O ver the last 2 years, I’ve gone down two separate rabbit holes: Scalable group coaching programs, and Bitcoin. After this journey, I’ve arrived at conclusions:
- The trend of “scalable group programs” has an expiration date that’s rapidly approaching (as markets get more sophisticated)
- True (authentic) scarcity is an ultimate force for good.
Allow me to explain —
Understand that scarcity is a deep and nuanced psychological concept that often gets over-simplified in the world of marketing as either “good” or “bad.”
For most of us, we when we think of scarcity, we think in two dimensions:
a. Scarcity thinking/mindset, wielded by ourselves.
b. Scarcity as a manipulative marketing tool, wielded by others.
These are both forms of scarcity we must protect ourselves from.
Contrast this to the new reality I’m dealing in:
We’ll unpack this new reality in this article.
I arrived at this new reality with the merging of my two learning journeys.
The first of these began in 2020, when I started studying scalable group programs as a means of intentionally stacking more coin in the coffers of my business.
The second started in late 2021, when I studied Bitcoin as a means of protecting myself from the governments of Canada, United States and Europe recklessly printing shed loads of cash during the lockdowns.
(As the money printer goes “BRRRRR”, we call get poorer.)
What struck me during these deep dives is the complete contrast between both worlds.
In the world of scalable group programs, what’s valued is the infinite.
“There is no limit to the number of clients you can serve.”
In the world of Bitcoin, what’s valued is the finite.
“There will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins.”
The contrast between these two realities is what got me asking questions about the true reality of scarcity.
And by asking these questions, I started to draw some conclusions that the idea of a “scalable group program” is inherently flawed.
Let’s examine why, starting from first principles.
THE LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND
To begin, we must acknowledge the Law of Supply and Demand.
Economically, it cannot be refuted. It must be accepted.
What is scarce is more desired than what is abundant, regardless of how “valuable” it is.
Take for example: oxygen.
It’s inherently valuable to humans, critical even.
And, yet, on Planet Earth it’s so abundant that there is almost no marketable desire for it.
That is until it’s in short supply. Then demand and desire goes through the roof and nothing else matters.
It’s life or death.
When you start to examine the standard business model of “scalable” group coaching programs through the lens of this principle, it quickly starts to fall apart.
When a scalable program has infinite supply, demand theoretically goes in the opposite direction.
And yet, in the world of coaching growth, scalability is positioned as the ultimate goal.
Now, let’s agree that there are more (and less) efficient and effective ways for a coach to serve a larger number of clients.
And let’s acknowledge that more efficient and effective delivery to a larger number of people, while maintaining client outcomes, is a good thing.
More than that: it’s a great thing.
The demonstrates the power of innovation at it’s finest.
The problem, as I see it, is not pursuit of efficiency or leverage.
The problem is the idea and concept of Scalability.
WHY CLIENTS GET LOST IN THE WAVES OF SCALE
Over the years I’ve had lots of experience with scalable group programs. Both as a client, on the inside multiple “scaled” group programs, and as someone who’s designed and built (for myself and my clients) a bunch of ‘scalable’ programs.
Here’s my unpopular opinion:
The “boots on the ground” reality for most “scalable/scaled” programs is substandard, bordering on dangerous, for both the clients and the business owner alike.
Let’s start with the client side.
As a client, you join a coaching or education program because you want help hitting your goals.
You want a different future reality, and you’re paying for someone’s experience, guidance, advice, and help in getting there.
You know you will get strategy and content to execute on, but the biggest breakthroughs for any client will always be delivered through the ultimate coaching currency:
Directed attention is what allows clients to unlock specific, tailored advice so they get the outcomes they’re searching for ASAP.
It’s the shortcut that sends you right to collect $200, instead of meandering through a bloated curriculum, falling foul of progress JAIL 2-3x times.
When you hire a coach, what you’re “hiring” is the person you want coaching from: the primary coach (i.e. the face of the business.)
In most cases, what you “get” is access to a giant group of students and clients, sometimes pushing into the hundreds.
This creates a fundamental technical problem.
The primary coach — i.e. the person the clients wants to work with — only has so much attention to go around.
Their attention is a finite resource.
At yet, the business owner is intentionally and consistently inflating the supply of students into the group.
And while they do this, the supply of coaching attention inside the group remains fixed.
100 units of attention / 20 students = 5 units each.
100 units of attention / 200 students = 0.5 units each.
That means the value of each student unit (i.e. a seat inside the program) gets debased from a coaching perspective with every new student that arrives.
Now, to be fair, the value of the group increases from a network and community perspective as more people join. This is why one of the main reasons people stay in a group program is the community after they’ve found their tribe.
That value is only realized if the members inside the network know how to leverage that network and draw value from the community.
Few do that well, in my experience.
The primary reason clients join any program is a desire for attention and coaching to help solve the problems they’re facing.
That requires attention from an experienced coach.
To solve this problem, business hire more coaches to pump up the supply of coaching attention in the group.
If the business can find a coach who’s equipped with enough coaching skills and practical experience to help the students accomplish their goals, it works out well.
I’ve had one such coaching experience that fits that bill.
While I initially felt duped with a “bait and switch” feeling that my coach wasn’t who I thought it would be, it turned out the coach was tremendous and a perfect fit for me in ways I couldn’t have previously thought.
Sadly, that experience wasn’t repeated in other programs I joined.
Most coaching programs fail to find coaches that are adequate.
Hence why big coaching groups always have so many people floundering, unsure of how to solve their problems and not getting the help they need.
The client experience suffers and the magic that initially allowed the program to thrive and generate demand — the stellar client experience and coaching from the primary coach — starts to evaporate.
THE EMERGENCE OF CORRUPTION IN PURSUIT OF GROWTH
Now, let’s talk about the business owner side of the equation.
You’d imagine that having an infinitely scalable program would be valuable to the business owner.
And in some regards, it is.
A scalable program lets them serve more people by switching up their model and eliminating huge inefficiencies that held them back previously.
The unspoken, corrupting reality of a scalable group program, though, is that with an infinitely scalable program, the upper limit of a group’s potential is always unrealized.
Therefore, by definition, the business owner never has enough.
Never enough leads.
Never enough clients.
Never enough revenue.
Never enough time.
Pursuit of scale becomes a black hole for time, energy, money, and effort.
The result is an unexpected world of stress that’s hard to escape.
People try to escape through hiring of more coaches, more sales people, more assistants — even assistants for the assitants.
This drives costs up, placing higher demands on the business.
The program always needs more.
Unfortunately, this combination of infinite supply and needy-ness decreases demand.
SHIELDING THE WORLD FROM INFLATION
Now, let’s contrast infinte world of scalable coaching programs to the finite world of Bitcoin.
a. In full transparency, as of October 2023, I do own Bitcoin.
b. None of what I’m about to share is investment advice.
c. I’m not a crypto-bro who believes crypto is the future of everything. In fact, I’ll say that nearly all crypto is a scam that will ultimately go to zero.
The only exception IMO is Bitcoin.
In the words of Micahel Saylor —
With that out of the way, let’s continue —
Having studied Bitcoin for 150-200 hours, my primary takeaway is the following:
Bitcoin’s most important property is it’s true, authentic scarcity.
Mathematically and programatically, there can only ever be 21 million Bitcoin. The supply can’t arbitrarily inflated by anyone.
This is why Bitcoin is seen as an incredibly powerful shield to protect yourself from the debasement of your own currency by politicans and people in power.
(Of course, the price volatility of Bitcoin is a different story.)
In Canada, for example, during the pandemic years, the government increased the total money supply by ~30%.
The primary cause was the lockdowns, where they essentially shut down the economy — something they thought was a good idea for people’s benefit. When they did that, people still needed money to survive, and so the government send thousands of dollars per month to a bunch of Canadians.
The problem: They didn’t have that money accounted for and they couldn’t tax anyone to generate the cash. So the only answer was:
PRINT MORE MONEY.
Subsequently, the price of housing, cars, property (and more) jumped by ~30% in the following 12-18 months.
In the case of food prices, they’ve rocketed up by 80-100%, as the compounding effect of inflation on the supply chain stacked one on top of the other.
So, quietly, the entire population took a 30-50% paycuut (i.e. became substantially poorer) and now as to pay for the consequences of a government that was (apparently) trying to help.
Of course politicians always play the blame game when it comes to inflation. It’s never their fault.
Yet, simple economic principles tell you that there’s only one cause of inflation: an increase in the supply of money.
Politicians and central banks know they’re entirely responsible for inflation — and continue to do it willingly.
They can’t help themselves. It’s their game.
The money printer is to a politicia what hard drugs are to an addict. Irresistible.
The natural conclusion for anyone on the receiving end of this inflation terrorism is to protect yourself (and others) from it’s toxic effects.
That starts by understanding where it comes from and that it’s cause can often come in the name of doing good.
Now, let’s bring this back to coaching.
DEBASING YOUR PROGRAM THROUGH STUDENT INFLATION
The reality is that most coaches do exactly the same thing when they inflate the supply of students in their program.
They don’t do it with the intention of hurting the existing clients and students within the program.
They do it because — just like a government with a money printer — they can’t help themselves.
They have an infinitely scalable program crying out for more students.
They want — need — more sales.
That’s what a scalable coaching program is for.
Without the right protections in place, the natural result of this process is that the program becomes debased as the client experience drops.
Once I had this realization, it gave me a new appreciation for the power of true, authentic scarcity as a force for good.
True scarcity protects students from the inherent (often not malicious) greed driving the growth of a scalable program.
And it protects the business owner/coach from the toxic effects of trying to find and serve an infinite number of clients.
THE POWER OF TRUE, AUTHENTIC SCARCITY
Once I arrived at this understanding, the only logical conclusion was to limit the supply of spaces in my coaching group.
For my own benefit — and for my clients’ benefit.
- My goal is to engineer and operate a 2-person coaching business.
- Therefore, I will be the only coach in the program.
- This makes my attention a scarce and valuable resource.
- If this is what my clients are paying for, they must be able to trust that they will get what they need and pay for (i.e. enough attention from me.)
More than that — by keeping my group small, I’ve observed a surprising benefit.
Understand, the true value of any coaching program (from the client perspective) follows an equation:
- Quality of Advice: The quality of what the coach tells you to do, usually based on their experience abd ability to get outcomes.
- Coaching Ability: The coaches ability to help a client find their own answers and overcome their obstacles.
- Quality of Attention: The client’s ability to get input on the items needing input from their coach, stopping them from progressing.
- Accumulated Client Wisdom: The coaches experience with a client and their history, allowing for faster better paths to success.
Of course, all of that hinges on a client’s ability to execute.
Here’s the interesting part:
By creating an environment where my clients get all their coaching attention from me — and not some other coach — it allows them to apply a “buy and hold” attention investment strategy.
By investing all of their resources into my attention, it creates a compounding effect as I acquire Wisdom about their market, their business model, their offers, their campaign history, what’s worked (or not worked) in the past, and them as an individual.
As my Client Wisdom accumulates, I become more valuable to the client.
As I become more valuable, their desire to leave reduces.
So, to create more value for my clients, each part of the equation must be maximized.
And by being the only touch point for my clients, the accumulation of Client Wisdom and by ability to coach them amplifies.
Contrast this to a common reality inside scalable group programs: when the coaching team cycles out or gets replaced. When this happens, the Client Wisdom variable goes to zero for everyone involved, as the new coaches have to learn all about every client from scratch.
SIMPLIFYING AND DESTRESSING THE SALES PROCESS BY LIMITING SUPPLY
Limiting supply also benefits me because I need to focus less on sales.
I learned this in my “paid on results” client delivery days. I earned a kings fortune each month working with a handful of clients.
There was lots of demand. Yet, I had zero extra supply. And so I had to do no sales and marketing to earn the revenue I was aiming for.
With a hard limit of how many coaching clients I can/will serve, that means I need to market and sell less, as less demands need generating.
This equation gets tipped further in my favor because clients stay longer due the compounding value they get inside the group (explained above).
It also allows me to work with a higher quality of client through curation.
When supply is fixed, it increases demand for the spaces available, letting me be more selective about who I let in.
If anyone not the right fit, they get moved along rapidly to create space for someone else.
This is to the benefit of everyone involved.
This creates a delivery environment that reduces stress and increases joy of delivery.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO MY PROGRAM
We’ve grown rapidly over the last 2-3 months.
And so we’re putting a soft cap of 30 members in place, while I figure out my bandwidth for the group size.
It will likely end up being somewhere in the region of 40-50 people, max.