Russell Hartley, an American entrepreneur and internet personality, has made waves in talent management, e-commerce, and financial services. Known for his “ex-player” persona, he shares captivating dating stories from Los Angeles, reaching millions. With a distinctive style comprising bespoke suits and luxury watches, Russell, a Mathematics graduate from the College of Charleston, began his career in aerospace at Northrop Grumman. After 7 years in National Defense, he transitioned to entrepreneurship, finding success on social media by sharing personal dating stories and advice. Engaging fans through live streams, Russell prioritizes a positive impact on his audience, showcasing a unique blend of business prowess and relatable authenticity.

How did you get started in this business?

I embarked on my journey as an entrepreneur because I felt like a mere cog in the corporate wheel, yearning for more than just a job and incremental raises. Despite engaging in interesting roles, such as automation and being a corporate liaison, it didn’t resonate with the American dream I had envisioned. Climbing the corporate ladder, though successful, wasn’t fulfilling, prompting me to venture into entrepreneurship. Through various roles, I gained valuable insights into corporate structures, managed significant budgets, and automated processes in aerospace, striving for a more meaningful and satisfying career.

How do you make money?

I’ve transitioned away from direct sales and now focus on overseeing various businesses, each run by dedicated teams handling operations, fulfillment, customer interaction, and sales. While I maintain a social media presence for personal enjoyment, I don’t engage in direct offers. My approach involves training and guiding each team, leveraging my expertise in automation and industrial engineering to enhance their performance. I constantly analyze metrics, providing weekly reviews to ensure continuous improvement. As the businesses grow, I gradually delegate responsibilities to directors or upper-level management, streamlining communication to a single daily point of contact. The size and nature of each business vary, ranging from smaller operations to larger enterprises with up to 400 employees.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

One of my initial successes involved digital products, specifically coaching services for dating. I created courses on dating advice for both men and women, leveraging social media to drive traffic. The digital product gained momentum, generating around $100,000 per month within two months.

Throughout this journey, I absorbed knowledge on traffic generation, sales strategies, and upselling. I transitioned into coaching, using my newfound expertise to genuinely assist people in improving their dating lives. This venture proved lucrative, marking the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

Initially, I was eager for anything to work in my entrepreneurial journey. Like many, I experimented with different ideas, hustling and trying various avenues, from deals to website projects. I lacked clarity on what exactly would succeed. The desire to be my own boss drove me, even though I wasn’t cut out for traditional employment. However, the first five years were financially challenging, marked by self-education and little tangible success.

Despite the pressure from others to consider a job, I persisted in pursuing my entrepreneurial path, even if it meant financial struggle. While I don’t recommend this approach, it was a necessary part of my journey. I believed that taking a traditional job would limit my ability to explore and figure out what truly resonated with me in the entrepreneurial realm. The struggle ultimately led me to appreciate the hard work, and though my life is fulfilling now, those initial years were marked by uncertainty and perseverance.

How did you get your first customer?

During a challenging five-year period, I faced financial struggles and sought various means to stay afloat. Borrowing money from family, including my mother, became a common occurrence. Despite the hardships, this phase became a transformative learning experience. I immersed myself in education, devouring literature, including books by Russell Brunson, to grasp the intricacies of creating websites, developing effective sales channels, and understanding corporate structures. While my previous corporate experience equipped me with budgeting and team-building skills, I lacked insights into running a business and making sales. Leaving my job without a concrete plan, I ventured into online sales.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

In growing my business, I’ve found traditional marketing strategies like referrals have limitations, especially for broader audiences. Social media, particularly platforms like TikTok, has become a game-changer. Unlike the past where advertising was hit-or-miss, now, anyone can create engaging content, and a simple video can reach millions. This democratization of visibility allows even unknown individuals to become influential. In the current digital age, relying solely on traditional methods like paid ads or brick-and-mortar stores seems outdated. Social media stands out as the go-to strategy. You can simply share your thoughts on an iPhone, reach a massive audience, and potentially convert a significant percentage into customers. This approach has undeniably been the key to growing my business and building a brand, especially considering the unprecedented visibility and accessibility it offers.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

In leadership, I’ve faced challenging situations, making tough decisions like letting go of team members or dealing with individuals I’ve mentored who later turned negative. It’s disheartening when those you’ve supported take a different path, but I approach such decisions swiftly, making the process seem more manageable. The ability to make difficult choices efficiently is crucial in maintaining a focused and effective team.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

Facing setbacks is inevitable, but my approach is straightforward: acknowledge the challenge, keep working through it, and maintain focus. While it might sound cliché, hard work and perseverance are essential. I believe in actively solving problems rather than dwelling on them. In the past, I mistakenly thought I could hire someone to handle challenges, assuming they would have all the answers. I learned that successful solutions often come from understanding the issues firsthand. It’s crucial to create well-defined tasks, review progress, and ensure accountability, even at higher levels. Ultimately, solving problems requires a proactive and hands-on approach.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

In my business, I’ve chosen not to rely on external funding. I have the ability to generate revenue independently, giving me the freedom to operate without being accountable to investors. This autonomy is essential to me; the thought of explaining my business to someone who might not fully grasp it doesn’t appeal to me. I appreciate the satisfaction that comes with waking up and knowing I’m answerable to no one but myself, aside from the obligatory taxes.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

In both my life and businesses, I’ve strategically positioned myself to minimize direct involvement in day-to-day operations. Initially, I took on various roles, being the hands-on person in sales, product creation, and delivery. As I gained insights and streamlined processes, I gradually delegated tasks. It’s akin to beating a drum: I start, train someone to take over, and move on to another area, creating a cascading effect.

Now, I’ve reached a point where I’ve hired capable individuals to run entire companies, empowering them to solve problems and excel in their roles. My involvement has condensed to having weekly meetings with key figures, providing guidance and ensuring alignment. This delegation allows me to focus on new ventures and interests. To maintain productivity, I hire support staff for tasks like social media management, ensuring I can continue expanding my scope without sacrificing efficiency.

What business books have inspired you?

The problem with books, especially self-help, is that owning or buying them gives a false sense of progress. Many people buy books, read a small portion, and then leave them unread, thinking they’re making progress when they’re not. Reading without action leads to an illusion of improvement. It’s like running on a wheel without going anywhere. Instead, I encourage people to be up and doing, solving real problems and making tangible progress in life. Sitting and reading can create fantasy problems without actual results. Productive reading, coupled with action, is crucial. If you’re going to read, make sure it’s for learning and implementing knowledge. I recommend Russell Brunson’s books like “DotCom Secrets,” “Expert Secrets,” and “Traffic Secrets” for practical insights into online business and brand building. These books provide actionable advice, emphasizing the importance of visibility and traffic for success. However, reading alone won’t suffice; it’s essential to apply the knowledge gained through action.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

When advising my younger self or anyone starting out, I’d emphasize the importance of building a brand first before diving into creating a product. It’s crucial to identify and connect with your audience—the person who believes in you and values your advice. Instead of developing a product in isolation, focusing on finding that initial supporter can guide the product development process. This approach helps avoid spending significant time on a product without a clear customer base, a mistake I personally experienced during a five-year period.

Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?

Reach out to me on Instagram.

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