There are a lot of things you can work on that take a lot of your time but result in very little gain. You need to figure out what these are fast and cut them before you sacrifice too much time to them.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Chase Amante.
Chase Amante is the founder of Girls Chase. Chase grew up with heavy social anxiety, which led to a date-less and friendless life. One day in 2004 he decided the only way out was to push himself into social situations and to approach and flirt with women. He decided to treat dating and socializing as a skill. Soon he achieved breakthrough after breakthrough, and tremendous dating and social success. As one of the highest rated members on the biggest online men’s dating advice forum, Chase had frequent requests to start his own website. The domain he launched in 2008, girlschase.com, grew into a highly trafficked website, receiving hundreds of thousands of visits per month. Over the years Girls Chase has launched various popular products, including Chase’s book How to Make Girls Chase and his flagship course, the One Date System.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I had a lot of false starts trying to figure out dating. I focused on being this cool, mysterious, funny guy in high school, which did work to get girls chasing me, for a while. I had the head cheerleaders and the prettiest girls in school asking me out on dates. But I was terrified of saying “yes” so I turned them all down. Once in college all that went away. I went to a big school and no one knew who I was anymore. It’s hard to get girls to pay attention to the mysterious guy on a huge campus where everyone is busy. What made it worse was everyone was 10 years ahead of me in dating experience. Was I supposed to get a date with a girl who’d been dating guys since she was 15, and here I was never having gone out with women before?
So I realized, you know what, I’ve got to approach this like a skill. I suck at it, I’m way behind, and the only way I’ll learn it is by swallowing my pride and fear and doing it. Just like some of the computer games I played. I’m going to have to go out, approach girls, talk to them, flirt with them, and practice all these dating skills and try to learn it.
That took me down a rabbit hole of, first, doing this totally on my own, then a year later discovering the pick up artist guys who were also doing this, training with those guys, meeting up with various people to learn from them, and developing this very simplified method of my own (because I could never do any of the complicated pick up artist techniques). This entire business I run now comes from that.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I was pretty active on a few dating advice forums at that time, including the largest one. It’s the same place a lot of the big name pick up artists you’ve probably heard of came from: Mystery (the guy with the fuzzy hat), Neil Strauss who wrote The Game, Ross Jeffries, Tyler from Real Social Dynamics. Well, I wasn’t really affiliated with anyone, but guys liked my stuff. They had me rated as the #7 top-rated poster there all time, on this forum of about 40,000 members. I started having more and more guys ask me to start my own blog, because they liked what I had to say and wanted to read more of it. I’m not a blog guy; I’ve never been into reading blogs, and it took me a while to give in and set the thing up. I didn’t think anyone would read it. I had a 9-to-5 at the time anyway at a prestigious consulting firm and not a lot of time to write blog posts.
But a few years later, the job laid me off. I was going through a tough breakup too, and I decided to write a book about all this stuff I’d learned to do with girls over the past 4 years. I figured I’d publish the book and that’d be it. Then I had a friend whose productivity blog was taking off suggest I start writing a blog post a day. “Maybe it’ll bring you more traffic,” he said. So I tried it, and we went from 1,000 visitors a month to 2,500 visitors a month, then 10,000 visitors a month. Then 100,000 visitors a month.
Next I thought, “Maybe I can sell this book on the site and make some extra money.” So I did that, and we were doing a few hundred dollars a month.
After that I thought, “If we could get this to 3,000 dollars a month, that could be enough to live on.” So then we got there. Then we went beyond there. And one day I realized this blog I started, not really expecting to turn into anything, had become this fairly decent business, that was also really fun to run, too.
I guess that’s a few “Aha!” moments. But they were all fairly crucial moments in me sticking with this.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We had a few “almost killed the company” moments. One was in 2012 when the business wasn’t making profit, we were caught up in a legal battle with a consultant we’d brought on it hadn’t worked out with, and I personally was under a lot of debt from another failed startup with no money coming in. I tried a thousand things to make Girls Chase work better as a business and just when I thought I’d need to close up shop we rolled out a new homepage that doubled our sales and saved the company.
But the more interesting one to me was our 2014–2016 slump. We had a record year in terms of traffic and revenues in 2014. But in the middle of the year things started to turn downward. It was an industry-wide slump; the dating advice industry went into decline starting in mid-2014, and it has continued to decline each year since then. For us though it happened faster. We had problems with our website and Google slashed our traffic. I tried to retire from writing blog posts and brought a team of writers in, but as soon as I did that sales fell off a cliff. The audience wanted to buy from me, and without me there I guess they didn’t feel a connection with me and quit buying. I had to lay a bunch of people off and go back to writing in June 2015. Things got worse and worse for a year and I thought the business might die.
Then one day I looked at our past projects, and realized over the years we’d done traffic projects, and conversions projects. And every time I focused on traffic, our traffic increased, sometimes by a lot, while our revenues stayed steady or declined. And every time I focused on conversions, our sales increased, sometimes by a lot, while our traffic stayed steady or declined. So I embarked on a massive conversions project to turn the business around. Almost as soon as I started working on our conversions we saw a lift. By the time a few months had passed our revenues had significantly improved, and after two years of steep drops, in 2017 we rallied to our highest revenue year to that point, surpassing our previous high in 2014.
The secret to both the 2012 and the 2016/7 turnarounds? Focus on conversions. Test and tweak and try different things focused on turning more website visitors into buyers.
As for thinking about giving up, yeah, sure. In 2012 we were close to selling the company, with me resigning myself to take whatever we could get. The idea bummed me out, and then I realized, “This is my company, with my content. I can make it work. There’s no way I’m going to sell,” and it lit a fire in me. There was a similar moment for me in 2016. The downturn put me in a bit of a funk, and I’d sort of been phoning it in for a couple of years. In mid-2016 though, when I did that analysis, I realized, “Every time I’ve worked on conversions, the business improved.” And it clicked for me that if I just worked on this stuff, I knew I’d figure it out and get the business back. That was very motivating; it became a fun game. See what neat ideas you can come up with to make the site better at presenting and selling things to the reader that our readers will want. Sometimes the lift you see from conversions projects are temporary; you change something and get more sales for a few weeks, then it dies down. But once you’re implementing change after change, and getting lift after lift, it can get motivating and addictive, and suddenly you’re improving a million odds and ends, and some of the lifts those bring will stick.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We started building our flagship product “One Date” in 2015. In 2016 I was worried the business would go under before I could have that out. The conversions project we launched in 2016 gave us a very strong base to launch it from, and when we finally launched One Date in February 2018, it was immediately a huge success. We sold almost 400 copies of the product in a 4-day launch sale and did almost as much revenue from that 4-day launch as we had from the entire previous year’s sales. Our revenues in 2018 were 3.5x higher than 2017’s revenues (and 2017 was a high watermark for us). We hit about 55% profit that year, too. 2019 saw higher revenues but lower profits.
I’ll admit though, I got lazy. Things start selling really well, you’re making more money than ever, by a lot, and I had to deal with some personal life issues as well. I paid a lot less attention to the business than I should have through this period, and things I should’ve taken care of I did not take care of. Our banner year in 2018 was due to very little I actually did in 2018, and almost entirely to the hard work I put in from late 2016 to late 2017 paying off.
After a while though, my inaction in 2018 and 2019 caught up with us. Our advertising accounts vanished, our search engine traffic went from a million a month to 500,000 a month to 200,000 a month to 100,000 a month. And sales declined.
I’m back at it working like it’s 2016 all over again though. Sales are back up, advertising’s working again, and I’m confident we’ll recover our search traffic and then some. I’m working 14 hour days and having a blast doing it. Every time I do this we make leaps and bounds.
The lesson for me this time is once everything’s fully built up, I need to get more things even more systematized, and bring a proper CEO in, so “Chase the Founder” does not continue being a single point of failure (or redemption) as I have been so far.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I was talking with a friend recently about advertising strategy. He was telling me he figured out what to advertise by testing different affiliate offers to his newsletter list. The ones that performed best, he realized appealed to his audience, and he then built his own similar products to sell. My answer to him was that well, that won’t help us at all, because everything we tell our email list to buy, they buy! It doesn’t matter what it is. If I send a newsletter telling guys, “Go buy this now, it will change your life,” they go and buy it. Every time it’s the same.
What I hear from our readers is that the reason this is is because they trust us, and they trust our recommendations (and to be fair, we are very picky about what we recommend to our list). That to me is one thing that stands out for us — the level of trust and loyalty our we get from our audience. We continually get new readers, yet we also have a lot of readers who’ve been with us 3, 5, 8 years. There’s a lot of loyalty here.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Well, this is a little tangential to Girls Chase. But it’s somewhat related. In 2011/2 I started a bunch of different businesses. Girls Chase was the first, and also the most directly successful. I had another business I started, then brought a couple partners on, then lost control of, and it went on to become venture-backed and do very, very well for itself. It was named after me for a few years too, I guess(?) in honor of me, despite the fact I was totally out of the business and lost a ton of money on it. But of the businesses I personally control, GC’s performed the best.
Anyway, toward the tail-end of my “Let’s just start a ton of companies” phase, I was working on a high-end social network with a girl who was in PR. She’d attended a party I’d put together for an invite-only exclusive club, and she approached me to start a club of our own. We worked on this thing for months. I managed the site design and the interview process we used to vet potential members. My partner handled the press, event planning, and she also helped me select whom we’d admit to the network. I thought we were on the same page in wanting to grow this rapidly to be a multi-city, global social club with high dues for wealthy, high status members… but I guess we never really talked about it. Because after 5 months of grueling work to get this thing launched (during which time Girls Chase took a backseat for me), we finally got it off the ground, started throwing these events, the members loved them, and I discovered my partner was not hustling hard at all anymore. I’d already had mixed feelings working with this girl (who was a very nice person… but sometimes business partners aren’t always totally compatible). Well, I talked to her about what happened to her motivation, and it turned out she’d already achieved her entire goal with the business. All she wanted to do with it was have a fun group of people to party with.
“What about growing this thing internationally? Getting a huge, but exclusive, high end membership?” I asked her. She didn’t care. She was just happy to have more cool people to hang out with.
I ended up just giving the social club to her and focusing my energies on Girls Chase. The club lasted another month or so without me, then folded.
Moral of the story: if you’re going to have a business partner, you’d better make sure that partner’s on the same page!
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I’m honestly grateful for all the advice I’ve received and followed, even the bad advice, because the bad advice teaches you things too. Through the bad advice you figure out what you don’t want to do, or reinforce the instincts you had and overrode to follow said bad advice.
Early on in GC we had a guy we worked with who made a bunch of suggestions. Some were good, some not so good. One of his suggestions was that we take a product idea I had and rush it into production as fast as we could. At the time I wanted to do this conversation course where I’d teach guys how to construct spellbinding conversations. I’d just started mapping it out, and wanted this meticulously-built product that was totally, totally awesome. But this guy convinced me to scrap that idea and just get in front of a camera and record the product slapdash as fast as we could. So instead of a 3- or 4-hour comprehensive product, we ended up with a 60-minute product where I rambled ad-lib style in front of the camera about various conversation tactics I had.
The product wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted, nor up to the quality our audience expected. I fielded complaints for years about that product. The positive feedback was always “The content was okay, but it was nice to see and hear YOU Chase and get a sense for what your mannerisms and delivery is like.” Nobody was actually talking about the product itself. The refund rate for that one was double our earlier product (my ebook).
When we finally put together One Date, we included a conversation module that was 3 hours long, jam-packed with very tight information, and included tons of clear and useful examples and ideas. Guys love that module. The way I prepared for it was the way I’d wanted to prepare for Spellbinding, but didn’t.
Still, I learned great things from the Spellbinding experience. I learned I probably wasn’t the best talking to a camera for a long time unscripted, and should probably have an outline to follow, and do things in an interview format. So when we did One Date, that’s what we did.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Well, I’m stubborn, I’m a perfectionist, and I am almost obsessively focused on providing value that feels both unique and immensely valuable.
As with all character traits, there are both advantages and disadvantages to each of these.
For stubbornness, I have gone down the garden path chasing after things that probably weren’t worth my time. e.g., in 2014 I had a theory that if I simply created enough content, our traffic would explode even more and we’d sell more than ever. So I wrote somewhere between 3 million and 5 million words that year, in blog posts, newsletters, blog comment replies, and on our forum. Yet traffic rose no higher, and sales went up a bit, then went down. I doubt many people would be willing to sink a year of extreme labor into a project like that. At the end of it, I had to admit to myself it hadn’t worked.
However, on the flip side of things, I knew lots of people in this niche, and most of them left. By rights I should’ve folded up and left a few times over the years, like in 2012 when I couldn’t make things work profitably, or in 2015/6, when traffic and sales had collapsed. Instead, I stuck with it, eventually figured out how to turn things around, and we went on to have two banner years following each of these slumps. We’re also still here, still in business, while a lot of other companies have shut their doors. Most of the folks who were around when I started Girls Chase are not in this line of work anymore.
Perfectionism, well, it makes everything take longer. But it also drives you to work on things that aren’t up-to-snuff in ways a lot of people won’t bother. We rolled a new theme out recently that is okay, but imperfect. No one is excited about this theme. Well, it’s got a bee under my bonnet, and we’re out working on another theme, and when we roll this one out people are going to go nuts for it. With Spellbinding, we rolled that out, and the reaction was “meh”, and it bothered me for years and drove me to make One Date as compelling as it could be. And you know? It works. There’s a subscription model with One Date, and a lot of guys sign up, then write us and say “Hey I don’t want to be billed 97 dollars/month. Can you cancel.” So we write them back and tell them, “Before we do, check the content out. See if you’re sure you want to cancel. Because we’re totally convinced this is the best stuff on the market, and if you really check it out we think you’ll agree and want to continue.” And a LOT of them write us back and say you know what, I think I will continue, this stuff is really, really good. The product took forever to put together (perfectionism), but the buyers love it.
There was another guy in this business who was in a group I’m a part of where we talk about biz. I remember years ago when everyone was talking about marketing, this guy who was considered reasonably big at the time was repeating his oft-recited phrase: “The product is just a refund deterrent.” I don’t know what he’s doing now but he’s not in this business anymore. At least for us, at least in terms of sales, customer loyalty, and longevity, perfectionism in the things we put out there pays off.
As for the unique/immense value thing. The way I built my reputation way back when on forums was by trying to make every single post I made contain some kind of unique value or original insight. It was a bit of a chore to do and meant I always had to be tuned in for whatever I was writing. Basically dialed in to 11 on this stuff. But it made me the #7 ranked poster there. Later when I stated writing blog posts, it was the same. There are only so many truly different topics you can cover in dating, and we’ve covered pretty much all of them. But there are always new, unique insights to share, if you focus on figuring out what’s new, what’s useful, and what is going to surprise and amaze people to learn. Usefulness and originality in the content you produce are skills, like anything; you can nurture your ability to be useful and original, and the more you do, the more of a draw your material has, because it contains a perpetual stream of nuggets people cannot really find anywhere else.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Well, as we’ve mentioned, I’ve gone through a few burnout cycles already. One in 2012; another from mid-2014 to mid-2016; and a third from mid-2018 to mid-2020. It’s like some kind of 2-year curse. I’m not certain if burnout is totally avoidable, but I would suggest you work to set up both teams and cost control when you’re not burned out so that things continue to run smoothly if/when you are. I’d also suggest looking for aspects of the business you enjoy doing, and immerse yourself in them at least a few times a week. That might be creating content or responding to comments or interacting with clients/students. But there should be fun stuff you do in the business; it can’t be all “work.”
Another thing I’ve noticed after a few burnout cycles is there is a distinct “burnout mentality.” I don’t know whether to call it an emotion, or a focus, or what. But increasingly I can feel when I am burned out, and tempted to go lose myself in leisure activities and avoid the business, and simply turn my thoughts to some project or task in the business that I want to do and will enjoy, and think about finishing that small project, and how nice it will feel to wrap that little bit of the business up, and then I am right back in it, motivated and not flirting with burnout anymore.
The suggestion I’d have there is before you give into the temptation to self-medicate with movies or partying or video games or however else you choose to distract yourself, take a moment to think of some small task in the business you can complete today that will not be hard to complete, and imagine yourself finishing it, all wrapped up. See if that doesn’t re-motivate you first, before you slip back into diversion.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
#1 is spend money too fast and on the wrong things. This kills more businesses than almost anything else. Your business should be accumulating savings and capital, not burning through it. Unless you’ve got a lot of investor money you don’t mind losing, you should always be operating at or below costs. Girls Chase has been able to survive the downturns we’ve gone through by having savings stacked up and not operating in the red for too long, and never too far in the red when we do need to. When times are good it’s easier to spend more, but you should always be focused on keeping a cushion there.
Related to that is focusing on revenues rather than profits. I had a buddy years ago who told me about his supplements business, and how the first year he made 1 million dollars, he also had zero profits. The IRS audited him because they did not believe he could have zero profits on 1 million dollars revenues. He had to pull up all his Google AdWords records and show them, “No, really! All the money I took in went right back out to pay for more Google ads!” He shifted his focus to profit after that.
For me, the focus has always been profit. I worked at a tire store after high school and my boss there ground into my head how important profit was to the store’s survival. I went above and beyond selling all kinds of peripherals the salesmen there didn’t even get commission on because I wanted to make sure our store was making profit. The company liked this so well that in my last year there they had me touring every store in the district, working at each one two weeks at a time to train the other salesmen how to sell this stuff. Who cares about revenues? Profit is the only thing that matters. Revenues are just an empty metric if you don’t have a decent profit to go along with them.
One other mistake I see new founders make is not hiring the people they need soon enough. I was drowning in customer emails when I finally hired my first customer support rep for the business. At the time I spent hours a day responding to customers and it sucked up a huge chunk of my mental energy. Hiring a support rep forced me to put templates and processes together he could use to respond to emails the way I’d like him to be responding, and it took a big load off my plate. Hiring has plenty of its own challenges, but it’s a skill you need to learn sooner, rather than later, unless you want to get trapped under the weight of all the things you need to do as a business expands.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Management. Again, you’ve got to hire people to grow, but once you start to hire people, managing those people, checking their work, and getting them what they need to do their work becomes an increasingly large part of what YOU do.
The recommendation I’ve heard is that no manager should ever have more than 8 direct reports. I usually have about 30. Sometimes it’s a little less, sometimes it’s more. Right now I think we might actually be closer to 40 people. Everyone’s part time, and I don’t need to manage every single person every single day, but I could spend all day every day on management tasks and never run out of things to do. Routinely I find myself having to go through and cull projects and people simply because I cannot manage it all without going crazy.
Being a good manager is a skill. Managing projects properly, so they get done on time and do not fall through the cracks, is a skill. Hiring and firing and finding the right people and keeping them happy is a skill. All these are skills, and they are skills you are going to have to learn to scale to any kind of size. You can’t win a war as one man, you can’t build a skyscraper as one man, and you can’t run a company at any real scale as one man. You are always going to need a team to do it, and as founder or CEO you are going to be the one leading and assembling and motivating and focusing that team, and making sure that team works on what it needs to work on and doesn’t slack off or head off down the wrong path.
I often tell people management is my least favorite of the three roles (from E-Myth Revisited) a founder can adopt — it’s a lot more fun to be the technician creating things or the visionary setting forth the grand vision, at least for me. But I love our people, and they do great work, and if you want to operate at any kind of scale, you are going to need to learn and get good at management.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
5 THINGS I WISH I KNEW
I run the leading men’s dating advice website, GirlsChase.com. We get up to a million visitors a month and are the best known brand in the space. We’ve been around since 2008.
Here are five things I wish I knew before I got started:
1. There are a lot of things you can work on that take a lot of your time but result in very little gain. You need to figure out what these are fast and cut them before you sacrifice too much time to them.
2. Employees who are excellent but slow are dangerous employees. You can end up spending way too much time waiting for them, and not relieving them or bringing someone else in the meantime because they’re good.
3. Picking one thing you need to learn in your business (like running ads or doing PR) and doing it every single day for at least a few minutes a day is the easiest way to get better than you knew you could get in that thing in a hurry.
4. Many metrics are vanity. When Google increases our traffic from 300,000 visits to 1.2 million visits per month, we do almost the same sales. When Google then takes us down to 500,000 visits per month, or 200,000 visits per month, we still do almost the same sales. It’s easy to chase traffic, but more traffic does not always equal higher revenues.
5. Conversely, focusing on things that increase revenues directly always wins. Every time we’ve done a conversions project, we make more money. Often when we do traffic projects, we end the project with a lot more traffic, but no change in revenue — sometimes even a dip.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It’d be what we’re doing right now.
I tend to travel quite a bit, and I value my anonymity. Most people in my day-to-day life do not know what I do, and most people who know what I do are not going to run into me in my day-to-day life. But every now and then I’m in a big Western city and get recognized, or I’m at some event and people notice me there, or someone I know introduces me to someone he knows and that person turns out to be a fan. And what I always hear is that we have changed his life, and he owes more to us than we will ever know. I hear that his problems with dating are much, much better than they ever were before, and that not only that, but he has learned how to be a man from us, how to manage his friendships, that his family life has improved, and he’s been promoted at work or started his own company.
When we ask our readers for testimonials, we hear the same thing; hundreds of testimonials flood in saying exactly this.
This is our movement: to help men handle their dating lives, to teach them invaluable interpersonal skills they will use in all social, romantic, and business aspects of their lives, and free up their minds from worries about these things to confidence on them, so they can unlock their potential as men in the world and help push the world ahead in ways they could not if they were still bound by worries, doubts, and fears.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Check us out at GirlsChase.com. We publish new articles every week, and we’ve got a newsletter I write to at least once a week and sometimes more.
Guys who want to know where to get started with us can take our diagnostic quiz. It’ll ask you a few questions to see where you stack up with women, then give you a free book tailored to you to help you get started with Girls Chase material. It’ll sign you up for our newsletter as well, where you’ll receive a free 7-day video and ebook course, jam-packed with insights on dating and socializing you won’t get anywhere else (ever heard of a mating sociometer? You’ll know what this and why it’s so good once you’re signed up!).
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!