#ALB56 – The Japanese Trainspotter
Who is Chris King?
Chris has built a business around his greatest passions – travel, riding trains and Japanese food. Originally from the UK, Chris King now lives in Osaka, Japan, and spends a lot of his time travelling by train in Japan, Britain, Asia and Europe.
Chris started the Train Hacker website when he was living in Britain to help people save money on rail travel. The project then branched out to Europe and Japan, helping train travellers find cheaper train tickets, rail passes, tours and holidays.
While travelling by Shinkansen bullet train in Japan, Chris was astonished at the amazing tastes and rich diversity of Japanese food – he had to discover more, and a new project “Food Tours Japan” was born. Now, Chris is exploring the wonderful world of washoku and keen to show that there’s so much more to Japan than sushi.
Chris is a longstanding one percenter and has built a business around some of his greatest passions, which include travel, trains, and a love for Japanese food. Originally from the UK, Chris now lives in Osaka, Japan as a digital nomad and spends a lot of his time travelling by train in Japan, Britain, Asia, and Europe.
Let’s go back to how John and Chris met
Chris and John met over a decade ago and when they met, Chris was not a digital nomad, as he is today and was not living in Japan, writing about food and bullet trains.
Chris spent eight and a half years working for BT he worked with some really bright people and managed to get involved in a lot of digital stuff. Everything from kind of online customer experience to e-commerce but the most enjoyable bit for Chris and the bit he had most involvement was affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing in the “Wild West” days
Chris started off working in the affiliate team at BT.
Chris had a really good boss and worked with really good people and feels they embraced it really early. Chris was in a sales team, which meant he was on quarterly sales bonuses whereas as you know today, most affiliate marketing is in the marketing department.
But the sales team were heavily incentivized, and he had some really golden years with bonuses. So that was their one thing that made them really unique and Chris also feels because they were in sales, it also helped them build on the relationship side. Essentially, they were very soft in their approach really to affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing and it’s reputation
Chris tells us he felt affiliate marketing had a kind of a bit of a bad reputation and he thinks it probably still does within agencies. That said, the model has stood the test of time.
Chris recommends anyone that has a small company to embrace affiliate marketing. There’s a few networks out there and there’s technologies out there that if you are a small company, Chris says it’s like a virtual sales force.
How did Chris become a digital nomad?
The reason Chris wanted to get out of the corporate world is because he wasn’t prepared to sit around and wait for my pension, Chris wanted to see the world. He didn’t want to see the world when he was 60, he wanted to see the world whilst he was young. And then that kind of led from one thing to another.
Chris went travelling for six months. Come back and started a business. He now feels that after travelling in India for six months, it was maybe not the best state of mind to come back and start a business. His first publishing business didn’t really work that well. Then he did consultancy, but he had that itch to travel again.
The birth of the ‘Digital Nomad’
Chris needed to go to India to just cleanse his soul really, just to restart his life. It was here he realised he could travel and run his business at the same time. Whilst out there, he was doing research for his travel clients and also starting some travel projects. So, the digital nomad thing kind of came out of a whole load of things coming together.
Chris aka the train hacker
Chris started the Train Hacker website when he was living in Britain to help people save money on their rail travel. The project then branched out to Europe and Japan, his aim was to help train travellers find cheaper train tickets, rail passes, tours, and holidays.
Why Japan? A love story…
One, the train travel projects was leading him down that route because Chris started the Train Hacker when he was living in Britain to help people save money on their rail travel. The project then branched out to Europe and Japan, his aim was to help train travellers find cheaper train tickets, rail passes, tours, and holidays. He was in and out of Asia and realised, he found Asia a lot more of a mellow place to be. Also, these days it’s where the growth is, Chris just loves the kind of free entrepreneurial style that things were done in those countries.
Chris met his wife who’s Japanese at a train station actually in Vietnam. This was a moment to Chris who thought to himself, he was working in train travel, why was he not writing about more inspiring stuff like train travel in Japan?
From that point onwards Chris focused more on Japan travel projects. He could see there was an opportunity there. There was a lack of content being published and what was being published about travel in Japan was what he found seemed to be quite inaccurate. So, he decided to go out to Japan and do some research for my business over there.
The BIG house and the BIG car…
Not for Chris, he has old friends who he’s met up with, they are loaded. They’ve got three cars. They’ve got massive houses. They’ve got big gardens. One thing they say to him all the time is they don’t have any time.
Chris say’s you kind of make the choice. There are other ways you can live your life. And too many people have kind of fallen for the got to have a big house, got to have a car, got to have this, got to have that. And you don’t really need that.
You can work where you want. There are so many more opportunities now to set up a business. There’s so much more help now like the One Percent Club and so many books. You know, there’s so many people, so much stuff out there which can help you now start a business. So yeah, you don’t need to do that guys and ladies. Give it up now.
Chris just wanted freedom more than anything else and of course it goes without saying he’s ambitious. He wants to make money, but he values his freedom more than just purely money and material things.
How has the One Percent Club helped Chris?
It helps him focus and with his time management. Working with John and Jason in a similar business which has been helpful but also the other people in the group, it is a diverse group of people and it’s good to listen to them. Ultimately, focus, time management and accountability.
How Chris’s love for Japanese food led to another business opportunity
While travelling Shinkansen (the bullet train) in Japan, Chris was astonished at the amazing tastes and rich diversity of Japanese food. He had to discover more and a new project, Food Tours Japan was born, click play to find out more.
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John Lamerton: Hey everybody. It’s John Lamerton here alongside my good friend and business partner Mister Jason Brockman. We are here for another episode of the Ambitious Lifestyle Business podcast where as always it is our job to help you get more customers and make more money without just working harder. So without further adieu, let’s dive straight into this month’s episode.
John Lamerton: Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 56 of the ALB podcast. It’s September already. The leaves are falling all around us and what else happens in September is of course that the 1% Club doors are open. We only open the door to 1% club in September and March every year. And good news, if you are listening to this of course in September or indeed March, doors are now open. So head over to bigidea.co.uk. Click on the 1% Club link and you can see what it’s all about, how we work with our one percenters, and how you can get involved before the end of the month.
John Lamerton: Today’s guest is a one percenter and he has built a business around some of his greatest passions. Those include travel, riding trains, and Japanese food. Originally from the UK, Chris King now lives in Osaka, Japan as a digital nomad and spends a lot of his time travelling by train in Japan, Britain, Asia, and Europe.
John Lamerton: Chris started the Train Hacker when he was living in Britain to help people save money on their rail travel. The project then branched out, no pun intended there, to Europe and Japan, helping train travellers find cheaper train tickets, rail passes, tours, and holidays. While travelling Shinkansen, hope I’ve pronounced that correctly, bullet train in Japan, Chris was astonished at the amazing tastes and rich diversity of Japanese food. He had to discover more and a new project, Food Tours Japan was born.
John Lamerton: Now, Chris is exploring the wonderful world of Washoku and keen to show that there’s so much more to Japan than just Sushi. Chris, welcome to the podcast mate.
Chris King: Hi guys. Thanks very much for inviting me.
Jason Brockman: Welcome indeed.
John Lamerton: How was my pronunciation on those Japanese words?
Chris King: It was all pretty good. Yeah, Shinkansen bullet train. Most people just refer to it as bullet train and it’s Washoku.
John Lamerton: Washoku, yeah?
Chris King: Washoku, which is really just means Japanese cuisine and all the stuff around it, really.
John Lamerton: So we are going to learn, I think, a lot of Japanese cultures, traditions, and new words in today’s podcast. It’s not often we … Actually, it is quite often we come up with new words on the podcast. We just make it up as we go along.
Jason Brockman: Absolutely.
John Lamerton: So Chris, we first met probably over a decade ago and when we met, you were not a digital nomad. You were not living in Japan, writing about food and bullet trains, were you?
Chris King: No. No. I mean at the time I spent nearly, I think about, eight and a half years working for [BT 00:03:20] and that was a really great experience. Worked with some really bright people and managed to get involved in a lot of digital stuff. Everything from kind of online customer experience to e-commerce but yeah, the most enjoyable bit and the bit I worked in most of the time there was affiliate marketing. So yeah, I was on the other side, advertiser side.
John Lamerton: So what was your role within BT?
Chris King: I started of working in the affiliate team. There was four of us, a bigger operation at somewhere like BT. By the time I’d left BT, I headed up affiliates across BT group. So whilst the BT group stuff was more strategic and negotiations and stuff, the more operational side was the BT consumer programme. So broadband and some of the early TV stuff they were doing. So yeah, good times.
John Lamerton: As you said, we were almost on opposite sides of the fence back in the day, weren’t we. It was almost a them and us culture, I remember in affiliate marketing whereby you had these massive, massive brands. So BT is probably one of the biggest there were. And then you had guys like us sat in bedrooms, as somebody famously said, “Grubby little affiliates.” Sat in their bedrooms knocking websites up. And it was always this very strange partnership.
John Lamerton: If you were to imagine British telecoms ideal source of sales and partners, you probably wouldn’t have thought that that … or certainly 15 years ago, 10 years ago you wouldn’t have thought that was a 20 something year old kid sat in his bedroom in his boxer shorts, playing around with a website and just knocking up and almost hacking Google. It wouldn’t have made sense, would it. You wouldn’t have thought that this very, very small guy would work with this massive [inaudible 00:05:27] 100 company, would you?
Chris King: No. I mean that’s funny because at BT I had a really, really good boss and really good people I worked with and I think they embraced it really early. We used to show a lot of humility towards publishers, right from the early days. There’s a few things like one we were in a sales team. Which meant that we were on quarterly sales bonuses whereas as you know today, most affiliate marketing is in the marketing department. But we were heavily incentivized and we had some really golden years with bonuses. So that was our one thing that made us really unique and I think also because we were in sales, it also helped us more build on the relationship side. So we were very soft in our approach really to affiliate marketing.
Chris King: You know, we had to have some very awkward conversations and stuff along the way but I think generally speaking, we had the kind of right approach. I think at the time we were kind of out there. With all the big brands I think we were kind of leading the pack as to how to approach this new channel.
John Lamerton: It amazed me just thinking, going back in the day now. There I am sat in my bedroom, coding a website. I knew nothing about internet marketing. Internet. Me coding. I was hacking websites together and just throwing really, really shoddy design up on a page and creating this brand out of nothing. Yeah, I was a 20 something year old kid who knew very little and I was sat in my bedroom, my spare bedroom putting these websites up and then all of a sudden, I could go and speak to somebody at Procter and Gamble and say, “We’ve got this website offering free samples of stuff. You’ve got samples of Persil or Ariel that you want to give away. Can we work together?” And they would go, “Yeah, of course we can. That’s brilliant. Here’s some budget. Everybody you send this when you can persuade to take a free tablet, a brand new-“
Jason Brockman: [crosstalk 00:07:39].
John Lamerton: Yeah. Head and Shoulders sachets of shampoo. “If you can get 5,000 people to take a sashe of shampoo, we’ll give you 5,000 pounds.” “Brilliant. Okay.” You know, very, very unlikely bedfellows but that was what affiliate marketing all about because it was the guys in the bedrooms that were actually attracting the traffic. And I think this … Oh, god. I almost quoted Gary Vanerchuk [inaudible 00:08:11]. I must stop doing this but he talks about attention as currency, doesn’t he. And if you go back to the early 2000s, it was the affiliates, it was the bedroom affiliates who had the attention.
John Lamerton: They were the people who had the traffic and if you were Procter and Gamble or … Who else did we work with at the time? It was Britannia Music Club or BT and you wanted the attention, well it was the guys in the bedroom who had that and it was almost a win win for both parties because it was a commission only deal. You know, Procter and Gamble didn’t come to me and say, “Here’s 5,000 pounds. What can you do with it?” They came to me and said, “We’ll give you a pound for every sample you give away.” Worked for them. Worked for me and it was the best of both worlds.
Chris King: Yeah I mean and ironically, as you know. Affiliate marketing had a kind of a bit of a bad reputation. I think it probably still does in agencies. But then agencies have a bad reputation with a lot of other people on the other side.
John Lamerton: I think everyone’s got a bad reputation.
Chris King: Yeah. I mean just the whole performance model though has kind of moved. As you know, it started off with affiliate marketing but that then moved into PPC and SEO. I mean when I started BT, 2002, 2003 on the affiliates there was certainly a lot of more diversity of publishers by the time I’d left BT, 2008, 9 I think. There was increasingly less publishers, different publishers driving sales. Those publishers did have, by that time, big established bank comparison websites so they were big. Paid search, PPC, publishers very strong at SEO.
Chris King: So yeah, I mean the thing is the model has stood the test of time. You know, I’d recommend anyone who’s got a small company to embrace affiliate marketing. I mean there’s a few networks out there and there’s technologies out there that if you are a small company, as I always said, it’s like your virtual sales force. So pay them results springs to mind as one. Affiliate network in the UK that work with SMEs and I think even some of the huge [inaudible 00:10:34], probably the biggest network in the world. I was in one of their events recently and they said that one of the big initiatives in the UK this year is to grow their … they just started working with smaller brands. So whether you want to work of any network, you want to grow your business, no matter what you’re selling I think getting an affiliate programme, you just need to look at what the setup costs are.
John Lamerton: Yeah.
Chris King: And obviously work out the costs and the revenue. It’s just like any other kind of partner marketing really.
Jason Brockman: Yeah. It’s all complimentary, isn’t it. So in terms of how you’re aiming affiliate marketing programme with one of the networks you kind of mentioned, that’s about growing your list of people. It’s getting other people to do the sale bits for you and that comes in or converses. If you were going to look at working with the affiliate networks to see what partners they have, it’s about growing your product portfolio necessarily or adding additional services to what you can kind of offer as well. So there’s actually a two way synergy there that you can kind of work with these networks affiliate marketing, isn’t there.
Chris King: Yeah. I mean like publisher’s side, I guess you need to think of whatever you’re selling. Do you think that selling other people’s products is going to detract away from your brand? I guess it’s kind of more of a branding decision [inaudible 00:11:49] other things. But increasingly now, we’re seeing big established companies certainly in the travel space that have got, they’re selling their own product but then there’s a sideline. They’re also selling affiliate stuff.
Chris King: I think like say a company like the train line announced Japan Rail passes but they’re only selling those for a partnership with somebody else. So I mean if you’ve got a product and then you’ve got content and there’s other similar products or related products and I think it’s an extra revenue stream that I think any advertiser to look at as well as a publisher. Like I say both sides of a coin.
Jason Brockman: Yeah. I think one of the key ways that you said is partnership, isn’t it. Actually it is about having partners to try to work with and grow your business and to grow their business and actually working together to do that.
Chris King: Yeah, I mean absolutely. I mean I think now there’s a bit of a who haw in the UK space about whether it’s partner marketing or affiliate marketing or performance marketing.
Chris King: While we were at BT, funny enough, we were actually in the partnerships team. So whilst we were running the affiliate programme, there was also the PPC programme was run as a partner because you were working with an agency but your partners were Google and Yahoo and Bing or whatever at the time. And then also even the SEO team become a partnership because you were working with an SEO agency.
Chris King: But then the other more traditional partnerships, they would work with banks when Broadband was first started. So you’d have people work with banks that said, “Well, if you take BT Broadband, you’ll get 40 pound off.” And so that was the kind of partnership. So it’s all kind of old school stuff. It looks all really fancy because it’s online but really it’s just an extension of working with partners really.
Jason Brockman: Yeah. From this kind of high level job within one of the corporates, you went to digital nomad. How do you explain digital nomad?
Chris King: Well, I don’t know digital nomad was … How do we explain it? I don’t know. Yeah, I think when I started, I mean I left the corporate thing. I said like three strikes and I’m out and whilst I had an amazing time in the corporate, I learned loads of stuff, done some amazing training, got involved in so many different parts of business, bought an apartment in London. Lots of so many good things come out of that. Met some great people.
Chris King: But I kind of said to myself, “Three strikes and you’re out of working with somebody else.” And twice at BT, I had a couple of situations whereby I was promised something and it wasn’t delivered. And then I briefly worked at AOL and it happened a third time. So I sort of said, “Okay, that’s it.” So I just went out into the brave world of starting a business and from day one I didn’t really have a clue. But after a couple of years I realised that there was a way that I could run this business and be a digital nomad.
Chris King: You know, I quit BT and went travelling. Sorry, I quit AOL. Went travelling for six months. Come back, started a business. Maybe after travelling in India for six months, maybe not the best state of mind to come back and start a business. And my first publishing business didn’t really work that well. Then I did consultancy and then I kind of thought, “I want to go travelling again.” And I had a couple of clients and at the time, there was a lot of stuff I was reading. Chris Guillebeau, I’d highly recommend that book. The Hundred Dollar Startup. Obviously I’ve read Tim Ferriss, Four Hour Work Week.
Chris King: So it was kind of the digital nomad thing was starting my business, which come out of the decade in corporation. I needed to go to India to just cleanse my soul really, just to restart my life. And then I realised that I could travel and run my business at the same time. So the arbitrage, if I had consultancy clients in London, I was obviously earning quite good money and then I could go and live in Vietnam or Cambodia on a very low cost and run my business. But also while out there, doing research and also starting some travel projects doing research for my travel clients as well. So yeah, a bit of a long winded way but the digital nomad thing kind of come out of a whole load of things come together.
Chris King: And really I guess the reason I wanted to get out of the corporate world is because whilst I wasn’t prepared to sit around and wait for my pension, I wanted to see the world. And I thought, I don’t want to see the world when I’m 60. I want to see the world now while I’m young. And then that kind of led from one thing to another. Sorry, that’s a bit of a long winded answer for you.
Jason Brockman: That’s a fantastic answer because it leads us into, well you travelled lots of places in the world and you’ve kind of had that refreshing in India and off to Cambodia and Vietnam and various other places. And you’ve finally settled in Japan. What made you choose Japan?
Chris King: Well-
Jason Brockman: [crosstalk 00:16:52].
Chris King: … there’s a few things. One, the train travel projects was leading me down that route because A, I love train travel in Britain and then Europe and that’s when I sort of started the Train Hacker. I was in and out of Asia then at some point I realised, well actually, I find Asia a lot more of a mellow place to be. Also, these days it’s where the growth is. I mean southeast Asia is so exciting and India. I love the fact that … I’m sure it’s not quite the same for people that have to live there. Unfortunately a lot of them are very poor but I just love the kind of free entrepreneurial style that things were done in those countries.
Chris King: And then so the Japan thing, I actually met my wife who’s Japanese. I met her at a train station actually in Vietnam. The most northerly train station in Vietnam in this lovely, beautiful Japanese woman come to sit next to me while we were getting our sort of transfer from the train station up to this kind of old Colonial Hill station where the biggest mountain in Indochina is. And yeah, she was Japanese and then that opened my eyes to thinking, well if I’m working in train travel, why am I not writing about more inspiring stuff like train travel in Japan? Whilst I love train travel in Britain, when it works it’s great and if you’re a leisure traveller. But as we know, there are some amazing things going on in rail travel in Britain. But really, it’s not so inspiring as somewhere like Japan, which is a few generations above Britain when it comes to rail travel.
Chris King: Yeah. So that sort of led me down that path and then I just kind of thought that I want to actually focus more on Japan travel projects. I could see there was an opportunity there. Wasn’t a lot of stuff being published and what stuff was being published about travel in Japan was what I found seemed to be quite inaccurate. So I kind of, yeah, decided to go out to Japan and do some research for my business over there.
John Lamerton: I love the fact that you said just now … And I’m conscious there’s going to be people listening to this podcast now sat on a train somewhere on their daily commute into the city and it may be a like 90 minute commute and the train’s been delayed for so many times and you’re sat in maybe an overcrowded hot carriage and you’ve just heard Chris say, “I love the train travel in the UK.”
Chris King: I mean yeah, as a leisure traveller I think it’s good. I mean to commute, I’ve been there, seen it, bought the t-shirt. I’ve commuted in London. I commuted short-term commute on over ground and I commuted on the tube. Yeah, I was up in London. Went to watch a couple of cricket matches and I caught the late rush hour and it’s like I could never do this again. I knew that in business doing London say six years ago. I could never go back to that and I mean, it’s the choice you make.
Chris King: I’ve got old friends who I met, they are loaded. They’ve got three cars. They’ve got massive houses. They’ve got big gardens. One thing they say to me all the time is they don’t have any time. So you kind of make the choice. So if you want the big house, if you want to leverage yourself up and you do that, that’s fine but there’s other ways you can live your life. And too many people, I think, in the past have kind of fallen for the got to have a big house, got to have a car, got to have this, got to have that. And you don’t really need that.
Chris King: You never needed it in the first place and you certainly don’t need it today where you’ve got a lot more freedom. You can work where you want. So many more opportunities now to set up a business. There’s so much more help now like the 1% Club and so many books. You know, there’s so many people, so much stuff out there which can help you now start a business. So yeah, you don’t need to do that guys and ladies. Give it up now.
John Lamerton: You don’t need to wait for your third strike then.
Chris King: Well, yeah. I guess that was a bit … Because I travelled after school. I travelled after university and I think I just had an itch and I think maybe I didn’t have the confidence to make that leap. I mean at the time I was working with all these affiliate entrepreneurs. I remember one of them used to say to me all the time, “You’re crazy. Why would you want to leave BT? You can work from home. You get good quarterly sales bonuses. You’ve got a pension.” Which on a salary pension scheme, all this sort of stuff. “You have all this freedom. You’re able to go out and stuff.” But that’s just sort of superficial stuff really. If you think about it and a lot of it’s materials.
Chris King: So I just wanted freedom more than anything else and of course I’m ambitious. I want to make money. I want to make more money than I’ve made today but when it’s that, I value freedom more than just purely money and material things. So does my wife, so that’s a marriage made in heaven.
John Lamerton: Yes, it’s an easy trap to fall down, isn’t it. I remember a few years ago we were looking to have an extension built on the house. So we went to remortgage. Went down and sat with the bank manager and he put all the numbers into his computer and he come up with this lovely really big figure on his screen. He said, “That’s how much you could borrow.” We then went home, went on [Zupler 00:22:41] and started Googling houses for that sort of money and was like, “Oh my god. I can have the house in the country. I can have a seven bedroom place with a half a mile long driveway.”
John Lamerton: And then I looked at the monthly repayments and figured out how hard I’d have to work in order to actually pay for it and then I thought, “Well actually, then I’d have to employ a team of gardeners to look after those acres of land and I don’t need seven bedrooms. And do I really need a driveway that’s half a mile long? And oh my god, I’d be a target for burglars. And oh no, I’d have to move house. Oh my god, that’s the most stressful thing ever.”
John Lamerton: So we borrowed a lot less than we could have done. We remoulded this house, which we’ve lived in now for 16 years. And this is now our perfect house because we’ve designed it for us. And this is exactly what you’ve done Chris, with your business and with your lifestyle now. We’re always saying, “What does the ambitious lifestyle business look like for you?” And as you’ve said, freedom. It’s time. It’s very little to do with money. I’m sure you’re ambitious. You want to make money. You want to make good money but actually what you want to do more than anything is travel the world, is go and see these sights, go and enjoy the amazing food.
John Lamerton: You know, you mentioned just now you’ve been to a cricket match. Now, for a lot of people listening, going to a cricket match isn’t a bit thing. But let’s imagine you live on the other side of the planet and the cricket match we’re talking about is the Cricket World Cup. Chris has taken, what? Two months. Two and a half months out of your life.
Chris King: Well, three months actually.
John Lamerton: Three months. So three months to travel back to the UK, stay here, and take in the Cricket World Cup.
Chris King: Yeah.
John Lamerton: And it’s your business that’s allowed you to do that. Because if you were still in the corporate world saying, “Can I take three months off paid to go to another country and watch a passion of mine at the very highest level?” They’d probably say, “Chris, you’ve got six days leave left.”
Chris King: Yeah, I mean that’s what it’s all about for me. I mean the last … I don’t know. I think the last four or five years I’ve been living … I’ve lived in London for a year. I’ve travelled Japan for about six months. Now I’ve spent about five months in England outside of London. I mean now I’ve got a family, so it’s important that my son, well both my sons embrace English culture and for my wife to spend time with my family here.
Chris King: But the thing is, we can do that. I mean I’m here on business primarily but then also we can choose when I can come because I need to keep in touch with my partners, which [inaudible 00:25:43]. You know I’ve got the freedom to choose when I come here. I can arrange those meetings, those face to face meetings any time of year but why not come in the summer? Why not come for the Cricket World Cup? I’ve not spent the last two summers in England. So yeah, that’s what it enables you to do really. I mean what do you want?
Chris King: And I’ve come back and most the people I’ve asked to go to the cricket, they can’t go because they can’t get the time off work. So you know, again, what do you want out of life? Do you want five weeks holiday or do you want to be able to kind of move around and do stuff whenever you want, how you want?
Chris King: I guess one thing for me, I need to be more focused and this 1% Club has helped me be more focused and it’s helped me with accountability. I know that I can have quite a slow three months now and then I can go back to Japan and I’ve got a new project I’m starting and I can just work 60 hours a week for a few months and make up that time. I have the choice and I think as entrepreneurs, that is I guess all of us. We’re all a bit crazy in some way, right. You got to be a bit crazy to be an entrepreneur. But that’s the way I kind of look at it. I have some campaigns and stuff that I’ve got to do every year but apart from that, I’m just gradually building up my projects and I can do that whenever I want.
John Lamerton: How has the 1% Club helped you with your focus?
Chris King: Well I think it’s helped because I also … You guys helped me because I think actually paying for the service has made me take it a lot more seriously. So it’s helped me with the accountability. It’s helped me to show up on time regularly. Unfortunately, as you know, I can make one of the monthly calls when I’m in Japan but I might try and start making that. So to get up, to show up, to actually talk about what I’m doing and be honest whereas when I do these services on a non-paid thing I can tell a few white lies. “Yeah, yeah. I’ve written that almost. 80% I’ve written that.” When really I haven’t really started it.
Chris King: But yeah, it’s helping me focus and time management. And also working with you guys, a similar business to me which has been helpful but also the kind of diverse … The other people in the groups is diverse group of people and so it’s good to listen to them. So yeah, focus, time management, accountability.
Jason Brockman: I was going to say, you hit most of our coaching calls and you’re on most of those. It’s really good because actually one, we can follow your journey. Two, you can kind of be held accountable because yeah, we can talk about what you’re up to and we can say actually how did that go and we can ask, “Did you do that thing that you were going to do?” And yeah, you’re there every week, ready to take whatever is coming at you. If you haven’t done it, then that may kind of focus you to make sure that things are done, doesn’t it.
Chris King: Yeah. No, I am honest on our calls and so I’m probably in line for a bit of a thrashing from you guys if I don’t-
John Lamerton: Well, I think we did threaten to withhold your cricket World Cup tickets at one point. Didn’t we?
Chris King: Yeah. But I’ve never been that good with authority since I left [crosstalk 00:29:09] afraid that wasn’t going to work. But yeah, I mean yeah, I need to kind of pull my finger out a bit this summer. But then like I say, I can catch up.
Jason Brockman: You’ve crafted this lifestyle business, this ambitious lifestyle business. You’ve crafted it. You’ve got your passions that you wanted to have a business about. You’ve got your travel. You’ve got your food. You’ve got lovely family now that you can move wherever you want to in the world at any time kind of thing to go and enjoy the things that you want today. It’s kind of the envy of most entrepreneurs, I would say really. Because that’s what they’re all kind of striving for and that’s kind of what they feel they’re going to get when they get into business but very often, they don’t make those time for their lifestyle bits. They’re all really, really busy doing the kind of duty, getting the work done, and perhaps going through the 60 hours a week but every week and not having the three months off in the summer to come back to the UK and stuff like that. So you have designed this business around what you like.
Chris King: Yeah. I mean and I’ve got a one year old and a four year old. You know, I can be really terrible but now I’m getting better having been in the 1% Club and getting a lot more professional. I read The War of Art, Steven Pressfield. I read his books, so they’re really good. Take it seriously. But while I’m doing stuff like this, like you say, I can … It depends on what you want. Some people want to be an entrepreneur because they want they money. They want the big car. They want to have the big business. Mark Zuckerberg.
Chris King: Mark Zuckerberg’s and entrepreneur. Whoever from Google, they’re entrepreneurs. Well an entrepreneur is just somebody who makes a living themselves, right. So too many people still think, “Oh, entrepreneur. We’ve got to look at being Bill Gates or whoever, Warren Buffet, all whoever these big guys are.” Yeah, great. I’m sure they got some inspiration along the way and loads of good pointers but you know, it’s not really that realistic. I mean just want to be able to support yourself.
Chris King: And one thing you find when you work in a corporate, you might have one important thing to do. You might be sat there for like 10 hours, sat in the cubical or sat behind the computer. But as you guys know as being and entrepreneur, you can maybe do that one bit of work. You can do it in two hours and then when your son says he wants to go down the beach and throw some stones in the water, you can just go, “Yeah, all right.” Because I’ve done my one thing this morning. I’ve done the important thing. I know I can go off for an hour or two and I can come back.
Chris King: I mean for me, being and entrepreneur is about making my own lifestyle choices. It’s not to be running around managing a team of 80 people. That works for some people. Other people it doesn’t.
John Lamerton: Absolutely. And for some people they want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page or Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Those guys are probably not listening to the Ambitious Lifestyle Business podcast. But I’m not saying that they’re wrong and I’m right. They’re right for them. That’s what they want but don’t force feed it down my throat that’s what every entrepreneur should want.
Jason Brockman: What was your definition of your lazy entrepreneur? What the-
John Lamerton: Oh, my ultimate job description?
Jason Brockman: Yeah, your ultimate job description.
John Lamerton: To do what I want when I want, where I want, when I want, how I want, if I want.
Jason Brockman: If you want. Absolutely. But Mark Zuckerberg has that same definition, I would say. It’s exactly the same.
John Lamerton: Yeah.
Jason Brockman: But with a different-
John Lamerton: Yeah. He just wants something different.
Jason Brockman: And Chris, you know he’s got that same definition too.
Chris King: yeah.
John Lamerton: It’s interesting. Obviously Chris, where you started, when we started this conversation was, “Oh, well I get a good quarterly bonus. Got a fine salary pension. Maybe got some health perks. You know five weeks salary a year. I’m set. I’m happy.” But then you didn’t necessarily know at the time what you really wanted and I think perhaps as you said when you were sat at that most northerly railway station in Vietnam, your eyes were opened.
John Lamerton: Now, you left us hanging a little bit there because you ended the story with and then this beautiful lady sat there next to me. So what happened next?
Chris King: Well, what happened next … I don’t know. We spent about a day and a half together. Well actually, if we can put a quick sideline. So we met and we went up to this final part of this hill station town in this four by four and when we got out, there was all these north hill tribe women there kind of, “Can we take you on a walk tomorrow? Do you want to buy some stuff?” Kind of thing as soon as we got out of the four by four.
Chris King: And so wife to be, she went off walking one way. I went off the other way. We said, “Bye, bye.” And that was it and all these hill tribe women were up trying to sell us stuff as we get out of this four by four. And I’ve gone in and I’ve spoken to my mate who I’ve met travelling and he was still in Hanoi and he’s kind of Australian British guy. I said to him, “I met this beautiful woman.” And he’s like, “Fucking hell mate. What is it with you English? Did you get her phone number? Did you get her email address?” I said, “No.” “Well, what is it with you English? Go and find her. Go and find her.” And I was like, “Oh, well whatever.”
Chris King: Anyway, so I had breakfast and I was thinking like, “Well, why didn’t I get that girl’s email address? She was lovely. She was really sweet.” And so I went out of my kind of whatever, small hotel, whatever I was in about an hour later having spoke to him, had some breakfast, had a wash. And who stood outside is one of the hill tribe women and she said, “Oh, your girlfriend. Your girlfriend. She went the wrong way. We had to show her the way.” I was like, “Well where is she.” And she, “Oh, she’s at this hotel down here because she was walking in the …” I said, “Please? Can you tell me where the hotel is?”
Chris King: So anyway, I went down and found the hotel and I went in. And there was another Australian guy there, on the door actually and I said to this guy, “Have you had a Japanese lady arrive today?” And he’s like, “Might have done.” I said, “Well, I met her travelling. If she’s here can you just go and ask her to come down?” He’s like, “Well, you know should really of our client’s …” and I was like, “Look mate, is she here or not? There’s not many Japanese people in this.” So anyway, under duress he goes, “Okay.” So anyway, he went upstairs, got [inaudible 00:36:01] my wife. And I said, “Would you like to meet after dinner tonight?” And she said yes.
Chris King: And then when she went off, this Australian guy turned round to me and went, “Hey mate, you got no chance.” “What are you talking about?” “You got no chance, mate. I could tell by her body language.” Anyway, I kind of just brushed this guy off, just thinking, “What are you on about? What are you talking about?” “No, you got no chance mate.” Anyway, it turns out as I find out a few weeks later that he had actually asked her out for dinner as well as soon as she arrived. So he was just peeved that she had said no to him. So that was why this guy, who worked in this hotel, he was like the manager, that’s why he was so upset.
Chris King: But anyway, so I went out for dinner with my wife that day. For the following day she was going to do a walk in this place and she was going to head off on her travels. So of course when she’s saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to do a walk tomorrow around all these patty fields.” I turned round and invited myself. I was like, “Oh yeah, yeah. I was going to do that.” And then we met and we spend half a day together. Then I chased her down for the rest of the time she was in Vietnam and we met up for five days later. Then we went back our separate ways. Then she came to England.
Chris King: I mean she came to England for a few weeks. Six months later we went to Thailand and met there. And yeah, that’s kind of how it happened. We were living on the other side of the world for about a year and a half before we fully got together. And that involved being in Vietnam, being in London, and being in Thailand. You know, it’s great. Yeah.
John Lamerton: That is an amazing story, mate.
Jason Brockman: That is.
John Lamerton: Just let’s go forward to where we are now and you said you’re happily married. You’ve got, is it one year old and a four year old, did you say?
Chris King: Yeah. Got two boys.
John Lamerton: You’ve got this amazing family. None of which would have happened without you making the decision to do something that was a little bit tough and go and hunt down this beautiful lady that you were sat next to on the train. And without that Australian guy giving you a bit of a kick up the ass and saying, “Come on mate. What are you doing? You’ve got an opportunity here.” You know, for the guys listening at home, you may not be looking for the love of your life but you may be looking for that business partner or that deal or that opportunity or that pay raise. Or you may want to leave a relationship. You may want to do something that is difficult.
John Lamerton: So Chris, can you just give us your Australian accent again and just tell these people to just flaming do it?
Chris King: Just do it you flaming galah.
John Lamerton: Apologies to any Australians this that Home and Away is our only reference for the Australian accent. That and the [inaudible 00:38:57] G’day Mate.
Chris King: Yeah, I mean most the things you got to make your luck. I remember somebody in my … said to me, “You’re so lucky.” Some of the things that happen. But you make your own luck and it seems to me that every time something not good happens, I always see … The day to day I can get caught up and not obviously see the positive things. But when the important things happen in my life, I’m always like well this is an opportunity.
Chris King: So when I first started my business I was doing publishing. I didn’t really make any money because the different between working for a corporation and managing affiliates and actually then running a website yourself, learning how to use WordPress, okay yeah you kind of knew how to talk about SEO but now you’ve actually got to do it. You talked about it, right and now you’ve got to do it. So that’s such a difficult thing. But then I did the consultancy which was great because I worked with some travel clients and I’d had a bit of a run of trying to get some new business, really messed around.
Chris King: I remember one guy in London. He was over in the city and I was in Notting Hill. He was like, “Oh, just wait an hour for a meeting.” And trying to chase new business and wasting your time. But I had a couple of really good clients but when the final client of those two more stable ones said to me, “We don’t need anymore at the moment.” And that was a great opportunity. All of a sudden I saw this massive hole in my revenue but I just thought, “Well, this is publishing 2.0 now. So now you’ve got to go fully into the publishing.” Because whilst I was doing the consultancy, I was incubating another publishing project.
Chris King: And it’s kind of like, those moments in life where it’s all a bit [inaudible 00:40:46]. That’s when the most opportunities come up. And that’s when you kind of grit your teeth and you really knuckle down. So I think that’s one of the great things about being and entrepreneur, right. You have your ups and downs, revenue, and stuff like that. But you just got to keep going on it.
Jason Brockman: Yeah and seeking those opportunities or finding or actually just seeing them because they’re there. They’re all ready to be taken all over the place but actually just being able to be focused, go, “Actually, I need to fill that hole now. There’s the opportunity I was looking for but I just didn’t know it was there,” because you were too busy focused sometimes, isn’t.
Chris King: Well you also have the freedom. I mean with the lifestyle business, the great thing is you have freedom of mind. So suddenly when I think back to my corporate days, making my hours, maybe being unhappy a lot of the time, probably drinking too much. You know, you don’t really have any time. It becomes, “Wow, it’s the weekend. Wow, it’s our free time. Or let’s go to a festival.” It’s all kind of false. “Oh, let’s go to the music festival and we’ll be free for four days.”
Chris King: Well actually, you just need to look at your life in a completely different way and actually being a lifestyle entrepreneur gives you so much intellectual freedom or thinking time, which obviously you need to harness that. But thinking of new opportunities. Like Food towards Japan, it was travelling in Japan. “Wow, this is amazing. Everyone just thinks Japanese food is sushi and Ramen. Actually, there’s so much to it.” You know, the UN, UNESCO or something have made it … [inaudible 00:42:18] French food and Italian food. It’s now like a whatever [inaudible 00:42:21]. Same over there with the UN and that was just so open your eyes so much.
Chris King: And you got the freedom like let’s look for some domain names. How could we do a business? That’s the great thing about being a lifestyle entrepreneur. You can think about new ideas. You can incubate businesses. You can start things. You can try things. You know, you might try some things, put a few web pages up, it doesn’t work. Okay, let’s try another project. Let’s try another one. Okay, this one gets a bit of traction. Let’s do that. So yeah.
John Lamerton: You mentioned it earlier Chris and I think as entrepreneurs we are a bit weird, a bit strange, and a bit not normal and we are the guys that go, “Yes. It’s Monday. Brilliant. I get to go back to creating all these ideas that I’ve had.” It’s the chance to be a little bit creative, I think as well. You know, you may not even imagine yourself to be creative but you are designing a business here and as you said, you can just try some stuff, have some ideas, think, “Wonder if that would work.” And yeah, it’s the old entrepreneur saying that when life gives you lemons, sell lemonade.
Chris King: That’s so true.
Jason Brockman: [crosstalk 00:43:33] interested to hear a little bit more about what things you’re doing. You’re travelling. Your Japan food.
John Lamerton: Japan food.
Jason Brockman: Japan food, that’s it.
John Lamerton: Of all the conversation we had, I didn’t think Japan was going to be the trouble we were going to have.
Jason Brockman: Oh dear, that’s fantastic. We want to find out a little bit more about your travelling and your Japanese food and the culture and stuff like that.
Chris King: I’m out in Japan now on research primarily for the business you know, so I’ve spent a few months travelling on the train doing a rail pass stuff. So I’ve got a lot of material for that. But then also the food. Everyone has to go to Japan once and I’m living in Osaka which they say is the kind of kitchen of the nation. So Osaka people, they have a saying [foreign 00:44:19]. That’s probably bad pronunciation. My wife would laugh and even my four year old son.
John Lamerton: Sounded all right to me.
Chris King: [Foreign 00:44:29]. Anyway and basically what it means is that Osakans eat themselves through bankruptcy. And they used to say that people in Kyoto or Tokyo, one of them might spend all their money on lavish clothes. One of the other ones will spend all their money on lavish shoes but Osakans spend all their money on food. So in Osaka, everyone who goes to Japan must go to Osaka, even if they’re based in Kyoto. Osaka’s only an hour away. Go down there at least for an evening because a lot of people do miss it off.
Chris King: But the food there is incredible. The whole culture and everything I’ve ever done in Osaka with Osakan people there’s food. There’s a food element and it has the most wonderful places. Yeah, of course Tokyo’s much bigger. It’s the capital and it’s got a massive … There’s more Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo than any other city in the world. Number two is Paris. Number three is Kyoto. And number four is Osaka. So three Japanese cities out the top four Michelin-starred restaurants.
Chris King: But Tokyo’s got a lot, it’s a much bigger place but Osaka’s a lot smaller. So if you really want to kind of understand Japanese food, you really should go check out Osaka. They’ve got some wonderful soul foods. But also it’s a lot more compact for you to kind of explore Japanese food.
Jason Brockman: And a good way of finding out a little bit more about that is on one of your websites, no doubt.
Chris King: Yeah. I mean Food Tours Japan. I started that because I’m a marketer at heart so I’m always looking at the trends and I’ve been involved in travel now for nearly a decade, you know actually on a business item. Food tourism was getting bigger. Travel to Japan’s getting bigger. So it’s about marrying up opportunities that you wee with the things that are important to you. I spent some time at my local place in Osaka before the second child come along, I had a lot more time but I’d go to what they call [foreign 00:46:39] which is a kind of like … Well my one, it’s kind of like an English pub with four star food. Proper four start food, you know.
Chris King: They’re so seasonal and local and it’s amazing food that comes out. And I think too many travellers go to Japan and they don’t explore the food. And here’s one for you, so when I travelled Indochina, I heard all this great stuff about Vietnamese food. So before I’d even arrived in Vietnam, within the first week I’d booked three food tours because I wanted to go there straight away. I did one that was around Pho noodles. Pho which is popular. Seafood. And I did another tour because as soon as I arrived there I thought, “I’m going to be here for maybe up to six months or something. I want to find out about the food. I want a shortcut. I want to go straight and find out about the food so that when I’m here I can do that.” I would recommend to anyone when they go to Japan, go on a food tour. Go to foodtoursjapan.com and check it out.
Chris King: So basically I’m curating so for me it’s like a next generation of being a content publisher/affiliate. You know, I’m actually now curating what I think are the best tours. So if you want to have Ramen in Tokyo, here’s the best tours. If you want to explore some Osaka soul food, here’s the best tours. If you want to eat Kyoto-style [inaudible 00:48:14] cuisine, 25 course kaiseki, everyone should do it if they go to Japan. Here’s the best places you can get that.
Chris King: But so many people go to Japan and they’re in fear. And to be honest with you, it’s easy to travel in Japan. The train travel, everything’s in English. All the announcements are in English. All the signs are in English. It’s a really amazing system. Everything’s sign posted. It’s easy to get around. Actually trying to get authentic food experiences is really very difficult because a lot of the menus are not in English. [inaudible 00:48:47] it’s not the easiest language. [inaudible 00:48:59] your holiday, you’re then set up for the next two, three weeks. You might have some food, it’s like wow. There’s so much amazing food in Japan. Do you want [inaudible 00:49:07] barbecue beef? To you want [inaudible 00:49:10], which is breaded pork fillet? Do you want kaiseki, like I said which is like luxurious, the most amazing food. There’s so many stuff out there so get on it.
John Lamerton: Excellent. Thanks there mate. The dog barking just now must signal the end of the podcast, I assume. We got this new little timing system going on.
Jason Brockman: [crosstalk 00:49:32].
John Lamerton: Any parting words or any words of wisdom you want to leave people with, Chris? Or anything or any other way that people might want to get in touch with you?
Chris King: Yeah. I mean if you want to get in touch with me I’m at chrispking.net if you want to contact me via there. Any other words of wisdom? I mean if you are thinking of starting a business, if you are one of those people, I think I’d highly recommend the Hundred Dollar Startup book by Chris Guillebeau. Fire your boss. Do what you love and lead the life you want to lead, basically. I think that’s probably one of the best books if you’re in the cubical at the moment and you want to escape the cubical. It offers real practical advice with lots of really good examples. It’s nearly a decade old now.
Chris King: But I mean, do what you love, I guess. Do what you love and just be happy and make happiness the number one thing in your life and do what you want to do. That’s all I’ll say.
John Lamerton: I mean that’s brilliant.
Jason Brockman: Total freedom.
Chris King: I talk a lot, as you can tell guys. So hopefully you managed to get your questions in.
John Lamerton: We did, yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for that. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you for joining us Chris.
Chris King: Okay. All right, thanks a lot guys.
Jason Brockman: Thank you.
John Lamerton: Thank you. Don’t forget guys, you can get all the show notes. You can watch the video of our interview with Chris and the transcription on the website at bigidea.co.uk. Where you’ll also find information about the 1% Club. As I say, it is open if you are listening to this when this episode comes out in September. It is open until the end of September. If it’s not the right time for you right now or it’s not September, you can join the waiting list and just find out a little bit more. Again, at bigidea.co.uk.
John Lamerton: Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again next month. Bye, bye.
John Lamerton: So there we are. Another episode in the can. How was it for you? Please let us know. However you listen to these podcasts, please leave a review on that platform. Let us know what we can do better, what you like what you don’t like, and how we can improve to make this show even better for you. We’ll see you next time.
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