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I get asked questions every day about starting, finishing, and shipping things.

Let’s be honest: I bring this on myself.

Not only do I write about these topics, but I ask everyone I meet or who joins The Resistance to tell me what they’re struggling with (and how I can help).

The nature of this is that some questions come up again and again.

I find they fit a certain trend.

So today, I want to talk about  the second most common question I get asked (right behind “why are you so handsome?” – a question that has no human answer):

First, the question:

“Tom, I want to [place description of doing something here, like: write book, sell more kitten mittens, etc.], but I don’t have [place description of excuse here, like: an audience, money, connections, platform, etc.]. What do I do?”

Now, the solution is actually pretty obvious: go build or create the thing you’re lacking (audience, money, whatever), then do the thing you want.

Thing is, though, this advice is about as useful as telling a diabetic to stop consuming so much sugar.

Great thought, but the obvious isn’t what we need. If that were the case, the problem would be solved already.

Case closed. We won. Let’s go home.

No, most humans are great at recognizing what needs changing (whether in diet, business, relationships, or life). What we’re not so great at is implementing the changes necessary to succeed.

So what we DON’T need is someone reiterating the problem and telling us a solution.

What we DO need is a framework to facilitate success: a process to help us make change; a template to help us ship our project (or lower our cholesterol).

So if you’re stuck, confused, depressed, exhausted, or ready to throw in the towel (or already have), here’s what you need to do.

3 Steps for Starting Anything from Scratch (even if you don’t have money, connections or an audience)

#1. Take The Lead

Nobody is going to create your vision for you.

Nobody is going to write your book, or call the wholesaler to coordinate the import, or build your website (the way it needs to be built).

Nor is anyone going to tell you how each chapter ought to be written, how to structure your import / export business for your particular idea, or how your website needs to be designed for your goals.

That’s on you to do the hard creative work.

That’s what “Taking the Lead” means.

It means:

  1. actually executing your idea at the lowest level possible, and
  2. building a business model with concrete action steps, deadlines, and ship dates

Because I personally find examples helpful for learning, here you go:

How to Execute an Idea at the Lowest Level Possible

For the past week I’ve been in Traverse City, MI, so I’ve been drinking a bit more delicious micro-brew than usual, so I figured we could use a brewery example.

Now let’s say you have an idea for a brewery…

The answer isn’t to imagine cool flavors you’d brew or great names you’d give them. Sure, this part is fun, but fun doesn’t create anything.

Your job is to brew (or source the brewer), connect with people who love artisan beer, and sell your beer to them.

When enough people are buying, it’s time to scale.

In other words, your job is NOT to:

  • dream up the coolest brewery name
  • talk about how awesome your brewery could be in location X
  • think about how much fun it would be to own a brewery
  • tell your friends about your brewery over beers at another brewery
  • create a logo
  • complain about not having an audience
  • work as a bartender to get experience
  • build a website
  • hire a VA
  • wish you had money
  • ask people for money
  • take out a loan

Your job IS:

  • to sell your own beer

(or, if you don’t care about the creation aspect of it: sell someone elses artisan beer)

That’s what a brewery is.

Everything else is a distraction until money exchanges hands (for delicious micro-brew).

How to Build an Actionable Business Model

Now, once you understand you need to execute your idea at the lowest level possible, you ought to build out a lean canvas.

Yes, it’s possible to try executing your idea at the lowest possible level with no plan, but let’s be real: you’re shooting in the dark.

So an actionable business model is essential.

1. Build Out a Lean Canvas

I’ve written about the lean canvas before, so I’ll simply share the results of my hypothetical brewery lean canvas here.

This took me 10 minutes to create:

lean canvas brew

As you can see, stuff is pretty basic right now.

We have a solid idea, though, of:

  1. What we’re creating (Solution / UVP / unfair advantage)
  2. Who we’re creating it for (customer segment, early adopters)
  3. How we plan to reach them (channels)
  4. How that might look financially (cost structure + revenue streams).

The lean canvas is a living document and something you should continue to develop and refine as you execute, but even this basic structure is enough to get started.

Once you have your lean canvas created (again, this should take about 15 minutes), then it’s time to break it down into a series of systems, processes, and checklists (so you can move from point A, the idea, to point B – your minimal viable product)

2. Develop Your Project Management Board

Next, turn your lean canvas into a project management board.

I prefer Trello to just about everything out there (it’s free and awesome):

trello brew

As you can see, I’ve started to flesh out precisely what needs to be done to bring this thing into reality.

The key with a good project management board: there is a system for turning ideas into reality (and a way to track it).

I generally like to assemble my boards using the: “To Do” “In Progress” “Done” framework.

Couple notes:

  • No more than 1 item per person in the “In Progress” section of the board (so if you’re a team of one, that means only one “card” can be in that “list”).
  • Always keep a “Done” tab so you can (1) track progress and (2) celebrate progress.
  • Always celebrate.

3. Develop a Checklist System

I know – people hate checklists.

But here’s the deal: without them, nothing gets done.

And on the opposite side of the spectrum, with detailed, clear checklists, ANYONE can execute on your vision – important if you ever want to build and lead a team (next section) or eventually scale the operations of your business.

For this task, I like to create a Todoist project:

todoist brew

Todoist is a simple checklist program. Like Trello, the basic software is free and incredibly valuable.

Keys to a good checklist:

  1. Always set a ship date!
  2. Assign ONE person to be in charge of one task (even if there are multiple levels)
  3. Itemize by priority
  4. Chunk (break the tasks into subtasks – Todoist lets you do this very easily and in a simple to execute framework)

Once you have your lean canvas, project management board, and checklists setup, it’s time to multiply your results the SMART way.

#2 Assemble a Team

“But Tom, I don’t know how to brew, or I don’t know how to get my beer in local taprooms, or I don’t know how to blah blah blah.”

First: yes, you do.

Or at least: you could

You could learn to brew, or figure out how to get your beer in local taprooms, or connect with investors, or figure out the proper licenses you need to whatever.

It takes creative hustle, sure, but it’s possible.

But let’s say you really do come up against something that seems insurmountable:

Like you want to start a brewery but don’t know how to brew, nor have the passion to master it.

What do you do?

Simple: you find the right person (or people) to team up with to bring your vision to live.

This is what it means to “assemble a team.”

No one has every skill they need to build something from scratch.

For the new book I’m writing, I interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs who have built and led teams.

Recently, I sat down with Chris Guillebeau, bestselling author of The $100 Startup and creator of one of the biggest conferences in the world (at least it seems like it it) The World Domination Summit (WDS for short).

I asked Chris how he did it – how could he possible launch WDS when he had:

  1. no prior event coordination experience
  2. no sponsorships to pay for the event
  3. a dozen other projects going on (like traveling around the world and touring the States for his book launches, among other things)

Here’s what Chris did:

  • he assembled a team to do all the things he didn’t know how to do
  • he leaned into this team and trusted them to deliver
  • he kept the whole project moving forward and made sure it shipped on time

Key take-aways:

  1. Chris had the vision, developed the tentative idea, then brought people on board who could compliment his skillsets and assets (in other words: he didn’t really need someone with a massive audience to help him out, but he did need an event coordinator!).
  2. Chris believed in his team and leaned into them to deliver. At first, this was difficult for him, but he managed to step back and recognize nothing would happen if he didn’t release control to others. This was difficult for a self-proclaimed perfectionist.
  3. Chris was still in the lead and made sure the conference shipped on time. That meant, while many of the decisions were democratic or in the hands of other people (whom he trusted), he still had to make sure everyone was communicating and that nothing was missing as they got closer to the launch of the conference.
If you’d like to hear the full interview between Chris and I, sign up for early notification of the launch of my new book: COMMAND: Take the Lead, Assemble a Team, and Ship Your Product to Market (his interview and many others will be bonuses, many which I will share with early notification list subscribers).

If I were doing the same thing with a brewery, I would figure out what skills and assets I brought to the table, and source the rest.

For example, I’m good at:

  • getting people to drink beer
  • inspiring word of mouth sales
  • project management and leadership of a project (mandatory if you’re the leader of a collaborative project)
  • coming up with the best beer names in the world

I’m not good at:

  • brewing
  • legal stuff
  • not drinking too much

It would behoove me then to team up with a brewer who was committed to the project. And as far as the legal stuff goes, I’d either suck it up and read some laws (and ask other brewers how they did it), or potentially find a lawyer who loves beer to team up with.

That would be the basic formation of the team (sales + product creation), and all you need to get started.

#2 Ship Your Product to Market

Once you’re underway with your collaborative project, it’s time to ship the thing to market.

What does “ship to market” mean?

It means ACTUALLY launching your product so that people exchange dollars for your idea (for your delicious micro-brew, in this case).

I’ve written about lean launching projects from scratch before, so I won’t go into detail here.

What’s most important about shipping your product to market:

  1. You set a ship date
  2. You stick to the ship date

This doesn’t mean rush and pump out garbage. The world is noisy and full of half-assed stuff (books, blogs, businesses – you name it), it doesn’t need more.

But by setting a ship date and definitively committing to it, you break through the enemys roadblocks, propaganda, and obstacles, and increase your chances of success dramatically.

An important reminder when it comes to launching something:

The real winners aren’t the people who ship perfectly.

The real winners are the people who ship.

Next Steps

If you’re working on a project, I hope this gives you a helpful framework to follow to turn your idea into reality.

If you enjoyed this post, then you may want to check out my new book:

COMMAND: Take the Lead, Assemble a Team, and Ship Your Product to Market.
command - mockup - 1b - 2a
I briefly covered the main topics of the book, but in the book itself, I’ll be deep-diving into the details (and corresponding bonus interviews, ecourse, and live events).

In COMMAND, you’ll learn:

  1. How to thrash and chunk your idea so you have a clearly defined plan of action for whatever you want to create (business or otherwise)
  2. How to build out a lean business model and how to turn this model into an actionable project management framework
  3. How to find and connect with people who will make your ideas way more successsful
  4. What resources and tools to use, how to use them, and how to build systems and processes around them (something nobody else is teaching right now)
  5. How to assemble and lead a team (from creating the contract, to managing a team and multiple projects, to best practices for communication)
  6. How to ship a project to market (including how to lean launch a project, how to leverage a co-launch, and how to fund your project so you never need to seek outside financing if you don’t want)

And much more.

Sign up for the “early notification list” here.

If you sign up, you’ll get a behind the scenes look at the making of the book, early access to some of the material, and first access to the book when it launches (1 November).

Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed todays blog post.

Leave a comment below and let me know what project YOU’RE working on and where you’re stuck.

I promise to answer every single question.

Until next time, stay frosty.

Started, finished, and shipped in Traverse City, Michigan.

Total writing time: 3:45 hrs

Soundtrack: Kishi Bashi


Click here to get early access (and exclusive bonuses) to COMMAND

Want to become a bestselling author? Join me for a free live workshop where I’ll show you exactly how how I did it for an author this past month. Join by clicking here.
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Ever since I can remember, I loved the idea of being a writer.

After all, how cool would it be to create something as epic as The Lord of the Rings, or The Chronicles of Narnia, or Gates of Fire and know that this amazing story came from you?

But time passed and I never did write my great novel…

Sure, I made some half-hearted attempts; a few paragraphs here, a few sketches there…but never anything substantial.

And certainly nothing I would actually “publish.”

Fast forward 15 years and I’ve finally written and self-published my first book (a couple actually), as well as published about a half-dozen books from other amazing artists and authors.

In these past two years since I finally hit the “publish” button on my work (and others), my life has improved dramatically (same for the authors I publish).

Below are the 5 most important reasons I’ve found for writing – AND publishing – my work…

Reasons that I hope inspire you to do the same.

Good luck.

5 Reasons to Write and Publish Your Work

#1. Become a Sought-After Authority

Before I published my first book, no one knew my name.

Or at least not the people I specifically wanted to know my name.

Since I’ve published, I’ve been interviewed on top tiered shows like Growthhacker.tv, EntrepreneuronFire.com, and FirepoleMarketing.com. More importantly, people consider me an authority in the topics I write on.

The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing has given people a reason to call me an expert (and even guru) on the topic.

I don’t say this to brag – the point isn’t whether or not I’m the expert – the point is to show you how powerful this is.

Think about it: if you’re looking for help on a topic (Pay What You Want in my case), who do you go to?  Probably the subject matter expert, right?

Exactly.

Because of this, my writing and publishing has allowed me to leverage my authority on the subject to create lucrative consulting gigs, get invitations to speak at conferences and meetups, and improved my credibility when the topic comes up.

#2. Conquer the Imposter

“Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to see their own accomplishments, dismissing them as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” [Fast Company]

According to Psychology Today, over 70% of people suffer from imposter syndrome (at some point in their lives).

While there are lots of ways to overcome feeling like a fraud, the fastest way is to write and publish your work.

Why?

Because it forces you to get over yourself, get outside your own head, and come to grips with reality (that most people probably won’t read what you write anyway, so why not do it, right?).

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes about “Resistance” – that nasty thing that keeps us from doing great things in life.

Well imposter syndrome is just one element of “Resistance,” all of which can be defeated by the commitment to write (daily) and publish (as soon as you can).

#3. Create Additional Streams of Revenue

In my last year in the Army, I had no idea what I wanted to become after I left.

Lawyer? Wall Street broker? Real Estate Investor?

Because I had no idea, I figured the simplest thing I could do was test out various creative pursuits to see if they were economically feasible. Since I can’t program to save my life, I figured writing would be the thing I could legitimately test in the marketplace.

Sure enough, it only took 1 published book to show me what was possible (and that was PWYW!).

Since then, I’ve written and published more, and scaled that impact dramatically by publishing other peoples work.

Now, with every new book, is another stream of income that will continue into the future (I try to only write and publish “evergreen” content – stuff that doesn’t fade over time). Best part is: all of this compounds.

So if you’re waiting around believing you’ll eventually finish and eventually publish. Stop.

Set a ship date and launch in the next 30 days (I dare you).

[if you need help, join me for my next free live workshop: "how to launch your book to bestseller in 7 days" - based on a true story]

#4. Build Something That Lasts Forever

This is the reason I do what I do in the long run.

Money fades, success fades, what’s cool or hipster or whatever fades.

But good books don’t fade.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is as applicable today as it was 1,000 years ago.

And through his writing, we get to experience a piece of what he was like. Certainly not the entirety of his personality, but better than nothing.

So when you question your writing, or your ability, or your worth. Stop, and remember:

It’s not about you.

#5. We Become What We Do

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” [Aristotle]

In the past two years, since writing and publishing my first book, I’ve realized something important:

Envisioning myself as the person who has written a bestselling book is a lot different than actually writing one.

Too often we love the idea of being someone or something, but don’t embrace what it means to become that person (guilty).

It’s nice to envision oneself as a bestselling author.

It’s different thing entirely to work every day to become one.

No, it’s not easy.

But then again, it’s not supposed to be.

The question is: what do you want to become 1 year from now?

And while the answer differs person to person, the next step is always the same:

Start today.

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Started, finished and shipped in Holland, Michigan.

Total writing (and filming) time: 1:37 hrs

Soundtrack: Kishi Bashi

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Join me for a free, live, online workshop: “How to Launch Your Book to Bestseller in 7 Days.”

This is part 3 in a 3 part series. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here. For bonuses, including the copy-and-paste sales script from this blog post, grab The Business Building Toolkit.
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Learn how to sell anything (that’s worth selling) in this 7 minute video that film critics everywhere are raving about*:

*I can’t confirm nor deny this statement.

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Last month, I led and shipped a collaborative business project – a business training platform for veterans.

Two weeks ago I explained how I thrashed the idea using The Open-Loop Product Development Framework. This allowed us to outline and wireframe our product and specifically how we’d intended to launch it.

Last week, I explained how we developed our lean marketing funnel by using The 1-1-1 Product Launch Method. This let us build out the entire sales funnel to drive potential prospects to our product offer.

Today, I want to talk about how we presented our offer.

Specifically:

  1. how we designed the offer (what mediums and platforms we used)
  2. how our first attempt was a success and a failure (sorta)
  3. and how we made a slight tweak to our sales process to increase sales by 400%

Let’s get to it:

Always Be Closing

Before we get to the meat-n-potatoes of “The Coffee Is for Closers Technique” you should know where the quote comes from (trust me, you’ll thank me later).

So go ahead and grab a coffee or box of caramels, and enjoy these next few minutes of amazing, courtesy of Alec Baldwin (warning, it’s PG-13 at least):

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While this video is ridiculous, it does bring up a good point: that we should focus on closing sales (if we’re in the business of closing sales…and anyone creating anything, outside of hobby projects, is in the business of closing sales).

In particular, we shouldn’t be afraid to get on the phone (or meet in person) to sell a product or service that can actually help people.

After all, if the product or service is any good, your customer will THANK YOU for it.

But…

If you come off salesy, you’ll scare people away and blow the chance of creating a loyal customer.

And that’s the problem: most people new to business / entrepreneurship / art / writing, think this is a black-and-white, one-or-the-other type choice; that you can either not try to sell at all (but hope desperately someone buys), or approach the customer like a used-car salesman and end up turning off potential customers.

Here’s the deal:

These are not the only options.

You can in fact maintain your honesty and integrity while selling your product or service. Actually, you MUST do this. Otherwise, why are you doing what you’re doing in the first place?

Of course, I wouldn’t tell you you need to do something without actually showing you how…

So in the next few sections, I’m going to share with you the particular sales technique we used to increase sales  by 400% while maintaining our honesty and integrity (and creating loyal customers in the process).

So take out a pen and paper, bookmark this page for reference later, and let’s get to it:

Crafting the Sales Offer

In last weeks blog post and video, I explained the exact process we used to funnel potential customers to our offer.

Part of any sales funnel is the offer:

What are you selling and why?

We set up our funnel so that potential customers would only see our sales page when we had the opportunity to share it with them personally (over a live webinar presentation). The reason for this is simple: a static sales page does not do a good job selling a premium product or service (certainly no one that’s brand new for something that’s not yet built!).

So we had to be able to present our offer in person (live webinar being close enough), if we hoped to get any early adopters on board our new program.

From Good to Great

Our first live webinar went off great.

Not only did 2% of attendees become early adopters immediately (about industry standard), but more importantly, everyone on the live webinar raved about it. 95% of our attendees stayed on for over 90 minutes of the presentation (way over industry standard in terms of engagement).

In fact, we weren’t even going to stop there as we had so many great questions coming in and such an awesome response, but we accidentally closed down the webinar in the middle of the Q & A…user error!

Here’s the thing though: while 2% conversion from a webinar is good, it’s not enough to truly validate our offer.

This is a tough position to be in: to have sold a number of your products or services, but not enough to know for sure it’s a home-run with your audience.

So for our next live webinar, we pivoted.

Instead of hoping we’d get more sales from the live webinar, we decided to focus 100% on the success of each individual on the call. We did this by asking for everyone’s number who would be interested in a short, one-on-one strategy call with us, to figure out ways to get their businesses off the ground (and to see if our program would be right for them).

Over 50% of attendees left their numbers – an amazing sign that what we were offering was useful.

The next step: calling every person who left his or her number, and giving 100% attention to their situation and sticking point, and helping them through it. After spending about 30 minutes on the phone with everyone who left their numbers, the results were in:

We quadrupled our sales and could confirm without a shadow of a doubt that we had a valuable service on our hands.

The “Coffee Is for Closers” Technique

Now, I could leave it at that, and let the lesson be: get on the phone with your potential customers, but that wouldn’t be very Tom Morkes of me.

So in this section, I’m going to walk you through the exact, step-by-step process I used to turn curious passer-bys into loyal customers.

Now, I have zero background in sales.

I spent 1/3rd of my life in the Army, where I never had to sell anything (except why I should be allowed to grow a beard…didn’t work). So getting on the phone with someone to get them to join a $3,000+ program…how do you do that?

So I did what I always do at times of uncertainty: I searched YouTube for the answer.

Lo and behold, I found a short video by Noah Kagan of Appsumo.com and SumoMe.com (you’ll notice that I use a lot of Sumome.com software on this site – highly recommend for anyone with a website looking to convert visitors into subscribers).

In the video, Noah shares a simple process for selling anything. To summarize, there are 3 main steps:

  1. Listen
  2. Relate
  3. Transition

Step 1: Listen to the Problem

The key here is listen to the potential customer’s problem. Your goal is to get the person to deep-dive into their problems so you can get a very good understanding of the issues they’re facing and what’s holding them back (so you know if you can help them or not).

Step 2: Relate

The key here is to be human (really, isn’t that always the key?).

Respond back to this person using the same words and style they use. You not only want to show them you understand what their problem is, but you understand them at a subconscious level (this is where using the same language / body language helps dramatically – for more information on this topic, here’s one of my favorite books on NLP…expensive but worth it).

Step 3: Transition

Once you understand the customer’s problem, you know where they want to be, and you’re confident your product or service can get them there, now it’s time to transition to the sale.

This means explaining to them how your particular product or service will get them the results they want and avoid the pitfalls of prior solutions.

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For a step-by-step, copy-and-paste template of the exact questions I asked, head over the “The Business Building Toolkit” here.

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How We Used This Technique

The approach we decided on after thrashing out our business plan and developing our product launch strategy, was to funnel prospective customers through a live training webinar.

Statistically, webinar sales presentations convert at about 2-3%. As in, if 100 people show up to a webinar, you should come away with 3 sales.

For a $3,000 product or service, this wouldn’t be too bad a showing.

The problem was, because we were building an audience from scratch, we knew we would have a hard time getting a large crowd to these webinars. 100 people might be possible in the future, but right now, that was about the size of our entire list (driven mostly through Facebook ads, which I show in this free bonus training).

That’s why we put a heavy emphasis that second live webinar on getting phone numbers from people interested in a 15 minute consulting call and follow on talk about whether our premium program was right for them.

By using this process, we ended up converting about 14% of live attendees into customers.  

Best part – we’ve gotten nothing but stellar reviews and feedback from our group (several people making the comment the other day, since the program has started, that it’s an insane value that we’re creating).

This is the power of the “Coffee is for Closers” Technique and the power of selling something that’s WORTH selling.

If you’d like the exact copy I used, you can sign up here.

When the “Coffee is For Closers” Technique Won’t Work

There are a couple reasons this technique won’t work.

  • If you have a product that doesn’t actually deliver

In this situation, two things can happen. Best case, people don’t buy. Worst case, they buy and ask for a refund and you’ve ruined your reputation.

Don’t sell something that doesn’t work. Only use this technique for products and services that create real results.

  • If people don’t trust you

There’s no real solution for this except to be trustworthy. How do you become trustworthy? Be transparent, be honest, and create products and services that deliver (or don’t try selling them).

Next Steps to Sell Anything (worth selling):

This wraps up the final update in the “How to Launch a Business From Scratch” 3-part miniseries.

I have received a few requests to go more in depth on:

  1. how to build an audience (because a business thrives or dies based on the audience)
  2. example of the thrashing process (how we iteratively go through the deployment process of an idea, how we test it, how we refine it, how we ship it again)

I intend to touch on these subjects over the next few weeks, but I’d like to know from you:

  • What else would you like to learn about?

Leave a comment below to let me know (I don’t make these videos and blog posts in a vacuum, so the only wrong answer is silence!!!).

Also let me know if you have used this technique for selling your own products or services and what the results were (or why you HAVEN’T used it – what’s holding you back?).

Until next time, stay frosty.

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Started in Denver, Colorado; finished and shipped in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Total writing (and filming) time: 6:17 hrs

Soundtrack: Mumford and Sons youtube mix

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Business Building Toolkit