*Well, I haven't really checked but you will find 36 long-form reviews on this page for a total of 26,000+ words. So, yeah. It's a loooong page.
My ounce of hesitation in doing STFO had to do with price. It was not necessarily a matter of, “Is it worth it?” Louis doesn’t promise money in the bank at the end of STFO, but somehow I was convinced I was going to be able to make this back twofold… threefold. It was an investment, and I’m okay with that. I invest in courses each year.
But I haven’t invested THIS much.
I was super excited at the start of it, which I still feel now. And I felt ready. I had my new notebook. Everything was ready for me to suck it all in and be involved.
But… week 1.
I realized this is not going to be your standard, “Here’s your course. Read this material.”
Step 1 is the mindset. You look inside. You put your foot on the brake and look inside. I think it was week 2 where I told Louis, “If this were a $100 course, I would have given up.”
Louis always says it’s simple but not easy. You’ve got to put in the work. You’ve got to want this… like really bad. I get all flustered when I say this. You have to be at a tipping point where you’ve done enough of the work on your own, and you’re ready to go all in.
There’s an agency that sought me out. I had started my journey with them a long time ago; however, thanks to the recent clarity from STFO, we were able to move this forward.
I had to explain what I do and how I do it. I’m much more comfortable talking about it… just not having an issue with saying, “This is how I work. This is how much it costs…” And upping the price from $120 to $150 per hour… It’s still low, but that’s huge for me.
If you’re on the fence and you’re like me where it’s been a while since you’ve spent that much on a course, I would say it’s so so so worth it. I can’t say today that I’ve gotten my money back from the course - it’s my last week of the course right now - but I’m really confident I will.
Since the beginning of STFO, I feel confident. I know what to do next. I feel good, and that might change, but that feeling of confidence… It might sound cliche, but that’s priceless.
I’m pretty sure this will be one of the best things you can do for your business and yourself.
Across the seven years of our business, we’ve done lots of thinking on what our business is. What category we put ourselves in.
We began as employee engagement and internal communications consultants. This changed to be just internal communications. Then we said we were training consultants…
None of these felt right or “us.”
Which I found bl**** frustrating!
As an introvert, I “think” constantly. When that thinking doesn’t work… well, you beat yourself up. That led in some small part to being diagnosed with depression in 2016. I just felt we… my business… I was fumbling around in the dark, looking for the proverbial light switch.
Then I came across Louis.
The right person at the right time with the right message. I hoped STFO would give us that clarity we were missing, that sense of direction – and it did! We now know who we are, who are clients are and what we’re about. Which is brilliant!
My only hesitation with STFO was the cost. We spent a couple thousand pounds last year on a brand consultant – the outcome of which was the training consultancy idea. This was one part of the puzzle but not the whole thing.
Being blunt, STFO is very (very) good value! Quite frankly, it’s under-priced (sorry if Louis hikes it now!) It cost us £1,400 ($1,900) but it could be more like £4,000 to £5,000 ($5,400 to $6,700) – and still be worth every penny (dime).
STFO gave me many things. A methodology. New friends. And a sense of inner calm, as I now know what we need to do. It has allowed us to begin the journey towards a really focussed, purposeful business doing great work for our “ideal clients.” We now know what to do as well as what not to do – that’s just as important!
Back to that sense of calm. It is a big thing. I no longer worry about our bank account. That’ll take care of itself. I no longer worry about new business. That’ll take care of itself. And I no longer worry as I once did. Things will take care of themselves, if we apply what we learned on STFO.
And my depression? It hardly ever comes out to play now. I think STFO helped with that. In fact, I’m pretty sure it did.
Sadly, that was postponed until further notice – but that’s okay!
It is a conversation we never would have had previously with someone we’ve known for years. Yet, this is the first time they’ve asked for help. Why? STFO. Specifically, STFO insights applied on social media.
That one aside, we have won other work thanks to STFO. And we’re having numerous other conversations about other pieces of work, again all thanks to us applying what we learned. STFO was worth the financial investment. 100%.
When you have just two people in a business, it’s a constant struggle about who’s got the “right” answer. Now we have a single unifying template, which gives us the confidence to know what we should be doing (and what we should stop doing!)
One example. My partner generated a new business lead but because of STFO, I felt it wasn’t our ideal client. We had a friendly falling out about it and in the end, the client didn’t come through… and that was okay. Why? Because our template had shown us that was the right outcome. They failed the test – we failed to heed the warning signs. All part of the learning!
Louis challenges you, but you know he always has your best interests at heart. He has a depth of knowledge that he just falls back on time and again, which is disarmingly impressive.
But on top of that, he makes it personal.
For example, he told me to use my sense of humor as a “superpower,” whereas I’d tried to constrain it in the past. And to promote my beard, as that makes me memorable! Like I say, very personal. Which I loved.
Marketing is a challenge for any organization. Marketing has its own set of rules in terms of things that work well and things that don’t work well. Because it’s an area we don’t have a strong skillset in… we are a healthcare engineering firm... it’s an area you can spend a lot of money and get absolutely nowhere. I’ve seen that happen again and again and again. There are so many other options out there to spend money and get absolutely nothing.
What really resonated with me was that this is not an opportunity yet again to learn from another professional, but it was more like a workshop. The whole workshop element… the structured approach to things... like, “Here’s where you start and here’s where you end up…” A lot of other marketing products and services are sort of all over the place, so I liked the fact that there was a plan and that we were actually going to produce something.
Our technology applies to many different areas of healthcare - we have a target-rich environment. Initially, I picked a specific market and product because I thought it would be straightforward, but that turned out not to be the case. We were doing all these interviews, and after each of those interviews, I was just so deflated - we weren’t hitting a strong demand. I was like, “Oh, I really am not very excited about this.”
I wanted to stick with it longer, but Louis told me I was operating in a market that’s overcrowded and hard to differentiate.
Without Louis’ advice, I would be spending lots of money, time, and energy trying to reach the right people in 200 accounts, probably only to find that they've already picked a vendor and they think that my offer is low value. We would have marched on and blown a bunch of money for probably six months or longer.
I’ve read everything you can imagine: marketing books, stuff on the web groups… you name it. I was looking for a plan to understand what works in marketing and how to do it. And so that’s what I hoped to get out of STFO, and that’s what I did get.
I had to work through the process and ultimately ended up with a mastermind group concept. I’ve been able to test out my market, and I now have a structured path for reaching and engaging them in a significant way.
And I see this not as a one-time thing but as a perpetual task. Sometimes you run into problems, and you’re not super confident about what you know about the market, and I’ve gone back into the videos to refresh my memory and reassure myself that I’m on the right path. And now, I wouldn’t say that I’m a master of marketing by any means, but I’m vastly better now than I was before.
There are plenty of other opportunities and people who will take your money that will focus on one super small area of marketing, and you're not going to be where you need to be. Marketing is so broad, and to get to the point of decision and action… I think that STFO is the only way to do that. I think STFO is unique in that regard.
My new marketing segment is a thousand times better.
I probably saved six months of time and tens of thousands of dollars.
STFO is an absolute no-brainer.
When I first heard Louis in podcasts or whatever, he came off as somebody using this shtick to market himself. I really thought he was the typical marketer using this “no bullshit” thing to try to get somewhere, so I was really turned off by it.
I wasn’t sure if STFO was just going to be a money-making scheme. I guess as a marketer myself, I’m a little bit more sensitive to that. I deal with people trying to scam people all the time, and I have to tell them not to scam people. And then when you feel like someone’s really kind of just sending you the classic marketing emails and this and that, you feel a little bit like, “Am I going to get pulled into this?”
It’s quite funny because he irked me the wrong way for a very, very long time. Email after email, it really started just feeling like I was being marketed to.
But there were a few instances where he requested a reply, and I would answer, and you’d realize he was actually reading them because he’d give me some smart ass answer back. And I think the reason I signed up is because I’m like, okay, there’s a real person behind it.
I’ve always had an issue with his delivery, which I think is why I’m really happy I did STFO because he’s just not that guy.
When I got to know him through STFO, I started appreciating him a lot more because he was just being a lot more of who he is as a normal person.
I want to feel like someone genuinely cares, and that’s Louis.
He definitely reads the person very well. He’s very individualistic in his teaching style. He’s very aware. That’s his specialty: when he gets into the group calls and he can go from joking with one person to really pushing another person to being very aware of some sensitivities with another person. He knows when to praise and when to push. It’s unique and a really really great quality to have.
…but I was definitely at a point where I was missing the joy of work, and not because of the work I was doing but because it was who I was working with and because of the lack of purpose and lack of direction.
The main thing I took away is to believe in myself more, and now I have completely refocused and repositioned my agency.
I’ve gotten a few more clients since. I don’t know if that’s directly because of STFO, but I was definitely a lot more clear about what I do and what I don’t do. I’m having conversations with people about my website design, the content, and everyone I talked to is really genuinely excited about it.
I’m seeing my little niche that I’ve carved out for myself where I get to be the only one, which is exciting because it reflects me as a person, which gives me a huge sense of purpose and a sense of joy.
It’s good to be excited to sit down at your computer and do the work you need to do. I think that’s the most rewarding takeaway is that excitement. I’m just enjoying it again and pushing forward.
I actually ended working with a huge client of mine at the very end of STFO, and I think if it would have been at the beginning I would have been devastated to lose them. They were the biggest client for our agency.
Instead, I was like, this is actually the best thing that could’ve happened to me because I just really didn’t want to be working with them anymore. They would just drain me. There was so much bad energy. They’ve gotten so big over time that they thought they could dictate everything you do.
I think it took STFO for me to understand that this is not who I’m actually looking to work with. I’m not looking to work with someone who’s trying to find ways around that are unethical and disrespectful to the user.
That’s not who I am.
That’s freed up some time to focus on what I want to do. It’s allowed me to be truer to myself and for the agency to not just be another generic marketing agency. I get to be exactly who I want to be and focus on what I want to.
I think STFO is mandatory learning for most people. If I had to do it over, I would do it all over again. It kicked ass. And now I have a whole year of kicking ass to go.
I couldn’t see it from the lens of my buyer. I wanted to figure this buyer research thing out because I had been percolating over it for two years. I had an obsession with this idea that comes back and attacks me every now and then.
I tried to launch this product and shared it with a whole bunch of different people. I had a bunch of conversations with people who I thought should buy this, but no one understood it.
I just had some spreadsheets with process ideas and questions to myself. And I had a failed landing page that didn’t generate the business that I was looking to generate.
...before I’d even finished STFO.
I now have insights into a little area that could be mine.
The whole process of coming through and bringing this thing to life was so exciting for me because it’s something I’ve been so excited about bringing to life, and I just couldn’t figure out how to do it before.
I have a better understanding of what exists in the market and what the unmet needs are. I have insights into a little area that could be mine very profitably and in a very differentiated way.
I do a lot of stuff all at the same time. For example, I’m taking Spanish lessons at six in the morning a few times a week. I’m doing a lot of work right now.
I took on this new buyer research, like a test pilot project, which is taking me three times the time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t take opportunities that are really good when they come. I think STFO was just like one of those opportunities, whereas it felt right.
The last person who did that is a really smart researcher with 20 years of experience working at Gartner. Radical differentiation is a concept that everyone needs to get their head around. Everyone needs to get this. It is the most important thing marketers should be thinking about.
They’re thinking about their competitors, and they’re thinking that’s how they differentiate, but real differentiation, which I love, is really about understanding your customers and figuring out what they’re tired of and what they’re sick of.
You don’t get the insight from the competitors. You get the insight from your customers. And so that kernel of it is what I think a lot of marketers are missing.
I know that’s such a mean thing to say, but I’m just being fully honest. There are so many people who are just trying to build their careers versus actually serve customers.
I love the people that I met through STFO. I think they’re super cool. Even though we weren’t all selling to the same types of customers, there was very genuine respect for humanity and care for the people that they’re serving in a very authentic way that just really spoke to me.
I really appreciated the thoughts and reflections I got from some of the other participants as well (not just you, Louis).
I also liked the way Louis shaped those conversations. They were empathetic, but they were also, “Cut the crap. You can figure this out.”
I needed to clarify how to position our agency services in conjunction with the podcast and the newsletter, and everything else that was going on.
There are a lot of these storytelling courses where they all say, “You need to find the unique positioning, and you need to tell a story about your brand.”
And that was my biggest objection.
I didn’t want STFO to be another one of those courses that you just buy.
I read all those books, like Blue Ocean Strategy and all that, but it never clicked for me. It made me feel tired and lose motivation a little bit.
It might seem like a luxury problem, but it isn’t really. It’s just tiresome to constantly every single time to send out a newsletter or record a podcast and ask yourself, “What is it that you’re trying to do?”
It was frustrating because we would garner interest from the wrong people.
I was at about 100 email subscribers, but it was 100 from everywhere… freelancers, and everything.
Now I know who I’m serving: B2B SaaS marketing leaders in Europe.
So, if I do a podcast episode, it’s about “Which guest would these B2B SaaS marketing leaders want to hear from?” Or if I write a newsletter, “What kind of mindset transformations do I want these specific people to experience?”
And then the same for our sales conversations. I just didn’t have that before. I have a story that connects with people and that I now use in sales calls.
I had a sales call with a lead last week, and I could just immediately connect with her because I know how it feels to be a new marketing leader.
I think we got the contract because of it.
And since I made the change, I get email replies like, “I like your newsletter better and better.” Now, I’m at around 500 subscribers or something like that, and I feel like people see it’s for them.
...to learn a step-by-step repeatable process of narrowing down my target audience and crafting a unique positioning for my segment or niche that I can actually own.
It just makes me feel very relieved because I don’t have to think about how I’m going to do this every single time for the rest of my life.
STFO is timeless. It’s not something that’s going to go away like some hack or something like that.
It ultimately gave me the clarity that I needed.
I was kind of languishing in my job. I was frustrated with politics and not being able to get things through or get budget for things. After finding Louis online through The Marketing Meetup, I just found my passion for marketing again.
That led me to invest in myself, and I got a life coach for the first time who helped me figure out what I really wanted to get out of my life, which was kind of amazing. So that led to getting a much bigger and more exciting job.
That’s when STFO came through, and I was like, “Oh, that’s good timing on that.” I really wanted to do it, but Louis kind of said, “Listen, if you’re transitioning between jobs, it’s not really great timing.”
It was quite hard doing the old job and new job and following STFO at the same time, but it was worth it.
Often, you don’t think you have the time to do these things, but because it was a cohort, and because things were due every week, and because I was meeting up with everybody, I was doing the work and doing the thinking.
I did a lot of thinking in the car, piecing things together about what our strategy should be, and then I’d be like, what the fuck? That’s fucking it. Okay. I joined the dots.
I don’t know if I really know about marketing. I’d been in my old job for five years, and then moving into a brand new role, bigger job, more responsibility, starting everything from scratch, there was a sort of hesitation on my side.
The initial week of STFO, we went out and asked what everybody thinks of us, and it was something so simple and yet has been so helpful. I use it with my team to say, you have to remember all the things that are great about you because that’s what kind of keeps you going, keeps you driving forward and doing all the things that are uniquely you.
I’m fortunate to be in a company where they already assumed that I knew more than them about marketing. That’s rare. You don’t often get a board of directors who accepts that the marketing director knows the most about marketing.
So, they were all ready to say that, but I didn’t necessarily feel that I deserved it.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I know that Louis knows his stuff. And so when he kind of says things to me like, “You know your stuff,” I’m like, okay, maybe I actually do know my stuff.
It just helps me get up in the morning and be the one who’s standing up and saying this is what we’re doing; we’re not compromising.
I find members of the team sometimes saying, “Well, this isn’t really our target market, but I’d quite like to do X or Y.” And it’s kind of like, yeah, but if it’s not our target market, why are we putting our focus on that?
I can’t imagine having done it the last three months without STFO. The process helped me to go, actually yeah I do deserve this job.
STFO has been fundamental for me. It’s been very big, very big, huge, massive. I don’t lie when I say this is life changing. The combination of strategy and having the confidence to go deliver it… for me it has been transformational.
We’re going to spend between one and two million pounds based on the research I came up with during STFO, and one of my lovely colleagues said, “This is proper marketing,” which was really nice, you know?
Generally, everyone just expects you to get on with promoting it. They don’t go back to first principles because that’s boring stuff that everyone’s done before, or not! And that’s really the point. Everyone’s interested in what the bloody competitors are doing. Instead of being interested in our customers! It’s really been enlightening.
We’re going all-in with B2C, but based on the research I did, we’re also going to go into a B2B market. It’s completely unique in the marketplace, and if it works, Louis can flippin’ well shout from the rooftops forever and a day about the fact that he will have helped create a multi-multi-million pound niche.
I’m sad that STFO had to come to an end. It went very quickly. I could happily stay with the cohort every two weeks. Some of them are just really impressive individuals and lovely. It’s a safe place to be you.
And Louis is just a great human. Super smart. He’s somebody you would want in your corner when you’re trying to figure things out. The intelligence and his ability to apply it. He kind of astounds me.
If you ask him something, he’s there. He’s impressive and humble at the same time.
How could you not be incredibly grateful to be part of something like that?
There was someone in our group who had a bad couple of days, and we got on the group call, and it hit her in that particular moment. She was upset on the call, and Louis was super quick to keep her on the call afterwards and look after her. He’s such a nice guy.
He said a couple of very nice things to me that meant a lot. He told me things I’ll remember for a very long time. He said that he wished he’d had a boss like me when he first started in marketing. Being a good boss is something that’s very important to me, and it made me feel proud.
I think anybody who’s considering STFO should just do it.
I thought STFO would be outside my comfort zone. If something is outside my comfort zone just to be outside, I probably won’t pursue it. I don’t mind being outside my comfort zone if it’s got a purpose, and I realized we had cast too wide a net. We needed to trim our message to a very focused, fine tip point.
Once I put my mind to something, I’m going to finish it. The last few weeks before STFO were rough because of all the stuff going on with travel customers and what have you… It was something that weighed on me… I was like, “I gotta get this done and find a spot on my schedule for it.”
Once I made that decision to step into that and say that STFO is going to be really useful for me, there was no looking back. It didn't really matter.
Honestly, I don’t care what your schedule is. You can go into it and commit because you can do anything for eight weeks. Believe me, you can put your schedule against mine, and I guarantee you, I got more shit on my schedule than you've got on yours with the travel customers and all the rest of it.
And it's incredible how much you come away with. It’s useful whether you're a marketer or not. I’m a systems engineer.
I’m humbled by the fact that I hadn't given marketing nearly the respect it was due. We, engineers, tend to do that. I always saw marketing as that crappy late-night, bigger, better, newer, faster, whatever.
So, I was kinda shocked to hear Louis say, “You can’t do everything. Don’t say everything. Don’t be everything. Don’t attack everything.” I mean, it makes so much sense, but sometimes it's one of those things where you know it in the back of your head, but you can’t put the finger on it. The essence of business is knowing what you’re not going to do. We’ve talked about that for 40 years, and I was able to put it into practice from an engineering perspective, but I wasn’t able to translate that into the marketing side.
To actually sit and say, “This is how you put it into practice from a marketing perspective. What am I going to focus on? What's the most important thing? What is the user group that I'm targeting?” And to build your message to that… that was my biggest aha.
Before STFO, we would send our units after the sale, and only then the technician would be able to pilot.
There is the decision-maker, and there’s the technician: the person who tells the decision-maker what the decision should be. It’s the decision-maker who will find us, but the technician is the part we’ve been missing. How do we loop in the technician before the sale? Once the technician makes their decision, the decision-maker can make a decision. So, now, if we allow the technician to test drive it before the sale, all of a sudden, we can close that loop and close the deal, and that’s what we’ve been missing. That’s my insight from STFO.
Now they can put a test drive on their credit card for $25/day, a minimum of five days, and now they’ve had contact with it. Before, the decision-maker didn’t understand what it is they can do with it. It’s like saying, “That’s a cool new technology. I don’t know how to use it.” Now the technician can test drive it, and they can start to see what they can do with it. It allows them to get into the product and the possibilities. And that’s a massive step for us because it will enable us to close the loop with the technician and the decision-maker.
We’re planning to deploy within the next two weeks, so I will start collecting stats. I think there’s a good possibility that we’ll turn leads into test drives.
When I used the wayback machine to see what my site looked like back in 2012, I realized I’ve completely gone into the fear of exposing my business to people. Back in 2012, I was living in my old house with my mother, and I didn’t have any clients, so I could take risks. Nine years later, I have clients, and so I’ve been afraid to take risks.
But at the end of the day, I was at risk if I didn’t take any risks in my business. My house was at risk, my wife, my life.
My company didn’t differentiate from the others.
We also had some big clients that were a pain in the ass.
Before STFO, we tried a lot of things. We were missing something. We wanted more clients of a certain type, and we needed to stand out to reach them, but it wasn’t working.
I didn’t know if STFO was for me. I didn’t know if I would learn a lot or nothing. It’s typical to take courses that don’t tell you that much or that you finish and you get the feeling that the person didn’t give you even half of their knowledge.
Even if Louis shared all his knowledge, I wasn’t sure if it would really be that powerful.
I even wrote in the application that I wasn’t sure if it was a marketing trick or if he would really select people to enter the course.
So, my big doubt was, “Is this guy really real?”
I was 60% sure STFO would be awesome, and the 40% of me was telling me I was going to get another course that doesn’t tell me the right things.
When I finally made the decision, I committed to STFO and to Louis. When I commit to something, I really commit. If you gave me a million dollars to put on a parachute and to jump out of a plane, I wouldn’t do it, but if in week three Louis told me to jump out of a plane and parachute down, I would have done it.
The client interviews were like that. It pushed my limits a lot. I didn’t want to expose my business and talk with our clients. I felt exposed.
I feel so grateful for STFO and for Louis’ ability to make me move my ass so I could do what I needed to do.
I decided to take STFO because it’s not that easy to stand out. I knew all the pieces of knowledge I needed, but I didn’t have a clear method to make it work together, and that’s so valuable, because if you don’t have that in mind, if the path isn’t clear to you, there’s no fucking way to get to the end.
Louis is illuminating. He didn’t show me the answer. He illuminated the path for me to get to the answer. Learning the path is so much more powerful than getting the answer. Anyone can give you the answer. But if you go through the path, you’ll have learned the way to do it, and you can replicate that in anything even beyond marketing.
I’ve put in practice a lot of the things I learned, and these are things I’m going to be doing six months, two years, five years from now. Even if in two years I don’t have a company, or maybe if I own my own bakery, I can apply what I learned in STFO. It made me learn the way to stand out.
I used to be completely lost in my business, but now I’m super confident. STFO gave me the confidence to push my limits.
The change that’s occurring in me is going to last a long time because it changed my way of thinking about marketing, about our company, about competitors, about the market itself. The clarity seems like a small thing, but it’s huge because it has a lot of impact even in my daily actions.
I’m so happy I did it. STFO helped me leave my fears behind and to take the risks I needed.
After taking the Mark Ritson Mini MBA course the previous year, I felt much more confident in my marketing knowledge and approach.
Because I was leading the marketing strategy at Content Stadium, I was considering doing another course to continue to improve my skills and approach.
I knew STFO would be a lot of work, and, at first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit the time. While some people might be able to put some of their work on hold for STFO, I very much did it outside of working hours. So I was working full-time with STFO on top, so that left little time for taking time off.
I was also concerned STFO was only for smaller businesses or one-or-two-people businesses.
And then I read a couple of the testimonials.
I skipped to the testimonials from marketers rather than reading those from people who have their own business. And then I got FOMO — thinking about the learnings I could miss out on — and I signed up.
The best thing I got out of STFO was finishing a presentation with all my notes and all the research I completed on my target audience throughout the course. It’s a project I wanted to do anyway as part of my work, and I would not have completed it that quickly without STFO.
It’s data and information that I can make use of right away in my day to day, and I used it as the foundation to a large part of my current marketing strategy.
I also shared my presentation with the rest of the team to help them better understand our audience.
With other courses, it can be a lot of theory and exams, but it’s not often a real use case from your company.
Whereas all the hours I invested in STFO went towards something I can use right now.
During our weekly calls, you discuss your progress and ask any questions. Of course, it’s not something Louis has been able to think about before or has planned to answer in advance, yet when it was my 10 minutes to talk, he was always very quick at giving suggestions or asking the right questions back at me.
That was impressive to me.
I also really liked how he gets to the point quickly. He doesn’t go on and on around the topic.
He was also very responsive in the community where you could post comments and questions at any time. He always responded, always bringing clarity.
STFO helped me build an actionable framework that I can reuse over and over again for different marketing segments — to better understand my audience, ask the right questions during research, and develop a strong proposition.
Some ideas were definitely already familiar to me, but did learn several new tricks to add to this framework.
One of those things was the triggers. I’ve never really thought about my audience’s triggers before, and it’s had an impact on how I select my marketing tactics. Now I try to be in those places where my audience experiences their triggers.
I realize my review won’t be as shiny as other people’s. I didn’t start from scratch with this course, as I’d already built some foundations with previous courses and experiences, so the step-up wasn’t as big as it could have been otherwise. But it was useful, and I have something to show for it.
I’m building my company. Sometimes it feels I have so many other things to do, and I have to take care of my clients and try to look for more clients, so it’s a bit counterintuitive that I should put my time into something else.
But I think it’s vital to differentiate yourself so that you give yourself leverage to be more effective… like, you need to put time into the thing that’s going to make things easier later on. You must make time for that.
And so I decided I will make time for STFO, and it doesn’t matter if it takes too much time because it will save me so much time later on.
I was a bit overwhelmed by all the things I was supposed to be doing in marketing. There are so many possibilities, so many different channels, so many different parts of the message. When you're an entrepreneur, the thing is that everything is possible. Because everything is possible, sometimes nothing gets done.
I also had a vague understanding of who I was speaking to and why they were attracted to my offer. I was overwhelmed and fuzzy about my marketing and how I should go about building a customer base.
Now there’s a very clear method to my marketing. I feel guided. I feel that I’m going somewhere, and it’s going to be good. So, that’s a very good feeling.
I have clear, actionable things to do. I’ve had discussions with my clients, which have really helped me understand who they are and what makes us click, and that’s been awesome.
...So much more clarity, much more confidence. It’s more fun.
The group is very engaged. They all want to get results from the program. They’re very friendly. There’s a good atmosphere. The nice thing is that it’s very low prestige, which is amazing given the kind of achievements these people do.
They’re eager to help. After you’re done exposing your situation, everybody is coming up with ideas. There’s a lot of comments, a lot of ideas, a lot of suggestions. They could just think, “Okay, I'm just in this for myself, and I couldn't care less about these other losers in the group.” But that's not the way they are at all. It’s very supportive. And also there’s often a good laugh in the group.
Louis makes sure that everybody has airtime in the meetings. He makes sure everybody gets what they need in order to progress and that nobody gets stuck. He pays attention. He reads whatever people post in the details. He looks at the assignments in detail. He’s very engaged in our success, and he really cares about the results that we get.
I think if you want to start a company, STFO is the first thing you should do. You shouldn’t waste any time thinking about what your company name is going to be or all of that bullshit. The first thing you should do is take STFO and understand all these basics, and once you have them down, you can start to build. This is the first step in entrepreneurship or in making a product or service that works. It’s the essentials.
Anyone who is building a business, anybody trying to turn around their business or level up their business, I think taking STFO would be the obvious thing that I would recommend them to do.
The main obstacle to joining STFO was cost, but the only thing I would have thought harder about was the time. To be clear, this isn’t, “Join a couple of Zoom calls and fuck around and stuff.” You’re going to come in here, and you’re going to work, and it’s not going to be pleasant, but you’re going to come out a changed person.
Think of the most polarizing food you can. You either like it, or you don’t. And so STFO is either for you because this is the way we are, and this is the way we think. Or if it’s not for you… fine... that’s okay. And I think what really appealed to me about STFO is that it took a stand.
At the start, I felt confident, almost arrogant, but I didn’t feel confident in telling people there is a point of view, take it or leave it. I was paralyzed by my own inactivity, being worried I would miss out on a market.
Louis was very clear that even if I go niche, let’s say… adults, Shopify stores in Ireland… There’s more than enough for one person. And that’s the realization that gives you confidence.
I was able to choose a target market with the confidence to go deep into a target market and actually understand who and what, and act. It’s always difficult to pick a niche, and the lesson about choosing a minimum viable market was the one that was really, really powerful.
And it was powerful because I had confidence in that decision which came from the very first exercise.
Once you get radical differentiation, it makes everything else very clear and easy.
I’ve had a lot of ideas going. My app did a lot of fucking things. It was impossible to make. It was impossible to get clients.
Now I’ve got one app that’s going to do one thing, and it’s very tangible… It stops bad reviews. It doesn’t make coffee or connect to the royalty system or do the payment process, whatever.
And that comes from radical differentiation.
Now I’ve got four stores on the books and am profitable from day 1… $99/month.
A lot of courses just ram it down your throat like, “Fucking deal with it as you will.” Right? This isn’t that. It’s, “Here’s context. Here’s an outcome. Work your way to it.”
And so the education is actually much more valuable because you’re discovering it yourself. And you get to the end, which is the end that Louis has designed. It’s kind of a maze that Louis created and gave me the tools to go through it, which is infinitely more valuable than somebody who just gave me a map.
Some people don’t come across in a genuine way… as in, “I’m actually here to help you be better.” Other people… that’s where they get it wrong, and they come across as arrogant.
That’s where Louis gets it right. His style is very good. The way he asks questions… the way he holds people accountable… It’s direct. I appreciate it. What he gets right is asking me a direct question that helps me break through barriers I don’t even know I have backed by his experience... It gives me confidence that I’m going down the right route.
As a teacher, he’s very hands-on, but he’s not going to give it to you. You have to earn your way through STFO.
Be prepared to work very hard, but you put in this much: |...| and you get out this much |................................................................|.
The reason you need to take this is that it doesn’t just shape your marketing. It doesn’t just shape a business outcome. It actually shapes who you are because you start to see patterns in things and in people, and you get to be really clear on what they’re actually trying to achieve. And that is a skill you can use anywhere.
This is not another course that you can sign off with your company and just go through and attend a couple of days and then put it on your CV. This is something that is literally going to change the way you think.
I think it’s fucking amazing.
I’d recommend STFO to people who are mature enough to realize they could be wrong and they need to grow up. If you’re set in your ways or aren’t open to change, it’s just going to be another cost.
You have to realize that what you learned 10 years ago could be wrong today. What you learned at business school about brand plan and business plans and all that bullshit… the brand hierarchy and all that… it doesn’t apply anymore. If you’re still stuck there, it’s not going to get you there.
But if you realize you can’t carry on at this level and that there’s all this competition… the only way you’re going to step up is by doing something different. So that’s who I’d recommend STFO to.
Everyone is screaming out on the roofs, saying, “This technique is the best, and it’s the new thing you should do!” And then this person’s saying the exact opposite. And it’s just so noisy. No one is talking about the fundamentals, right?
Forget about the internet. Forget about anything. What is evergreen?
And I felt that STFO was going to be that evergreen thing that was completely different from all the shiny things.
Before STFO, we didn’t know exactly who was within our segment. It was so wide and so open.
We didn’t know who to target online, and that was always in the back of my mind, “Maybe it’s okay to cast a wide net and attract as many people as we can?”
It really felt like we didn’t know where to go or what communities to activate. We just hadn’t done our homework.
Now that I’ve taken the program, I realized that we probably would have lost years and years of business just because we would have been so general, so vanilla, that no one would have really believed in such a small company.
STFO really saved us potentially months or years of not being well-positioned.
To see the effects of all the work from the previous weeks finally emerging together into that unified differentiation that we can activate and use as part of our strategy was amazing.
Now it’s making sense for my own business, and I see how to do this now. And this is freaking cool.
Now, whatever we do is based on rock-solid foundations and a very specific segment.
We know exactly who to activate, actually. We know that we have to go for this blog, this blog, and this blog, this forum, and so on. It helped tremendously, too, to know how to focus our efforts as founders.
That’s super interesting because there were several feedback loops. First, there was a feedback loop within the private forum. Then there was a feedback loop during the weekly calls. Louis created this group dynamic in a genuine way, which helped people really put it to practice, get that feedback, iterate, and close the loop.
...wondering if you will gain at the end of this program; the answer is absolutely yes. So, just do it. Just trust that there will be a massive gap between where you are now and where you will be after. There will be a lot of work involved, but just freaking take STFO and see the results for yourself.
Louis cares as a mentor. I know that he’s not there just to make a quick buck. It’s great knowing that he really truly cares.
I’ve been running my business for a long time, but I hadn’t really put myself out there as a brand. That was something I realized I needed to do. I needed to put myself out there front and center.
That was something I had been terrified to do, but as my business has grown, my confidence has grown, and I felt more ready to put myself out there.
But then I think also the perfectionist in me was like, “Okay, I need to do this the right way.” I needed to plan it well, to figure out my messaging and how I’m going to stand out.
Louis sent an email prior to STFO saying he was on Zoom at the moment. He said to hop on if I or anyone else had hesitations.
I told him I was concerned about the level of content. There are a lot of programs out there for beginners, and I’ve been in marketing for 10 years, so I didn’t want to spend this money and then have it be like, super basic beginner stuff. Louis told me that it wasn’t so.
Otherwise, it was a no-brainer. I knew of Louis before and had seen his content, so there was that trust factor. It was eight weeks for less than two grand. And it was just really good timing. Having a structure to go through it and also the accountability to talk to customers and that kind of thing… I was really drawn to that.
Before, I felt like I had a vague group of people to target. I was interested in targeting marketers that care about the impact they’re having, but I didn’t feel like I had the clarity to really focus on that group. I was kind of just speaking to everyone.
But because of the customer interviews I did during STFO, I’m more certain of niching in that audience. I got clearer on the language the audience uses and everything. I know what my audience might be thinking in terms of what their hesitations might be, their objections, how they perceive advertising. It feels a lot more certain and more possible to go after that audience.
Louis is really warm, and he really encourages people to open up and be themselves. He really kinda embraced the uniqueness of everyone in the group. And like he says himself, it’s no bullshit; he’s just willing to give really honest, open feedback.
STFO was really amazing. It provided so much value for the price. I feel like Louis needs to increase it. It should really cost $7,000 or $8,000.
I’m really glad I did it, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to build their brand and put themselves out there in a unique way.
You’re going to make great relationships through it, and it will help you clarify your messaging and give you the accountability to talk to your audience.
If you’re just getting started in business, it could save years of trial and error in your messaging.
The first time Louis and I talked, I think it was in April, and I had this view that by summer I would have two weeks all to myself without my husband and my kid. I was thinking, “During those two weeks, I’m going to, you know, work.”
I didn’t do shit. I didn’t open my computer for two weeks. I think I needed the time off, quite frankly.
And then when came the end of August, I was setting everything back in motion professionally, and with back to school and everything, I was thinking, “Oh my god, I don’t have my lineup. I don’t have my pipe. I don’t have a thread of positioning. I have nothing.”
And basically, if you don't pay somebody to teach you or to at least coerce you into doing what you know how to do but you haven't done, you're not going to make it.
I told myself, “If you don’t do this, you’re going to procrastinate on your positioning a lot longer, and you need to be clearer about what you do for whom and what it is you bring.”
I knew I needed a kick in the butt, and paying was the only way to get myself to do it.
So, I submitted my application right away, and I was thrilled to be accepted.
I graduated high school at 16, and by 23 I had the equivalent of five master’s degrees. I know everything Louis knows, but I never packaged it the same way he does.
I have this saying that nobody can eat a sausage all at once. You need to cut it into pieces. And that’s what Louis did. It was very well done.
It was just frustrating that Louis is so fucking young.
You get discouraged at some point. You feel like you’re not gonna make it. It’s hard.
But Louis is like a personal trainer. I definitely needed to be shadowed and to put myself in a place where he could tell me, “Now’s the time you’re going to do this.”
He’s a great listener. He’s very sharp in reading between the lines. I really enjoyed him and learned from him.
At the end of the eight weeks, I didn't feel as panicked.
My market is clear, and I feel good about my positioning.
With Louis’ permission, I even have one of my clients using the framework as well.
What I found so wonderful was the connections I’ve made with other cohort members because I work alone and don’t have peers. I could interact with them and talk about my issues in a noncompeting manner.
We supported and challenged each other, bringing our own prism of how we saw things. That was obvious when we were all in the same call listening to each other’s journey and contributing.
It was very helpful to have the previous cohorts join us as well. Louis gave a shout-out to the entire community so we could connect on LinkedIn, and it felt like the community was more than just us.
Without STFO, I probably wouldn’t have done a lot of in-depth interviewing of customers. I would have just said, “Well, obviously, this is a need, so let’s just build it.” But during the interview process, customers did bring up quite a few issues. One of their pain points is that they don’t have room to store goods.
So, now we’re looking at drop shipping for gifting, and so that's opened up a whole new conversation about, “Do we need to offer this as a service?” And I would have never learned that without those interviews.
One of the things Louis taught is this kind of David and Goliath type of thing. I’m in the casino space, and many of these small casinos don’t get to work with companies like us typically because they’re too small. They don’t hit the minimum order quantities. They also don’t have access to education about becoming more successful in gifting and continuity programs. Casinos don’t typically talk to each other. It’s very competitive. You don’t have casino buddies. So, you have to learn from someone in the company that’s above you or by learning from the job, and so being able to offer that to people as a free service to use our platform, I think that’s going to be a game-changer.
So, if you're a small casino... You don't have the budget; you don't have the manpower to do these really cool, successfully branded continuity programs. So, we're going to automate that for you so that you can come in with a few clicks of a button, get the education, get the product, and get all the marketing materials to assist you to be successful. And we'll show you how to use those marketing materials. And so you don't have to be a Goliath. You can compete with the Goliath as a small casino and have really successful, beautiful continuity programs.
I’ve been listening to Louis’ podcast for probably three years. STFO slices all those things and puts them all together into a coherent plan of action in a program… I think that was super valuable.
Now, whenever I approach a new business idea or a new model, I’m going back to it, and my team is going through these steps to figure it out. So I feel like I’ve got a really good framework to follow.
I didn’t know what to do with my social media. I had a business goal to build myself a marketing presence. The minute I broke it down into the exact steps to start posting on LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram… I worked out how to do it, but then I suddenly got kind of a blank canvas. It was like, “What am I going to write about?” It’s all about the message, and I realized I didn’t know what my message was.
So, I thought I’m not going to jump straight in before I know what I’m trying to tell people. I need to figure that out. And then STFO just kind of presented itself at a time when I was feeling quite in need of help.
The only thing that made me hesitant was timing. I thought it might be too early to do STFO, but then I read the testimonials and the people on there saying they thought it was too early for them too, but it turned out to be the right thing to do.
I thought it was probably going to be the same for me. There’s never going to be a right time to do it, and I thought, “I’m only going to get busier, so if I put it off, I’m never going to do it,” so I just thought the right time was now.
My biggest takeaway is understanding what I’m selling from my client’s perspective. The contractually defined deliverable is typically a hundred page PDF full of drawings and dimensions, but through the interviews, I did during STFO, the one thing that became crystal clear is that, whatever the content may end up being, the most valuable thing a designer could do for a client or team is simply to align stakeholders.
I now realize that my main job is aligning stakeholders. It’s not all about just firing off drawings to a contractor as fast as possible. It’s making sure everybody who has a stake in the project gets on the same page and is happy with that direction.
And I didn’t realize that was something I was actually quite good at. It was the combination of feedback I got during STFO on the personal stuff and the industry survey feedback on what people need from the designer’s role that really blended together. The biggest boost that gave me was to realize that bringing people together is something I’m passionate about and feel confident about.
Previously, I would compare myself like, “Can I draw as well as that guy? Can I model as well as this guy? Can I speak about fabrics as well as that person?” And I would always feel a little bit intimidated thinking somebody can do any one thing better than me. But when I think about taking opposing views and trying to find a middle ground, I’ve been doing that since I was 12 years old, resolving arguments around my family dinner table. So I needed something like STFO to spell it out. It might have sat in the back of my head for another 10 years. I might have subconsciously understood it, but I don’t think I would have been able to derive as much power from it if it hadn’t been spelled out so clearly.
STFO is not for incremental growth. I think I recently read something about how you can focus only on linear growth or pursue exponential growth. You can kind of chip away at your business by streamlining your efficiencies and just making sure you’re not making mistakes, but Louis’ approach is aimed at people who want to make leaps and bounds rather than little steps.
I think the basis of what Louis does is in fundamentals which I was really pleased about because even though STFO is on radical differentiation, I was still able to get a really firm foundation in fundamental marketing principles, which is half the reason I did it.
I didn’t know if I’d have enough time to do the work, particularly as our event was going to be taking place during STFO, but I thought, “Do you know what? There’s never a good time, and I really want to do this.”
And then Louis sent an email saying he was available if anyone had thoughts and stuff, and I had a chat with him which was really cool. I got his take on how he’s thinking about STFO, and that kind of solidified it in my mind in terms of yeah, I definitely want to do it.
At the start, you’re not really sure how it’s going to work and what you’re going to do and how you’re going to fit it in.
The group was very mixed. I’m in the tech sector, and there wasn’t sort of anyone in that space. At first you think, okay, what’s that going to be like, because it’s quite diverse.
But I think that was the best thing about it because I got different perspectives on things. Even looking at others and what they were doing and offering them advice actually helped me to think about that from my perspective.
Software engineers are particularly cynical about marketing. They don’t like being sold to in an obvious way. They’re time poor, and they don’t like talking to people, and I, the marketer, needed to get them on a video call. But STFO gave me the accountability and the deadlines. It really focuses you to make sure you get it done.
I learned that I needed to understand customers, what their world looks like, what criteria they use to judge us, and what it is they’re trying to do in their jobs that they look to us for help with.
I learned a ton from those calls. I used all that insight very quickly to fine tune things. It just kind of pieced together like a jigsaw.
Maybe three years ago, I did The Marketing Seminar, and I had high hopes for that but was really disappointed. It just kind of left you on your own, and there was sort of a cohort element to it, but it was a completely different experience. It was more theoretical than practical, and I went through a bunch of things but didn’t really come away with anything of value.
With STFO, every single week I came away with value and changed so many different things along the way because of what I was learning.
Talking to customers and stuff wasn’t just an assignment. It wasn’t ticking a box. It was moving things forward each week, and that was great. It really helped. It kind of gave you just that little bit of extra confidence. It was practical because you learn something, but you work on it and do it and implement as you go.
We made tweaks that already increased ticket sales, and actually we were more profitable and broke revenue goals.
I was worried STFO would take too much time, but it definitely saved me time because it would probably still be on my to-do list now. It was a million times better than if I just did it on my own because I had the right frameworks to use and the practical advice around how to use them.
It definitely saved me time. I came out much stronger than I would have if I just did it on my own. I could have done it, but it would be nowhere near as good.
To get Louis’ feedback on things is worth a lot.
Louis invested so much of his own time and energy into helping everyone. He gives everyone feedback even still after STFO finished. He’s very authentic. There’s a definite passion from him to kind of help people and unlock potential within people.
The fact that he was so engaged was a joy. It takes a lot of effort from him to give everybody feedback and to give them enough time. He goes out of his way to help people, to connect with us on LinkedIn. Like, it was more than a cohort. He did a lot more than most trainers who do the course and a few things and that’s it. Louis kind of committed himself to the group.
He’s just incredible. He doesn’t talk about himself too much, but he deserves praise.
The pandemic was doing us in at Belmont. People were getting laid off. The company culture was starting to dissolve. Emotions were high.
We sell office services. No one was in an office... so we were really hit hard. And so we were launching a new product called Breakroom in a Box to try to pivot hard.
I felt burnout full force, man. I had been working relentlessly for a whole year at this point, and when STFO came out, I was like, “Oh, I want to do it.” And when telling my wife about it, I said, “I don’t even know if I have the time.”
I knew the mental commitment was eight weeks. So I asked myself, "Can I put myself fully into it?"
And I don’t know why it’s so damn hard to find authentic marketing help. It's so hard to find real marketing help beyond all the shitty, flashy, bullshit stuff.
As the CMO, I couldn’t do this again with a new product of just walking in the fog. I wanted a roadmap this time. I wanted structure, especially during a fast pivot. And that's something Louis always did with the podcast. He gave a step-by-step structure. And when it comes to launching a product, I wanted to see what a roadmap was like from him.
So, I made that mental commitment. I told myself, “I'll make time.”
I chose to do STFO on me… my personal credit card. I didn't really think about asking the company. I was like, “These are my skills. I'm taking them with me wherever I go.”
So, I was literally working on Breakroom in a Box throughout STFO.
We sent so many free boxes. I was actually able to get something like 200 responses on surveys, and I dropped them all into the Excel spreadsheet, broke them all down, and saw a screaming pattern. It turns out the name Breakroom in a Box is not accurate. That’s not what people used it for. Everyone was talking about the boxes more as a gift of appreciation.
We were roasting coffee in-house, and then people started to put in their own company swag. Of course, other companies do this, but we had that little angle of, “You get ethically sourced specialty coffee with your own brand on it.” And that came as an idea of appreciation which is one thing I can directly tie to STFO.
So with that angle, the sales team just went for it. And by December, we did $250K in sales.
A lot of people think there are shortcuts and hacks in marketing. STFO isn’t for people who spend their time searching for that one little secret that will make their life perfect. It’s for people who want to earn it, who see that things are built over time and with work.
It’s incredible to go through a crisis as we did, and STFO showed us what we’re capable of when we do the work.
COVID accelerated e-business. Everybody’s all of a sudden going online. We’ve always been online, but we never really did formal e-commerce because the majority of our business has been word of mouth, and it still is. But we had to realize what we were doing isn’t necessarily the most productive, and e-commerce was our next stage.
There are hundreds of online companies in Canada, the USA, and overseas who portray themselves as manufacturers when they’re basically just resellers; whereas we’ve always manufactured, and we work overseas as well.
So, part of that was, “Okay, how do we differentiate ourselves from these various online companies?”
The role of STFO was to give us a footing to help us stand out from other organizations that are portraying themselves to be like us.
And how do we do it in a genuine way where we’re not going to be pushy and where we’re going to be authentic so that people can really see who we are?
I wasn’t sure how professional the program was going to be. It could have been very amateur.
The name, STFO, created reservations in me because as a professional businessman, if I were to have that on my billings, that this program was something I did, that’s not something I would necessarily want to use as a credential. The name STFO is probably one of the biggest things that gave me pause.
I was excited to meet people outside my field of expertise. There were only two of us that were in product manufacturing, so that to me was a plus. It gave me a better understanding of the difficulties they face dealing with an intangible, knowledge-based type business.
I’ve been able to take some of that thinking now and apply it. For instance, how can we recognize employees? How do you create a recognition program that’s not an actual physical product? How do we bundle that? So, that was exciting.
Louis comes across genuinely. He would ask questions like, “Where are you at with everything? How’s everything?” And if someone’s unresponsive, then he’s digging. He posits some aspect of where you were having a problem that he knew about, and he would dig away at that to see if there was more there.
Those are all good, positive enforcing, educating type techniques. His mother is an educator; I think both his parents are, and some of that’s obviously rubbed off. So, he’s inquisitive, and that’s probably 50% of caring.
All of that helped me to dig down deeper than what I felt was really necessary. I had to really get outside of my comfort zone. You have to really think outside the box and come up with crazy ideas and work with those even though it may seem silly at the time, and STFO helped me do that.
That’s another reason I did STFO. It was so I could focus myself more. I had 400 identifiable markets to work from. A lot of them are fairly large. By doing this, it’s forced me to really channel into it and figure out where’s the best gold seam in this, which market is the most workable, which one can we utilize the equipment we have right now, which one gets us the fastest results?
I’m a perfectionist, and STFO emphasized that you’re not looking for the perfect market. It’s just to really get a minimum viable market, and then run with it; start iterating.
Now we’ve increased our target customers by 15%. So it seems to be validated, and if you’re 80% sure of success of your plan, you violently execute it. Based on my conservative thinking, I’m probably going to triple it.
I can get easily distracted by shiny things, and STFO helped me to really focus down on this one thing, and it gave me clarity and focus.
I got more than I expected. It was a win.
When you make any kind of investment financially… that causes pause. Not everyone has a month’s worth of rent lying around. That really put me on pause for a second.
I asked the agency to pay for STFO, and they were like, “We don’t really have the budget for that right now… maybe later.” And I was like, “This is going to happen in two days, and I have that much time to think about it.”
So, I sat around, and I was like, “What would happen if I didn’t do this?” Nothing would change. I wouldn’t grow. I mean, I could go out and spend money on some dumb shit, but I was like, “I’m just gonna invest in myself.” So, that’s what I did.
That’s a testament to Louis and how much value he’s putting out there because I thought it was worth it.
When I got into STFO, I was curious to see who was going to be there. I was like, “Are these people going to know a lot more than me? Am I going to look like a dumbass?”
It wasn’t like that at all. Instead, there was a lovely community that was really wanting to help each other.
I was also worried about like, “Am I going to know enough?” And it didn’t matter when you got there, really. It was just like, “Hey, we all have these goals that we’re trying to reach. Let’s get there.” I really loved all the different perspectives people brought. So, that was a great experience.
And Louis really cares. He didn’t come into this just to get somebody’s money. I’ve seen that before where it’s just a course someone sells, and then it’s onto the next one. Nope. Louis really wanted to see progress, and that was a breath of fresh air… It was kind of bad and kind of good… kind of bad for me anyway because now somebody will be pushing my buttons, but ultimately for my betterment. I mean, most people aren’t going to do anything unless you make them, so that’s really needed in a teacher, and Louis really cared to the point of wanting everyone to succeed, and he pushed us to make sure we actually reach our goals.
After STFO, I have a better handle on how to actually stand out. It was a paradigm shift for me.
You don’t want to manipulate people into doing things but to actually help them.
I posed a question straight-up in a meeting. I was like, “Hey, if we’re going to make a podcast, is that really going to provide value? Are we just sounding like everyone else?”
They have a lukewarm title and a lukewarm subject matter, and so I pulled up all the podcasts on Apple, and I’m like, “What are we going to do that’s different from any of these people that is actually going to help?”
So, they gave us full control of the marketing, so I’m going to be crafting everything through the STFO lenses and really try to make this stand out and change the product.
I only just started following Louis and listening to his podcast 2 weeks before STFO. I couldn't get enough, I hadn't had so many 'aha moments' in years.
When I saw his course, it spoke to me. Normally before doing a course I would compare it to different options and think about it for a long time. But I just knew it was going to be of huge value.
I had started my business just before the pandemic and immediately lost my first clients.
I tried lots of different things. I did pieces of work with a few different types of businesses: large businesses, small businesses, ones that already had an impact model, ones that were much further away from it. I had put up a few different kinds of service offerings to capture different people at different stages.
I was just thinking, how can I make my marketing better, more effective? I did loads of online research but it was all just so overwhelming. I tried lots of approaches, but it wasn’t quite jelling.
I didn’t have clarity about what I was doing and who I was serving. I had my main offer, but it wasn’t always the best fit.
As a one-person business, I really wanted structure and support. And so I was really interested in the cohort model, to have that kind of sense of accountability and structure, to interact and learn from a group of people as well.
I realized I had lost myself a little through setting up a business through the pandemic, through having a kid, and well, through lots of things. I had lost a bit of my sense of self.
I think that in a lot of ways, how I communicated was a watered-down version of myself. I was trying to please everyone. And I wasn’t very clear.
I think that trying to make the business work in a lot of ways was making me frustrated, and I stopped demonstrating parts of myself. I wasn’t being generous anymore.
I really kind of shocked myself thinking, “Oh my god. I’ve let this part of myself go. I haven’t had the extra capacity to be generous.”
Going through this process, it helped me see differently the unique things about me that aren’t like everybody else.
That’s been really affirming for me to discover that uniqueness and kind of play it up, being myself and expressing my opinions.
Being able to make comments in the community helped me build my confidence in expressing my views and opinions. Being part of those kinds of conversations in a place where that was encouraged was really good for me, and then I felt I could do the same thing outside of the safe community and reconnect with my beliefs that way.
During STFO, I did a couple of presentations and an interview. I was able to embrace being a little bit more “me,” a little bit more quirky, a bit more opinionated, and that has translated in terms of how people have received it.
I am now delivering the service I enjoy the most to new clients who I love working with.
I needed to focus on the people who really want to make the change, and I learned that I can’t change people. Knowing I’ve got to meet them where they’re at was really significant for me and gave me the confidence to really focus on my market and learn to understand them.
Now I’ve got a plan in place which has brought me a lot of clarity. I am no longer second-guessing my plans and what I offer.
I can't say that all the self-doubt has gone, but the quieting of all of that noise in my head has been significant in terms of what I’ve been able to achieve, the way I’ve been able to talk to people, and has led to getting more clients that are better aligned with what I do.
It’s really hard to describe Louis. It’s funny because sometimes you see this angry Frenchman persona. There’s definitely no bullshit about it, but he is kind and caring. He really wants the best for everybody and to help them see things from different perspectives and to challenge themselves. I think that’s really unique.
And I had a really positive experience with the group as well. Just great people, absolutely lovely. Everyone was doing very different things in countries all over the world, and it was really interesting to have their perspectives. We often exist in our own little echo chambers within our industries, and it was great to get out of that.
It’s a supportive community, and we continue to support each other even after STFO. It makes a huge difference when you’ve got people in your corner, particularly people who have gone through the process, so they understand what you’re doing and what you’re going through.
I’m just so grateful that I took part in STFO. I’m hugely grateful for Louis. STFO is so much more than about standing out. It’s about personal development as well.
It was hard to commit to STFO because I had quite a tight schedule… the craziest schedule. I had to take care of my daughters. I had to run errands.
But I think that’s good. If you commit, if you try hard, you will treasure it more. That’s how I knew I would get tons of value.
I didn’t want to drown in the sea of sameness of digital marketing. I didn’t want to do what everyone is doing. That’s not a good way to survive.
I needed to stand out. I wanted to be the better me, the real me, and STFO helped me discover more about me.
I don’t know how to describe Louis in English. He is pretty special in my mind, kind of sometimes crazy. I could send a photo of him from his website, and he will stand out just the way he looks in the picture.
The most valuable part of STFO was the coaching part. That stood out. It didn’t waste time. Every week, I got to hear something from Louis, and I got value from it.
My most valuable takeaway was the minimum viable market concept. It helped me understand who I am, my market, what value I can give to my market. And in the end, I finally had my Minimum Viable Market statement, and I could put it into a tagline so people know what I can offer them from the very beginning.
STFO inspired me to take action. So, for example, I’m going to take my weekly video and change the format. And I’m going to commit. I have to be accountable. I have to ship. I have to do the homework.
I learned from STFO that I could use interviews to turn leads into prospects into customers. So, not only am I conversation mining, but now we can talk with the prospect, get to know each other, and we can build a better relationship.
The most valuable thing about STFO is Louis’ advice, so don’t do STFO if you’re not coachable. Mindset is the most important thing. If you’re not open-minded to his coaching, then it’s going to be a waste of time and a waste of money.
I was nervous. Before STFO, I didn't really know how to speak about my company from a value and differentiation standpoint without feeling like I was totally full of shit.
There aren’t a ton of agencies like us in Los Angeles which kind of freaks us out, which is good, but we compete the most with an agency that’s much bigger than us, and they really fucked people over a lot. Each employee was given like 10 clients and no support from account reps or anything like that. And they just do like a churn and burn. By looking at that and looking at what we learned in the course, we really don’t want to be like that. It’s vital for us to stick out.
We need to have about 15, maybe 20 clients max. That’s going to be our sweet spot. That means getting bigger clients and letting go of smaller clients. I got to see that clearly during STFO and validate a bunch of that.
That was the biggest thing for me was forcing us to pick a direction. And looking back on STFO with the client interviews and looking at the value proposition and all of that was forcing us to put a stake in the ground rather than taking every piece of work that’s given to us and understanding that taking every piece of work is actually strapping us from success. So, we’ve put a stake in the ground, and we got on board 100% with being different and standing apart.
I can say we're a tactical agency. We're an implementation agency. I’m very clear about telling people that. And when they go, “Oh, we want you to do this…” We’re like, “No, that’s not us. Go find someone else. We just help you make money.”
We're very clear that we don't do PR. We have partners that do creative, but we’re really clear about saying that it’s not for us and that our partners will handle creativity for you—the same thing with video production and all of that. We’re very clear about that.
During STFO, we came up with a term: “We’re mechanics for your revenue engine.” It’s something that people really like, and that resonates with them. Louis was like, “That’s amazing. You should totally use that.” And I was like, “Really? I think it’s shit.” And everyone else was like, “Yeah, it’s good.” So, we started using it and found that people also like “Technical work for non-technical people,” That was the other one that we got while making the value proposition during STFO.
We also show the websites we’ve built, the ads that we run, case studies, and courses that we’ve created to really show people the real work we’ve done in the previous two years. Other agencies don’t do that. And although it sounds like bullshit, we’ve made this decision to really be “real.”
I would not recommend STFO to people that really give a shit about fitting in. I have a bunch of friends where a big part of their business is fitting in and doing what everyone else does, and they make a lot of money, and I try not to judge myself against them because I would lose every time they make millions of dollars a year. It’s precisely because I couldn’t fit in and do whatever I’m told that I could never be in that business.
STFO isn’t showing up to work on Louis’ “patented 15-step method that everyone is going to use exactly the same.” We’re here to learn about ourselves and shape ourselves into the best individuals. The only way to do that is to take the leap.
I started STFO thinking it was going to be another one of these guru type programs and I was going to either learn something and apply it or maybe just get some tools to work with. I didn’t really have a whole lot of expectations.
I just liked Louis, and the price was really low, especially for the VIP. I was like, “Well, shit.” You know? I couldn’t believe he was charging so low, especially the VIP. The VIP should be $10,000.
My company was called The Menopause Movement, and some people may not want to be associated with the word “menopause” because of the stigma. They don’t want to feel like an old lady. That made word of mouth difficult because of shame.
There’s also a lot of awareness that needs to happen with menopause. Women were saying they didn’t know they had it. They thought they were having a midlife crisis.
Those insights led me to think about what kind of business I really want. I started to think about what my life would look like without limits. What if my savings were 10 or 20 times what it is now?
I used to be super vanilla. I wasn’t willing to be the face of my business. I outsourced so much.
I was chasing housewives for $150 a month, but I’m not a housewife. I’m a retired general surgeon. I don’t wear dresses. I don’t wear makeup. I have a man’s haircut.
I’ve always been attracted to girls ever since I can remember. My best friend and I… we were going to grow up, and I was going to marry her. And then the societal norm started pushing on me, and I started to believe them.
And so for me, it’s been an evolution of being me. I’ve always been polarizing because I don’t have a big filter, but that’s actually good for a brand. So, it’s just a matter of deciding what I’m going to stand for and how I’m going to teach it to others.
STFO gave me so much clarity about what I bring and that the audience comes for me because I stand for something.
There was a point when Louis told me, “You’re Doctor Michelle fucking Gordon.” And everyone was shaking their heads up and down telling me I’ve got this big personality.
That’s who I am, and I’m going to have to proudly embrace it. At the end of the day, people want me, and they’re going to get me warts and all.
The lessons I’ve learned have made me a better person more than anything else. I mean, I used to repel people because I was so angry all the time. Now, I can freely give myself to people so they’ll want to come work with me.
I knew that I could trust Louis and that having access to him in whatever format was going to bring value to my business, full stop.
The only hesitation I had was the price and just understanding what I was going to get for it, so I just had to find that out.
I think a lot of business owners, we came in with a lack of clarity in some way shape or form. And we go in searching for it thinking Louis is going to help us, and then he reminded us: you have to do the work.
And then the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized I’m actually gonna have to do a bunch of work.
I had to invest the time to actually execute: to listen, to watch the lessons, to digest the process, to reach out, to learn, to implement. So, doing the work, I just mean putting in the time it takes to actually build a business. I had to find time on my calendar to scroll through customer interview transcripts, to think deeply, and to work out what it is that I want.
So, it was draining in a good way. I think the people that got the most out of it were the ones that were willing to put time aside and do the work.
The steps in STFO really just helped me narrow down on the subset of people that I could serve in the best way, and that’s coming from someone who had a fairly clear idea about who I was serving.
I knew more or less who my market was, but I was able to take it to the next level. STFO helped me to get crazy super hyper-focused on who that group of people are and how I can best use my unique abilities to serve them.
As a by-product, that clarity has now paved the way for a much clearer business growth strategy. It’s a lot easier now for me to put together the rest of the building blocks for where I’m going to grow my business. The big, scary question of who my audience is and how I can serve them is now answered, so everything else is easier to slot in place.
One of the key things we worked on at the end of the course was deciding on something I can give to my market as a gift. That gift for me is really sharing my expertise on podcasts and other speaking platforms.
With that realization, I was pumped. It was so exciting. When Louis told me I myself could be the gift by making guest appearances, it felt too exciting, almost too good to be true. I was like, “But are you sure? Can I actually be the guest?”
It just felt too fun, but Louis told me it should be fun. And it was that realization of, “Okay, wow. I can build an element of fun because it’s taking my unique ability into my work.”
Since the end of STFO, I’ve taken that up a notch. Already in four weeks, I think I recorded four podcast appearances, and I have around three live speaking events lined up as well.
STFO gave me a massive push which has massively impacted my visibility, credibility, and authority, and that will obviously impact money.
Louis is no holds barred, no BS, no beating around the bush kind of guy, but he’s also very supportive, like a teddy bear wearing armor.
There was a strong focus on the personal aspects of your character and your mental health, just all the intangible stuff that is super important when you’re building a business, and he gave a much bigger focus to that than I realized, working with us on our confidence.
I loved that. I respond best to tough love. He won’t tell you what you want to hear. He’ll tell you what you need to hear.
I used to chase shiny objects. I was around too many people that looked exactly like me getting drawn like magpies to all these different things.
What STFO offered was it helped me shift my business forward around other people that are all in a different sphere. The thing they do have in common was that they wanted to stand the fuck out, and that was really exciting to me because it was an environment where I could learn from other people who are different than me.
I’m glad I did the work. I had a great time. All the small changes I feel are going to have a big impact on my business.
The time commitment to do STFO was a big thing. Like, I had to make sure I had someone to watch the kids, so I had to tick numerous boxes before I could pay a babysitter for the times that it was on.
I’m based in Australia, and the time zone difference was really impactful, so that was the biggest thing stopping me from joining STFO.
It was nearly $3,000 Australian to do STFO which was a really big step for me. I don’t do a lot of self-development stuff. It’s really rare.
Paying that money was like saying I believe in myself.
I was always so excited when Louis’ content came through because I knew I was going to learn something. I was totally in the funnel of Louis land, and I knew I was, and that was fine.
All these things got me to the point of, “I’m gonna do this,” even though it’s a huge investment.
I really needed to work on my market. I needed to know how I could be different because there are so many competitors. It’s a swampy mess.
And so I was like, how do I find my niche in that?
I was very hungry to learn about how my business was going to stand out.
People were like, “Are you nervous about doing this?” And I was like, “No, I’m just ready.” I was so desperate for clarity that I was ready to do all the things. I knew we were going to do interviews. I knew we were going to dig deep and that it would be hard, but I was definitely ready to do all that.
Before STFO, Louis had emailed me and told me I’d come out with knowledge and a great group of friends. And I was like, “I don’t need friends.” I just want clarity.
It’s funny now because I’ve obviously loved doing the program with people, but at the time it wasn’t important to me. I wasn't going into it because I wanted friends or connections. I was going into it because I just was, like, so desperate for this idea of where I was in the market.
I had a couple of friends tell me they thought I had a self-limiting belief that I couldn’t make my lettering side business work as my main business, and it’s absolutely true.
It wasn’t a kick in the guts, but it was like, maybe this is the time to explore this as an actual business. I had thought about it but just kept struggling and falling back on the safe thing which was my design consultancy that I’d run for 20 years.
I was flappy along the way. Louis could tell you that I sent him some messages saying, “Aaaagh, I’m scared. It’s not going to work!”
But STFO really pushed me to try this, to realize it’s not going to happen just by itself; if I want to make this happen, I’ve got to stick to it and do it. Like, I can’t just hope people stumble over my store. I’ve got to put myself out there and make people aware of this stuff.
It’s that idea of, will I be rejected, and then will I not want to do it even though this is what I love, or do I actually have something really valuable to offer to the world?
What I came in thinking I would get out of STFO is slightly different to what I've come out of it with.
It’s less about working for dentists or doctors or accountants. It’s not about doing lettering for mums or kids or corporates. It’s not a sector or demographic.
It’s more about the people who are engaging with me, who have shared values with me which are around enjoying play, creating connections, and talking about emotions.
STFO helped me articulate those values more clearly, and so now it’s going to be like, how am I sharing my worldview with other people who agree with it?
I didn’t come out of it going, “I’m gonna work for dentists or doctors,” and that’s why I loved it so much because you’re connecting on a human level, not a data level.
I talked with a client just recently who said one of the reasons they picked me over somebody else was because we had shared values. She could have gone to somebody else who might have been cheaper, but if she was going to spend the money, she wanted to do it with someone like me.
I’ve moved away from the sea of sameness. There are so many lettering artists, so many lettering workshops.
Through STFO, I’ve moved away from wondering how to stand out and be different, and now I know what to focus on.
I know why I’m different. I know why my solution for my audience is going to be best for them. I know how to stand out now. It’s clear.
I feel like I’ve got the confidence now to actually deliver more workshops that I’m really passionate about that I know will help other people uncover their own creativity and that they are going to come away feeling empowered, and that is really exciting.
I’ve had quite a successful sales month for some products because I believed in myself a little bit more.
STFO helped me realize that I don’t want to be doing the same thing as everyone else. I always used to think I’m not as good as some of the other people doing workshops, but that’s actually not true. The way I do it is different, and I’m meeting that underserved market.
Louis is generous but abrupt, caring but not closed, very no holds barred, but then he would also shock me with some loving comments.
I think he holds a lot of pride in the fact that people are doing this program that he believes in. He’s proud of himself but also so proud of the people who have committed to doing it.
So, you definitely feel that support and nurture from him, but if he thinks it needs work, he’ll tell you. He’s super genuine, but he doesn’t faff around getting to a point. He’s just an excellent coach.
I’ve referred him to tons of people. That’s the sign of someone that I really value; I want other people to learn from him.
I wasn’t sure if I’d have time for STFO because it was the beginning of the school year with my kids. I was busy at work and home.
I had taken a few years off, which is a lifetime in marketing technology years. Things move quickly.
When I came back to work, I felt really behind because everything was so different from a few of years ago, and I felt I had to be in multiple places and doing all these things. I felt most marketers were doing better than me and had better things to say.
We were launching a new product, and I was really struggling with how to differentiate us in the marketplace.
There were alternatives in the same space, and I was struggling with how to position us well or how to attract the right people.
I think in tech especially, everyone’s websites look the same, exactly the same. They’re the same colors, the same fonts, the same format. When I was researching websites to redo ours, I literally would forget which site I was on because they’re all so similar, and everyone is saying the same thing. There’s just nobody standing out.
I knew that we needed to stand out, and I felt like I needed some direction.
The one thing that made me go, okay I have to sign up to STFO… I remember reading one of the testimonials, and I was thought, “Whoa, that sounds like a lot of work.” But also, “That’s exactly what I need to do.”
I hate talking to people. It is not my favorite thing. It’s a big part of marketing, but I’m an introvert. I don’t really like having to talk to a bunch of people.
But STFO made me do it, and now I’m just in the habit; I talk to customers, prospects, and others in our space all the time.
Sometimes I can get stuck in the research phase because I want to figure out everything, and I want to know everything because I want it to be perfect. But I think we can get stuck in that stage, and then we’re not doing anything, and we’re thinking everybody’s better than us because they figured it out when in reality it’s people just taking action and seeing what works.
With how quickly STFO moves, it kind of helps with that. I’m going to be in the research stage for a while as we launch and get more feedback and see how people use our product, but STFO forced me to take action sooner than I would have.
STFO gave me the confidence to put a market in front of the founders and to have the research to back it up and show them where we needed to go.
I’m not going to lie; that was a scary conversation to have. To go against what everybody else was thinking… that was uncomfortable.
But having the customer research to back it up and everything laid out was very helpful.
We went from having nothing to having a clear view of who our market is. I know the business size. I know who I need to talk to.
More importantly, I know who’s not our customer. Now I frequently hear, “Oh, that’s not really our customer”, around the office. Knowing who you’re not going after is just as valuable as knowing who you are going after, and just really honing our messaging into that.
Now, we’re closing just about everyone we talk to because we have the language we need to have. We know who to talk to. We’re not wasting our time with people we shouldn’t be talking to.
Louis is an encourager. He always tells people that they’re doing a good job, but at the same time he gives us ideas on how we can improve.
I think I was shocked by that, actually. His persona is stand the fuck out and, you know, no bullshit. It was intimidating. I didn’t know what to think at first. But he’s just a really nice, genuine person.
He’s smart. He’s creative. He’s caring. Louis has a way of pushing you and encouraging you at the same time, so you feel like you can do it, but you’re really being pushed out of your comfort zone.
Every time Louis told me to rewrite our website content, I was like, “Dammit, Louis.” I loved what I had, but it’s so much better now. It’s so much better than it was. Even though I was attached to it and loved it, it ended up being better than I imagined it could be.
I’m glad I did STFO. I have no regrets about doing it.
I was like, “Yeah, it’s a commitment of eight weeks. Am I actually able to be there eight weeks knowing that I will start a new job and with two kids?” I had my first driving lesson with my older one, and the little one is like all-out these days. It’s a time concern.
I also felt a little bit insecure about the road ahead. I thought I was unique with all the challenges I have, but learning that other participants from cohort 2 from all over the world fight the same challenges, it was a relief and helped me learn from others.
I realized in the second assignment that I underestimated the workload and intensity of the assignments and the program, and I’m going, “Okay… I did pay. I did sign up. I did commit for eight weeks. So double down on it.”
What made me want to commit was the value. I admire how Louis talked about STFO, how the testimonials went… is that he made it very, very, very crystal clear on the value you get out of it. And for me… I needed this skill for my future.
The most challenging moment for me was to really focus on one market and overcome the fear of missing out. I was like, “If I focus just on the head of marketing, then all these marketers out there we are not getting.” So that’s what took me the most time.
But by the end, I really gained clarity on where I want to go, and I had this courage to say, “Hey, I’m skilled to make a proper decision based on experiences and the work I put in, and I’m equipped to double down on that position and not be all over the place.”
Now we have a much better understanding of our market… where we want to be, and how we want to position ourselves in that market.
We did almost two weeks of promotion to our online marketing automation course. We set a maximum of 16 participants because we wanted to double down and build a really close relationship. And within two weeks, we had 20 signups from all over the place. We gave this course away for free, but now people are saying, “Hey, when is your next course? We’re ready to pay for it.” That wouldn’t have been possible without STFO and the learnings and the skills that I got through that.
It helped not only me but also my co-founder, who wasn’t in the cohort. Because Louis structured STFO so crystal clear, I talked with my co-founder about what I was learning every week, which influenced the messaging in the PDF brochure that he put together for our customers.
If someone asked me, “How was your experience with Louis?” I would say he will curse. He is passionate about helping others. He’s very hands-on. He will provide another perspective in a very positive way but with no fluff, no bullshit behind it.
If you’re ready to learn how to radically stand out, you have to go to Louis. He’ll give you hard but honest feedback that you can turn into something positive. You will have a coach that is passionately behind you and who cares about your success. I think for me, that’s the most important thing.
Plan time for STFO. Don’t underestimate the intensity. It’s not only the time investment but also the intensity of the assignments.
Try to be as open as possible. Don’t hold too much onto what you have learned from this “school of knowledge” that you’ve been taught and preached for years and years as a marketer. Instead, try to put what you have learned so far into perspective, open up your bucket of learning capacities, and amplify it with whatever you learn from STFO.
I knew some people in marketing. They were slimy. I didn’t like them. I needed my work to be ethical. I needed something where I’m not trying to con people out of stuff. I wanted to do legit stuff.
That’s when I caught on to Louis’ podcast, at least a year ago, probably. I don’t usually join anyone’s email list, but I was curious about how Louis writes his emails because I really liked everything else that he does, and that’s when I heard about STFO.
But I wasn’t sure what I would get out of STFO, to be honest. If someone offered me a programming course, I’d be very confident at my ability to assess what exactly they cover and whether it’s relevant to what I’m trying to do in my life, whereas with STFO, I felt I was so on the outside. I hadn’t read enough books about marketing to discover what I need to do to move forward. I wasn’t confident that I would get what I needed out of STFO. Even after I signed up and paid, I still wasn’t sure what exactly I’d get out of it, but I did believe it would move me forward.
I was laughing with my friend because I showed him my statement, you know… “The only blah that does blah,” and I was like, “I spent my two grand, and this is what I got.”
On the surface, it sounds really rubbish because you’re like, “Man, I gave this guy two grand to get this statement,” but actually, it took a lot of work to get the statement, and the biggest thing I got out of it was clarity.
That’s why I wasn’t jumping at the chance in the first place to do STFO… it’s because I didn’t know enough about marketing to assess the value of having this statement. But now, I’d recommend STFO to anybody.
And I know it sounds like a small thing to have clarity, but even when I talk to people, they’re like, “Yeah, I can see a difference in you.” I’m sleeping better at night now because my brain isn’t flying off in many different directions. It’s all of that intangible stuff. And I think you’re either ready for it or you’re not, or if you’re like me, you’re not ready for it, but you take the leap anyway, and you rise to the occasion.
After the course, I read Purple Cow for the first time, and it really felt like STFO was a practical version of that book.
Probably my #1 takeaway from STFO came from the customer interviews. That was a huge one for me because I think that’s where a lot of the clarity came from… hearing all the things they’ve got to say and learning lots of things I wasn’t aware of before. It made a huge, huge difference.
And the interviews actually sort of turned into new features that I’m going to add to the software.
I’ve also gotten some new inquiries that I need to follow up with. And I’ve got a call with the head of an academy. So, nothing nuts with direct sales yet, but it’s in the works, and it’s a direct result of the interviews I did during STFO.
So, now I feel clearer. I know what I’m trying to do. It was worthwhile.
It was either now or never. It was August, and if nothing changed by the end of the year, it wouldn’t have mattered if I spent an extra 1500 pounds because my business would be over anyway.
Basically, it was do or die. I was lost. I was just spiraling down, and it was a case of either I invest in myself because I believe there’s some answer, or I give it up entirely.
I couldn’t wait for STFO to get started, but I was quite nervous as well.
I trusted Louis. He knows what he’s fucking talking about. I trusted his process because he’s proven it. He’s done it himself. There was no question there.
What it came down to was trust and confidence in myself, and I went into it with this feeling of, “If this course doesn’t work, it’s going to be my fault.”
Because of that, I went into it 100%, utterly committed to working myself to death to make it work. I was just fucking determined to kill myself to make this work, to completely dissolve myself over the course of the eight weeks if necessary
The hardest part was the unavoidability (if that’s a word) of facing the real problem that I was trying to attack. I had this brand strategy process that we were doing for small and medium-sized businesses, and I had this idea of what their problem was, and I’d been trying to solve that problem for 18 months.
In the first two weeks of STFO, we reached out to this market, and the response I had was so humiliating and so rude that I just left with the sense of “Why the fuck would I want to work with these people? Why would I want to work with people who ghost you, who ignore you, who write back to you to essentially insult you to disprove what you’ve said you will do. Why? They make me want to vomit.”
That was the toughest part of STFO. It felt like I was giving up 18 months of work, saying everything I’ve done for the past 18 months I have to let go and accept that it’s not going to work. It was a grief sort of process. It was just over.
I nearly quit in the second week because I didn’t believe there was a path forward. I thought I had made the biggest mistake putting money into this thing and that I should just bail and go get a job, just give up on this pursuit because it’s a waste of time and I’m fooling myself.
The number one thing STFO did was just say, get rid of the dead weight; stop trying to do something that’s impossible.
I don’t know whether I would have pinpointed that charities and social enterprises were in my sphere. Probably not.
It was only a week or so after that, and I’m suddenly like, “Okay, shit. Now I feel like it’s happening.”
I had this discovery that I was connected incredibly well with these nonprofit organizations. Basically overnight, I had these connections that were so ready to talk with me.
I’ve had wonderful conversations, wonderful feedback. People are really excited about what I’m doing. I mean, that feeling when you tell somebody what you’re doing, and they actually go, “Really? Wow, tell me more.”
To go for 18 months, and nobody ever says that, and then suddenly you’re talking to people who are like, “Thank you so much for doing this. How are you doing this? Tell me more.” …That is thrilling.
I guess there’s a lot of confidence. I’m so excited about it because if it works, oh my god, that’s the life I want to lead. It’s a different level with this path opening up in front of me that I have control about how far I go down that path.
Louis is the kind of guy you want to be around. He’s casual and fun and funny and all those kinds of things. But that’s just one part.
The thing I didn’t see at first was how empathetic he is, how much care he has for the people that are in his group. He really gives a shit about your stuff, and his compliments mean so much more because of that, because you can sense it.
He’s not just your action coach who’s there for a half hour and then he goes away. It’s not just transactional. He’s going through something as well. He’s there being himself and connecting with you as a person. It’s this incredible blend of cool and care that really shouldn’t be possible. That’s the wicked thing about it. You want to be in his company and stay in his company.
For a while, he was the guy “up there,” the authority. But just today, chatting to him on LinkedIn about something, I’m not going to say we’re chums because that’d be assuming too much, but it feels like I can talk to him on an equal level. I can talk to him like a person. It was just that sense of having made a friend.
He just takes time to check in with people because, again, he fucking cares. It’s so genuine.
That’s why I wax lyrical to anybody about STFO because I want more people to go through this process and to be in that group.
I was listening to Louis’ podcast for a while, maybe a year. Since I listened to so much of his work, my hesitation in joining STFO was… “Is there a new dimension that’s going to come through STFO, or is it going to be more of the same?”
Is there going to be incremental learning, that is… “I’ve learned 10% more?”
Or is it going to be a breakthrough; that is… “I’ve learned 40% more?”
As the lead for Brand & Marketing in the senior living sector… my job is to make sure the brand experience stands out. So, working with the team and talking with them about creating this energy from radical differentiation is so powerful because you’re trying to shake the status quo for the sector. You’re serving people who have been on this earth for eight to ten decades, and rallying the troops around this idea of radical differentiation to enable the seniors to live a better life is so powerful.
So, I spoke with 15 customers, many employees, 15 of the leadership team. I spoke with everyone with the singular objective to define who our customer is. That was really important to identify who we are serving. Zeroing in on that and having that clarifying thought of who the customer is… It was a really important thing that came from STFO.
Speaking with and working with the leadership and peer groups, we determined that we do not want to serve an average consumer with an average product.
So, getting the teams energized around this idea of creating a differentiated brand experience will be valuable for the seniors we serve. Also, as professionals, it will help us leave a legacy. This idea really helped gain alignment and congruence because everyone wants to leave a legacy for what they want to be known for. This was impactful and meaningful work.
Louis is a great coach. He has a coach’s mindset where he’s spotting your flaws, but he doesn’t identify them as flaws; he identifies and restates them as opportunities and energizes the person who’s listening. He does it very tactfully, not by design, but it’s his personality.
If you have a curious mindset, if you want to learn and grow and be ambitious, I think STFO is for you. If you want the status quo, and if you're happy where you are and get your paycheck and not grow, STFO is not for you.
I was thinking about how much time STFO would cost… how much effort I would have to put into it. Running a business… you can’t be caught up in all kinds of putting out fires. Time is really scarce. Could I commit to so much time for so many weeks?
It sounds stupid, but I also thought it would be cool to develop myself as a businessman. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. A lot of shit went wrong, and some stuff went well, but I needed an excellent framework, so it’s not just about my experience, but also there’s some logic and steps and structure in that, and also to develop myself.
Maybe it’s my military background… it’s kind of silly... I’m exaggerating a bit, but we have this operational security on the level of the secret service. It’s not like a super-spy secret, but we clean our whiteboard. We put away our plans for the cleaner.
But the group was fun. Louis did it really well. Everyone felt comfortable to share openly, brainstorm, and discuss.
I don’t want to be something to everyone, to not stand out, to be afraid to say that it’s hard, that our events are too challenging. It’s like Louis says… If it’s too vanilla, it’s for no one.
Now I can focus on our new minimum viable market. We’re going to customize our messaging to that segment, customize our tactics, the channels we use. It’s a wake-up call to say, “Why are we doing this? For the people who enjoy this the most, why do they go to the events? Why do they use our product?”
That gave clarity. Now we can proudly say that you can get bruises. You can get sore muscles. IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE.
There’s always a reason to postpone. There’s never a right time. Do STFO now. Try to make a commitment with yourself. There’s a lot of flexibility, but block time in your week so you can get the most out of it. What you put in is what you get out of it.
And don’t take yourself too seriously. Have a laugh, please. Don’t show up with a tie… no window dressing. Everyone in the group was nice, committed, relaxed. It was really really fun to get feedback from the group.
I’ve been a cybersecurity content marketer for six years. I started freelancing two and a half years ago, and I was at a place in my life where I knew I had to niche. I knew it was a good idea, but I wasn’t ready to do it. I lacked self-confidence a lot, and I really wanted to help everyone.
So, I wanted to work with all the clients and make everyone happy, but that meant that I compromised, and I worked with clients that weren't a good fit for me. I wouldn’t be able to ship consistently because I always prioritized client work and deprioritized my own stuff.
Cybersecurity has so much technical depth, so many niches. I felt very uncertain of my footing in the industry.
I knew that I believed in the right things, that it was easy for me to be a bridge between technical people and their customers. It was just difficult for me to pinpoint, like… “Hey, here’s what I do specifically” because I worked across the board on so many different aspects of cybersecurity.
Another thing that was difficult for me was that I didn’t realize the number of pain points I solved for my customers. I knew that I helped them with some stuff, but I wasn’t very strategic about communicating that.
I am a person without a technical background in a technical industry where the industry gods are people who are super, highly, very deeply technical with tens of years of expertise, where generally women aren't seen very well. They're usually PR or marketing or sales roles, which the entire industry can say there's bullshit and considers a constant source of spam.
So, I was at this point where I knew I wanted to kind of elevate and figure out what I want to do next, but I didn't have a lot of clarity. And I had all of this going on in my head at all times.
After STFO, I felt like a different person. I got clarity around what I stand for, not just in my work but generally as a person. And something that happened exactly yesterday is that I was talking to someone that we’ve known each other for five or six years now, and she said, “You know what, ever since you've been to [STFO], I noticed that you're a lot more confident. You're a lot more outspoken and more articulate.” And I love that she saw this.
And I constantly build on that confidence. So, when we started doing all of the exercises, I basically realized that at the end, I had my messaging, I had my foundation, I knew what I wanted on my website. I knew the kind of customers that I wanted to work with going forward and the kind of work that I wanted to do.
I started investing around 20% of my time into my own business, which I struggled so much before to do.
I hired a freelancer to do the content for my website. When I sent her the brief, she told me that, first of all, she'd never got that good of a brief.
The brief was a summary of the best parts of everything that I did throughout STFO. So, it was super easy for me to put that together.
When she delivered the draft, it was 99.9% ready. She only edited two words, and I asked her to add another phrase, and that was it. My website was done.
Besides becoming more confident in my expertise, I also increased my pricing.
Now, I’m in a place where I can comfortably say “No” to customers and only work with those I want to work with. And that, to me, was incredibly liberating.
I’m booked for the foreseeable future. I don’t have any openings that I see in my schedule at all. One of my main customers I’ve been working with for over a year… we’ve done incredible things together. We’ve shipped together more than I shipped in previous jobs… like three times more. And I only work with them as a freelancer, not full-time, so that’s been fantastic.
From last year, if I were to calculate roughly, my revenue this year will most likely increase by 20% to 30%.
I’ve made more progress in a month than I made in the past five years around my positioning, so that’s huge. It feels like I am finally growing up.
I knew I couldn’t do this on my own, or it would have taken many years. And I didn’t want to wait many years.
The STFO framework was so incredibly clear, and I know that I can count on it and go back to it every time I feel like I'm losing focus or when I'm not sure if I'm making the right decisions.
It is some of the most challenging work you’ll do, but it is some of the most important work you’ll do for yourself. It’s not just professional. This is about personal change. This is about understanding who you really are. And I don’t know how this sounds for everyone… but it’s like genuinely stepping into your power and figuring out what your power is for, and using that and seeing yourself with clarity and with kindness… just discovering the thing that really amazes you about yourself.
Basically, you cannot expect the level of rewards and of simply deep, true, authentic transformation that happened throughout STFO that elevates everything in your life, including your relationships with your close ones, because when you achieve that certainty and that clarity, you can be a better person to yourself and to others as well.
It's truly the kind of thing that's not temporary. It sticks with you.
I really lost my bond with marketing. Even though it’s something I studied, I never used it.
I had started business school, and, in the end, marketing was my thing, but I never really practiced it. Entering the corporate world, marketing was only starting to integrate with digital, and I was just following the marketing created in the corporation.
So, I never had this position where I needed to create any marketing or tactics. So, it took me some time to say, “Okay, this is marketing, and this is bad marketing.”
It’s been years, and I see people doing marketing which to them is really just building slide decks and getting insights yet not providing any action or only very slow-motion actions.
And actually, it takes courage. It takes a lot of action, a lot of movements, and so it’s uncomfortable.
People say marketing is easy… it’s for creative people… it’s like the joke of business.
It’s for strong people because it’s not easy.
So, I was excited about STFO. It’s been years of listening to everything Louis has taught me. So, I was confident and excited to have the opportunity to take action and do stuff because I had not been applying all these marketing best practices on my own business, which now I do.
I gave a lot of energy to STFO, but I’m really happy because it’s rewarding.
The most challenging part was that I had to commit to one minimum viable market. I had been stuck for at least a week, maybe more, circling around.
I shared this with other people from my cohort… these mavericks, as Louis calls us. I shared what I was doing, what I was struggling with, what I was scared about.
And by telling this to people over and over, at one point, it made total sense, and then the monster was smaller, and then I continued.
I started to ship micro-changes on my communication because I post every day, and people could see it.
My email is starting to gather more and more people, so clearly, I got some more traffic on my website.
I also did a podcast interview, and they stated what I fight for, so my communication works.
So far, my marketing is working, and it’s already after eight weeks impacting the heads of people who are reading me.
Now I feel very knowledgeable about how I can apply marketing best practices.
STFO is a very rich, intense, and fun program if you like to take action. It’s snackable, yet it’s very powerful because we all know how to use the content and make things happen.
Louis is very efficient, very sharp. He also has very high emotional intelligence. He can help people easily because he gets to understand them fast.
He makes a good teacher.
I felt that I was seen and understood, which is a basic thing if you want a great relationship with somebody.
I was afraid of the buildup of tasks. When you start a course that’s 8 weeks, it usually starts easy and you take it for granted, and then all of a sudden you end up having tasks and homework.
When I saw the course details, it listed the number of hours you’re expected to work on the homework, but it did not occur to me that it wasn’t really homework; it was you actually working on your business.
Standing out was a decision I took from day one. When I decided to sell gelato, I decided to do it because I wanted to offer something different. The public enemy at the time was ready-made syrups and sauces and flavorings and food colorings in ice cream. Nobody was treating ice cream like a real craft.
So I wanted to do it differently, and I wanted to do ice cream from scratch and use real ingredients. I knew I wanted to be different, and I knew I was able to stand out, but the problem was the constant voices from everybody surrounding me: “What’s the point of doing it differently? Everybody’s doing it this way. Why would you want to do it any other way?”
Over the course of 4 years, I decided to quit and pivot numerous times to the extent I thought, “Maybe this path is not financially sound. Maybe I need to go back and do flavorings and ready-made syrups and whatever.” You know?
It’s already hard to operate. For me to prove a point of me standing out and being different, it takes a toll on you, and every now and then you have to question yourself.
One of the main limiting beliefs I had was that I don’t belong in this industry.
I started selling gelato in the summer of 2017 doing home deliveries basically. We had a few deliveries every day, and then things exploded from there because a Snapchat influencer posted about it.
Things went crazy.
People from neighboring countries were messaging, asking whether or not I can ship overseas. This was week 2 of operation. So the first week I was doing two to three orders a day, and in the second week it increased to about 8-14 orders a day.
You need to know that this was a hobby, and I think that fueled imposter syndrome. It was a hobby, a side gig. I felt like nothing serious would ever happen from it.
By December, things slowed down. March came, and all I had was four orders a month. I thought the honeymoon period was over, my bubble burst, and I need to close shop.
By then I had two wholesale accounts (B2B). One was a chocolate maker who now has won international awards in the US and the UK, and they distribute their chocolate coast to coast in the US, the UK, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. I always thought they were too good for me. I spoke with their CEO, and I was like, “Listen, this is not working. I need to close down.”
I had nobody to talk to. I felt like an imposter. There was nobody to relate to.
She decided what would fix my situation was a potluck dinner with other food makers who ended up being my cheese suppliers, my jar makers, and my wholesale clients. So that was my first wholesale network.
So I got back into the role of creating new flavors and doing collaborations and whatnot.
Then COVID hit.
That took its toll on me mentally. During that time, it was Ramadan which is peak season for desserts because everybody has family gatherings, and everybody wants to have dessert at the end of the meal. This was my peak month. I’ve never done as much business ever during those five years.
And it was amazing.
But it emotionally took its toll on me because I started seeing other businesses struggling. I had survivor’s guilt paired with the imposter syndrome. And this kept on going.
Deep down, I knew I was doing something right, but there wasn’t a method or science or some sort of backing to what I was doing. It was all gut feeling.
When I decided to take STFO, everybody (except me) had hope in me. It’s painful for others when they believe in you but they see you don’t believe in yourself. Everybody cheered me on during STFO. Even wholesale clients cheered me on and were very supportive and told me I needed to work on this part of myself to succeed.
If you were to watch the group call recordings at the beginning of STFO, you’d see that I used to be sarcastic, and I used to crack jokes sometimes trying to be funny. For me, it was a defense mechanism. Whenever I felt overwhelmed with being exposed to a group, I’d try to be defensive and cover myself up trying to be funny.
You’d see less of that at the end of STFO. I got comfortable enough with the group, comfortable enough with Louis, and comfortable enough with myself.
I felt more grounded.
I started believing in myself more. I think that’s the result of the first two weeks of STFO.
I had the courage to talk to customers, which I never thought I would do. Even though the customer interviews were the toughest part of STFO, they gave me validation that I was on the right track.
I became comfortable enough to go to events and talk to customers while they were having my ice cream and to ask them for feedback and to pull a chair and sit with them and ask about their stories.
So one lady was like, “I just want to say thank you because I’ve been a customer for four years, and twice during these four years you’ve done amazing things for me and my family. My daughter had surgery, and you ended up sending us enough ice cream tubs for a month, and I just want to say thank you.”
And that was nice. Had I not done those events? Had I not exposed myself? I wouldn’t have heard this.
Other people see the difference in me too. There’s a Japanese restaurant that sells my ice cream, and they have a bar where everybody sits next to each other. If somebody is having the ice cream while I’m having lunch, and if they say nice things, the restaurant owners point at me, and they’re like, “This is the guy who made it.”
When I used to get compliments like these, I would say, “Oh, that’s not true,” or “You’re too nice.” You know… I figured they must be lying. But now I own the compliment, and I say “thank you.”
It’s gotten easier for me to accept hearing nice things.
What happened a few months after STFO is many of the people that I worked with have won awards.
The World’s 50 Best award is awarded to the best restaurants by region and around the world, and five of those who won an award were people who were either my wholesale clients or who I’ve done collaborations and pop-ups with.
It felt like it was the first time where I celebrated their win, but I also celebrated it as if it was mine. I felt like I was part of their journey and part of their success by association.
During the award ceremony, my Instagram account was documenting whenever there was a restaurant or chef that I’ve worked with who got on stage, and I would post about it. By association, I ended up getting more queries from restaurants and wholesalers who wanted to work with me.
And these are all restaurants and cafes that are a 100% fit. They appreciate craft food. They understand what I do. These are people that I don’t need to sell hard to. It’s a perfect fit.
And they’re worth their weight. They’ve done collaborations with the fifth best restaurant in the world and the 30th best restaurant in the world. Now I have the opportunity to associate myself with them.
The pipeline right now is to 5X my current wholesale list by the end of September and hopefully 10X by February or March next year.
Louis is a tyrant…in a good way, in a good way.
He’s very unassuming.
He gives you enough time to talk.
He gives you enough time to prove yourself wrong. If I commented about me not being good enough, he would guide me to realize that wasn’t objectively correct.
When I would express myself in the community, I’d do it in an unstructured manner because this is all new to me, and he was able to dissect it and give me the information that I needed in a way I could understand.
I enjoyed having him as a teacher. I really did. He’s really good.
I couldn’t be happier. I have no words. I can’t express myself enough. I know this is a business. I know people make a living out of courses, but the impact is far from a toolkit that I can use.
It’s life changing.
No matter how I express myself here, I cannot express myself enough.