In March 2015, Ryan Michler owned a successful financial planning company. His clients were medical. He served a comfortable life.
"I made big money," Michler told me. “But I felt something was missing. I thought there were opportunities to help men. And that's when I started. "
What he started was Order of Man, a website, podcast, Facebook group and paid membership to help men become better financial managers, better fathers and men and better leaders.
I recently spoke with Michler about starting the business and growing the community, among other topics. The following is our entire audio call and a transcript, edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: Tell yourself.
Ryan Michler: I'm the founder of Order of Man, which is an organization centered on providing men with tools, conversations, frameworks and resources to be more capable. We help men grow up in their families, their businesses, their communities – wherever they appear. We launched in 2015.
Until recently, I did all the roles, from podcast host to editor to website developer to the guy on social media. But over the past year, I've been trying to get other people better equipped to handle it. It frees up my time to focus on the ideas and the vision and the direction – higher thinking. I don't have employees, but I have a lot of entrepreneurs who handle different tasks, such as podcast editing, social media content, YouTube videos, stuff.
And then I have a pretty big crew helping me manage our digital membership called the Iron Council. So we have team leaders there – a network manager, an event coordinator. I have tried to lay out many things. It has been a good change. Challenging but good.
Bandholz: What drives revenue?
Michler: The primary source of income is the Iron Council. We have over 500 members. I started it over four years ago with a single training course. This course was developed and transformed into this digital fraternity. But then we have guys asking for goods or hats or shirts. The store now generates 10 to 15 percent of our revenue. About 70 percent comes from membership to the Iron Council. And then we offer one-off courses and two to four live events a year.
Bandholz: How about sponsorship on your podcast?
Michler: Yes, I do, but it's not a significant revenue generator. I'm not focusing on that. I would much rather share what we have available internally.
Bandholz: Do you advertise your podcast to drive listeners?
Michler: I never seriously advertised. The most I have ever done is increase Facebook and Instagram posts. Our largest social media channel is our closed Facebook group with about 68,000 members. So between the podcast and that group, we generate a lot of excitement and awareness of what we do.
Bandholz: Is your Facebook group free?
Michler: Yes. It's free, exclusively for men. And all they have to do is request access. We have some minor obstacles to make sure these are guys who are motivated to make a meaningful contribution. And then we would have a moderator team that keeps all participants focused.
Bandholz: Talk about what it takes to build a successful Facebook group.
Michler: The difficulty was not during the first few days, surprisingly. When there were 500 guys or a thousand guys or even 5000 guys it was much easier to handle than now. There are many negative attitudes. Discussions often go out of hand. There is a certain disrespect and gross and widespread behavior. We get rid of these people. But if the members have a healthy, respectful disagreement, let us do it by all means.
We do not allow posting of memes in the group. We minimize the self-promotion material. You cannot share links to your own websites and programs. Again, we want to have respectful and meaningful conversations.
Bandholz: Let's go back to the first days, five years ago. Was that a side stress for you then?
Michler: It was. I started in March 2015. I owned a financial planning practice back then. I made big money, but I felt something was missing. So I started a podcast for financial planning. It was called "Wealth Anatomy." It focused on providing financial advice to doctors. And I realized that I love podcasting.
I thought there were opportunities to help men. And that's when I started. I went about seven months before I made my first dollar. For starters, I would have ads on the site and podcast. But I quickly realized that I didn't have the audience. And I'm glad it worked that way. At about seven months, my wife and I had a conversation. She said, "I appreciate you doing this Order of Man thing, but you are not making any money, and it is hampering your practice, which removes household income. So you should probably scale back or maybe find a way to make some money to do it. "
And I said to her something like, "Well, I'm not scaling back. If anything, I'm doubling this thing." I had listened to a podcast that suggested I should do a course. I am, "Perfect. I'll do a course. “I released it in about October or November 2015. It was called the Iron Council. It was available to 12 men. That's all. And over 12 weeks we would discuss six topics. We had a phone call every week, one assignment per topic and a private Facebook group – everything focused on the Iron Council membership.
I charged $ 100 for it and sold out overnight. I didn't know what to do next. So the first month, October, November, we earned $ 1,200. And then two-thirds of the way through, the guys ask, "What do we do after this is over?" I hadn't even thought about it. I still had my income from financial planning. But I decided to open the Iron Council and make it more of a membership. And we went up to about a hundred members, quite quickly, when we opened it in early 2016.
And it's been on fire ever since. I ended up selling my financial planning practice. This is all I have been doing for the last three years.
Bandholz: The podcast and group have been a great catalyst for building your community. You also wrote a book, "Sovereignty: The battle for the hearts and minds of men". Can you talk about it?
Michler: I wrote the book as another medium to get my message out to people who wouldn't hear it through the podcast or be in the Facebook group. There was access to a whole new group of men. People who read books are motivated, ambitious and want to learn and grow. But what I didn't realize when I wrote the book is that it helped me to crystallize and solidify my message.
It also gave me an extra level of credibility with my community.
Bandholz: Where can people learn more about you?