Cory Verner—Learn How to Start a Successful Christian Business
On this week’s episode of the Eternal Entrepreneur, we speak with Cory Verner. Cory is the founder of ONE Audiobooks. He has been publishing and producing audiobooks for the Christian market since 2003. He co-founded christianaudio.com in 2004 which sold its first audiobook as a download when the market was 90%+ cassettes. He also owns Verity Audio Productions, a boutique audiobook production company that was started in 2006. He lives with his wife Crissy and boys, Levi and Luke in San Diego, CA.
As Pierce mentions in the intro, the audio of Pierce and I is pretty rough, but Cory sounds great. Please ignore the bad audio of Pierce and I because there are some great stories and advice shared by Cory in this episode.
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Calling: Awaken to the Purpose of Your Work – by Pierce Brantley
To read the first chapter free of Pierce’s new book Calling and for more information about the Eternal Entrepreneur Podcast please visit eternalentrepreneur.co
Hey, this is Cory Verner, founder of One audiobooks. And if you want to create an impactful kingdom business, you should be listening to the eternal entrepreneur podcast with my good friends, Joe Newton and Pierce Brantley.
The Eternal Entrepreneur gives you the stories and strategies to gain freedom as a Christian business leader. You'll hear from real entrepreneurs who have learned how to partner with God, from making millions to filing bankruptcy. These are honest stories to help you hear God's voice and build a lasting legacy through business.
Hey, friends, Pierce here. We really are about to jump into the interview, but I wanted to give you a heads up that we had some audio recording difficulties with this episode. Corey sounds great. And the content is very insightful for any business owner. In fact, it's so good. You could pretty much ignore anything we say, which is good because you really can't always hear us.
I wish I could blame COVID but this one's on me. I really do think you're going to enjoy what Corey has to say, though. All right. For real this time onto the interview.
Well, Corey, it is great to have you on the show today.
Hey guys, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Cory, I can remember back to when I first started listening to Christianaudio.com books and there wasn't a single audio book that didn't have that kind of green leaf logo on the side, and I'm pretty sure every fathomable author that I could have wanted to listen to. It was probably underneath that name, which I just think is incredible because, you know, we just kind of take it for granted now, but of course, you know, as ubiquitous as that logo is, and as the brand is now, you know, it didn't always start that way. So I'm just kind of curious, how did you get into even producing audio books to begin with and how did you build such a prolific?
Yeah, it's it's crazy to think back. I actually knew nothing about publishing and had no yearly, no intention of starting a Christian publishing company, but I had a really, really tough go at work. I think, you know, probably a lot of people can relate to that. I had an epiphany moment. I had sort of worked my way into my dream job, quote unquote.
And I worked for like a decade to get to that position and I just really didn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy so many things about it. And I felt myself getting almost sick. Like I think, I don't know what an ulcer feels like, but I had this pain always just deep in my stomach. I was starting to have trouble sleeping and it was really starting to affect me and the.
It kind of all culminated in me, literally standing in front of the door of the office with my arm reached out and I couldn't actually grab the door to open it. Like I just was standing there with my arm, reached out for, I don't even know how long I was just in some kind of a daze or a trance. And someone walked up behind me and is like, "Hey, you going in? What's going on? You're blocking the door."
And so I went in, I sat down and I just said, I've got to do something else. I can't do this anymore. Then I'm going to all the details, but it was, it was as an entrepreneur, it was very helpful because I really didn't want to go back to that. I was pretty dead set on whatever it took doing that.
And I, at that time I'd been thinking, man, if I could do something that had some maternal value, that would be great. Cause you spent so much time at work. So I had that in the back of my head. Like, it'd be cool, do something that had eternal value so that it's just kind of built into your day. And then I also had a long commute.
So I was there weren't many thoughtful Christian audio books, a lot of the stuff I wanted to listen to at the time I was listening to a lot of classics and there weren't a lot of Christian audio titles at that point. And so it kind of all came together with me coming up with a few ideas and that one just stuck.
It was like the, the Christian audio idea of audio books for that market. There wasn't a single book by an audio by say John Piper or Dallas Willard or whoever, but put someone on the list. And so it just kind of ended up being an opportunity. And I thought to myself, number one, how hard could it be? Yeah, my original partner still makes fun of me when I sit down with him and he's like, remember how hard can it be? I'm like, yeah, I remember I said, and then, and then, and then I also thought I'm willing to kind of do anything. But this, it just seemed like the right thing to try, because I wanted to listen to the books. I was listening to a lot of audio books, maybe 40, 50 books a year at that, at that point.
And it's what I had time to do really wanted to listen to thoughtful books. So it all kind of came together. I mean, with us, starting from nothing and trying to learn, learn the industry, I didn't know. At that time you could license the rights to books or how any of that worked originally. We kind of had, we had sort of planned just to do classics and.
Give them away. So my wife immediately said, you're quitting your job. We have mortgage, like explain the business model. She didn't say it just like that. She said, how are we going to pay the bills? So, Corey, I think you're an inspiration. I mean, so out of your options, you know, go start a McDonald's franchise, start a lawn care business.
You go, you know what, I'm going to disrupt the audio industry. I'm going to do something that's never been done before with the Christian kind of market and just kind of plow ahead mortgage or no mortgage. And I love that. I love that because that takes some guts that takes some grit, but you know, all things aside, I'm sure there was some guiding principles that kind of helped you kind of, you know, navigate the way forward as you decided to go disrupt a market.
Tell us about that. What was kind of your initial game plan and thought process in towards how, how you were going to start this? Yeah, that's, that's a great question. I think it changed over time, obviously. And when we started, it's interesting. One of the things that really made the business successful were a lot of the relationships we had.
We really want it to be a good partner. We wanted to see, we want, we were involved in our industry and we went deep and got to know people and. They were friends and we did business together. And so when I started, I didn't have that perspective at all. I had a really kind of a wrong idea of what business was.
I thought it was sort of just like working hard, you know, getting stuff done, you know, learning, learning how things works, finding the right business model, whatever. And so I realized a lot of my initial encounters were, I didn't really enjoy the people I was just selling. I was just trying to get titles or figure out how to make the business work or whatever.
And I was traveling a lot for work too. So I was a little unhappy because I was traveling. I was away from the family. I didn't really have a lot of deep relationships in the industry. This is kind of in the first couple of years. And at one point I thought this isn't going that well. I just feel like I just need to enjoy myself.
Like I need to just let the process happen, make some friends when I travel sort of like dig in and enjoy the places I'm at. And I started just thinking more sustainably about my future. Like, how am I going to do this? They say it takes. Five years before you really have businesses established enough to where, you know, it's going to work and that's about right.
And so I just saw that we had a long way to go two years in and we had put a lot on the line and I was, it was a lot of pressure because it needed to work. You know how that feeling it's like this thing's got to work or, or like the other side of it not working was a little bit of a scary conversation to have.
So I. I really just started digging in and making relationships in the industry and really just getting to know people and enjoying being there and not trying to sell it all. When, when I went to conferences, just getting to know people and trying to see what I could, what I could learn from people in the industry.
And that sort of changed everything. You know, that was, that was one of the reasons I think we had such strong partnerships over many, many years later, say a decade later. So I think that was, that was a big part of it. I, you can't be miserable year after year and make something like this work. You got to figure out a way to, you know what I mean?
You got to figure out a way to make it work. In the moment. So the thing I did was I built in, you know, I really didn't work weekends. I didn't work a lot of nights. I just sort of, I worked what I could work to push the business forward. I also had another consulting gig for the first few years I ran at ultimately I was running the web properties at outreach media, like they had several websites for.
For the church and for pastors. And so I had a consulting gig, so we could kind of stabilize the finances. So it wasn't super stressful there. I obviously I wanted to grow the business as fast as I could. I was excited about the business, but I spent time with the family on the weekends and I just tried to make it so that I could figure out a way to do it for them five years.
I knew it was going to take Cory. I just think that's an inspiration. Because as you well know, most entrepreneurs think they need to work 40 hours a day. They don't know how they're gonna make that happen, but they're going to figure out some kind of way to just push their business from zero to 110.
Because, you know, it comes with the title. You didn't do that. You made space to keep balance in your life, to, you know, grow a thing at a natural pace. And now we have something Christian audio that sustains time. And that's no small thing to, to kind of wrap your head around. Can you talk to us a minute about what it means to be a good partner, because it's something you mentioned a few times now.
I know you share a really kind of deep perspective on that. And the publishing industry and the kind of the authorship world, you need to create a lot of bridges you need to create and look for win-wins and that's something you really seem to kind of champion within your own business. So I'm just kind of curious how you look at that and what we can learn from you in that regard.
Yeah. I know it is kind of a vague way to describe doing business. So I'm glad you asked that Pierce. It's a, cause I do say that a lot and I think it's because. So whenever I, whenever I work with someone it's not even just about having a, win-win, like, I kind of look at the relationship and what's the, our partner or the client sort of needs, and then almost try to structure like a situation that, that benefits them.
And sometimes even more like we worked issues would come up and we would just sort of say, no big deal. Don't worry about it. No, you don't, you know, we'll fix it. And it's, it's not a problem or trying to. It's just always trying to do the right thing or do more, but like, as an example, we would, we would do things that other people wouldn't do to try to serve, to serve the publisher, even when, sometimes they'd say, well, does that make sense?
Like a lot of times at my new business people say, does that make sense? Like, how do you make money when people are asking you that I think you're a good partner and I'll explain it to them and say, Oh, that does make sense. I see how you make money, but it's kind of like, Everything is, it goes both ways.
And you're always thinking about how do I serve this partner? How do I help them meet their needs? What should their needs be? What are they, where are the blind spots here? And what are they maybe missing that they should be thinking about? Even if it doesn't always make my case for my perfect little business model, that's basically working right now and making me money.
What I love about what you're saying is effectively. Yeah, there are profits. There are finances that we need to worry about, but if I championed the partnership, if I championed the relationships and I do that in the right way, then you know, the profits are going to come. The finances are going to work themselves out.
But by using that as kind of a higher principle you were able to build something that really has stood the test. I think a couple of things that we did. We, we were pretty early and we had a lot of kind of tenacity. We sort of stuck with the market. I gotta be honest. There were times five, six, seven years in all of us in the industry were looking at each other and saying, I thought this was going to be big.
Didn't you? Like? We had a lot of those conversations. I thought this was going to be something that would be really be able to. Basically sustain our families and pay the bills. You know, I mean, it was, it was really there was a long time where audio for a lot of reasons. It was 1% of the market. Then it was two or 3% of the market.
And it's really difficult to make a format work when you're essentially making a format that costs it's fairly expensive to produce. And then the sales are, they trickle in. But one of the things that we did was taking that long-term view is I really focused on a lot of, a lot of really solid evergreen content.
That I knew would be around. So I thought I would look for books and look for kind of properties that would, could stand the test of time. Like the first, I think the first or second book I ever bought was desiring God by John Piper. That was obviously the name of his ministry. You know, if you, you know, that book is going to be around for a long time.
And so we did a lot of that kind of stuff, a lot of evergreen, but a lot of it was, we did the stuff that we thought would be helpful to people. So some of it was just saying, what do we think is going to be helpful to the church? What topics may be are there is a really, not a lot of content for like adoption or something.
There's really no audio books for this community. So we did a, you know, with sort of a mix of ministry, we published stuff we thought would be helpful and then titles, we knew we could make work. And then later we actually, as we expanded, we published very broadly for the church and got a lot of big trade titles.
And then we supplemented a lot of our kind of deeper, thoughtful level titles with that. So sustainability is a strategy. I think if we stop the interview, now we can all go home. Happy. That is fantastic advice. If you just think about like desiring God, I mean, that is still ignorant, extremely popular blog and just kind of having that foresight to not necessarily go and pursue the big titles, but really kind of have a executable plan that was going to sustain your business and keep it afloat and not just kind of go after the next shiny thing.
I love that that's really smart. So I got to know though, we have to know. I mean, was there a certain point though, when you did kind of bag a really big, no author or publisher and you're like, yeah, now we're cooking. Like it was someone you were particularly excited about and it made the whole thing feel all the more real.
There certainly were moments like that. But I think early on, it was a lot of the, the F the early stuff that we got, because it was, these were incredible books, like knowing God by GI pack or the hiding place, Corrie 10, boom. I mean, we did basically all of the modern classics. We, we, we spent about three or four years doing about the 500 kind of the evergreen titles for, I was just shocked that.
All of it was available on every year. We just pick up more and I think probably Dallas Willard though, he, he was really made a huge impact on my life and we published a lot of his books and I was pretty excited to be able to promote that content and get it out there. And one of the things is we had a.. So, you know, we started in:
And so we just kind of, we started building a list really early on and selling digital and focused on leaders and pastors, and did those kinds of conferences and tried to build a market. So that was cool because then when we had, we had a free book of the month program, and so we could kind of choose a book that we could get into say that 20,000 people would download and listen to.
And it was like, it was so cool. You know, you feel a little bit like you're, you're making a little bit of a difference. Cause you're like this content would be really helpful. And then a whole bunch of people are gonna hopefully listened to it and you never know what what's gonna come of that. I mean, it's up to the Lord, what comes of it, but it's just, it's.
It's pretty cool. And when you get those kinds of opportunities, it's, it's pretty exciting. So I think doing some of the, some of my favorite classics, was it, you know, we did all of Wendell Berry's port Williams series. That was a, those were sort of like modern, not that, that whole series, although not one that you would say I've arrived, that that content is just, it's so amazing are doing a lot of the The Russian classics are some of my favorite in terms of how they impact the gospels.
It's just their perspective is so different from what the Western sort of perspective for for of Christianity. So, yeah, it was a lot of, it's weird, the stuff I got most excited about, wasn't always our best selling stuff, but it was just the stuff that we thought would help would be helpful to us. And so Corey, one of the things Joe and I talk about often is.
You know, what is the faith and the function? How do those two things work together in the business for the entrepreneur? And I find that oftentimes it kind of varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur because the relationship with God is all about intimacy and that intimacy looks different for everyone.
So. You know, I'm kind of curious when you kind of zoom out a little, a little bit and you think about this sort of at the, at the kingdom level while we're kind of. Some of the drivers for you. And maybe they still are there for you, but unpack that for us a little bit. What was kind of the main impetus for kind of navigating the spiritual aspect of your business?
Yeah, I mean, to, to be totally honest, my. My job that I have. One of the reasons I was struggling so much is I just knew I had really young, I had two young boys and I just never saw them with the commute. They were never going to be happy with the amount. I mean, you could work 60 hours with a commute and they still weren't going to be happy.
So for me, the starting the business was more about. I mean not to get too personal, but I had a great father, but he was sort of like a lot of people in that generation. He just wasn't really present. Didn't show up for a lot of stuff, you know what I mean? And so I think I really wanted to be there for my kids.
And I found myself with them being very young and me basically seeing them on the weekends. Sunday or something, you know, and it was really, that was my main motivation. It wasn't necessarily doing kingdom work with my job was a side benefit. I would have really done anything to get out of the situation I was in at the, at the, where I had no control over my schedule or over my life.
It just was really an untenable situation. So that was the big thing is to, is to be able to have that flexibility, to be, to show up for everything that my kids, so that, you know, there's a spiritual aspect to that. Obviously trying to be a father. And I was always reluctant to say, we ran a Christian business.
We ran a for-profit company. We were trying to make money. We were trying to grow the business. And there's a temptation sometimes when you run a Christian company to try to just like, get a better deal for your employees or. You know, and I'm just really reluctant to, to most of that. Like, I'd tell people we're not running a basically we're publishing for the church.
We are, we are obviously a lot of Christians working together, but it's a business and there are some cool things that happen. And we would share those sometimes if we'd get a letter from someone or whatever, but for the most part, I was always reluctant to, to, to make the business like part of my, of, of my spiritual life.
One thing that was good. Is there ever times kind of where I had a lot of flexibility in my schedule where my wife and I were, were able when the kids were young to do some traveling and expose the kids to some things or work on some ministry stuff that the kids would have, because we had a lot of flexibility in our schedule.
I could take a day off if I ever needed to. So. There was that aspect, you know, when you work for someone, you don't have a lot of control over your schedule over your life. And so you can't just say, let's, let's do this thing. That's going to take a couple of weeks or whatever. So I think spiritually, that helped me.
If I'm honest, now it's interesting. The things that were not a temptation for me back then are a temptation. Now, when you have a it's a little bit of success, like a certain level, like, I mean, I don't consider myself like having a massive success, but sometimes people are like, Oh, you know, and it's a little bit of in temptation to feel like liquid, I did it, or we sold the company and I had to pay out it wasn't a massive payout, but it was enough to wear it.
Right. I started like really focusing on how am I going to make sure that there's some money there so I can retire and not work like this forever. And I started really focusing a lot on the money and. So they're like totally different temptations. Like when I was younger, I never thought I'd have to worry about money at all, because they never had any.
And then when you're older, that's a temptation. When I was younger, it was all about, it was all about trying to prove myself and then was older. I was trying to figure out like, well, how do I, how do I navigate this? Because I don't want to be, I don't want to be prideful, but sometimes like, I do think, look what we did, you know?
And it's just now, so it's different kind of spirit, the way that the work and ties into our spiritual lives. It's a journey. It is. Yeah. I remember I was on the phone call here about a decade ago with someone and they were in a, really, a fluent part of town. And we were having a conversation about a project and they stopped the conversation.
They were Christian and they see someone drive by in a really nice brand new Corvette. And they go, I cannot believe them. Would you just. Aye, what are they doing? Do you know how many poor people they could feed if they didn't buy that Corvette? And they spent that money just feeding the poor and it sounded so good to say, but.
I was kind of baffled. I was scratching my head because you know, there's about 3,600 parts in a car. It takes thousands of people conglomerate or lead to, you know, make one of these things. And every time you buy a vehicle, you know, it could be, it doesn't matter what it is. It could be a Kia or your dad's beater from 20 years ago.
And, and you, you buy one of the things you're feeding the families of the people. That put together, you're helping them put food on their tables and you're helping them, you know, make amends for themselves. But there's this kind of temptation, I think with Christian businesses to, you know, not be successful in the worldly sense.
There's pressure for that. And, and so we're we default to is, or wanting to be completely altruistic. The problem is you can't be altruistic unless you have something to give, which comes from a reef source and an abundance, a profit that enables you to do so. And so. I don't know. I just, I like what you're saying, because in point of fact typically, you know, ode is the quote, you know, a rising tide raises all ships.
And I think that's a really good perspective to have because one doesn't necessarily negate the other, honestly, they can. Oftentimes work congruently and oftentimes to each other's benefit, if you focus on helping and benefiting other people while still trying to provide value that is rightfully you know yours.
Let, let me, let me back up here. So I want to say one more thing, you know, when you talk about the S you know, being a Christian and a business owner, I do think one, one thing is super important and I'm trying to get better at it all the time. And that is, you've got a lot of people that work for you, right.
That sort of depend on you, or you can, like we had, we had quite a bit of Christian audio. I think I have 12 people now, the new, and I really always want to think like how. How can I support and encourage and be grateful to the, in whatever ways that we can to the staff that we have. Like really, even though a lot of our staff are believing and it's not like necessarily mission's field or whatever, but because just a lot of the people that are gravitating towards applying and really wanting the position had that background, but we're kind of like, that's a big, a big part of what you're going to do is, is what you're going to do in with your own staff.
And I see a lot of Christian businesses who have really dysfunctional environments and a lot of that's because the Christian kind of environment or the mission of the company is used as a sledgehammer to like not treat people well, that's something that really, really kind of chaps my hide a little bit.
I had that happened with a buddy of mine years ago. So he'd been working for this place for about five years and he goes in and asks for a raise a well-deserved raised one that he definitely definitely earned. It was a fair ask basically. And the response he gets was well. We'll call him Mike, Mike, I thought you I thought you believed in kingdom work is, you know, I didn't think you thought this was about the money.
I didn't think you were, that kind of person is helping people not good enough for you is, you know, everything that you're doing here, missionally not, not enough enough. And they just started layering it on him. And man, as he's telling me this. You know, he was more discouraged and conflicted then than upset or angry.
He really didn't need the raise. He really did need the money. He, he desperately, he did and he deserved it too. And but he was conflicted now because he was like, well, you know, they're they're right. Do you know if I was really kind of thinking about this correctly, then I wouldn't really be in it for the money.
And I was like, dude, no, like, you know your worth, your wages. Having a mission is great, but you still have the mechanics of running a business. You still have to keep the thing moving. And one of the things I love about the way you've always operated, as you think about partnership, and you think about people and they're not simply a resource for you, they're not just simply a means to an end, to kind of keep the machine moving.
And, you know, what's awesome about that is when you love people in that way, when you focus on their good, you know, it benefits your business as well. And I just I love that you modeled that. I wish more people saw that. I guess that's, that's part of it too, is I don't want to give the impression that because we chose Christian publishing that that's a better business because it's not it actually, we fell into Christian publishing because I was listening to a lot of audio books.
Cause I had a really long and terrible commute and I was trying to survive it. That's the only reason. And so. Any business is, you know, in terms of this, this idea, I love it. The eternal entrepreneur. I mean, when we run a business, we impact a lot of people, our vendors, our suppliers, people are looking at us a lot of times they know we're believers are our staff, our employees.
And so that's the eternal part of the business, not the fact that we did Christian books that I always want to make that distinction, especially in this kind of environment where people are thinking, the only way that you can make a difference as you start a business that does ministry. Yes. And more often than not that you're going to do a lot, a lot more ministry by running a big business.
If you, if, if you truly are letting kind of Christ, I love to think of business place as a, it's an excuse for influence. And seeing someone like you quarter issue is so relationship driven and I'm sure there are people who, because of your business, you have relationships with now and you have influence and to their life, you have opportunity to speak into their life.
Whether that's within the business or with your employees or outside the business of vendors or whatever, but you have an excuse to be an example to them to get to say, even if it's as simple as you're having a bad day, what's going on, how can I help? Like, it's, it's the place of influence that you get because of a business.
I love just seeing your mindset. It's a business, not a ministry, but because you're a Christian. And who you are, you know, it's what does that Bible verse, you know, what's in your hearts going to come out of your mouth, you're influencing and affecting people and in that positive way and giving them an example of, of Christ that's that's.
That's awesome. Yeah, that's a good one. That's a great way to put it. So, Corey, what are you doing these days? You're still on Christian audio of some kind, right? What are you, what are you focused on from a business perspective? So. Well, the new business is a little different. We publishing has CA the publishers have always struggled a little bit to embrace new media and to a lot of the things that are happening, say in the.
Infill product space really haven't spilled over into, into publishing. And so most, most publishers aren't selling direct. They aren't doing lists segmented list building. They aren't using sophisticated advertising strategies. They aren't doing like kind of multi-format kind of publishing or bundling or a lot of things that are happening.
There's a lot of really cool things happening. And the other thing is most publishers call themselves a print publisher. Whereas, if you look outside of publishing the, in the info product space, people, people say they're in the business of transformation. So I'm always like, wait a minute, guys. We're Christian publishers.
We should be in the business of transformation, not print publishing, not audio book pushing. I was calling myself an audio publisher. They called themselves a print publisher. And so, so a lot of that is it's. We're trying to build some, some tools and an opportunity for publishers to use audio in a more comprehensive way to use it for bundling, for list, building for brand building, to get the word out for giveaways, to build reviewer programs, whatever, all this stuff.ction, which we've done since:
And then we have, we're doing some publishing and we're doing our own building, our own list and some, some direct selling. And so it's a lot of what we did, but. In many cases, the publishers are keeping the rights because audio is becoming more important. They need to figure out a way, how do we, this is a really important part of the publishing we're doing.
We don't just want to sell the rights away. Let's figure out how we can keep them and add a lot. It just comes from being in the industry, loving the industry I'm in and kind of being one of those voices that sort of always poking at why are we doing this? Why are we doing that? It's kind of a longer term from thinker.
I'm always thinking out a little bit further. I used to go into the every morning, I would ask myself. With what I'm doing right now is going to matter five years from now, is it gonna matter 10 years from now is going to matter 20 years from now. And a lot of times when I look at our business model, I'd say, no, it won't matter five years from now with these, all of these changes.
And so even now a lot of what I'm doing is probably like a three-year plan, but it's, it's helping publishers make this transition. Some publishers, I mean, I'm not. I'm not saying that we're making this massive impact, but we're helping some publishers make a transition into doing a better job with new media for transformation.
So that's kind of what the new, new businesses we're keeping busy open out like 25 bucks a month. So it's, it's, it's a lot, a lot of volume. Yeah. A lot, a lot of audio books. We're this is what we do. And we, you know, and we really love it. We have a great team. We have such, such amazing people. Yeah, it's really just such a, such a gift and a privilege.
So I've seen the platform and I think it's brilliant. Our listeners will understand the problem because if you've ever went, wanted to go get an audio book, your options are what. Audible and audible go find a books, a million and get a nice little CD set. I don't know, but you know, even with audible, you've got the one credit kind of gate and what's brilliant about this platform is allows you to kind of.
Get a sense just as you would with like a book, but like the free chapter kind of thing. See if you're going to like the content if you're a publisher or a promoter, then you understand that kind of helping people. Tease out and get comfortable with the content. First is super important. And so you kind of have this really cool, you know, double-sided thing where consumers are able to get exposure to a new artist or a new book or a new publisher.
And the publisher is able. Or the author is able to get their content in front of people in a way, in a different form than they ever have been able to do before, while still kind of collecting the right sort of information or to have a meaningful followup. So I just think it's brilliant, disruptive again, and super simple.
Thanks. I, I think you're. I think disruption is, is going to happen regardless. And so we want to, we want to be a part in effecting some, some positive change. I'm audio book industries is kind of crazy. When I think about, as I said, it was 90% cassette when I got in two years later, the message at the audio book publishers association meeting was remainder.
All your cassettes cassettes are dead. And then it was all CDs. And then a few years later was all download and ultimately will be all AI and smart speakers a couple of years from now or whatever. It's just, we have these massive format transitions, but ultimately what people really want is they want to be able to experience content.
That's going to be able to change some aspect of their life and. So that's why I think the, this kind of format agnostic approach as much better, where you can just give people essentially access to a closed group where they can interact with other people or interact with the author or get the content in any format.
So no matter where they're at, they can, they can listen or get a bunch of content around it that can help, help them go deeper than just the book. And so. This is sort of what's, these are the trends that are happening, but publishing is sort of getting left behind. And so I think, I think that publishers are starting to wake up and realize Amazon's dominance is they're sort of losing their place in all of this.
And so everybody's a lot more motivated to figure out what do we do? So it's a pretty, yeah, it's pretty exciting time in publishing or a pretty terrifying time, depending on how you're looking at it. I'm curious, what did it look like for you after you had sold your first company to start this new venture?w we sold Christian audio in:
And for me, I was at a stage where I, they had made a lot of transitions. I was sort of the only one left at Christian audio at that point. And for me, it just felt like a good time to move on. I was really all in with Christian audio until I left. And then when I left, I took really only a couple of weeks.
And then I started thinking about, what did I want to do? And a lot of my conversations were just connecting with people in the industry. I knew and saying, what are you guys doing? What do you need? And they said, well, we we'd kinda like to do something more like this. Could you do that for us? And sort of just came from there.
The idea for the apps had to do with there's a big gap in the industry in terms of audio is tough because you're going to basically make an audio book and then you're going to sell it. And audible is kind of the dominant platform and you get a tiny little. Cut of the revenue. And so it's, it's like, Hmm, well, why is audio important?
I'm not making that much money on it necessarily. So what do I do? So we're trying to make audio to where it has more levers than just save recoupment. And so, you know, like engagement and brand building and list building and. Basically transformation and multi multi-format engagement, like bundling, or you go to a conference and you show up and half the books there say, Hey, get access to the audio book for three months when you buy the book.
And so that's, that's the kind of, I mean, post COVID when we have conferences, again, those, those are the kinds of things that we can power. But I, I think they're, they're just, they were glaring needs. In the industry, you know, I think if I was going to give someone advice about dig really deep into your industry, because I have a lot of people that say, Hey, I'd like to start a business, but I don't know what to start, but I've been in an industry for 20 years.
So I could come up with five, more ideas of businesses to start, but I'm only one person. And I only got so many resources and our staff only has so much time. So I started what I thought would be best for our industry and would help the most. In this context. So I think a lot of people you have to sort of, I heard this once you have to be in business before you can have a good business idea, meaning you already got to be in an industry with clients, serving people, knowing in the weeds.u've been involved in foul to:
And so you just kind of, you learn where the, where the holes are and then you're, there's no lack of ideas. So if you think about sweat equity, most of the time you think about sweat equity in terms of. Helping someone else build their business. Right. And normally it's you're not getting that equity.
You're just sweating bitterness aside You do have to do that. I think when you are carving out now a new piece of the industry, because there are partnerships to be had there's relationships. We built up there's new paradigms of thinking, especially from a consumer perspective, wherein you have to help mold the minds of people who are going to consume things in a new way.
You see that happening over and over again in the technology space. And so. Sweat equity putting in your time, we willing to sacrifice even of yourself in order to build something up is I think the name of the game, it's just kind of knowing where you're investing in. Are you doing it for the right reasons?
Of course. Thank you so much for giving us some of your time. I know that I don't just speak for myself when I say it's been a pleasure having you on the show and really just sharing your insight for such a fantastic legacy, but we're not done yet. I think you know that we got Joe's famous final five, five questions to help us understand your backstory and you just a little bit better.
So, Joe, I'm going to hand it off to you. All right, Corey. So these are the final five questions that we ask all of our guests in our spinal five minutes. So question number one is what are the top three must read or for you listen to books that are not the Bible, and that can be business, family, spiritual cookbook.
I think I mentioned this before, but I don't read a lot of fiction, but classic fiction is kind of for me, like sort of transformational, like I think of, of, but probably my favorite all-time all-time favorite author is Dostoevsky the brothers Karamazov, which is quite a, quite a tough one to get through, but essentially he's thinking through.
What does it, what does it really mean to live out Jesus' words in a mess, right. And the mess of the world we find ourselves in. And, and he's just, he's just brilliant. This character that these characters that he develops, like in the idiot and in brother's care Moss off to try to, to try to unpack that those books I think were very helpful to me and are still on my list of.
Favorites from a, from a business book, there's a book called the one thing that was really transformational for our business. It basically the book there's a couple of concepts. One is time blocking, spending big chunks of time to work on the most important thing. And the way you find the most important thing is you, you ask yourself, what is the one thing by doing?
It will make everything else either easier or unnecessary? I think so. I mean, I'm a memory it's from memory, but it's something like that. You asked yourself that question. So you sit there and you say, what's the thing I need to do that would make like all of this easier, my business easier. Maybe it's a staff replacement.
It, maybe it's replacing yourself. Maybe you're the visionary and you need a, you need a COO to run things, you know, or maybe, maybe you don't have the right people in the right seats on the bus or whatever, or, you know, maybe you've got this competitor. Who's just been like getting everything and you're just getting the crumbs and you'd have to figure out like, how can we be a formidable competitor?
So I literally read that book and did, did what it said I did time-blocking for about a year. And one of the things I was sort of like, we were at the stage where we were the solid guys, we got a lot of the back list and they thought of us was the thought of stuff, but we weren't getting the top front list and all the titles.
And so I thought if we got these bigger titles, it would make it so much easier because all this niche-y stuff is great for the church, but it makes us kind of. It's it's tight financially because there were coupons not as good as if these bigger titles would make it easier. So I said, how could my, my one thing I thought if people just thought like about us, when they were licensed those titles and like what, who, who are those other guys?
I don't remember them. It was literally two years later that happened in two different, two different meetings in a week where someone said, are they still around? Are they still, I don't, I haven't seen them for a while. And I was like, Whoa, that was the question I asked myself. And I did these. It was by.
Taking myself completely out of the business and focusing for large chunks of time to figure it out. And it really just came down to the partnership that I've, I keep mentioning, we just doubled down on that and tried to figure out how do we, how do we serve better? How do we, how do we be just become an indispensable part of this, this publishers program?
And so anyway, that that book is a. It's a pretty simple concept, but it's transformational. I think Corey is there a, not to derail too much, but I heard a myth. No pun intended that you worked with E-Myth and somebody I did. Yeah. I've worked with, I've worked with the Gerbers for many, many years on yeah.
Recording. Michael is a dear friend. He comes over to our house all the time to record. So not all the time, but pretty often. So
he's there so sweet. You would love them. Pierce. They're such good people. All right. Great. Question number two. You can send a note card back to yourself when you're first starting off on your entrepreneurial journey. What does the three pieces of advice you're putting on that? So I would say make the people closest to you the most important thing, because at business is all consuming.
And I've gone through stages where I did that early in my career, but the last few years starting a new business, my, how I need to just double down on my relationships with my, with my, with my boys and with my wife and so easy to just especially working from home. It just, there's always a hundred more things to do.
And so you have to be really intentional to make that the most important thing to make the, your family and friends and make your life important. Because when you're starting a business, it's pretty, it's pretty intense and it's all encompassing and you have to create some, some borders. I would tell myself.
To do that. Although I did that early on, I've struggled with it more later in my life, but I would still give myself that same advice to make sure I didn't screw that up. I think taking, I didn't take it a long view. I've we've talked about this a little bit, but you know this idea of what is, what I'm doing in a matter of years from now 10 years from now, most people don't take a ten-year view.
It was one of the reasons I got him an audio books at the time, because I thought this is a great format. You can multitask. People are going to want to do this. It's hard to do. Because of, you have to go to the library and there's not many books, but yeah. Eventually this is going to be something. So I really was looking out and through those times when I bought it quit sometimes and sell the company and just give up, I kept going, this is going to be one day and then it just blew up.
It like started growing 20% a year. So, I mean, it surprised me because. I was kind of knew what happened, but you're still surprised when it happens. And I think sticking with something I'm pretty, I'm pretty add. I'm like the person who's always known for not sticking with stuff, but I've got 25 years to my wonderful wife.
I've kind of stuck in an industry. So, and w with one thing, And for someone who like has shiny object syndrome, like many of us, such a nurse, I think that was probably one of the, one of the best things I did because I love there's so many great people in our industry and there's a lot of trust, so it makes it easier to start something else because there's all that history and it makes it easy to kind of know the next step because you're.
You're kind of, you have all that context, you know, sometimes people ask me a question and I want to tell them a half hour story of the history of what happened. So where we, how we got here, because I remember living through all of it and in terms of interesting sticking that long-term because I think I talked to a lot of entrepreneurs and they say, Hey, I I'm starting to sing.
I quit my job. But if it doesn't work in three months, like I'm like pretty much done. And it's like, you, you, you've got to, like, you've got to have a five-year plan to start question number three. How do you define success for yourself? I gotta be honest. I like this is a hard one. You know, like part of being an entrepreneur is you just want to like dominate.
You want to be the biggest, and that was part of it. But. There's not much, there's not much excitement there of the end of the journey. And I'm just really keep getting back to, I had a conversation with my wife the other day. And honestly, she was telling me, you treat everybody in the company better than me.
Like you don't give me the time. And D and I'm like, Oh, it's just like a knife. I don't feel like it's true. And then I wanted to argue with her a little bit, but that's how she felt in that moment. Success would be to like make my wife first, where she felt like everybody else took a backseat to when she needed me.
Cause we work together now full-time so it's different. She sees me a lot more. I'm around a lot more and she's more honest with me than anybody. And so now I would say, like, I don't know, again, I can answer you right now. And I would say it would be to really like, just have the company be something I do and really be, go deep and be an encourager to friends I have, and to my wife and be a spiritual leader, a better spiritual leader than I've been in the past, but that's like a really recent thing.
I don't want to frame it. Like, that's always been my perspective on maybe I'm getting older and a little bit like a little wiser where I'm actually thinking about the most important. The stuff cause, but you know, I have a long way to go there. What did they say admitting a problem is your first step to recovery.
So it sounds like you're heading in the right direction. Well question number four when times have gotten tough, what's kept you from quitting. I vowed when I left that job, I would never work for someone again, because I had just, no, I didn't care what I was going to do. It didn't matter. I would have done anything.
I really enjoy landscaping. I would have totally started landscaping company and just done that and been happy. Because I would have had control over. It was, I've had a lot of people come to me and ask like, Pierce, you mentioned this, someone asked for a raise and they're asking me, like, I really need this dollar $2 an hour raise because my wife makes more than me.
I'm like, okay, well that's not a reason, but okay. Let's, let's back up. And and ultimately. They're relying on me. And so what I try to do is put it back to them and say, how about this? I'll double your salary. That what? Oh, okay, well, you're going to have to work weekends. We'll give you work here. That will give you a skill that basically, I mean, right now, your market rate for what you're doing, but if you were doing this or, or that you, you could, and then I'll help, we don't, we're not big enough company to pay that salary.
So you'll have to leave us, but I'll give you a good reference. We'll mentor you. We'll make that transition. And of course the person says not interested. Well, it's just, I think it's like they wanted the $2 an hour raise. That's fine. Some people really they're fine, like being in a situation where someone else sort of has the, the control, but it was so bad for me.
The last job that I had, it was a gift, as I said, I said that earlier, because then I couldn't be in that situation again. And so really that got it. That, that was a big part of what kept me from quitting. And then also just a lot of pivots. Like I remember at one point we were in a ton of debt and I was working for the company and I was like, I don't know what to do.
Like I th I don't like that we never had debt before. And so I, I went into my partner. I said, I'm willing to work half time from now for the next year or two, and I'm going to work on this debt problem. And it takes some consulting gigs. And I just, I don't feel like this is where I should be. And that was when I started my production company producing audio books.
And we got out of debt in a few years. And, but what me from quitting was I had the flexibility as an, as an owner to say, This isn't working. Like what can we do now in this season to make it work? Whereas with a job it's much more difficult because your boss kind of, depending on how reasonable your boss is, but no bosses, you know, we were traveling, I was taking eight weeks off a year at one point.
And so no boss is going to do that for you. And we spend a lot of time making memories with the family, doing trips and places. And it's not just exotic trips with showing the boys, other India, China places where it's like, wow, this is. You learn a lot, doing those kinds of things and you grow really close and you have memories.
I'd rather do that kind of stuff now than when I retire and my kids have families and there's no way they can go with us. And so, yeah, there's things beyond just survival, but we had some great experiences that the business provided or allowed or afforded. And so of course I had, when you're in those seasons, you have no intention of quitting.
It's like, wow, this is amazing. Like what a gift. Well, Corey, our final question, question number five. What question should we have asked that we didn't? I think we touched on it. The big question was I think like, why start a company? Why become an entrepreneur? Why go down this path? Because it's. It's it's pretty hard and it can be, it's a long journey and it can be sketchy and you're going to have failures.
And you're going to have times when you tried something and it didn't work. I've, I've had, I've had those plenty of those as well. And I think that's why I want to paint a little bit of a vision for what what is it's like, because if you can, it's not just all about control. God's ultimately in control of our lives.
We know that. But if, if you can set your life up in a way to where you can do what God's calling you to do or what you know, you're supposed to be doing to be the kind of father or support your family, or to be able to be generous or whatever that is, whatever God's calling you to. I think the best way to get there is with a small business of any, of any source solopreneur or micro business, small business, basically to an enterprise with multiple locations, franchise, whatever.
I mean, it doesn't matter what business you start, but you got to try to, you do have to try to get better every day, try to improve the business, improve yourself. Be a lifelong learner, do all those things to get there, but ultimately, where else are you going to be able to, to have that, that, that freedom and flexibility?
Amen. I just want to get the the amen choir to that. Yeah, I went to five businesses. I don't want, Corey has.
That's a good idea. I think the idea of diversification when you're starting a business, like I landscaped on the weekends, cause I enjoyed it. And I just liked that. I I'm, I'm always landscaping my own house. I just liked that it was something I did and that brought in a little money and I had my little production business and we had the main business and I had an import export business for awhile that I did two days a week.
And I had a lot of, and part of that was because I was worried about my business. Like if it did at work, I kind of wanted to sort of spread out a little bit. A lot of people just. There is a school of thought where you just go all in and you do one thing. But I, I, I'm pretty risk averse. And a lot of times people say, well, you're not suffering.
You're not risk averse. Yes. I am like, I really don't want to blow up my life and have my family on the streets, in a tent. It's just, I do not want any of that. And so I'll do anything to, you know, make sure I avoid that hopefully. So I think the idea of having a lot of things and exploring, but then when you find that thing, I remember at Christian Odeal, there's about two years in, I was like, this is a huge idea.
Once I understood how it worked, how the rights worked and could, could model stuff and projected out, I'm like, this is a really, really good business that we fell into. And so I doubled down, you know, and I know I've said that a few times in this call, but I just really dug into that. Because I knew, but it's okay to have a few things going on because if you just.
Go all in of the one thing and it doesn't work out. You could lose, use lose years of your life. So I think that's a, that's a valid strategy. I wish we had a whole nother hour. I feel like we could dig into just had a loan. That's yeah, that's a good piece of advice to leave us on there. Corey, I want to honor your time, but thank you so much for spending this hour with Pierce and I, and.
Sharing your heart, your stories in vulnerable with us, for those in our audience who want to learn more about what you're doing and connect with you, or is there any places they can find you out on the interwebs? Yeah, mainly my, my main work email is Cory C O R firstname.lastname@example.org and That's my that's kind of where people get ahold of me.
I'm on LinkedIn. I'm not very good on social. I should be better, but like, I'm an old guy. So I sometimes blow the social thing. I love the visionary with list-building
that's my, that's my job. Right. But yeah, my personal life is, yeah, I don't know. Just the whole idea of posting a bunch of stuff. I do. It seems a little strange. Well, thank you. Thanks guys. To get, to spend this time with you. Anytime. I love, love to be back. I'm really, really excited about what you're doing.
I'm going to, I'm going to dig into some of your previous episodes and thanks for what you do.
Thank you so much for listening today. If you enjoyed this show, please leave us a five star review and share this with a friend. It would help us out tremendously. Also, if you'd like to stay in touch and get a free copy of the first chapter. Pierce's new book, calling out a partner with God and any business with any boss at any place in life.
Then click on the link in the show notes to sign up for our weekly email or visit Pierce brantley.co/podcast. Thanks again, and we'll see you next week.