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From 9 to 5, to Seven Figures with Joel Kaplan

How one entrepreneur scaled to seven figures thanks to a little grit, and a lot of faith in himself.

“It’s about personal evolution… becoming a seven figure person.”

-JOEL KAPLAN

Joel Kaplan is the co-founder of Atlas Digital: a digital marketing company that does seven figures a month. But before he scaled this operation to the enormous heights it’s reached today, he had his share of failed entrepreneurial attempts – including, but not limited to, a social media company called “Mazoof” and a healthy drinks company.

“My dad told me that if I really wanted to be an entrepreneur, I should work for one, first, to learn the ropes,” Joel noted. And that’s just what he did. 

A few years went by, and he couldn’t shake the nagging that entrepreneurs so often feel when possessed by a really good idea. He had to pursue it. “My thought process was, if I were to die tomorrow, my only regret would be not quitting my job and going for it.” He knew there was more out there than the same daily 9-5. 

He soon after met his business partner Marcos at a business meetup, and decided that he’d quit his job when the business hit $10k/month. Long story short, it did – and quickly. But as for how he then scaled the business to seven figures a month, he calls the journey “evolutionary.” 

“So many people ask about the business systems necessary to scale, but it’s also about personal evolution,” Joel commented. “It’s about becoming a seven figure person.”

We sat down to discuss scaling in all its elements: the business front, the personal front, the whole kit and caboodle. I think his story will inspire and motivate you as much as it did for me. 

Scaling the Business

When it comes to the takeaways for how he took his business from $10,000 to seven figures per month, I’ll borrow Joel’s word here – it’s also evolutionary. You often hear it said that it takes a different technique to get to cash-flow-positive than it does to bring in $100,000 a year, and so on, as revenue starts to rise and scale begins to increase. 

For Joel and Marcos, it started with free work. 

1. Prove your worth

Joel quotes the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, in which the rich dad advises to get in there and prove what you can do. “Entrepreneurs get paid on value, not time,” Joel remarked. So, they approached businesses and offered their services at highly affordable rates…for just one month. 

That meant there was a lot of next-to-free work. But, the free work worked, because it proved their value. After a month, Joel and Marcos would approach the company and tell them their prices had increased, so they’d have to upgrade in order to keep their services. Lo and behold, many of the companies did, indeed, upgrade. It’s far easier to invest in someone or something that you’ve seen proven with your own eyes, rather than based on sales tactics or empty promises. This initial strategy launched Atlas to $20-30k a month. 

2. Invest in yourself AND your business before anything else. 

Their significant jump in revenue didn’t have them running to the banks quite yet, though – because they turned all the money they made into investments. “On the business side, we invested in hiring teams, paying for marketing and targeted ads, and we invested in ourselves as founders by using the revenue to pay for courses,” Joel said. He found this to be far more important, and prioritized this method of spending over any type of “passive income”, such as stocks or real estate investments. 

While this worked and is a value they hold strong to even today, they still found themselves hovering around the $30-40k month plateau. It was time to level up. 

3. Focus on JUST ONE service. 

Now, here’s where a lot of founders may start to introduce and differentiate services. After all, if they have paying customers who are hungry for what they’re offering. Joel credits this third step as the ultimate reason they shot into the stratosphere: they chose just one service, and focused all their energy on it. 

“There’s the famous story I always tell about The Contract,” Joel smiled. “Marcos and I sat down and drew up an agreement that said we could only focus on ONE core offering for the next six months, and we made the terms significant. If we strayed away from that one core focus, we’d surrender our ownership stake in the company.” 

Their focus of choice? Facebook ads for chiropractors. And, going all in on just this one thing is what catapulted their monthly revenue to $90k a month. 

4. Productize your service. 

But, it didn’t stop there. Joel’s main principle is a saying he came up with: “Fire yourself.” There are certain tasks we can “fire ourselves” from – on a small scale, when you hire a cleaning service to clean your home, you’re firing yourself from the task of cleaning your home. But for Joel, this means something deeper: firing yourself from your job. 

“So many people have a deep sense of identity with their company and the work they’re doing, so there’s a sense of dread behind this type of surrender,” he recognized. Firing yourself comes down to one principle: systems. If there’s a clear system on how to do something (in his case, Facebook ads), then that model can be “copied and pasted” into the to-do lists of virtual assistants and an expanded team. And that’s when the real scaling begins. 

Personal Evolution

In reading over the breakdown of the business scale, it does, at first glance, look easy. Joel and Marcos seem to have it all figured out – and by now, they assuredly do. But it wasn’t always like that. 

“It’s important to me that people know that getting here is a mindset shift,” Joel shared. After all, it was for him – but it had to start at rock bottom.

“I was so desperate for a sense of security that I actually almost left the business. I filled out a job application, and even went so far as to record a video for the recruiter to make myself stand out,” Joel said. He ultimately didn’t, but he recognized the key driving force behind his almost-decision to quit was this need for certainty, which he needed to squash.

“For me, I had to learn to be okay in living in the midst of the unknown,” he confided. And actually, this is imperative for any entrepreneur. Joel told me that something he originally struggled with was having other exciting business ideas in the back of his head, but that having these “Plan B’s” provided a false dopamine rush. “It’s easy to think about other businesses when things get hard in your current ones, but focusing on others robs you from going all in on where you want to go,” he astutely noted. 

You feel more secure with backup plans — but they can ultimately hurt you. 

Personal evolution also included eradicating impatience. “I now expect to see the effects of my labor 90-180 days after it’s done, rather than immediately,” Joel shared, “because that’s when it’s most likely to show up.” This is a phenomenon he calls “The Popcorn Effect” to his students: when you place a bag of popcorn kernels in the microwave and press “start,” it takes a bit before the kernels get hot enough to pop. 

And finally, he’s continuing to grow and focus on his emotional intelligence everyday. “I always say that my investment with the biggest ROI was therapy!” he laughed, then became serious again. “You need to focus on your emotional capacity in order to be there for the people around you, and to create space for the business to grow.”

And if it isn’t obvious enough, Joel seems to hold the keys – all of them – to doing just that: business growth. 

Learn more about Joel’s company, Atlas Digital, here.

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