ROTE 002: Jim Kukral and How to Run a Lifestyle Business

The journey from employee to self employed entrepreneur is a long and lonely path. For some it may come faster and easier, but for the majority of us it’s quite the task.

Many times people read or hear about the success of others online and think having your own business is the greatest thing in the world (which it is!) and that the majority of us are lucky (which rarely has anything to do with it)… however what many of them don’t realize or get to read about is the long hours of constant work, frustration and failures that we endure until we finally hit that success we’ve been looking for.

This is exactly what we are going to be talking about in the latest episode of the Rise of the Entrepreneur.

Rise of the Entrepreneur – Episode 2 with Jim Kukral

Jim Kukral Quote

Nothing comes easy in life, especially when you are just entering the work force and trying to make your own path.

Jim Kukral is a real life example of someone who has worked their way up from the trenches of the dreaded 9-to-5 to achieving his dreams of being his own boss and doing what he wants with his time.

Like many of the special guests on my show, Jim and I go back many years. I first met with Jim back in 2000-2001 on the AffiliateForce cruises when he was working with another ad network and I’ve personally seen him transition himself from being an employee to running his own lifestyle business and now even his own book marketing club and conference. In short, he’s running the “lifestyle business” he’s always wanted.

Talking Points Discussed in this Episode:

  • Jim brings us back to 1995 to discuss his first job experience
  • How to achieve the goal of a life-style business
  • When Jim knew he never wanted to work for anyone again
  • Finding your passion and sticking with it
  • Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
  • From online entrepreneur to conference builder
  • Three great Q&A questions for Jim in the Pit of Fire

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Mentioned URLs and Resources:

Jim Kukral and How to Run a Lifestyle Business Transcription

Zac Johnson: Hello everyone, and welcome to the second episode of the Rise of the Entrepreneur. Today, we are going to be talking about the many opportunities that lie in the world of online marketing, and how it is often not as easy as many people might make it out the seam.

For every success story you hear about, there is another hundred failures that no one speaks of. The difference between those who fail and find success is the will to never give up and keep pushing until you find what is next.

Here is a good example. I first started making money online back in the mid 90’s. But over the past 20 years, I had to refocus and adapt my business with the changing times.

I have done everything from building my own websites, creating ad campaigns, using affiliate marketing, starting my own blog, and most recently, the addition of podcasting.

The key take away here is that you need to continually adapt and change your business to find success. This is exactly what my good friend, Jim Kukral has gone through over the years.

I first met Jim back in 2002 along the internet marketing cruise. At the time he was working as a 9-5 employee with another company. Being a good friend of Jim’s, and watching him make the transition from being an employee to being his own boss, I knew this would make for a great story to share with others.

Jim and I discussed how he went from working for ‘the man; to running his own lifestyle business. Not only Jim now his own boss, but he also gets to focus more time on doing what he enjoys, such as spending time with his family and fishing.

Be sure to stick around until the end of the episode, where Jim shares some of his most valuable information and real life experiences in the pit of fire.

Hey Jim! How was it going? We have been great friends forever and I just want to introduce you to the world. So pretty much, why do not you tell us a bit about yourself?

Jim Kukral: My name is Jim Kukral, as you said. I have been doing this internet marketing thing for probably about 18 years now. I have been working for big companies and small companies over the last 12 or 13 years, or so. I have been running my own online businesses and creating new businesses.

I kind of having my hand involved in pretty much everything, from affiliate marketing to book publishing, to everything related to internet marketing, the same kind of thing that you have been doing, Zac. We just had different projects all along the way.

Zac: Right. Yeah. It is pretty amazing. I was thinking about it. And between the two of us, we have nearly 40 years of internet marketing and business experience.

Jim: Yeah. You know I always say I am the old guy in the internet business even though I am only 42 and I know you are much younger than I am.

Zac: Right.

Jim: But that is the advantage of getting in on an industry when it first comes out, right? So, you have the experience that a lot of people do not have because they just did not get into it as soon as you do.

Zac: Exactly. Back then, we did not know what was going to happen. So why don’t not we just go back to 1995 when you were pretty much starting out in this industry and you can kind of, walk your way through to where you are today?

Jim: Yeah. The story is funny. I was doing print designs in the basement of a phone company and I was designing phone book ads.

Zac: Nice.

Jim: When I got a degree from the University of Akron in Graphic and PR. I was doing graphic designs and print stuff. And one day, my buddy came to me and said, “Hey! My cousin is starting this internet marketing company.”

I am like, “Really? Internet stuff?” This is really early in the equation. And he said, “Why do not you come in for an interview?” I went in. They offered me the job. I had two jobs choices, take the job with the new internet company or take the job designing brochure for print companies.

I was like, “I will take a risk.” And it was a smart decision. First day on the job, they handed me in HTML book and said, “Learn this.” I said, “What the heck is this?”

I learned it and I find my graphic designs skills, which were minimal to the internet business. And I just went from there, grew that company to 150 people.

I left and started my own company, grew that to 150 people, got dot com to dot com age, and then went out on my own. It is a trial and error business. It is the business where you go out and you just put your head in, your hands in the dirt and you make it happen. You fail a lot but if you continue to push on, you can succeed a lot.

Zac: Yeah, definitely. It is not an industry for the weak hearted. So, you started working out for another company and you are basically working for the man. And then, you went and started your own company. Now, you are pretty much focusing on yourself and running a lifestyle business. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jim: You do the same thing, Zac. We had different paths to get to the same place. I always learned that I wanted to have a lifestyle business which is have a business but around the lifestyle that I like, which is not, for me not having a boss, not having set hours, not having specific things that people control my destiny.

I guess that kind of delves from me being an entrepreneur, from being the fourth kid in the family, 10 years removed from my brothers and sisters. At that point, my parents were like, “Okay. We will just let him do whatever he wants.” So, I just learned how to be an entrepreneur at a young age because I was just responsible for all my own stuff.

The lifestyle business is really important for some people and to some people, it is not. Some people are very happy to have that job and very happy to have other people controlling their destiny and where they go. There is nothing wrong with that. But I learned real quickly when I started this business, or when I was working for other people.

I will give you a good example. One of the stories that when I knew I never wanted to work for anyone ever again, I was working for that company that hired me for years. I was working, literally 20 hours a day, living in the office. We build so much money for this big client. I basically built the entire project from scratch.

My hands built the entire thing.

Christmas time came around and I said, “Where are the owners?” They said, “Oh! They went shopping.” We are all sitting around, waiting for our Christmas bonuses.

They came back with a truck full of Ikea furniture and then proceeded to say, “Look at all the great, big furniture we bought.” I saw and said, “That is great.”

Then, they handed up the Christmas bonus checks.

I got mine and it was like, $600. Now you say, “Jim, $600. You should have been really happy with that.” They weren’t paying me very much, and I just found out that they spent 38,000 on Ikea.

Zac: Wow.

Jim: I looked at them and I said, “I just busted my butt…” We are talking about a million dollar account. “I made all this money for you, guys and you went out and blew all the money on Ikea furniture and gave me a measly $600 for Christmas bonus.

That is the exact moment I knew I never wanted to work for anyone ever again because I knew I could not handle letting someone else control my profit, controlling my success. And that is when I started to become an entrepreneur, really take a heavier input in my life and building a lifestyle business.

Zac: Right, exactly. I can relate to you all the time. I know how you often say, “You would much rather make less money and have the time to be able to do whatever you want, spend time with your kids, go fishing,” and I feel the same way.

I like being able to wake up whenever I want, being able to take the days off and go out with my wife and play basketball in the morning. So at the end of the day, it is not about the money. It is really about the lifestyle and doing what you want.

Jim: It really is. Everybody has this cross world points they go in their lives where they make life decisions and changes. I had an experience years ago with panic attacks.

When you have a panic attack or anxiety attack the first time, you think you are going to die. What you quickly realized is it is your head taking over control. It has nothing to do with your body.

At that point in my life, I said to myself, “What am I doing? I am working too hard on things that I did not like and working for people that I did not like, and working too long of hours.”

My kids were young at that time and I said to myself, “What am I doing?” And I started going back and started doing the things I like to do more, which is to spend more time going fishing and working on projects that were more of a passion for me.

Of course, it took time to build those up and be successful with them. But now, I am at a point where I am happy and exactly what you said, I am more concerned about where I am at in this short, short life that we have than how much money is in my bank account.

Zac: Right, exactly. And speaking of right now, you are flourishing in the book market. You pretty much jumped in a lot of areas over the past 15 years. But now, you seem pretty solid and happy with what you are doing. So, why do not you tell us about how you published your first books and what you are doing to help other people do the same?

Jim: Well, like you Zac, I have been doing publishing content on the web since the very beginning. In 2010, I finally took a plunge and wrote a book for a traditional publisher and actually had a book like in bookstores.

It was a great book, it is a wonderful book called, Attention: This Book Will Make You Money. But what happened during that experience was I realized that after, I did not need a publisher in order to do what I needed to do which was publish books.

In around 2010 was the exact time when the Kindle boom started to take place which is anyone can now publish a book either print or digitally online without needing the publisher because publishers control the book content before.

They said, they decided whose book was good and whose content was good, and they would publish you or not. I took my experiences from the traditional publishing experience I had and probably had that to over 10 self-published books since that time with another book coming out in the spring.

Again, taking what you have learned and the experiences you have tried, and then turning it around and helping build your lifestyle business. Now, I have since learned almost everything, I think, about publishing business in terms of traditional and self-publishing. I learned that the marketing, of course, is the hard part. You would know that Zac.

Zac: Right.

Jim: Creating a business, a product or a book, it does not matter. The marketing is really the hard part of getting the word out about it. But it is easier than ever because of the internet we have, the social media we have today. But it is still the hard part.

So, I created a business called Author Marketing Club that helps authors figure out how to get the marketing of their books.

Zac: Right. That is great. So, you probably have some people listening that have an idea for their book. But in their traditional mind, they think that they have to go out there and pitch a ton of different book companies and they are going to be lost in the mix. What alternatives that they have if they want to go to the self-publishing route? What can they do to get that kind of started?

Jim: I could do three hours on traditional versus self-publishing but I will just say this. There are only two reasons in my opinion that you would ever want to go with the traditional publisher anymore which is a publisher like Wiley or Simon and Schuster, somebody like that.

There are only two reasons you would want to do that. Number one, they give you a huge signing bonus to come in and write a book. That is so big that you are like, “I could not turn this down.”

The problem with that is, unless you are Steven King or unless you are a big time celebrity or somebody that everybody knows, they are not doing that. Their model is fame. They cannot give up that money anymore to attract an author, alright? So that is the main reason I would do it. If you can get a big check from them before you write the book, then maybe consider it.

The other reason is if you are a speaker and you are relying on the speaking circuit to make revenue then, having a traditionally published book still means a lot to event planners, to executive level of people and big companies would hire you to speak. So those are the only two reasons.

There are a million reasons why you should not; because of the lesser commissions, not being able to own the rights, the control of the book, the cover, the title.
I could tell you right now that I wish so much that I had my book back from Wiley called ‘Attention’ because I think that the title is wrong and that the cover is wrong.

If I own the rights to that book now as a self-publisher, I would break it into two parts because it is 75,000 words and I think people want to read shorter books in that genre, non-fiction, or break it into two parts. We title it, resell it on Kindle and print on my own. I think that I’d make 10 times as much money as I made from the publisher.

Zac: Right. And where do you see the future of print going? Obviously Barnes & Noble, and companies like that are still going to be around. But we are seeing so many smaller ones fall apart that haven’t established an online presence or a tablet.

Jim: Well, let us just make something real clear. Traditional publishers, since Gutenberg invented the printing press, they have controlled the industry and they have never been in the business of content; they have been in the business of paper.

Zac: Right.

Jim: The reason that a traditional publisher wants to put out an 80,000-word book is because it looks real nice on a shelf, it is nice and thick and you can get away with charging 30 bucks for it.

They have been in the business of paper, not content. They have been gatekeepers of content under this disguise for hundreds and thousands of years since whenever Gutenberg invented printing press in like, 14 or whatever.

So now, you have traditional publishers you see there. Their model hemorrhaging because keeping tons of paper on bookshelves is not really a great model anymore because some of them sells and some of them do no and you have this huge overhead of keeping these books in warehouses and in stores, and hoping that people are coming in to stores to buy the books.

That is why you are seeing Barnes & Noble fail and that is why you are seeing local indie bookstores find harder time as well. Is print going to ever go away? I hope not. I really love print-books. But the business mind of me and the entrepreneur of me looks at the situation that they are in and says, “I do not see how are they going to survive long-term in their current model.”

I have seen some really neat things happen like, there is company now that is almost, kind of, be like the red box for books where you can go in order book and a machine in front of a supermarket or the coffee shop you are in, will actually print the book in five minutes and spit it out for you like a vending machine.

I mean, there is going to be adaptations. And of course, there is print-on-demand where you can order your books and all kinds of things. Print is not going away, but the traditional model of how it has happened in the past is definitely not going to be there much longer.

Zac: Right. That is definitely an interesting way of putting it; that the industry is selling paper and not content. And so many people out there are always going to want to hold that physical copy of the book and it is just not the same if you have a published book and you can say you can download it versus actually be able to hand it to someone as almost like a business card.

Jim: You know, the book is the best business card that you will ever have. I would always like to say, that plop sound. I have a book in front of me and just drop it, right? You drop that on somebody’s desk when you are going in for a job interview or you are going in to impress a client and they hear that plop sound.

So when I do books nowadays, I put them on digital, on Kindle and Smash Words on all of the other places. But I also do go create space and I create print-on -demand versions of the books.

I have them printed up and they are wonderfully stitched, beautiful looking books. I get them and I order at my cost and I take them on events and I sell them or I give them away and sign them.

You can do the exact same thing. It is the best of both worlds right now. The opportunities are there for you to have the best of both worlds in digital and print.

Zac: Right, definitely. And speaking of the events, the Jim Kukral brand continues to grow even more. I see that you have a new Author Marketing Club Event coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Jim: I do. I take in the plunge in starting my first event, a hundred and fifty people, authors who are willing to come out to Cleveland, Ohio this summer in 2014.

It is called the

It is an in-person, author marketing learning events. We got amazing speakers. We got Joe Pulizzi from content marketing world who is going to talk about epic content.

We have got Johnny B. Truant from the self-publishing podcast. We have got David Lawrence. I do not know if you know David Lawrence. Have you watched the show Heroes, remember that show?

Zac: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Jim: Remember the Puppet Master, the bald guy?

Zac: Oh, yes!

Jim: So, that is David Lawrence. But he has been podcasting for quite years.

Zac: Oh nice!

Jim: He is a voice actor and he reads books for big time publishers and actors. He is going to come and talk about audio books. It is really going to be an interesting event. There is only 150 seats. I just started selling tickets this week for it. We are very excited.

So if you are an author out there who is interested, come grab the cheap flight to Cleveland. Come out and get a full day of learning. It is going to be really impressive.

Zac: Yeah. That sounds really exciting. I do not think there is really that much stuff out there for that. So, it is a really niche audience. There is going to be a high demand for that.

Jim: I hope so. You and I have been to a lot of events over the years. I am going to do it at a high class level. I am not sparing any expense for this event in terms of the location, lunch provided, the speakers and everything. As a matter of fact, I probably going to end up losing money on this event because I am spending so much money to make it awesome for the attendees.

You have been to a lot of events. Who wants to go to an event that is not ran well or that is not professional and it just does not provide what they said they would? That is just something that I refuse to do.

Zac: Yeah, exactly. You only have one chance to make that first impression. If you do not make it right, then no one is going to show up that next year. We have seen that happened time and time again. That is why conferences come and go.

Jim: Yeah. That is exactly right. We sure have seen it.

Zac: Alright. So, of all the books that you have written so far, which one has been your favorite?

Jim: Attention: This Book Will Make You Money is absolutely my favorite book because it was almost a 10-year process of writing that book in my head, accumulating the case studies and the connections to write that book.
It is the longest book I ever wrote. It is about 75,000 words. It is a really good book. The biggest flaw I have with that book is I titled it wrong, probably spoken to you about this before.

I should not have called it, This Book Will Make You Money, because what happened was, people see the subtitle of the book and they think it is a “get rich quick” book which is not.

It is a technical marketing book with case studies and ideas about how to get attention for your business and your brand. That has made the book suffer in terms of sales and getting the word out there.

Once people read it, they will say, “Wow! This is great, Jim.” I have got to tell you, I feel good when people come up to me and this happens all the time. They say, “Jim, I have a 150, little yellow notepads sticking out my copy of the book you sent me where I took notes,” or, “I just listen to this thing in my drive from New York to Pennsylvania and I had to listen to it again on the way back because I just did not want to miss something.” That is probably the book I am most proud.

Zac: Alright. That is awesome. I am sure a ton of people got value of everything, from building your own business to talking about book, and even possibly attending your event.

Jim: In a minute, we are going to throw you into the pit of fire where you’re going to have three questions, so hold on tight.

Zac: Alright Jim, we are now back. This is the Pit of Fire where you have three questions to provide us much information as you can, inspire others and just spread the wealth.

Number one. What is the most exciting thing that has ever happened for you, as result of having your own business?

Jim: The most exciting thing that has ever happened to me is being asked to speak at a really large event in a keynote capacity, in front of thousands and thousands of people.

That was really an amazing experience when they ask you to do that and be able to get up on stage and communicate with that many people. It was just a huge rush for me.

Zac: Number two. If you could offer a first time entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jim: Stop waiting. Stop procrastinating. Go out there and learn how to fail. Put your hands in the dirt and make it happen. The longer you wait will be the longer you will never get to the point in your life where you want to be.

Believe me. You have to learn how to fail. So that means going out there and trying and you will fail. But when you fail, get back up. It sounds so cliché, but it is so true.

If you do not go out there and just give it a shot and fail over and over so you find success, you are never going to get to that point in life where you want to be.

And maybe you are okay with that but maybe you are not.

Zac: That is exactly the truth. We are both examples of that. So, number three. If you had to start over today and had absolutely nothing, what would you do?

Jim: I would go to Mark Cuban route which he said, “I would take everything I own and I would sell it. I would go sit in a room and I would just create content. I would create businesses and I would leverage everything I had to just try and build something big as fast as I could.”

I have a family now. I am the breadwinner in the family. I have a responsibility. So for me to be able to do that is not possible now. Maybe I see he rephrase the question, “If I was starting out again,” maybe that is the rule. If I was young and I didn’t have a family, I would go out there and I would just leverage everything and go for it.

Zac: Awesome. Alright Jim. This is about the end of the interview. Any closing remarks? Let us know how we can get in touch with. Anything else that is going on?

If you want to know what I do, here is the best way to see that, just go to That is K-U-K-R-A-L .com. I have got about a minute and a half video on there in the front page of my webpage that explains everything that I do that can help solve your problems.

Whether you are an author or you have a business that needs website, or a video for your business, I can help you out. Go to and look at that video. You will have a good idea about how I could do it. So, how is that for sales pitch?

Zac: That sounds awesome Jim. Thank you so much and we will all be in touch with you soon.

Wow! That was great. I am really glad that I did just to sit down with Jim so he could share his story with all of us.

Not only is he a great guy, but he is also a finally found his calling and become quite the authority in the self-publishing and book world. For many of us, we maybe way too envious of this success of others and think that it just comes to them way too easy.

Jim’s story was a perfect example of how much work, time and effort goes into finding and paving your own path. The important thing to remember is that nothing happens overnight, and in Jim’s case, this was a journey that took shape over the course of many years.

Now is the time to turn your dreams into a reality. It does not matter what you want to accomplish in life as long as you start to take action right now. If you are trying to change your life for the better, create that new business that you always wanted. Or even just figure out how to make a few extra dollars online. You need to take action and make things happen.

Today, I want you take that first step to achieving your goal and setting your path in the right direction. Create that new business that you have been thinking about.

Call that family member that you have not talk to in a while. Just grab a piece of paper and write down that big goal that you keep pushing to the side. Take that immediate action today.

As always, I want to thank you for listening to the Rise of the Entrepreneur and there is nothing I would love more than to hear your feedback on the show.

Feel free to leave a review or rating within the iTunes and connect with me on social media and through the blog.

Don’t forget to visit for show notes and more. Until next time, this is Zac Johnson. Seize the day and go make your dreams become a reality.


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