Humans are social beings. Try as we might, we can never reach certain goals without the help of others. Being in a tribe is a great way to connect with the right people you can work with, level up, and hold each other responsible and accountable. Our guest, Rich Cooper, has created his own tribe of men supporting one another in their goals. Rich is the man behind the YouTube channel, Entrepreneurs in Cars, and the author of the bestselling book, The Unplugged Alpha. In this episode, he joins Mitch Russo to share how he has grown his tribe, with YouTube as his top funnel, and the core mission that attracted businessmen to the group. Rich also talks about monetizing and diversifying his ways of connecting with his tribe and further developing their relationship.
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A Tribe Of Men: Finding Support And Monetizing Connections With Rich Cooper
Our goal is to help you be a better leader, inspire more people, create the passion your community wants, and profit from the experience. Some people have asked me why I created this show. The answer is simple. I want to learn from my guests and my audience how to effectively start, grow, nourish, and capitalize on a tribe.
I believe tribes are the social experience that brings people together in many unique ways. I want to share that with you. I also want to hear from you. Tell me what you want, who you’re interested in hearing from, and what actions you take from every amazing guest that we speak with. If you’re a coach, go to CoachElevation.com and download my new book for free.
Onto my guest and his incredible story, Rich Cooper started his YouTube channel called Entrepreneurs in Cars, which led him to many new and interesting ventures. His bestselling book, The Unplugged Alpha, has helped many unplug from the lies around relationships, money, and self-care. Before that, he started a private debt relief company for Canadian citizens. He’s still an advisor to that company called Total Debt Freedom. That company is designed to help others relieve themselves of Canadian debt. I guess it’s only a Canadian experience. While he is an advisor to that company, he spends his time achieving excellence in all walks of life and helping others.
Welcome, Rich, to the show.
Thanks for having me, Mitch.
It’s my pleasure. Take us back a little bit. How did this whole thing start for you?
It started when I was at a mastermind event. Jayson Gaignard was holding a live event in Toronto. I was sitting at some of the breakout session tables with James Clear and Alex from Luxy Hair. There were a few other guys that were doing sessions on podcasting, YouTube, and things like that. The whole YouTube thing caught my attention. I thought it was a good opportunity to broadcast yourself as they used to call it. I didn’t realize how powerful the recommendation engine was on YouTube until you started getting some real traction and viral types of videos. I started the channel because I was fed up with my business.
I started in 2002. I’ve been in it for 12 to 15 years. It got to the point where I didn’t need to be there. All the systems were in place. I didn’t love the business and everything that was going on with it. I wanted to do something different with my time. I’ve always been a car guy. I’ve always liked hanging out with entrepreneurs. I figured if I mash up entrepreneurship with cars, I could do YouTube videos like TED Talks and Top Gear mashed up. I got that idea from James Altucher because he always said, “If you want to take these different ideas, marry them up and see if you can turn them into something.” That’s what I called the YouTube channel and I put out 5 or 6 videos.
What year did you start all this?
That was May 23rd, 2014. I remember that date because that was the day that I was coming back from an EO forum retreat with my forum mates. I was driving in my friend’s truck. We commuted there together to this lake house and I said, “Let me put the GoPro in the windshield. Let’s do a quick interview.” That’s the first video that I uploaded to my channel. I did a lot of interviews with friends in their cars.
After about 5 or 6 friends and realizing how much work it was to make YouTube videos and the limited reach you would get at the start, I had to start talking about other stuff but I knew that I liked talking to the camera. Often, when I was going into the office or leaving the office, I had about an hour or so of commute, I put the camera on the windshield and talked about something related to what I thought the channel was going to be.
One day, somebody came along and said in the comments 5 or 6 months in, “You have to do a video on the women to not date. You seem to know a lot about what you’re talking about so it would be helpful to your viewers.” I thought I’ve made that mistake quite a few times in my life so I did a video on that and that blew up. Normally, when I would press upload and watch the video, I get 100 or maybe 1,000 views after a few days to a week. This one got 100,000 views so I thought to myself, “I’m on to something here. This is a pain point for people.” It blew up from there.
I did go through some of your favorites and big hits channels and saw some interesting videos as well. Honestly, I resonated with what you were saying. I loved your style. I would highly recommend anyone who is being exposed to Rich for the first time to go to Entrepreneurs in Cars on YouTube and see his YouTube channel. Check it out. It’s interesting. What this does is it sets up what we’re about to talk about next. That is the creation of a group and a tribe. You run several. One is your YouTube channel, which is your introduction to your tribe. You have a separate tribe that you’ve created, which is a paid experience for your more dedicated members.
Before we get into questioning you about that, I want to make a statement because, over the dozens of interviews that I’ve had with tribe leaders, I’ve come up with a simple definition that I would like to share with you. A tribe is a person who is passionate and polarizing. What that person does is create a manifesto, which is a vision and a mission with a purpose, and then share that in a way to both attract and repel the right people so that his tribe then grows as the tribe leader evolves himself. How does that feel to you?
That’s very accurate. I’m a polarizing character and I love working with the guys that are part of what I’m building. I don’t like spending time with people that aren’t part of what I like to build. It’s 100% accurate for me.
What I would like for you to do is tell us a little bit about the core mission of the tribe that you lead online.
There was a big appetite for it that I wasn’t expecting and that existed because people wanted to connect. I let them connect at first by clicking a link to book me for consults. When I started, the rate was super cheap. They could pay $5 or $10 a month and join a Patreon. I would do monthly Zoom calls. They would hop in and ask private questions off of the public channel. I wanted to build something more than something basic so I picked up a course on building tribes. It was Stu McLaren that I bought it from and he’s recommended by Jayson because Stu was at his last talk.
I went through the material and thought, “This is interesting. This is what I want to have. I want to have a gang of guys that I can level up with together and rely on.” There’s an interesting book that I read years ago by Jack Donovan. It’s called The Way of Men. It’s a great book. I highly recommend it. Guys, check it out. It’s great for women too if they want to understand the nature of men in society or how it has been throughout history. He summarized the book to say, “The way of men is the way of the gang. Men need to work together to level up and hold each other responsible and accountable to certain standards.”
That’s what I’ve built my community off. There are different tiers. There’s an entry-level tier where I have generals or the top-tier guys that have been in my group for quite a few years that I know, like, and trust. That helps those guys level up to bring them up into the next tier thing. The one that I deal with is called The 1%. We called it that because it seemed like about 1% of people that would click my booking link would pay to book. I would call those guys the top 1%. We do a lot of things together. We have get-togethers and meetups.
One of the guys locally said, “Men are forged in fire and stuff.” We cooked up the idea of signing up for a blacksmithing course. It’s something I’ve never done. I’ve always liked working with my hands. When about 8 or 9 of us got together early and spent the whole day forging an ax from raw steel, it was an excellent experience. Working with my hands again was fun because I’m used to sitting at a desk in front of a computer and a lot of times, in front of a camera broadcasting or doing things around that. Being able to bang on an anvil with a hammer, heat treat, grind, polish, and all these things was an awesome experience.
When you do these things with other men, you can hold out the finished product, compare, and contrast because we all started with the same piece of metal. The final product was completely different for everyone but we all respected and valued the path that we all took to create that final product. You can go to a hardware store and buy an ax for $15 or $20. This costs a lot more for us to make but I’ll never forget the experience, the smells, and the time that I spent with the guys doing that on that day.
You talked about The 1% group. If you were to look at the whole tribe, how many people are you leading currently?
We’ve got about 600 or so globally. Each chapter is run by people in leadership roles. It’s got to be a large enough area. The main thing that we’re doing is chatting on a regular basis in private discussion groups usually on Signal. I’ve also got a censorship-resistant form because we started to use platforms like Facebook in the past. For whatever reason, the algorithms would pick up on certain keywords or discussion points.
I remember one time I got banned for a week and it’s like, “This isn’t sustainable if I get locked out of my account and put in Facebook jail for one week in my tribe.” I had to build my censorship-resistant forum and we worked off that. We have all these places where we collaborate on. From the get-go, the top of the funnel for this is the YouTube channel. YouTube recommends my videos to people that should be interested in what I’m talking about. They develop a relationship, which is an unusual thing that I learned about YouTube because I never thought about this before I started.
When you talk to a camera, put out videos, and meet people in real life, they will walk up to you randomly when you’re in a restaurant, at the gym, or something like that, “I’ve seen your videos. I like what you do.” They already have a relationship with me but I don’t know them. The in-person tribe was a big part of that. The in-real-life meetups, get-togethers, breaking bread together, and doing retreats are the stuff that I enjoy, which have become a lot of fun and a source of a lot of value for everybody in the group too.
You described earlier some of the ways that you monetize your tribe. You say you have 2 or 3 different levels. One is The 1% group, and then you have two other levels as well. For the ones that are in the midlevel, what’s the difference? What do they get that the others don’t get? This is valuable for others who are building tribes to see how you’ve tiered this.
You’re going to become the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. This shouldn’t be a new concept for people watching your stuff. If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room. I wanted to make sure that the guys at the entry point had an entry point and had some access to some of the premium content and potentially some of the retreats and stuff. If you can’t pay your way into the right room, then you could level up in that space with the generals that are in there. When you move into the next room, then they will get more access to me.
The next room after that is very similar to an Entrepreneurs’ Organization forum, which is something that I was a part of for quite a few years. I set up my forum for my tribe. It’s a men-only group. I did it that way because I noticed when I was in EO, a lot of times when you’re having a forum meeting or a discussion, the conversation changes when there are women in the room talking about things that are going on in their business or their personal lives.
I didn’t want to change the conversation, the dynamic, or the direction of the conversation. That’s why I made it a men-only group. That’s the business here. These are all guys that are business owners. They’ve got to be doing a few million dollars a year minimum. They have to be the founders. It’s similar but it’s more with the infusion of the way that I want to run the group.
Let’s quickly summarize. You started with a YouTube channel at the top of the funnel in effect without even realizing it was going to take you where it eventually took you. You started doing one-on-ones and then opening up a paid membership through Patreon. What I’m loving here is the evolution of this process. This is very informative for me and the readers. We are speaking to the incredible Rich Cooper. He has created a unique tribe. It’s a tribe that you should take a look at if it’s something you’re interested in. When did your book come into play here? You have a book out and that book seems to be symbiotic with the work that you’re doing and the groups that you’ve built.
I learned a long time ago that as soon as you publish a bestselling book, you’re considered an expert in this space. I put out other books in the past in my debt business. I did a do-it-yourself debt relief guide but it turns out people aren’t that interested in getting added debt as they are solving their personal issues in life. Debt seems to be such a small issue for people, which is strange to me coming from the credit and collection industry years ago.
The Unplugged Alpha is a book that you wrote at what point in the cycle that we finished talking about?
I started writing in 2017. I didn’t publish it until at least a few years later. It turns out I’m far better at talking to a camera than I am writing a book but I wanted to make sure that the final piece that I put out was comprehensive and distilled all the main lessons that I learned over the years in a concise way of around 200 pages. I don’t like gobbledygook. I don’t like reading or listening to a book because I generally listen to books. I don’t like listening to twelve hours of something that could be summarized in 4 or 5 hours.
That’s why it took me that long to write it because I wanted to distill everything down so it would be something that I could consume myself, believe it or not. It worked out. Having an audience is probably one of the most powerful things that you can build in your business. If you put out products, courses, a book, or something like that, you already have people that know, like, and trust you. You start pumping out emails and letting people know the book’s release date.
One of the strategies that I used in my book is I took one of the chapters, which is Twenty Red Flags That You Want to Avoid in Life as a Guy, and put that as a free chapter when people opted into the list. I started promoting that about 8 to 10 months before the book was released. People got a taste of what was in the book and could at least also get on my email list so I could notify them when the book was launched. That worked out very well. It’s the bestselling book in its category on Amazon, IngramSpark, and everywhere else where I’ve published it.
Let’s become coaches for a moment to readers. Let’s say somebody has this passion. They feel like they have created a manifesto, which is their vision for their mission and purpose and the people they want to attract. One of the questions that I get asked a lot on the show is, “Should I have a way to monetize this before I even start? Should I let that come later?” At what point do you begin the monetization process?
I didn’t start to monetize for at least 3 or 4 years. Even then, it was trivial. It was booking calls for consults, which people paid by the minute, and Patreon groups. The smarter guys out there have a proven path when they’re doing something on YouTube or they want to build a community. If they want to build their tribe, they plan it and launch it much sooner.
I thought when I started YouTube that by publishing videos, there would be sufficient ad revenue that I could live off that. It’s only the big creators. You’ve got to have millions of subscribers if you want to make any real money off ad revenue. Even that is dangerous because you don’t own your audience. It’s on YouTube. If something happens and you say something that they disagree with, they could yank the rug, take you off YouTube, and everything is gone for you.You've got to have millions of subscribers if you want to make any kind of real money off ad revenue. And even that's dangerous because you don't own your audience. Click To Tweet
I started to realize that it was a little bit vulnerable and naive of me to expect to build a business or a tribe that way. That’s when I started to diversify. I built an email list, products, services, and courses. I’ve got the different social media platforms built out as well that all interlink. Everything goes to the central hub on my website. If any one of the legs is kicked out from underneath me, I’ve got 4, 5, or 6 other legs holding the chair up and I can rebuild that. That’s how I moved in that direction.
You’re not alone when it comes to that. Many people who have a presence on almost any social media platform are now terrified that those who own the platform are going to pull the rug. You see everybody building alternate channels and setting up other ways to reach their audience. Even in my coaching business, I have a group coaching program that would never run on Facebook because I wouldn’t even trust that to exist on Facebook. As you said, you could say one word that’s picked up by the AI bots and shut you down before you even know it. Let’s go back to the year 2014 versus the year 2022. Could you do the same thing now that you did then? Why not if it’s no or why if it’s yes?
The algorithms change. You have to look at YouTube as a recommendation engine. It’s a utility or a tool that can introduce you to people that should be paying attention to what you have to say. That’s all it is. There are people that use it for various reasons but that’s how I see it. Once I scrape off the layers and look at YouTube for what it is, it’s a recommendation engine. Once you understand what it is and you’ve decided what path you want to go down, you strategize a production schedule, topics to cover, and the storyline that you want to lead your audience down through and open yourself to pivoting.You have to look at YouTube as a recommendation engine. It's a utility, a tool that can introduce you to people who should pay attention to what you have to say. That's all it is. Click To Tweet
I never changed the name of the channel. The channel is still called Entrepreneurs in Cars. I’m still a car guy. I still love entrepreneurs but for me to keep that related to the content that I’m doing, I try to make at least 50% of my content in my car still. At least that somehow resonates. The content that I’m talking about is very rarely about cars or entrepreneurship. I’m mostly talking about guys fixing themselves and screwing their heads on so they’re squared away in life. They don’t invite chaos and problems in their life, whether it comes to money, investments, women, self-care, and all these things.
It’s incredibly important to be clear and visionary about what you’re doing. Be consistent with it as early as possible within your first 1,000 subscribers. Start offering what it is that you want to offer that you want to build on outside of YouTube because it’s top of the funnel. Once people start to develop that relationship with you, they want more from you. I learned that very early on. They want to connect with you and form a relationship with you.
Give them that, whether it’s your community, a book, or courses that offer more beyond what’s on YouTube. You have to be careful. They can yank the rug out from you at any given time. We’re in a world that’s exceptionally sensitive to ideas that aren’t mainstream. Tribes are usually polarizing. You have to balance getting their attention and getting them on board with your story with not getting thrown off the platform with the ideas and the conversations that you have.Tribes are usually very polarizing. You have to balance getting their attention and getting them on board with your story while not getting thrown off the platform with the ideas and conversations you have. Click To Tweet
Do you need to do anything other than post videos? Do you need to manage the YouTube infrastructure behind the scenes? Do you need a YouTube expert to do this? Can you start recording a video every day, putting them up, and waiting to see what happens?
There are always shortcuts if you buy a course or hire an expert that already done it. There are three main components to doing well on YouTube. Number one is your thumbnail. Number two is the title. Number three is the content once they click that. The main metric that YouTube is going to use to recommend your video or your content to new viewers is going to be the Click-Through Rate or CTR. The click-through rate on videos is generally quite low. 4%, 5%, or 6% is what the average gets.
If you publish a video, around 5% of people that are shown that video on their homepage will click it. There’s that problem that you’ve got to contend with. The next part of that is the watch time on the video because the whole business model for YouTube is keeping people on the platform. They want them there watching videos so they can show them ads and more videos and then keep them locked into that cycle of consuming and all that stuff.
If you have a good title, a captivating thumbnail, and the content once they click it matches what enticed them to click it, and they watch as much of that as possible, ideally 100% of it, you’ve now got a winning formula. The more times you can do that with every upload, the greater your reach is going to be, the more influence, and the more impact that you’re going to have. Those would be the main metrics. Once you figure that out, everything else is pretty much easy.
The reason that we have spent so much time on YouTube is 1) I’m interested in it, 2) It’s a fantastic way to get top of mind with folks and be consistent, and 3) If you have the right combination of messages and manifesto, then it will naturally attract the right people to you. It then leads them to capitalize on the experience by leading them into a place where they can spend some money with you, which is fantastic.
One other thing I forgot to mention is that the Shorts are very powerful. People have short attention spans. They will be doing this on their phone, whichever direction they’re going. It’s a rapid process. TikTok has been the source of this because most of their videos started being a minute or less. Instagram caught wind of that. They created Reels. YouTube caught wind of that from TikTok and Instagram and created YouTube Shorts. If you have any long-form content or anything over a minute, there’s a tight sound bite that is being watched. Usually, there are these bumps and valleys on YouTube.
If you’ve got your account set up and it’s a more seasoned account, you will see where people drag the cursor back to watch something over and over again. If you take that clip, which is usually about a minute or less anyway, have your editor throw some music onto it. Maybe some captions or a couple of B-roll clips to snazzy it up a little bit, and then put that same video on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and even Facebook. It then lets you repurpose your existing content. You’re not just getting top of the funnel off YouTube. You’re getting top of the funnel off TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and all these other platforms. You link them all back to that central point.
That’s a great tip. Thank you for that. I appreciate it. Let’s go out into the future by about two years. What does that look like for you? Where are you two years from now?
I don’t lean that far out in the future and plan too much because I find that a lot of the stuff that we’re doing now is not something I even planned to do years ago. I didn’t even think that Shorts would be a thing on YouTube years ago. I had no idea that was the direction things were going. What I tend to do is look for the trends as they tend to evolve and solidify in concrete. I’ll tap into the proven models because I find that you can try to predict the future but my crystal ball doesn’t work that well.
What I like to do is watch what’s upcoming trending and what’s working. I’ll look at those as opportunities. The sad part about creating content and getting people’s attention is you have to work their system. You can’t work your system. You can’t talk about things the way that you want to talk about them in ways that you want people to hear them. You have to understand how the platforms work, why they recommend your content to other people, what they’re working on that’s new and upcoming, and give those tools and resources for what they need.Watch the upcoming trending and what's actually working as opportunities. Click To Tweet
For example, when the Shorts shelf was created on YouTube, I was one of the first adopters of it. It wasn’t uncommon to put out Shorts that were getting 5 to 10 million views. Now that there are other people publishing Shorts and there are so many other people to such a large degree, you don’t get as much reach but you still get some pretty decent reach. Being the early adopter in those areas is pretty much the way to go. You have to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
Let’s talk about your groups and your vision for where you want to take this. Do you feel as if this should grow and become much bigger? Are you wanting to keep it relatively small similar to the way it is now?
I don’t want something or need anything too big. I read a few books back in the day when I was running my debt business. You’ve probably heard the concept of 1,000 true fans, raving fans, and stuff like that. To be honest with you, for a lot of the conversations I have and a lot of the guys in my community, it wouldn’t work if we had 60,000.
I would probably let it grow to about 1,000 members and after that, I cap it or create another tier but I don’t need anything too big. I would rather keep it small. It’s more nimble. It’s something that I can manage. I want to know everybody’s name and face. If they message me, I want to recognize them. I don’t want anything too big from the community side of things. As far as the YouTube channel goes, I’ll work towards 1 million to 5 million subs.
We are at a terrific spot here in the show. We have covered everything I want that to cover. I know readers would like to get ahold of you or connect with you in a deeper way. Where would they go to do that?
They can go to my website. It’s RichCooper.ca. From there, you will be offered everything from information on my community, my supplement line, and my book. It’s all there in one central hub. There’s a link that you can get into for the free chapter from my book, The Unplugged Alpha. It’s Twenty Red Flags. It’s an interesting chapter because it’s twenty red flags on what you want to be aware of when inviting women into your life as a guy. I talk mostly to men. You can download that by going to EntrepreneursInCars.com/red-flags.
Richard, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. I’m intrigued by what you’ve done. I appreciate you sharing it with my audience. Thank you very much.
Thanks for having me on, Mitch.
- Rich Cooper
- Entrepreneurs in Cars – YouTube
- The Unplugged Alpha
- Total Debt Freedom
- The Way of Men
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
About Rich Cooper
Richard Cooper is an entrepreneur, private equity investor, content creator, best-selling author, speaker, and high-performance coach. Best known for his YouTube channel Entrepreneurs in Cars, and best selling book for men, The Unplugged Alpha, Richard has over 200 million video views from content that has helped many unplug from lies around relationships, money and self care.
From 2003 to 2019 Richard founded, and ran Canada’s most successful private debt relief company, eliminating well over 1/4 billion in unsecured debt for debt-riddled Canadians. Total Debt Freedom Inc. is still operating today, and he maintains an advisory role. During his tenure as CEO, he was awarded by Profit magazine 3 times for hypergrowth, awarded for top company culture by World Blue, and he was nominated by Ernest & Young for ‘Entrepreneur of the year.’
Richard Cooper is a passionate entrepreneur, and High Net Worth Coach with a strong interest in helping others achieve excellence.
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