O ver the past 2-3 years, I’ve gone down two separate rabbit holes as I’ve grown my coaching business. The first rabbit hole was the world of scalable group coaching. The second was the world of Bitcoin.
Surprisingly, it turns out these two spaces are both highly contrasted, yet similarly linked. And in this article I’ll explain why my experience with Bitcoin has led me to believe that scalable group programs are a deeply flawed concept.
I’ll also share the new model I’ve decided to pursue instead, now that I’ve decided “scaleable” isn’t for me.
Here’s what we’ll be covering, with handy links, if you’re reading it in chunks:
TABLE OF CONTENT:
a. In full transparency, as of January 2024, I do own Bitcoin.
b. None of what I’m about to share is investment advice. Do your own homework.
c. Apart from Bitcoin, I believe nearly all cryptocurrency is a scam that will ultimately go to zero. Buyer beware.
Let’s begin our journey by drawing the picture of how the world of scalable group coaching programs and Bitcoin are linked.
I bumped into both of these worlds for two slightly different reasons, which — funnily enough — turned out to be two sides of the same coin.
In 2020, I started exploring the world of scalable group coaching to discover how I could make more money.
The question guiding my exploration was: “How do I find a better way to serve more people and deliver a better product, so I can have more money in my bank account?”
My exploration of the world of Bitcoin was about how I could save more money.
The question guiding my exploration here: “How do I protect the money I’ve earned so it doesn’t become less valuable?”
Turns out both of these explorations were fundamentally about a single concept.
Increasing and protecting my capacity to fund and buy things.
i.e. My Purchasing Power.
Having studied both worlds in detail, the primary conclusion is that while increasing your purchasing power is important, you also have to be mindful of protecting it.
More than that, I’ve concluded that while the concept of a scalable group coaching program is attractive at the surface level, I’ve ultimately decided it’s not one that I want to pursue any further, for a number of reasons.
In fact, it’s a concept I now consider to be ultimately harmful, for both the students and business owners involved, as I’ll explain.
That’s not to knock any single coaching program that has scaled and/or been successful. There are some tremendous programs out there and I’ve been part of a few.
Instead, my conclusion is that — in aggregate — the experience for people involved in these programs is sub-standard. And I predict that over the coming years you’ll see a trend where more and more people position themselves away from being a giant scalable group programs as clients/students look for smaller, more curated, and intimate groups.
At the heart of these conclusions is a concept that’s persistent in the world of marketing:
Scarcity is a concept central to both worlds of Bitcoin and scalable group coaching. And during my exploration of both worlds my relationship with the concept of scarcity has fundamentally changed.
To the point where I no longer believe that scarcity is only used as a manipulative tool. In fact, now my perspective has shifted to see true (authentic) scarcity as an ultimate force for good.
Allow me to explain —
A NEW VIEW OF AUTHENTIC SCARCITY
Scarcity is a deep and nuanced psychological concept that gets paid a lot of lip service in the world of marketing. Yet, I’ve hardly heard anyone do a meaningful deep dive into the concept, outside its practical use as a tool for getting people to buy.
Instead, in the world of marketing, scarcity often gets over-simplified.
Performance-based Marketers say scarcity is “Good.” Typically because it drives results.
Customers and prospects say scarcity is “Bad.” Typically because it was used to FOMO them into a decision they regret.
For most of us, when we think of scarcity, we think in two dimensions:
a. Scarcity as a manipulative marketing tool, wielded by others.
b. Scarcity thinking/mindset, wielded by ourselves.
These are both forms of scarcity we feel the need to protect ourselves from. Harmful forces to defend against.
Naturally people therefore want to disassociate themselves from them.
Hence the popularity of “abundance mindset” thinking, to help you not get too attached to any single outcome. And the popularity of more ethically aligned marketing coaches who throw rocks at scarcity as an evil tool.
I’ve engaged in this exact practice. For years, I pointed the finger at manipulative marketers using fake scarcity as a trick, and positioning myself against it.
Rightfully so, too I might add. Seeing how many marketers manufactured it, both behind the scenes with people I worked with, and front of stage, as the prospect being exposed to it, turned me off no end.
By contrast, the new reality I’m now seeing the world through:
What’s allowed me to get here?
Another common concept. One that’s flooded our headlines for the last few years.
INFLATION AS INVISIBLE THEFT
Before understanding why I’m now an advocate for authentic scarcity, and why I’m killing the concept of a scalable group program in my world, we must first understand the concept of inflation.
Particularly how its destructive power can rob people of what’s rightfully theirs.
Similar to scarcity, inflation is another deep and nuanced concept that gets oversimplified. Only it’s not marketers doing the oversimplification. It’s politicians.
For most of us, we know inflation exists, we know it’s related to things getting more expensive, and we know it’s not good for us.
Yet, most folks are clueless as to how it works.
Having spoken with friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances about the ever increasing price of everything over last few years, everyone had a different explanation for the cause:
Putin, Biden, Trump, The War in Ukraine, an economic response to the lockdowns, Millennial spending patterns, the global shortage of oil and gas, supply chains getting backlogged due to COVID, supermarkets greedily price gouging.
The list went on.
One thing hardly anyone mentioned:
The insane levels of money printing governments all over the world engaged in during the COVID pandemic and lockdowns.
As the money printer goes “BRRRRR”, we all get poorer.
Zooming out, from a personal perspective, over the past 2-3 years in Canada, I’ve observed:
- My grocery bill almost doubling
- House prices have gone up almost 30-50%
- Car prices have gone up almost 30-50%
Everyone had a reason for why each of these things happened individually. A convenient story.
I found it strange. “Nearly everything went up in price, eh?”
Interestingly, when you compare this reality to the total money supply in Canada (known as M1 Money Supply), you’ll see that the total supply of money also increased by anywhere from 35-45% since early 2020.
Canada’s M1 Money Supply, tracked over 25 years.
One thing that absolutely fried my circuits was when I heard that in 2023, 31% of all money in circulation in Canada had been printed in the previous 3 years.
That seemed insanely reckless.
What most people I’ve spoken to haven’t acknowledged is that whenever a government needs to pay for something, they have two options.
1. They can tax you.
2. They can print money.
Logically, at a certain point, there’s only so much tax a population will tolerate. And in Canada, that’s about where people are at. High-income earners hand more than 50% of their intake over to the government.
In this situation, when governments want to pay for stuff, they only have one option.
The money printer.
Add to that: during 2019-2020, before the pandemic, Canada was already in massive debt and running a huge spending deficit.
When the Government decided to lock the whole country down, it forced many out of work. The Government responded by introducing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This entitled millions of people to receive money every week direct from the government.
Since governments don’t “produce” anything, they can’t create value from thin air.
That means that when they turn the money printer on, the value this freshly printed money represents has to come from somewhere.
Most don’t realize it gets its value by diluting the purchasing power of all of the existing money already in circulation.
Meaning, it essentially steals the purchasing power from citizens and residents of Canada, without asking.
This is the Invisible Theft of Inflation in action, explained by the simple economic principle of Supply and Demand.
THE LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND
How Bitcoin Breaks The Inflation Chain
One of the truly irrefutable economic principles is The Law of Supply and Demand.
It must be accepted.
What is scarce is more desired than what is abundant. A one of a kind collectible is more valuable than 1/10,000,000 mass produced units.
What is abundant is less valuable than what is scarce. And as something becomes more abundant, each unit of that thing is worth less.
The same principle applies to the money in circulation in any society. As the central power creates more money out of thin air, everyone’s money is worth less.
This was true back in the days of the Roman Empire, when they gradually started to debase their currency by using less and less silver in their coins over time. And it’s true today when they decide to print more paper money out of thin air.
When you look at what happened in Canada, it makes total sense.
Demand for goods and services in the country stayed the same, but the supply of money increased. That means the new money has to meet the existing demand. Prices therefore adjust accordingly.
Most people in Canada didn’t realize it, but between 2021-2023 they became ~45% poorer when their purchasing power remained fixed at the salary or earnings they had during that time, while practically everything else became 30-100% more expensive.
Not because the demand for things went up. Or because the supply levels dropped. The primary cause most people don’t acknowledge is that total money supply increased by 45%.
This phenomenon is also why you see such insane levels of wealth inequality amplifying. As inflation happens, properties and other assets tick along to match it accordingly. The rich get richer because their wealth is tied up in these assets that appreciate to include the effects of inflation. Everyone else is left playing catch up, with their salaries and takehome always lagging behind the inflation curve. This creates the reality of always struggling just to keep their head above water.
It’s also why everyone from the Millennial generation onward is having (and will have) an almost impossible time buying property without external assistance from family. A new phenomenon their parents didn’t face.
Noticing all of these inflationary effects happening in real time was my entry point into Bitcoin. During a conversation with a friend of mine, Max Hamm, he introduced me to an amazing podcast series called: “What Is Money? The Saylor Series”
What Is Money? The Saylor Series, Episode 1
As the name suggests, the premise of the show explores the concept of money and what it actually represents. The Saylor series has Robert Breedlove interviewing a gentleman named Micael Saylor.
Saylor is the CEO of a company called MicroStrategy and an MIT graduate in aerospace engineering. He’s also one of the largest holders of Bitcoin in the world, and a huge advocate of Bitcoin as a force for good.
During the podcast series, Saylor deconstructs the concept of money from an engineering and historical perspective. It’s a fascinating deep dive, going through a series of conversations about how societies and civilizations have risen and fallen throughout the ages, all viewed through the lens of their ability to harness energy and their relationship with money.
The deep dive serves as a setup to Saylor’s fundamental thesis: that Bitcoin is a revolutionary technology for humanity because it fundamentally changes the way humans interact with money.
– Michael Saylor
As Saylor explains, in the world of Bitcoin, what’s valued is the finite. The true, authentic scarcity that there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin. Something programmed into the software protocol by it’s creator.
This makes Bitcoin one of the few scare desirable assets were the supply is completely unrelated to the demand.
With everything else — like property, gold, stocks, and more — when demand becomes high and the price goes up, there’s a huge incentive for the producers of that thing to manufacture more of it.
For example, there are many gold deposits that are economically unviable to mine. Once gold hits a certain price point, it unlocks the financial incentive to make those projects viable. Once that happens, it inflates the supply of gold, bringing the price down, and making everyone else’s existing gold holdings less valuable.
This can’t happen with Bitcoin because regardless of the demand and price, the supply that’s issued is programmatically decided. The rate that it’s issued is known, unchangeable, and getting smaller by the day. Making it more and more scarce.
Most importantly from an inflation perspective: no one can create more Bitcoin on a whim.
As Saylor explains, this makes Bitcoin a powerful tool for anyone seeking to protect themselves from the inflationary effects of a government who’s out of control when it comes to printing money. And it explains why Bitcoin is so popular in places where inflation reaches banana republic levels, like parts of South America and Africa. Bitcoin has become a financial tool for the population to protect themselves from leaders who seek to steal from them without consent.
Once I realized this, I started to see that true, authentic scarcity could, in fact, be a force for good.
A protective quality shielding people from other actors, rather than a manipulative tool to control them.
First, this blew my mind.
Then it got me asking:
“Where else is a lack of scarcity a bad thing?”
How Coaching Attention Gets Debased
I started by examining the standard business model of “scalable” group coaching programs through the lens of supply and demand.
Holes appeared immediately.
For one, if you have a program with infinite supply, demand theoretically approaches zero.
Yet, in the world of coaching growth, “scalability” – the ability to serve any number of clients – is positioned as the ultimate goal of any program design.
Now, I’m not knocking what a lot of these programs teach. I’ve learned a ton from the ones I’ve been a part of.
We can agree that there are more and less effective/efficient ways for a business/coach/consultant to serve their clients.
And we can also agree that finding a better way to serve a larger number of people, while maintaining client outcomes, is a good thing. More than that: it’s a great thing. 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.
Having had lots of experience with scalable group programs, both as a client and a program designer, 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’ll get strategy and content to execute on, but the biggest breakthroughs for any client will always be delivered through the ultimate coaching currency:
Directed, personal attention with specific, tailored advice is what allows clients to unlock 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 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 access to is a giant group of clients, sometimes pushing into the hundreds.
This creates a fundamental technical problem.
The primary coach — i.e. the person the client wants to work with — only has so much attention to go around.
Their attention is a finite resource.
Yet, the business owner is intentionally and consistently inflating the supply of students into the group, debasing the quality of attention.
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) becomes less valuable from a coaching perspective with every new student that arrives.
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 any particular group program is the community.
Still, the primary reason clients join any program is a desire for coaching to help them solve the problems they’re facing.
To solve this technical hitch, the business usually increases the supply of coaching attention in the program by hiring more coaches.
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 for everyone involved.
Sadly, that experience isn’t the norm.
Most coaching programs I’ve participated in have failed to find coaches that are adequate for most of their clients. Hence why big coaching groups are nearly always filled with so many members who are silently floundering, unsure of how to solve their problems, and not getting the help they need.
GREED = STRESS
Why Scalability Creates A Black Hole
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.
Designing a program to be scalable lets the business serve more people by eliminating the huge inefficiencies that held them back with a 1:1 coaching model.
Still, there’s an unspoken, corrupting reality that no one talks about.
How the desire for infinite scalability creates a psychological burden driven by the never ending need for more.
Because the group’s potential has no upper limit, it’s alway falling short.
Never enough leads.
Never enough clients.
Never enough revenue.
Never enough time.
The pursuit of scale creates a black hole and the result is a world of stress that’s hard to escape.
The business owner tries to escape through the hiring of more coaches, more sales people, more assistants — and then even assistants for the assistants.
This forces the coach to become a leader of a large organization. That’s something lots of folks are not willing or capable of doing.
More than that: this whole pursuit drives costs up, placing higher demands on the business owner to feed the program more students.
The program and the business always needs more.
The outcome is typically more stress, less take home profit than the “unscaled” program, and a reduced quality of life.
Once I saw that as the destination that most “scaled” coaching businesses ended up in, I started to question my desire to get there.
I also started to ask, “What is it that I actually want?”
Upon reflection, I realized I didn’t want the infinite.
Turns out, I wanted the finite. Both for myself and my clients.
THE CLIENT STUDIO
Shifting To A Finite Model
Once I arrived at this new understanding of how student inflation could debase a program, the only logical conclusion for my business was to shift away from a scalable group program.
Understand where I’m coming from:
- My goal is to engineer and operate a 2-person business. You can read my Business Intention here.
- I’m already working with my wife in the business. Therefore, I’m the primary marketing coach.
- This makes my attention a scarce and valuable resource.
- If this is what my clients are paying for, they must be able to trust they will get what they need and pay for (i.e. enough attention from me.)
More than that. A finite model is ultimately what I want because as a business owner, I don’t want infinite capacity to fill. A never ending demand for more leads, more sales, and more clients.
No. Instead, what I want is space to collaborate and co-create with my best, premium clients. A space where every client in my studio gets a portion of my brain bandwidth to work on their campaigns, ads, offers, programs, and business. A place where I can create tailored solutions for them, based on what’s worked for me, to help them get where they want to go.
Hence why I’ve shifted my group over to a new model, “The Client Studio.”
This is a “walled garden” with limited spaces, where every client gets the personal attention they need to identify and solve their individual problems, but where the delivery and day to day of execution is run through a group.
For my Client Studio, there will only ever be 43 spaces.
So, coming in, every client knows they’re getting a seat at a table of known size, where they can see all the seats.
By limiting the spaces, this creating authentic scarcity will protect both myself and my clients from the unintentionally harmful effects of student inflation.
This decision has been quite liberating — and the initial results have been surprising.
First, my own emotional reality has changed a lot. Knowing where I am in relation to an absolute goal is refreshing and invigorating, rather than feeling like we’re still so far away from some unimagined potential.
Second, I notice I’m less stressed or concerned about any single person staying or leaving. If someone isn’t the right fit, I’m happy to let them go because there’s only limited spaces available and having them taking up a space is stopping a better fit person from joining.
Third, as the supply of the spaces reduces, it becomes easier to fill, as demand goes down. Once we reach our capacity, I’ll start a waitlist. Typically people tend to leave at 2-3 times of the year, and as people naturally cycle out and we need to fill 2-3 spaces, the amount of effort to fill those spaces will be relatively small. This will make the conversion game much less demanding. Win-win.
The coolest part of the whole situation is the surprising benefit my clients experience inside my Client Studio, where I’m the only coach they work with.
BUYING AND HOLDING ATTENTION
Why Clients Win With A Finite Model
Let’s use a simple equation to explain the true value of any coaching program (from the client perspective):
Ultimate Coaching Value = (Quality of Advice) x (Coaching Ability) x (Quality of Attention) x (Accumulated Client Wisdom)
- Quality of Advice: The quality of what the coach tells you to do, usually based on their experience and 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.
One of the common experiences I’ve had inside a scalable group coaching program is working with coaches who are part of the client success team. i.e. not the head honcho or founder coach.
In my experience, the quality of these coaches is hit and miss. Some good enough, others not so much.
Still, let’s remove their coaching ability from the equation from now and explain the typical experience of being inside these programs, which I believe my experience represents.
I’d often join the program and become familiar with 1-2 members of the coaching team, who I start to build a relationship with. These coaches start to accumulate Client Wisdom about me and my business, and the coaching relationship becomes more fruitful.
Then, because these coaches are not part of the “permanent fixture” team, they either leave to pursue their own work or business — or they get cycled out as the coaching team gets upgraded or replaced.
Or you get moved to a different “group” schedule and you’re now assigned a completely new coach.
When this happens, the Client Wisdom variable of the equation goes to zero, as the new coach(es) must learn about my situation and circumstances from scratch.
Not only is this less productive, but it’s quite frustrating when this loss of Client Wisdom wasn’t something you intentionally decided upon, by switching coaches.
By creating an environment where my clients get (and will continue to get) all of their coaching attention from me — and not some other coach — this allows them to apply a “buy and hold” attention investment strategy.
This creates a compounding effect as I acquire Wisdom about their:
- Business model
- Campaign history
- What’s worked (or not worked) in the past
- Individual strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
As my Client Wisdom accumulates, I become more valuable to them.
As I become more valuable, their desire to leave reduces.
Problems get solved faster. Patterns get spotted quicker. Big opportunities get pointed out.
The whole relationship is far more productive for everyone involved.
Another big reason for creating a finite environment.
So, there you have it. That’s the breakdown of why I’m shifting away from scalable group coaching models and shifting over to a finite Client Studio model.
If you’ve thought about doing something similar, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
And if you’d like to see how I can help you design and create you own Client Studio, consider joining us inside of The Chamber.
You can read the details of joining us here: Invitation to The Chamber
In the words of Michael Saylor: