and it’s a little intangible, I guess, when you’re stuck in the day-to-day operations of your business?

John: Yeah, so many of us think of our profit and loss statement as our report card, right, so the P&L is what … From business school 101 or high school economics, you learn that P&L is your report card. In actual fact, in the recurring revenue business model, it’s much more nuanced. There’s much more complexity because what’s a statement that actually I think is really more a reflection of the benefit or the value the entrepreneur is adding is actually the valuation statement, like how much is this entrepreneur improving the value of the company? I was talking to a guy this morning who has a business that’s generating 3 million dollars in revenue and they probably put 10 or 20 points on the bottom line so call it 3 to $600,000 of profit.

A good business, they just raised a million and a half, they sold 25% of the business, so roughly a 6 million valuation. So, my question of the entrepreneur is, are you happy with the value you’ve added to your business this year? Not the profit that you glean but more importantly, how much is your business worth because I think that’s the ultimate acid test for any entrepreneur.

Jürgen: That’s a really good point, and also having the systems in place that can sustain that ongoing revenue model means that presumably in parallel to that the business owner or the founder of the businesses is actually redundant.

John: That’s actually right. Again, it’s critical if you think about building a valuable company, if you could distill it down to a single idea, it’s obviously a very complicated concept, very complicated idea but if you could distill it down to it’s raw material, it’s really, does your business operate without you? If the answer to that question is yes, then you got a very valuable company. If the answer is no, then you’ve got work to do to get the best value for your business.

Jürgen: So, tell us a little about the different models that you talk about in The Automatic Customer for subscription-based services.

John: Sure, there’s 9 different models and if we had a 3-hour time slot, I could go each of the 9 for you but I won’t bore you with that. I think if your listeners want to download an eBook we created that summarizes the 9 models and who they work best for, they can just go to The Automatic Customer and download the eBook, it’s free, doesn’t cost anything, then you’ll get the 9 models, who they best work for and some suggestions from the pros on how to implement.

But basically, the thesis is … And the kind of the core idea of the book is that, no matter what industry you are in, you can create some recurring revenue. I’ll give you an example. The business of selling flowers in a traditional way is not something that you can … It’s not a great business, you got to have expensive retail space in a high traffic mall or an tower, so would cost a fortune for a space in Sydney. You might spend what? $150 a square foot just for the space. You then have to buy the inventory which, by the way, rots and after 6 months or 6 weeks, excuse me, it’s all dead in your refrigerator. Typical florists in America will throw out 50% of their inventory – take a guess it’s similar in Australia.

And so at the top business model, people only buy once in a while, right. Like, maybe Valentine’s Day, maybe Mothers Day. So contrast the typical flower store and a business that virtually nobody thinks about recurring revenue and take a look at the company H.BLOOM, they’re a flower company, they sell flowers and that’s where the parallels with the traditional flowers store end.

What H.BLOOM does is sell flowers on subscription. So they go to hotels, spas, restaurants and they say, we can provide you with flowers every two weeks because you’re too busy to replenish the flowers, you don’t want them rotting on the reception table, so we’ll come replenish them, we’ll send you a business grade invoice and we’ll do that every 2 weeks. Well, the typical average lifetime value of an H.BLOOM subscriber, you sell them once and the typical subscriber stays to the tune of more than $4,000.

Contrast that with the typical flower store where the average sale might be 29, 30 bucks. So, in any industry, I don’t care if you’re a lawyer, you’re a manufacturing company, you’re a high street retailer, you can create recurring revenue.

Jürgen: That’s a really good story and a lot of other benefits there, they’re very clear. So the business has a clear and able to plan for a clear cash flow, they can plan for the raw material they need, in this case flowers. They don’t have this situation where they’ve got a lot of waste and like you say they got this $4000 lifetime customer compared to say, 30.

John: You got it. And a lot of people listening may say, well that’s great to hear a flower store but I don’t have inventory but your people are your inventory. If you hire people and you employ people they come in a Monday, they leave in a Friday, they expect to get paid and that is your perishable inventory. And if you don’t have enough work for them, it could be very unprofitable. If you have too many people and not enough work, it’s very unprofitable, if you have too much work and not enough people, everybody get’s stressed out, culture sucks and they leave.

And so, finding the balance between having enough and too many people is really difficult if you sell on a transactional model but if you sell in subscription, you know how many customers you have in 3 or 6 months from now, so you can staff accordingly.

Jürgen: That’s a really good angle to look at people as a perishable inventory. I like that. And like you say, making sure that they’ve got work to do and the business has actually created revenue so that you can pay them on an ongoing basis without going broke and at the same time plan the work out so that you’re not stressing the resources to the breaking point is another great benefit.

John: Exactly.

Jürgen: So, what are some of the keys to running a successful recurring revenue model?

John: Well, you’ve got to minimize your churn, I mean, watch your churn like a hawk. The recurring revenue business by it’s nature, the number one metric that you got to monitor is the percentage of people who quit subscribing each month. That’s referred to in the industry as churn, or cancellation rate. And so, that’s really the secret sauce.

If you’ve got 20 subscribers and 10% of your subscribers churn in 1 month, that’s only 2 people, and so it’s relatively easy to go out win 2 customers, I mean, friends and family, connection of connections, you could probably find 2 new subscribers. But if you’ve got 2000 subscribers and 10% quit, that’s 200 people that you’ve got to go out and find just to fill the leaky bucket. So, as your company grows, churn becomes a bigger and bigger issue.

So, again, very early stage churn is not a big deal but as you grow and start to scale, it’s the thing that really stops people from scaling up subscription business. I call it the treadmill to nowhere because you get into this point where you’re just basically replacing the subscribers you lose every month. So, really it’s about lowering churn.

Jürgen: That’s a very key point and I guess one of the primary ways that you do that is ensuring that the value of the service or product that you’re offering is very high and remains very high so that it’s not just about revenue coming in on a recurring basis, it’s the value you’re providing to the customer that’s recurring as well.

John: Values are important but we all have probably quit subscription services that offer tremendous value but for whatever reason, we’re not using that value. And so, offering a great product or service is important but getting people actually adopt it and use it is arguably more important. And so that’s really where onboarding comes in. What you’ll find if you run a subscription business is the first 90 days, for 60 to 90 days is the onboarding window.

That’s the window where you can actually get the customers to change their behavior to adopt whatever it is you sell, but as soon as customers cross that 90 day window and they start to get into 4, 5 or 6 months of subscribing, the chances that you’re going to change their behavior starts dropping off the cliff. So what you’ve got to really do is have a full-court press to use an American basketball analogy, I’m not sure what the Aussie football analogy would be but use a full-court press to get them to adopt, to get them to change behavior in the first 90 days. That’s the real secret sauce.

Jürgen: That’s a really good point and I was thinking as you spoke there about gym membership, I mean, how many people have gone into a gym membership which is kind of a subscription thing because you pay for a year upfront and then they might get along for the first 2 or 3 weeks and then all of a sudden they revert back to their old behavior of not an exercise regime where they actually use that membership. In fact, a guy I know was telling me recently, and they’ve got an ongoing subscription, so automatic renewal, they’ve actually been calling a bunch of clients who have been members for 10 years and he said, “I’ve never seen them in the gym.”

John: And so what that typically will do is trigger a bunch of churn. Like if you have customers who haven’t used your service in 2 years and you call them up and say, “Hey, let me tell you about all the new features and benefits we’ve added.” Most of them will go, “Thank you so much for the phone call and while you’re on the phone, could you cancel my membership.”

But if call them up in the first 30 days and you say, “Thank you so much for subscribing. Let me tell you all about the great things you can do with this membership. Let me get you started to use your gym membership” as an analogy, “let me get you started off with the gym routine, let’s get you seeing a trainer, let’s get you a 30-day plan in place, let’s get you a nutrition plan, let’s get you signed up for our website.” Suddenly you’re changing their behavior, they’re adopting and then you get a sticky customer. But just calling people 2 years after they’ve subscribed asking them to use it is going to trigger churn.

Jürgen: That’s a really good point, I really like the suggestion of that first 90 days of doing everything you can to embed the behavior that is going to give them the most value out of the service. So, in terms of you personally, is there something you worry about in your business currently? Wanting to learn more about you as a business person…

John: What do we worry about? We’re a relatively young business, we just started in 2012 and so I’m always walking that tight rope and never sure how much training to give our staff versus letting people run their side of the business with a degree of autonomy. I mean, as we scale and grow, we need to get more structured, more systems in place but I don’t want to systematize in the earliest days of our business.

So, I’m always … Some days I think God, I really need to document our systems and get everybody focused in on very rigid sort of employment plans and review processes and training modules and all the crap that you know is as an entrepreneur important, at the same time, I just don’t want to waste a lot of time in these early days. I’ve done this 5 times, this is my 5th business and I think I know enough to know that in the first couple of years, what you’re doing in two years will probably change dramatically in 5 or 7 years from now.

So I don’t want to spend a lot of time documenting stuff that I know is going to change, at the same time, I want to be able to scale, and to scale, people need process, they need systems and so it’s always finding that right balance between documenting enough and not over complicating our business.

Jürgen: That’s right. And it kind of reminded me of what you were talking about earlier in terms of that first 3 months being critical to onboarding your client and it’s about changing behavior in someway. So, I see an element of that there as well, getting processes in place and having employees adopt process but it is the behavior that you need to get right at the beginning.

John: Right. Like, let’s all have a committee meeting, let’s discuss the new PowerPoint template we’re going to use, what font we’re going to use, how images should be portrayed and whether we’re going to have annotations and animations and speed or fly away or fade in. I mean, all this crap is really important and companies like Apple do a great job of making everything look really standard and really consistent and really sharp.

And I’m a total believer in brand continuity. Having said that, you can waste a truckload of time in the early days making things look consistent and perfect when lots is going to change between now and 2018, 2019. You want to know what I worry about, it’s that.

Jürgen: I noted … I often ask my guests how they keep balance and what they do in their spare time. I noticed you’re an avid sports person, you’ve run five marathons according to this one website I looked at, might be more by now. An iron-man triathlon and one that’s dear to me, maybe because I’m a keen cyclist, l’Étape du Tour bike race so obviously …

John: You know Cadel Evans is my favorite bike rider of all time, an Aussie boy.

Jürgen: I’ve actually ridden with him.

John: Have you really? He really kicks ass.

Jürgen: Because he lives in … when he was in Australia, he lives actually very near where I am and rides in similar areas.

John: I heard he’s … He must be a very tough guy to ride against.

Jürgen: I haven’t raced against him, those were just social rides. He’s actually very down to earth guy and very friendly, so he’s very giving when he’s out in the group.

John: That’s great.

Jürgen: You’re obviously a keen endurance athlete by the sound of it.

John: I enjoy all these triathlon, road riding, running, those are keen passions for me for sure.

Jürgen: Do you find that it helps your business when you go out on these long runs or rides and cleanse your mind and you start to get new ideas?

John: Not Ironman training. Ironman training is the biggest time hog you could ever imagine and so that does suck lots of time. But I find for sure a short workout … I’ll do 35, 40-minute run, first thing in the morning and that to me is the right amount of time to get the energy that a run gives me without training for 3 or 4 hours for something that just becomes a time suck.

So right now I’m in kind of start up mode with this business, it’s taking a lot of time, so I don’t do any hardcore long-term training right now, I may get back to that at some point but right now it’s short runs that clear my head.

Jürgen: That’s good. All right, let’s move then to our innovation round which I call The Buzz which are series of 5 questions designed to help our audience learn more about some tips from your experience about what you see as important in those areas. So hopefully you’ll give us some very insightful answers and will inspire everyone to do something to make them awesome, change their behavior perhaps. So the first one, what’s the number one thing anyone needs to do you think to be more innovative?

John: Sell less to more people. One of the things that I think people make the mistake or entrepreneurs make the mistake of is they sell way too many things to too few customers and I think to be more innovative, what you really need to do is try to find one thing you’re going to be the best in the world in and focusing on selling that to lots of customers. Innovation I think it’s iterative and I think when you look at tremendous products, whether it’s iMac or … I’m trying to think other good examples, the Apple watch, et cetera, it’s really just small improvements on an existing product. And I think that’s really innovation.

The only way you do that is if you’re selling fewer things and you’re really focusing on getting it right with just a couple of things.

Jürgen: That’s right, that’s great advice and it’s often counter intuitive, to what most businesses do, isn’t it?

John: Yeah.

Jürgen: What’s the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas or new products?

John: I go around asking what would make this better and … I’m trying to teach my kids about entrepreneurship right now and I’ve tried to distill it down to them to this idea of just going through life saying what would make the situation better. So what whether you’re waiting on a line on a fast food restaurant or whether you’re driving in the car or typing an email, just keep asking yourself, what would make this situation better? and I think that’s where innovation comes from. Is just always being curious about making a slight improvement wherever you are. I think that’s when you start to see ideas start to come to life.

Jürgen: That’s a really powerful question isn’t it? And it can apply to situations, it could apply to products, it could apply to a whole range of things, can’t it?

John: It can.

Jürgen: You sort of answered this question but do you have a favorite tool or system for helping you be more innovative?

John: Evernote. So, I use Evernote. I’ve got it installed in my iPad, my iPhone, both my computers, it’s everywhere, it’s all synced up. So whenever I have an idea, I tag it with a tag and if I want to continue rifting on the idea, I’ll grab my phone. If I happen to have my iPad sitting around, reading a book and I think of an idea, I can find the same note and add to it. So it’s a tremendous idea sort of distilling and curating software.

Jürgen: I love it. Essentially an electronic notebook but it allows you to do so much more like you say, tagging and revisiting things, finding things and so on. So, what do you say is the best way to keep project or a client on track?

John: I don’t like clients, so I can’t tell you about a client because I’m a huge believer in not having clients instead of creating recurring revenue so you don’t have that …

Jürgen: That’s right, so you took that customers.

John: Yeah customers and also having systems that recur. So I think, not to be too self-serving but creating a subscription model where a customer agrees upfront to a set of services in advance, it’s the best way to keep them on track. You’re stripping out any ambiguity to the relationship and you’re saying, we’re going to do these three things and in return you’re going to give us this every month. And it’s a very clear set of deliverables in return for an amount of money. And I think that forces you when you publish that and you commit to that, then you’ll stay on track, they’ll stay on track and I think that’s the best way to do it.

Jürgen: Well, that’s not surprising that that’s the advice but it’s good advice. So, what’s the number one thing people can do to differentiate themselves as an innovator or as a leader in their field?

John: Well, to me differentiation comes down to 2 attributes: does it make you different?, and do customers care?. And those two bars, although simple to say often can be very difficult to climb over. So, number one, the customers care?, is how you are differentiating yourself, is that something customers care about? Just because you’re the only one legged web designer from Tahiti, that’s interesting, that makes you different but nobody cares about that. Whereas there’s lots of things that you could differentiate yourself on that people don’t care about.

So what you got to do is find something that people care about but at the same time still makes you different. So, for example, a plumber, if you Google plumber Woolongong or plumber Melbourne, you’ll find there’s 50 of them that show up or 500 of them and most of them will say reliable in their text in Google. So that’s important to customers who hire plumbers but it’s also not differentiating.

So you got to find something that both makes you different as well as something that customers care about. And that’s really finding something that meets those two criteria is tricky.

Jürgen: That’s great advice. So, focusing on what customers care about. So what’s the future the Value Builder System and your company?

John: Well, we want to create a million sellable businesses over the next 35 years, so that’s kind of our BHAG, using Jim Collins’ term. Again, our definition for sellable is a company that scores at least 80 out of a possible 100 on a valuative score. So, that’s our kind of mission and again, typical average scoring business using our tool, we’ve had 17,000 users now, is 59.5 out of a possible 100. So, our definition is getting a million small businesses up over 80 worldwide.

We’ve got a number of partners across Australia, we’ve got a number in Victoria, the State of Victoria and obviously a bunch in New South Wales and Western Australia as well. So folks can find an advisor at The Value Builder System.

Jürgen: That’s great. We’ll post links to all of the resources that John mentions underneath the blog post. So, what about you John, is there another book in the works?

John: Not right now. The Automatic Customer is brand new, just released in February and that was a slog. It’s a heavily researched book and it’s time consuming so yeah, no. I’m done writing for a while. I might just ride this one for a few years and think about something else in 3 or 4 years. I’m pretty focused on the Value Builder System as well. So no time for another one for me right now but I’m certainly proud of … it’s funny writing a book is interesting. It becomes and indelible mark. You can always wipe away a webpage, you can change copy and email brochure, but once you write a book, it’s a permanent thing. Like your kids can probably find it in some library in 20 years.

Jürgen: That’s right, yeah.

John: It’s something you want to get right so, anyways, I do my best on the books that I’ve written and I know it’s a big challenge to write another one, so not right now.

Jürgen: Well, you’ve set a high bar certainly with your Automatic Customer, the newest one and getting up to that bar, I imagine will be a fair amount of work again. So that’s a good segue into our competition because I’m going to give away a copy of John’s book The Automatic Customer and we’ve talked quite a bit about it and it is very good read, very easy read, there’s lots of great advice in that book about building a subscription business and the keys to succeeding with that and why you should be doing that. So John, what would we like our listeners to do to go into the draw for that competition?

John: I’d like to have a comment in the post for this podcast with with what your biggest challenge is in adopting a recurring revenue model for your business? So, what are the biggest challenges that you face in adopting and annuity type recurring revenue billing process in your company today?

Jürgen: Okay, that’s great, that’s very clear. So, leave your comments under this blog post and tell John what your biggest challenges are in adopting this subscription model in your own business and I’ll get John to come back in a couple of weeks time and award that price. And hopefully it will help overcome those challenges. All right, finally John, what’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to any business owner that wants to be a leader in their field? And I think we know the answer to this a little bit already.

John: Create some recurring revenue.

Jürgen: All right. Before we leave, Who else would you like to see me interview on the InnovaBuzz podcast and why?

John: Bo Burlingham would be great. Bo is the author of Finish Big and he wrote a tremendous book about how to exit a company on top. So, Bo is a mentor of mine, good friend and certainly good for you to reach out to Bo.

Jürgen: Okay, that sounds good. So, Bo keep an eye on your inbox, we’ll come get you for the Innovabuzz podcast courtesy of John Warrillow. So, John, thanks so much for your time today, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you, I’ve learned a lot, I love both your books but particularly The Automatic Customer, which is just … I’ve just re-read actually this last month and it really has a lot of good lessons. So, I wish you all the best for the future particularly as you move forward with your big vision at the Value Builder System of getting a million businesses to a sellable thing over 35 years and I’ll be watching carefully and see how you go.

John: Thanks Jürgen, It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Jürgen: Thanks John.

Wrap Up:

Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with John – it gave fascinating insights into his ideas of the value of a business, recurring subscription revenue and what is important to success with that business model.

The links and  the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/johnwarrillow, that is J-O-H-N-W-A-R-R-I-L-L-O-W all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/johnwarrillow, for all of the links and everything we spoke about in the episode .

Remember to leave your comments underneath the video for your chance to win a copy of “The Automatic Customer” by John.

Leave your comments and tell John what your biggest challenges are in adopting this subscription model in your own business and I’ll get John to come back in a couple of weeks time and award prize.

John suggested I interview Bo Burlingham who is the author of Finish Big – How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top. So, Bo keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast, courtesy of John Warrillow!

I hope you are enjoying the InnovaBuzz podcast as much as I am.  Head on over to iTunes or Stitcher to subscribe so you’ll never miss a future episode and while you are there, if you’re so inclined, rate the podcast and leave us a review.

Until next time, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz.

Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!

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Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  


  1. Gin McInneny on September 1, 2015 at 11:13

    Great interview guys. I think one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that it’s not just a ‘set and forget’ model. Ensuring that you continue to provide ongoing attention and support. So having the time and manpower to do this, as well as the on-going commitment to continually provide the best experience and service for your clients.

    • Jürgen Strauss on September 2, 2015 at 18:06

      Excellent point, Gin. I know that you guys at WP Elevation do a great job at this. One thing John said, that stood out for me in relation to this, was how important the on-boarding experience of the customer is and how in the first 90 days, the business has the opportunity to both set expectations, the culture of the interactions and also the basis of the ongoing relationship. A lot of “front loading”, but definitely the ongoing support and experience of the customer needs to be maintained at the standard that you’ve set.

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