Lamar Tyler is one half of Tyler New Media, which started ten years ago as a blog, blackandmarriedwithkids.com. He ran it with his wife, Ronnie, to promote positive images of marriage and parenting in the African American community. Though it started as a passion, today Tyler New Media has blossomed into a brand that encompasses live events, products, and even films. Lamar talks with Clate and Scott about being life and business partners with your spouse; how automation helped him grow Tyler New Media; and building a team and a culture.
Lamar Tyler: The foundations of a great partnership in business are the same foundations of a great partnership in marriage. Trust, respect, commitment. And when you don't trust, respect or commit to your spouse in your relationship, it's hard for them to believe that you'll do that through the business. So the better you can craft that thing come together with your spouse, with your family members outside of the business, the easier it will be for them to get on board with what you're doing in the business.
Clate Mask: That was Lamar Tyler of Tyler New Media talking about the keys to success in your business partnerships and in your marriage. To hear his story, listen to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast.
Scott Martineau: Hello and welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. This is Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: This is Clate Mask. We're co-founders of Infusionsoft and today we've got Lamar Tyler, founder of Tyler New Media. Lamar, how're you doing?
Lamar Tyler: I'm doing good. Thanks for having me on, guys.
Clate Mask: You bet. Thanks for joining us. We're glad to talk with you. So you got a pretty interesting business for all of our employees -- or all of our listeners out there who have an employee who is a family member, or maybe a partner who is a family member. So tell us a little bit about your business and tell us a little bit about your partnership 'cause I think it's going to be pretty fun to talk about that.
Lamar Tyler: Sure. So our business is Tyler New Media, but that incorporates several brands, and my wife, Ronnie, and I pretty much all started in December 2007 with a blog. That blog was called blackandmarriedwithkids.com, a site that we created to chronicle our lives and to promote positive images of marriage and parenting in the African American community. So from that blog, now ten years later -- it's our ten-year anniversary this year.
Scott Martineau: Sweet.
Clate Mask: That's so great.
Lamar Tyler: A business. And it's almost unbelievable.
So we have four employees in the office now. We have about 20 freelancers. They write and submit content. We do live events. We do a cruise. We do conferences. We have products. And it's really just bene a transformation that has transformed our lives. And not just our lives in the business, but our lives as husband and wife and mom and dad as well.
Clate Mask: That is so awesome. I love your story. When we met at ICON a couple of years ago, and you and Ronnie told us about what you're doing I just -- I thought it was just so cool and I know that the two of you have -- I think it's interesting because there are a lot of husband-and-wife teams out there. There are a lot of family members that work together. And you guys, not only -- I think what's so cool is not only are you doing that, but your business is about that in essence. So you're about the union and harmony of your marriage in the way you teach and the way that you share. So I just think it's really cool that you do that through your business. I mean, your business your life and your life is your business very literally.
Lamar Tyler: Yes, it definitely it. And I always say people think that everything we did was just to bless and encourage the other couples, which is was, but they didn't really realize how much that work in connecting with those other couples blessed and encouraged us at the same time.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Lamar Tyler: It allowed us to kinda increase what we did and just become better husband and better wife and a better couple together.
Scott Martineau: So I want to hear what was behind this. What inspired you to go out and actually make this a business?
Lamar Tyler: Sure. Well, guys, you know what? Since I have such an affinity for the two of you and Infusionsoft, I want to tell you the real story.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: Good.
Clate Mask: Great.
Lamar Tyler: But what it was, really, one of the main catalyst was the fact that I would pitch what I knew to be amazing ideas every day in my corporate job, and it would be turned down. So at some point, I said, "You know what? That's enough of sharing ideas with people that didn't see the vision of what I was trying to do." And I said, "I'll do it on my own." And I went home and I told my wife, Ronnie. "Let's build a blog. Let's create something that we'll be passionate about."
So four -- five years, if it takes off, if it grows into a business it won't feel like just another job. It'll be something that we really love doing. And when we looked at it, we loved talking about relationships. We loved talking about marriage and we loved supporting marriage.
And like I said, we also wanted to how that there were positive images of marriage in the African American community, couples that have been married 20 -- 30 -- 40 years. Fathers that were taking care of their kids and someone else's kids, often times that didn't get the press and the publication. So we created the site. It grew from there. And then later on, we had to find out how to really monetize it and turn it into a business. But that's how we started it off.
Clate Mask: That's awesome. So when you -- when you left the corporate world, and you started something you had passion around with this blog, did you immediately go right to that or did you have to get that going on the side and you were also working other jobs? Because you don't start a blog right away and it just starts paying the bills. So how did you do that?
Lamar Tyler: That is totally right. And ten years ago, there weren't as many bloggers that were doing it as careers then as well. So _____ some you may have heard -- loosely of someone, but you didn't know anyone -- there's no one to follow, no online courses that you just could jump into. So we definitely had to build it while we worked our jobs. And at the time, I ran the IT department for a television station in D.C. My wife was a project manager for IBM, so we had two very stressful, busy jobs.
I had an hour-and-a-half commute back and forth, each way, to and from work with D.C.-area traffic. So a lot of people can relate to what I'm saying that are listenin'. When I got home -- by the time I got home, Ronnie would be stressed out. The kids -- we have four kids under the age of 11. So the kids were wound up. She had the kids. She had her own busy job. She would already have dinner on the table 'cause it was so late by the time I got home. And from the time I got home, we did dinner time. Then from dinnertime to bath time. Bath time to bedtime. And we couldn't start our business until 9:00 -- 10:00 at night until 3:00 -- 4:00 in the morning. That was the only time we had.
But we had to push through. And I know so many people know exactly what I'm talking about.
Scott Martineau: Oh, yeah.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Absolutely. And so -- when you're trying to turn your passion into a business, pretty much the only way to do is to burn a lot of midnight oil, which is -- sounds like you definitely did. And yet, there's some point as the business grows where you start to have income that you can look at and say, "Hey. We can make this -- I can make this the full-time job." How did that happen for you? How did you gradually turn it from the passion in the blog into a business?
Lamar Tyler: You know. That's a great question. So the -- we started to generate some money. It wasn't a ton of money in the beginning, but as things began to grow and we would invest that back into the business, improve technology -- we build more of a team. We got more writers that were writing, creating for the site. And as we started to create more, at some point, it became an issue, right? because I only had so much time where in order to see this new business grow, I would have to leave my position.
And something for all the couples that are listening. That was a hard conversation for my wife and I because I'm the creative. I'm the risk-taker. She's the one -- you know, I probably worked at 30 different positions as a freelancer. I never wanted to take a permanent job, and she worked for IBM for 17 years. One job, her entire life until she came into the business. So just coming together as a couple and being able to get on the same page with that. And me having to shower that, hey, this is a viable business. It isn't a hobby. It isn't a dream.
But this is something that we can stand behind and can support our family is what it took. So I left my position, built the business further so that we could bring her on. And we really needed her on at that point or else I would have just been buying all kinds of stuff, investing in every single thing we didn't need, everything that was shiny. She is the one that reins me in. So we needed her to come in and use her project planning experience. And she did that and came into the business about two years after me. And we were really able to grow this thing.
Clate Mask: Okay. That- this is awesome.
Forgive me for pushing so hard on this, but the reason I'm doing it is -- there are so many entrepreneurs who are in the process of building up a side business and getting it to the point where they can quit the day job. Do you remember -- what was the monthly income of the business at the point you quit the day job, and, or what were you selling that made it possible? Were you selling a one-time service or did you have something that you were doing that you were offering from the blog or to your followers that allowed you to get to the point where you could show your wife you wanted the safety and security to say, "Look. This is actually going to work for us"?
Scott Martineau: We want to hear your actual sales pitch to Ronnie.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Lamar Tyler: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: "No. This is a great idea."
Lamar Tyler: The actual sales pitched for about two years. I don't know if I can _____ _____ _____. But you know, that's important. 'Cause even that, it took patience. With me not just jumping out there and saying, "Hey. This is the way it's going to be," and ruining our marriage 'cause I had to know that our marriage was still more important than the business we were trying to build. So I had to get her into a comfort zone, but -- and this is such a great conversation.
So many great things. What we did at first is we had advertising, had people coming to the site that would want to reach our audience. They would run ads and we'd do campaigns and things. What we realized quickly was that we couldn't control our revenue that way because that depended on how many sales their sales rep went out and made to actually give us enough ad inventory to sell.
So what we did to take control of our own revenue was we began to create products. For us, early on, we started doing documentary movies. DVDs. And we sold DVDs to our audience. We would also do screenings. Rent out our own theater. We'd do a seven-city tour. Rent out theaters ourselves in seven cities. We'd promote through social media, Facebook, through e-mail. We sell those out and then sell product at the back of the theater because people who knew they couldn't get this movie anywhere else. They want to share it and show it to other people. So they would come and do that. The time of the year I left, I think the business did about $72,000.00 in revenue the year I left the business.
And what's important about that is I was making about $110,000.00 -- $115,000.00. So it was not easy. It still was not an easy decision. And when I left they just put a contract on me to make about $120,00.00 to $125,000.00. _____ _____ had to really believe in myself, and never was it an easy decision. I think people think, it's I'm just going to get some type of sign, right? There's going to be a easy transition for me to jump out there. It was nothing easy about it. it still was a tough decision. I'm not even sure if I told Ronnie about that last contract.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Lamar Tyler: [Inaudible comment due to crosstalk]
Scott Martineau: [Laughs] Too bad she doesn't know. It's best she never knows.
Clate Mask: You know, I seriously have goosebumps as I'm listening to your --
Lamar Tyler: We had to just make a decision at some point. If I can add as well, they always say, what did you do? I'd say the most important thing we did at that time was we got out of debt. We got out of personal debt. So while we had the corporate debt that was funding everything, and we were making good money, we paid off credit cards. We paid off both of our cars.
We paid off additional loans so that when we made the jump, it was easier because we didn't have all these other bills _____ _____ _____. [Inaudible due to crosstalk]
Clate Mask: Yes.
Scott Martineau: Love it.
Clate Mask: Yes. I -- Man, thank you so much for sharing this because there's so many people that want to get their business going and the -- there's a lot of anxiety about when do you make the leap. The points that you shared -- first point is you got your cost down by reducing a bunch of debt so that you could afford to make a jump. The second thing was you were building an audience, right? You were blogging. You were building an audience, a followership. That gave you an opportunity to get your first bit of ad revenue because you had- you had advertisers that wanted to see -- get their products and services in front of your audience. But then you realized, hey, we got to create our own products so you hustled, created products, put on events and began to build some revenue that way.
And you were really -- I think you were really smart in getting the business to a point where you're at about $6,000.00 a month or so -- maybe, $8,000.00 a month, something like that where you had the ability to replace -- or get close to replacing where you were at with your full-time job. And I think that process you went through -- and you said it two or three times, it wasn't hard -- it wasn't easy. It was really hard. You had to hustle like crazy.
Scott Martineau: It's never clear.
Clate Mask: It's not clear. And it's so -- it's so confusing and mystifying when you're in the middle of that process.
Lamar Tyler: Yes.
Clate Mask: But then get on the other side of it and look back, and point to it, it just helps the people who are in that process. So I totally appreciate you sharing it and talking about the color and the tension between u and your wife, your spouse, as you're trying to figure this out. I mean, entrepreneurs everywhere are going through the same thing. I love your story and I appreciate the specificity with which you shared it.
Lamar Tyler: Thank you.
Scott Martineau: So when you think back on the last ten years, what's been the most challenging experience you've had?
Lamar Tyler: Wow. That's a -- it's a few, right? It's so -- [laughs] -- you want me to pick out one.
But I could just -- you know, as I think about it, I would say one of the biggest ones was actually the point where we came into your guys' ecosystem because as I made that transition, we had our own products, we were selling 'em, but we didn't have any systems in place. So one of the -- I look at -- when I look back at the business, there are moments when we took big jumps, big leaps. And one of the moments we took a big leap was when we finally got a system, and that system was Infusionsoft, but I tell the story to everybody -- [laughs] -- not just now. But it's when we really got our system in place because --
Clate Mask: Hey. We love hearing it. no problem, dude. [Laughs]
Lamar Tyler: We were doing events, right? And we were doing events through a company like Eventbrite. And then we were selling the DVDs on our WordPress blog just with a PayPal button. We were doing e-mailing something else. And we had 20 different things. And it was just me doing all of it myself in 20 different systems and none of them talked to each other.
And you know, it's funny. I got an e-mail one day. I was on Laura Roeder's e-mail list. And I still never met Laura Roeder to this day, but I was on her e-mail list and I got an e-mail from her. And at the bottom, it said, "Powered by Infusionsoft." So I hope she got an affiliate commission or something, but it said, "Powered by Infusionsoft." I clicked it.
I don't even think I watched the entire video or demo, but I got a call from a salesperson, said, "Hey. We saw you're interested in -- you watched the demo. Did you have any questions?" within, probably, from her telling me what it did, I got it. It wasn't a hard sell. I got it because I was doing just the opposite. So being able to get systems in place so that we can begin to create automation was a huge deal. 'Cause like I said, it just was really me and Ronnie in the business and I was handling all of the tech side, all the sales, all the marketing. So it gave me the ability to almost operate as if I had a team even though it was just me.
Clate Mask: Exactly.
Lamar Tyler: Somethin' else I say real quick is being able to -- when I could actually begin to bring people in and build a team around what we were doing.
And start to build a culture. And also start to delegate some of those things so I could remove myself as the bottleneck. So that was just _____ -- and I guess that's a continuation of what we did with Infusionsoft where the automation did a part of it and then actually beginning to be able to build and bring in people. And just that by itself's empowering, knowing that we were responsible for employing people, helping other people's families. So that was big. So I would say those are the main things. Like systems break down peoples' processes and tools, and creating systems around what we do was major.
Clate Mask: Very cool. Thanks so much for sharing that. I think that that's -- and we're happy to hear that we had a small part in that success a you're building it and growing it. And you said it exactly right. A lot of times the business is held back because there isn't a system that helps the business grow.
You know, you're trying to do all these things manually, one-off, working with a lot of different tools that don't talk to each other and getting that in place can definitely make a difference.
Lamar Tyler: That's one of the reasons I love being in the space where we help automate things for business owners because there's this -- and you can contrast the two worlds. One, you get home after your hour-and-a-half commute and you're -- it's 9:00 at night. You're already a little bittered and you've got to -- everything in order to move forward, you have to do it, right?
Well, as soon as you find some form of automation, it creates a little bit more -- it's like getting rid of debt, right? When you pay off your first credit card, now you've got additional resources you can go work on to start paying off the next loan or whatever. Same thing with automation. You finally have a moment to breathe while that automation takes over and you can get the benefits of it. It's an addictive thing for business owners because it has such a meaningful impact on their time. Love it.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. That's awesome. Let me ask you this.
If you had -- if you had to look back and say -- point to a characteristic or two that you possess that's helped you to grow the business and get to where you are, what would you point to? What characteristic -- one or two characteristics that's been most helpful for you?
Lamar Tyler: I would say hard work and of course, just being able to hustle is one thing. But that's one thing, I think, all entrepreneurs inherently have for the most part. But you know, what always say, I think, I've been blessed with the most is the ability to learn. And learn quickly. So I consume a lot of content from podcast to videos to books to blog articles.
And being able to pick up and learn new things. So for me, it's nothing to invest in the great conference, to investing in consulting, to invest with people because I know the payoff in that is one of the huge dividends in my business down the line. So I definitely would say, just being able to learn -- always bene a lifelong learner. And never thinking that --
I meet so many people say, "Well, I've made $100,000.00 now I don't need to go to this conference or this event because I don't know if I'm going to learn anything." "Well, I've made $1 million. I don't know if I need to go to this conference or event because I'm beyond that." But when I put myself in the atmosphere around other entrepreneurs I know there's always something I can pick, always learn from.
Scott Martineau: Yep. Love it.
Clate Mask: Well said. So great. I remember when we were -- maybe second or third year in business. We're starting to -- we're kinda getting out of the dark stage, things were getting better. And I remember there was an event that we were going to go to. And I had that natural reaction of, "Well, I kind of know this stuff they're going to talk about there." And I realized, but yeah, we're not doing all of those things, so go put your butt in the seat. Sit and listen. Learn more about how to actually apply it and get it done. I remember going to that conference and sitting there, thinking, "I'm so glad I came to this." I can't imagine if --
Scott Martineau: Well, what happens -- what happens every time at our conferences is people come and they sit there and they hear the stories, everybody else doing it.
And they think to themselves, "Wait. If that guy can do it and he's not -- doesn't seem that smart, why am I not doing it? What's wrong with me?" It's an inspiring experience.
Clate Mask: Yep. Totally. And you said it. you get in a room with a bunch of entrepreneurs and a bunch of other people that are in there, trying to learn. And you're going to take that and get a great return on that because you're -- you have confidence in your ability to learn. So that's great to hear. Thanks for sharing that with us, Scott. Anything else you wanted to ask?
Scott Martineau: Well, I think given your area of expertise, Lamar, I'd love to know if we have listeners who are sitting in a position where their spouse or sig other is -- or family, really anybody who's not -- they're just finding that they're not as supportive as they like to -- I think you and I and Clate, we understand how detrimental that is for the entrepreneur to not feel that support. What advice would you give in creating that buy in and -- I mean, you had a two-year sales pitch, right? What are some pointers you'd give to our listeners on how to create that buy-in from your spouse?
Lamar Tyler: That's a great question. Obviously, either I wasn't a very good salesperson or she was a tough cookie. I don't know which one it was. That's great 'cause we meet so many couples and families that could grow an amazing business that they all can just get on the same page. And we can see it in them. We see that -- the husband is great, has a great set of -- toolbox full of skills. The wife has a great skillset, but they can't just bring it together. So what we always say is if one, you need to realize that support looks different to different people.
And often times, people will say, "Lamar and Ronnie, we wan to be like you," or, "I want to take the stage and be speaking together," which you may not realize is even though your husband or wife may not take the stage with you, the fact that they're home watching the kids, taking care of the kids, and holding down everything at the house while you are traveling all across the country is support. That's support. That's allowing you to actually go out and nurture and grow that business. And then also, we have to realize that with our family members, they know everything that the public doesn't know about us.
So it's easy for somebody that's never met us to hear, "Oh my gosh. Clate and Scott. They have a great idea and I want to get onboard with it." Bit with your spouse, especially your spouse, they know the 50 other ideas that would make you a millionaire that you never acted on.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Lamar Tyler: So when you come up with idea 51, they're looking at you with all of those other things in mind. And so what I always say is if you want somebody to believe in you, prove it. Build the business. Star tot make money, right? And then once you start to grow and build it, then that's when you see people who have no previous interest start to get onboard because they know something is real, right? I always say -- what did he say? A vision without a plan is a dream. So you have to really be able to craft that thing and show them that this is real. This is tangible. And this is something that you can get onboard with.
Clate Mask: I just got to say --
Lamar Tyler: [Inaudible comment due to crosstalk]
Clate Mask: I think that we heard Ronnie there.
Lamar Tyler: [Laughs]
Clate Mask: If you think you've got something here, prove it. [Laughs]
Lamar Tyler: And that's it. Like I said, I can't tell -- people always say, "How can I get my spouse onboard?"
And I hate to say it this way, but a lot of times, the quickest way is to make money, and to get customers. And to prove that this is a real business. It isn't a hobby. It isn't something crazy. And just my last thing on this is we always say when you talk about -- specifically couples, right? We do a lot of couples that want to work in business together. The foundations of a great partnership in business are the same foundations of a great partnership in marriage. Trust, respect, commitment.
And when you don't trust, respect or commit to your spouse in your relationship, it's hard for them to believe that you'll do that through the business. The better you can craft that thing coming together with your spouse, with your family members outside of the business, the easier it'll be for them to get onboard with what you're doing in the business.
Clate Mask: That is truth right there.
Scott Martineau: Love it.
Clate Mask: You're awesome, man. Thank you so much for sharing. Thanks for being with us on the Small Business Success podcast. Scott, anything else you want to add?
Scott Martineau: No. I just -- I appreciate your perspective. I can tell -- you come in earlier on the characteristic of always learning and I feel that from you. I feel just the way you approach life as there's always more to learn, there's more to show, more to prove, more to do. I love it. I think that fire's critical. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Lamar Tyler: Awesome. Thank you guys for having me. This has been amazing.
Scott Martineau: Fantastic. All right. We're going to call that a wrap for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast.