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How An Airline Pilot Built A $7,000,000 Business In His Spare Time

Copy of Newbie to Multi-Millionaire (1)

“Success leaves clues” is one of my favorite quotes, it’s just so true, and that’s what comes to mind when I think about the interview we’re sharing with you here today.

Hjalmar started from zero online, and has built a multi-million dollar business in a few short years… but how? Listen to the interview below to uncover some of the clues.

When I started working with Hjalmar directly a few years ago he was like most people who set off to start a business online… keen, motivated and excited. What I realised as I continued to watch Hjalmar evolve and grow his business was that he was very committed and focused in his approach, and willing to dive in head-first without questioning if something would work or not.

Fast forward a few years and that blind faith has paid off in spades.

Hjalmar will do over $7,000,000 in his business this year, and his trajectory will see him doing much bigger numbers in the near future, or possibly even cash-in with a massive 8-figure windfall if he decides to sell his business.

Hjalmar’s success wasn’t a fluke. He followed a plan and made some key strategic decisions along the way. Listen to the interview (or read the transcript below) to find out all the juicy details, and remember to leave a comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts and take any questions you may have.

Before diving into the interview, click the button below to get free access to my ‘Start, Scale, Succeed’ presentation to learn more about a strategic approach to success online:

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Let’s dive in, meet Hjalmar:

 

AIDAN: Thanks for joining me here today. I’m joined by who is now a good friend of mine, someone I met online about five or six years ago. He is someone who has come through from not really knowing anything about online business to building a multimillion-dollar business. So, Hjalmar, thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy life to join me here today.

HJALMAR: It’s good to be here Aidan. It’s good to be here.

AIDAN: So, before we dive in to the really interesting stuff, I think it’ll be useful to give people a little bit of a background: where you live, what you do for a living – because I know that in addition to your very successful online business, you actually have a fulltime job and stuff as well – and a background on how you got started or why you started online. Where do you live and what do you do?

HJALMAR: I live in Belgium, and I’m an airline pilot, as I now say was my nature professionally as my business has taken off. It’s my paid hobby, you could say now. But still, I am an airline pilot and I still love doing that and I’ll keep doing it. I lived through a bankruptcy as well. The national airline of Belgium went bankrupt at some stage after 9/11. Even though I quickly got into the next airline and stuff, it sort of pressed on the point to me that I didn’t want to be dependent of anything, anyone to pay my bills or whatever. That was probably one of the seed moments, the start moments where I started thinking I should be doing something else as well. So maybe that sort of triggered it.

AIDAN: Yeah. I think a lot of people will relate to it. I remember in my last “real” job, if you like, seeing my colleagues get laid off who have been there for 25 years. In that job, I was the new kid on the block. It was just amazing to me how someone who had so much history and loyalty to a company could just be laid off. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that.

AIDAN: So, you’re in Belgium. You’re flying airlines, which is almost like a paid hobby at this point. Tell us about when you started your online business.

HJALMAR: In the beginning, I was flying short haul, so that’s many flights up and down, etc. After a while, I was flying long haul, so I had more time during a flight to think, to make notes, whatever. Also, when I was somewhere, I was always going to be in a hotel for one day, two days, whatever, before my flight back. It meant that I realized that I had quite a bit of time on my hands that could be dedicated to something else, and I could always have my laptop with me. I realized, if I can start a business that can travel with me all over the world, then I should probably pursue this and try this. The sad thing was, of course, I did not know anything about business. I didn’t know anything about online business except for buying stuff myself. I knew nothing, so I went shopping online who does know something who can teach me, who can help me. That’s how I wandered and found you guys eventually.

AIDAN: There we crossed paths. I think we first met, must have been 2015, 2016, somewhere around there. Right from the outset, I realized you had a very systematic approach to the way you were approaching building your business, and I knew that it wasn’t the case of “if” you’re going to succeed. It was just a case of “when”. It all happened pretty quickly. I’m trying to think back 4.5, almost 5 years ago, you came in through one of our programs and then we met shortly after in a Mastermind event in Las Vegas.

HJALMAR: Yeah.

AIDAN: The very first thing that you did, was that with Google AdSense?

HJALMAR: Yes. I’m a runner myself, and you guys explained that if your own passion is within what you do, that might help – and it did. Your course was very clear. It worked, but I couldn’t get profitable. I mean, it just broke even. I was doing quite a bit of work, but the stuff won’t light, doesn’t matter what it was exactly. The incoming money was about the same as the outgoing money, so I needed the next step. Around that time, I realized that you invited me. You said, “Why don’t you join our Mastermind group?” That’s I took a big leap of faith. I said, “I believe now that this could work if only I keep at it and do it better and get better training and better, qualified people around me more of the time.” So I took a leap of faith and just said, “Okay, I’m going to go for it.”

AIDAN: I think at that point, you may have taken your first pivot in your business because I seem to remember you moved away from this sort of viral traffic model and AdSense. I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but you got some physical products up on Amazon? You started your brand selling on Amazon?

HJALMAR: Yup. It was the first thing you guys said to me: “You can do anything you want. However, why don’t you start off with just on Amazon?” You had a system in place, how to qualify products, etc. It was pretty good, the massive information I got then from you guys. I could develop, so to speak, a product, bring it online. I think three months later I had sort of invented, changed one product, and it got rolling and by Christmas, it was going pretty well that same year. A year after, it was a 100K business in its own right, making a bit of money. It just proved to me, it drove the point home. I was already a believer, but you don’t really believe until you see the money come in on your bank account.

AIDAN: Yeah. And when you start to understand that it really is a real business and there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes, and for the most part it’s not this flesh in the pan event where something just explodes and all of a sudden you got a business. There’s an actual systematic process behind it all. You talked about surrounding yourself with people who had experience and whatnot. I know you also have business partners, so tell us a little bit about that.

HJALMAR: In the beginning, I took the initiative by myself and was sort of a one-man business, so to speak, but then at some point you guys had a new system you figured out, like this is the new thing in ecommerce that at that time could work. As always, you were just ahead of the curve at that time. I thought back, “This can work”. I asked my brother to join me. He’s a very clever chap, very good with numbers as well, very creative on top of that. So I asked him. And because I had made the Amazon thing work, he said “Alright. At first I was so skeptical. I had no idea what you were doing and I thought this was going to go wrong in a terrible way…”

AIDAN: This is your brother that was skeptical at this stage, right?

HJALMAR: Absolutely. But because this Amazon business with one product only turned 100K and profitably, he said “Right, I’m going to believe you and together we’ll just take this new course that these guys have just come up with. We’ll have a look and see. Do we believe this?” And we did believe it. We were just going to follow it to the letter, because that’s important as well. We followed it day by day by day and we followed exactly what the program told us. Obviously, we kept doing it day after day, and that’s probably the secret: doing it with a partner, and then following the steps.

AIDAN: Did your brother have any special background in marketing or online business? Tell us a little bit about your business partner’s background.

HJALMAR: A bit like me, but it’s probably going to sound even worse. He was just a teacher. He is very passionate about teaching other people, especially secondary school kids, 17-18 year olds, science, etc. He’s really keen on making them always want to learn, if you know what I mean. But obviously, that has nothing to do with business at all. He had zero background at all.

AIDAN: It’s crazy because when I started my online business, I had this desire to able to build something I could run on my laptop wherever I went. A bit like you, but I had no marketing background, definitely no technical background. Same kind of thing, no special marketing background, no special technical background. Your brother as well. We all come from three completely different backgrounds, but I think where there’s a desire to achieve, there’s absolutely a way to do it with online business. We’re quite lucky that there are these blueprints out there. Most of the systems that we use, we didn’t invent them, we might have perfected them and then built on them, but they all normally start with a blueprint somewhere along the line. When you partnered with your brother, I’m thinking this must mean 2016, 2017 at this point?

HJALMAR: Correct. Yeah.

AIDAN: This e-commerce model that you’re talking about there was essentially where you set up your own store and you sell a physical product to a consumer, an end user. They could be someone sitting at home in their house anywhere in the US, or anywhere in the world, in fact.

HJALMAR: Yeah. Just even on their phones.

AIDAN: On their phones as well. So someone will buy the product, after they buy it, back then when you got started, what was the process? Did you have to have all this inventory sitting in a warehouse somewhere? Just explain the business model a little bit.

HJALMAR: In the beginning, and that was sort of the genius of the model was that we didn’t require lots of seed capital at all because it was drop shipping style, which means that you pick a product, you market a product, somebody buys the product, and only when that person pays you, you then order it from a third party who then sends it directly to your customer. That was called drop shipping, as you of course know. But the marketing model was very well-explained, and that was when Facebook was breaking through in the online ads space. Lining up a product through Facebook with a customer, if you do that in advance, in a very small scale, you’ve lined them up and you know this is going to work, you tested, because here was a neat testing system, like “A needs to happen on Day 1, B needs to happen on Day 2,” and then if that was the case, you qualify and then *swoosh*. They all lined up and we said, “There is a business.”

AIDAN: And what was your first, just to give people some more color about the whole story, what was your first 12 months like from a financial standpoint? Did you have sales coming in very quickly in the first month? Did it take a couple of months, how did that unfold? What did you manage to achieve in those first 12 months with the new business model?

HJALMAR: I have to say in the first couple of months, you have to believe it’s going to work because you do some stuff. You have to set up stuff, of course you’re not really selling anything yet. The first couple of months were the testing and then tentatively selling. That’s sort of the little thing that happens. You see that yeah, it’s working a little bit. But then, like with many things, if you do the little things and you keep doing them, and then all of a sudden, there you go. Fast forward 10 months, and we have $1.5 million in sales.

AIDAN: That’s amazing. I can’t think of any offline business where you could grow that quickly with such a lean infrastructure. Because I think that first year, it must have still just been you and your brother. Maybe you had some VA, assistant, sort of help along the way?

HJALMAR: Because of the runaway success, in the beginning we sort of drowned in customer service because even if people are happy, they may ask you “Now what do I do?” “How do I use this?” whatever. You need to reply, so we drowned over that first summer in 2017. So we had then a team, like two people. You guys told us how to do it. Find in some far away country that did our customer service for not much money, but for them it was a decent salary. They win, we win. That allowed us to really grow because now the sales could come in and we could provide a service to our customers, who then might come back, and then the ball gets rolling.

AIDAN: Okay, so that was your first year and that was a few years ago. It was your first year with this new model that we’ve been talking about. Fast forward a few years now, I know that you’ve got a very mature business with a wide range of products. Where are you at with this now?

HJALMAR: The Lean Machine thing, there’s a book that is called The Lean Startup I think. We did a lot of that.

AIDAN: That’s a good book.

HJALMAR: Yeah. Absolutely. And another book, The Slight Edge, I’m not going to talk books, but that means “Keep doing the right things and then all of a sudden, you’re going to have success.” “All of a sudden,” after keeping on doing the right things. Anyway, I digress. Now, let’s say a year ago, I think our team has done about I think four or five people strong plus five customer service. So a team of customer service independently operating, and our team was only four or five people, my brother and myself included, and we have $2.5 million revenue, which has now grown to $6-7 million, with a team of eight.

AIDAN: That’s amazing. Do you find you have to pinch yourself sometimes or just think? Because this is something that you built and you really perfected, and then you grew it. You’re flying all around the world in your day job, but then with this other thing you’ve got happening, almost like a side income, is a multi-million-dollar business. Do you still have to pinch yourself sometimes?

HJALMAR: Yes. Absolutely. Sometimes my brother and I go like, we know how it happened, but it’s like, “How did we end up in this place?” Because we were just going to try this thing. We think it’s going to work, but now all of a sudden, three years later, we have a company that other people are willing to offer quite a bit of money for. So it’s not just us deluding ourselves – the world around us is taking notes as well. It is pretty incredible indeed when I think about it.

AIDAN: I think the business that you’ve built is definitely what I would think about as like a legacy business. It’s the kind of thing that you can sell off and you can set your family out for a long, long time to come. If you wanted, it could give you all kinds of freedom. I know you’re a really motivated guy, so I’m sure if you did one day sell it, you’d be right on to the next thing. Can you talk about the pandemic a little bit? Because that’s at the top of everyone’s minds as it has been all year obviously. How has that affected your business model and your business in particular?

HJALMAR: The pandemic calls everyone to have to stay at home. Quite a bit of people have not often shopped online. The 20-40-year-olds, they were all at it, but everybody sort of older than that, there was quite a big percentage of people that weren’t often buying stuff online. Perhaps paranoia there, but now all of a sudden they have no choice. And they realized, “Oh my god, this is easy. This is so easy.” So, all of a sudden, our market – and this was not our doing of course – the market doubled, tripled, which of course doubled our business as well almost overnight. We were ready, our business was running well, so we were in full position to also take advantage of the market that got so big. And it’s there to stay, isn’t it? Because these people have discovered online business, they are going to keep doing the easy thing which is, “I’m going to order it online. It’s going to be here tomorrow or the day after.”

AIDAN: I think you’ve mentioned a few things throughout our conversation here that are quite important to your success here. One is your business really took off when you had a partner. Not just a partner, but when you really focused on surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals. Definitely having a partner I think would be key. You’ve mentioned incremental improvement, so the slight edge, improving little by little day after day after day. You’ve mentioned sticking to a game plan and staying focused. Any other big lessons learned or mindset shifts where, if you had to do it all over again or if you were able to talk to yourself five, six years ago, tips that you would give yourself back then when you were starting out?

HJALMAR: You mentioned most of the important ones. But what is a problem potentially in the beginning definitely, but it keeps coming, problems will come at you. Problems are mostly turned into opportunities down the road, but it doesn’t feel like that at all when the problems are there. It feels impossible at some stages, but time and time again, by just saying “I’m going to solve this. I can solve this,” you will. By going around it, over it, any ways. It’s going to work. I might tell my younger self that indeed, problems will arrive, but the obstacle will often be the way forwards, and it’s going to grow you as a person but also your business will thrive by solving problems. By not being disheartened, maybe after two or three months of starting, you may say, “Well, this is a dead end. It’s a road block.” It probably isn’t. You just can’t see the way just yet, but if you keep moving in the right direction, you’ll get there. That is probably something as well. Problems will come, but are not a problem.

AIDAN: For sure. One thing that always helped me when I was getting sad on those first few years was I had this belief in my mind that I knew there were other people out there that were doing it. And if other people were doing it, then I could also do it as well. I just had this always at the back of my mind anytime I came up against one of these problems or obstacles, let’s say. I always just reminded myself of that, that I wasn’t the only one to have ever faced this problem. Other people had passed it, gotten past it and built businesses. That to me was quite a big motivator. It kept me on track during the obstacles that we’ve hit along the way.

AIDAN: Something that I think is really exciting is that the core e-commerce model, it really hasn’t changed that much over a decade. The very first ecommerce that I got into was selling physical products online and it was drop shipping. I was drop shipping within the United States over a decade ago. I had different stores. One was selling big, heavy barber chairs. These are things that weigh hundreds of kilos, but they also sell for a lot of money, so I didn’t have to sell that many of them and I would make some good money.

AIDAN: The point that I want to make is that the model that you’re using so effectively in your business is still working incredibly well today, and as you sort of alluded to, it’s something that is growing for a lot of people even during a financial downturn, during a pandemic, because people are shifting to buying products online. To anyone listening to this, if you got a desire to start a business, then look towards ecommerce because it’s a growing industry and it’s a trend that you can absolutely ride. It’s not all that difficult. It’s just identify a product, traffic source, get a couple of bits and pieces in the back-end like a website to link them up, and you can actually make sales and make money. As you guys have seen, Hjalmar, you and your brother, the sky is the limit. It’s possible to build an 8-figure business, $10+ million per year, even $100+ million per year, from an online business because so many of the offline limitations and roadblocks are removed with what we can do virtually. There are so many synergies with different people that you can work with, talent you could hire. It’s just such an exciting time right now to build a business.

AIDAN: Hjalmar, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day here. I know you’re a busy guy with a family and a day job, and by the way, a multi-million-dollar business to run, so I really do appreciate it. All the best with the months ahead. I know you’ve got some pretty big things in the pipeline and I look forward to hearing how it all goes.

HJALMAR: Thank you. It’s always good talking to you Aidan, so anytime.

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As mentioned at the very start of this post, success really does leave clues. Download my ‘Start, Scale, Succeed’ presentation today (completely free of charge) to learn more about how you can succeed online:

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I hope you’ve found this motivating and inspiring, anyone can succeed online, just make sure you don’t quit before the magic happens.

Thanks for visiting,

Aidan

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12 Comments so far:

  1. Will Raines says:

    Great and inspiring content as always aidan. Sometimes you just really need to try!

  2. Jane evans says:

    My day job has always held me back somehow from launching my business and wow! If Hjalmar the pilot can do it I think so can I! This is very helpful Aidan thank you so much

  3. Raphael Smith says:

    “Problems are mostly turned into opportunities down the road, but it doesn’t feel like that at all when the problems are there.” This is so true! It does get very frustrating at times. Reading things like this helps put my mind out of it though! Keep pushing indeed!

  4. Ian Tessensohn says:

    This is truly inspirational! Listening to Hjalmar reach a milestone of $7,000,000.00 is unthinkable in such a short time. I have been running a Food & Beverage business for 10 years now and I can tell you that we will never hit $7 mil unless we invest a lot more capital which is a huge risk in itself. Time to take my KIBO business to the next level and diversify income streams in due course….Thanks Aidan for sending me to this page – I caught your email in by inbox….

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Ian, yes, it’s a great story for sure. Best of all.. Hjalmar isn’t alone in building this success, we hear stories like this ALL the time, this is the beauty of online scalable business. Best of luck Ian!

  5. Emir Santana says:

    Not being able to “see it” through the fog of problems is probably what stops most people when they are starting out. Sometimes you gotta just keep pushing through slowly so you don’t accidentally run aground on the rocks but also you don’t stay stuck in one spot and do eventually reach your success.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Aidan, if the actual website is not our strong suit, can we use a premade template?

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