Fire Yourself First: Free Up Your Time And Do What You Love Next With Jeff Russell

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT Jeff Russel | Fire Yourself First


When you no longer control your work, the chains tighten until you can’t breathe anymore, and you stress yourself out every day. Take back the time and unshackle yourself from your suffocating job. In this episode, Jeff Russell, the founder of the Oakridge Financial Group, takes us into the depths of Fire Yourself First to unchain ourselves from the daily grind. His secret sauce to doing what you love next lies at the depths of an autonomous business. From hiring and forming an autonomous team to giving value to people, Penny and Jeff provide wisdom to navigating into your business. Begin your journey on creating a life you love by firing yourself first. So, don’t miss this episode today!

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Fire Yourself First: Free Up Your Time And Do What You Love Next With Jeff Russell

[00:00:44] On this show, we’re looking for unique individuals, leaders, and people who have been there and done that and can teach you something from experience. I know we’re going to get that in this episode. Jeff Russell is with us. He is the Founder of the Oakridge Financial Investments, IAPAM, which stands for International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine, Glenmore Healthcare, and Clean Start Weight Loss. He’s got a lot of stuff going on.

He’s a successful entrepreneur. He teaches entrepreneurs how to unchain themselves from their daily grind by creating businesses that run without them. His latest book, Fire Yourself First, provides a four-step plan to free up time and allow business owners to do what they love next. Without further ado, Jeff, welcome to the show.

[00:01:35] Thank you so much. I’m honored to be here.

[00:01:38] It’s fun to have you. Before we got started, you said something very interesting. I want to maybe start there. You said you only work a few hours a month. Is that what you said?

[00:01:50] I work ten days a month.

[00:01:53] That’s a few more hours, but ten days a month. That’s 1/3 of the month you’re working. First of all, what do you do with the rest of your time if you’re not working?

[00:02:03] That’s a time for me to think, depending on the time of the year. In the summer, maybe I’m outdoors, doing stuff, having a great time enjoying things, and then an idea will pop into my mind. I’m like, “I wonder if I should do this business.” I’ll evaluate that and think about it, and then that could lead to something else. I’ve got six companies. What I realized was there are parts of running those companies that I didn’t love. I needed to unchain myself from doing the stuff I hated. All of a sudden, I have all this free time. I do charity work. I do a variety of stuff. I can choose the time.

[00:02:44] We might be all over the place here, but isn’t it interesting when we have thinking time? Isn’t it interesting how much more seems to fall into place when there’s proper time to think about it, approach it in the right way, and take the right action? Say something about that because you spend a lot of time thinking. You spend way more time thinking than I spend thinking.

[00:03:07] Over the years, I’ve read six business books a month. I’m not a speed reader and I don’t do Audible. I read them the old-fashioned way. Whenever I have an issue, I find 3 or 4 books or a podcast or two to listen to to get a different perspective. I then take what I’ve learned and combine it with my personal perspective and my personal situation. I create a custom solution for any issue that I’m working on. That is where the thinking time is.

The thing that’s interesting is in the last few years, I feel things have accelerated. AI and ChatGPT have changed things up like they were many years ago when the internet popped in and people started using that. If you don’t think about how that’s going to impact your business in 3 to 5 years, you may not have a business. I always want to think, “In three years, if AI took over all of my business, then what would I do? How can I work with AI to make sure that doesn’t happen?”

Sometimes, you have to think out of your comfort zone and your box to think about that. It is very important to think about what’s new and what’s next. Sometimes, you think about a whole different business opportunity that maybe you plug into your business and you can go in a different way and pivot a little bit. Maybe you can have it bolt onto your existing business. It could be a whole new business or you’re protecting your current business. Thinking time is so critical.

[00:04:49] If you don’t have the time to think, you’ll end up out of business because you won’t have thought about it. Everyone else will gain the competitive edge and squeeze you out. You’re not able to innovate and renovate. You’re trying to keep up, and that doesn’t work. It reminds me of Stephen Covey’s Sharpen the Saw. You’re too busy sawing the tree that you don’t recognize your blade is dull and you’re not getting anywhere. That’s what that is to me.

I’m working on a book called The Reset Mindset. It’s about taking these reset moments to think things through and to think deeper than our environment lends itself to be for us. Do you feel like it’s partially also the case because of the environment with all the distractions and the things that are vying for our attention? We have to fight back for that thinking, don’t we?

[00:05:41] Yeah. In order for me to go to work ten days a month, I had to put a very strict filtering system in place. If it does not meet my big purpose in 3, 5, or 20 years, I’m not doing it. It’s so easy to fill up time with busy work. This is what I find. I was working 30 days a month a couple of years ago and then I’m like, “This is a lot of work. I’ve never seemed to have relaxation time.” I get the same amount of work done in 10 days that I did in 30 days because I’ve filtered out the distractions. You’re right. What is most important here?

[00:06:22] Somehow, I feel like when it’s more extreme, it makes it even easier to do that because it is so extreme. You could probably say, “Somehow, I’m going to optimize. I’m going to go to work 25 days instead of 30 days.” When you don’t challenge yourself to work differently, it’s when you make such a drastic change. Sometimes, that happens, like with COVID. It was such a drastic change that people had to think differently. They had to say, “How can we work differently?” That probably is what happened to you. It is making that big change. Did it make you check in on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and even the way you’re doing it?

[00:07:03] You have to really think beyond your business. Often, we’re grinding so much that our day is all revolving around our business, not the things we truly want to do. I had to think back and hone in on what my purpose is. It’s not your business. It’s beyond your business. When you start doing that, then your business runs better than it’s ever run. For me, going from 30 days to 10 days a month, my business has run better than they’ve ever run and they make more money than they’ve ever made. I wish I had done it earlier.

TBT Jeff Russel | Fire Yourself First

Fire Yourself First: You have to think beyond your business.


[00:07:43] Is there an optimal time? How did you do that, and how did you know when it was time? There are times when you’re getting kickstarted in your business that might not be an option. What’s the ideal time, and what did you do to make that possible?

[00:07:57] I always like to think about the concept of who can do this, not you. If somebody else can do it and cheaper than you’re getting paid, I’m getting them to do it. When I started one of my first businesses many years ago, the first person I hired was a contract bookkeeper and CPA to do my books. I know how to do them, but I don’t like doing them. It’s better for me to find customers than it is to do my books.

Sometimes, we get trapped in this rat hole where we do things we’re really good at, but it’s not the best use of our time for the business. As a leader, your role is strategy and culture. You need to revolve around that. Having said that, did I grind it working twenty hours a day for the first few years? Absolutely. You’ve got to go through that process. Otherwise, you don’t truly have a business. You know what you’re going to let go of as soon as you can.

[00:08:57] How do you know when that right time is? There is a time when you probably need to be doing it, not necessarily, but I don’t want to get into that hole there. How do you know when it’s time? How do you know what to let go of first? You said you’ve got a couple of different steps. Maybe you can walk us through your process.

[00:09:17] We got to think bigger here. First, administrate them. If it doesn’t make money, then it’s not something that I should be doing. Often, sales is something you keep doing because you’re really good at it, you know it inside out, and you’re passionate. If you need an administrative assistant, whether it’s a virtual VA or an EA, they can be part-time. You can have someone working 1 or 2 days a week for you. It doesn’t have to be a full-time position.

When you’re hiring the first full-time person, it’s generally, “I want to hire only a role that makes money.” That’s probably a sales role or something like that. You’re like, “When it’s full-time, I want the role to pay for itself so that I don’t have to worry about it.” All of a sudden, you have two salespeople, you and whoever you’ve hired. You train them, let them listen in on your calls, and get them comfortable. You then start hiring more that way.

For me, hiring people is the most difficult part. In my book, Fire Yourself First, I first talk about the first step, which is you have to find your purpose, and it’s bigger than your business. My personal purpose statement is to make a positive difference in people’s lives by encouraging them to see what they cannot see by serving as their guide. The book is a guide. My online training is a guide. The workshops are a guide. Those are all the guides that I help them see differently.

TBT Jeff Russel | Fire Yourself First

Fire Yourself First: Unchain Yourself from the Daily Grind, Create an Autonomous Business, and Do What You Love Next

The second step is hiring an autonomous team. I want to be able to walk away from my business. If you can’t walk away from your business for a month or two, then you have a job. You don’t have a business. A real business does not require you to be there. The most difficult part of any business is hiring the right people. Those people who come with their batteries already included are ready to work.

I have an eleven-step hiring process. If you go to my website,, you can download the eleven-step guide for free. I’m not a consultant. There’s nothing you can buy from me. Everything’s in the book. Once you have that, you need to make sure you have key numbers so that the employees know what winning looks like and you know what winning looks like.

I create scorecards for each of my employee rules, and then I have a dashboard for myself so I know what the key numbers are. This is the critical part. When you have your team built out, they need those key numbers and you need key numbers so you know things are going well and what you are going to do next. There was a while I was building orphanages in India because I went to India and saw poverty like I’d never seen in my life before. I wanted to help these children out. I’m able to do that and I have other interests as well.

What is your big purpose, and where do you want to go? What happens is you create more value in your business than you ever had before because a business that doesn’t require the owner to be there day-to-day is valued more than a business that requires the owner. You can increase your valuation from 2 times to 5 or 10 times.

One of my businesses was offered $10 million a couple of years ago. That’s when I thought, “Should I sell it? It’s a fair valuation,” but I’m like, “What would I do?” I’m like, “I love that business but I don’t love everything I do in it.” I fired myself from sales, admin, and all those other little roles and let that go. I only do what I love to do, which is speaking at the live events. You have the ability to build the future that you want. It’s tough at the beginning grinding it out, but that should be fun. To me, that was fun. It was exciting. The time flew by. Your business will slowly get to another stage where it’s not as fun for you. That’s when you know it’s time to look at who can do this, not you.

[00:13:36] That’s the reset moment. It is when it’s not as fun. It’s not only when it’s not as fun because maybe you’re having fun but you’re still stressed out or you’re finding that there are other things that are falling apart in your life. That’s also a good time to take a reset moment and re-evaluate. I’ve been there so I understand. I had an IT business and learned firsthand what it was like to work around the clock and also burn myself out.

What I talk about is finding those reset moments earlier so that you don’t have to go through the pain. Usually, it’s all those reset moments that you missed that create that bigger one that forces you to make a change. Sometimes, it can be more painful than it needs to be. What’s your definition of productivity and why?

[00:14:30] For us, it depends on the key metrics. When I was mentioning dashboards and scorecards, those are very important and they’re hard to develop. In every business, they’re a little bit different. For some of my businesses, it’s often a productivity metric. I don’t care about my gross revenue. I care about the profitability. That’s the key thing. There’s always a profit.

I’ll tell you an interesting one for one of my other businesses. It’s the number of five-star Google reviews. That’s a metric where the employee bonuses are based on that. When you have a business that people Google you and then they decide whether they’re going to come or not, the reviews are critical. It wasn’t like that several years ago at all, but it has changed.

Every 0.1 below 4.9 costs us about $10,000 to $20,000 a month. We have a value to it. If you’re 4.5 or below, you’re out of business. You have to be 4.7 to 4.9. 5 seems a bit contrived, so it is having 4.8 or 4.9 and having hundreds of reviews. That metric, to me, means I make $100,000 a month in profit. That’s how I use it. It’s easy for the employees to get around it because five-star reviews are something they are. I convert it to a dollar number. Everything can be converted to a metric that makes sense to you.

[00:16:02] I like what you’re saying. You’ve probably heard of the whole lead and lag measure type of thing. For most people who are on their dashboard, what they see are the lag measures. For those who are reading and might not know the difference of what those are, the lag measures are your top-line income, your expenses, and those things that have already happened. The lead indicators are those things that you said. Those are the reviews. Depending on the business, it’s the type of things that are driving the business to get to those numbers.

I love that highlight on that because everybody can get around and visually see those reviews. It’s not something that’s hidden. It’s very transparent. If you make a clear evaluation that they can see what every review and every point means to the business, it’s transparent, easy for them to understand, and something they can control. They can ask people to do a review. They can influence that. There are things that can be influenced. That’s a big challenge for a lot of leaders. They’re not necessarily setting the right measurements for people to follow. Do you find that as well?

[00:17:13] Yeah. Your business should be to help people. You should provide a value that’s helping people, and then people need to pay for that value. They have to see the value. I always want my metrics for my team members to be about providing value to our customers. Try and think of whatever your specific business is, what is the type of value indicator to the customer? It could be your pipeline of leads, so it goes to a certain thing. The five-star reviews are an easy one, too. We can see the value there.

Your business should be to help people. Share on X

If the customer finds value, then they’re going to tell other people. That’s the growth. That’s the lead. You are exactly correct. The lag indicators are the easy ones, but it’s almost too late. It’s the lead ones that if you don’t watch those 3 to 6 months after you fired yourself from your business, you’ll discover, “Houston, we have a problem.”

[00:18:15] It gets people focused on the wrong things. If what you’re setting is important to the organization and the values that you’re following, you want to make sure that your measures are delivering on that value. I forget, but there was an example that Jim Collins gave when he was talking about Walgreens and CVS and how Walgreens changed their metric because they didn’t want to measure it on a cost per square meter because that wasn’t what they value.

They wanted to be on every street corner. They wanted to be the neighborhood place that people would go to. They were measuring it differently because otherwise, they’d be closing multiple stores as opposed to opening them. It would go against what their actual values are. You do need to know what it is that you’re looking to achieve for the customer, and that will drive those numbers.

[00:19:07] Most employees know what their job responsibilities are, but they don’t know specifically what winning looks like. It’s those numbers, the number of five-star reviews, maybe the reduction in expenses, or whatever is important to your business. In many of my businesses, we have it either electronically or on paper up on the screen so when they walk in, they know exactly what winning looks like. In one of my businesses, we use Slack. With that, we have pinned what winning looks like so every day, everybody knows.

Most employees know what their job responsibilities are, but they don't know specifically what winning looks like. Share on X

[00:19:41] They’re constantly coming back and filling up with that before they start doing whatever they do for the day. That keeps them oriented around the most important things. Is there anything I didn’t ask you yet that you feel like you want to share with the audience before we wrap up?

[00:19:58] When some people mention what my superpower is, often, it’s the filtering that’s so difficult. I’m a natural entrepreneur. I see opportunities and ideas everywhere. The squirrels are flying around. If you are like that, you need to have a strong filtering system. It’s like, “That’s nice,” and maybe you write it down in an Evernote or a little voice memo and then drop it, save it for another time, and let her go. You have to keep focused.

When you work ten days a month, it’s like that Friday before you go on your family vacation. You get so much done on that Friday. If you start narrowing down the number of days a month you work, every day will be like that day before you go on a family vacation. You’d be amazed at how clear things look, so do that. Maybe you start doing 3 days a week or 4 days a week and take every Friday off or every Friday and Monday. Start doing that and you’ll realize you can get a lot done. It’s easier than you think.

[00:21:06] We can all be experts at filtering. It’s also a choice. We get more purposeful about how we’re filtering things. There are lots of different mechanisms, too, to filter so that it doesn’t reach you. You put those protection mechanisms in. I call it gatekeepers. There are lots of different ways to create gatekeepers that protect your time and attention. Tell us again where people can reach you.

[00:21:37] The best place is our website for the book. It’s I like to give all this stuff away. I’m not hiding the, “You can’t hire me. I’m not hirable.” All my tools are there for free. If you want to create your big-picture purpose statement or the clarity map, download it for free. For hiring people, the eleven steps are there for free. I have a Friday email where I give out tips. You can sign up for that. The book is on Audible as well as paper and hardcover.

[00:22:09] Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom.

[00:22:13] It was an honor. Thank you very much.

[00:22:15] It is my pleasure. For those of you entrepreneurs out there, we could also apply some of these thought processes in the corporate world as well. Filtering is across the board, whether you’re a parent, a CEO, or an administrator. Filtering is key. If you take nothing more away and you feel like this wasn’t for you, it’s for you. I promise. For those of you who are entrepreneurs, I know that I’m not there yet, but I’m looking to work only ten days a month, too, which sounds great, and do more of the fun things. Also, my work is fun.

For those of you out there, go check out those free resources. That’s incredibly generous of Jeff to share that in the way that he does. Take advantage of it. Don’t let that go. Other than filtering, what’s one other thing that you can do to work towards firing yourself or working towards that freedom? What’s one thing that you learned here that you can put into practice? That’s my challenge for you. Take a reset moment. Take five minutes to reflect on that and set an action plan. We’ll see you in the next episode.


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About Jeff Russel

TBT Jeff Russel | Fire Yourself FirstJeff Russell is the founder of the Oakridge Financial Group, Oakridge Financial Investments, IAPAM (International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine), Glenmore Healthcare, and Clean Start Weight Loss®. As a successful serial entrepreneur, Jeff teaches entrepreneurs how to unchain themselves from the daily grind by creating a business that runs without them. His latest book, Fire Yourself First, provides a four-step plan to free up time and allow business owners to do what they love next.

Jeff has taken his secret sauce on how to analyze, systemize, and scale businesses, and packaged it in, Fire Yourself First, providing all his strategies and tips, so business owners can unchain themselves from the daily grind. Over the last 20 years, Jeff has taught thousands of people how to start their own businesses. His book, Clean Start Weight Loss®, has sold tens of thousands of copies.


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